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, May 29, 2014

Fairy tale... or not--

Romances-- foolishness, bah humbug. I mean how unrealistic, goes the refrain. Well I, as a romance author, obviously disagree. 

In sorting through my documents trying to clean up my hard drive by deleting what I no longer used, I came across one that said-- fairy tales can come true. I didn't remember what it was about and when I read it, I got curious-- How'd this work out for these people later after a late in life rediscovery of romance. 

Turns out the lady, who is a writer, had several books out to tell what happened and I bought two of them for my Kindle (links at the end of the article). Don't you just love the internet and Kindle :). I have no idea when I'll have time to read them, but I definitely will someday as they look like books I can relate to not just as a writer but also as a woman.

First is the story. I almost never ever post someone else's words, but is going to be one of those exceptions. I think I must have gotten it from a friend's email although I am not sure. It seems from an email since it was printed in a fancy font. Checking properties, it said I put it on my computer in April 2012. I have to take the word of my computer as I had forgotten the story totally but enjoyed it when I read it again.


Fairy tales can come true, it can happen to you, if you're young at heart. Lyrics by Carolyn Leigh

All true fairy tales begin “Once upon a time.” And so must this love story, which began more than 2 decades ago. 

A Portland writer met a doctor from Stockholm, Sweden, in a San Francisco restaurant and ended up touring the city together, walking and talking and talking. The next weekend he would be in Seattle, so she followed, walking and talking and talking. The two platonic friends parted, saying they wouldn’t write. As the woman drove south, she had the strange feeling of leaving her best friend. 

Yet their letters crossed in the mail and continued to across the continents, sharing careers, families, philosophy, their mutual love of nature. Surely they would never meet again, so the letters were honest and without guile. 

Two years passed and the Swedish doctor came to work in Seattle for a year. The man and woman met again and began to fall in love. But he had a family to whom he was committed; she acknowledged that and honored his integrity. Once again they reluctantly said farewell, and she went on to marry another. 

Over the years she would wonder about that man and ponder the ‘what ifs?’ and the ‘if onlys.’ 

Nearly 20 years later the woman had a dream the man stood in her kitchen with his wife. The wife-- without sadness or anger-- was turning her husband over to the woman. With a start, the woman awakened: What could this dream mean, and what on earth was happening in his life? 

At the very same time on the other side of the world, the man typed the woman’s name into the Internet. Nothing. For months he browsed. And then on this side of the globe, she typed in his. Finally they connected. His wife had died. The woman had divorced. And neither had forgotten the other. 

 Once more, the letters and now e-mails crossed. Early one July morning the woman got a call. She hadn’t heard the man’s voice in 20 years. He was at a medical conference in Denver! Within 3 hours she was on a plane, risking everything on a spontaneous surprise visit. In a convention room filled with 300 people, she found him. Twenty years spun back in time, and they were young again; nothing had changed. Nothing but circumstances, that is. 

In early November, the man flew the woman to his home in Sweden for a two-week visit, which felt like a honeymoon. They went shopping together to decorate the new home he had just built. They wound through the narrow, cobbled streets of Gamla Stan (Old Town Stockholm) and clambered up four flights of a centuries-old building to meet his 85-year-old mother, who greeted the woman with a hug. She met his 3 grown children, who thanked her for making their father so happy and presented her with a gift upon her departure. She met his best friends, and together they laughed like old companions. 

Together, they visited the cemetery on All Soul’s Night, when families light candles and small lanterns on the graves. He spoke of the numbness, the pain, the daily walk through the woods to this green gravestone. At the wife’s grave, the woman burst into tears: “I always wanted you, but not at this price, never at this price!” The man and woman held each other and came to understand that “For all things, there is a season” 

Each day he brought her breakfast in bed. Once more, they walked and talked and talked, and the days were seamless, fluid, without effort. They cleaned and they cooked and they entertained. They listened to music and read aloud. They lit candles morning and evening against the cold November darkness. They traipsed the woods and he showed her favorite places: the meadow the young parents cleared each spring for the children’s maypole festivities, the swimming rock, the enchanted hollow tree where the kids once played. 

They threw supplies into a duffel bag and climbed into his boat for the hour-and-a-half trip through the Stockholm Archipelago of 24,000 islands to his century-old cabin. The Baltic suddenly turned angry and wild, and she clung tightly to keep from being thrown from the banging boat while he steered them safely on. I would trust my life to this man, she thought. I already am. 

They hunkered in the one-room cabin as the wind pounded a the red plank door. As the corner fire warmed the room, they stripped off layers of clothing and loneliness. Candlelight reflected in the tiny windowpanes and each other’s eyes in a wilderness on the edge of the world. 

Each day they laughed and loved and learned more about the other. Each day they marveled that life just couldn’t get better. And each day proved them joyously wrong. 

And these two people who so savored living alone agreed they would live together. It was as obvious as eating and breathing. “We have two wonderful places to live in, we love each other and the rest is just details,” the man said. 

And the woman nodded, confident that the fates that had brought them together over 20 years and 6000 miles wouldn’t fail them now. 

At last, after years of writing about other people’s fairy-tale endings, the woman is living her own. 

Wish me luck. Jann Mitchell

She wrote three books relating to this (she has more than those out ), but I only bought the following which expand on what she wrote above and then take her to Sweden and her new life. I hope someday to set aside time to read them as well as all the others I've stored there for a time I can just read for pleasure. My life right now is tied up in research, editing and hopefully soon beginning a new work. But there will come a day I just want to sit and read. The books on my Kindle await that day.

You know the fact that she had this experience and that we can vicariously share in it through her stories, it doesn't mean we have to or want to rush out and try to get some of that for ourselves. Romance is not about buying a product. It's not about being jealous of what another got that we might not have. It is about a certain kind of energy. I think this is a good and encouraging energy which makes our own lives better as we take it in and we don't have to run off on an adventure to get it. It's waiting in books.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

one thing leads to another

When I began this blog in November 2011, I had two main purposes in mind. 
  1. Share what I had learned about writing with others, to encourage creativity in those who might like to write but hadn't yet. 
  2. As a place where I could write about my own projects, the books, my process, inspiration, etc.
My first post, defining myself as a writer, was published a week or so ahead of bringing out my first eBook with a lot more books to follow. I had been writing for years and had a pretty healthy backlist. 

The year before I brought out that first eBook had been one of editing manuscripts that sometimes I hadn't looked at in years. I wanted my writing to be as smooth as I could make it. That work led to improving those skills which meant no matter how well I thought something was edited-- months down the line, I could do a better job. 

Which, led to one of my first big insights into writing and publishing-- if you wait for perfection, you will never put anything out. No matter how good you think you are today, you will be better tomorrow if you keep working at the craft behind what is also an art.

Editing and writing are mostly solitary efforts for me. I learned something new about writing and marketing as soon as I brought out that first book, Desert Inferno. The next step is communal. Yes, it still does involve solitary work (writing blurbs, figuring out promotions) but generally speaking getting others to see your work takes getting out into the world where they will be. Amazing insight, isn't it!

So I met other writers and soon this blog got a new purpose-- sharing its space with them as they sometimes shared theirs with me. At the same time I was trying to go places in social media where I could interact with writers and readers.

There is a lot of debate as to how much social media helps in marketing. I have no idea, but from what I can tell, it hasn't impacted my sales-- ever. So I am seriously considering how much time I put into Facebook, Twitter or any of the 'book' groups where I currently have varying levels of participation.

Facebook is the hardest for me to use effectively as a writer. While I have a Rain Trueax presence there, I also have a place there where I interact with family and friends unrelated to writing. Two different spaces and never the twain shall meet. Since I had the family/friend one before I got into publishing, I haven't been comfortable pushing my books or anybody else's in that space. But it's the only interactive one.

The debate I have read regarding advertising on Facebook makes it sound like a money hole and not likely to find readers. I haven't done much in the way of advertising anywhere. I would if I thought it'd really reach the kind of reader who I think might like my books. As it stands, I don't think so.

Currently I am doing the writing that will promote Storm in the Canyon when it comes out. I created a trailer for it. I also am trying to put together material to promote the paperback which will follow-- Diablo Canyon

The paranormal romantic trilogy, When Fates Conspire, The Dark of the Moon, and Storm in the Canyon will be available as eBooks. Diablo Canyon, which will have them all, will not be an eBook. 

The end price for buying the trilogy individually would be about the same as the paperback; so I feel the fairest thing to do is keep the paper version for just those who want books. It will enable me to promote it in metaphysical bookstores (if I really do it-- one of those talk is cheap situations) because while it is a paranormal, there is nothing in that I don't think could be real. It's not a vampire or zombie story (although it does have shape shifting, a spirit world, and monster gods. But none of that is something I haven't read others have experienced for real.

Below is one of the things I created to showcase the trilogy, which was definitely a case of one thing leading to another. It may not be a cover-- just a kind of flyer maybe with some more words alongside it. I am undecided on how to use it other than in social media-- well, excepting Facebook :).

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Susan Horsnell's newest release-- Capturing Charlie

My guest is the diverse and talented Australian author Susan Horsnell, who has written what sounds like an intriguing new western romance.

Capturing Charlie


     One week before he is due to marry, Charlie leaves the family who had given him a second chance at life.
     Orphaned at the age of 10, when his parents and sister are killed in a botched bank robbery, Charlie is taken in by his father’s best friends.
     After being deceived by his fiancĂ©, Charlie sets out on his own. He encounters an abandoned dog and the two become close companions as they travel over the mountain range in search of a new home.
     After being shot at and thrown from his horse, he suffers a life threatening head injury. Josephine Platt takes responsibility for his care, after all, it was her crazy Grandmother who shot the poor stranger.
     Will Charlie recover and lose his heart to the feisty girl or will past experiences leave him unforgiving and bitter?


Charlie came in early from riding the fence line. The day was hot, the air thick with moisture, and he looked forward to a swim in the nearby creek. It would wash off the dirt and grime of the day as well as bring relief to his tired, aching muscles. Fixing fences was back breaking work and the only job on the ranch that he hated. The chore needed doing too damned often thanks to one very amorous bull.

He sighed as he dismounted near the barn and led his horse, Shadow, inside. Giggling and chatter reached his ears as he entered. Sounds like Lois. Wonder who she’s with? He led his horse into the nearest empty stall, patted his nose and closed the stall door.

Charlie strode towards the tack room at the end of the stable block, the area the sounds had come from. A smile graced his face. Maybe Lois will come swimming with me.

He pushed open the door to the tack room and froze. Lois squealed as she sat upright in the small bed, attempting to clutch the sheet to her breasts. Her top half was bared for Charlie to see. Her creamy white skin, small perky breasts and dark rose coloured nipples drew his eyes. The man she was with lay as naked as the day he was born, Lois was obviously the same.



I was a Nurse, a career that spanned more than 35 years. During my career I specialised in caring for people with Alzheimer’s type Dementia, an area that fascinates me despite how heartbreaking it can be. My dear father-in-law is unfortunately afflicted with this disease and now resides in a Nursing Home. In the not too distant future I am hoping to pen a novel incorporating some of the stories I have heard from these amazing people. Part of my career was with the blind and I also cared for severely disabled children for a while too.

 When I retired 4 years ago I decided it was time to get the stories out of my head and onto paper. From there I just hoped my stories were interesting and well written enough to attract readers.

 I am married to the love of my life, we have 2 wonderful adult boys, and 5 amazing grandchildren. We also play substitute Mum and Dad to a beautiful, adopted young lady. We reside in sunny Qld, Australia in the midst of a Blackbutt Forest. We are surrounded by the peace and quiet of Mother Nature and wildlife abounds. It is a dream come true location for us.  

 For more information about me, I can be found at:

Twitter: @susanhorsnell

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Craig Johnson on his books

After I got into marketing, I became interested in videos of author interviews or lectures. Thinking of doing them myself, I wanted to hear what other authors had done. My favorites don't have to be in my genre... In fact none have been as I've also had links to Stephen King, Anne Rice and now here's one by Craig Johnson.

I have mentioned before that I am a Longmire fan. His newest book in the series just came out, Any Other Name, and I grabbed it when I saw it at Costco. Other than Craig Johnson, I haven't exactly been a fan of mysteries. I did like Tony Hillerman and that makes sense as both these writers make landscape a character in their stories. 

What do I like about Johnson? Let me count the ways. He's living in the area where his stories are set. That's always good for a starter as it means they truly feel like you are there. He has some Cheyenne mysticism mixed in, and I am always interested in Native American mythologies. I like a bit of mysticism mixed into a good mystery. 

My personal complaints regarding Johnson are pretty much what I find with any book-- plots that don't always seem logical but instead serve the writer's need for something at a particular point. There have been a few times his hero does dumb things that should have gotten him killed-- but hey, that's in mysteries, romances, sci fi or...

The following is well worth watching. It is a video recorded in 2009 when he was at a Library of Congress event to discuss his books, their inspiration and to answer questions. It's funny at times and well worth your time if you are looking for inspiration for your own writing-- whatever kind you do.  interview

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

the unexpected

 nose pre-smashing

With my blogs, I do a lot of writing ahead. Sometimes I insert something more current which requires rearranging the order. That can lead to totally deleting when what I wrote no longer feels meaningful. So there was a blog set for today, but it'll be Thursday-- I think. Today is up to the moment in my life and my thinking.

Last week, I wrote a blog about how real life can abruptly change in ways we cannot predict, and it's important to take that into account when writing. If everything we write seems logical, follows a sequence of action, readers can get bored. They know it's not how real life goes, but what is inserted has to feel real.

Sunday night Farm Boss and I had planned to watch a video. As it was being set up, I went into our bedroom to use the bathroom and noticed I had not made the bed. That's not the usual, but it'd been a busy day. So I made it, petted the cat on it, headed for the bathroom. 

The Oriental area rug, between me and that bathroom, is played with by the cats; so I had no reason to take for granted it would not be curled on the edge. I did. I walked toward it without paying attention. I caught my toe on its edge and felt myself beginning to fall. 

You know how you have that moment when you think-- what to do? I tried to do a quick step to save myself but no good. I was clearly going down. I had my hands out to brace my fall but shockingly slammed my face into our flagstone stone floor anyway. I remember thinking this should not have happened, but blood was spraying every which way. It had happened. 

To make a long story short, I finally got the bleeding stopped, decided I likely had broken my nose and with the help of Farm Boss, got some ice and laid back on the bed to hopefully reduce the swelling that was inevitable. 

After some internet research (plus he had experienced such incidences-- although it was my first), we did what he suggested which is ice mostly, be sure the nose is breathing properly and that it looks straight... then you just have to let it be. I have a large nose at best as you can tell by the above photo. I was imagining all kinds of disasters for what I would next have.

So my evening got totally rearranged with one event. One momentary moment of carelessness which frankly could have killed me as that stone floor is a hard one. I could have slammed my head into the dresser and ended up with a concussion. I could have broken off teeth. Overall, since it's just my nose and a fat lip, I got off lucky.

How one moment from out of nowhere can impact dramatic writing was reinforced when I read this article the next morning.

We plan our lives. As writers, we plan our plots, but sometimes fate steps in, carelessness, someone else's nutty behavior, and it's all for naught.  Not only can life not be ultimately planned, neither can every aspect of a manuscript. Even when we know where our story is going-- and I always do-- how it gets there can have a lot of surprises. I got one of those last night.

It looks like my nose is straight (if it ever was), and now all I have to do is wait to be sure it is healed before i go pushing on it. That sounds like a couple of weeks deal. I will likely have a small scar on the bridge of the nose as my glasses were pushed aside when I hit and dug out a piece of flesh. Not great and also bled a lot. Glad I am almost 71, as that kind of thing matters less to me these days than my body's overall health.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

it sells...

 What to do when your books are not selling well-- other than pout that is. One option is to look at the books by those who are selling. What makes them attract so many readers? The following link is about a writer, who is making $60,000,000 a year (that was no typo). That would seem a prime one to check out for what it is readers want.

A few months back, I went to the used bookstore and looked for some of Roberts' books. I found two full bookshelves of her work not to mention one reader standing in front of one of them to make her selection. I had no idea which would be good but bought four and an audio. These might not have been the best she wrote, just taken at random; so no scientific survey here.

After reading some, listening to the audio, I got it as to why I don't sell gangbusters... I don't even like her plots or characters. But somebody does-- a lot of somebodys do. She speaks to reader needs, which leads to a logical question (I think), should other writers try to figure out the elements in her books that lead to such popularity?

One writer has bragged that she did exactly that. She claimed that she analyzed the best selling books, saw which ingredients were in them, lined up what had to happen when, and created a story using those dynamics. Voila-- best selling romance. I don't know if that would work for other genres but you do see it a lot with the rash of stories that follow something like Twilight, Shades of Grey or Hunger Games.

Some of the things readers seem to like in Roberts books were total turnoffs to me. In the ones I saw, the heroines were more important than the heroes. In that sense she is a bit like chick lit. She had action. I like that. She also had some series books, like say three friends, and each gets their own guy in a separate book.  I felt there were repetitive aspects in her plots. She had sex but it wasn't erotica,and it wasn't the whole story. 

Her heroines wanted more from life than to get a guy and often took a lot of convincing to settle with the one who wanted them. Still that's not unusual in romance books from what I've seen.The women appeared to be career women, power women. That's a positive.

She always gave her characters the happily ever after, but that's in all romances by dictate. Any reader who fears it won't work out in the end between the hero and heroine is new to today's romance genre. The only time they don't work out in one book is because it's a series and aimed to get you to buy all of them to get to the HEA. Permanent tragic endings are saved for serious literature.

When books aren't selling well (and boy have mine in May not sold well), is a time I have to remind myself I don't write to be popular. I write to do what I love. I am guessing Roberts does the same thing but she happens to love writing what today's romance readers love reading. That's called good timing.

Thursday, May 15, 2014


 doldrums-- lull, despondency, depression, calm

If someone hopes to make writing the core of their creative life, they should accept that it has highs and lows. Naturally sales can be a low especially if, when your own books are hardly selling, you hear of many who are doing very well indeed. You are happy for them, of course but you know how misery loves company. :) It has to be expected that there will be such ups and downs (for most of us) in marketing what we created-- but that's not really what I'm thinking about now.

It's my opinion that to be creative, to work in any of the creative arts demands we accept that what goes well can also not go so well. I am not exactly in a creative low. I just am not doing much at the moment. It's a lull more than despondency or depression. Still it feels strange after months of eagerness to write every day.

So, although waiting to start something new, I am enjoying our fabulous spring weather, which has included one of nature's awesome sights-- that of bees on the move. Basically bees can leave one location for another due to their original setting becoming undesirable. But it also happens because they have created a new queen. The way this works is when she is ready to take over the hive, the old queen will gather half the bees with her and take off to find a new hive. While in a swarm, they will send out scouts to find a suitable location.

May 13th, they spent some time in our pear tree. By late afternoon, they rose up in a cloud and headed west with a light angle of southwest to their direction. When I see a huge swarm like this one, with the bees all in hyper-drive, it could inspire being in hyper-drive myself-- except it didn't. 

It did inspire me to feel good for honeybees and hope they find a nice, safe place to make their new home.  

Click on the videos to hear them in action-- and without the risk of having them see you as a threat and chase you off-- yes, that has happened here on the farm also. Never use a flash near a hive on the move :).

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

not as scheduled

Last week I wrote about using what happens in life to fill out the emotions needed in writing. You dredge up what you felt and put it to different happenings but ones with the same kind of energy.

It came to me that there is another aspect to this, and it's timing of events. Not only can we use our life to give us the emotions we need to describe dramatic moments. We look to it for pacing plots. 

Where it comes to my life, I can see how pacing has played out many times.  A time of great activity followed by one where not much seems to happen. A time of creative energy that seems to go on and on followed by a time of doldrums. A time where I think I finally have it together right before it all crashes. A great high immediately followed by an equal low or vice versa. 

Most of us live our lives with the WW that is often used in fiction-- although mostly (we hope) to lesser degrees than we create for our characters.

A good example came last week. Farm Boss came into the house to tell me he found a lamb dead in the creek. Our lambs are to the age where they play with each other by running in circles and chasing. For instance, one day I looked out to see lambs running like crazy in a gang of about 8. I watched for a bit to be sure no dog or coyote was chasing them. No, it was just exuberance with one ewe, last year's lamb and this year a mother, who was running right along with them. It's adorable to watch but also can lead to accidents.

What we surmise happened is the lamb was running with others right along the creek bank. It ran into the electric line which supposedly keeps them from the creek, became tangled in the thin wire, and fell into the creek around the roots of a tree. Now this could have been in any sequence. The end result eventually was dead lamb.

If you have livestock or even pets, you know how that moment felt. Guilt. Why didn't I hear a lamb in trouble? How is its mother coping? Did I miss a cry for help? There is the desire to push back time except we never can. Just the regrets and the tragic feeling of loss.

Same afternoon Farm Boss came in the house looking for a small net on a long handle. (gotta get one as we have one in Tucson but not here). He went out with his bulky fishing net to try and get a hummingbird that had flown into our little greenhouse and was beating its wings trying to fly out through the plastic roof. 

The hummer was beyond panic and no way was it open to looking for other ways out. The fishing net was too big, the hummer was flying between two small rafters. They don't take too long to die in that setting given the amount of energy it takes to keep them going. Farm Boss stepped up on a rickety shelf about the same time the hummingbird trapped itself in a thick spider web. He gently got hold of it, took it outside, got the web off, and it flew away at mock speed. We also closed the greenhouse door...

Two moments in one afternoon where we had to accept a loss of life that it is hard not to think we could have saved if we had just seen it in time-- and then another saved by lucky timing. It is ironic but not unusual. Life is made up of moments we wanted side by side with those we did not. 

When we write, this entwining adds dynamics to scenes, to the experiences of the characters. I've read a few reviews, not of my books, but others where the reader didn't like the way that happened-- wonderful news, love making, followed by violence or something tragic. Well, they might not like it, but it's true to life. It enriches a fictional story. It makes it closer to real.

You can see this same analogy working in painting or music. It's adding the complementary color to a leafy green tree that suddenly makes the green come to life. Undertones and the unexpected can make something that is blah become lively and interesting.

That is what makes for exciting writing. You take the reality of how things happen-- which are often not as scheduled. It also makes your writing less predictable-- just like life is.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

behind the covers

cover by Jennetta Dodge 

This blog is about book covers and the images behind them. Both are much on my mind because this month I've been engaged in picking out photos from a site that offers royalty free images through credits or subscriptions. Since winter, I have put together five covers for new books (two out and three to go). Make that six covers as one of them, after making what I thought would be the cover, I changed my mind. Actually that does not count the ones I changed on books already out.

cover by Jennetta Dodge

Although the covers here were done by a professional, I do my own for several reasons and cost is only one of them. I enjoy playing working with images. I know my characters better than anyone else, and I like my covers to reflect what my hero/heroine look like. I also change my mind sometimes for what a cover should say. Twice that happened because of reader complaints. Sometimes it's all about me when I look at a cover and decide it doesn't tell the story as well as it could-- and a cover should tell the story.

I won't argue with those who say a graphic artist can do them better. But for me, doing them is part of writing my stories. There are those who say I would sell more books if I bought covers. I don't know. I won't say that someday I might not put it to the test and buy a cover like one of these gorgeous ones by Charlene Raddon who sells them under her pen name-- Jennetta Dodge.

cover by Jennetta Dodge

Charlene/Jennetta has long been doing covers but only this spring turned it into a business. I think she has a knack for finding interesting model photos. And having spent a lot of time looking for such, since I got into ePublishing, I know how expensive, time consuming, tiring, and difficult that can be. 

Under her pen name, Jennetta Dodge, she has created spirited, complex, beautiful, and very tempting covers for readers and authors. She said when one is sold, she will put the author's title and name onto the cover, send it to them, and take it out of her catalog. Check the links for more about her images.

I think it's pretty universally agreed that the right cover is a big part of selling a book. It is important it fits its genre but also that it attracts the eye. A good cover tells a story; and if that story looks like one a reader wants, it might just be the one thing that gives the writer a chance to have them read their words.

For my own covers, the royalty free images I purchase are generally of people and animals. Literally I have looked through thousands of images--some professional models and some just someone who thought it'd be fun to put their photos out on a sell site. I buy what I know I need for what I've already written, but am always interested in images that might inspire a new book.

While I am looking for the right people, I am also considering the right background for each book. My backgrounds usually are strong parts of the cover because of how I see the land in my stories. To me, landscape is another character. So along with wanting the right couple, who seem to fit my story, I look for the right background. 

Backgrounds have, so far, all come from my own photos as I haven't seen many images at any site that I like as much as the ones we have taken on trips-- and all my stories are set in the American west-- contemporary or historical

For this blog, I decided to create an example of how that works-- which may or may not ever become part of a cover or end up in a trailer. I opted for one that might fit into the Arizona story coming out in July. Great saguaros, interesting mountain-- totally bland sky.

Again from my own photos (other than lightning-- I buy those), I found a sky better suited for that scene. I took it from the moving truck as we were driving to Arizona on one of our trips. Those hills are in California and as you go over the first ridge of them toward the Mojave.  It was a phenomenal sky for interesting clouds. Sometimes I like a stormy sky but not this time because of the lighting on the cacti.

To create a cover, I start with a blank canvas, created in the desired size-- 2500x1566 pixels for an eBook and 8.75"x5.75" for a paperback (and the paperback has to leave space for the publisher to crop-- nothing important goes right up to the edge as it can with an eBook). 

On that white canvas, I lay my re-sized sky, move it around until I find the part I like best. The sky photo was gorgeous from end to end, but I opted for the feathery cloud-- interesting and this book does have a Native American theme. Sometimes the sky is the most important part of the picture, and I would keep most of it making the landscape secondary. In this case, I don't consider that the case.

I had to sacrifice with the landscape also. I gave up the biggest, most beautiful saguaro to keep the mountain. It is possible sometimes to bring the two together. You can do some adjusting with changing dimensions but watch out that it doesn't end up looking stretched-- that does your image no favor. 

In the first image, I went in and cut the land away from the sky, did a copy, and laid it onto the new sky-- again playing with what looked most balanced. I could be doing this for my photography, but I don't like changing what I saw when it's meant as a landscape photo. The fad for over photo-shopping photographs just ruins them in my eyes. But for a cover, well anything is fair.

If the image is intended for a cover, I'd normally then find the hero and heroine and set one or both into it. That has its own complications for making sure they are the right size. For mine, they are generally in the foreground and should be dominant which might mean a little fading out of the background to give them that dominance.

In a trailer, something like the image above might not have people as it would more be about atmosphere, getting the right vibe, and setting a stage. Trailers have around 4 seconds for the viewer to look and you don't want to crowd it with a lot of words or images.

A consideration in the background is also leaving room for readable text. So by the time I actually have one I like, I will have spent a fair amount of time and some money for any purchased images. 

One other thing about making your own covers and trailers-- every image I have bought hasn't been used; which means it's not as saving of money as one might think. Some might show up in a future book, some never be seen; but since for me doing covers is fun, I consider this my chance to do art and play. I also find sometimes seeing a particular face can be inspiring and give me an idea for a future book

Last step in creating a cover comes when I have the image put together and exactly as I want it-- fonts. That's where I turn it over to my husband and publisher. He has a good feel for fonts. I approve them to be the size and color I want, to not cover up anything critical-- like a hot male chest-- but mostly I like what he has learned to do. Then they're off and hope that they will be liked by potential readers.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

something personal

The other morning I woke up thinking about the experiences in my lifetime. I've had a lot of them, some unique and some pretty common to many women's experiences. I have said often that I use things from life in my stories-- except I don't think I have specifically related any of my exact experiences in my 15 published and 5 unpublished (as yet) books. Some have been powerful moments, but I never used them as they were. Nor have any of my actual experiences with friends or family found their way into a story. I don't base characters on specific people I have met.

So I asked myself why not? I don't have a specific answer to that either. Except some of the most painful moments simply aren't ones I want to relive through my characters. The joyous ones seem too private. 

Yes, some authors totally rely on retelling through characters what they have done or tried to do. Ernest Hemingway is one example. He lived it; and when he quit living it, some say he lost interest in writing and life itself. (Of course, it might just be that hereditary depression was more a factor for him than writing-- or not).

What I realized I do use in books are the emotions that were connected to those moments. An example is something that happened well over thirty years ago when in the middle of the night I had gone to the kitchen for a drink of water, seen a glow, and realized our sheep barn was on fire. 

You never ever forget a moment like that as you know there are animals in that barn. Some penned and some free but a barn on fire is a tragic event. I have never used that story in any book. What I have used is the emotion I felt in that moment. I have used it when writing a certain kind of dramatic scene for a character seeing something happen that they want to deny is real even while they can see it is. I can get inside their head because of what I went through that night. I can use the emotion from the event even though I have never and never will use the event itself.

Probably it's what all writers do to bring life to their characters-- at least those who don't document their own lives. They remember how it felt the day they lost a loved one because of being rejected. They remember the moment they learned someone they loved loved them back. They remember their child being born-- then growing up and leaving home. They remember loving and then losing a parent. They remember walking in a meadow of wildflowers, filled with butterflies (well actually I have used that one)

Writers use all they have lived, but it doesn't mean they have to use real people or events. They do have to use real emotions (at least if they write romances) that they have experienced, which fit a particular scene. The exact event does not have to ever be used to find it stimulated the imagination and brought forth the right words for what is happening in the book. 

Using real emotions is how a writer makes the fictional moment feel real. It is real because the writer is pulling up their own to get across what is happening inside the character. Maybe there are writers who don't do that. It could come down to a debate regarding how to write rather like the debate between method actors and those who say their lines without personalizing them.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

in writing a paranormal

Basically when a book is labeled paranormal, it can go almost anywhere from what might be possible to total fantasy (we think) like werewolves, vampires, and zombies. I think the only real rule is it has to stay consistent within its own story. You cannot forget the basics of its world although you can have it grow in understanding.

Before I wrote the first paranormal in my trilogy, Diablo Canyon, I had never figured to write anything like it-- well, I had earlier done one involving witchcraft, misuse of spiritual power where it did have a spirit monster. That was 2002; so it's obviously not a genre of romance I either read or write often.

When I  had the dream in November 2013, involving spirit guides, purpose to life, fairness, and reincarnation, I woke up that morning knowing it would make a story I should write. It had more importance in my mind because I had been asking questions--the tell-me-what-is-true kind of questions. Did my muse give me the dream as an answer? Well that all depends on what the muse is.

Anyway it wasn't long after writing it that I began to think there was another story to be told. In fact, there were two more because what I really had was a trilogy. The second was written in February from the 19th to the 25th and I called it The Dark of the Moon

Because I don't write something and immediately release it, it only came out May 1. I really like at least a month before the first edit (while i am writing other things) and then maybe three edits before a book is actually released. It's just so easy to have glitches in logic and consistencies-- even in a story written that fast-- sadly I sometimes find them later even after that much editing. I began the third on April 6th and finished its rough draft April 12th. It will be out the middle of June.

In writing these fantasy/paranormal books, I stayed with what I believe is actually possible. Of course, it can be asked-- possible, but is it true? That can be debated, but there is nothing in any of the three books that I have not heard someone tell me they experienced or that I hadn't read through books or articles. 

To write any paranormal, I had a choice for the approach I would take. I didn't choose to go way out there-- even though some would say shape shifting is way out there. It's not an uncommon thing for some to say they can do. Likewise nor is seeing the 'other' side and being able to converse with it. 

The things that people have told me they saw, I cannot prove. I remember one story, from a very sober and responsible friend, who had been to a local meeting of Buddhists or those interested in being Buddhists. He said he saw sitting on the back of one of the chairs a troll like being which he considered a demon. Did he see what he said? He was no liar, and I never knew him to be delusional.

What I liked about writing a story that I really thought could be possible, was the way it challenges us to think about what we see. In the third book there will be monsters from Native American religions using the names and personalities as the myths describe. You think they never existed, don't you? But many of you believe in your own mythologies regarding the God of the Torah and Old Testament--

Sunday, May 4, 2014

video discussing The Dark of the Moon

The Dark of the Moon began in my mind some time back. I work through a lot of any story before I ever sit down at the keyboard. Since it followed When Fates Conspire, there were certain aspects already decided. There were other facets that I wanted to see. I needed a great heroine and hero and from then on, the story took off.

Below is a discussion of some of how I see this book, what I hoped for in writing it. I kind of like making these. It takes doing it a time or two as I begin to see what is needed to get across my view. Talking about a book helps remind me of some of my own thinking. I enjoy seeing videos of other artists and writers as they discuss their work and the philosophy underlying it. It is one more way to communicate.


Saturday, May 3, 2014

Rawhide 'n Roses-- a western romance anthology

Short stories are a bit of an art form all on their own. It is telling a story without all the frills found in longer books. It's a challenge to create a story without so many words and yet have it be complete.

With fifteen authors, each putting forth a story that they found interesting, the anthology 

has action, humor, danger, and, of course, romance.  The stories are set in both the old and modern West with heroines as strong and gutsy as their heroes.

The rules for a western are, I think, flexible. Sometimes they feature cowboys but it's as often to be a sheriff or horse trainer. To me, westerns are stories that carry forth the ethos of the Western philosophy which is most often the fight of good against evil. They usually are set west of the Mississippi, but I personally don't consider that a requirement. The more important thing is that they are stories of action, of a problem that must be resolved. If it's a romance, it will have a hero and heroine with a happily ever after.

Check out Rawhide 'n Roses-- and consider putting this romantic western anthology on your eReader for the times you find your hours for reading are not long enough, but you want to escape into an imaginary world for half an hour or so.

From Connie's Gift set in the mining camps of the California Sierras: 

Two hours later Sabine scurried to hide under the bed at the booted step on the porch. Connie felt no fear. She knew who it was and didn’t need psychic powers for that. 

“Why you sitting in the dark?” Del threw his jacket over the hook by the door unfastening his string tie, and opened the top buttons on his shirt.She gestured toward the window and heard him sigh. “Sorry, baby.” 

He found one of her quilts and secured it over the opening before lighting the kerosene lamp. Kneeling in front of her, he put his hands on her knees.

They had been married twenty-five years. She found it hard to believe it could have been so long. In all that time, she never tired of looking at his face, the proud cheekbones, the firm lips that were now set hard, sadness in his dark eyes. He worried about her. She understood. She worried about him too.

All they had was each other. Maybe their lack of children had been for the best. They had moved on so many times. Sometimes it was to find better places for Del to deal faro. Sometimes a town had enough of a gambler who won too often. Others it had been when someone heard of her gift; of course, they didn’t regard it as a gift but rather a curse. 
If you aren't quite sure what a western is, check out this trailer:


Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Dark of the Moon

is a story of the unseen side of life. The dark of the moon could represent an eclipse when the moon turns blood red. It could represent the dangerous or sorrowful side of life. For every joy and wondrous event, somewhere there are other events that force often a total reevaluation of what life is about. 

It is a fantasy-- or is it-- which follows When Fates Conspire and picks up characters from that story in a new romance-- this one of an older couple (late 40s and early 50s). This is book two in the trilogy-- Diablo Canyon.  In late June, I will offer all three in a paperback but in eBook format, they will remain three novellas.

A trilogy means the story has aspects that are not totally resolved until the third. They are linked together by characters and a common problem but each stands alone with a conclusion that does not leave a cliff hanger. There is a happily ever after but the why of what is going on-- that doesn't get resolved until the third comes out in mid June-- Storm in the Canyon.

Myra, who owns the Box Z ranch, lost her son Clayton in the first book.  She has known a lot of loss and now faces someone trying to pressure her to sell her beloved ranch. 

A stranger shows up, Pace Emerson. He offers to work for her but what are his motivations? Myra is a woman who has loved and lost. Pace has never loved because he has a secret that makes him different than others. He has become a warrior for light.

Cole and Jessica, from book one, are also in this one. Cole is disturbed by memories that he cannot explain. He let his step brothers get away with nearly murdering him and his now wife, Jessica. He recognizes that was a mistake. With Jessica soon to have their baby, Cole needs resolution and hires an agency to find out what his brothers are up to. It will eventually bring Cole and Jessica to the Box Z.

A mystery, a love story, questions of what can we really know about the other side, and the ranch land south of Billings, Montana are at the heart of this paranormal romance.


“Once we take care of whatever is going after your stock, you won’t need me.” He threw her saddle over the fence beside his.
“I started a slow cooker this morning.” She ignored what he had said. “Chili. Come on up in a bit. I am planning to make biscuits to go along with it.”
“No rocky mountain oysters?” he teased as he gestured toward the bucket of scraped off testicles.
“You two can have them if you are so inclined,” she said wrinkling her nose. “I would appreciate you cook them downwind from me.”
He grinned. “I had another idea for them actually.”
She stiffened. “You don’t mean the predator.”
“I can’t start on it right away; so I’ll put these in the barn refrigerator with the antibiotics. Tomorrow, I need to go into Billings. When I get back, I’ll set them out and then get myself to where I can get a shot at whatever comes. You can’t let whatever is out there continue killing your stock.”
“Maybe it does it at night.”
“Might be. I plan to be out there until I get it.”
“Maybe it left. There were no fresh carcasses in the north sections.”
“It’s too easy pickings here. It will be back. I sense it. I will head up to that canyon you mentioned. It might be hiding in there.” It was the most likely possibility.
She grabbed his arm. “I don’t want you going in the canyon.”
Myra, if I can lure it out, I will; but it has to be dealt with. It might show up here someday.”
“I’m afraid. I forbid you to go there. This is my ranch. I give the orders in case you forgot.”
He smiled at the fervor in her voice. “Boss lady, you can tell me what to do in a lot of places.” His voice had softened. “A few of them I might really like, but that’s not one.”
“I’ll fire you first.” He saw then the fear in her eyes.
He stepped back, leaning his elbow now on the corral. “You want to tell me about it?”
“Take a shower and come up to the house with Toby in half an hour,” she said. “I’ll tell you after dinner.” She ran toward the house leaving him pondering what she’d just said. He glanced up at the barn roof at her red-haired spirit guide who was still watching him with clear distrust. He saw no other beings around.
“Well, Racine, go with her,” he hissed as he headed for the bunkhouse and the shower to get some hot water before Toby used it all up.