New Posts on Wednesdays and Saturdays -- er generally

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

Inspiration


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).

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Laying the foundation

What comes next in my writing plans are five contemporary, urban fantasy romances involving a widowed mother and her four grown daughters. What I knew to begin was these were born out of an ancestry of witches and shamans. Then I discovered some of their ancestors came from the historical Arizona families of both Yaqui and natural mystics (my books).

To get this project going, I needed to find  images to provide inspiration, eventual covers, and book trailers. I sorted through my own photos and the ones I'd previously purchased. Then I took out a week-long subscription at a royalty free photo site-- 10 images a day for one week. The heroes I already had. I needed heroines, interiors of homes, and some supernatural, even scary imagery.




The beginning setting for each story will be Barrio Viejo. It was some years back when I first was there to find El Tiradito, which I had in my first Arizona historical. It is a very old wishing shrine. There are several stories as to the history of what some say is the only shrine dedicated to a sinner. People even today go there with their prayers and wishes and hope the shrine will work its magic. 

On that first visit, years back, many of the homes were deteriorating. In trying to find the shrine, we found another shrine first as instructions weren't particularly clear. Today it's easier to find, and the whole area is being renovated in keeping with its past. What better spot to set a paranormal suspense than a neighborhood with such a rich and mixed history

In my story, the widowed mother operates her bookstore which is connected to a detective agency. Her daughters work in both, using their mix of intellectual and spiritual skills. The paranormal aspect will involve witchcraft, ghosts, shapeshifters, possibly spirit guides of the positive and not so positive nature and maybe monsters or demons. I will find out about that when I start writing the first. 


After I had my characters, I worked out the general plot for all five books. If it stays on track, each will have a physical mystery, a paranormal challenge, and, of course, a romance.

The heroes, whose images I had previously purchased, will represent 'us' as they are (most of them) living normal lives until something comes from out of nowhere to upset their lives, and they become involved with women who are witches. These are incidentally not the kind of witches who meet in covens and dance naked around bonfires (well, there might be some of that). These witches are also not the kind to fly on broomsticks. Who needs a broomstick to transport from one place to another magically. These are witches, who have real powers to throw plasma bolts and when needed fight using elemental spirits. Each of the women have their own natural skills. Many are born with such skills but some families suspect them as being from a devil. In this family, they have been taught to use them with wisdom and for good

More on this coming next blog-- urban fantasies. :)

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Living a life

Living a life involves making choices. I've said it many times to my children and now grandchildren-- "nobody gets it all". We give up one thing for another we consider superior. These choices change the direction of our life. I am always fascinated with how others have chosen this or that-- which led to my enjoying the following article.


If you have never read romance novels, the name Fabio won't mean much to you, but he was at one time the hottest model for covers. These were the days when publishers controlled the books from beginning to end. Him on the cover sold books. He was considered the ultimate hero image, and it stayed that way for a number of years.


To be honest, I was never a Fabio fan. Back in those days, I did buy books with him in the cover, still have some on my 'keeper' shelf, but it was in spite of the covers never because of them. I can't say why he didn't appeal to me.

Today I look at a lot of image sites because I need them for covers or in a book trailer. They aren't just for heroes and heroines, some as the secondary characters add a lot to a story. Some I have bought end up on a cover, but a lot are for inspiration. Some have been mistakes, and nobody will see them including me (although I keep them in a reserve folder just in case that changes). Heroes and heroines have to fit the character in the book but also appeal to not only the writer but the reader.

What I found interesting in the article was how Fabio has come to terms with his changing life and is living it in a way that gives him satisfaction. In his mid-50s, he has never married, and I don't know if that's because he is a closeted gay or a perfectionist, not only about his own life and body but also that of any potential love interest. Kind of ironic that the man many saw as the ultimate hero would not find his own heroine-hero.

I can so see owning the land he does near Stevenson, Washington. I love the Columbia River Gorge. I grew up in Washington at its mouth, on the edge of the Cascades where everyone knows Sasquatch (Yeti, Big Foot) roams the hills-- everybody except those who live there and don't give it a thought. 

Leaving there was not my choice as the home in which I grew up was owned by my parents and they had reasons to leave. I have tried to go back, especially wanted to own the property my parents once owned. I used to dream of it until I went back one year to our end of the road and found it had been subdivided, the rock walls, that I used to climb on, to escape the wethers (castrated male sheep) who liked to butt children, had been knocked down. They were such cool rock walls, why would anyone want to knock them down? I know why they had been there originally-- that hill was very rocky.

Stopping, I asked the current owners if I could have a big rock from the fallen down walls, and they said yes. Today, it is here on this farm where likely it'll stay. They said I could come into the house that has been remodeled but was still recognizable as my home growing up. I said no. Sometimes a choice is made to let go-- and that can mean places as well as people. We can't hold onto everything we love... maybe not anything in the end.

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Dreams

Writers use everything they can get hold of-- their lives, observations, research, and yes, dreams when they remember them. I go through times I remember mine vividly and times I know I dreamed but couldn't hold onto the subject. I dream in full color. I sometimes use movie stars as characters in the dreams, celebrities I might never think of during the day. 

To me, a dream is a gift-- sometimes intended to give insights into our lives. Sometimes they're just for fun. A few are space fillers that seem to have no purpose or even interest. I think it's beneficial for writers to work to capture dreams.

Basically, dreams are the subconscious, and it uses anything it can find. I dream in full color and often my world mixed with places I've never been. Some dreams are what I call movie dreams, and they tell a story-- they are the ones I most seek to keep.

I am not sure from where keeper dreams come, but I've had some  powerful ones that once in a while I can use in a book. Sometimes that will be years later when I am writing and realize one of those keepers fits. I've used them as plot elements, to create characters, and once in a while, they become a character's dream. 

 digital painting based on the dream I had probably in the late 1990s. I wrote about it in a journal at the time but don't need it to remember the dream. I can still see the images from it when I stop to think about it. 

From Arizona Sunset:


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... Lying awake longer than usual, trying to blank images from her mind, it seemed hours before she fell into a deep sleep.

An Indian woman stood back in the shadows in a grove of aspen trees. Snow was on the ground. She was watching men of her tribe as they advanced with bows in their hands, arrows at the ready. Beyond a pack of wolves was running but one stopped and approached the men, standing as though waiting. The men drew back their bows and two arrows struck the wolf, one in the chest, the other the loins as it fell. The men walked toward it, satisfied, they then left the clearing.
The woman moved toward the wolf. She understood it had been killed to protect the tribe, that the village needed this ritual for its safety. Perhaps the wolf had agreed to be the sacrifice. When she saw the wolf was not dead, she began to tend its wounds. As she applied the poultices and remedies she knew, she understood she was going against the good of her tribe. She did it anyway.
It was a shock when the body of the wolf morphed into that of a man. He was not appreciative of her efforts on his behalf but lay still as she tended him. Finally she realized she had done all she could but her efforts were not enough to heal him. He had the power to heal himself, but she was unsure he wanted to do so. The dream ended.

In the morning, when Abigail awoke, she lay in bed trying to put the pieces of the dream together. It had been so vivid, as though she was the woman. She had never dreamed such an odd set of images, never imagined such a thing in her waking hours.
Yes, she did remember talk from some of old-timers that men and women could do this changing of their form. There was the fear that witches regularly did it. She believed none of it. If the dream was a message, to what?
Dressing for church, she put the questions aside. Silly dream. Hardly worth wondering at deeper meanings for such things. That’s what her father always said. What the pastor would say. She would tell no one of it. It had no meaning.