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, July 31, 2014

how it comes together-- kind of

Last summer I had finally started on the fourth historical book of the Stevens women, all set in Oregon and beginning with 1852 and the Oregon Trail. For the fourth, I had the plot in mind, the general idea of a hero and heroine, a setting I was not only familiar with but loved.

So I wrote a chapter and got stalled-- that experience has been rare for me in writing.  I would not define my experience as writer's block. It was simply that 'stuff' got in this book's way. It was a combination of many things including a trip to research the historical aspects, which I wanted to know more.

Also, it was a bit more complicated than just outside activities. I couldn't get a handle on the hero. He'd been in books two and three, which generally makes a character easier to write. Not this one. I could deal with him a bit shallowly in those books because he was a secondary character. That was over as soon as he became the hero of his own story. 

Last fall, trying to understand this guy led to extensive research on the US military, you see, he was a career soldier, a West Point graduate, a cavalry officer. To help me get a handle on my hero, the controversial, iconic George Custer was an obvious choice. Reading books about him and then Custer's journal helped me get a feeling for how a military guy would be thinking in 1867 after he'd been fighting Indians for awhile and gone through the Civil War.

Sometimes having a character in a prior book show up as a hero in a new one is a benefit. I already know them, but something about Rand Phillips didn't work that way. He had been not much more than a kid straight out of West Point when the second book's hero, a scout for the Federals, took him under his wing for the Rogue Indian War. He was back in the third and by then he was an experienced warrior returning to Oregon as part of settling the Snake Conflict. He was very alpha male in the third book-- even as a secondary character.

His own book was complicated by my desire to bring the three earlier romantic couples, into this one as secondary characters. It is after all, a family-- with the third Stevens sister the heroine. So I had the general plot, was once again getting a handle on the hero and heroine, had researched the historic period with some excellent books.

Then I lost my beloved cat to a shockingly early death, which led to a dream about reincarnation that I felt deserved to be told. I didn't want to put that off. The dream was fresh. I believed it was the right length for a novella and wrote When Fates Conspire

It was while working on its rough draft that I learned of an opportunity to write a short story for an anthology involving other western, romance writers... Couldn't turn that down. One of my ideas for it sounded good. The characters had been in my Arizona historical, Tucson Moon, but quickly I realized it was a lot more story than a short story or even novella. 

I looked for another idea and wrote my first short story, Connie's Gift (also a character in Tucson Moon), which went into the anthology, Rawhide 'n Roses. Although I knew that would lead to promotional activities, they wouldn't come until March.

January had us driving down to Tucson to work on our house. I had not given up on the Oregon story but Tucson has some good museums and that was research I could only do while there. More and more the Arizona historical intrigued me for its period, setting, and two characters I hadn't originally realized would have a romance but once the idea came to me, I wasn't going to let it go. The research was making me even more excited by the story.

In late January I ePublished When Fates Conspire. In March, I began writing the Arizona historical. It went fast, had my fingers flying with more research to enrich the story. It was the kind of writing that is purely a joy to do. One lunar cycle from starting to finishing its rough draft.

Of course, editing was yet to come, which meant it was a good time to work on the second and third novellas, which would continue the fantasy about fate, reincarnation, spirit beings, and what might or might not be out there. 

Supernatural type stories take research too. This was especially so since I was incorporating Native American mythologies into the third novella. Now I had done some of this research through the years. (If you didn't know it already, Libras have an interest in the offbeat, which includes mysticism of many traditions. I'd heard a lot of intriguing stories through the years some of which worked into the writing.) Now I had The Dark of the Moon and, Storm in the Canyon, which was going to be a trilogy-- Diablo Canyon.

 Ben Kern wagon train

About that time, I came across some photos and guys who took people on reenactments of the Oregon Trail (as well as other historic trails). Their photos and information seemed beneficial for my Oregon Trail book, and heck, you don't turn down an opportunity to talk to people as interesting as these guys were. I asked for and got permission to use some of their photos for covers in case I end up putting these books out as paperbacks-- more likely than eBooks as it stands.

I know it likely sounds like a chaotic year of writing, bouncing around quite a bit, but a year later I am back to the Oregon series. Instead of starting writing on the fourth, I decided I would benefit from re-editing the first three to make sure I am staying consistent. Because it'd been awhile, I had to look around to find the notes I'd taken as well as my character timelines. There was one moment where I feared I'd lost them by typing over them with the wrong state. The possibility of doing that to one of my novels (which once I did) is why I keep everything saved onto multiple jump drives-- thank goodness in this case. 

The heroine has always been interesting to me for that fourth Oregon historical. Belle, the youngest of three sisters, is my first warrior heroine. She is spirited, opinionated and left home quite early for school and adventures with friends where many parents wanted her as a companion to their daughters. This is my first time to write a female warrior, although many of my heroines do learn to fight, but it's more to save their own lives or that of their lovers. This young woman chose to be a warrior. It does seem like a fun write to get into how it works for an alpha, warrior hero and an alpha warrior heroine will get along... well, I actually have a pretty good idea. ;)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

how it comes together-- sometimes

From what I have heard, every writer has their own way to bring a book from the first sentence to the last. Many writers say they work as either a [pantser or plotter]. Within writer communities, there are conversations about how that works or doesn't. I don't think anybody thinks one is better than the other. It's just how you work. There are famous, very successful writers in both camps. I am not totally either.

I do not write a firm outline for any of my books, which used to frustrate my engineer husband. But on the other hand, I do know where a story is heading. I have it in my head. It's what happens along the way where I run into surprises. So I am a bit pantser and plotter

I see it similarly to going on a trip. I am one of those who do not like to plan a trip down to the last T. I will know the general route but along the way might take a different highway or detour when something interesting shows up. I often don't have reservations which can make some vacations dicey. I will though end up where I expected. And so it is with my writing a book.

My current work in progress follows three earlier Oregon historical manuscripts,  ranging in span from 1852 to 1865. The fourth will start in 1867 and involve the Snake Conflict, one of Oregon's bigger Indian wars. I have no plans as it stands to publish any of them.

The first of those Oregon historicals I wrote in my early twenties. It has had a lot of rewrites since that time including an extensive period working with a professional consulting editor. That story led to the next two. These four will fit into a series but I haven't figure out a name for it-- although I have the books all titled-- including the WIP.

It might seem strange to a non-writer to think I'd put so much into books I wasn't sure I'd ever put out. Why not write in genres I would publish? In my case though, since I've been doing it all my writing life, it seems very natural to write for the joy of writing and consider marketing a separate question.

I might as well admit that the reason I haven't been sure about publishing these four is because of not having yet found a regular readership. Some indie writers have that, and they have readers eager to get their next book. I would love to be in that situation, but I am not. I haven't given up on getting there but also have to accept that it might not happen for me.

Looking at it as objectively as I can (and that's never easy for a writer who loves all the books they write), what I write doesn't 'totally' satisfy the romance reader, and non-romance readers won't give them a chance because they are so turned off on the genre. Now personally, I consider my stories to be hybrids-- between novels and romances. But it's hard to find a way to market something that doesn't fit into boxes.

That first Oregon Trail book, the one that has been part of my life for nearly 50 years, how would I feel if it met the fate of the last historical, Comes the Dawn (one sale in a month)? It's a lot easier to see a book fail to find support or readers when you have put less into it.

Now I can't say I don't put a lot of work and of me into all of them, but the Oregon Trail story goes way beyond that. It would definitely depress to me if it was similarly rejected. The Arizona historical was a good test to see if I had enough readers to even get the book seen on the Amazon lists. The test said this isn't the right time for any of my Oregon historicals-- except maybe as paperbacks with a hope that I can find local bookstores interested in their mix of romance and history.

Here's a plain truth-- if you can't take rejection of your books, it's not wise to be a published writer. You can write to your heart's content, but putting them out there, that's a whole other story. I've learned to be happy for writers who are selling well, not feel hurt if my books don't get support. I can mostly do that, but I could not with the Oregon books. They are way too much a part of me going back to when the story first came to me and I was the age of its heroine. 

Anyway that's all the marketing end, not what I was intending to write about. I guess though it's a good beginning for how a year of my writing life went with the planned and unplanned. The experiences I had are why I love being an indie writer even as I admit sometimes I get a bruised ego. Actually that might be good for a person... or so they tell me ;).

So coming next blog will be more about that year which might not seem very organized but... Okay, it wasn't very organized ;).

Sunday, July 27, 2014

And then...

Often I mention how much I enjoy writing as an independent. Being an indie writer offers many benefits to self-motivated writers. I am sure those who work on contract for their books feel it's worth it for the benefits they receive in promotion and prestige; but they do have time constraints that an independent writer does not have except what they put them on themselves. 

When I decided to go independent, I had been writing all of my life-- literally. Oh as a child it wasn't much detail, but it was still there in creating stories whether for paper dolls (which I had to make myself as nobody put out what I wanted which were hot women and handsome men-- none of those cute baby or little girl paperdolls for me), or my first ones written down with words, they all were about putting together plots and characters. My cousin and I, on family gatherings, would go for walks taking turns telling parts of an ongoing story.

My writing has involved worked with a consulting writer to develop the skills of the craft. Some of my stories were handwritten, then came the old Royal typewriter, electric typewriters, white out, carbon copies and finally the first Atari computer, which I couldn't believe would be better until I learned you could rearrange where a paragraph set and no more need for erase papers-- finally to today with the machine sitting in front of me and the internet. Yes, fiction writing was always in my life.

The decision to go indie was actually pretty easy. I had a lot of manuscripts (very few of which had I ever sent off to publishing houses for an assortment of reasons). I didn't want to make them fit what the editors had told me I would need to do. 

I also assessed the drawbacks of going indie. You must do all your promotion. You don't have the prestige that goes with publishing houses, but for the writing work itself there were only pluses. 

Being an indie writer lets me arrange my workday, set my goals, and allows me to bounce from project to project. I can edit or write. I can work on places to promote. Because I love what I do, am good at self-motivating, and am not easily distracted, it works for me.  In the morning I pretty much know what I will be doing that day but if I wish, I can reset the day. My writing work (about 8 hours a day at least 5 days a week, with less hours on week-ends but no days without some writing) are made up of a variety of activities which may involve covers, social media, researching, editing, and writing on more than one book.

It might seem crazy to a non-writer, but I had begun writing the next full-length novel when I still had one more edit due for Comes the Dawn. There were reasons for that. If you keep editing and re-editing a manuscript, pretty soon, you don't really see it. You lose focus. By having other work in between, when you come back to the original, it feels fresh.

With a good start on the Oregon historical, a deeper look at my characters, I then put it aside and did the final edit on the Arizona historical. I was really loving how it was going but I needed that last edit.  This had been the shortest time I ever had between writing a rough draft and putting a book out, and I might not do it that way again. But with its final edit, I fell in love with Comes the Dawn all over. That'd not have happened had I kept reading and re-reading it. Time between let me look at the work afresh.

That ability to change course, between editing and writing something original or to work on something I might never publish, is one of the big pluses of being an indie writer. With no contracts, the only promise I have is to myself and to the stories. It also means nobody else is forcing me fit a mold, which, to be honest, might've made the books sell better. Life is though a set of trade-offs. Stay true to your own self or fit what others want? Those choices don't just occur with creative work.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Releasing protective shields

At their heart, romances are stories of emotions. It's not just about love but the emotions that often block a full expression of love. There are several dominant emotional themes, to which I have found my books repeatedly turn. The next two cover re-dos involve one of my favorites because I see it as an issue in human life, and a book can illustrate that and offer reasons to deal with it.

I suppose admitting that your books have a theme that can actually teach something about human life might be a turnoff to some readers. I mean they get plenty of lectures other places and want their romance reading to be purely for fun. The thing is you can have an enjoyable read while still looking at some life lessons through the characters-- the whole thing at a distance from your own life and yet applicable if you so choose.

These two books have been out for quite awhile. The first has had pretty good sales off and on. The second never did. I think the first had an okay cover, one I had liked, but I have recently been interested in changing things around. The second has never had good sales and that's likely due to its painful subject matter. A cover won't change that.

Desert Inferno carries forth the O'Brian stories into contemporary times. The heroine's family ranch was established in the 1880s. By modern times it was having its own problems with economics, wise use of land, and its isolation. The ranch though was not at the core of this story. 

It is a love story involving a woman who is an artist and has grown up with beauty. She has known nothing but love.  The man she falls in love with isn't pretty, not as he sees himself and he's walked the hard and often ugly side of life. He has known nothing of love nor does he want to.

The goal of the cover is to depict someone having to let go of their protective layers, to open up their basic essence to another person. How does a cover show that?

Turned out I had the perfect image and had used it in the book's trailer and on back of the paperback. Creating this cover was easy-- just add titles.

I like writing books about people who have to let go of their protective shields-- half the time it's been her and half the time him. That emotional theme appeals to me because I see putting up protective barriers as a problem in life. We use busyness. We choose safe relationships where we won't be challenged, or we avoid them totally. We do it to protect ourselves from thinking, from being someone who will demand we peel back those layers and let them in. I think sometimes we are afraid to let ourselves see what is under them. Through my characters I try to show how this stands in the way of full living. We can let go of those masks-- and especially need to do this for our own benefit.

The next book had a similar theme. The cover wasn't actually bad in terms of revealing the problem. I knew that a new cover wasn't likely to improve its sales. It has difficult subject matter. But its existing cover began to depress me. It was a man and woman, but he was looking down with a disturbed look. She was studying him trying to figure out what was wrong. The colors were stark.

While Moon Dust is the story of a marriage on the brink of divorce and covers several big issues that our society faces, I think it has an uplifting story. There was hope, not hopelessness. 

A secret is at the heart of what has gone wrong with the marriage. The soon to be ex-wife has the hope of finding and then convincing her husband he can deal with it. This couple are very much in love even while the marriage is disintegrating. There is pain but also an answer. He must (and that part isn't easy) open himself to her. 

I wanted a cover that was warm and showed the caring. I did not one that felt hopeless. Still, it could not look as though going within was totally without some pain. I think this one does it. Love and how sharing what has been before can provide healing to both.

There is hope and that is the whole point of romance books. There is a happy ending, despite the travails that it may take to get there-- and this couple go through plenty, not all brought on by themselves. In the end it will work out.

That's what i like about romances. I get other kinds of endings from the newspaper and way too often. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

what it takes to be a movie hero today?

 picture from the link below

This is kind of an intermission between my blog posts but could not resist. Is this the new Han Solo? They never let us see Han's bare chest back then but for today's world, it is kind of a requirement. One that seems fair to me ;). 

He also explained what it takes to get a body like that. I have wondered because I do see them a lot of places..  and no complaints.
"-- ...weight training, yoga, high-intensity interval training, sprints, jogging, the Navy SEAL “grinder” workout, and P90X." 
 Since his neck looks normal, it looks like no steroids. Unless steroids don't have the same impact today... 

One neat thing is they asked him how his wife liked him like this since he had previously ballooned up to almost 300 lbs. for a movie with Vince Vaughn. He said she loved him this way but that way too. Cool :)

revamping yet another cover

Yes, I've read of the agony of the struggling writer-- how each book is wrung from them with blood and sweat. I confess. I have love and have fun writing. I enjoy creating covers. What I hate is accepting they won't be liked-- yes, it's a conundrum to do something you love and know others won't love it also. 

When my books aren't selling, it's enough to sometimes make me want to cry. I stop and remind myself this is creative work. It is the reward just to be able to do it. Don't ask for it to be appreciated by others, but in reality we all want our work to be liked. It's unrealistic not to admit that. 

Creating covers is a lovely break from thinking about the harder aspects of marketing. They are also, however, part of marketing. So with recently purchased new images, I took a hard look at my existing covers. Could any be made better?

Better means more adequately tell, in one image, the story within the book. That is the object of covers. They are meant to attract as flowers do bees. They must though depict what is within, or they are cheating the potential reader. Putting up a cover that looks wonderful, the type that has sold many books, when it has nothing to do with the book, is unfair and as a writer-- unsatisfying.

From Here to There was one of the books to which I looked. That poor book. It has had so many covers-- the most of any of mine-- a few of its rejected covers

I love its story, plot, characters. It is about human relationships, several kinds, and the world of cattle raising. But one cover after another didn't get that across. Well, there is no use crying over spilt milk--onward and upward is my motto-- both likely cliches. (One I took from a friend who used it often). 

So when I re-edited that book, I decided to once again look at its cover. What could I use instead of what I have tried? The most recent one represented the western cowboy-- a major theme of the book. I liked it but can't say it was helping sell the book.

Part of the problem possibly was-- what does this cover say in regards the romance? The guy on the cover looks like the hero in the book. That was a plus. He also illustrates the underlying theme of ranch life. But was that really enough?

Looking at the book itself and its deeper themes, what did that cover do for illustrating them? It's about the modern west, cowboys, ranch living, illusions and how sometimes what we think is not real turns out it is. It's about families, relationships, love, sexuality, animals, and how we can do what we must-- with enough motivation. Obviously I can't get all that onto a cover.

I went looking through my images, found one I had bought just because I loved it with no idea how I could use it. Next I looked for images that could represent the hero and heroine. I found one that had the right look and only took a little adjusting to look like them. 

The next step was playing around to see how I could put the two images together in a way that depicted the energy and love of the West.

Will it help attract readers? I have no idea, but it definitely does the book more justice in terms of beauty and vitality. For readers who hate the very idea of romances, it will ward them off. For someone who would enjoy a romance that offers two stories of how love can come together, one told through an old journal, well that part I could not get onto the cover or it'd be cluttered. You just cannot get it all one one cover... I don't think anyway. 

That wasn't the end of rethinking covers. At this point, I was taking an art break before my next editing job (three books I have not decided to  ePublish) before getting back to finishing writing fourth in that series (Oregon historicals). 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

cover remodels

 So if someone makes the argument that a writer should wait to publish until the book is as good as they possibly can make it, which means maybe never since they keep getting better at what they can write, then the same argument could hold true for covers, right? 

For an indie writer, one benefit with eBooks is the ability to change the book-- words, blurbs, and covers.  Paperbacks, of course, are a different ballgame. But because I can change covers, I have. Now, not every single book has had it happen. I have a couple who have only had one or maybe two covers at the most with some tweaking perhaps on titles, but overall eight of my books are more or less how they began. Of course, three of those books haven't been out very long; but I tend to think they will remain because even though they haven't sold that well, the covers fit the stories as well as I can imagine any image doing. When I can, I'd rather keep the cover as they began. It's easier.

However, in the last month or two, I've changed four covers in significant ways. In a housekeeping mood, I've even changed blogs with different backgrounds and opening photos.  It reminds me of how Farm Boss used to come home from work, and I'd be telling him where I wanted the sofa, and how it would look better. This farmhouse has made that kind of change rare as the rooms don't lend themselves well to shifting things around. Remodeling is always about thinking there is a better way.

When I get the idea of changing a cover, I often have no idea where I will go with it. In this case, I found the image of a man and woman which I had bought some time back but never used. I also grabbed one of my own sky photographs from Tucson.

Sky Daughter isn't an easy story to capture in one image. It's of a young woman who went to her grandfather's mountain to heal from a series of losses and disappointments and a man caught up in a weird plot which distorts spiritual power. There is a monster. Adding it to the cover helps to illustrate the risk this couple are under as they try to find the answer to what is going on without getting killed. It has a mix of witchcraft, nature, cultural differences, and Idaho.

Because of its complex story, Sky daughter has had, since it came out May or June of 2012, six or seven covers. I also think this one is permanent as finally it seems to depict the energy of the story in the way I want. The tough part with covers is one image has to say it all. Not easy.

Next blog will get into the other recent cover changes and why the new ones seem better.

Update: I changed Sky Daughter again which you can see alongside here. I saw this possibility at CanStock and it led to a new subscription to get it. I like it though better than anything I ever had; so maybe it will now stay this way!


Thursday, July 17, 2014


Recently my book, From Here to There, received a review from a reader where the reader mostly liked the book but added a statement that piqued my interest: "Also some cliches in the plot..." 

If you want to read the rest of the review, you can find it at Amazon. The part I care about for this piece is what is a cliche, how do we recognize it, and is it really a bad thing? I started with looking for a definition.

Cliche: a phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought.

Of course, when I re-edited From Here to There for the umpteenth time, because of that review, I was looking for what might be a cliche. Since the story is about the western way of life and the mythology behind thinking there even is a 'western way of life,' cliches seem likely to be part of the story. One of its old-timer cowboys is a lover of western lore based on fiction books. He wouldn't mind being told he spoke in cliches,  he'd be proud of it.

Going by the definition that I found, if life itself is full of something, then to put it into a book might seem overused. I mean heck, you've read/seen it all before, right? Perhaps though, you read it before because it's how life is. 

 To one reader having an older character have a heart attack would be cliched. We see heart attacks all the time in books. Except it is also real life. If we have lived in multi-generational communities, we know heart attacks happen. So one reader sees it as a cliche because they read it before. Another reader relates to it because they had a very similar experience in real life.

The more I thought about it, the more I decided most writing is full of cliches but so is life. What do we have happen that hasn't happened to millions before us? Some experiences more commonly happening than others.

When writing, I personally feel a cliche is fine. Cliches are what happens in life, and if they fit the story, I think that can be part of good writing-- reader/critic disagreement or not. Trite or space filling cliche is less fine, but then again, the mundane is part of real life. The alternative to the mundane in your book is writing a Perils of Pauline plot. 

Cliched expressions are often how we talk. We hear something said in a movie, and we repeat it. Everybody repeats it. If people speak that way, should a book not? So, I don't feel a cliche is a bad thing in the right usage. I get it some readers disagree with me.

The kinds of thing that happen repeatedly in life, the mundane, I like in a story I am reading it or writing, like where the heroine polishes furniture, gossips with a girlfriend, or works in a garden right before her world goes to hell in a hand-basket. How many times has our own life reflected the lull before the storm, red sky in the morning lol Okay all cliches but are they not true sayings also?

So when I write, I am always thinking of the plot device, WWW, but between potential crises will be the enjoyment of little moments which might make my books almost as much woman's fiction as romance. Those little moments probably might seem prosaic, cliched even, but that's what life is made out of, isn't it?

The love story will be at the core of a romance. It is not, however, all that is going on. For my books, it's not all about fighting a villain or dealing with a natural catastrophe. It's not about constant action but rather real life mixed into action. I won't force a crises just to get constant action. I think the lull makes for better living and better reading at least for me.

Trying to make every story unlike every other story out there, by thinking up something that never happened before, for me, defeats what writing is all about-- which is an interesting story but one that can feel real. 

In the case of my book, From Here to There, where it's about the western thinking, it's about what I have seen in my own life with ranch living, and sure it's got cliches. Take them out, and it ceases being what makes western thinking what it is.

We watched Donovan's Reef Sunday evening. Wayne movies are full of cliches like the obligatory fight scenes, the taming of the woman scene, etc. but it's what people want in his films. Well him having to spank her, in many of the plots, is definitely not what I want and think that's a forced cliche his films way overdid. No guy, hero type or not, is going to take a woman over his knee in my book or life lol. Well, in life I guess it could happen once, but not going to a second time. That said, I still enjoyed that movie as I do most of his films. They are predictable but that's what makes them fun.

I don't think cliches are bad in writing or life.

As old as the hills.
Time will tell.
A diamond in the rough.
Opposites attract.
Alls well that ends well.
The writing on the wall.
and so forth.

I had a book, Evening Star where the hero, who had grown up on a ranch, talked with colloquialisms. It was part of his persona and his brother ridiculed him for what he called cliched expressions. I personally liked his folksy-ism as I love those kinds of expressions and use them myself. In that book, it also illustrated a major difference between him and the more 'sophisticated' heroine.

To research this article though I was not only looking for cliches but articles out there telling writers the ones they must never use. The following twelve are from Writer's Digest. I added them here for those of you who love to know and follow the rules. Incidentally none of these made it into From Here to There-- and since they suggest you never personally respond to a review, as it's considered harassment, I will never know which ones the reader thought had. They better never read Evening Star ;)
1. Avoid it like the plague
2. Dead as a doornail
3. Take the tiger by the tail
4. Low hanging fruit
5. If only walls could talk
6. The pot calling the kettle black
7. Think outside the box
8. Thick as thieves
9. But at the end of the day
10. Plenty of fish in the sea
11. Every dog has its day
12. Like a kid in a candy store

 Seriously-- at the end of the day is a cliche???

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

creativity begets creativity

As so often happens for me, an exchange with another writer led to thinking more about something that I then felt was worth sharing here.
When I have a conversation with another-- whether in real time, a thread of comments on a blog, through Skype, or exchanging emails-- it makes me put into words what I had been thinking. Sometimes it causes me to redefine my thinking because of taking into account new ideas. 

In this case, the exchange was about the writing process and editing which is so much a part of writing. The other writer said that she thought a lot of the reason we can look at a book later and feel it's not all we'd want was based on our changing. We grow and see things differently. I agree with that and would add that our skills grow. 

So editing has been where I've been this last week and working on three different books which had already been edited many times. But this writer had looked at one of mine and saw some things she felt were not working. She gave me specific ideas regarding where and why. That led me to take a long look at that book.

Sky Daughter was first written in 2002. It's one of the rare stories I sent to a publishing house after I had written it. The good part was the first editor liked it enough to send it to another editor in a different department. The bad part is both rejected it for different reasons-- the first for too much romance and the second for not believing in the paranormal aspect (this was before Harry Potter and the launch of so many urban fantasy books).

In June of 2012, I ePublished it. I brought it out after I had stopped doing free days. It was one of my first books to surprise me when it didn't have good sales. You know when you love a book, you think others will. ePublishing teaches you quickly that's not always the case. In its case though, after I got into this 7th or 8th re-editing of it, I was glad for those lukewarm sales and no free days.

Using her critique as a starting point, I found pluses in my writing. I still liked my hero, heroine, dialogue, the basic plot, its secondary characters, and believed in its premise. Sky Daughter was my first with a monster, and I had done research in terms of the experiences real people had claimed with such beings. The monster, as one of the characters, still worked for me. So much for the pluses. 

But when I got into it, I was disappointed and surprised at the many places where my writing was not smooth. It happened most especially in transitional passages-- where you take characters from one place to another without dialogue. Also I had times where the writer's, hence characters' logic, no longer worked for me. Fortunately better logic was waiting to be found. So I worked on that and the places where I had been redundant, which no matter how many times you think you got them all, there they are. 

When you see those kind of failings, it leads to a losing faith in your abilities. I remember sitting in the yard talking to my husband and telling him how disillusioning this re-edit was being. But if you are a writer, you trudge on. You hope that the changes you made this time will prove to be good in a year when you look at it again.

 Anyway, if you bought Sky Daughter, delete it from your reading device, go to Manage your Kindle where you can ask for it to be sent again. Sometimes they send the corrections automatically, but they have to decide it's a major enough change to warrant it. I believe this is.

After seeing those kinds of goofs in a book I had thought was well written, I went directly to doing another re-edit. For From Here to There, I had gotten a critical review awhile back when I was too busy to get back to the book. The reviewer had written that overall they liked the story, but the writing was not as consistent as they had expected, and it had cliches. Unfortunately unlike with the Sky Daughter critique where I could ask for specifics in an email, this one on Amazon, I could not ask what they meant, but I worked it over last week (gave it a new cover too). 

Fortunately in avoiding total depression as a writer, I found less of those what-was-I-thinking passages or the how-did-that-get-by-me places! Still I found enough where I could say it better (especially in those pesky transitional points), that I also republished it (one of the pluses to eBooks). 

So again, if you bought From Here to There or got it free, where you have a record of owning it at Amazon, delete it from your reading device, go to Amazon and find where you manage your Kindle and tell them to send it again. They will do this but be careful you don't delete it from there. Once you do that, you have to buy it again or get me to email you a copy if you tell me you owned it and lost it. I will take your word for it.

After From Here to There was off to Amazon (and already up with its new cover and corrections), I went straight to a third edit to see how it held up-- Desert Inferno

It's the first book I brought out as an eBook in December of 2011 and still one of my favorites as it takes the O'Brian family of the historical westerns to a modern story involving the Border Patrol. I also redid its cover. 

Desert Inferno was less disappointing. No major glitches, but I still am able to write some of it better. When I can write something better, I will and I then republish. Like I said above, if you have bought this one, you can get the re-edit on probably Wednesday. Give Amazon time to get the new one up. This ability to redo them is one of the pluses of ePublishing. 

It might seem that changing a book means it wasn't publishing ready. I guess that could be said. I mean if I can do it better today, shouldn't I have waited for today? Well what about this idea-- I could also do it better next year. So why ever put them out?

Thursday I have in mind discussing cliches in writing. I think it's worth looking at a little more.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Comes the Dawn

Writing Comes the Dawn took me back, through my characters as to what it's like to spend time in Sinagua ruins, which are spread throughout the Southwest in hidden canyons. Such an experience is always meaningful for me. You see bits of pottery, sometimes arrowheads, and you really do find yourself imagining what it must have been like to live in those beautiful canyons and build those homes. 

Because an imaginary ruin in an imaginary canyon would be part of the setting of my story, I used my own feelings for those of my heroine. When I am in such a place it's easy to imagine myself a woman living in a place like Wupatki with the ball courts, the many rooms, and wide vistas.

The Sinagua generally only stayed in a site for 100 years and nobody can say why. They built these great looking apartment buildings such as Wupatki and then left it after about 100 years to build another. Was it disease? Religion? Or perhaps busy hands don't get in trouble. 

Whatever the reason, it has left in the high plateau of Arizona many such dwellings hidden back in canyons usually with a water source nearby. In some cases, if the water dried up, that might've required a move. Another possibility is a need to build more fortified dwellings. The motives can long be speculated.

The theory on why around 1400A.D. the Sinagua and other peoples of the region totally deserted Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico is thought to relate to an extensive drought. There are other reasons suggested including a spiritual breakdown. Since dwellings were built about that time down in Mexico, it may be their migration related to the build up of the Aztec culture.

It's long been laughed about that Montezuma's Castle was named for the Aztec ruler and how silly. Except the Pueblo people of New Mexico tell of an Aztec leader coming there to see from where his ancestors had come. Often man's history is more intertwined than he wants to think.

In all of these sites you see middens which is where archaeologists go to get information on burials, diet and yes, longevity of a site. I may or may not have mentioned my daughter is an archaeologist and it's been especially interesting to visit such sites with her for what she sees while there. 

Naturally you take nothing from such a place as it will then be waiting for the next visitor to also discover. Plus archaeologists learn a lot about a culture by what it left behind-- when it stays right where it was.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

where it all happens

It seems lately all I have done is write or edit something; so I am going to take a kind of break on the day my new book officially comes out. 

Comes the Dawn available now in eBook

Because it's an area I love so much, I want to share the energy of the part of Arizona where this book mostly takes place. It is a less traveled part of Arizona, a region many (from outside the state) don't know exists as they hit the national parks or resorts. 

I can't offer you the fragrances or all the wonderful little discoveries that await as you drive or hike through this country but can offer a small look at diverse and beautiful area-- The Tonto Rim, White Mountains, and Mogollan Rim where the author Zane Grey placed so many of his books, where feuds have been fought, Indian wars raged, outlaw flourished, settlers built homes, and people like myself have come to love so much.

When I finished the third O'Brian story I wasn't sure if there was a fourth historical O'Brian out there, but it turns out there is another, which might or might not be written by me. For now I have other irons in the fire.

All photos are mine except the Sinagua ruin which is from the book, Echoes in the Canyons: The Archaeology of the Southeastern Sierra Ancha Central Arizona by Richard Lange. This is a detailed look at the many cliff dwellings tucked into hidden canyons in Central Arizona. The book is published by Arizona State Museum, University of Arizona (always worth a visit if you get to Tucson). 

Truly an area rich in beauty and history.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

win a book?

Comes the Dawn

Grace, a young girl in Tucson Moon, returns to Tucson after getting the education she did not originally want. The man in her girlhood heart has returned to Arizona after fighting with the Rough Riders in Cuba. Grace needs to know if all she has felt for him has been a fantasy.

Rafe had been through years of hell with his first marriage ending when his wife took his son back to Tucson to live with her new husband. To Yaquis, family is the center of their lives, and he’s been estranged from his small son. As bad as things seemed for him in the jungles of Cuba, they are about to get worse in Arizona. Before the dawn, comes the darkness which we all must at times come through.

Comes the Dawn is the third book in the O’Brian historical series. The first of the O’Brians began with Arizona Sunset in 1883. Second, Tucson Moon, took secondary characters and brought them forward to 1886 for their own love story. The third, Comes the Dawn, is in 1899 set in southern and central Arizona with its core being love, healing, family, friends, what it means to be a father, the Yaqui culture, and the beauties of Arizona.

Unlike some writers, I don't really have a lot of ways to promote my books. Once upon a time I used to put them up for free days. Not doing that again as it didn't work for me (although some still believe in it).

What I would like to do for Comes the Dawn is offer its eBook version free to one commenter here (chosen at random) between now and the day it's published (the 10th). So if you would like a free eBook version of Comes the Dawn-- comment, say you want to enter the drawing or leave your email. Don't worry if you haven't been a regular commenter. This blog can draw over 100 unique visitors, but commenters not many at all; so this might be a way to get more commenters as well as give away a book. On the 10th, I'll post the name of the winner.

I wanted to do this because recently I've won books a couple of times at blogs or events. I thought it was pretty cool when I did, so I think I'll do this once in awhile. Sometimes it'll be with books already out there  when I am writing about them or sometimes the newest release. It's said it can be a way to get new readers and maybe even a review ;). I figured you never know if something works well until you try it. I like giving away books; so if you like winning one, this is a win/win.

Still aren't sure if you'd like to read Comes the Dawn, check out its trailer:

Sunday, July 6, 2014

and Rafe

 1899 Arizona Territory

When someone lives in a culture that is considered alien to the majority, it can build fear in them, destroy their confidence; or it can toughen them until they are the sort of person who can handle anything that comes along. Yaqui, Rafael Cordova, who was Cord O'Brian's deputy in Tucson Moon is of the latter sort. 

As a man of the desert, Rafe has had a lot of things come along in his life that he didn't expect but nothing so painful as having his wife divorce him and take their baby. To Yaquis, family is everything, and yet he was left a man not raising his own son.

When the hoopla began for the Spanish American War, Rafe had no intention of going along with it, even though as a previous deputy to a U.S. Marshal, he was no stranger to guns and violence. He didn't expect his little brother to join up. He couldn't let him go alone.

Coming back from the war, he didn't expect to find love at a time he was least able to claim it. War has taken a toll on Rafe. He has a lot to forgive himself for, a lot to accept in the man he is.

For all Rafe had not expected, a lot more is to come.

Snippet from Comes the Dawn out as eBook 7/10/14:

Riding into the foothills, where the slope was too steep for his horse, he stopped, turned his horse, and looked back out at the valley. Somewhere out there, visiting Rose or maybe out with a young man who was more like her, would be Grace. He had blocked thinking of her since that fateful day in 1894 when she had… No, he wouldn’t think of that.
He did think of Ellen and her odd, almost crazy behavior. One moment she seemed to want him back. Then next she was ready to attack him at least verbally. What had been going on with her? How could he find out? The one thing he knew is he wasn’t getting back together with her. There were a lot of reasons for that but Ellen herself was enough of one that he didn’t need the others.
Until Ellen had taken his son, he had drifted along without much bad ever happening. He had had no preparation for that, not with how Yaquis were taught to value family. He had even condemned Cord for not being there for Grace, for leaving her with grandparents. What a fool he had been. Now, he could be with his big family, witness their sharing and joy, but he was not part of it. He wasn’t part of anything or anyone. 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

there was grace

In 1886, Grace O'Brian arrived in Arizona as a waif in the book Tucson Moon. In the following years, she grew up and left at seventeen to go to college back east as part of the first wave of American women reaching out for an education at a top-rated university. 

Going away to school in 1894 wasn't Grace's first choice for her life. She loved the desert, the outdoors and ranch life. There was also something else to love on her parents' ranch, the Circle O. Being a young woman with an inheritance, her parents wanted her to have an education and broader set of experiences. Finally she yielded and went.

As a child Grace had enjoyed art, pressing flowers, petroglyphs, every opportunity her stepmother could afford her to try new things. When she had arrived at college, it was obvious her choice of a major would be relatively new as an option for women in 1894, although already happening in Europe-- architecture.

My inspiration, for Grace's potential career came straight from a woman who designed buildings a few years after Grace would have graduated-- Mary Colter. If you are not familiar with her life and work, it's worth a look, and I might someday do another blog just on her (when I don't have a book coming out). You have seen some of Colter's buildings if you have been to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon: Hopi House 1905; Hermit's Rest 1914; Lookout Studio 1914; Phantom Ranch 1922; Desert View Watchtower 1932; and Bright Angel Lodge 1935.

Bright Angel Lodge is still one of those places that everytime I am there I think, I'd love to stay in one of those cozy and interesting looking cabins on the rim, but they are booked literally years in advance.  Colter's designs use the land, the culture and an understanding of design and structure to create buildings that are still inspiring and in use today.

As Comes the Dawn opens, Grace has attained her education. She is unsure what she wants next, but she has returned to Tucson and her beloved Arizona. She is an accomplished, wealthy and very intelligent young woman but with a longing for something that goes beyond any of that.

Writing about a woman like Grace who uses her education and money in the ways I personally admire made her not only enjoyable as a heroine but as a woman and as a part of her time and period in history.

A book's opening is sometimes a challenge to write as in where to start. This one though had no other place than to bring Grace full circle. Following snippet is from Comes the Dawn, third in the O'Brian series and due out July 10, 2014 as eBook and paperback--

Grace O'Brian, wearing a silk blouse, skirt to match, with as stylish a hat as Chicago could provide, descended the train steps, a small valise in her hand. She could not help but compare it to the first time she’d come to Tucson on the train, a small child, wearing a little straw hat, scared out of her wits. She was returning an educated woman, who had traveled, and experienced so many things but maybe she still felt a little scared.

The Tucson heat hit her as if a physical blow reminding her how much she’d missed what to some might have seemed extreme. Tucson was passionate, full of life with a heat of summer that was likely to send the unprepared right back on the train. It wasn’t just the bustling city, which she saw had grown in the five years she’d been gone, but the raw desert just beyond its reaches. She loved it from the hazy purple mountains to the north, the Santa Ritas to the south and the Tucson Mountains to the west. She had relished her first sight of the saguaros that she’d missed while in the East.

Well, she had seen the things her parents wanted for her. They had insisted she needed to go away to school, to go to college, an opportunity few people and even less women ever had. She had done it all and more. Perhaps they had been right about what she had needed. The options hadn’t all been hers.

“Miss, I set your trunks by the bench there,” the conductor said smiling at her with the look of respect that she had frequently experienced once she had acquired some polish.

“Thank you. I think someone will be here soon.”
She scanned the few people on the platform looking for her tall father and blonde mother as the rest of the passengers began dispersing. She could arrange to get south to their ranch, but she had been sure they would be here.
As she turned toward the town, still not seeing the ones she had sought, she saw him. He was leaning against the back of the depot, his hat low over his eyes, smoking a cigarette. He had never smoked. When had he picked up that habit? Had he brought it back with him when he returned from war?
He walked slowly toward her, his spurs jangling. Still that handsome face with the dark skin, high cheekbones, black hair curling around his neck. There was a toughness in him that she had never seen, lines that told of suffering. His Yaqui heritage was in his features, the proud way he carried himself, a tall, lean body, muscular and strong. If she had hoped he'd be less attractive to her, she'd have been disappointed. She hadn't hoped though-- not after dreaming of him night after night.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

yes, writing can be fun

This has been a good period for writing if not so great for my personal self. Starting with the negative stuff: after an earlier foot/ankle problem,  followed by a fall where I broke my nose (yes, literally broke it), followed by an ongoing tooth problem which I originally felt was ill-fitting crowns, one above the other, but as the discomfort grew, I went to the dentist again hoping another adjustment would solve the problem, but worried it would not. 

The x-ray showed an infection below the tooth, which meant a particularly strong antibiotic and an appointment with a doctor specializing in endodontics... one root canal in short or should I say at the least as my dentist wanted the two teeth side by side looked at by the specialist... 

So that comes tomorrow and you can imagine I am not looking forward to it, but this tooth has been an ongoing problem for well over a year; so it is overdue and maybe my putting it off, thinking it would get better, led to the irritation below the tooth and probable infection. It just goes to show you can be religious in check-ups, cleanings but some things come internally. Ignoring mine, toughing it out, may have contributed to this or maybe it's all age. Oh the myriad joys of aging ;)

Then the pharmacist was scary regarding this antibiotic as it's known for severe, very unpleasant side effects which it was claimed impact almost everyone who takes it. Anything where its sole job is to kill off all the bacteria in your body, by definition, is not great. So far my side effects have been minor. Hopefully the root canal will follow in line and not amount to as much as I worry about. 

To end off this string of unpleasant experiences, my cat came into the house Monday with what I at first thought was a wounded or dead hummingbird. Before I assessed what it was, I picked it up. It turned out something totally different-- a bat killed by one of our two cats!!! 

That led to an assortment of phone calls, taking the dead body into the OSU diagnostic center to find out if it had rabies. Our cats have their vaccinations, but it appears the vaccines aren't 100%. It also seems the state wants a 45 day quarantine by law to keeping the cats in the house if the bat turns out positive for rabies... 

Now that is very scary. This pretty well takes the summer and turns it on end if this should happen to be rabies. Then... they could get it even after the vaccinations? We would have to watch for symptoms for 45 days even after giving them the vaccine which has its own risks for the cats' health (try reading about that online to get an idea of the concern). I still cannot find the data on how much risk our cats now have if that bat turns out to be rabid. :( This was the worst of the last two months news. Hopefully the bat will be clear of it, but 10% of all bats in our area carry rabies. :(

This is just one more thing to worry about which we will also know either way on Wednesday. I have to say, this has been the perfect time to be engrossed in someone's world besides mine.

On the upbeat side, my newest historical romance, Comes the Dawn will be out July 10th. If you read Arizona Sunset, Tucson Moon and liked these stories set in Arizona, history in the background but with strong characters, I think you will love this one. Some earlier characters are back and two of them are here for their own love story.

I always think it's interesting to hear why other writers chose the stories they did. I am sure a few writers just turn out one romance after another to a formula; however, for most, there is something that particularly interested them in choosing the characters, story and setting.

Comes the Dawn surprised me as I had no intention of writing a third of these Arizona stories about the O'Brians. Admittedly, I had no intention of writing a second. These truly grew out of the characters and the place it all happens. I've spent a lot of time in Arizona and have many places in nature there to which I'd love to return. When I write something like Comes the Dawn, I get to be there along with my characters. I write my love of place. I feel the winds, hear the brooks bubbling, and look out across the vistas through the eyes of someone else. It's a great way to revisit a beloved location.

In deciding this book was a novel, not a novella, it played into it how much I liked several secondary characters which included heroes from the other two, Sam Ryker and Cord O'Brian (reformed outlaw and reformed marshal); plus a new secondary character cut out of the same kind of father-figure hero-- Raul Cordova, a Yaqui leader in Pascua Village, Tucson, Arizona. 

So for the fun of this write, I had a romance, hero and heroine I really enjoyed, a beautiful setting and these three great guys in their mature years (mid 50s to early 40s)-- who represent the kind of father figures I have had in my life. Great fun to write bromance type scenes with tough guys who each like to do things their way.