Through the Eyes of the Beholder

PioneersOh my gosh, I have to quote Mary Connealy’s post: “I realized that if I’d been a pioneer and someone said, ‘Turn at the highest mountain peak, Pike’s Peak, and go west, there’s a pass that’ll get your through the Rockies to California’ …I’d have died. I wouldn’t have made a good pioneer. Those mountains all looked about the same height to me. Of course I’d have probably fallen off the covered wagon and drown the first time we forded a creek so….I was born in the right century.”

Too funny (had to mop tea off my computer screen!) and raises a great point.  There’s a world Desertof difference between appreciating the beauty of the rugged and wild west and truly experiencing that feral wilderness. Brings to mind one of my Coyotefavorite books, THE TORTILLA CURTAIN, by TC Boyle.  Though it was required college reading and centers on immigration in California, I became a fan of Boyle’s vivid writing style. The book offers a parallel and honest view of life on Rattlerboth sides of the curtain; on one side is a nature-loving suburbanite who writes a nature column and enjoys his peaceful jaunts through the desert just beyond his back fence—on the other side of the fence is the immigrant who’s living in that desert by means of sheer surival. Desert1The two points of view shown in the same timeframe are startlingly poingnant–how they view the desert, a coyote’s call, changes in the weather.  And how these views change when both worlds ultimately collide. 

 I also like to search the web and libraries for journals of pioneers.  One thing that has always struck me about many of the entries is their ability to still see the beauty in the land surrounding them amid tragedy and hardship.  And then you had pioneers like the woman who made that long, perilous trek eleven times, helping others who weren’t quite so exhuberant about the trek *g*, because she simply loved theWestern_Woman adventure of never knowing what awaited them beyond the next bend. Wish I could remember her name….

Like Minna, I’d have an easier time naming places I wouldn’t want to visit 🙂   As Allison said, there’s something Maverickvery spirtual about walking on the homeland of the Hualapai people, where they’ve lived for over 400 years–and to feel their love for the land. Terri gave me chills with her comment about hearing Irish brogue all her life through her dreams.  Thanks so much to everyone who’s shared their thoughts and experiences 🙂

 I’ll be back to chat more in a bit, and pull some posts from a hat and announce our book winners  🙂

Call of The West…

RedwoodsGrowing up, I always imagined myself becoming a geologist or a forest ranger. We camped a lot in the Sierra Mountains and I loved to go exploring through the woods, rivers and meadows, imagining I was on a treacherous journey through theCanyons wilderness–a pastime I never quite outgrew. I was certain no other place on earth could match the beauty of the Sierras–and then I took my first trip to Bryce and Zion Canyons—a forest of Ponderosa pines giving way to an ocean of stone in a seemingly impossible array of colors. Monoliths, hoodoos and shadowy mazes. So much beauty, I wanted to absorb it. I was sure Utah and Arizona was where I belonged–yet once I GrandTetonsstepped onto a boardwalk in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, I felt as though I’d come home. Hugged by lush mountains and tangible history, I was hit by a very odd sense of nostalgia. My mind began recreating events that ‘could Crossinghave happened’. Daydreamer that I am, I’m at home most anywhere, but nothing fuels my imagination like these rugged backdrops. It was these stirrings and images which spawned my first historical westerns.

Seven years ago I began plotting my first western romance novel much like I’d plan a road trip—I sat down with my atlas, historical maps and Bride Coverjournals and began charting a course, and creating circumstances that would drive my characters through this wild and rugged land. A physical journey to parallel the emotional journey, and taking readers to some of my favorite places along the way. The result was BRIDE OF SHADOW CANYON. When my editor informed me that the cover would be created from one of my favorite scenes in the book—Jed and Rachell watching the sun set over a maze of red rock canyons—I was thrilled. They did a wonderful job—Jed and Rachell do look rather daring, standing so close to that Mustang_Wildedge. The start of my Wild series began in much the same way—I pulled out my historical maps and plotted a journey in a new direction, new territory with new dangers-at times the land becoming as much of an antagonist as my villain. Writing the sequel for MUSTANG WILD, where my characters stay within the boarders of one state was actually a bit of a challenge. Like the characters of my books, my mind tends to develop a case of yondering fever. Now that the Morgans are settled in Wyoming, I’m ready to pull out some maps and kick up new dust .

This summer I took my family to the Grand Canyon for a tour of the West rim and to check out the new Skywalk, a glass bridge built by the Hualapia Nation at Eagle Point. Wow! Stepping out over the canyon, 4,000 feet above the Colorado River…talk about amazing sights. I look forward to sharing some highlights and photos on my next Friday (gotta find that durn USB cord for my camera).

Which wonders of our globe call the loudest to you?



Behind the Books: My First Sales


I had been writing and submitting for several years before I joined an RWA chapter and a local writers group. With the help of other more experienced writers, workshops and conferences, I learned and grew. Those first early projects are still in boxes in a storeroom. I truly didn’t know what I was doing. After studying Dwight Swain and garnering the advice of great ladies like Diane Wicker Davis (Avon) and Barbara Andrews (Ecstasy – and Silhouette as Jennifer Drew with her daughter Pam Hanson) and also being with a critique group, the first book I wrote start to finish was Rain Shadow.

At a Minneapolis conference, after spending the entire morning in the bathroom doing self-talk, I pitched the book at my first editor appointment. The editor asked to see it and later rejected it saying my hero was too unsympathetic.

I had submitted to agents about that same time, and one called me, saying with certainty, “I can sell this book for you.” I was thrilled, of course, and she did indeed sell it to Harlequin Historical. Thirty-some books later she is still my agent. After some initial quibbling over my title, it stuck and RAIN SHADOW was released in 1993. Back then HH did what they called March Madness and introduced two new authors each March. I loved the cover, loved it loved it. Loved the Wild West Show on the front. Adored her fringe jacket. Blew up the image and admired it. The art department used the pictures I’d sent them, and even her gun is in perfect detail.

Question from shopper at one of my very first book signings: “Is this you on the cover?”

Note to self: At all times be prepared to answer very odd questions graciously.

My second sale followed right on the heels of the first because it was a book I’d written previously. It had been shopped around other publishers without success. My new editor, who continued to be my editor for the next ten years, agreed to look at HEAVEN CAN WAIT, then asked me to cut a hundred pages and take out a subplot. Which I did with a lot of help from my critique group. It’s difficult to be that brutal to your own work. The story was indeed better for that revision. So the books came out one after the other, but not in the correct chronological order, story-wise. The villainess in Heaven Can Wait is the dead wife of the hero in Rain Shadow. So whenever I talk to people who will be reading them for the first time, I suggest they read them in the correct order.

And here’s something I’ve never mentioned before. The subplot I cut from Heaven Can Wait was the thread of Franz and Annette trying to have a baby. Over the years I’ve thought a few times about giving them their own story thus completing tales of the three brothers, but I’d have to go out of chronological order again, and for some reason that bugs me. Besides they were too happy together and supportive of each other…what would be the conflict? Wait, the story could be chronologically correct if it happened years after the last and their marriage had fallen apart because of their inability to conceive. Hmm, sounds like a lot of angst — wonder if I could handle that. <g> (I thrive on writing angst! Make ‘em laugh, make ‘em cry, make ‘em FEEL is my goal!)

So there you have the inside scoop on my first two sales and how they came about. It’s still exciting to see a new cover for each current release. It’s always a thrill to know that the stories I’ve worked so hard on are bringing pleasure to readers. As readers ourselves, writers know the delight of finding a new author, of becoming lost in a story, of falling in love with appealing characters. Being able to write those stories for others is a joy and a satisfaction beyond measure.

What we remember when we think back on a story isn’t always the specific details of the plot or even the character names. What we remember is how the book made us feel. If we were swept away, excited, intrigued, riveted, saddened, we recall those feelings. In an earlier blog, when I asked about the first romances you read and loved and you listed so many great ones, I’ll bet you remembered the way those stories affected you on an emotional level.

Which stories won places on your keeper shelf by involving your emotions?

What d’ya think?

It’s been our first week here on Petticoats & Pistols, and we’re pleased as punch you love our site as much as we do.

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