Comments, relating to the topic, are welcome, add a great deal to a blog, but must be in English, with no profanity, hate-filled insults, or links (unless pre-approved).

Saturday, February 25, 2017


Some of this also appeared in Smart Girls Read Romance but because I thought the topic was important, especially now, I took part of it here. Today, a lot of us are questioning our connections, as the world seems to shift out from under us. Where do we belong? Who are our friends? What is our purpose? I don't think those questions are bad to ask ourselves now and again as situations change.

From the time we are born, connections (or the lack of them) establish much of how we see life. It begins with family and expands into friends, community, school, workplace, and even government. Our connections can determine how we see ourselves and what our goals become. I believe if our connections change with life, it can change our view of ourselves.
Writing a book leads to looking for those connections for the characters. When I start writing, I have a personality profile, but it’s only as the story comes together that I begin to see the full picture of who these people are. If they are true vagabonds, with no connections, that’s part of their story, but do they then get planted somewhere-- or become involved with someone who is.

Because I have lived many years in a rural community, I have seen the power of that kind of community in negative and positive connections. I live on a place that is still called by the names of the previous owners though we’ve lived here now almost 40 years. The past stays connected to the present.

This week one of the neighbors, who works with Ranch Boss off and on, was talking about the home in which he lives and asking more exactly how its history had also involved my ancestors-- the ones who first came to this area at an uncertain point in time. It had me trying to find the connection. I could only go by the family stories as to get more specific would require paying for time at a genealogy site that I don't have the time to put into it-- at the moment. 

Writing on my work in progress, a paranormal that is set in a real place with descendants of my historicals, it has been interesting to see more connections appear—ones that hadn’t made it to those profiles. The fact that I know new details does not mean they will all appear in the book. I read critical reviews of someone else’s book, where readers felt too many characters had cluttered up the story. If a character has been a hero elsewhere, fans of a series do like to see them appear to see how they are doing, but it can be brief. The key is understanding that these connections deepen the personality traits of the protagonists and are reasons for readers to care about them, to want it to work out.

One thing I did this year was create timelines that not only gave the births of my characters (major and secondary) but also what was happening at that time to impact their lives. If you have read the book Generations (sadly not on Kindle) you saw how the authors showed the connections of one generation to another in United States history. Seven patterns that are then repeated.

For writers of historicals, another valuable book (also only in paperback) is The Timetables of History. For a writer, it helps to know what else was going on, which books were popular, who was governing. It helps me get a handle on those who were not living in my own time.

Awhile back, I created timelines for each of my historical series where I mixed in bigger events at the time my characters were being born and growing to adulthood.

I also created a booklist because I wanted in one place all of the books and their connections to each other.

Lambing season is all about connections, 
and these lambs must find their place in the flock.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

copyrights and book covers

Seeing an app that a friend had used had me checking it out. I became intrigued at what it could do in terms of creating a work of art using the computer. The sited used various styles of artistic expression that could transform your photo into a painting. 

The potential is beyond anything I'd previously seen. Gimp produced an oil painting kind of look, but it didn't add the style element. Other photo programs can do that too, but it never satisfied what I thought would be great on a cover. 

So I played with it using images I'd gotten at Stencil. You can probably imagine what I had in mind-- original book covers, in my case for the paranormals. The potential seemed great despite that the images it created were smaller than a book cover would need. This is a free program, but there is one I could purchase. I though had a bigger concern... copyrights. 

One thing I am very cautious about with my work, including this blog-- that whatever I use is open to being used. For book covers, I don't take images from Google but from my own photos or sites I have paid to use-- like Stencil, with a lifetime membership.

"All of the background photos and icons in Stencil are royalty-free and safe to use! In fact, they're under a special public domain Creative Commons license called "CC0". That means you can use these photos however you want. We mean that literally. Personal, commercial, blog posts, posters...anything. Also, there's no attribution required whatsoever!"
As a writer, I've had my books taken by sites that sell them or give them away. You can protest but often they crop up again somewhere else. For writers, like me, who don't make a lot of money anyway, that hurts. As does when someone goes to Amazon, buys an eBook and returns it right away after either reading it or saving it to their hard drive. I imagine they figure what is the writer out? Well, a living is one thing or in my case money that goes toward the grandkids' college educations. So I don't want to cheat anybody else out of their creative work.

After studying Dreamscope's copyright page, I am unsure if it is a program I can use for my covers. It's for fun and private use. I am assuming that covers a blog like this one. If that is not the case, I might hear from them as I am about to give its link here for others who might find it fun. I did write them to ask if there is anyway to use them as the covers. They would be awesome on paranormals, but alas it might be even if they said I could get the license the cost would be above my pay grade.

The lamb was created using the filter they called oil pastel portrait. The blonde beauty was altered with thick oil filter-- and the one below is Picasso I. Use is simple. Find your photo, put it in the box, choose the filter and click the button. They can be put at Pinterest, Facebook, Google, etc. directly from there, or you can save them to your harddrive.


Saturday, February 18, 2017

the occasional contract

 from Stencil. The funny part is this quote showed up twice there with Albert Einstein also accredited with it... does that mean he plagarized? ;)

Dealing with my own upset over what's going on in the world and country (some of which comes from not being sure exactly what is going on) has led to keeping two blogs. This one is apolitical and aimed at peace. The other is where I write about the issues of today-- when I feel I just have to or blow up. My motivations kind of fit a quote from the movie Red, where two ex-agents are talking.
Frank Moses: How'd do you do it?
Victoria: Do what?
Frank Moses: Make the transition? You seem so calm.
Victoria: I love it here. I love the baking, I love the flower arranging. I like the routine... Well, I do get a bit restless sometimes. I take the odd contract on the side. I just can't stop.

For me, the occasional contract is writing about my irritation over something I will have read somewhere. Sometimes a small essay happens because of wanting to find out if this or that is true. There is soooo much distorted news out there.

Add to the distortions, the fake new, which looks as though it comes from an authentic source, and the chaos is doubled. What I have come to believe is even if the reader finds out that the story was false, it's too late-- the emotional reaction of rage or fear has already impacted body and spirit. The mind can handle those articles better than body and soul. Sure we mentally know it's not real. We though have inside us when we thought it was.

One way to combat this is putting other things, equally strong, inside also, like meditating, lighting candles, inspiring music, uplifting books, finding a movie that is about the goodness in life-- not the horror, watching birds, going for a walk in nature. In future blogs, I plan to write about some of the positive ways for me. The benefit of being sure we are doing such is that they stay with us just like that false news but in a helpful way.

Reluctantly in Facebook, I finally reconciled myself to unfollowing the ones who were constantly sharing their rage and fear (often without bothering to check if it was false news). The good news is it's much more peaceful when I visit there. The bad news is some of those I'd really like to know how their lives are going are hidden (at least for now). Their need to constantly attack conflicted with my need to have peace

When I take out the occasional contract at the Rant (like this one), it's a place readers are warned what they will find. Early in my life, I learned if I let out what was upsetting me, wrote it down, dealt with it in whatever way I could, then it gave me peace. We can't change it all. It's enough trouble to change ourselves.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

another cover change

After changing the cover on A Montana Christmas, I looked more seriously at my cover for the book that came before it, From Here to There. I had published the book in January of 2014 and had problems getting a cover that readers would like. As I mentioned, some hated what I had so much that they included it in the review. After many changes, I had settled on this one August of that year after probably four or five predecessors. Maybe sometime I'll do a blog on the ones that got discarded and why-- some of which was purely the reader disdain for them.

What I decided on the current one is that the elements worked, but the proportions could be improved to get more of the message I wanted. This book does have spice but not as much as that cover might indicate. So, it takes awhile for a cover to get changed, but the change is on its way.

There are a lot of very good cover designers and some are reasonable, probably no more than I pay for the images I end up using (although these two images were inexpensive by comparison to some). I do my own for two reasons-- it's a relaxing creative break from writing, and I like the freedom to easily change them. When they are all mine, I can look over them once in awhile and make a change-- minor or major. Sometimes what seemed perfect isn't so much after a few years-- or less.

A friend, who had recently read this book wrote to tell me how much she liked it and that was the inspiration for looking at it again. She wrote: 
"I loved this book, one of my favorites and one I will be reading again. Well written to pull you into the book from the start. A strong hero and heroine adds so much to a book and this one has them. With her vivid descriptions of the hard work of running and working a ranch, through blizzards, freezing, struggling to get feed to the cattle, etc. I felt as if I were there. Add the romance, the wonderful secondary characters, and the nasty bad character, this is a book worth curling up with and losing oneself in."
 I don't think readers understand how much it means to writers when they hear from them... and it can even change something in a positive way. Earlier readers led me to keep on until I found a better cover. This reader inspired me to adjust it to better suit what I felt was the energy of the book.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

learning and relearning

from Stencil

To me, that simple statement is one of the big wisdoms of life, which some seem to know from the beginning, it takes others a lifetime, and some never learn. 

I run into the learning and relearning with a lot of my life. The covers of my books tend to be one place I have reason to practice taking and releasing. This week, I did it with one of my books, one I had published in 2013. It has had a variety of covers since trying to get the right one. 

The book that came ahead of it, From Here to There, had even worse problems. Readers hated its first covers so much that they even wrote reviews mentioning it. The challenge for From Here to There was the complexity of the plot that took the story from a wedding where the bride decided she'd made a mistake, asked for an annulment and headed for her uncle's family ranch. That ranch had been a refuge for her since she was a child with her uncle and now deceased aunt having been like parents. The ranch itself plays a major part in the romance with the mythology and reality of the western lifestyle at its heart. How do you get a cover to illustrate all of that? Well, I have one that has remained for a few years, and I hope never changes.

A Montana Christmas had some of the same problems in how to depict the story where it is about a family that needs healing, ranch life, and a marriage.  Its new cover puts the emphasis on the ranch setting. While it has Christmas in the title, the heart of the story is still the ranch and how that kind of life close to nature and with family can heal hurts. I hope this one sticks as it feels very right to me-- but then they all do until readers tell me uh uh!

  cover image from Stencil

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Star of your own life

Living in a nation that is in the midst of redefining itself, I think a lot of us are doing some of that reevaluation where it comes to our own lives. Where it comes to our government, especially one as diverse as the United States, rarely do any of us get all we might want-- sometimes not any.  

As individuals, we also have limitations based on talents, age, training, economics, DNA, etc. Having a good life means making the most of what we do have. Because of even perceived limitations, some choose to live in a dream rather than the reality around them.

A good example, of the latter is the novel, Life of Pi. When you finish the book or the film, you aren't quite sure what actually happened. Was it what the man wished had or what really had? 

Can a fantasy become reality for someone? If a dream does, I think it better be our dream, not someone else's. That's easy to have happen but it takes us out of control and put someone else in our driver's seat. This happens most easily when it's a reaction.

 There is a quote in the film The Holiday where Arthur Abbot is talking to Iris about her life. He says, "Iris, in the movies we have leading ladies and we have the best friend. You, I can tell, are a leading lady, but for some reason you are behaving like the best friend." 

We can make that mistake in not seeing ourselves as the star of our own lives and letting someone else dictate what we do and even our dreams. We might not have total control over what we can have, but we should not find ourselves living someone else's dream.

I made a couple of memes on creating our own world. A few words are sometimes better than many especially if they have the right photograph or painting with them. Again all the images and quotes are from Stencil where I have a membership. If you've never been there, you can find hundreds of images and then bring it to the quotes where with various font choices, you create the meme.

So if you are in the mood to rethink yourself, looking at such images and thinking on the words can be a helpful exercise. Writers do it all the time.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

a positive life

If you use my blog roll, you may have noted that I moved it to the bottom of the sidebar. There were a couple of reasons for that. Some of the blogs I recommend were not updating with new entries. To make it easier for me to find them, I opened the list to show all. It no longer matters how long the list goes as it won't overpower other info in that sidebar. When I have time, I am visiting new blogs as I come across them. Recommendations are always welcome. If you comment here a few times, I'll be checking your blog to see if it's simpatico, with shared interests in creativity, nature, art, writing, and philosophy of life.

As part of this shift, I am (temporarily or otherwise) moving links, from blogs that have turned basically political, to the sidebar of my own political blog-- Rainy Day Rant, which seems a better fit. I also went searching for new blog links to add there-- particularly of a partisan right slant, since most of what was there leaned or was virulently left. I figure this will be an ongoing adjustment to get the right blogs listed where political, often partisan, ideas and issues are explored.

Blogs can be important places to discuss issues, debate differences, and attempt to make points that will help others better understand what is happening-- as they see it. I believe it's useful to see how the 'other' side thinks. That is though one main thing with a blog-- they are how someone thinks, opinions. 

Blogs, none of them, are a place to go for facts-- although they can sometimes direct us to facts. In a time like this, even with mainstream newspapers, it's wise to check anything political multiple places. False facts are everywhere and coming from the right and the left. If it sounds too good or horrible to be true, maybe it's not.

I've made a point before and it's even stronger now that politics aren't for this blog. I might write about important cultural issues but won't be posting on politics at all. Many who read this blog come from outside the US. Others want a place free of vitriol, a place that can inspire them. That's what I want when I spend time thinking on an idea for here.

For me, politics is why I have the rant, but even there, I try to explore issues in a way that is more about understanding than propagandizing. I'm a moderate. I have strong ideas on certain issues, but they don't fit partisan boxes (which often makes me unpopular with left and right). Because of also being a writer, process interests me as much often as result. I can get worried or angry but am trying to keep it in proportion to what I can actually change.

I get it we are in a turbulent time. The latest imbroglio over who can temporarily or even permanently travel or move to the US is a good example. Globalists and nationalists see that issue very differently, and both believe they are right. As caring people, we can agree to disagree. Issues are seldom as simple as we might want to think.  When I wanted to write about the subject for the rant, I learned some things about our immigration and refugee policies that I hadn't known. It's complicated.

The thing is-- living in a state of constant anger and fear is bad for health. In a time of great change, which is where not just us but the world is, some of those emotions are bound to be a problem-- more for some than others. Some of us find it easier to let things go as a part of our temperament. I do understand the upset. The United States has a new leader who is an unknown quantity, being defined mostly by his enemies, while he is trying to instigate major changes in policies that one third of the country liked as they were; one third despised; and one third tried not to know anything about.

So for me, I am not sure how bad things are. It is a bummer when a person cannot trust the news to tell us, given how they have already operated. That might be their fault-- or maybe they are being manipulated by someone savvier than they are. In an uncertain time like this, I am a glass is half full kind of gal-- not saying it's always easy.

Lamb pictures make a person feel good, but being a shepherd has its ups and downs with losses as well as joys. I could write here about the tragic stuff (raising livestock gives me a huge stock of such stories), but what would that help anyone? 

I believe in what I posted above-- as much as possible, think on the positive to live a positive life. 

If thinking or acting on something can change a future action, then it can be necessary to live with the uncertainty and negativity for awhile-- just don't keep it there when there is no action possible and it's a matter of finding personal equilibrium. The ewe below did not have triplets. Lambs in the beginning have a hard time staying with the right mama. Eventually it works out... for most of them.

If you haven't already read this book, [7 Habits of Highly Effective People], I recommend it. The best lesson I got from it was to put my main effort into areas I have control. So trying to be responsibly informed (not easy today), letter writing (when we think we know), joining effective groups, pulling lambs, checking fences, all might need to be done. The outcome of our actions isn't always (or sometimes ever) in our control

I've had to apply that especially where it comes to my books. I can put them out there, do all I can to get them seen, but I can't control whether they will be seen or how others view them. To be happy, I have to do what I can and then let that result go. Currently, I believe the world (not just the US) is giving us plenty of practice in doing that.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017


Calendars often have Imbolc on slightly different days, from February 1st to as late as the 3rd. This year I read that it is the 1st, while Groundhog's Day is the 2nd... not sure where that puts Candlemas and St. Brigid's Day. It probably doesn't matter a lot. It is celebrated as the midway point between Winter Solstice and spring equinox. It is when the lambs come, and the grass begins to green. Buds are swelling on the bushes, and soon the crocus will be up.

Exactly how imbolc is pronounced is debated except one point-- the b is silent. The word means ewe's milk-- and that's exactly where we are here at the farm, with new life everywhere.

Enjoy Imbolc however  or even if you celebrate it. [Some Wiccan ideas for that]. One simple idea is to light candles, which represent the flame of Brigid. And make wishes for yourself, family, and friends. Candles are great for meditating by staring into the flame. But don't leave burning candles unattended and be particularly careful with those that can burn part way down and fall over. That has led to some very nasty home fires.

Apropos, considering this is a season of change, I am into it for the blog. From now on, with each of these Celtic/Pagan/Wiccan seasonal celebrations, I plan to change the header to one fitting the coming season with the images (mostly) coming from Stencil. I may play around with different options, but this is my plan-- for now.

And, for now, I plan to add a photo from my life, representing its spring, summer, fall, and winter. When I write, I call upon what I've learned from all those years. After all, they are still me-- just buried under age and unfortunately-- fat ;). 

Looking through our albums had me trying to decide which helps positive energy, which is what a banner is about. It sets the tone for the blog-- much like its cover does for a book.

For changes coming to the blog roll-- check back Saturday.