New Posts on Wednesdays and Saturdays -- er generally

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

After shearing

These photos are of our sheep after being shorn last week. Ours are mixed breeds but as you can see, many are pintos. I love their personalities, intelligence (yes some sheep are smarter than others), and the diversity of what they look like. Some are sooooo cute. The time of the lamb gangs is always fun although they can get themselves into so much trouble with their reckless running and pushing.

You may note that some have tails and some don't. This is due to whether we intended to sell the ewes or keep them. It is a popular belief that tails are messy on sheep. It's not true. The only time they might become that way is when the sheep are unhealthy. These sheep have fairly short tails by birth and frankly they do just fine with them. But you can't sell them to anybody with a tail; so...

The other thing is, cute as they are, the lambs are mostly raised for food. This is not a hobby farm but a business, which is what ranching has to be if you want to keep doing it. They get a good life. We sell the lambs to someone who kills mercifully and for a market that appreciates grassfed meat (same with our cattle). 

Obviously, raising livestock is a mixed blessing to do. Enjoy them but also know their purpose is for a human to live healthier. Sad but life is a lot that way-- the rose with the thorn.

The day they go is both what must be but one that I always feel sad about. I can only do it with the Native Americans claim when killing for food-- thank you, brother, for your sacrifice. 

Eat meat but eat less of it and never forget from where it came-- even if you bought it packaged in a grocery store. And whenever possible, buy from a local grower, not through the meat factories. It's better for the land and the animals-- us included.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

A disturbance in the force?

This has been a disturbing election cycle here in the United States. Both parties have had strongly contested primaries and ironically both coming from candidates outside their parties. Donald Trump wasn't always a Republican and may have chosen the party mostly because he felt he could win there. Bernie Sanders has been an Independent who considers himself a democratic socialist. It looks as though Sanders will not be able to overcome the establishment candidate, Hillary Clinton. While it is likely Trump can beat the establishment candidate, who has changed throughout this season, there is talk that the Republican establishment, with the help of the oligarchs, will run a third party of their own. That likely will throw the election to Clinton although in a crazy season like this one, who knows.

There has been an idiotically insane cultural issue that arose regarding transgender people. Anyone, in this country and some others, knows what it's about where some states want to force people to use a bathroom based on what their birth certificate says, not on what they look like or feel they are for gender identity. The end result of this has been insanity with people fearing that if a woman walks into a woman's bathroom she might rape children if she has a penis... Target said they were fine with people using whatever bathroom felt right to them which led to boycott threats. Insanity. So women who look masculine, but are women, are feeling threatened. Who knows what this hate filled talk is doing to transgender teens. If we all would just go into bathrooms, take care of our business, this would be nothing. Seriously, we want a pretty girl to use a man's bathroom just because she has a penis? Well commonsense on such issues does not suit extreme political persuasions who need these causes to distract people from real issues. Stir up fear and they win. I tend to pity people filled with hate and fear-- or would if they weren't causing so much cultural havoc about now!

On our little ranch, we had the sheep shorn this week which is earlier than we usually manage, but it's been warmer than usual. The shearer felt our sheep were under stress which he could tell from their wool. I don't blame the sheep for that. It's been a stressful season, and they don't even know all that is out there since their world revolves around babies and eating-- ideally some weed that no other sheep got to first.

My writing is still mostly pantzing for this book. The term means I am flying by the seat of my pants as to what happens next. I began it with the characters and a general concept of a plot, but the specifics of what that means changes for me as I let these characters show me what they would logically do next. I don't say they control the book but their personality does dictate how they react. I think this has been more true of this book and likely will for the next four also. I write around two thousand words a day to not go too fast. I know there are writers who can turn out books every two weeks. I am not one of them. I don't have a formula.

As I got more into the book, I realized these will not be urban fantasies. I read a few of them and they simply have more violence than I write. They also have more fantasy in them. I won't have werewolves or vampires, no zombies but instead those who were born with spiritual differences-- witches, and a spirit world. More or less what I am writing in this romance is like metaphysical books would indicate is reality-- maybe. So it won't have a tag that is convenient. That's unfortunate but a person has to write the story that comes to them. The muse will not be denied. Although these books will share characters, they each will have their own romance and a conclusion of sorts-- while the underlying theme goes forward... if all goes according to plans.

For fun, I created a poster that shows all the couples for the books. There might be a ghost involved in the fifth book. How does a human man compete with a woman's dead husband when dead husband isn't ready leave her?

Wednesday, April 27, 2016


In December, leaving our vacation trailer in Redding, California, seemed like a smart idea. It saved pulling it over the Siskiyous where there was snow. We thought April would be a great time for a small, early vacation. Weather-wise, it would have been, but several things arose complicating it. Most especially we began to worry that the trailer might've leaked through a wetter than normal winter in Northern California. Being away from it for four months, what might the inside look like? Mold? Leaks? Not so great to plan a vacation with so much uncertainty. So last week, we drove south, leaving our cats at home, with food and water for a planned three nights. 

Our first night, minus the family, was in a motel about an hour north of Redding. The next morning, when we got the trailer, it was in perfect condition. There was no way to take a vacation, but a few days were possible. We pulled into a campground in City of Mount Shasta and decided to spend two nights there. We'd driven past it many times but this was a chance to explore.

Mount Shasta is well known by those into the paranormal. Some believe aliens park their spaceships under the mountain. Others claim a tribe of little men live under there and come out at night. There is a belief that the earth energy lines, ley lines, intersect there creating a vortex, which is good for energies of all sorts. Whatever the case, the little town has several crystal and metaphysical shops. I suspect it draws people for that reason but also because of the beautiful mountain setting, tall trees, fresh air, with hiking and lakes around it-- good for winter or summer sports.

We took some drives to check out the neighborhoods, found Lake Siskiyou and more or less determined we'd like to return. I could see another paranormal series set in it, Dunsmuir, and the ranching community to the north. Lots to inspire, but I'd have to spend more time before I'd want to do a book there. I like to really know the terrain of my stories, make it one of the characters. Living there a week could help that. There were a lot of homes listed as vacation rentals. Wonder if any take cats. *s*

These photos are all from around City of Mount Shasta.



Saturday, April 23, 2016

To do it or not

Writers have a lot of things they wrestle with in terms of what to include in a book. My most recent such was deciding how long to have a conversation go on with the family of witches-- and then is there a way to get around repeatedly saying Grandma Hemstreet to make sure her dialogue is not confused with Grandma Cordova? Conversations are a big deal in terms of taking stories forward, staying true to point of view, and avoiding confusion.

A big issue in love stories is will the couple do it? In my books, there will be a certain point at which they are mature adults and committed to each other. They know this is more than a casual encounter. The energy between them is high. They will do it, and they won't wait for a wedding ring-- although there might be one. Some writers don't describe those happenings and others do. It's a choice.

Whether there will be a kiss, or considerably more, has been handled different ways with varying levels of heat-- or not. At the same time Jane Austen was writing her romance novels without a hint of desire, there were erotica authors also putting out their stories-- if a bit more secretively. There have always been those who want to read it and those who do not. Fortunately the writing world is big enough for both to find stories to suit them.

This is on my mind right now because of a discussion thread that arose in a book group to which I belong. The readers expressed their view of how books handle the sensual end of a relationship. Some were very adamant against anything other than holding hands. Others were open to more but it had to be without what they called smut or it being graphic. Which made me wonder what those words meant to them. Here's what I wrote with some editing and paragraphs breaks as that is a place you can't put in such breaks.
So that leads to another question. What is smut? Is it smut to say he came into her? How about using the word penis? I read that word turns some readers off because it is so biological. Graphic is another confusing term-- if someone says breast or nipple, those are pretty graphic.
For my own writing, I avoid using euphemisms that got ridiculed so badly by comedians. You know the ones that found all kinds of ways to get around using actual biological terms. I read a paragraph of that prose to my husband once and we were both laughing so hard I had a hard time getting through it. It was the way a lot of romance authors used to write, but frankly I don't see that in writers today so much-- partly because laughter doesn't set the right mood.
For research purposes, I read an urban fantasy recently, and the couple went on for pages with 'doing it'. I can't tell you though what words were used as I just skimmed ahead. It might have been graphic; but to me it was boring. There are only so many ways to say they did it before it is repetitive. If it does not carry the plot forward, I am not interested in it-- and well written sensual scenes can very much carry a plot forward with the emotions that go with the physical as someone who has been too tight and finally lets go.
I make sure my blurbs warn readers, there will be spice, as nobody wants a reader to feel blindsided. Reading or writing, I also don't want abuse. Romances used to have that and to me, if I come across it and accidentally bought that book, it's heading for the garbage most especially if it's the hero. I want it consensual between adults, healthy, fun (yes it can be), and good for the couple. The world is not always that way, but romance isn't about what all is out there in the world. It's why there's always a HEA. We need some place like that.
I don't know of any romance authors who don't want readers protected from what goes against their personal ethics. That's why a rating system is so important. I put one using  #1-#5 with #5 hottest (but not erotica, which is something quite different) on my blog that defines what my numbers mean. When putting it into a blurb, #1 should mean #1 for those who don't want even a suggestion that more lies ahead. I remember how irate some viewers were when they did a movie version of Pride and Prejudice where the couple kiss in the end-- after being married. It didn't stay true to the #1 in the minds of those viewers or for that matter of how Jane Austen wrote.
I guess it would be easier to not include it at all, but you write the story that comes to you, and I find writing a bedroom (which might not be in a bedroom) scene part of my need to describe a full, healthy relationship for my characters.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

April in Oregon

Sometimes Facebook can present some interesting topics. One of those came a week or so ago. I got one of those posts where you are tagged.
In your status line, list 10 books that have stayed with you. Don’t take more than a few minutes. Don’t think too hard. They don’t have to be great works, or even your favorites. Just the ones that have touched you. Tag 10 friends including me, so I’ll see your list.
 For me, they are:
1. The Sun Also Rises-- Ernest Hemingway
2. Ahab’s Wife—Sena Jeta Naslund
3. Grapes of Wrath—John Steinbeck
4. The Island Within—Richard Nelson
5. The Art Spirit—Robert Henri
6. The River Why—David James Duncan
7. The Virginian—Owen Wister
8. Light of the Western Stars—Zane Grey
9. Pilgrim at Tinker’s Creek—Annie Dillard
10. The Alchemist—Paulo Coelho
For me, the interesting part of the mix of books that came to me is how much they are all still influence not only on my life but my writing. Some of the ones who answered this had romances on their lists. I really don't but it's not because I haven't loved some romances through the years-- and some now too. It's because the energy, in my romances, comes from other influences. The underlying heart of them though will always be love.

Now for the photos of April in my part of Oregon. The first is a pioneer cemetery about eighteen miles from the farm. Lately a lot of orchards and vineyards are finding their way to this part of the Willamette Valley.

The rest of the photos are from the farm.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

There is a business end

This post is about the nitty-gritty of the business end of writing; so if that doesn't interest you, come back Wednesday for some spring flowers ;). We are truly in the wonderful season as it builds every day toward summer.

Writers are recommended to continue to write in the genre where they are building a fan base-- assuming they are. Publishing houses discourage a writer from branching out without a new name. This is to avoid confusing readers. Some writers have always gone back and forth with assorted names. What I have observed is they generally bring to each genre the underlying essence of their books. I believe that is what I do when I switch between historical, contemporary and fantasy.

Right now, my choosing to leave the historical, for awhile, and do something different is likely not a wise economic move. I am not a big name author nor do I have a big fan base. My books are mostly found hit or miss by readers. In switching to urban fantasy romance for five books, I don't expect them to sell as well as the historicals-- and they come and go for sales. 

My earlier contemporaries never sold as well as the historicals. I suspect that is some to do with not having a place to promote them. Or maybe they don't suit the typical reader of contemporary romance. Well, this could be even more so with this next five as they won't fit the paranormal genre as best I know it. My witches will be human and live normal lifespans-- just they have a few magical skills, which most of us don't. 

I am doing this because creatively, I needed a break. When I thought about writing more historicals, my jaw hurt. This is an indicator for me that my body is saying change is needed. I think it happens because I am clenching it, but it happens with too much sugar too; so I don't know.

These five books will be half the length of the historical I just wrote. I had been planning this change to shorter novels for awhile. Literally, if you are a writer, long books are economically not smart. They are rewarding to write, as you can have more subplots and develop characters with more depth, with room to play a little. Economically though it does not pay off. You spend a long time writing them but the prices cannot be that much more than the shorter books. Then, if the book doesn't meet reader expectations or you cannot get it seen by the right readers, your loss of time and emotional energy is, of course, greater.

Although my books will be shorter, they won't be novellas and they won't be possible to whip one out every two weeks. I don't follow a formula. My stories are character driven. They evolve out of research, my imagination and the characters as they become clearer to me in the writing. This is again not exactly smart from a business sense. I think formula writing is probably smart from a business sense. It's not copying someone else but finding what the readers most want and the writer's own place in that. If there is a need to make money, there's nothing wrong with it either. It satisfies a lot of readers and makes the writer a living.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

urban fantasy in a romance...

 purchased from CanStock
Urban fantasy novels, as best I understand them, are setting something supernatural into a real world setting. Fantasy often creates a whole new world but an urban fantasy uses the existing one but with a little addition-- that which most of us don't see or experience. These kind of books have been around for a long time where certain characters are normal humans, but others have mystical powers, which they can use for good or ill. Think Mists of Avalon in the '80s or further back, and Frankenstein, or way back and Beowulf.

The world I will set mine into will involve a family with normal interactions between parent and siblings, but where certain inborn talents have been passed down from one generation to the next. On the one side are Yaqui shamans and on the other witches and those with super-sensory skills. Some families have these inborn talents (for wont of a better word) but they are discouraged. In this family, they have been encouraged and enhanced to be used for good-- i.e. witches, shamans, shapeshifters, mystics, psychics, etc. The extrasensory skills come in handy when the family runs a detective agency.

A few years back, I had done research on the paranormal. Sky Daughter and Diablo Canyon didn't fit into urban fantasy because they were in rural areas, but they are urban fantasies in other ways. In each of them, some ordinary people have extraordinary experiences. 

To write those stories, I found books where people described experiences that were very scary involving monsters and ghosts. They were the kind of stories many put down as the product of a deranged mind or purposely fraudulent. The books though described very convincing experiences. It gave me the energy I wanted to write a work of fiction about a world I didn't personally want to experience other than vicariously through words. 

When I write books like this, I use the white light as a way to keep what I shouldn't know out of my research and stories. I don't want to draw to myself something that might not be real... but might. I have never understood how someone like Stephen King can write what he does and still remain normal. Maybe he uses white light... or maybe he does not believe his fictional characters are real and he doesn't let them become real.

To create the covers, I wanted them to warn off readers who were not wanting the supernatural in their books. They turned out different from anything I've done. Using some fantasy imagery, I think the covers reveal the essence of the stories. I debated whether to put women or men alone on them or couples. I went for the couples with something else in the background of each. 

For the new series, some of my research involved a book written by a ghost hunter. I've seen a few TV shows where they go into places known to have ghosts-- reportedly. Mostly it's never seemed very real to me. The book I bought was more scary about what had created the potential places for spirits to lurk than about the spirits. Humans really do horrible things sometimes and even as a society.

Having had friends who had experienced ghosts or whatever they are, I don't disbelieve in them or the supernatural. My books will treat them as very real with very real witches (that I have yet to meet-- or if I did, I didn't know it).