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

Thursday, January 30, 2014

outside a genre

 Marketing a book can be a challenge especially if that book does not fall under the guidelines expected for an average book in its genre. What if it doesn't have a genre? And even more complicated is a situation where if you explain much about the book, you give away the enjoyment a reader should find in reading it.

That's what I have been facing as I do the last edits, after my beta reader and editor also read it. When Fates Conspire, will be out February 1. Writing blurbs about it and creating its trailer have been challenges as I want to give the reader a heads up, especially if that person might not be interested in alternative ideas about spirituality.

So I call it a paranormal romance even though its story goes beyond the usual concepts for romances. It is though about soul mates-- but what does that actually mean?

The word paranormal covers a wide swath of books like time travel, which doesn't necessarily have a spiritual dimension as it explores the question of physical reality-- or not. Paranormal novels can also be about vampires, werewolves and shape-shifters which are all physical beings but with what most would consider super-normal qualities-- that is unless you regularly turn into a wolf at night and then it would seem very normal.

Mostly when I write a book, it comes out of my own thinking. I might have read something or heard a story, but the plot will be coming from something I've acquired during my days. Once in awhile though I have had one that comes from out of what feels like nowhere.

If you've ever worked with using a dream for a book, you know it doesn't give you a whole story. What it can be is the start for one-- and take you somewhere you hadn't intended to go in writing.

The dream, which was the genesis for When Fates Conspire, was complicated, had a lot to it; but in the end, there was an intense image within and a conclusion so strong that it left no choice in the writing. It was up to me to make it seem possible for those readers who can accept all is not what you see in front of you.

The ring above is one of the images I saw in that dream. I only wish I could really find a way to depict it. it was so vivid that I can see it now clearly. If you want to know how it fits into the story, you need to read the novella.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

dreams and creativity

When a book comes from a dream we can only ask from where did the dream come? Life is filled with such mysteries, many unanswered questions. Will they be answered on the other side? Is there but one answer for each of these questions, or might the answers be as varied as the questions?

My novella, When Fates Conspire, began with one of my dreams. I had been going through a rough time emotionally. For those who don’t love their pets, this might seem strange; but I had a cat, which we had gotten two years earlier from a kitty rescue group. I loved her so. She was gorgeous, long-haired with black and white markings, which gave her a little mask. We named her Pepper. She was very like Persia, who I had lost to old age 2 ½ years before, in the same month Pepper had been born. Pepper was a delight to me. I had no clue that I wasn't to have her for long.

In October, she began to lose weight. We took her to the veterinarian; and on the second visit, he found a lump. We went through three veterinarians finally to grasp what had gone wrong. When we did, they all agreed on one part-- it was terminal. She grew weaker, and the end would have had her gasping for breath. We asked our vet to come to the house and put her to sleep; with many tears, we buried her in the rose garden.
I have many times wondered if pets reincarnate. I’ve had several that appeared to come back to me. After we lost her, I was thinking about that. Would she come back as a new cat? What is life about? Why can’t I figure it out?
The next morning I woke from a dream about spirit guides and life. I had several powerful images from it. It had also given me the bones for a story, which I felt was important to write. For the next four days, the writing was all about fleshing out and bringing life to those bones. The amazing part to me was how so many things I had been researching over the last months, came together perfectly.
I have often credited the muse for my creativity. What then is the muse? That’s a mystery as great as what is life. Did the muse give me this story?
I’ve never used quotes at the beginning of a book, but I knew this would be enriched by them. I went looking and surprising me, everything I needed came from Dante, whose full name was Durante degli Alighieri born 1265 and died 1321. His poetry and books spoke so much to the mysteries of life. As I went through the chapters, time and again his words set them off perfectly. I am glad I hadn’t found him first, or I might’ve thought he influenced the story that began with a dream.

“In that book which is my memory. On the first page of the chapter that is the day when I first met you, Appear the words, ‘Here begins a new life’.”     Dante Alighieri

Sunday, January 26, 2014

two good westerns-- on DVD

Most evenings, wherever we are, my husband and I watch a movie. We try to agree on what and it's not unusual for it to be something we have seen. We tend to like the same sort of films which means no horror, extreme violence, or that leaves us feeling depressed when they are over.

We have experimented with indie westerns for our nightly film-- which can be laughably bad. One, won't name names, was so bad that it would have been better with the sound off-- better because it did have a beautiful cast of young heroes. Totally a pleasure to watch but dialogue and acting... ack! Could a better director have saved the story-- maybe or maybe not.

The two I want to discuss here had varying levels of apparent money behind their making. They were both, however, definitely indie movies, never meant for movie theaters and only for DVD sales or rentals. They were both good in different ways. Of course, when I say that, it is a given that I mean for those who like westerns. If you don't, you might disagree totally. Western lovers though will accept a lot of minor glitches in the plot if it stays true to the genre. And these did in spades.

The other aspect the two had in common was their star. Both movies starred country music singers who had risen to the top of those ranks and are mature men now probably looking for new challenges.

They are middle aged but still tough enough looking to carry off the western hero, the kind of guy who is tough, capable, and for me-- a pleasure to look at. Give me a guy who has some experience on his face. Surprisingly they both gave good acting performances. Could they do Macbeth? Maybe not (likely would not want to), but a western is about good versus evil. It is about those who will stand up when others stand down. It is about the need for right to triumph. Much as a romance, they will have a happy ending-- which may or may not involve a woman.

Ambush at Dark Canyon starred Kix Brooks, who is famous in CW circles for being part of Brooks and Dunn who had hit after hit until they got to a certain age and felt they were repeating themselves and maybe wanted to go different directions. Brooks had a goal to act in a western which I felt he did quite well in this story of a US Marshal who made a catastrophic error in judgment which cost him his freedom.

The story does not end there, but I cannot reveal more of what happens without wrecking the story. Suffice to say there was plenty of action, two good bromances, and a setting in Southern Arizona where they used Yuma Prison for some of the scenes. I have been there which added to my enjoyment as Yuma Prison is one of those places you don't forget-- a literal hellhole for any one unfortunate enough to end up there.

The second film had me in some doubt when I purchased it. It was a retelling of The Virginian. Now that film has been made a lot of times usually with the same plot and beloved by me whether it's perfectly made or not. (The honeymoon at the end of the book, which evidently Owen Wister only added at Teddy Roosevelt's request -- gotta have a happy ending which Wister hadn't originally intended to involve love-- that honeymoon in the Big Horns is my idea of the best a man could give a woman. Total perfection and no sex in the story. It didn't need it.)

Okay, I got distracted. Back to the newest version. It starred Trace Adkins, who is another of my favorites in music-- and to look at. Adkins though seemed an unlikely choice for the Virginian; but when you get into this movie, it no longer is the case. He was perfectly cast.  This Virginian is a middle-aged guy, who has lived a hard life and is trying to live by the Code. He's tough, respected and living in a time where life can end very abruptly-- something he knows all too well.

The plot deviates a lot from the book while keeping some key elements. I can't say too much about it, or I'd ruin someone else's pleasure as the story unfolds, but the jacket gives away one point and I think blows it on another.

This Judge Henry is not a good guy. Ron Perlman knows how to play a complex character like this to perfection. To me, the rethinking of the Judge's character suits our understanding of how power can corrupt. By reworking  his character, the essence of the story changed from the original, but in a way that stayed true to westerns and added a view of life today.

Whoever wrote the book's jacket had a tough job. I know how hard it is to write blurbs that tell enough without too much. I just felt that the friendship between the city man and the western guy changed them both (yes another good bromance). These two men evolved with the needs of the situation. It wasn't one impacting the other but both of them. And the heroine, Molly West, well she was terrific for today's audiences.

Both of these films were good, stayed true to the heart of the western, and were eye candy enough for anybody who isn't a kid themselves ;). Certainly The Virginian was done on a budget as it didn't have a big cast-- but it put its money where it was most important.

It was the perfect time to watch these films as my newest novella comes out February 1 and while it's not exactly a western, it has one cowboy and the other a ranch owner for heroes... as well as... okay I won't go further but there will be more on it this week (while I am on the road but they are prewritten).

Thursday, January 23, 2014

on the subject of reviews.

metal sculpture from Tucson backyard January 2014

I've mentioned I read in the MOA once in awhile-- actually one thread regularly and lately another that was begun by Anne Rice, yes, the Anne Rice. Despite her best efforts, it deteriorated into a lot of name calling, hurt feelings, and probably will soon reach the 10,000 mark where Amazon has them either start over with a new name or end. This one will likely end as she appears to have no longer felt it was worth coming due to the vitriol.

There were, in between the times it went astray, some very good ideas in that thread, helpful hints for writers. The following is one by Leonard Fleisig regarding reviews and how he does them from the perspective of one who takes doing these non-professional (as in not paid) reviews very seriously-- as Amazon wants them to be taken. I asked his permission to post it here as I thought it would be interesting to others who may not have done reviews but why they should think about doing them-- and even how seriously to take the ones they read. To me reviews are another case of buyer beware, but I think we can tell the difference between someone genuinely attempting to give their opinion or only out to damage.


First things first, these are my general observations and my experiences so I'm not really speaking for any collective (or borg if you will).

Second, unless I mention a specific name (such as the infamous Harriet Klausner) I am not directing any comments, pro or con, at any reviewer - including those posting here and other reviewers generally. I have no ax to grind.

I started reviewing in dribs and drabs around 1997. For me it was just a way for me to set out in writing my thoughts on something I'd read, usually something I enjoyed. For me, setting out my thoughts in some coherent fashion (the jury may be out on that though) about a book added to my enjoyment or understanding of the book.

And then one day Amazon starts putting voting buttons on reviews and instituted a ranking system. I look up and see that, gee I'm getting votes and I have some rank of about 18,000 or some such. It was an absolutely brilliant move on Amazon's part. All of a sudden these hobbyists were getting instant affirmation in the form of votes and an increase in their rank. Net result? The number of reviewers and reviews grew exponentially and it really created a unique sort of branding for Amazon. People grew devoted to their hobby. I like it because I write for a living (not books but writing is critical to my profession) and I like keeping the creative juices flowing.

At around that time I discovered the original Amazon Reviewers Board. Interesting place, three couples met there, met in person and got married. Amazon flew a group of us (I was not) to Seattle to give them input on the reviewing system. Groups of us met in person and have offline friendships.

I say that because this old guard also had developed a certain code of ethics. Informal at best but it included; don't shamelessly shill your own reviews and ask your buddies to vote for it; don't create vote-circles (e-mail groups where you get notices of a new review and rush to vote for it); only review what you've actually read (amazing how many don't) and don't be a rank striver, in other words don't review things or do anything designed solely to move up in rank.

One more general comment: most reviewers who liked getting votes learned early on that you garnered more votes with glowing reviews than with critical 1-star reviews. (That's why I take issue with this definition of a 'careerist" reviewer who seeks to gain advantage by panning books. If you are going to be a so-called 'careerist' you will likely give unduly glowing rather than harsh reviews. There is a general concern of some, who like to think that they play by some undefined rules of the reviewing game that others are gaming the system. It is not a transparent system so there is a lot of speculation there.

Reviewers are like indie authors in many ways. We like getting positive votes the way indie authors like getting 5-star reviews. When we get negative votes many of us believe or suspect that there is some ulterior motive behind it. I got someone mad on a forum, such as this one for example, or someone wants to vote my review off the prized top vote-getting review on the first product page. We rarely think that perhaps our reviews may not be helpful or not well-written. I could have a review with 98 positive votes and 1 negative vote and I'll fixate on that 1 stinking negative and forget about the other 98. That seems like human nature to me.

As to how I approach reviewing, I am probably somewhat selfish about it. I write for my own benefit and write what please me. I don't set out to inform consumers or write in a format designed to maximize votes. Basically, I try to relay my visceral reaction to a book. What did it mean to me? It may sound counter intuitive but I've found that writing to please myself generates more 'helpfulness' than if I'd set out to please others. Don't know why but it seems to work that way for me.

The hardest part of any review for me is setting a theme. I like to use my review title and the opening sentence to set the stage for what follows. Once I've gotten that done, and sometimes I have to let it percolate, the rest of the review is easy.

One more thing. When I read a book I don't read it with the intention of writing a review and don't start thinking about a review while I'm writing.

Bottom line for me: I think most reviewers want to like the books they read and most spend more time writing positive reviews. I'll always get negative votes and authors will always get 1 star reviews and we'll spend too much time worrying about them.

Hope this is useful.


I thought it was and something for other avid readers to consider doing. It's a whole culture there. Reviews do matter to writers as it's one of the few ways to directly connect to readers. Those that are done thoughtfully can be a help to reader and writer.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Character studies

 Tucson AZ 1/16/14 taken by Farm Boss looking west

From where do writers get their ideas for their characters? I'm sure the answers are as varied as the writers; but one thing is true where it comes to character development-- nothing is stranger than real life. To create unique and challenging characters doesn't take more than reading newspapers. Sometimes you find a true story of what someone did and think-- readers would never believe that in a novel.

Linda Taylor is certainly one example presented in that detailed study, but there are lots more and not just in more or less modern times. Human nature is complex. Hero or villain.

In Oregon history such a complex woman was Margaret Bailey. She didn't fit the norms that are so tidy for how some want to see women from our pioneer days. She was a bit of an adventurer as well as unconventional. She is one of Oregon's first authors as she tried to sugarcoat her life in what was purported to be a novel but was in actuality mostly her own memoir (got the story of her from my daughter, the archaeologist).

Awhile back, I was dinged in a review for one of my historicals, Arizona Sunset, because I had a heroine, looking for adventure and willing to marry a man she planned to divorce. This heroine had thought her situation through and decided being a fallen woman was how she could avoid the cultural requirements for women of her time. Now it didn't work out as she planned-- life has a way of doing that also.

The funny part is, for that book, if I'd written that the woman had been abused by someone and frightened into marrying for safety-- that likely would have made it okay-- because it fit the stereotypes. I cannot know this for sure, but I would guess the reviewer got her idea of pioneer women from romance novels and movies. If she had had stories in her family, as I have in mine, of women going off on their own to mine for gold, she'd have seen more options for what a character might be like.

When I think of the strength of the Suffragettes, who stood up for women's right to vote and what they had to go through before they were able to convince the ones in power to give up a piece of it, you see very independently-minded women.

Ranch women also tended to be that way as back then husbands and fathers often went off to war or even those gold mines and left their wives to take care of the homestead. They were a lot tougher than some today might imagine.

Certainly cultures do make a difference as to what options men or women will have. But always there are those within each culture who strike out for their rights. Sometimes they get killed for it; but sometimes they win. When they do, I think the culture is ahead that those in power had to adjust to changing mores.

To write any story, contemporary or historical, it pays to read newspapers, memoirs and biographies as you get a feel for the vast array of human natures. Then you can bring it back to your own stories with a new creation but one based on humans-- not stereotypes. Of course, then comes the question-- do readers prefer the stereotype to reality?

Sunday, January 19, 2014

time out for a commercial break

On Wednesday, I spent two hours in my favorite Tucson hair salon-- for the sole purpose of getting a permanent. They aren't popular anymore. Styles change; and this week, mine was the only one (out of maybe twenty customers in varying states of services). Most of the ladies appeared to be having their hair colored, which takes quite a bit of time with a head covered by silver papers (for streaking, I think) or a dark gel looking substance. Since I have never gone to a salon for anything other than a perm, I am unsure how long coloring takes, but it appears to be longer than a perm.

Perms involve a lot of rollers, of varying sizes, which also have to remain a certain amount of time after the stylist has spent about 45 minutes (for my hair) wrapping it around rollers. Once you reach my age, if you wear your hair long, you are wise to choose coloring or a perm-- or, of course, neither.

I got my first perm in the '80s, which is when Armando (Wednesday's stylist) told me they were most popular. I like them for the increased body and how I can, if I wish, do what you see in the first photo, wash and let it go loose in the witch or nature child's favorite look.What surprised me with this perm was when Armando told me my last one there had been May of 2010. I knew it had been awhile, but time does indeed fly. Since this is the only salon I now use for a permanent, that was the last one I had.

In the past, I have tried two other Tucson salons. My second experience here was a small salon that seems to have been there forever-- with a regular clientele. It had  five stalls (mirror, shelf for supplies, and chair) for stylist and customer. I liked the old-fashioned atmosphere, the neighborly chit chat, with the added benefit of having a stylist closer to my age who also wore her hair long. I returned to Tucson one year to find she had retired. I decided to try something different.

My current Tucson choice is a state of the art business, very elegant. They handle all the services a person might want including manicures, pedicures, facials, massages, etc. Before you sit in the chair, you don a black robe to protect clothing. It, along with  the stylists in black or black and white, makes for a sensually pleasing atmosphere. I enjoy watching the others to see why they are there, how it looks when they leave, but I am most glad when I leave.

The thing is with a permanent, a woman with long hair cannot mess around with budget places. My first try for a Tucson salon came not long after we bought this house. The stylist was charming, chatty, and left the curling agent on too long. With long hair, that is a disaster. It took many months and cutting off a lot of length to get beyond the frying. Now I don't mess with budgets. Since I only do it rarely, I figure I can afford a luxury treatment especially when it leaves my hair soft as this one did.

I am one of those people who likes long hair but doesn't want to spend much time messing with it. I am happiest when, in the mornings. all I have to do is run a brush or comb through it. Sometimes, if I have plans for the next day, before I go to bed, I pin it in fat rolls on top my head (added bonus of not sleeping on its length). In the morning, pulling out the pins takes a couple of minutes, and I'm good to go. At night it looks like an elegant updo-- during the day it's comfortable. A perm makes all that work better.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

pricing as another issue

 Catalina State Park and water in the creek

So long as I'm discussing the nuts and bolts of writing, the not such a fun part, pricing comes to mind. One of the popular websites for promoting indie eBooks won't take any over the price of $2.99, and they are all about offering their readers bargains. Some think if you price them quite cheaply, you will sell more. Others feel if you price them low, you are cheating authors who need to make a living at this business and downgrading the value of your book.

If you have a publisher, they not only take a percentage of the book's sale but will decide on the pricing as that's part of the deal you entered into. If you are on your own, you have to look at what's out there, decide what you feel is fair and expect you won't please everyone by what you decided no matter what it is.

So here's what I have observed in my two years of doing this. When I gave away my books, I had thousands taken of each one. That's a lot of books. I also had some tell me in forums that they wouldn't buy one, although it sounded interesting, because it'd be free eventually. How many reviews did I get for all those books going onto devices? Maybe a couple in GoodReads which were all negative and one or two in Amazon. How many even read the books they took? Hard to say. How many books did I sell due to the free reads? Maybe twenty in the month following a giveaway. That doesn't take a mathematical genius to see that the Select, mass give aways were not a good deal for the writers, but even worse-- they set up expectations that free was what every book should be. Not bad if you didn't want to do this for a profession-- otherwise a disaster.

If I eliminate free, what about charging 99¢ or $1.99? Here's what Amazon does at those prices, they take 70% and you get 30%. At $2.99, writer gets 70% Amazon 30% (well except in some countries where unless you belong to select, you are back to 30%). Clearly really cheap isn't a good deal for the writer. There is another problem with it. People tend to think it's garbage if it's priced too low. Most of the books below $2.99 do not have a Table of Contents-- and if you've been reading eBooks, you know the TOC is a huge advantage in navigating the book. A lot of them at $2.99 also have no TOC but your odds are better at getting one.

When I did my first novella last December, second one coming February 1st, I had another problem with pricing. If I charged less than $2.99, it would hardly be worth putting it out. IF I had it at the same price as my full sized novels, which run 83,000-110,000 words, and it's only 27,000, how fair does that seem to the buyers? That's when I opted to create that level for novellas, which means the new one also when it is out. The next level up was all my contemporaries at $3.99.

I had another problem in August when I decided to dip my toe in the water with publishing the Arizona historicals.  These are longer books also, usually above 120,000 words which according to the publishing houses puts them in the epic level-- although I wouldn't call mine epics because they don't encompass several generations and generally take place within a matter of months. What would be fair to the other books and the readers? I put them at $4.99 but ask myself all the time if this is a good idea.

One other thing where it comes to pricing. I hate sales. I hate them in buying clothing, groceries, appliances, anything. The only sale that I like would be end of season when it makes sense. Otherwise sales to me seem unfair to the person who had to buy something the week ahead or just before they would get the lower price if they took the drive back (which in my case means 25 or more miles-- hardly going to pay off).

Where it comes to the eBooks, I put one on sale when someone else just bought it at full price (I've been the one buying such a book) and I have to feel it was unfair to the first purchaser. They are big on urging sales as a way to promote your books but they simply seem wrong to me. But I could move my historicals back down to $3.99. Except... what about those who bought them at the higher price?

Pricing is one of those things I really hate about the whole business... and it is a business; so it has to be considered. According to the experts who write books helping you get your books seen, the sweet spot for sales is from $2.99-3.99 with the necessity of it being below $5 if it's from an indie writer. How do they figure this stuff out?

From the time I opted not to submit my books to publishing houses and put them out myself, it's been a continual learning process. It has its pluses (more control) and minuses (more problems). I have no regrets. I like the opportunity I have been given.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

promo material-- or not

Of all the things I spend time doing where it comes to the books, the one I like the least, the one that wears me out the fastest, the one I tend to feel I've accomplished nothing at the end of day doing it-- is producing promotional material. It's not hard to see why successful authors pay someone to do it.

When I am writing on a new work, I feel stimulated and excited by how the story is going, what happens next. When I am doing research for a book, I get into what I am learning-- even if I don't end up using it. Even editing has its rewarding side as I find better ways to say something.

But promotional material is like pulling teeth. I do it because I know I should but I do a lot less of it than many writers; and when I read an article by someone who blasted past all the barriers and sold a ton of books, it's generally helped along by how good they were at promoting that work-- or having someone who did.

So this last week I've been editing on my novella as I begin to work up an idea for a second to follow in its wake. Both will be paranormal, fantasies, but based roughly on what I have read from many religions as well as metaphysics (which might also be a religion). That is stimulating, exciting as I think on what I want it to depict. I though have also been trying to put together a site to promote the group anthology which will go out in mid-March. That required figuring out how to create one place that will take someone to all my books at various sites besides Amazon-- because soon we want them also available on other locations.

Usually I enjoy image work but something about this one was getting to me. If I use a western landscape, it doesn't work for my books that are set in the city. Even my contemporaries in downtown Portland do have the spirit of a western, but how to get that across in one image was the problem.

The real goal for that one image had to be the energy of a romance. Water and rock depicted that best. Romances are about two, often very different, people coming together and working past the obstacles to a relationship that can last. The only question left was-- moving or still water. Reflections depict the depth of relationships, but I think I am actually going for moving water as it's the volatility of the romance book.

That had me looking through my photos until I found two I particularly liked. Although both are in Arizona, I didn't see that as a problem as they are both beautiful. But what they also turned out to be difficult to put readable words over the top while not losing the beauty. After half a day I came up with two possible versions which I'll give a day or two to think about before using-- but I think I prefer the running water.

After my back said give this a break, I went outside to take more photos of the new metal deer dancer sculpture. It's going back to Oregon with us, but I thought photos against the vegetation here would be good. It might end up the cover of the second novella-- or not. If it does, I need a more threatening environment than this photo-- maybe a little wind ;).

Update: After thinking about the promotional photo that would be above my links, and Tabor's comment, I gave it another shot by this time darkening the photo to make it more dramatic and giving up on red (even though it is very western feeling) as it's never going to be possible to define it from the rocks and the varying shades of light and dark. I think this be the one whenever we get the links set up. Being in Arizona, with work needed on house/yard, consulting work following hubby, my writing, there has to be some time for fun too...

Sunday, January 12, 2014

writing about violence

For  some people sex is the hard thing to write about in a book. For me it's violence; but I do write stories involving danger which means at a certain point there might be a fistfight, guns blazing, people getting shot, knifed, or killed. Writing that is a tough one since I've never punched anybody in the face-- ever. Not even slapped them. So if I have to use my imagination with the love making, the violence is even more so.

It seems we live in a culture where kids grow up automatically knowing about violence and enjoying it. For many people, it's more acceptable than sex, but for me it's the other way around. If I have my hero or heroine do something violent or be impacted by violence, I want it to be essential to the story, and then I want it to feel right. When that fist smacks into a face, I'd like it to feel it happened. Naturally that means I rely on what I've seen in a movie or read in someone else's book-- and hope that will never change as I don't want to get punched to find out what it's like.

When we were at Old Tucson December 2012, they showed how they stage their fist fights as well as explosions. The best movies look so realistic that you would believe that blow really hit home and sometimes it does-- leading to broken bones.

Real fist fights are not pretty, and they do a lot of potential damage. Recently the newspaper related a story where a man was hit by someone and went down in such a way it killed him. Taking violence casually, due to all the movies and games, seems one of our mistakes as a culture. So there is a lot of responsibility when opting to use it in a book.

As a writer who wants danger to be in the book, who has some bad guys with a hero out to take the villain down, there will be violent events, and I have to think long and hard not only how to stage them but how much to describe. Also is violence the best way to resolve what must happen? Are there less bloody alternatives that would work as well? And as to details once I decide it has to be, I am not one for blood spurting everywhere to read or watch; so I am sure not going to write about it ad nauseum.

One of the big issues, of course, is when a weapon is used, how much damage would it really do? How much kick would it have? What type of weapon would be used in each historic era? I can think of a lot of old movies where I saw the settlers on a wagon train fighting off the marauding Indians using repeating rifles. Guess what-- those weren't around until during the Civil War and even then not quite like we might imagine based on the movies or rifles of today.

Making a decision to kill a character is a big one for me. When I do it, I ask myself are there alternatives. Except sometimes there really don't seem to be any if I want the story to feel realistic. I consider violence as big an issue for how I will write about it as the sexuality.

I rely on Farm Boss for weapon information because men seem to always know about it where I am lucky to remember what he said from one fight scene to the next. Off hand I cannot tell you how many guns we have on our ranch, but they range from the very old to relatively new.  My personal oldest one is a .38 which was my grandfather's and the story goes that he was on a horse running from a posse with that gun. It's now a little on the old side for firing and whether the story is accurate, who knows.

When required, I can use a gun, asked for my first the Christmas I turned twelve. Supposedly the 30.30 is mine too but it has a little more kick than I prefer for coyotes. I have no fear of safe handling of guns with a loaded one near me most of the time (except when the grandkids are visiting), but I don't know much about them other than how to care for, handle safely and shoot the ones I have-- and I stay totally away from all those automatics where it's too easy to shoot yourself. Even with a concealed weapon permit, I don't carry a gun unless I am anticipating being in a wilderness where I might need it. Otherwise, pepper spray does nicely ;) and I haven't had to use that either although I've had a few times I wasn't sure if I would.

It does seem a casual attitude toward violence has not been helping us as a culture. Writers have a responsibility to take that into consideration with their stories-- or so I believe.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

writing reviews

Besides writing, fooling around with images for blogs or trailers, having a life, I also follow a couple of threads about writing. One of them was, for awhile, discussing reviews-- most especially those of books. There are a lot of quotes out there about reviews.

"The bitter truth we critics must face is that, in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is more meaningful than our criticism designating it so."    food critic-- Anton Ego from movie Ratatouile.

"I have learned not to read reviews. Period. And I hate reviewers. All of them, or at least all but two or three. Life is much simpler ignoring reviews and the nasty people who write them. Critics should find meaningful work."   author-- John Grisham

"I get terrible reviews everywhere I go."   musician and singer-- Harry Connick, Jr. 
The discussion I'd been reading in the forums was started by the author, Anne Rice. It was intended as a place for authors where she would share what she had learned about editing and writing (generous I thought). One of the subjects that arose was reviews and how important they can be to the reader in making a choice. Reviews, especially on Amazon are regarded as very important.

Now for me, I don't buy books based on them, but how much should they impact? How many people do them?  Publishing houses understand their value and send out promotional books ahead of a book's arrival to hopefully get good reviews from other authors in their house and especially well-known authors.

When anyone buys a book from Amazon (or CD or DVD) they are asked to do a review but how many take that time? What is the benefit of ordinary people, not those educated to it, writing reviews of what they liked or did not? For that matter-- what educates someone to be a professional reviewer? Are they English majors or just someone who can write satirical articles? Admittedly, personal preference cannot be wrong but as soon as you do a review, you (pro or amateur) are telling someone else what you think in order to influence their own purchases, right?

Writers of books, especially indie books, want reviews and they want them whether they are positive or negative. Reviews mean someone cared enough to take time out of their day to express their opinion. Most readers will never do them. I rarely did one in the past and don't do a lot now-- of course some of that is because right now I have little time for pleasure reading.

My books have gotten very few reviews but anytime they do, it means a lot to me. I've had a few where the review is lukewarm, none really negative (so far), but when they say why they feel that way, I can learn from it-- painful as it might sometimes be.

Recently I had another review for one of my books that criticized its cover. That is NOT the first time that cover has been criticized in a review. It led to my redoing it now several times. It might though be the new cover won't please them either.

From Here to There is a romance but it's not just a romance between a man and woman but also of the West as it was and is. I just could not, and believe me I have tried, do a cover that showed a couple for that book. Nothing ever really worked to satisfy me and the readers. Yes, this is one I worked on but just didn't meet the mark.

My covers have many people on them, a few of just a person, but but this one has seemed it should be of the West where it is set. This book is, as one of my readers said, a novel with a romantic emphasis. I think that's a fair assessment.

So I did redo the cover (at the top of this blog), but left it a western scene of the mountains and beauty of Montana. After all, it's why this romance exists-- not only to discuss why so many of us love the West, but how realistic is our view of it? It is shown through a romance with a couple (two actually) learning the lessons first hand.

That reader review led to my looking again at my cover, seeing the font wasn't that good and deciding maybe a different western image would work better. But will it satisfy the next reader? Maybe-- maybe not. I do know though if you read someone's book, buy a CD or view a DVD where you can review it, please consider doing so. It does matter. It's not the end all and be all why someone like me is a writer, but it's a sweet perk.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

soul collages

When I got to our Tucson house and settled at my computer to scan over one of my eBooks for improving the editing, redo a cover on another because of complaints that it just didn't do the book justice, and keep up on the MOA forums (two I follow with interest), I looked up at the collage above my desk and saw something I hadn't put together before.

It goes back to 2001, when I was 58 and going through a LOT of changes in terms of who I was and what I wanted. I was entering the gateway to old age. Changes were ahead whichever way I was going to take them. It was then that I read about a tool to center yourself toward your deepest goals-- creating soul collages.

There were classes and books on how to do this, even making soul cards this way [soul collage book]. I ordered the book but never took the time to read it as I already had a feel for how I wanted to do it. I didn't want to make the cards as I used Tarot by that time which worked fine for my off and on needs. What I wanted was to create a soul collage for the wall that I could look at.

So, I went through my western and art magazines, cutting out images that spoke to me.  It turned out to be a mix of art, people and scenery. The instructions are then to glue them to a board, which can be foam board, poster board, anything heavy enough to hold them, in a pleasing pattern to you.

The one above my desk here in Tucson was my second and created in 2002 during a four month period where I was staying here, often alone, as my husband would fly in and out for his consulting business while keeping up the cattle and sheep operation in Oregon. I had time to hike by myself, create a lot of clay sculptures (many still in this house) and think.

I did my last collage in 2003 back in Oregon. By 2004, it just didn't seem something that I needed to do; but I also hadn't seen how they had changed much to do the three I had. But you know often what we think is not speaking to us is doing more than we know.

Last week, when I looked up at the Tucson one I had to laugh. I saw my romance novels. What I had no idea back then was that I was pointing myself in the direction I would go. Although I was always writing I hadn't seen the connection between the collages I had done and the books. I see it now. The energy of all my romance novels is in those collages. I can't say the collages pointed me toward them but they sure do reveal them.

These images represent my innermost soul, but also the women I write about, the men they love and the energy of what I hope for in everyone of my stories. As I think about it, the two I have in Oregon do the same thing. All that was in me, wanting to come out, was in those collages. I didn't need to make more of them because they were there; and when I looked up at this one, I thought, yeah, it was a better tool than I knew.

So if you haven't found your own energy, this is a tool I much recommend. If you don't have the right magazines, head for a used store and pick up some that most interest you for the images. You might be like me and not understand how much it has revealed, but I think it helps even if is subliminally. Thinking about it now, I know they can serve as reminders each time I start a new book of what I hope will be in it for me to reveal and readers someday to discover.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

into the new year

It's hard sometimes to settle down and write blogs. My mind is on so many other things; and when I get back here, I am torn on what to cover.

Well a new cover is one of them. From out of nowhere I decided to redo the cover for Evening Star. This book came to my attention because I began January with a -1 on my Amazon page showing sales. It happened because this business of taking my books and asking for refunds bought Evening Star struck again. December 27 or 28th the book was bought... The refund request must have come within the 7 days and just as the new year began. It made me laugh as what a beginning to a year. Fortunately sales soon erased it.

The cover had had a man on it with a rather dreamy expression in his eyes. It did fit the hero. The story of Evening Star is not told from his perspective. It's the only full length novel where the point of view stays with the heroine and villain (yes, the villain). You see the hero only through their eyes; but it is sooooo much about him.

Wanting a change for the book that had come out early in 2012, I looked through the images I had purchased. The above one seemed to do the job best in showing the doubts each of them have for this relationship into which they have entered.  I set the backdrop as the city of Portland along with the evening star (actually Venus) and a crescent moon.

Incidentally, I have read it's good to change covers now and again, but I won't do it for that reason. I do it because I've come up with a better way to showcase the story.

That's when I got into something I also hadn't expected. When I knew I'd be resubmitting the book to get the new cover, I thought I should look at the text. This is something a non-writer probably won't understand but a painter would. I didn't see mistakes in the book or places I goofed up but rather where I could upgrade my story by cutting words or rephrasing.

When I am writing a lot, as I have been in the last few years (I have gone through spurts where sculpture was more to me or painting but always writing is there), I am constantly getting better. I am a better writer today than two years ago and will be better yet in two more years. It is how it is and it's also why I tell those who want to write-- do it. Do it and more will come.

So I began to look at the text and yes, I saw places I could sharpen it. Since I was resubmitting anyway, I went through the whole book. There would be long sections where nothing could be improved. When I saw where it could be, I did before sending it off to Amazon.

In the last two months I have looked through two of my books (both published early in 2012) for that kind of upgrading. For anybody who doesn't like it that eBooks are organic that way, they probably also don't understand how a painter can look at their painting on the wall, and think-- that corner bothers me and set out to change it. It is the creative process which is also organic at least in my experience. (The only time I can't do it is with my fired clay sculptures. I'll still though look at an arm and wish I'd made it shorter but there is no tweaking them).

For anyone who bought this book before January, you can go to your manage your Kindle and request an update. I doubt you will see much difference as the changes are not to the basic story or really even major ones.

I am so into this being 2014 with new opportunities. Always there are chances to learn, to take new challenges. I am happy to find this is still true at 70 :)

our Tucson backyard looking toward Pusch Ridge

Friday, January 3, 2014

Settling in

 gila woodpecker at Casa Espiritu (our Tucson house)

Traveling a lot, starting the day after Christmas, has gotten me off my game with posting here. I am back though with high speed internet (which took some hassle to get working again) and hopefully will have my usual schedule of Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday postings-- until we have to leave toward the end of January.

In heading south, we spent four nights out rather than the usual two because we had our two cats (who hate traveling) and were pulling our vacation trailer. It wasn't so much that the trailer slowed us down (it did have those moments) but more that it was nicer at night than in a motel room-- hence we were more willing to only drive 7 hours instead of the usual +12 that used to have us ready to collapse whenever we finally got to our destination.

RV and state parks are interesting for how people are more prone to interact with each other than happens in most hotels or motels-- at least in my experience. I won't say you become bosom buddies, but you often learn more about why they are on the road. Seeing their rigs (and often dogs) tells you more about the people than you'd see just carrying bags into a motel room. Also the trailers have windows on all sides; so you see more of what's around you. I liked it a lot and spending more hours in it at night was fun. Most RV parks now have wireless. Many also offer cable TV but we haven't set that up and don't watch much TV other than our own DVDs at night. What made it great was feeling like each night we were re-entering our cottage.

 you see the pop out which is popped in as we sure don't want unwelcome guests 
while here to be using it and I do mean the kind that fly and crawl.

 So our trailer is parked at the back of our Tucson property and we're settled comfortably with some things to get fixed (okay quite a few of those), but time to do them right. I've been working on assorted writing projects. More about those on Sunday. For today, below are the two fur kids. They look more relaxed than the oldest one actually is. Every morning he hides under one of the beds thinking we're going again. By the time he figures out we are not, it will be time we will...