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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

music as a tool

For those of you with no interest in writing or reading romances, the following will be of little interest. I wrote it somewhere else as regarding the romance genre and decided to share it here.

Image from Deposit Photos and filter from Dreamscope

One of the 'secrets' to the romance genre, the well-known secrets, is that there is a happily ever after. That is not true with love stories, which can end happily or tragically. But a romance will get to the point where it all works out for the couple. It's a genre requirement.

What creates the best romances, however, is the belief it might not. He might get killed. She might leave him. They might decide they love each other but cannot work out a life together. That concern is what keeps readers interested, even knowing the end is guaranteed (unless it's a love story). The writer wants the reader to believe there might not be a HEA, which makes for a wonderful feeling when it happens.

One way I try to get that uncertainty into my books is by music. I only listen to music in two settings for my stories-- one is something dangerous, which can be a fight or fast horseback ride. I need an energy that isn't in my daily life and find it in the right music (western soundtracks are great for that).

The other time I need music is for the romantic scenes. Let's face it most writers are not constantly living love stories in their personal lives. We are facing all the normal conflicts that living with someone, raising a family, living in a community bring about. So to write a love scene, I have to get into a mood, and for me, music does it.

More importantly to get into a space where I can make myself believe this couple, in love or not, will not make it. There are certain songs that do that better than others.

This morning with writing such scenes, I'm using, It All Fades Away, sung by Steven Pasquale for the musical version of Bridges of Madison County. This man knows it didn't work out but he's not sorry for the memories. It is the kind of music that puts me in the mood to convince myself, and hopefully later readers, that the characters really believe they are about to lose their love.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

changes ahead

For me, one of the cool things about being an indie writer is the option of creating my own covers. I've written about this before. It's not just a budget that makes me want to create mine. I like the control. To add to it, I am not fond of the cookie cutter images that are popular with so many. Doing my own helps me find new insights into my story, often seemingly coming from nowhere. 

In Facebook, when I wrote something about the next book coming in June, one of the readers said she loved the cover I'd put with it-- except that wasn't the cover I'd planned. It was the kind of image I use for inspiration in writing. I explained, and we both laughed.

Then I began to think-- I liked it too. And when I looked at the cover I'd planned, I didn't like it nearly as much. Until Dreamscope, I had been using photograph type images, as many do, but that didn't really suit me. As when I began publishing books, I wanted something more painterly. But, changing that one had a complication-- what about the others in the Hemstreet Witches series? They should look like they belonged together. I could explore the options-- no risk there.

Cropping the images I'd been using, I would try one and when it looked odd, I'd crop again. With Dreamscope, I never know what to expect. In between image work, I'd write a few hundred words on the WIP. Eventually, I found what felt like a mix between photograph and painting. The results are on the banner on top.

Then something else happened, which can occur when you do your own. I saw new approaches to the last two books. Until then, I couldn't get excited about what seemed it'd be more of the same. The covers changed that. Now, I am looking forward to each of them with this whole new slant-- and all thanks to a reader who helped me see things a new way. :)

That change also led to new covers for my two other paranormals-- Sky Daughter and Diablo Canyon. I hope these non-traditional covers will help readers see the fantasy angle to these stories as well as the couples who face something they hadn't expected.

For anyone in Amazon Kindles Unlimited, all my paranormals are or will be available there for those with memberships and interested in trying something new without having to buy the book. If you haven't tried out KU, there is a $9.95 monthly cost but then unlimited borrows. For readers with voracious reading habits, this works out to be a good deal-- even though not all books are available there. For indie writers, you must have your books exclusive to Amazon. I only did that for the paranormal/fantasy/metaphysical contemporary romances.

One thing I enjoy about being an indie writer-- changes are always possible.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Season of columbine and rhododendrons

When I write a blog ahead of time, sometimes it just does not work when its date comes along. That happened for today's blog. After the Manchester terrorist attack, I am postponing the entry I'd planned 'til maybe early next month. It felt all wrong, with my heart aching for the ones killed, those hurt, and all of us, since this kind of senseless tragedy keeps happening. 

Nature is the healer and so, here is what my garden looks like outside the living room windows. It is full of the columbine that come up each year, with new ones self-sowing and no idea what colors there will be. The combinations are wild and totally by happenstance. No photos to prove it, but the hummingbirds also love this season.

The rhododendrons are beyond the fenced garden and ones that came with the land when we bought it nearly 40 years ago. They have survived pruning by the sheep (who are not supposed to eat rhododendron leaves as they are poisonous-- evidently not for those who enjoy buffet dining). They'd make short work of the columbines too, but that's the yard fenced off for the birds-- cats don't get access either.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

an internet discussion

One of the things I love about Netflix streaming is the ability to choose something that feels good at the time. We had their rental DVDs for years but often by the time they'd get to us, I'd have lost interest in the subject. Streaming has less documentaries but still enough to keep us finding something almost every night with varying subjects.

My personal favorite has been nature series, most of which have come from BBC or so it currently appears. Some are better done than others, but I like this glimpse into the animal world where the films are put together (of course, not always as they happened) to create an interesting story.

One of our cats, Raven, is very much into nature documentaries and watches avidly. One night, she tried to get behind the TV screen to find that bird. It's as much fun to watch her reactions as the films. I do wonder what she gets from the images.

I know they are so good for me right now as a way to not think about the news. We are bombarded by both true and fake news-- and it's up to us to sort out which is which, as fake news can appear on what have been regarded as mainstream media. 

One person I finally had to unfollow again puts up stuff from a series of twitter people who espouse the ultimate in conspiracy theories regarding Trump and the GOP. I went to the trouble to look up the names of those it is claimed are reliable sources. One had been a chick lit writer before she became an investigative reporter-- from England, who knows all the FBI's secrets and what is about to go down. When it doesn't, this 'friend', who is her own fake news source, goes onto the next imminent take down. She is feeding at the tit of revenge and joy at someone else's bad news. I have no idea what this is doing to her health-- but it wasn't doing anything for mine even though I had enjoyed her other posts.

Some try to make sense out of our times by using logic. Is that possible? Many are living with the fear that climate change, a terrorist, an illegal immigrant, or some new disease (that returned from the ice) will take us all out. Frankly, for me, the rabid fear talk gets old and yet I understand the trauma they are feeling with a time like ours. How do we discern truth?

A long time friend of mine used an analogy to show what might be our problem. She posted the following in Facebook:
Today I had the pleasure of enjoying a visit from one of my nieces and her 3 year old, Brigitte. From observing Brigitte I learned a lesson on how we adults learn to see differently. Brigitte loves painting and already can name a number of colors like red, yellow and green and even brown but confuses black and white. 

At first I couldn't see why. Then I came to an extraordinary realization. With primary and secondary colors the hue saturation is usually strong enough to be recognizable whether the surface is in strong sunlight or shadow. With black surfaces depending on how shiny the surface the parts receiving the most light reflect white appearing gray. The gray shine color can also pick up some bounce colors from surrounding objects. With white shadows take on the compliment of the sky and sometimes bounce color from near by colors. 

We adults have been taught to think black for objects that absorb all visible light waves because we know that despite what our eyes are seeing the object's constant surface color is black. Same is true for white that reflects all visible light waves. The child will learn to judge similar objects in the same way as adults repeatedly tell them the surface color is true color. The truth learned here is we see what we know.

If you have not studied color theory in a painting class, I fear I might be talking in a foreign language. Seeing the connection between color theory to our total opposite way of seeing Trump as president may be difficult even if you have some painting experiences. James Burke's visual presentation is less technical and has a strong historic basis. I feel gratified recognizing examples that support Burke's thesis.

Burke says all cultures have guarded the truth as they see it with the strongest weapons of their day. Individuals like us live in a challenging time where the only constant is change. Strongly recommend "The Day the Universe Changed" from Netflix.
My friend and I've had many conversations through many years the only difference being this one is at Facebook. I responded and said basically:
If we can react to changes, we can succeed but if we constantly look for what makes us comfortable, we will have to have a catastrophe to make us wake up and it might be too late. I don't think the color analogy works as more than a starting point because life is more complicated.
We've been watching some nature shows, where the animals instinctually know where to go and with exact timing-- for what always worked before. We see it with migratory birds. Humans have an instinct too but more we are taught and early training can be most significant with it being difficult to move beyond it to new ideas.
Right now humans have SO much info that processing it becomes nearly impossible where sources that some count on for absolute truth, are not-- but are presented that way. Since political ideology is often remote from our lives, through stories we hear, it is even more complicated.
Personally, I find it particularly frustrating because I don't want to have to come to a conclusion right now as to whether, as some newspapers and 'experts' say Trump is insane or, as I see for myself when he talks and what he's doing, that maybe he's just doing it his way and not what they want. Currently to not believe he's clinically insane is to be isolated from left wing groups but to think he might have some mental issues (that currently aren't serving him well) with how he deals with things is to be isolated from right wing groups. It is a black or white time-- and someone better be able to tell the difference...
It's not possible today to discuss politics with many people. This has formed people into exclusive cliques and woe unto those on the wrong side. For many, on both sides, to try and discuss alternate views is like that wave crashing on a rock that will not be moved by anything but catastrophic forces-- political discourse just doesn't happen. How can it if you believe the other side is trying to destroy the world! For many, the world is black and white. Anyone on the wrong side is not respected. The end of reasonable discourse, polite agreeing to disagree, is sad. I'm glad it's not gone everywhere-- yet.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

a little wine with my whine

 image from Stencil

Being a writer has pluses and minuses. When a book doesn't sell well, it's hard not to feel badly about it. As I writer, I don't put out anything where I don't believe in the characters, story, and its message. From the beginning, I understood that not everything I wrote would be liked by others. How could it-- I don't like everything either.

Amazon, with its system of voluntary customer reviews, allows readers (and even those who don't have a verified purchase) to have a stake in whether a book sells well or sinks to the dreaded black hole, from whence it shall never be seen again. 

What one such reviewer put in Amazon about Red Hawk Christmas, a book I wrote last fall, may explain what happened to its sales.  First the review and then the whine:
First off, this book popped up when I was looking up non-fiction books about RV life. I didn't realize this was fiction. My mistake. But it started out ok, seemed interesting. However, I soon realized this Diana wasn't really into RV life--she was really just a tourist traveling in an RV. It really deteriorated at about 50% on kindle when it was total dialogue. Not very pleasant to read.

I disliked Diana when she kept waffling about not wanting any kind of relationship with a man and she was rude and unfriendly to anyone who tried to just be polite to her. Until.....she met a handsome man, then her hormones kicked in and she acted like a teenager. Why didn't he try to kiss her, he must have a girlfriend, why didn't he call her......all the while still saying she didn't want a relationship.
Meantime, some other guy who she met at an earlier RV park was interested in her, she kept telling his she didn't want a relationship, but yet she tells him where she is because "she didn't want to be rude." He asked several times if she minded if he came to where she was and she told him no, then when she gets off the phone/email, she says she doesn't want him to come, yet she doesn't tell him that. Good grief.

And this woman is 58 years old! It just seemed so stupid to me. Sorry, but no other word to describe this. I guess this is a series of short novellas, and I surely won't be reading anymore.
From my perspective, as the aggrieved writer lol, I wish there was an option for commenting on such reviews. Every writer recommendations says-- stay out of it because reviews are for the next reader. Fair or not fair, the reviewer gets the floor. What I'd have said, had that option been available, would have been-- 
Sorry you didn't like the book. This is the first in what I intended to be a series about starting over later in life. In her late 50s, the heroine is facing a difficult situation. She hadn't expected to have her husband divorce her. She hadn't expected that the other woman would have been someone she had regarded as a friend. With the divorce, other friends avoided her as the suddenly single woman or because they chose her husband and his new wife with whom to socialize. Her children are well settled in life and her grandchildren beyond needing babysitters as they set out to make a life for themselves. A retired teacher, she has a pension and her half of what had been community property. Money isn't a problem-- life purpose is.

When the book begins, she has made a choice to give away most of what she owns, sell her home, and buy a Class C motorhome. She has no idea if this will be a forever deal or just a transition. The book is about finding a way to get rid of negative thinking, and she did this through reinventing herself, seeing new places (many she'd only read about), and meeting new people. Through the history of others, she got a new perspective on her life. I liked her, and she did have a small romance toward the end, but whether it was going anywhere, that's undecided when the novella ends.
Since the woman said she'd gotten the book by mistake, I rewrote its tags to be sure no one else mistook it for non-fiction. It's hard to say if anyone will see them. If you didn't know what Amazon's black hole looks like-- RHC's ranking last I looked was 1,141,957. Using a search for any subject is unlikely to come across it.

I won't say it was selling gangbusters before that review in mid-February, but since then it literally never had another sale. Amazon puts first the last review (obviously hers) or the review with the most likes. Her review is what anyone would see if they had considered the book. What is a bit ironic to me is although I knew it hadn't had sales, I had no idea why, until last week when I read that review for the first time.

That reviewer, accomplished her stated goal of protecting any other reader from buying that book. She went beyond disliking it to doing a character assassination of the heroine. Heck, if I read that review for someone else's book, I might not bother scrolling down to look at other reviews. Why read a book about an obnoxious heroine (most of us have enough of that in our own lives).

I've heard other writers talk of going through a crisis of belief in their writing after reading something like that. It did lead me (besides the new tags) to see if the second half of the book was all dialogue. It's not all, but yes, there is a lot as I prefer to reveal people through what they say to others-- especially with a book like this one where the only point of view is the heroine's. 

Writers need reviews. Some places you can only get your book featured if you have a lot. There are places writers go to purchase reviews, which Amazon will delete if they find out. I never did that anyway, feeling it was bad karma at the least. 

I am not sure what makes readers take their precious time to leave a review. All of them are appreciated (yes, even that one) as it is a connection between writer and reader just too bad it can't be a two way street. Although I do not regularly read my books' reviews, I do the first couple for each book-- hoping I have not disappointed a reader. I always go to that first review with trepidation. Some writers never read their reviews. I can see the logic in that as sometimes I can change something based on a review-- but not when it's a book in which I believe. 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

the cove

The last week of April found us finally at the coast with longtime friends. We had been scheduled to go the first of April but then Ranch Boss and I got sick with that cough thing. The owner let us switch our dates to the end of the month which gave us three nights at the cove. Time there is magical, as is time with friends we've known since our youth. The weather changed constantly with storms passing through and the sunshine reappearing. Storms at the coast are special times to be there.

The only disappointing aspect was the starfish were gone from the tidal pools. We've read how a disease has killed them off all along the coastline of western North America. The belief is this is due to a warming ocean where diseases pose new risks to the creatures depending on the seas. The starfish at the cove were colorful and wonderful to photograph. I hope they make a comeback. 

The Cove

Thursday, May 11, 2017

bird watching and photographing

In a season of much emotional turmoil, some activities bring relaxation and connect us with nature and its many cycles. One such, for me, is bird watching in our living room. I have huge windows in our living room, where my desk sits in one corner. There is a drawback to big windows-- less places to hang paintings.
However, the advantage of more light and watching outdoors, as if there, far outweigh that drawback... well, mostly. Without disturbing their lives, the birds are part of my day.

As an added advantage for birds here, beyond our feeders, this house sits under the shelter of huge oaks as well as many other trees we have planted-- all deciduous for the advantage of their leaves dropping in winter to again let in more light. Because the house is just above a creek, it's a perfect haven for birds-- even if we didn't supplement their diet. 
We turned one of our fenced yards into the bird yard where the cats don't have access. It is where we keep hummingbird feeders and mostly have the wild bird seed feeders filled. As summer gets into full swing, we let the seed feeders go down every couple of days to keep the birds remembering it's not their only food source.

The hummingbird feeder though is kept up because if you start one, it needs to be consistent. A hummer appeared in the kitchen window yesterday to remind us we used to keep three. With the arrival of migrants, he was right, and we took care of that. Last week, we saw the tiniest hummingbirds ever and assume they are a product of the hummers who wintered here for the first time ever. They moved too fast to photograph without a blur, but we won't give up.

Some say we should not feed birds and I get that. It is particularly a problem if it draws in other seed lovers, like bears. We though have our bird yard well fenced. I think, where their habitat has often shrunk-- thanks to man's encroachment, they can use some help-- especially during their migrations.

The farm though has permanent residents as well. I used to think the seed feeders only needed help in the winter. Now I am not convinced that is true. Much as we try to plant flowers and shrubs that birds and butterflies enjoy, the feeders give them the extra energy that they need as their world changes as much as ours. Our year-round residents appear to include several types of blackbirds; Stellar and Scrub-jays; multiple varieties of finches; woodpeckers of several sorts (a Northern Flicker surprised me by hitting the bird feeder this winter-- or trying to).

The migratory season adds to the populations and fascinations. We have birds showing up for a day or a week that we will never see again. Likewise, there are those who will decide this makes a good home for the summer. The yard is buzzing with activity, like out of a Disney movie. It is a delight to us-- especially when we see birds, like the Band-Tailed Pigeon, who normally would be along the coast-- not thirty miles inland. 
Photographing these birds is one of our regular pleasures especially when it's birds we don't often see, or as with the Black-headed Grosbeaks, had never seen. I don't think if they will stay as they never have. We are a place to store up energy for their next flight to wherever they normally summer. 

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

a sale

I've written several romances with older hero and heroine. The most recent was set at Christmas in southern Arizona. The hero was an old outlaw. He had been in three of the Arizona historicals. I had no idea he was hero material but then suddenly he was.

Jeremiah is a tough man, trying to do right by his sons-- after years of not doing right. At sixty-five, the last thing he expects is to fall in love. Frederica has come from back east to find her daughter. At sixty, she also isn't wanting romance especially not with someone who seems as though he might have come out of one of the western dime novels she's been reading.

 Because it's a novella, there is none of the spice found in my other books. Novellas are too short to have sex scenes, when I feel plot and character development are more important. You know though when these two do it, it'll be better than ever before because this is their last chance to find that golden ring.

The Arizona Historical series begins in 1883 with Arizona Sunset. It won't be ending with this one in 1905, as there is another planned. Their descendants then move ahead to current times and are in the Hemstreet Witches series.

Covers for older hero and heroine are in short supply. I had this one from CanStock but never had the right place for it. I also didn't think the models looked in their sixties and then along came the Dreamscope option to change things a little. Voila-- I had its cover. I see the toughness in these two which they will need to find their happily ever after.

Monday, May 08, 2017

The Raven

Listening to pundits, writing, and then it was time to play. I chose an image from a year or so ago of a raven in a tree along one of Tucson's washes. I never know what the Dreamscope filter will do with a photo. I could see this result turning into a painting if I ever get back to painting-- with some color adjustments that I would add. 

I love ravens and consider them one of my totem animals. They never come to my home with the other birds-- not seed feeders. They do live in this valley, and I hear them speaking to each other from the trees. They have quite a vocabulary. I love to watch them fly past. There are two raven families, so far as I can tell. To me, there is nothing common about them as they are the forest watchers.

Saturday, May 06, 2017


There have been times where I watch little television. I normally avoid anything smacking of a series where I must remember its times to stay with the story. Saturday I got into a series that ran one after another on National Geographic Channel-- Origins: The Journey of Humankind. Fascinating and because it was a marathon, I only missed the first two (I think).

That led to reminding me that I wanted to see [Genius] about Albert Einstein's life. So Saturday night I watched the first of what is to be a 10-part series (airing on Tuesday nights). The story (so far) delves heavily into not only Einstein's brilliant mind, his personal relationships, but also what that meant at the time the Nazis and Hitler were rising to power. 

To be honest, as a young man (the film skips around in his life), he's obnoxious to watch, uncaring of what he does to others, and with the arrogance of genius, always sure he's right. As an old man, Geoffrey Rush plays him and he's always fantastic. It has him at 1933 when he's trying to leave Germany.

As happens often to me with such a program, I turned to the internet to see how accurate the show was going to be. It's based on a critically acclaimed book, Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson.

There are so many stories about Einstein as he lived an astounding life on levels many never risk. Years ago, I read one such story in the memoir of Shelly Winters, who had been a roommate and remained a close friend of Marilyn Monroe. Winters wrote that Marilyn had a list of men with whom she wanted to have sex. Einstein was on the list. Later she told Winters they had done it. 

After watching the first two episodes, I could believe they did it even if stories about a Fire Island affair might have been imaginary (i.e. early fan fiction). As possible evidence he might've wanted to have sex with a gorgeous woman, consider this quote from Einstein--

The gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing positive knowledge. Imagination is more important than knowledge." Albert Einstein

The series makes much use of his imagination in how it worked for him to come to his scientific theories. Of course, as a writer of romances and fantasy, obviously I agree on other levels :).

The politics of Germany in the early 1930s are ones both parties in the US will claim as belonging to the 'other' side. Whatever the case, to be a Jew and a scientist, it does add tension to the series-- also frustration. Now my question is-- did Marilyn make it into the book/series? My guess is she didn't. Too bad... *s* 

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

beginning to end?

Last week, we caught 1776, the musical about the writing of the Constitution. It was fun to watch, hard to believe it came out in 1972. That seems like forever ago, before we bought the farm and when our children were small. Where did those years go???

The film was a great reminder that the division we experience today, the compromises that we all make with what we want versus what is possible-- none of it is new. Sure the play is some fictionalized and a musical, but it did hit on key points that mattered then and now. Blythe Danner, with a small part, was amazing. She's had a long, outstanding career.
Relating to 1776, I've read that some want not to show the American flag at important events, because it is supposedly divisive. They do not want it seen as important because we need to move toward globalism not nationalism. Some neighborhoods forbid the flying of the flag-- any flag.

We have a flag. My mother gave it to us when we moved to the farm. We fly it on important days. It's looking a little worn, but I hate to replace it since it has a family history for me. Since we live in the country, folks out here don't find fault with someone flying it. 

To see what would Dreamscope apps might do to one of my flag photos, I experimented with three different apps. Each said something different about the history of the flag. They suggest what it's been through, the battles, parades, laid on coffins, the victories and yes, defeats. Through so much, even the Civil War, it is still flying-- even as some may prefer that it not. It's our history and our today. Will it be our tomorrow?

For those who want to move toward a one world government-- really??? I do not believe, without a dictatorship enforced by military, that a one-world government is possible. We are very different across the globe. In globalism, who makes the choices?

We, in the United States, having more wealth than many places, can help others, speak out when we see abuses; but do we want to be the world's mercenaries? If we don't fix our own country, who can we help? If we allow poverty to grow here, how does that help Somalia? Some of our trade deals have been intended to help other nations grow at the expense of our workers. If we lose pay and jobs, is that okay with the globalists? Most likely. Should it be okay with the rest of us

Nationalism doesn't mean isolationism, but it does mean you can't sacrifice your own poor, their hopes, to possibly help someone in another nation where too often the sacrifice had meant their rich got richer (there are always rich).

Making our own bed first is true of us as a nation but also as a people-- get your own act together, live responsibly, then you can help someone else. Otherwise, you'll just drag them down. And for another year, our flag will fly; but when it begins to tatter, we will fold it as my husband learned in school (there is a proper way), store it with respect-- and buy a new flag.