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Saturday, September 26, 2015

on being a writer

A few thoughts on being a writer--

If you've yet to publish a book, you might think that the time after bringing one out would be filled with satisfaction and joy. For me, not so much. It's more a feeling of stress. The main reason is at that point, the book is no longer just mine. Now it belongs to readers also, and I have no idea how they will see it.  Did I make it clear why what happened did? How about my villain, when I have one, will what he did make sense to the reader? Everyone short of psychopaths must make sense. In the blurb, I put a warning regarding sex, violence and strong language but inevitably some don't read it and end up irked.

Then, besides wondering how readers will see it, there must be promotions, never much fun for me. I always believe in my books-- love them or they don't get written-- but promoting it is a whole other game.

For my newest book, Going Home, added onto this was a bit of panic when formatting for the paperback version found some small errors, which no one editing the book had seen. If the book had not been in pre-release, we could have fixed it-- even at the last minute. A book in pre-release, for the ten days before its actual arrival, cannot be changed... That was frustrating and led to a hurried adjustment when it was possible. Unfortunately, all those who pre-ordered the book would get it with the mistakes. :(

Frankly, for that reason alone, I may reconsider the benefits of pre-releases. It is nice to have a firm publishing date and be able to offer a book cheaper for the first readers, who are generally on my mailing list and those who have liked my other books. I could do that though for the first week out. Whether I do another pre-order, I have until the end of October to decide.

As most know who read this blog, I write romance novels. They can be historical, contemporary or fantasy, but they all are romances. Some are sexier than others, but they all have some of that in them-- even if, as with the novellas, it is behind a closed door.

Some ask why write romances when they are so little respected by literary elites. I know that some of my friends don't admit they read my books-- even if they do. There is no prestige attached to reading them, which leads some to ask-- why write them when they are not a respected genre.

Well, it's because they are the stories that come to me. You can't write what someone else wants you to write short of turning it into craft. I do though kind of get why people would disrespect the romance genre. Last week, I was looking through the romance novels I had kept from the '90s. I opened up one and immediately started laughing at the overheated prose. The plot was a little far fetched but that was more acceptable-- fiction is fiction even if the reader gets fooled into thinking it's not. 

This book had the kind of rhetoric that has turned romances into jokes. The best way to illustrate this is a bit from the book ( published by Bantam). I am not revealing the title as I am not trying to ridicule a writer, who likely was doing what the publishing houses requested; but just to show what was common in those earlier, more publisher controlled times.
Sunlight blazed upon his magnificent body,highlighting every niche and curve of his powerfully carved chest and thickly muscles arms and legs. There was a raw savage beauty to him as he stood before her, all sinewey ripples and hard planes, his body battered and bruised, but still exuding strength and determination. In that moment he reminded her of a medieval warrior-- fierce, uncultivated, dangerous. She felt the urge to reach up and place her hands upon the powerful breadth of his shoulders, to splay her fingers wide over the solid flat of his belly, to feel his warrior blood pulsing hot beneath her palms as she pressed herself against him.
No wonder people laughed at them. And if I gave you the love scenes, which went on for pages and pages, it would show even more effusive writing-- which frankly wasn't a bit sensual when my urge was to giggle. 

These were the years I was reading those books to try and understand the genre, the years I would send my own romance manuscripts into the publishers and have them sent back with kind letters about the quality of the writing, but they wanted something more. I believe they wanted what I posted above, and even to get published, I was not willing to write something like that. 

Yet, I write romances, and my characters often have hot bodies which I do describe-- just with different words. Basically I stick to the kinds of words that come to me when I see someone, say walking out of a grocery store, who is gorgeous and in prime condition. (I am old but not so old that I don't appreciate physical beauty in male or female). Does it though require a writer to use effusive sentences to get the message across? I didn't think so-- still don't. The following is describing a woman seeing for the first time one of those hot men from one of my books.
 A large man unwound himself from the green Bronco. His eyes were hidden behind the brim of a Stetson and reflective sunglasses. Even shaky from her experience, her artist's eye couldn't ignore the sheer grace, with which he moved his long, lean body, as he strode across her yard.  When he reached the porch, he stopped, not climbing the three steps.  He looked at her for a moment, perhaps expecting her to speak; then pulled off the glasses. 
His face was craggy, with a hawk-like nose, a long scar across one cheek, a square jaw, covered with a day's growth of bristle, and magnificent tawny, almost yellow eyes, rimmed with dark lashes. Nobody could call it a handsome face, maybe some would even see it as ugly, but to her it was mesmerizing. Beneath his Stetson, his hair appeared to be dark blond, a little long on the neck for a border patrolman. 
Well, I did use the word magnificent but aren't some eyes magnificent? I don't know if romances from the big publishing houses are still pouring out the effusive wording. I don't read their books. 

In the indie romances I read today, I do not find wording like that so humorously ridiculed in the past. I know many idnie writers, who have also written for many years but didn't publish until the world changed.

And on multiple levels, writing has changed. The expectations for romances have too, regarding points of view, etc., although there is one firm expectation that hasn't-- happy endings. Romance happy endings are why I enjoy writing and reading them more than say love stories where tragedy can be the end. I get enough of that every time I open a newspaper.

Monday, September 21, 2015

new book out

This is for anyone interested in historical love stories-- Going Home, #3 in the Oregon historicals, went live today. Just for today (part of tomorrow probably as Amazon is not very exact on this) the eBook will be $2.99. Its paperback comes out later this week. Below is what will be its back cover. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Vitamin D

[Blog update: Instead of having a regular posting schedule, I'll put something here whenever it comes up, which might mean nothing for a stretch or a lot. It might involve writing, nature, animals, cultural aspects, art, etc., but for now at least, no partisan politics. It's just too far from the election. When we have two candidates and the issues are clearer, then maybe... All right, I might as well admit it, sometimes I need to rant and for now I have a blog for that. If you have that need sometimes, check it out: Rainy Day Rant. It always is as the mood strikes or when the iron is hot!]

 Selfie of Ranch Boss and me-- 9/13/15
I know people who enjoy going to doctors. They get security from the visits, assurance they are all right. I am the opposite. I go when something is wrong, and I can't figure out a way to correct it, which means, with any health issue, the doctor is not my first step. Now, I would not ignore a major symptom like constricting chest pain or blood in urine, but I will delay professional help for most everything else, as I try to assess what I can do about it. Whether the ones who run to doctors frequently or I am more right, it might be trained in us. My mother was a 'not going to the doctor' kind of person also.

So you can imagine that setting up a physical isn't one of those things I do readily. This time it had been about three years when I finally felt I needed to get in for the lab work. I am on a med for blood pressure and one for cholesterol. I can keep track of the blood pressure (it's been fine), but cholesterol is invisible until it causes problems.

It's a good thing to do but my problem is that these days the blood is evaluated for everything. I have this feeling, call it paranoia, that they'll find some marker that wouldn't cause me trouble if they didn't find it.

The appointment was actually more pleasant than I expected. The only real issue was my Vit. D-- still lower than he liked-- especially since I was taking a pretty heavy daily dose of D3. He suggested upping the amount.

When I got home, I looked at my lab work results. Here are what Vitamin D levels mean to my clinic: 10 ng/mL severe deficiency; 10-19 ng/mL mild-moderate deficiency; 20-31 ng/mL Hypovitaminosis; 32-80 ng/mL Optimum levels; over 100 ng/mL possible toxicity.  (My level was 28 ng/mL.)

I wrote about this at Facebook and got responses from those who had their own Vit. D stories-- some up and some down. Where obesity and old age can be an issue in low D levels, the ones who had had deficiencies were younger and on the skinny side-- moreover frequently in the sun-- in a climate more southerly than mine. 

So I got curious about D and found a lot on it. This article is a good example of the current thinking.

According to it, my level would be mid-range and acceptable. When you read all the things that researchers believe about the impact of low D, it's easy to see where my doctor wanted to be proactive. He suggested taking 5000 IU a day, which is a small increase from where I have been.

I learned something else as I read and it surprised me. I am one of those who is gluten sensitive. Neither my doctor nor I believe I have Celiac (which other articles say can be connected to Low D), but I learned a few years ago that eating gluten led to low belly pain for me. I also learned that I could, after having been off it for many months, cheat now and then without the pain. 

This summer, knowing I could cheat led to doing it more and then more. After several months of that, the pain began and took maybe two weeks to get myself back to where I'd been-- none or normal abdominal discomfort. Cheating is over for awhile

During those two weeks, I watched everything I ate to avoid anything that might produce gas. That meant more than the usual number of eggs (my favorite food). I began to feel more energy, which I didn't equate to anything, until I read one source of Vit. D is egg yolk. So maybe I was improving my D level without thinking about it, and it might be why I felt that increased energy. 

They have made such a huge deal out of sun wrinkling our skin and giving us skin cancer that many elders stay out of it, wear long sleeves and hats, as well as use high level sun screen, which means no sun rays getting through to create D in the body. I had read articles about doctors suggesting this obsession has led to other more serious health problems than needing to have an occasional skin cancer removed. 

Below is another article. This one suggesting how we can get our D-- and it includes sunshine.

It's all about balance-- everything is, but if D really helps with mental acuity, heart health and avoiding cancer, it's worth getting blood levels tested once in awhile-- even if it means going to the doctor.

When I left my appointment, with my doctor giving me the thumbs up, I said see you in two or three years. He smiled and said-- one! I guess we'll see.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Timing is everything

 Going Home out September 21, 2015
In 2015, we are living through a period where being politically correct is dividing us as a country. It's not enough how we treat others, we have to say the right words and have the right opinions-- and each side argues over what those might be. I can laugh when my Word tries to correct the word waitress to server person (for a story taking place in 1901), but is it really funny to have to use zy instead of she or is it ze, which in the end will mean the same thing since there is a gender difference in how we appear-- whatever we might call ourselves.  

So we learn to say xe and pretty soon that's not okay and what comes next-- a desire to make words meaningless? It's not enough for us to fight over the issues actually impacting our country, we have to argue about things that happened long ago and force everyone to be politically correct-- until what is politically correct changes.

Several years ago, when I wrote Going Home, I knew a great deal about the American Civil War, having researched books and films, and having seen how it was viewed when I was in the South on vacations. I never dreamed the extreme divisiveness of that war would rise up in 2015. I didn't imagine the issues that were part of the Civil War were still roiling under the surface. Did the media, and by that I mean social media too, change everything or just reveal it?

Emotionally, the resentments experienced between North and South seem to have returned with accusations that Southerners who fought for the South all fought for slavery, that they were all traitors, not heroes-- followed by a demand that statues of Confederate leaders be removed from parks and the Confederate flag be viewed as a symbol of shame. In the eyes of some, the Confederate flag was the reason for the recent Charleston church murders. They believed that those flying it wanted to secretly illustrate their disdain for blacks and their feeling of superiority. And so the arguments raged.

When it became one of those politically correct issues several months ago (yes, it's about being PC because there is no real call for action or change beyond symbolisms), I hoped it would settle down before my book came out in September, but with Ken Burns documentary on the Civil War being run again, the side, that knows how it was back then, tolerates no dissent and rose to criticize even his even-handed depiction of a War that caused more American deaths than any other. How dare anyone suggest honorable men served on both sides?  

When you write an historical series, you try to keep it realistic to what you think would happen to these people (to a reasonable level as some words are simply not acceptable today-- accurate for then or not). When it's a romance, of course, you also want to give it a touch of emotional magic because real life too often doesn't do that.

My hero had come to Oregon two years before the war broke out. He bought a ranch, fell in love, and regarded Oregon as his home. Then his mother wrote from their Georgia plantation that his brothers had joined the Confederate army, and she was dying. She begged him to return home. Once he got there, the choices narrowed, and he did fight for the South even though he neither believed in secession nor slavery. He did believe in family and clan.

The book opens when the war has just ended. Jed, bringing his half brother to Oregon for the first time, has returned to an Oregon angry at anyone who fought on the Southern side, an Oregon filled with hypocrisy (a law was passed to forbid blacks from owning property in the state) and self-righteous rage-- especially from those who never fought in the battles. The soldiers actually did better with accepting that each side had done what they believed they had to do. 

An example of Southern thinking is Robert E. Lee, condemned by some in today's rage. He had been offered command of the Union forces by Lincoln, but he had to refuse because Virginia, his state had gone with the Confederacy. Lee didn't believe in slavery or secession, but he believed in his people, country and state-- and to him that country was the South once it seceded-- something it felt Constitutionally that it had the right to do. Of course, Lincoln interpreted the Constitution otherwise. He was not willing to see the dissolution of the United States under his watch-- no matter how many lives it cost. In the end, he paid for it with his own. Although Lincoln did not personally believe in slavery, it was not the reason he went to war.

I knew when I wrote the book that some would not like a hero who fought for the South. I didn't expect the brouhaha that arose. Oh well, the November book, where the hero is mentally disadvantaged, likely will have some irked at it too. Try finding politically correct words regarding that for today and work for 1901-- now that got interesting...

Going Home eBook is available for pre-order at Amazon  and other sites at D2D for delivery September 21, 2015,. On sale for $2.99 until 9/22/15. The paperback will likely be out shortly after the 21st.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Liberated by Laura Miller

Available September 14, 2015 at sites listed on link

Cover by Charlene Raddon of Cover-Ops

This book is a biography of a woman I have loved and admired for the whole of my life. I have known this story for most of my life. In the twilight of her years, this lady has decided that it is time for her story to be told, so it will be recorded for future generations.        Laura Miller

     In December 1944, a German family of seven were captured and convicted of war crimes for harbouring Jews. This is the true story of a woman and her sister who survived the horrors of Internment in the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp until Liberation on 13 April 1945.
     In the twilight of her years, this lady has decided that it is time for her story to be told, so it will be recorded for future generations. This is a true account of her experience.

Hanover, Lower Saxony GERMANY 1939
     The house looked the same as every other dwelling in the street. Two story, attached, weathered stone. There were three bedrooms and a bathroom with indoor plumbing upstairs. An attic, where family treasures were hidden, could only be accessed through a removable panel in the ceiling of the main bedroom closet. Downstairs was a small but adequate dine in kitchen, a sitting room and a storeroom. Inside the storeroom was a staircase which led down to a basement.
     The house sat opposite the banks of the Leine River. It was home to Inga Albine and her family. She had one older sister, two older brothers and one younger brother. They loved summer when they could swim and play in the water.
     Inga’s father, Adaulfo, was a well-known and successful Banker. An unusual occupation for an Aryan as most Bankers were Jewish.
     Inga’s mother, Alisz, was a talented seamstress but with her husband being more than capable of providing for the family, sewing was a hobby rather than a chore. Although sewing gave her a great deal of joy, her first love was her family. She adored being with her children.
     Being only children, both Alisz and Adaulfo had always dreamed of having a large family. Their dream had come true. They had five healthy children, blonde haired, blue eyed. Perfect Aryans in Adolf Hitler’s eyes. Klaus, 18, Manfred 17, Elke 15, Inga 13 and Oskar 8. The girls and Oskar attended private school while the two older boys studied Engineering. They all played the violin and with the exception of Oskar, they played very well. Neighbours often praised Adaulfo and Alisz on how polite and well-mannered all five children were.
     The family were prominent in the local community. They never hesitated to help people who were less fortunate than themselves.

    That was to be their downfall…..

GENRE: Non-Fiction, Historical, True Life


     Laura is a middle aged lady who was born in England. She has a compassionate nature, a great sense of humor and is a loyal friend. She also has an insatiable love of history.
     Growing up, Laura would spend hours with a member of her family who she loved dearly. Over the years she was told the story of how this amazing lady had suffered at the hands of the Gestapo and German SS.
     Laura had always had a strong desire to write. She felt a responsibility to record the story as a part of her family history.

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 GENRE: Non-Fiction, Historical, True Life

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

change is inevitable

 South Dakota Christmas 1901-- my grandmother is second from the right.

August on this farm was about the garden, heat, irrigation, smoke, hoped for rain, and computer problems. Since 2010, I had happily done all my writing on a laptop-- Windows Premium7. It's a great work machine or I should say was. I don't need a lot of frills. The important one for me was Corel Photo-Paint7 which did everything I needed to make covers. Corel is why I didn't update the machine to 8.1. None of the later Windows would let me use that program.

I have been through the computer rodeo enough times to know nothing lasts forever. So last summer, we bought a Win 8.1, with the idea I could eventually use it when my 7 failed. I left it though to Ranch Boss to do the adding of my stuff to it. Then it'd be ready when the day came.

For those who love every new technology, my Luddite attitude, toward keeping whatever I have as long as possible, probably makes little sense; but I am that way with everything. If I like something and works for me, I don't want to get rid of it, which explains 10+ year old jeans and sweaters.

What I didn't expect is that Microsoft itself would destroy my 7. They did it with their latest updates and the warning that they would no longer support 7. When I had one of their insisted necessary updates, and it caused the machine to fail, I looked toward what used to be my fail-safe program-- system restore. It no longer existed. By their planning, the crash took it out.

Grandpa is standing on the stump and grandma has that coy look on the front. Her mother with the silver hair is right behind her.

Although I had hoped we could find a fix for 7, it was looking like it was done. First though my rescue machine, the Windows 8.1, had to be updated to 10. For awhile, we tried simultaneously to fix the 7, but I am editing a manuscript and when 7 failed that-- I gave up. I had fortunately spent one week-end saving everything important to two new 128GB jump drives. It was tedious work, but with all of our photos preserved (my manuscripts were always updated regularly to the small drives), I was more sanguine about 7 failing. 

There are things I don't like as well with the Win10. I've had to get used to how it saves as it would be easy to over-write, but one of my big concerns was eased when I was able to buy a Corel Photo-Paint 7x and found it had most of the features I used. 

We ran into one final (I hope) problem, when in the midst of going to one of the photo places where I buy cover images, our Internet server refused me connection. Ranch Boss spent a lot of hours trying to get it back up. He finally resorted to calling our server. It turned out the technician there had been getting a lot of these calls in the weeks since 10 came out. He walked the computer through what needed to be done and for now, the Internet is back.

Frustrating to say the least especially since Microsoft could have told those with Windows 7-- don't update again even when we say you should for security. I am sure those with Macs are smirking about now-- but your day may also come. It's the nature of the Internet world that change is one constant.

My grandmother and great grandmother with no idea what year

My awareness that life is also that way was enhanced when I was saving those photos and saw again those of my grandmother, my father's mother. Mary's mother and father were born in Germany and immigrated. She was born August 22, 1887 in South Dakota. They were farmers and did well as her engagement and wedding photos seem to indicate. My other grandparents had no wedding photos at all let alone engagement photos. 

Mary and John were married August 23, 1903. I know more about her life after my father was born through his stories, but almost nothing about the girl she had been, what she wanted from life, what she experienced before she married. She was such a girl when she married. Was she crazy about him? I know she was after they married.

They had five children; lost one as an infant during a terrible South Dakota thunderstorm. I know that her reputation for a clean home was that you could eat off her kitchen floor. My father remembers watching her and his father at a barn dance, where the children were in the loft to supposedly sleep. She left her home in South Dakota to come to Oregon because of my grandfather's health.

They came first to an area not far from where I live today, but I never knew any of that until we moved here. I know when they were in Falls City, she nearly died from sleeping sickness, and had all her long hair cut off as evidently that was what they did in those days. When she finally woke, she cried over the hair loss-- or that's how my father remembered it. She later got breast cancer and survived it. She lost her husband with a stroke and wept on his casket. 

The thing that gets me now is I don't think I ever knew the woman she was, and I wish I had. She died April 1976 before I thought much about asking questions of her, before it seemed important to me, while I was very involved with raising my own children, and a year and a half before we moved to this farm.

my grandmother, uncle, grandfather and two relatives but not sure who

Much of the joy and fun I saw in her earlier photos, ones I only inherited when one of my younger cousins died, I can't say I knew. I did know her to always have long hair that she braided into a coronet around her head-- and if she ever wore a pair of pants, I never saw it. 

One of the things I have been most grateful for in my life is having had two such different grandmothers as examples of how women can be. I knew my mother's mother far better and heard her stories of her youth, her courtship, but the grandmother whose wedding photos I now have, well I don't think I really knew more than the image of her. It's a regret I can't undo now. 

I am not one to think often about my past or what has been. There is a reason for that. When I do, I feel sad and even teary as I miss what was. My growing up was good, and I am glad I knew it was good back then. The same with my years of raising children. I can't live there though and dwelling on the past just makes me feel bad in the present.

For this blog, I didn't know what I'd write and it seems ironic to me that it ended up being about the most modern of technologies and the oldest of mythologies-- who our ancestors really were.