Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Lot Going On

Even though my dislocated hip and the resulting brace which I must wear for the next 32 days (but who's counting?) have forced me to take it easy, my mind can't help but race ahead. May, June and July are packed with events, both personal and professional, and when I run down the list, it makes me wonder how it'll all get done.

Kind of like writing a book.

When I get an idea for a new book, my mind spins out all the events that will take place to get my characters to their happy ever after. There are so many plot ideas, high points, dark moments, resolutions, that it is dizzying. Many great writers never get beyond this point, since it is overwhelming. They have massive doubts in their ability to blend all their ideas into a cohesive structure that they stop after writing a few great scenes and never return.

I have found Blake Snyder's Save The Cat book to be of immense value when I first get an idea. I plot out the major turning points in the story in the briefest of outlines. It still gives me flexibility to let the story spin out the way it's going to, but keeps the story line on track to proceed forward.

So, I'm applying the same technique to this summer. I've got all the events posted on my calendar and will tick them off one at a time as I get to that point. In the meantime, I can look forward to what's yet to come. And,
I still have the flexibility to change direction, if need be. After all, I like surprises.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Aftermath

This past week has been one for the books–unfortunately, not mine.

My shiny new artificial hip decided to dislocate itself while I was shopping last Sunday, resulting in three days in the hospital. Then, I got fitted for a leg brace which extends from hip to foot, which I'm supposed to stay in for 6 weeks. After only three days, the brace fell apart!

Two flukes in the same week.

As a result of these unexpected bumps in the road, I got very little done from a writing or promotional standpoint. I had some edits due back to the publisher, and I've got a deadline looming for the next book in the series, which is due June 1, and I'm only on the first revision.

What to do now?

Well, things could not be working out better in that regard. Since I'm trussed up like a turkey for 5-1/2 more weeks, I'm not going anywhere. Even if I could, I have no clothes that would fit over the brace. It's a good thing I like to work in a nightgown.

So now it's time to buckle down. Edits went back yesterday, so I can check that off my list. I've got to get through that first revision and then dump it from Scrivener into a word document and format it. I know those of you using Scrivener are screaming at the screen right now,"Why are you doing that, when you can format right from Scrivener?"

It's part of my process. No two people work alike.

So, hopefully, by the end of this week, I'll have that first revision knocked out and will start on the formatting. Then, I may even find time to get back to the other historical I'm working on. There's always a list of things to do, broken hips and braces or not.

Have a great Sunday, and an even better week, everyone!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Power Of No

Such a simple word. Such a complicated word.

When was the last time you were told No? An hour ago? Last week? Last month?

On The Voice last week, Pharrell Williams told one of his team "No should be your biggest motivation." His words don't just apply to the music industry. In both your life, and in becoming an author, the word No is constantly volleyed at you left and right.

Sometimes, the word is lower case–no. You can step right over these little pebbles of rejection. Your blind date never called again when you thought something had clicked, or you get a form rejection letter on your very first manuscript from a big publisher.

Then sometimes the first letter of the word is upper case but not in bold letters–No. That's when the job you were so perfect for, the one where you killed on the interview, went to someone else. Or when the agent who thought enough of your work to request a full decided she had someone already on her client list who was similar. What do you do then? You can't just step over these Nos. They're too big. So you decide to go back to school, to get your Master's degree or to take more workshops on craft to better your writing.

The worst, though, is the big NO. Upper case, bold. The man you thought you'd share the rest of your life with tells you he doesn't love you anymore. Or the three book deal with a six-figure advance went to your best writing buddy. In these cases, you have two choices. You can either give up and lay down, letting that huge boulder of a NO flatten you, or you can choose to let it motivate you, spur you on to even greater heights. Your friend got a three-book deal? You'll get a five-book one. Your significant other left you? Put yourself back into the dating pool and find a partner who's even better.

If you let the power of the word no motivate you, you'll become a better person, a better partner, a better writer. You just can't let it flatten you.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Happy Easter!

Easter is one of my favorite holidays. I remember as a kid growing up in the rebellious Lutheran faith (no incense and confessionals for us, thank you very much), how Easter signified the start of new things. We all got new duds, things began to grow from the ground, and Jesus rose from the dead. And best of all, before we left for church, we tore through the house to find our easter baskets. We could have only one item from the basket before we headed off for church, where we sat and fidgeted because we wanted to get back home to the candy.

In the course of my adult life, I've gained and lost a few things. One of the things I've lost is a formal religion. That's right, I'm a lapsed Lutheran. Even rebellion can't hold me for long. Yet one of the things I've gained is respect for the holiday, and how in different parts of the country, it is celebrated in very unique ways.

This became especially apparent during my years in Texas. I lived in Austin, which was very close to the "hill country" of Texas. In the hill country the holiday takes shape in the form of the Easter Fires celebration. Today, it's a big celebration with a parade which includes nearly everyone in town, and during an annual reenactment in the evening before Easter, bonfires are lit in the hills which surround of town of Fredericksburg. But the story behind the event is what's truly worth celebrating. Legend has it that the early residents of the town were in peril one Easter, since the local Indians were in the hills and threatening to come into the settlement and kill everyone. The town fathers and the Indian elders met to try to iron out a compromise and the Indians waited in the hills, lighting fires to keep warm. Fire was spotted by the children in the community and they were frightened, so an inventive mother made up the tale of how the Easter bunny was boiling eggs over the fires in order to make Easter eggs for the children.

Fortunately, the town fathers and the Indians eventually came to an agreement, and all the townspeople were spared. Some of today's residents of Fredericksburg can trace their roots back to these early pioneers who watched the fires on the hillsides and feared for their lives. And the lesson to be learned? A good story trumps everything.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

An Unconventional Woman

Almost a year ago, Crimson Romance added novellas to their mix, opening up an entire new arena for me. I'd been wanting to write about the first Fitzpatrick couple–George and Charlotte–for some time, but didn't want to devote a full-length book to their story. A novella was the perfect solution. As my editor said, "I know readers are going to love this."

It's been apparent in my other books in this series that Charlotte is a free-thinker and a bit of a handful. And George is her perfect foil, since he keeps her on a steady keel. Or, as Charlotte says in the story, she'd show him how to have fun, and he could keep her from getting into too much trouble.

The timeline and place for the book are fairly set in stone, given the start of the series. In order for Charlotte and George to meet, court and marry before their twins, Halwyn and Pepper, were born, this book had to open in  New York City in 1829. And once again, history sided with me by having Frances Wright, famous speaker for equal rights,  give a scandalous speech about equal rights for all in Manhattan during this time. It was fortunate for me that she appeared in New York exactly when I needed her. But who was she? The cartoon at left gives us a good idea of who she was and what she stood for. It's a hostile cartoon lampooning her for daring to give lectures at a time when many thought public speaking was not a suitable activity for women.

Since I completed the story, I've had some time to get to know this fascinating woman a bit better. She was born in Scotland and became a U.S. citizen in 1825. She was a free-thinker, feminist, abolitionist, and a social reformer. Her book Views Of Society And Manners In America was published in 1821, and she became a lecturer of some renown. She hoped to educate former slaves to prepare them for freedom, and set up a utopian society in Tennessee with that goal in mind, but the commune only lasted for three years.

In 1838, Frances Wright married at the ripe old age of 43, and had one daughter before obtaining a divorce. She suffered from a variety of health problems, and spent her last years living with her daughter in Cincinnati. She died in 1852 from complications caused by a fall on an icy staircase. It seems winters in Ohio have not changed very much in the past 150 years.

Oh, and the novella? It's called An Unconventional Courtship, and will be available in June, 2015.

Photos from Wikipedia.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Last Chance

When I was doing the research on the Pony Express for my latest novel, Expressly Yours, Samantha, I was appalled at how little value the horses had who were a part of this page in American history. They were literally ridden into the ground, as the riders attempted to meet the ten-day cross-country deadlines. Those horses who did survive were barely able to walk again, let alone be useful. I referred to the harsh treatment in the book in order to be historically accurate, not because I wanted to dwell on the practice. In fact, my dedication of the book is to those brave horses who were part of the Pony Express.

While writing the story, I thought I'd like to find a horse rescue operation to which I could donate a portion of my earnings from this book. It seemed the right thing to do. I investigated several operations in the west, but none of them felt right. Then, Grace Burrowes, a fellow historical romance author, posted on her Facebook page about a non-profit called the Last Chance Corral.


The Last Chance Corral opened my eyes to the present-day abuse of horses. Mares who are not thoroughbred material are impregnated in order to bring them into milk. The thoroughbred mares drop their foals, who are then carted off to these wet-nurses while the thoroughbred mare is once again immediately impregnated. The foals of the wet nurses are cast aside, of no further use to the breeder. Fortunately, some of them make it to the Last Chance Corral in Athens, OH, where they are adopted out. You can find out more about the operation here:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Last-Chance-Corral/45502380989?ref=br_tf

This is a perfect charity for my donations, and the fact it's in Ohio is icing on the cake. I plan to give a portion of each royalty statement from the sales of Expressly Yours, Samantha, to this noble cause. If it saves only one foal, my money will have been well spent.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Here It Comes!

Expressly Yours, Samantha will be released tomorrow, March 16. It's been a long time in the making and I'm so excited to have it out there, finally. What do I mean? Don't I write two historicals a year in the Cotillion series? Why was this one so long in the making?

Because of my contract with Crimson, I had to write the synopsis for the last five books in the series long before I wrote them. That was a first for me, the proverbial pantser. But it worked, since it made me look further down the road than I had for the first few books. I was able to insert little nuggets into my stories which may have seemed like an aside at the time, but which were helping to set the stage for a later book. For instance, if you go back and look for it, you'll see Valerian had a love affair with horses for years before he got his own story. Dropping those little clues into a story makes the idea that all the youngest Fitzpatrick boy wanted to do was ride horses more believable. It is fortunate that his story unfolds when the Pony Express is starting up. Coincidence? That's for you, the reader, to decide.

In order to write this story, I had to do a great deal of research, including a cross-country trip. All I knew about the Pony Express was that it was a romantic page in American history, it got the mail from the east coast to the west coast, and it involved horses. I had no clue how it was put together, or why. On my trip, I stopped at every place where there was something to do with the Pony Express and picked up on some of the local flavor. I ended up with three great research books on the subject, rode through the countryside in the middle of winter, and took pictures. This is the first book in the series that can be classified as a western, and a horse on the cover makes sense. I couldn't be happier. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.