Descriptions for heat levels in book list

------holding hands, perhaps a gentle kiss
♥♥ ---- more kisses but no tongue-- no foreplay
♥♥♥ ---kissing, tongue, caressing, foreplay & pillow talk
♥♥♥♥ --all of above, full sexual experience including climax
♥♥♥♥♥ -all of above including coarser language and sex more frequent

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

romance novels and life

Romance novels and life-- contrary to how some might see it, they have a lot in common. The following video looks at how curiosity impacts a writer's life and how it is then used in books. It also though is about life and what is seen around us for how people react to what happens using both what I know of history and my personal experiences.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Hidden Pearl discussion

Because it's been fun to create discussion type videos on my books, it's led me to think of several aspects to doing this. I can see value in doing one before a book is even written as it really does cause the writer to stop and think-- what is my book really about? Not so much the plot but the underlying message.

Here's one I did for my book, Hidden Pearl as it looks at the meaning of a pearl as the underlying message in this story.

It's not that the meaning is new to me but learning to express it more succinctly might be helpful from a marketing standpoint where people are in a hurry and won't give you more than a moment or two or three if you are lucky.

In terms of creative inspiration, I think I will do one for the book I hope to start probably in mid-August-- not to share with others, of course but just to see how it goes and how it compares later when the book is finished whether my message changes with the writing. Sometimes as you get into a story, you see the deeper purpose in writing it.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Music and the video

This is about background music and what I have been learning in doing a discussion video with a bit from the Elizabeth Custer book. What I like to do is have music in the background that inspires me toward the subject I am discussing. Naturally this doesn't work for all topics; but when it does, I think it's helpful to creator and viewer. I was going at it the hard way-- not unusual for me.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Music to inspire

After reading Elizabeth Custer's book as she described how music was used so often in her life with him and thinking of all the movies I've seen about the cavalry going into battle with music, I began to look for some of the music for my own inspiration.

She talked of Garryowen where General Custer (what she always called him though his rank had been lowered after the end of the Civil War as it was with all the officers) often used it as he and his men would ride in or out. It was the official song of the Seventh Cavalry.

Where I thought it was romanticized for the films, it wasn't. I read that Custer liked it especially for how it worked with the cadence of the horse. Irish drinking song or not, it has a lot of emotion and you can see how you'd find your energies rising with it if you had to ride into a dangerous situation.

And then there is this one which I have always liked. Romantic and again would seem something that would inspire as the men went on a long march or ride.

When you write, want the feel of a period in history or an emotional truth, music often is the key.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Boots and Saddles

After I saw the list of books Louis L'Amour mentioned, I went looking for one Elizabeth Custer had written-- Boots and Saddles or Life in Dakota with General Custer. I bought it for for my Kindle and started reading right away. It had no photo of her but the Internet is rife with them.

George and Elizabeth Custer with one of their servants

Because I have several times been on the Little Big Horn, feeling the energy of that place so strongly, spending time there to reflect, I have always been interested in stories about the battle, have several books on it including the archaeological evidence that was revealed after a fire had burned off the grass. One book compares the lives of George Custer and Crazy Horse as they moved toward their eventual confrontation.

The battleground memorial is a beautiful place with the feeling that for me is always strongest where big events have happened. I will try to go back when I can, but that probably won't be this year as it's a long way from here. I feel lucky I had been at all as I can still see it all in my imagination even though it's been well over ten years since last I was there.

To read her story of their life together, what it was like to follow her husband from fort to camp, brought a human reality that I had previously been missing. I could so relate to what she experienced and her desire to keep her husband's name and story alive. She is, in so many things, a woman of her time with some aspects that a modern woman won't ever experience or know.

She so loved and admired her husband and hence paints a picture of a loving man of honor and humor while she doesn't ignore the difficulties of a life following the military.

I've heard Custer described as the warrior in the past, but this was the human and  husband side. It makes his loss seem greater than I had previously felt. He became less the legend and more the man-- good at what he did which was being a soldier. She describes him as a brave man and one sympathetic to the Native Americans but bound to do what the country wanted in terms of settling the West and getting the Native Americans onto reservations and stopping predations by them as they tried to hold onto their historic lands.

It was very beneficial for me to read the story as part of the research for the book I soon hope to start which will be more about the life of a cavalry officer-- something, before deciding on the plot for the fourth Oregon historical, that I knew little about. So much of what I saw as romanticized in the movies looks to have been influenced by her writings. There were music and regular balls to break the monotony and difficulty of a life that fought both hostile Sioux as well as the weather which could be equally or even more deadly.

"I had been a subject of conversation among the officers, being the only woman who, as a rule, followed the regiment, and, without discussing it much in my presence, the universal understanding was that any one having me in charge in an emergency where there was imminent danger of my capture should shoot me instantly. While I knew that I was defended by strong hands and brave hearts, the thought of the double danger always flashed into my mind when we were in jeopardy."    Elizabeth Custer.
It is a good story for those interested in memoirs and the historical period after the Civil War and during the settling of the West. Her memoir stops when she learns of her husband's death on the Little Big Horn but is followed by some of his letters to her from earlier campaigns and ends with one written June 22, 1876, three days before he rode into the battle that would be his last.

Boots and Saddles (which is their signal to get onto their horses quickly as trouble is here) is available free in one of the libraries that offers such books scanned, but I found that version too difficult to interpret as scans guess at letters and punctuation. Even the version I bought had some mistakes clearly attributable to scanning, but most had been caught and it was quite readable.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Some historical research books

Since I have been on the topic of historical books, I thought I'd add the following list. Louis L'Amour recorded some of his thinking on the historical books he had used for research. It was presented at the start of one of his audio books.

I checked them out and many are available free for eBooks through libraries or assorted sources as their copyrights have expired. If you are looking for one of them, type in 'title author download'. They were quite readable online; but to download them to my Kindle, it was better to pay the $.99 that Amazon charged as straight scanning a book is often very unreadable. I bought George Custer's book as well as Elizabeth Custer's book, Boots and Saddles about her life as a military wife. I've been much enjoying hers as I am soon to start a book where her information will be quite useful even though it's Oregon and not the Dakotas and Montana.

L'Amour emphasized that he has used thousands of books and there are many more as good as these. When someone asks what is a good book researching the West, he asks-- what part, which states, what period because there are so many facets to Western history.

Commerce of the Prairies -- Josiah Greggs

On the Border with Crook – John Bourke

Life among the Apaches – John C. Cremony

Trailing Geronimo – Anton Mazzanovich

My Life on the Plains – George Custer

Warpath and Bivouac – John F. Finerty

Historical sketches of the cattle trade – Joseph McCoy

Fast and Fancy Revolver Shooting – Edward McGivern

Trail Drivers of Texas – compiled and edited by J. Marvin Hunter

Besides using journals and letters, he added that to truly write an historical western, you must walk the ground, climb the mountains, experience the land.Personally I think this is true of any book that is placed in a setting that isn't pure fantasy.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

bad guy to good guy?

 cowboys on the WS ranch where it is claimed a lot of outlaws worked at various times when they wanted to hide out (which doesn't mean any of these cowboys were outlaws-- or not)

When you write an historical, you basically will have some idea of the potential of the story to be a real reflection of the times in which it is set. That means research. But in the end, there is a lot of instinct involved which means the things you've heard, your imagination of what might be possible, and what still happens today. Humans are humans; and although they are impacted by the potential of any particular time in history, in the end there are basic similarities for what we need and want in our lives.

When I wrote the first of two Arizona historicals, I did know quite a lot of the history of that time regarding Tucson and the country south of there. I had a feel for the hero and the life he was living as well as what he could live. Sometimes you can almost feel you lived a life-- not to say that I did this but maybe some of it.

As I was editing the manuscript for bringing it out as an eBook, I again looked around for information to correct anything I might have gotten wrong. Instead I found more encouragement for the reality of what was possible in those wild open days in Southern Arizona.

One thing I learned but had never known was that John Slaughter, who I knew as a big rancher and one-time sheriff of Cochise County, one who had done a lot to clean up the bad guys, during a particularly violent time in Southern Arizona, turns out to have had a bad guy history of his own in his younger days.

 I got the rest of the story from the magazine, True West out of an article called, 'The Outlaw Cowboys of New Mexico' and who should I find there but a familiar name to me but not in that context-- Texas John Slaughter.

It appears, when a young man, Slaughter had been on the top of New Mexico governor, Lew Wallace's (yep, that one) list of outlaws he most wanted to round up. He even topped Billy the Kid who only came in 14th on that list. 

After being released from an 1879 arrest, Slaughter made his way to Arizona. The theory is he had his big ranch right on the border so he could slip across if anybody came after him on old warrants. So from gunman, to outlaw, to respected citizen. 

He wasn't the only example of how sometimes a man could ride on the wild side, change his ways and live to an old age despite how so many ended up if they didn't change their ways. It was an encouragement to me that I had the right idea for a story where the hero had a choice to make, but it was one he really could make if he chose. 

Of course, there were other choices and some, like Black Jack Ketchum, that's the one they made.

It's what I like about writing romances in particular, how we can look at life and see options and choices that will give us what we want most in life-- it's up to us which road we take.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Historical romances

Historical romances have a number of pitfalls built into them which can ruin or make the book. There are many things the writer has to know about a period in history if they want to insert their characters into it.

One issue that comes up early would be how did the people get information and communicate with those not next door? If you think about say a Jane Austen romance, we have plenty of examples interspersed throughout her books of riders who brought letters sometimes even at night. The writer doesn't have to explain how communication happens if they illustrate it in events.

In the Old West, communication was a major part of what a community would be like. It changed fast enough that a writer better know whether a community had a stage line,  train tracks and regular schedule, or shipping route nearby.  How did people move around?

The pony express had a brief history (April 1861-October 1862) reducing the time to get a message from East coast to West Coast down to ten days. Before that any news required either going by ship around the Horn, traveling with someone, or an equally slow route by land. After the pony express came the telegraph where at least a message could be gotten through if not a whole letter. The trains changed all of that again when packages, letters and people could be transported more safely and faster.

So to write an historical story, the writer needs to know where their area was in terms of the communication methods. Even if it doesn't seem it would relate to their own story, it does. It lends a flavor within the community. Cut off from the rest of the world is different than up on the latest events, newspapers, and magazines.

If the historical romance writer is writing a story that occurs during some other big event, maybe not even one that was directly impacting them, it's important to know. It can set a mood within one side or another within a community especially if it was a big event like the Civil War.

And going along with that, what we call an event today, like say the Civil War, might not have been the same when it was happening. When I needed to know that, I learned there were multiple names for that war but Civil War was one. So it's less confusing to use that name for the reader than to pick up a less familiar name just to prove you knew it.

Colloquial expressions are another place that can trip up the writer as we are familiar with some that seem they've always been there; but were they? I had one I wanted to use in a book. It was so good and seemed self-evident as a potential expression. When I researched it, the closest I could come to its being in usage was much later than I wanted. I used a variation but might've been safe to use it anyway since it was descriptive. The fact something is commonly used in one decade doesn't mean it was never used before.

Knowing when authors of the past were first well known can help a lot as to how their work might influence characters even those who are not particularly literate. People had a lot more knowledge of the general works of writers like say Mark Twain (b. 1835- d. 1910) than we might expect today. His newspaper articles were popular in 1865 (depending on the communication in the community) and Tom Sawyer was published in 1876; but if you are writing a story set in 1883, you better not reference Huckleberry Finn which came out in 1885. A very literate person though of 1886 might've had access to the book.

All the research needn't to make it into the romance novel because the big issues are the couple's struggles. Such research though does furnish the underpinning, the energy, the flavor, and helps with deepening the characters and the writer's own understanding of these people. Throwing facts in to prove you knew them could just lose the reader interest. Sometimes a writer can put them in casually through usage but not in some list as that just shows unsophisticated writing.

It's easier to get the kind of cloth and garments that people wore than it is to get dialogue to work for a modern reader. Some writers get the idea that they knew exactly how the people back then would think or talk. Since our only way to know such is through their old letters, journals and books, we are guessing at how they talked. A writer like Jane Austen, who was a contemporary writer to her own time, used dialogue which could come closer but maybe she just liked how it sounded. And she was only writing about a certain group of people where another community might sound quite different.

The other thing is putting our emotional needs and interests into the heads of these people from way back is okay so long as the writer knows they are doing it as part of the fantasy, the fairy tale of the romance. To kid ourselves and assume that some Native American woman of several hundred years ago would be looking at man's body and fantasizing as a woman might today is naive. Human nature is as much made up of environment and community as it is DNA. Sure we have natural yearnings and desires but a lot of what we think is much influenced by what we read, hear and those around us.

Museums can be a rich source for not only photos but stories. I particularly like to go to museums put together by those from differing backgrounds. Between that and the many books, the info on the Internet, it's possible to put together a reasonable scenario for what happened. BUT you have to look at it all with some skepticism. A good example is the story of Geronimo and how important was he in the Apache wars? I can find info to tell you whatever you want to believe and it won't match. When you go to write an historical romance, that can be handy ;).

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Writing the historical

My first thought on writing about the historical book was to do a video to discuss it. That's faster and easier except it sure wasn't on this topic. I kept thinking of things I should have included and simply put-- only words would do it.

There are three general types of historical books. The non-fiction is pretty obvious. It's a book that depicts, a person, event, time in history and sticks to what actually happened as much as possible. Researchers count on these books to write their fiction.

The reality is non-fiction is not always accurate nor true to what happened. They say history is written by the survivors. Well it's rewritten by their descendents. I can think of some early Oregon history books that totally misstate what happened in terms of what latter books claim. History is often written to suit a mythology or a people's idea of themselves. So even the history book has to be looked at with some skepticism and compared to other 'known' facts.

Then there is the historical novel. It takes those basic facts and adds some fictional characters or imagines conversations that the writer cannot possibly know to create a novel which has form and meter to it that life doesn't always provide. It has more responsibility though to stick to known facts but given that known facts often change, it still has a lot of latitude but more requirements if it is to be respected by readers who are as knowledgeable about the period as the writer.

Finally comes the historical romance or western which some readers and even writers confuse with an historical novel but there are differences. Any romance is first the story of two people who fall in love, their relationship, their travails and joys. To set this story into history requires a knowledge of history at least to some degree, but it's not the most important part of the story.

Same is true of the historical western like say Louis L'Amour wrote. He set his stories into a period of history and a place but the stories themselves are predominately adventures with maybe a romance thrown in.

So where it comes to the historical part of these stories, it has to be kept in perspective for what matters enough to include, what can be distorted for the purposes of a good story, and what will infuriate a reader enough for them to leave the book if it's not gotten right.

More on the subject coming up.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Following a star

With this goal I have of doing some talking videos to discuss my books, it seemed apropos, after writing about Invictus, to discuss one of my books where the woman had to learn to do this-- take charge of her life.

Marla is a woman who one might think already had everything anyone could want. She had a successful, ambitious career, but that was hiding the emotional fears she had let dictate too much of her life. She needs an evening star to guide her. She, as with us, cannot let it be a person. We have to find direction within ourselves but how do we do that? This book explores one possible path.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Taking Charge

Out of the night that covers me, 
Black as the Pit from pole to pole, 
I thank whatever gods may be 
For my unconquerable soul. 

 In the fell clutch of circumstance 
I have not winced nor cried aloud. 
Under the bludgeonings of chance 
My head is bloody, but unbowed. 
Beyond this place of wrath and tears 
Looms but the Horror of the shade, 
And yet the menace of the years 
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid. 
It matters not how strait the gate, 
How charged with punishments the scroll. 
I am the master of my fate: 
I am the captain of my soul. 
William Ernest Henley

Of all the messages of all the romances, the above probably represents the most powerful. It is the one I most aim to put into every one of my books. No matter whether the characters start out with pathos and a feeling of weakness, the purpose of what they experience in the book is that they will reach beyond and come to that place where they do feel they are the captain of their fate.When they are there, when they take charge in all ways, the romance novel usually ends, and their real life work begins.

It is the goal of our lifetime also. We might start out at the mercy of parents, of guardians but that's not where we want to stay. We grow and we learn. We take charge. We then begin the path of life for wherever we hoped to go. Sometimes we compromise because we face reality, but we make the decisions for ourselves and blame no one else. When we take on the choice of raising children, we teach them the same way for being responsible. It's what the bulk of our life will be about.

Finally, we want to live our lives in such a way that when we reach the end times, we will have control-- even if that control means we have given control of our body up to others because of debility, still it will be our choice. I know it can be that way because I saw it with my own elders. I will aim to make it so when I reach that point for my life.