Descriptions for heat levels in book list

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

Sunday, August 31, 2014

images and chest hair-- or not

When creating covers, one of the things that both amuses and frustrates me is finding male images where the men have hair on their chest-- even a little bit. That royalty free images generally do not is a testament to waxing, shaving, male modeling, body building, and who knows what else as it's sure not about reality for men's bodies.

Yes, metrosexuals might wax, but real cowboys, loggers, men who work with their hands, very few of them do (as in I have not known any). Most movie stars likewise still have hair on their chests. 

Remember the guy below and his popular television show? Oh probably not if you are young (Clint Walker and he played Cheyenne from 1955-1963). I suspect he played a role in how many western writers still write about the tall, black haired western hero ;). His show almost always had him taking off his shirt for one reason or another. None of us complained :). I will admit when I was 13, I thought I'd marry him someday. Then I found out he was already married. A major disappointment!

So finding men with bristle on their jaw, that's easy but on their chests... not so much. Yes, it's true some men have very little chest hair, but all men, by nature, have some. I recently saw Dirty Dancing again and Patrick Swayzee had a great body in it, several shirtless scenes, and I had to look hard to see if he had chest hair-- he did. Just not a lot.

Even Native American men had chest hair, but genetically they had little. Many of the tribes plucked their chest hairs-- maybe because they were into body paint for battle. Could that explain the hairless men of the royalty free sites?

Maybe this is because young women like smooth hairless chests. To me, likely a testament to my own age, I like chest hair although I wouldn't particularly like it heavily covering the whole body.

Some object to the covers of romances having bare-chested men period and find especially negative the need for so much muscular definition. Well men do have muscular definition, at least those who work hard for a living. What they do not have are waxed and oiled chests. I am all for muscular chests... but for my book covers, give me some chest hair please? 

When Jimmy Thomas, one of the models for book covers, said he'd be putting out some images with hair because he'd had an injury and was unable to model for awhile-- hence had not waxed, I was waiting and bought two different ones. Currently this is not on any of my covers, but someday it'll be the inspiration :). To me, hair on a man's chest is manly. Why is that not more popular for book covers???

Thursday, August 28, 2014

creating paperbacks

back-cover & cover for Her Dark Angel

Besides a summer of editing, this has been a time for me to work out back-covers for paperback versions of six Portland romance/adventure/suspense books. A back-cover has to fit with the cover while giving a reader a bit of what they will find in the book. I looked at various books I owned for ideas as to what would be needed. There were many options from basically a blurb, to something catchy, to no info at all. 

Good. That means I can do what I think suits my books. I plan to let these set for awhile as I consider if they are the final version. It has taken time-- and isn't finished as the spline still has to be created but my publisher (husband) does that. It was though rewarding as I enjoy working with images.

In the process of all this work (yes, I have gone a little dry-eye from so many hours staring at words), I put together the chronology for all my books. For the historicals, I'd done this as I wrote them, although hadn't put them in a list. You can't write a historical without knowing what else happened at the same time. Earlier, I hadn't bothered with the contemporaries as I always thought of them as happening when I was writing them.

Except some had connecting characters and years in between. I needed to figure this all out when I decided to connect the Portland, Oregon, books as a series-- related by their locale. What I learned is that while some had a specific number of years between the first and connecting story, I had to choose wisely where I began the dates. 

Things also happen in contemporary times, which you could not ignore if you set your book there-- 9/11 is an example. Any book set in 2001, unless early in the year, would have to take that into account. I was in no mood to go back into any books set in that fall and add it in; so best to avoid that specific time period. 

The other thing I have done during my editing phase is set the books, with continuing characters, closer together on my blog specifically for them-- Rainy day Romances. I enjoy writing stories with continuing characters; so it has happened more than a few times. I get to liking a certain character or set of them and enjoy working with them again.

Maybe my finally creating a chronology is another stage of becoming more organized. Writing is one thing. Publishing a book adds another dynamic. When I wrote just for myself, chronologies didn't matter. Readers though do their own calculations. If they don't like the writer's logic, probably they won't return for another book. The books in this list are all my contemporaries to date. I do have plans for more though and will now just add them where they belong.

When we did the first paperbacks, we put out Luck of the Draw, which is set in 1974. I was uncertain of whether to include it in the list of contemporaries as there is a lot of debate about how far back contemporary goes. Some suggest a good idea is to call such books-- contemporary historic fiction. They add that if it was contemporary to you, it's contemporary, which it certainly was. It is set in Oregon but Pendleton. Like so many of the things I write, it doesn't fit in a convenient box! About that, there isn't anything I can do...

      1974    Luck of the Draw (Pendleton, Oregon)

1998      Moon Dust (Portland, Central Oregon)
1999      Evening Star (Portland, Coast, Southern Oregon, Tahoe)
2000      Desert Inferno (Arizona)

2005      Bannister’s Way (Portland, Coast)
2006      Second Chance (Portland)
2007      Hidden Pearl  (Portland, Umpqua)
           Sky Daughter (Idaho)

2009      Her Dark Angel (Reno, Portland, Tahoe)
2010      When Fates Conspire, Part I Diablo Canyon  

           From Here to There  (both Montana)

2012      The Dark of the Moon-- Part II Diablo Canyon (Montana)
2013    A Montana Christmas (Montana)
2014      Storm in the Canyon -- Part III Diablo Canyon  (Montana)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

on writing

Online I am connected to quite a few writers mostly in the romance or fantasy genres. I also though, through this blog and others, know those who would like to write but feel they either cannot or aren't ready. 

The world has changed from when publishing houses were the gatekeepers as to who could be a published writer. Those big houses still exist and have the big bucks behind their books, but there are now a lot of small eBook publishers as well as writers like myself who have opted not to let anybody else call their shots. Writers have options, and that can become confusing or even a block for those who have yet to take the leap.

Places like Amazon or Direct to Digital, make it pretty easy to convert books into something readers can buy. The prices of such books benefit readers and writers. I became a big fan of eBooks to read once I saw how I could go on a vacation without taking ten books. I love having hundreds at my fingertips on a device that can fit in my purse. I still read paper books, but eBooks have been good to me as a writer and a reader.

For those who would like to write but have yet to feel they can, it's important to keep in mind-- publishing is now an option. So if you want to write-- write. Don't critique yourself out of doing it. Write. From writing will come writing, and it might not be what you expect. 

Being your own toughest critic, the one who stops you from writing, is the problem creative people face. I cannot paint like Rembrandt/Van Gogh/Pollack or write like Hemingway/Gabaldon/Steinbeck; so I should not paint/write at all, etc. etc. etc. Most of the names you admire didn't paint/write that way when they began either. It takes doing to get there.

Then when you write something, let someone else read it; ideally someone who likes books in your genre. Ask them to tell you what they liked or did not about the book. I remember when I first began writing and let friends read my words. That took a lot of nerve. It's scary. There is real reluctance to let someone we care about see our creative work. But it is what helps us see if we are getting there or missing the boat. If we are missing it, what can we change? Actually an honest friend can be far more helpful than later a random reader who the writer can never question as to what they meant by their criticism.

Finding your own genre is a big part of enjoying writing. Do you like to read mysteries? Start thinking of mystery plots. Do you like to think about relationships, about why they work or don't, consider romance? Do you have the kind of imagination that creates apocalyptic or fantasy worlds? Horror? Erotica? Whatever is your natural inclination might be your genre. 

Write the book you'd love to read.

Don't be stopped by whether that genre is acceptable to your social group. I am well aware romance is not okay for many liberals. It's actually the Cinderella of writing which gets little respect (sometimes justifiably so). Women in certain social sets hide romance books from their friends. They will show off the latest NYTimes bestseller, which got rave professional reviews, but not the book with the hot couple on the cover. Although, these days eBook devices make it easier to hide what is socially unacceptable. They don't make it easier for the writers of such books. 

What are you writing?
no more questions...

But here's the thing, if it's your natural genre, it's what you will enjoy writing. It takes more nerve to write in a genre that is unacceptable to your crowd and talk about it. I know about that. I suspect it's why romance writers tend to hang together as it's somewhere they can share their work and ideas without feeling that silent criticism.

If you want to write and enjoy the writing, if you want to be more than a formula writer, you have to find your genre, the one where you love to read and where you have an idea for a story that you haven't read anywhere else. 

When you want to write it so much that you don't care if it's socially acceptable with your friends, that's the passion you need and that will make your book come alive for you. 

If you aren't there yet, then you probably aren't ready to publish. You can still write, but but don't think you never will publish and make public what you write. Someday it'll be-- who cares. This is for me! It is my creative gift, and I am going to use it.



Monday, August 25, 2014

New Moon

While I am not huge on astrology, where it comes to the moon, I pay attention (most of the time). Today is a new moon and the following is what I received in an email. Many gardeners plant by the moon cycles. Whether it makes sense for our lives, it is good, I think to stop once in awhile and think where we are. Lunar cycles are a natural way of doing that. When humans were more nature oriented, we probably found this more natural than when our cycles come from work or even entertainment.
"We are moving towards more clarity and organization and a renewed energy to get back to tasks that were put on hold for various reasons. This is a great time especially to honor the clarity and commitment around endings and beginnings. 

"Identify what is ending or what needs to end and your intention to end it. It could be anything from the habit of self judgment to work that no longer serves you, or even a relationship. What have you struggled with lately that you need to change?; Do a ritual that will help you mark the ending.; 

"When something ends, there is always a new space created for something new to begin. Identify what is beginning in your life or what you wish or intend to begin and ritualize it somehow for yourself. 

"Sometimes we are so focused on what is ending that we can't appreciate why has been knocking on our door. Open the door to NEW and use this new moon time as a way to establish an energetic marker for your endings and your beginnings. Because the times support clarity and organization, it is also a great idea to make an action plan as long as you have enough clarity."                                                Patricia Liles  

This link suggests some ways to ritualize such a time-- 

how to alchemise the new moon energy to manifest your goals

This isn't so much mystical as cyclical and using nature's cycles to further our own intentions. If we set aside no time to think where we are going and is it benefiting us, then likely we are letting someone else set our goals. For some people that works better than others.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Writing space II

Although my ideas, for what makes a good story, are much as they have always been, how and where I go about getting there has evolved and may again as that's what life is about, isn't it? I remember writing many books with only a dreamlike image in my head for what the characters looked like-- even though I write, what I consider, character-driven stories. I used words to describe their appearances, how others saw them, but I didn't have the image of a movie star or someone I knew behind those words. 

Publishing changed all that when a cover was required and eventually book trailers where I needed images to show a potential reader something about the book. That led to discovering royalty free image sites. I started out rather loosely with those but today have a pretty professional view of them-- that is I don't buy individual photos but rather set aside favorites until I have enough to justify a subscription of a week.

What I could not use for trailers or covers were any of those on Google's image search site. Those there are not available for commercial usage or if they are, they are too costly for an indie writer like myself. Photographers can be pretty unpleasant to writers of blogs or books who take their images without paying or at least permission-- sometimes they don't even own the rights. So I skipped looking through Google and depended on what my own photos and those image sites like CanStock or Jimmy Thomas.

That changed when I began to see how other writers used Google images, not to put out publicly but to inspire themselves. Inspiration isn't something you have to pay for, and it lets you have a wide variety of faces in your head when you are writing. It also though required going back to them now and again-- even if I had saved them to my computer.

When I got the idea of a bulletin board above my computer, I realized I could use photos of images from anywhere as they weren't being used for my business (which is publishing my books). 

Getting space above my computer required the rearranging of the area, moving a large Wenzel painting and a Navajo rug in our living room, changing a few things in our bedroom, but in the end, I found space for a lovely big board. 

Currently I have been editing my older contemporary books. The images of hero and heroine are just as important in an edit, to be sure I am staying on track, as it would be in a first draft. Seeing the faces above me reminds me what the hero and heroine see. It keeps me synced to the story in a way I wasn't before. 

What I like about this system is I can easily change the images to suit each story. If I don't have the right face for a villain, I can print it off and tack it up there to keep in mind their dastardliness. I have inspiration above me all the time and no clutter. It actually looks good from the sofa and chairs in the more living room end of the living room. This set up is perfect for a writer of character driven stories. 

Right now I am still playing with how I want the images to be arranged. I got this board started when editing the fifth of six of my Portland contemporaries. Second Chance involves a wildlife rehab center. I should that this editing has been hard, word by word work, but so far is only yielding what I would call the last swirl of frosting a cake. The changes I am making aren't major nor do they reflect goofs. They are just a better way to bring the story to life. The cake is solid. The frosting was fine, but that last swirl of the knife is what makes it look so good.

From Second Chance, I went straight to Hidden Pearl which begins in Portland but goes down the valley to the Umpqua River and country out of Roseburg-- all imaginary settings for my story but set in the reality of a real region.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

the writing space

Whether artist or writer, we all have to find places to do our work. Over the years, I've pretty well tried a lot of them from a kitchen table to an extra bedroom but am enjoying best my corner of the living room-- which is good considering how many hours a day I work there between editing, writing books, creating covers, working with photos, and blogs. 

Working in a living room has a drawback for the living room. Writing can be a cluttered work. There are notes and ideas for the book. Jump drives are piled nearby (smart writers save onto them frequently-- or should I say experienced computer users), Then there are the personal items-- lipstick (well, mine because my lips often feel dry, and I don't want to remember where my purse is), extra glasses, the dealie I use to strengthen my neck, BenGay, postits, etc. Camera can't be too far away.

So, a working writer's area in the corner of what is an otherwise tidy living room is an issue if it matters how the living room looks. On the other hand, for working, it's perfect for me. It wouldn't be for everyone. 

One thing that makes my space work is my husband is not much of a television viewer. If the boob tube was on, there might be a conflict. Although when I had the grandkids here a week, I worked right through their morning kid viewing. It also enabled me to peek over once in awhile to see what they were watching. Mostly I have a personal ability which helps, when working around others, I space out what is not on the computer screen in front of me. 

This space is also handy for me to be near a phone, out where I can duck into the kitchen if need be, where I am in a central location to the house.

By working here, I am near windows which enables me to check out  strange noises (also, of course, has me hearing all the log trucks, noisy motorcycles, and cars traveling too fast on the highway (about 100 feet away although with a creek in between). I can keep an eye on the cats if they are in what we loosely call the hummingbird yard. 

Naming our yards, which (like most people) we have two, is not the easiest thing because of the placement of our house, and this being a farm property. We have come up with different ways to describe them but none have stuck. The hummingbird yard can also be called the old yard, the first yard, the creek yard, the flower garden yard, front yard (even though it's really the backyard), or the driveway yard. The vegetable garden yard can be the... oh you get the idea. Maybe one day we'll figure out a title for each that works. For now I love having two yards where one works when it's morning, the other afternoon. One works when it's hot and the other when it's cooler. We have tables to eat in them in both. Where I am working looks out onto the the 'first' which is also the rose garden yard. 

What made my writing experience here even better is something I just added to my work area. It took a rearranging of favorite paintings and a Navajo rug but I am very happy with how it functions. Because I went on so long about my yards, I'll save this change for next blog. It is a change I much recommend for writers where characters are important to their story.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Evening Star

cover based on ElenaRay photo/painting at CanStock

As I have been doing a re-edit for all of my Portland, Oregon based books, I have also reconsidered their covers. I had earlier come across the above image which seemed perfect for Evening Star. It's not exactly a typical romance cover even though the story is a romance. It suits though what the heroine goes through to become all she wants to be. Evening Star is a story of a woman opening herself to love and risk. 

This cover represents her at the stage of her life where she has finally won her victory and recognizes what she needs most in her life. It is more  iconic than many of my covers. I like the freedom to do this. Another of those pluses of being an indie writer.

I have mentioned some of my books are about peeling back protective layers, about the need to go within to find the ability to live a full and fear-free life. Evening Star is such a book.

Regarding the image, a friend wrote the following as an analysis of it. I liked her words so much that I want to share them here also. 
"The Oceanic mystical mature woman intrigues me when I saw the detailed version. It is as artistic and powerful as you are.  She is in a ballet pose with toes of one foot pointed as if about to move in a sensual way. sexual but not submissive at all. Quite to the contrary. Her arms express dominance declaring leadership. The mandala she holds up looks Celtic.  But do take your glasses off and look at the image. Her arms are like the brow of an owl with eyes the center of the conical shells.  I love that a powerful mature woman is sensual and yet her power might also be her demon.

I think my impression of this painting fits the kind of stories you tell.  If a cover could sell a truly creative book of yours, this is it."                             Diane Widler Wenzel
I would like to think that what she said about the image and about me is also true for my heroine. She discovers the woman she finally realizes she wants to be. 

One of the things love relationships reveal in us (and one of the strengths of romance novels) is how they pare us down and reveal our strengths and weaknesses. While a romance will be dealing with other problems, in the end, it's the story of two people and what it takes to join together as one couple. It is in such relationships where we are most tested. We unfold ourselves to be known. This cover reveals the story I hope I have told in Evening Star.

If you bought this book, to get the edits (which weren't major) but always improve the stories in my view, you delete it only from your device, go to Amazon's Manage Your Kindle where you click on send it to the device you want (never delete it there or it's gone).

 If you haven't already bought the eBook, and it sounds interesting, it is $2.99 for August but back to $3.99 in September. 

Hopefully by September all the Portland books will have been re-edited, some for the umpteenth time, and out as paperbacks. Some go together with continuing characters. They all though set in my part of Oregon and involve a city I have at times lived in and love very much-- Portland. Today, if I had to live in a city (it'd be a tough adjustment), it'd be the one I would most enjoy, which makes it a lot of fun to base stories there where my characters live in neighborhoods I know well and could very much imagine living.

Friday, August 15, 2014

First Kiss

Usually I post here on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday but there is a reason to change that. Today I have a guest post at Lily Graison's blog. It is a regular feature for Lily that every other Friday she has what she calls First Kiss, a snippet, from a different western romance of the hero and heroine's first kiss. 

August 15th has the first kiss between Rafe Cordova and Grace O'Brian in my Arizona historical-- Comes the Dawn. This the third of the O'Brian historicals, set in Tucson and then up through Central Arizona, the White Mountains as far as Holbrook. Beautiful country and a great spot for a passionate romance between two people who weren't supposed to fall in love. Besides being a love story, this is about what being a father means, which is seen through different fathers, what they did and didn't do, and the outcome for their offspring.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

pluses and minuses of writing

Many times I have written how much I love to write. I've read writers who declare that their writing is sweating blood. It's not for me. Writing, for me, is the rose; but one must never forget that roses have thorns. 

If you want your work to go beyond you, to be seen by more than you, there is a thorn waiting-- marketing, which is more than just getting your work seen by someone whether through a query letter or an eBook. There is also getting your story into shape for someone else to see it. You don't have to do any of that, if you are keeping all your work to yourself. Preparing it for publishing is marketing and editing.

Editing, while still writing, is not fun for me. I am not a detail person. I am not anal about almost anything. So to edit a book which requires attention to details, even when it's a book I love (and I love all of mine), to read it word for word, thought for thought looking for mistakes, details, misused words, etc., that is hard work and emotionally stressful. 

For me, the hardest part of editing is not the first edit or even the fifth. It happens on what I hope to be the last-- preparatory to the book coming out or taking it another step and making it into a paperback. This edit happens when I am giving one last look to a story like (fill in the blanks) ____ _____ ____.

Why is it that no matter how many times I have edited one of mine, when I go back, I can always improve what I wrote? Will I someday get to a point that I simply cannot say it better and can go on from such a last look with a smile? Or will I always be improving as a writer which means there will be places I can say it better? Sometimes that leaves me so frustrated I could chew nails-- and I don't mean my own.

Experts say writers should all use professional editors. I am not averse to that-- except, looking at the facts, a good editor (if not a personal friend) for a full sized novel will run over a thousand dollars. Yes, you can get it done cheaper, but they are not the top of the line and often aren't doing a lot more than using Word tools (which you can also use). They also can totally ruin the flow of the book if they are not also gifted writers who understand what your work is about. 

I should add beta readers are not the same. They do not need to be pros. They are reading the book as a fan of the genre or of writing in general. They can be a big help to a writer but they aren't after the detail read that an editor is. They are about the energy. They are reading it as a fan who can sometimes tell it works or does not.

Back to editing using a pro, someone like me, with seventeen books out there, would have a big financial stake in those books doing well. In fact, it'd be such a big stake that not having them sell (and great editing job or not, a story still has to meet reader expectations) could lead to serious depression. It's hard enough when there is not that kind of money into it.

How bad my last edit (which isn't likely to be a literal last edit) feels varies from book to book. Most often, it's minor tweaks, not the kind of thing that a reader (who wasn't a writer) would be bothered by (that is unfortunately not always the case). I wonder if professional editors, those who do charge a thousand dollars to do a book, if they would find going over it again also led to improvements that they missed the first time.

Repeating-- editing is not enjoyable. Much as I like my books, my characters and plots, I love more the joy and satisfaction of creating something new, finding new ideas, exploring new ground. Going over the old is work and draining work.

Plus there is this-- I want to think, when I put out a novel/novella/short story, that it is total and complete-- the best job I can do. Well, it was-- for then. But, perhaps not for someday. I don't think there is a way around this either-- except perhaps not looking at them after they have been published and giving a nice long time between rough draft and final edit.

Some of this might be like our human relationships where we look back on things we did and know we could have said something better, helped someone more, or maybe walked away sooner. It has to be one of the minuses of life but also the pluses. No matter where we are, we won't be there in a year.

Lately I've been struck with the concept that we are in a life vortex. Life is not a cycle but a spiral. When we return to the same point, say August 14th but in 2015, assuming we are still here to return, we won't be the same person. The world won't be the same. It is something we have to accept, but I have to say sometimes, where it comes to my books, it drives me nuts.

I can only hope that next year, if I look at ____ ____ ____ again, I will see nothing I can say better-- or will that mean I didn't grow? I'd like to think this time, August 2014, with these covers and this recent marathon re-editing, that everything I have out there is as good as it can be. That if I go back next year, I won't see a thing to change. I truly want to think that... 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

summertime and the living is busy

A busy time with family-- as it is for so many people in the summer. Here are a few photos from July at the farm.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Perigee full moon

 photo of August full moon 2013 at the farm

Tonight should be another fantastic full moon, this one known as an extra super moon. I plan to have the tripod set up out in the field as photographing a large full moon is one of those things I enjoy. We will still have the grandchildren here; so they may enjoy it too-- or not. I guess I will find out tonight.

This August moon will appear 16% larger and 30% brighter than usual. Obviously, the moon does not change its size. We appear to see a larger moon because it is closer to earth than it is at other times in its orbit around our planet. Where I live on the West Coast, it will rise at 8:14pm-- approximate time as hill valleys like mine aren't going to see it as early as in flatter terrain.  

My seeing this moon or getting photographs will all be dependent on the weather here. Some clouds are predicted, but it should be mostly clear. Clouds are not always bad for photos, can even make them better.

 On a more mystical note, one of the astrologers, where I get emails, had this to say about this August full moon. 
"Work with the sun on this day. With conscious focus bring that energy into yourself and embrace the fullness of the masculine and all its qualities. Be receptive to any shifting or healing or clearing of any old patterns around the negative masculine that is possible for you at this time.
"This is also a good day to work with fire as a representative of the sun. Light a candle or build a ceremonial fire. Ask the spirit of fire to help you clear out what is not useful in your life regarding old patterns of the masculine. Ask the spirit of fire to kindle that strength and power within you to shine with more chi in your life. Take some kind of action during this time that represents a bigger way of stepping out and being seen.
"Conformity, hierarchy, and authority may present some taut situations under this Moon.  Get clear about where you are abdicating your power to others’ needs and why.  Your wild side, rebel, and individual ‘chispa de la vida’ may need some expressing.  Strengthen those areas of your life where you express yourself without regard for approval.  Aquarius/Uranus has rulership over goals so kick up your clarity and focus, visualize the outcome and eliminate what distracts you from your purpose."                                     Lena Stevens

I am very into moon cycles. I don't say I follow something like the above religiously. I don't follow anything religiously; but I like to know how times and energies can be used. I often put the moon cycles into my books as I think enjoying the beauty of a night sky is part of the experience most of us share.

Personally, I know certain times are more auspicious, where I can get more done, where I feel my energy is highest. Our culture isn't into that as a set of shared beliefs, but it is open to those of us who are (well, we don't get burned at stakes anymore). Where I would like to be more effective in certain areas, I will be thinking of it all this day and night.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

heading west and rechecking the path

Last week, besides the final touches on a root canal, was another edit of that wagon train story that I wrote years and years ago. Can you imagine what it was like for those first pioneers. They were going across a vast land, with all the torrid tales of how dangerous it could be but the promise of a better life when they reached the other side of the country. Some had barely enough money to make it but what they had was a desire for adventure, sometimes gold, but always a new life.

Some of the trains were big ones and the people paid a wagon master to guide them and assure them the best way to proceed. Eventually many went by themselves or in family groupings, some with just carts. For some they barely saw an Indian but especially with the southern route, some wagon trains were massacred.

The Indians who lived in the Plains were assured, to begin, that these people only wanted to pass through. Eventually they came to see that wasn't the case. Treaties were made and broken and finally there became more assaults in an attempt by both cultures to get or keep what they had. Cholera was more of a risk though than being killed by an Indian, still it was the more exciting story to put into pulp fiction with lurid covers.

  It's hard to even imagine today what it meant to those first settlers who left family and friends they were likely never to see again. To begin even to hear by mail wasn't that dependable. 

So the journey and the courage of those who took the risk fascinated me, living here in Oregon, as well as my seeing it as allegorical for our own journey to maturity.

This particular story began for me, probably about age 17, when my cousin and I would go for walks during big family gatherings. I started it off, and she'd pick up pieces of the story of two young people, friends from very different families, who began this route in Missouri. It was pretty simple back in those days versus how it became as I grew in maturity and saw deeper levels to it. From telling it orally, it was written down with one of my first 'Underwood' typewriter when I was in my early twenties.

image from CanStock
From there, it was written again and again. Finally I chose it to work with a consulting writer after an agent suggested I'd be ahead for doing such craft developing work. That professional had helped a lot of published writers get there and I have to say my time with her was productive,  expensive, and taught me so much about how to make a story come alive. I didn't actually send the manuscript off to a regular publisher, but I did keep working to make it better, fuller, more truly the story that I had in my head.

 from Baker City Oregon Trail museum.

To write this book I spent a lot of time researching old journals, and history books. I live on a small ranch that was one of those original Donation Land Claims and the story of the couple who raised a family here was a pretty inspiring one also. To find what I needed, I went through a lot of museum where their whole story is about the trip West. I know a lot about that journey. One of the things I learned from the consulting writer was not to put out all you know and instead to let it permeate your story as it would the lives of your characters as they live out what you imagined. 

I was almost afraid to read it again after my disappointment with Sky Daughter which I had re-edited for the zillionth time last month. I've seen a lot of first novels by writers where they hadn't gotten it out and years later, when they do, I've ended up thinking they should have never brought it out. I wondered if that's how this one would strike me. It had a few drawbacks for me in that I don't much like stories of kids or the very young adults-- to read or write. So I started into it with some trepidation, but it held up for me better than I expected. It was epic in the story of the journey these people went on but the two young people go on the kind of epic journey that we go on when we begin a new relationship-- most especially when it's love which can be the greatest challenge any of us will find as we are forced, at any age, to grow in maturity through those kinds of feelings.

 Ben Kern Wagon Train

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The art of the cover

Probably it seems I talk about covers more frequently than some might think I should, but they are so important to a book. They also are one of those areas where opinions come fast and furious. I see the issue of covers both from the perspective of reader and writer. 

As a reader, a cover might attract my interest, get me to read a blurb, but it will never lead to my purchasing the book-- or not. I've bought books where I hated the cover. I've seen gorgeous covers; but after reading blurbs, I cannot bring myself to buy the book-- sometimes regretfully because a cover can be beautiful and oh-so tempting. For me, the cover can get my foot in that writer's door, but that's all. From what I've read, that's not true for all readers. Some do buy/not buy a book based on the cover.

The arguments go from there to what should be on that cover. One writer claimed no stock royalty free images are good. They are either overused or not that effective. She had found someone to pose for her camera. She felt it was the best solution if someone cannot afford to pay a professional model. Since it was a family member, she does not have to worry about royalties although I imagine she still uses a contract even then just to be sure it doesn't arise as an issue somewhere down the line if the book becomes a huge seller. 

Having a model pose requires a couple of things-- one they have to look like the heroine/hero the readers expect as well as the characters in your book. Basically they better be good looking (or at least interesting looking) for romances-- and then willing to show up on a romance book cover where others will see it. I think to that end, it'd help if they liked your type of writing.

So from the people on the cover, another argument goes that you should never do your own. You should go to a graphics designer who either sells you a pre-made cover, which you have chosen from their catalog or you pay more to find someone who will work with you and create something that fits your story more specifically.

Up until recently I had never thought I'd use a cover by a graphics artist. I like doing my own. I enjoy playing with images. Yes, I do put money into purchasing those images, but since I can also use them in blogs and other places, I get a lot of images for what it'd cost me to buy one cover. Besides, I have felt I know my characters better than anybody else. 

But I have been known to change my mind when new information comes along as happened on this issue. A writer I know, this year began designing covers-- [Charlene Raddon, aka., Jenneta Dodge or maybe that is vice versa]. She offered a free one to a few writers. My first thought was I didn't have a need for any covers at the moment (boy was I wrong about that but that's another story)

Then I remembered Diablo Canyon which would put together the three novellas. I had had a rough idea for its cover; but to be honest, my idea was pretty bland and I hadn't taken it farther. What had complicated this cover-- three love stories, fantasy elements, ranch life, Montana,  Native American history, and mythology. How do you get that all across? I mentioned it to her, and she told me look at her sample pages -- 

The page she meant for me to see wasn't coming up at the time; but when I looked through the rest, I saw the perfect cover. It had a mystical look, suggested the Native American connection, had mystical looking eyes looking down from a cloud, and showed land which suits some of what I have seen south of Billings, Montana (if you add in a little fantasy to the mix). I fell in love!

Yes, I like doing my own covers. It's play for me, but she had created something that I don't see myself able to do short of copying her work. I don't like to copy work. So it will be my first book with a cover done by a cover artist.

This cover also changed my mind about only bringing this book out as a paperback. It will be both-- oh and then there is that added spice ;). I cannot say the cover was why I did that. Maybe it's that muse of mine that thought it'd be a good shift.

One of my previous resistances to buying a cover (besides my books not selling enough to pay for that) has been how many times I have changed some of mine.I don't think that will be a problem for Diablo Canyon. I can't imagine any cover doing a better job suggesting nature, mysticism and that Native American thread.

Where to see her covers and get more information:

She also does blog design if you want to spiff up your blog:

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Diablo Canyon

As I mentioned in the previous blog, things come along to change my mind on many things. I do not consider myself wishy-washy, but I am one of those who loves nuance and likes being flexible. I can decide something is going to happen and then change my mind when new information comes along. In some ways I am the ideal Aquarius, open to the new world and changes. Except in reality I am not an Aquarius, not even in minor elements of astrology. What I am though is a Libra and most Libras are also open to changes as they are often dabbling in this or that and curious about the supernatural.

This kind of change came along with my fantasy novellas after I decided  they would be published as a trilogy-- Diablo Canyon. I had decided they would be in one book as a paperback but was in no hurry to see them put together. 

Also I didn't have in mind changing them at all for that compilation. In the novellas I had deliberately chosen to leave out sex mostly because in a novella, you are pushed to get a complex story told using less words. A book length isn't so particular. When I put them together, I decided to give my characters a fuller romantic experience. For readers who prefer closing the bedroom door on such goings on, the novellas will stay as they were.

More about the cover coming next blog but it was a factor in changing my mind on making Diablo Canyon into an eBook as well as paperback. I liked a cover from Jenneta Dodge, aka., Charlene Raddon, at her site []. When I decided on it, I wanted the book to be more widely seen than a paperback was likely to be.

These three novellas, are set in the ranchland around Billings, Montana to tell a story of life and spirit. It's about what is or might be and how much do we really know about the world we cannot see. For those who don't think such a world exists, how about atoms, subatomic particles, what is out there in space ;)? There is a lot where we take someone's word for its existence or go by the effects that are seen!

So, part one is about whether there fairness in life and what happens when we die, using two couples who are struggling to find their happily ever after while tragedy seems ever ready to put a period to their existence. 

Through all three stories, there are two spirit guides, Remus and Justus, who are attempting to communicate with their charges and make their lives better. When fates conspire is that possible?

In The Dark of the Moon, the story advances a year and a half with a new hero and heroine. The questions explored here get more into what can we really see of the spirit world. Are there those who can communicate with the 'other' side? It is also more about the ranch world as well as when something threatens us is it always physical? Can we make assumptions as to what it is that block us from actually dealing with it?  

The trilogy is wrapped up in Storm in the Canyon when three powerful women of different generations will be matched with three powerful men, all with their own secrets, their own destinies. It is about power and why do some want it? How can we change our world? By this time, the main characters have long since learned life is more complex than most humans assume. This love story is one of two people litterally from different worlds and times.

All three are romances, stories of adventure, fantasy, but they also explore the way our actions have consequences. Some do't look beyond the immediate and pay a high price for their short-sightedness.  Diablo Canyon, as many believe other vortexes do, has been drawing power to itself through natural events, which are now being used by timeless beings with a desire to retake their power. 

Each of these stories takes the question of what is real one step farther into the unknown. I label them fantasy or paranormal but they are pretty metaphysical in that I have heard from one person or another that pretty much anything I have happen-- can and has-- but it's not the norm with which we live. 

One key point to Diablo Canyon is-- just be aware of what is around you, listen to others, pay attention to history. That little second sight, the times you look back-- sure someone was there but there isn't-- maybe there was.

I suppose here's a good place to add that I, like Myra in the second of the three books, had an imaginary playmate as a child. I knew his name and told my parents-- which gave them concern, as many parents would feel. I then quit seeing him. But that doesn't mean he isn't still there and helping me with my stories when he thinks I need a nudge. ;)