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

Sunday, March 30, 2014

geography and a novel

When you write some books, the geographic logistics are no challenge. Basically you know the main routes even in historical times. A lot of roads were on maps for many years. But when you set a story in the back country of the United States anytime from the 1800s until the 1900s, those roads can be difficult to determine.

I ran into this when I was writing my Oregon historical series. I thought I could get the information from museums, but a lot of them had no idea either. Forget finding an accurate map. Oh, you can find the old ones, those drawn during the time, but map making then was a much less exact science than it is for us in the days of Google and satellites. Often it isn't only roads that don't look right but also misplaced rivers and mountains-- they at least don't move around.

 So you want to write a story set back in 1899, which I do, how do you determine what the terrain would be like, what paths the characters might take, what transportation would be possible, or how long it might take?

I have books... lots of books on Arizona history but some rely on those unreliable old maps. Some give rough approximations of directions. A modern gazetteer helps.

It helps that I have been in almost every corner of the state at one time or another. I have photos from all across it, but I wasn't taking notes. When I was in Tucson doing some research in museums, I had not worked out the plot for this book. I had never imagined the need for my hero and heroine to travel from Tucson to Holbrook. My many photos are quite handy but then did the vegetation look the same a hundred years ago? Massive logging, forest fires, and human habitation change a lot.

So as my couple ride their horses north through some of Arizona's most beautiful terrain, I am following along with Google literally and it does help. We printed off some of the maps and my husband put them together to make the route pretty obvious. They are on the bookcase behind me for walking back to consider where I am and where they would be. 

To write an historical, I don't have to think I have every detail perfect, but the more I can feel where the characters are, the easier it is for me to write their observations and reactions.

The photo at the top was taken in April 2011 when we took the back road, one of gravel, narrow, and rough in places, down from Young, Arizona, along Cherry Creek to the Salt River. It's not exactly where my hero and heroine would have been, but it is within twenty or thirty miles and close enough for the terrain to be very similar.

Update: After thinking about how inaccurate maps were back in the times of many historical novels, I emphasized how now we have accurate ones due to so many technical advantages. Listen to this clip from a TV show: inaccurate map of world today.  So we can then have maps that are intended to politically influence how we think... What exactly can we trust?
image from the link

Thursday, March 27, 2014

literary heartbreakers

While I'm into what is real or not-- how about this? People like romances for the happy ending (the guy above, handsome though he might be, didn't get one), but how many of those romance heroes, who do, are the kind of guy you'd like to take home to mama?

Going along with this, I came across the following article. It's one that many historical romance writers might want to consider. If you want you want your heroine to fit her time period based on books out during that time period, maybe reconsider as I am not at all sure modern women can relate to a lot of this.

I don't have a link for it but there was another treatise of the 1800s I read some time ago where this pastor wrote about the proper etiquette for sexual relations between married couples. Children should never be conceived in lust was the biggie. Seriously-- and how would a man get it up without a little heat? It appears it's just women who should suppress theirs and just... endure it? lol That is so not how modern women think nor what men of today expect from their ladies.

One thing about writing historical novels is we really do have to understand we are writing them with the insights of today; and to be meaningful to today's readers, they will meet the needs of those readers. For what energy or inspiration are they looking for? Good question and if you have the answer, please let me know ;)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

real life? or... not so much...

 1889 Montana miners
As I have mentioned more than a few times, I am back writing an historical romance, one that joins up with my Arizona historicals. Frankly there are times I've said I never want to write another, not because I don't like the research. I love research. It's so much fun to find out more about an earlier period, learn details I never knew, then set my characters into that for their own emotional run.

In the writing, I have always separated in my own mind the difference between a non-fiction history book, historical novel, and historical romance. I mean come on-- romances are not meant to be realistic. They should feel like they could have happened but all the time are also fairy tales for adults (just like a lot of adventure, sci fi, fantasy, etc.). In a romance you have a story centered around a hero and heroine who eventually, no matter what the odds, conquer all. Where do you draw the line between that story and the historical facts you are setting it into?

I get it. For 'hard core' historical romance readers, the story has to be accurate down to the last eyelash for them to feel they are really there. I have heard some say they learn history from them. O-kay! (incidentally, that word has been in use a lot longer than some might imagine).

So here's my rebuttal to purists-- what we know about historic periods is what somebody from that period wanted to leave us and someone from a later period interpreted. Sometimes the journals or books are scrupulous for detail, but some are written to make a point or sugar coat something. Almost always, if you read many regarding any important event or person, they will have widely differing viewpoints.

We might think we know important facts about an historic period from those who have studied it for a career, using what has been left behind in books, journals/letters; archaeological digs; old photos, which were often posed and sometimes faked for setting and garments even those as revered as by Edward Curtis; often repeated quotes by someone like Chief Seattle, except he never said what they say he did; or objects and clothing that survived to be placed in a museum.

The biggest problem I have with those who adore historical details is the details can get in the way of the story for anybody who is most interested in plot and character. For someone hoping to get the equivalent of a history book from their historical romance, they will ignore plots that make no sense at all. Heaven forbid though that a writer uses a fabric that didn't exist then.

This could be called anal writing and reading. The language their character will use must be accurate even if today it seems staid and forced-- because the only real example we have of past language is written-- which is not often how people talked-- then or now. Fiction of that period also often sugar coated real language. And don't even get me started on dime novels from the western era.

When the TV series, Deadwood was on cable, there was a huge fit made over the crude, obscene language being used. Not realistic went the cry of historical purists. Except how do they know? Oh yeah those books written back then-- which are so likely to be how real people talked...

If you write a western romance set say in the 1880s and you have your heroine ride astride, you have just committed an atrocity. Ladies rode sidesaddle, dontchaknow. Except women did ride astride even before that. I mean let's face it a side saddle is practical more as a puritan device devised to make sure a lady didn't spread her legs or become stimulated by the movement of the horse. Practical? Not so much but horse shows still do events to show a gifted equestrian can do it-- not intended to illustrate it is the best way to ride. As for riding with a full skirt that flowed out all over the place, let's hope there's no wind and that the other horses in the area aren't easily frightened.

The problem with this drive for historical perfection is we do not know exactly what people thought back then or how life was lived except as stated above. The obsession by an author to include details to prove they did research can get in the way of plot action. So if I read a romance by a detail driven purist, but her heroine is acting more like a modern woman (aside from stilted language), I should be impressed even if the plot has enough inconsistencies that nothing makes sense?

But despite all that, here I go again with that third Arizona historical, set in Arizona Territory, 1899. There was a LOT going on then and not just that impacted Arizona but the whole nation.  My main emphasis on research has involved details that I know help the story to come to life and that are often sooooo hard to find without combing through book and article after article. Because I love history, I enjoy this kind of activity but only include what I think would be part of the characters' experiences. When we are living something, we don't think constantly about details.

When reading someone else's book, I can't imagine noticing if they have the proper number of petticoats on the heroine. I'd be more interested in how her dress might've varied depending on her class status. I would care if how she had to dress was impacting her emotions and told me something about her character-- think Calamity Jane. Otherwise what I care about are plots and characters. I have never once read someone else's western historical and thought-- wow, that's the way it really was. I don't for a second expect that it was-- it's a romance for Pete's sake. I want to enjoy the ride and not find it being distracted by trivia.

When I write, I am most interested in motivations, in making the characters act consistently or grow in a way that makes sense. Maybe that means I am better suited to writing contemporary stories where I can make it seem real-- oh along with a few demons and fairies... pardon me Fae (that's what I just read fairies really are-- and if you thought they were nice little guardians of the forests-- they're not-- well, that is one truth).

And the real Old West, well it wasn't quite as glamorous as romance writers/readers might like to imagine. Nothing wrong with fantasy, imagination and fairy tales... just so long as nobody confuses it with real life-- then or now.

 Henry Plummer, a real old time sheriff, maybe road agent, was definitely the man who was hanged by a vigilante gang in Bannack, Montana, January 10, 1864, when he was 32 years old. Was he a bandit or did he get killed by the real bandits?  His wife wasn't there. Was that significant? That's what real life is like and it's always not often tidy ;).

Sunday, March 23, 2014

the nitty gritty of it

Someone asked about how a writer keeps track of trilogies which would lead to the same concerns when it comes to series writing. I started to answer it in a comment; but realized I'd learned a lot, especially recently, and it was worthy of its own blog.

When I participated in that Facebook event, I had not only my own hour, but listened in and commented on other writers-- learning a few things along the way. As a writer, you tend to be all on your own especially when creating a new world where you become part of it more than your own-- at least for awhile. Unless you go to workshops, joint critique groups, or attend conferences, none of which have I done, you may not even know other writers doing what you do-- at least it was that way for me until I got into the Amazon forums. The Facebook event was even more of a connection to like-minded writers and readers. It was fast moving, free flowing, like a big party but all revolving around westerns, writing or reading.

So when it comes to writing a series or trilogy, you need to define when your characters were born (even important secondary ones) at least for yourself even if it never shows up anywhere else. In a contemporary it might seem less important but it still matters. How old was that mama? When were the hero and heroine born? When did parents die or did they? What might've impacted their lives-- like say a war. It might seem less important with a story set in today, but in romances, it's the relationships that matter; so consistency in time counts.

For years I kept  all that about my characters in my head. I had no idea when a character had been born. Even more so when I had continuing characters, secondary in one, hero in next, I wasn't always that clear on how that would work for getting pregnant or jobs. Frankly back then it didn't really matter. I was writing for myself. When I decided to ePub these books, it was obviously going to matter-- a lot.

If you have a girl in one instantly being a woman two years later and back to a girl in the third, that will drive readers nuts. A timeline avoids that kind of glitch. I made my first one on Corel as frankly I didn't know how to draw a line in Word. What I did was create a straight line and on one side the years-- other side what happened. In my first timeline, I didn't use major world events. They weren't a factor in the story-- or so I thought.

Well major wold events actually are a factor. We are impacted in our daily lives by what we know happened outside our own world. Historical or contemporary characters are no different. Hence attitudes, toward immigration, Native Americans, other countries, natural disasters, political causes, impact of climate, all do enter in their lives as well as our own. We may be on the other side of the popular opinion but it still plays a role in how we see it for something like a major war. If your heroine cannot vote, how does she feel about it? Was the treatment of the Chinese okay or not? Don't know what that was? If she didn't, it says something about her personality-- and if the hero knows, but she doesn't, are they really a good match?

So a timeline that takes into account what else was happening can mean two timelines if it was a lot or just notes regarding something outside the characters' orbits. I finally did learn to draw a line in Word and found that leaving spaces blank when nothing was happening for a few years, gave that timeline more meaning-- also leaving room for additions in the future.

This week-end, at that Facebook event, a writer of mysteries mentioned that she does a bible for her books. I hadn't heard the term and thought I could find out with a search the next morning. What I found is the word bible is so filled with energy that you cannot find anything except it-- pro and con. The search was awash in horror (or glee) that Costco had put the Bible in their fiction section in Simi Valley. Finally I gave up the search and emailed her with the question.

What she told me, that I never did find by a Google search, is that it's like a series bible. If I'd had that second word, I would have saved myself a lot of time. The essence is that a series on television needs to keep track of a lot of characters, what happened, what influences, and that's the bible. She has taken that term to use especially with her mysteries but clearly also her historicals 

She was generous and gave me an example of how complex hers is for a series of detective stories she writes-- it was a table of contents that led to 166 pages. -- numbers, timeline, recurring character bios, professional contacts, trends, location, etc. etc.-- basically a book in itself.In her character bios, she had important secondary relationships. She had chapters for weapons, forensics, legal system, etc. Think Arthur Conan Doyle here. She went on with a lot more of the trends of that time, which might impact her stories-- each with their own chapters. 

I think I should now give you the name of the prolific author who gave me all this info-- Alison Bruce, who writes both mysteries and historicals. 

In the past, I did my research without anything resembling the level of a bible. It was all on many small and large pieces of paper-- some handwritten, some typed. I had a mix of bookmarks that I might be able to find again if I could remember which file. I'd lose the paper or throw them out when I thought the book was done without realizing I was going to someday write another with the same characters.

Yes, I knew some writers were more organized than me. I didn't really care as I thought I was writing what came along. Up to a point, that might work when it's not a series or even more so a trilogy where a continuing problem will be resolved in the third book (and in my case with each standing alone if someone reads only one). 

In 2011, when I started to pull my books together, the ones with some of the same characters, I just felt lucky I hadn't yet published any of them. I could adjust some things to finally get them to follow in a logical line. Some, with a recurring secondary character, I had to change of names. It was impossible to blend them as I had with my loose sense of organization. The heroes and heroines were fine, but they could not show up elsewhere out of sequences for their age, age of children or jobs.

I still write seat of my pants in a lot of ways with a story that comes to me and details that grow as I consider what fits together. Now though I have a timeline, adding to it if required, and I do write character profiles when I first introduce a character or family. I am thinking I will also have a bible. It won't be so organized that it has chapters but it will stay in a folder that at least can be found later with printed off articles that relate. Yeah, I'm not anal-- I also though am not nuts, don't want more work than required, and realize readers keep track. A writer that's sloppy likely won't get a second chance.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Guest author-- Paty Jager

My guest author today is Paty Jager, an Oregon rancher and author of award winning books as she tells a bit about her new short story for the anthology, Rawhide 'n Roses

I’m a Sucker for Lawmen
by Paty Jager

Rain, Thank you for exchanging blogs with me today. I’m excited to be in an anthology with so many talented authors.

When the subject was brought up, by the western romance authors on the Amazon forum started by an avid western reader, that we should make an anthology, I was ready to hop on board. Any time so many talented writers put together a sampling of their work is has to turn out as a win/win. Readers get great reads in one book and authors can cross promote.

The only catch—I couldn’t think of what to write. Then the very same avid reader who brought us together on the forum tossed out one of her monthly challenges to write a paragraph or more using five words. Marshal, Preacher, School Teacher, Undertaker, and Baker.

I was in the middle of two other projects but the more I thought about those words the opening for my short story, Bluffing the Marshal, came to me:

Nellie Preston stood at the top of the family cellar gnawing her bottom lip. What would Pa do when he discovered she had the preacher, school teacher, undertaker, and baker tied up in the cellar? Even more important—she hoped kidnapping the men would not only clear her brother’s name but show the handsome marshal she had the grit to be married to a lawman.

By-the-book Marshal Barkley should be charging down the road any minute. By now word would have spread she’d taken the missing men.

Her sour stomach rivaled the guilt eating away at her good sense. This had been a brash move to get the marshal out of town, but her brother’s life and her future depended on his arrival. She’d made the four men as comfortable as possible in the cellar. She’d even explained why they were here, but they hadn’t taken kindly to being kidnapped by Marcus Preston’s sister.

Dust plumed into the air a mile down the road to town. Nellie squinted, staring at the dust, hoping the marshal came alone. He’d be harder to convince if he brought a posse and his deputy. They’d say she was just like her brother—a no-good-killer.

She picked up the rifle leaning against the cellar door and prayed her parents and the younger kids didn’t come home early from visiting their grandparents two counties over. She wanted Marcus out of jail and things back to normal by the time Pa came home. Marcus was her twin, and she loved him dearly, but he did tend to get in fixes that most young men knew better to stay away from.

Pa always said of the two; she had the brains and Marcus had the muscle.

Some of her agitation fled when she spotted one horse and rider running hell bent up their lane. Marshal Tate Barkley had come by himself.

She smiled. He probably figured he didn’t need a posse to bring in one young woman.

Nellie cocked the gun and waited.


I have several books that have lawmen in them. The first book of my Halsey Series, Marshal in Petticoats has an accident prone young woman who is made marshal and the second book in the series, Outlaw in Petticoats has the two main characters ending up in law enforcement by the end of the book. All five of the Halsey Series books are available in an ebook box set. 

You can read about or purchase the Halsey Brothers Series box set at:

Windtree Press             Kindle                    Nook              Kobo     

With sixteen published books, four novellas, and two anthologies, award-winning author, Paty Jager is never at a loss for story ideas and characters in her head. Her rural life in central and eastern Oregon, and interests in local history and the world around her, keeps the mystery and romance ideas flowing. She not only writes the western lifestyle, she lives it.  

You can learn more about Paty at her blog;  her website; or on Facebook;!/paty.jager and twitter;  @patyjag.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

It was a week for...

Last week was an interesting/different time. We drove to the Oregon Coast to spend a few days with friends. The four of us have been doing this pretty much yearly for more than a few. Farm Boss met him before meeting me. I met her when he began dating her. We go back fifty years with a lot of shared experiences. Fun to spend time with people with whom you have a long, positive history.

This year when we began to make our arrangements for going in December, we learned our favorite house was being remodeled and was not available, would no longer be what it had been. We had loved it for its eclectic decor, odd placement of rooms, kitchen, etc.  It had the best view of wildlife that I know of on the Oregon Coast as it overlooked a small cove with tidal pools, lots of birds, and seals. We could sit by a window and just watch for what birds would fly by. My favorites were the pelicans as I love how they soar in a long line, evenly spaced, just above the sea. So we were disappointed in its loss. The lady who had arranged our yearly jaunts in the past suggested another we might like. We made our reservations based on photos and her recommendation.  

That was set for mid December but the other couple got sick. We postponed it for early March since we had a lot of other activities to work around. Even that had to be rescheduled due to a conflict. Finally we made it last week, and it was great. The weather could not have been better-- 60s and sunshine to start although it grayed up the last day. By then we were packing up.

The house was a delight because it had been the home of an artist who made every corner of it into something special. It's amazing how much you can tell about the personality of someone through their gardens and home even when they have been dead eleven years, and their home is now a vacation rental. I'll be writing more about it for the other blog. Well, I might here later if I run down a little on the rest of what I've been doing-- which right now is all about writing and promoting.

The new Arizona based historical romance is starting off well. I got the first two chapters before we left but am rewriting and adding to my research as to what went on in Arizona in 1899-- hint: a lot. A lot of planning is happening in my head right now. I put off writing it when at the beach as I wanted to 'be' there totally. Besides, when I am taking a lot of photos (and I was taking a lot), I like to download and sort as I go. I also enjoyed good conversation time, food, watching the surf, and I figured the internal musing will be all to the good when I start in again this week.

Then came our return to the farm (all was well there) and Saturday when I had agreed to take part in an 'event' at Facebook which one of the writers for the anthology had done the work of setting up. I'd never done anything like it; so had no idea what to expect. I can't say I wanted to do it, but it was part of team playing. I knew I could, and I should.

When I took my own hour, I wasn't sure there'd be anybody there (other than my friend who said she'd come). I don't have the network some of these writers have. Some of that is my own doing. I don't do an email newsletter. I do a blog and blogs don't necessarily give you a list of people to invite to an event. I guess they could; but since I have never done the follower thing for any of my blogs,I haven't developed any lists-- and even if I had, not sure how many would be readers of my novels.

Fortunately there were enough who came to my hour and were very interactive, helping the event to work. I had prepared some things to write about but didn't use them with the way it developed. It was handy that I'd once done chat rooms as the whole thing went very fast, and it was a challenge to keep up.

I don't know how the anthology will do. I am insecure regarding how romance readers will like my own short story which is not exactly traditional for romances-- no boy meets girl and a couple who are in their 40s (adding it's about a psychic which might make some uncomfortable). That's the drawback to a cooperative kind of anthology. You are trying to put out something you will feel proud of, that depicts your writing, but also that will help the overall sales. How can you know it will when it doesn't have a publisher to say yea or nay? Anyway I did it and did the promotion. So we'll see about the rest. I hope the anthology does well for all those who put so much work into it happening.

On the week-end, we spent time trying to get a better cover for When Fates Conspire. We tried several before we got the right combo after I have no idea how much revisions. This first cover, for what will be a trilogy (each standing alone), had been particularly hard to figure out due to the complexity of its plot-- fate, consequences of actions, spirit guides, star-crossed soul mates and finally is there really anybody out there.

The second novella is written but not yet edited. I will edit it when I finish the historical's rough draft. I like to have some time between writing something and going back over it. I think it'll be out in late April and its cover is already done, much easier for what it took to create it.

There is one drawback to the new cover-- my husband has figured out how to do complex fonts... and it's making all the other covers jealous...

Finally, where it came to my first paperback, we discovered a disaster and I don't use the word lightly. It was the book where my husband learned how to do them (he does all my publishing). Through the idiosyncrasies of Word and CreateSpace, there had been some major glitches in formatting. And when I say major, I mean major. No paragraph indents when they had been there. Changing of fonts within paragraphs. I literally had no idea until a friend wrote to tell me what she had seen. Ack! That was not good news. I think it took my husband eight hours to get it fixed [finding conflicting style masks and buried codes]... I am just glad she told us as I hadn't checked-- irresponsible of me to say the least, but you know when you are writing, you are onto the next thing. Well, it's fixed now and when it comes back up, it will have no glitches.

in the family room at the beach house

So last week was a mix of good and bad. Wonderful time with friends. Intriguing beach house full of discoveries. Great opportunities for wave photographs. Followed by enjoyable time with the Facebook event-- even if I had worried about it-- but then that paperback goof, the need to redo a cover-- even with good results in redoing it. Questions of whether my short story holds up its own in the anthology (was it the story one reviewer said they disliked out of them all?) Will mine drag down ratings based on romance reader expectations? I have no clue, of course, but when you write something on your own, you are the only one who suffers if readers don't like it. That's not the case with an anthology.

Based on a lifetime of my own experiences, that's how the creative life is-- just not always crunched together in one week!.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

the tide comes in

After a busy week at the Oregon Coast, I am back at the farm, enjoying new growth all around me, sunshine and flowers beginning to pop up. The world is sooooo green. 

The ocean was spectacular as always. Is there ever a time with waves and sand that a person doesn't get a reset? This time even more so since the vacation rental home had belonged to an artistic woman who put her stamp on every single inch of it. Nothing though is more powerful than our Pacific Ocean-- not to me anyway.

The new anthology is out and that's very rewarding. It had its rough moments, but thanks to a lot of people, it made it. I hope those who aren't regular western romance readers will give its short stories a chance. For me it's been an interesting experience to say the least. 

My own writing is back on track with the Arizona historical that will follow Tucson Moon. Every story is different for how it evolves and this is no exception. I never imagined this story until I considered it for my short story and realized it had a lot more potential than that.  Before I actually began writing it, I had thought novella, now I think novel and over 80,000 words but not sure by how much. 

Desiring to do it led to a lot of research into aspects of the Yaqui world with which I was not familiar enough. I have never written a Native American hero who was pure blood. This hero is and raised in a Yaqui home but the Yaqui culture is a complex and interesting one with I believe enough options to make this work. Then I added to the mix, a heroine who was one of the first college, female graduates in the United States in architecture-- yes, she's fictional. It is not fictional that women graduated from co-educational colleges in the late 1890s. 

There are some  fascinating female architects, of that time, like Mary Colter. For those who have been in Hopi House on the Grand Canyon, a fascinating and very interesting building, they have to wonder about the one who designed a structure that fit its environment but also depicts the culture of its location. That's the kind of architect I admire. 

So my heroine was an architect, but it won't be the heart of the story. No, that's Arizona, the O'Brian and Cordova familes, and a love story. Its heroine was a little girl in Tucson Moon but she's all grown up now in a fascinating time in America's history, a transitional time in more ways than numerically entering a new century. Lots of fun writing something like this, and I am just at the beginning of it where new discoveries are happening regularly.

I've mentioned many times how much I love writing western romances whether historical or contemporary. I love the energy of such stories. I created a trailer to promote the new anthology of short stories; so will leave that here with a tiny bit of my feeling for this genre.


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Rawhide 'n Roses

My part of the short story anthology is coming to a conclusion when the book comes out March 15 in pretty much all eBook formats possible and eventually (may take awhile) as a paperback. I have written before about my own story in the book, about how it began, and what being part of this has meant to me-- what the creative process means to me.

Writers often don't work with anyone else when producing their work-- at least other than their own editors and beta readers. Anthologies though are team efforts; and in that sense, it was interesting to be part of this as working with creative people and making group decisions. Beginning the middle of December 2012, I've had many new experiences. As a writer, trying something new is part of the fun. 

Saturday there will be a Facebook barn dance with many of the authors each taking an hour where they will answer questions, offer their thoughts and yes, have some prizes. Check it out and try to remember to come by for at least part of Saturday  from 10-5pm PST at 

Everyone is welcome whether you belong to Facebook or not. IF you come and make a reply make sure you leave contact info in case you win something. I'll be there at 4 PM PDT. Since I've never done anything like this, I can't say what I'll do or but come and keep me company anyway ;). A paperback or eBook copy of Arizona Sunset will go to one visitor who comments (if the reader already has it, I have other eBook options).

“Rawhide ‘n Roses is an anthology then?” He ran his fingers through her long hair. It was obvious his mind wasn’t on her words.
“Of short stories. It was born in Maggie’s Western Romance Authors at Amazon.”
“Born, huh?” He laughed. “Kind of a silly way to say it.” He smoothed her hair and kissed it lightly, to show her he was fine with silly.
She gave him one of her looks. “Generated. Take your pick. Maggie, an avid western reader from Wyoming, created this great site at Amazon’s Meet Our Authors Forums, for writers of western romance to get together, talk about their books. The idea for an anthology grew from there.”
“For the ones experienced at writing short stories?”
“You would assume that. No, only a couple of them had done it before. The challenge appealed to them all. They then voted on rules (win some lose some), came up with a title, created a list of writers wanting in, those to organize it, and everybody went off to their writing caves see what they could create. It has a gorgeous, very western cover, created by Charlene Raddon.”
“Nice cover. Not that I am into hot cowboys,” he teased.
“The roses represent women—hot women.”
“You’ve convinced me. I will buy it—just to show I’m a sensitive kind of guy.”

The watchers stood above, weighing the words they’d read. “Why is one of them a man?” the first asked with a pensive expression.
“Because all these short stories are also romances,” the second said with a huff as if it should have been obvious. The first looked properly humbled. Okay, not very humbled.
“Dialogue is a lot more interesting than paragraph upon paragraph,” suggested a third.
“I have to get back to work,” the fourth said heading off. “I had two thousand words scheduled for today. This isn’t getting them written.”
“Be back for the blurbs,” a fifth ordered. “This isn’t done yet.”
“And to write your own author bio,” offered a sixth.
“People do like to know from where authors come,” the seventh agreed.
The writers then headed off to watch over other fields, mountains, animals, towns, people, and worlds that would remain unknown until their words were set down and brought them to life.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

the downside and the upside

farm sunset 3/11/14

When a person is a writer, there are emotional aspects to the deal which aren't always addressed. Who wants to discuss the negative side (or even dwell on it) of something that otherwise is so important to our lives! This week has given me vivid examples of downs and ups where it comes to my own writing.

Discussing this is rather like talking about having children. No matter how much you wanted them or love them or know it's a choice you'd make again, there is a down side to it. I wrote about it some years ago that when mine began school and they had problems, maybe friends hurt them-- Wow, I discovered something-- their pain became my pain. I had no idea that the very joy of having them left my happiness forever hostage to theirs. Intense emotions of love are that way.

Of course, writing isn't like having a baby or a child. Living, breathing children, with minds of their own, are not the same as writing a manuscript, but there is this same dichotomy of joy with pain. It's a choice most writers would make again but there are downsides. I came across this article that discusses one of those even for authors who have hit the big time in terms of sales and critical reviews.

So, no matter how popular you have been in writing, how well received, your next book or even that one won't always be appreciated. It might be why someone like J.D. Salinger didn't publish another book after his Catcher in the Rye was such a phenomenal critical and sales success. He isn't the only author of what is regarded as a classic (To Kill a Mockingbird) where the author only wrote one book. Mostly we won't know why, but it could be that felling of never matching the first.

So, for me, this was one of those weeks where the joy went side by side with the-- what the heck happened. I've seen such times before but maybe not so vividly illustrated at the exact same time. 

In late February, my books stopped selling period. That extended the first week of March until finally there were some sales (and another of those what-the-heck-is-that-about refund). Pretty much since I began this, I've had times where an individual book has been getting steady sales-- right before it falls off the map. It would be nice to understand why but alas it's not how it is-- but it is the downside to any creative work where it might be appreciated one day and hated the next.

But alongside that has been my joy of starting something new. If all of writing was about waiting for sales, I'd definitely find something else to do! It's not, it's about the creative process that is especially exciting with a new work beginning. 

Because I had just finished the rough draft of a second novella, in a metaphysical trilogy where the first one has found almost zero readers, and was researching the Native American mythologies to get my monsters lined up, I was determined to write that third whether any found readers. I don't let popularity of earlier books determine what I will write. I write what comes to me. The second had been fast and rewarding to write (editing yet to come). First still has an iffy cover (hard book to come up with a cover that really depicts the story) but the second has a great one whenever I bring it out (creating covers are part of the fun of doing this for me). 

So back to what interrupted starting that third trilogy. I've talked before about a short story anthology in which I became involved. When I had gotten into that project in December, I started a short story that quickly told me that it would make a better book than short story. I decided I'd use those characters to create a third story for my Arizona historicals.

When in Arizona in January I had done research for that third Arizona historical as from the short story I started, I knew it'd have a strong Yaqui aspect to it. Then, I put off writing it for the novella. There also was a lot to write regarding the short story anthology.

Anyway, last week I decided it was time to start-- to do what I have often said is how you get started. Write the first sentence. 
 Grace O’Brian descended the train steps, a small bag in her hand, unsure where she’d retrieve the remainder of her things.
And so it began. One sentence and the rest took off. I did run into a timeline glitch and had to change the opening date of the book. These days, when I write an historical, I put all major characters' birth dates (and deaths if they died) onto a timeline along with important events that impacted their lives. 

When I was writing the unpublished Oregon historicals, a glitch like I saw in the new story was easy to fix. Until last year, I hadn't actually done any timelines. I put dates onto a piece of paper and hoped it would make sense later. Timelines avoid mistakes that readers would find frustrating with someone one age in one story and the next one going backward even. Once I knew the birth dates, I knew more about how they would have been influenced by outside events. 

Once I got my date right for the third Arizona story, I found out I had something major going on that I could use. That led to more research on two different aspects. As i got that info, the story took off which is the exciting part of writing. The major plot events have not been changed by this, just what's along the road to get there. It's what I consider the joy of writing.

The business of writing, where you take your work seriously, has a wonderful side where I dream about the plot and characters as I begin to put together a plot and deepen the characters. But also the downside-- where if I had to believe it would find readers, I might never even write it. Creating and then learning to release is what a lifetime of writing is about.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

What makes it a western?

From lesser to better known writers, I grew up reading their westerns. I loved the heroes, the action, and sometimes the romance. Americans have been much influenced by this genre known as the Western. What makes a book or movie western? That question can be debated as well as-- did the western ethos make Americans better people or find us too often turning to a gun as a solution? 

Already by the 1850s American readers were eager for books, called dime novels, to tell them about fictional and real western characters. The real ones often got a literary dressing up to make their lives bigger than life-- even if they were already pretty interesting. There was enough reality to Indian wars, outlaws, gunmen, gunflights, dance hall girls, gambling, pioneers, log cabins, and town marshals to not need much help in making it more exciting.

So the stories and later movies grew in popularity until around the 1960s, when it is claimed they begin to lose their draw. Except, did they? or did they just change their genre to science fiction, fantasy, adventure and yes romance. Many of the romance authors from my generation were much impacted by traditional western writing.

The basics of what made a book a western can be debated-- and is. I believe westerns are still out there, in films and books, whatever they might be called. I think some of the western mythology has been good for us as a people and some... not so much-- especially that part that never was-- like individualism conquering the west but in reality it was a lot more complicated both politically and socially.

When I grew up, the mythology of the West was a very important part of our culture. What message did it put out? Well, I'd say it had several key parts. A man/woman who stood up for what is right. Nature as healer and teacher. Sometimes the need to conquer nature, subduing it. It put forth the ideal that hard work, even risk taking, was rewarded, and that right will eventually triumph though it often has a cost.

The western can be one man against many-- as with the film High Noon, which had a strong political theme laid into the story in a time where the hunt for communists had driven some writers to only work under assumed names or leave this country finding it impossible to work thanks to blacklists. This happened to Carl Foreman, the writer behind High Noon and was ongoing when the film was being made. It's a conflict that is just as real today-- when one person stands against perceived evil but has no one willing to stand with them.

Western writer, Frank Gruber took the view there are only 7 types of westerns: (1. The Union Pacific story but could be railroad, wagon train west, something about building and furthering civilization; (2. The ranch story-- threat to ranch from bad guys and ranch owner or hands fighting back and winning; (3. The empire story-- building up any empire, rags to riches; (4. The revenge story-- wrong has been done and must be made right; (5. The cavalry and Indian story-- taming wilderness; (6. The outlaw story-- gang dominates action or classic anti-hero; (7. The marshal story-- lawman conquers bad guys.

I don't think it's hard as a writer to see how those stories are classic plots which work in any genre based on conflict, danger or striving for change when the road isn't easy. Hence a western can be about a zombie killer and not set in the American West-- even though a purist will see it needs a cowboy.

I've published 14 romances (another on the way in probably late April), and of those half might be considered westerns by those who think a western needs to be historical or have a cowboy as the hero. I personally think all my books are westerns and not just because they are all set in the American West. It's because of the ethics they portray, the need to stand for what is right, a conflict where sometimes you do stand alone. They are romances first because they tell the story of a relationship based on sexual love; but right alongside that is the western at their core. It's what I want to write. What I want to live-- minus the danger, of course ;)

Thursday, March 6, 2014

creating a short story

 Although I wrote a few short stories when I was a kid, I haven't ever done anything with them and am not sure how they would measure up today. It was fun though to create something that didn't take so many words. Back then, I didn't know rules about short story creation. My stories were simple (always romances).

Then I got into novels. Some of them up to 140,000 words. I only thought about writing anything shorter two years ago when I was thinking it'd be fun to write a Christmas story. I got that idea in the middle of the Nevada desert as we were heading for Tucson-- but it was December. Once I got to our Tucson house, the story virtually wrote itself as I used characters from an earlier novel. When you know your characters, plotting a story goes fast.

When I wrote that novella, I did a little research on what made a book a novella, what were the rules? There aren't a lot in terms of what must be in them. Basically here is the average expectation for length.

Novel over 40,000 words
Novella 17,500- 40,000 words
Novelette 7,500 - 17,500 words
Short story - under 7500 words

Pretty simple although, like with all this, not everyone agrees, but it's a guideline. Very few romances are less than 80,000 words. Mysteries tend to be around 65,000 and maybe chick lit is the 40,000. Some say a novel has to be 100,000 to 175,000 words but a new author, who hasn't yet been published, can't even get a publishing house to look at a book over 100,000 words.

Novellas have a loose format which is nice when writing like my Christmas story. I didn't have to have all the elements expected in a novel. 

Then when I had that dream which led to the recent novella, When Fates Conspire, I believed it was best suited to a novella. It had a point. I didn't want to flesh it out beyond what was required to make that point. The story had something to say and needed to say it concisely and to the point-- which is why I left out the sex scenes I enjoy writing. I consider a lot of my books to be spicy but one recent reader told me they were not and more like you'd see in a movie. Well it's all in the eye of the beholder anyway, isn't it!

Agreeing to do a short story was even more interesting to consider. There have been some very famous short story writers--O. Henry, Mark Twain, Edgar Allen Poe, etc. Some in magazines led to movies because in some ways short stories, with their more direct approach, lend themselves well to a film. Some famous western movies like Stagecoach (The Stage to Lordsburg by Ernest Haycox) or Hondo (The Gift of Cochise by Louis L'Amour) came out of magazine short stories. 

So what do short stories require: characters, which could be only one; setting including time; plot series of events; conflict where character faces a challenge; and theme-- why is it there?  Classic short stories obviously include these and become timeless. It generally is told from one point of view and that might be first person. So a short story isn't just a few words. It has a reason for being. 

When I decided I wanted to be part of this anthology, I thought about these issues in deciding my own short story. The thing I wanted was a character I'd already developed. For me characters are a starting point for everything I write. I tend to see my stories as character driven. From them, the rest will come.

Writing my first short story was not only rewarding but then came being part of a group of writers-- another first for me. I had offered to create a blog to promote the anthology and it will be out when the book is published. For the blog, I quickly realized it'd be better if more were involved than me. There were 7 co-authors and two who were integral into it becoming the blog it did. 

Along with that, I also created two trailers-- if you can believe it. One of them emphasizes the spirit of western romance writing. The other is more about this exact anthology. They also will appear right before the book. 

I gotta say with the trailers and blog, I ended up even dreaming about how to put it altogether. It absorbed everything in me for awhile. I was totally happy when it was done as finally I could get back to my own writing-- and that's when I wrote the rough draft of the second novella for my own trilogy of fantasy romances set in  Billings, Montana (research for third one consuming my life right now).

I like challenges in writing and the short story gave me something new on several levels. I hope readers will enjoy it. There is something to be said for short stories in a world like ours where people are busy and on the go.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Maggie and the anthology

When talk began about a group of writers doing an anthology, a lot of issues had to be resolved. When you put together a bunch of writers, all who have books already out there, how do you make decisions for one book involving them all? The biggest advantage actually to our anthology was the diversity of authors with a united love of westerns and romance-- and one more thing.

This is a group which came together at the Amazon Forums and in a thread begun by a lady called Maggie. She is a Wyoming reader who loves western romance and set out to create a place for writers and readers to meet-- Western Romance Authors Please Post Here #2. (the #2 is because it went over the 10,000 post limit and at that point, you are either done or start over). I arrived in the forums shortly after my first books had come out on Kindle. I wasn't sure I fit western romance at that time as my published books were not historical and not all could be considered western, but Maggie welcomed me as she does everyone. 

She has established a creative, friendly environment with writers who encourage each other, discuss topics, sometimes their lives, awards, and books. Basically we have become internet friends, and it's all due to Maggie-- as is this coming anthology which has been dedicated to her. To me she stands for all the readers who encourage writing books they love and are as vital to every genre as the writers.

In her thread, Maggie regularly posts free Kindle books and something else that has been fun. She gives five words and asks writers to come up with a story using them. That story can be a paragraph or much longer. I like reading what different writers create. I've participated in it a few times. The following is one of mine using the words Maggie gave--

Marshal, Preacher, School Teacher, Undertaker, and Banker


Marshal Aaron Sharp walked down the street his mind not on what lay ahead but what was behind. He was getting too old for this job. He'd slowed and soon others would know it too. If he didn't give up the badge and gun, he'd be underground with no preacher reading words over him, without even a marker to remind folks he'd ever lived.

The day was hot, the dust his boots stirred up reminded him there were cooler climates. Anybody could take over his job. He could do something else, something that didn't demand he buckle on a belt, holster and gun every morning. Maybe he'd be a teacher like his brother. He laughed silently at the silliness of that idea. He wasn't the school teacher sort. He really only knew one thing-keeping the law.

Ahead Sharp saw the man who had been raising the ruckus. One more time. He could do it one more time. "Drop your gun," Aaron yelled continuing to walk. The man, who had been shooting at the bank, turned, his small eyes now focused on Aaron. "They took my money, that cheating banker took my farm." He looked back toward the building. "Come on out, you sniveling coward."

"It's not worth it, friend," Aaron tried one more time but saw it wasn't going to work as the man shifted his gun to point at him. It happened in what seemed slow motion. He pulled his own 44, firing as he brought it to bear, aware a bullet had whizzed by his shoulder. Seconds later the angry man stumbled, a confused look came over his face before he crumpled to the dust.

Aaron only slid his own gun back in the holster when he assured himself the man was dead. What a waste! What a pathetic waste of life. Only the undertaker won this game. He shook his head as the people came out of their businesses to stand and look at him and then the dead man. He pointed at a small man at the edge of the growing crowd. "You, tell Wilson he's got a client."

He wouldn't quit today. Somebody had to protect the town. 

I should add-- these are the same five words that one of the anthology authors used to create her short story. You suppose Maggie was training us all along? *s*

Sunday, March 2, 2014

A short story for an anthology

With our short story anthology, Rawhide 'n Roses due out March 15th with a paperback soon after, I wanted to mention something about my own story for it. I took three characters from my Arizona historical romances. Two are central to this story and one comes in as a bit of a surprise. It's someone I have someday felt might warrant a book to tell more of the story.

This one though is about a character I had liked in Tucson Moon. The short story was a chance to do more with her character. I might not have seen the last of her or her husband as I do like keeping secondary characters around.

In this historical romance, set in 1889, Connie has followed her gambler husband, Del from boom town to boom town as he looks for places he can have enough players at his tables to support them. Finding herself in a small, mining town in California's high Sierras, because of the fear some have that she is a witch, she faces a threat to her life and more importantly to that of her beloved husband.

When someone has psychic powers, powers to heal, is it a curse or gift; and how should they use such special abilities? Those are the questions probed in this short story. It also asks the questions might such gifts come and go?

       A rock crashed through the parlor window, shattering glass over the frayed Oriental rug. The yell followed right behind it. “Get out of here, witch.”
Although it wasn’t winter and the high Sierra air wasn’t that cold, Connie Sicilla shivered. She moved to the wall where she’d not be seen as the shouts continued for long moments.
“We know what to do with your kind!”
“Get out of town!” Was that voice a child’s. Somehow that seemed even more frightening. She was unsure how long it went on as she tried to find peace through meditating and not hearing the hateful words, some with curses accompanying. After what seemed long moments, she realized the voices had stopped.
She gritted her teeth against the temptation to cry, got her dustpan, went down on her knees, and carefully retrieved all visible shards of glass. How would their landlord regard the damage? Would he expect Del and her to pay for it?