A Refreshing Author Weekend

Have you ever run yourself so ragged that you just couldn’t even put two and two together?

 

That’s where I was about a week ago. This season of my life has been challenging. My oldest daughter graduated from high school in May and I’ve been doing ALL THE THINGS, like shopping trips for college, helping her apply for student aid, gearing her up to pack, scheduling last visits (like doctor and dentist). And…trying to keep my author business going.

It’s been a lot.

From left to right: Kari Trumbo, Elana Johnson, Cathe Swanson, Mandi Blake, Laura Ashwood, and Chautona Havig

I’m about to break the fourth wall here, but we are in a “pivot” season as far as being an author goes. Marketing books is vastly different from what it was pre-covid and even during covid. While I know there are still cases, the world’s way of thinking is different and authors are having to adjust to the way people are now consuming entertainment. Figuring out what works now, is challenging.

So, all that to say, I needed a reset!

I met with 5 other authors over the last few days in northern Minnesota. We talked, we had devotions. We worked through stuck plot points. We fellowshipped… It was fantastic.

AND, it was exactly what I needed to keep going. You see, even professionals get tired. We need someone to refill our cup too. I didn’t know who to ask, I wasn’t even sure exactly what I needed, but God knew.

The only thing I’m bummed about? Jessie Gussman was supposed to be able to come but had to cancel. Having her there would’ve been fantastic. I will meet her in person some day.

Other than myself, at least two of these authors have been on the blog before and all of them are fabulous.

The setting for the retreat was a very rural, rustic cabin out in the woods. We saw deer and one of the authors even had close encounter with a coyote. Luckily, they are afraid of people it turned tail and ran the moment it saw her.

 

Beyond the refreshment I got (and hopefully gave) to these great women, was the scenery. We took a day trip to Lake Superior, and everyone loved experiencing the ‘big water’, some for the first time. There is something incredibly relaxing about huge bodies of water. The waves, the sound, the scent, and the blue of the water

meeting the sky just creates this amazing internal worship. I can’t explain it any other way.

What do you do when you need a refresh?

In the past, I’ve been able to grab a good book or talk to friends and recharge my batteries, but I think I let myself get too low. I needed to get away from the ordinary for a short time (Thurs.-Sun. morning). While I can’t do a retreat every time I get in this situation, I now know that I can look forward to this every year and I’m excited for 2023.

 

I Arrive Precisely When I Intend To

I’d bet you never thought you’d see a quote from Lord of the Rings on the P&P, but I promise it will make sense in a moment.

The full quote is: “A wizard is never late, Frodo Baggins. Nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means to.”

-J. R. R. Tolkien

But why would this quote matter to a bunch of western aficionados? Well, other than that it’s actually a wonderful story, it’s the first thing I think of when I think of time. Gandolf may never have used a watch, but I can practically see him pointing to his wrist and smirking at Frodo as he makes his humorous quip. Or, maybe my imagination just gets the better of me sometimes.

I got to thinking about time pieces (and how fast time flies) when walking with my youngest son down our long driveway a week ago. We were talking about his affection for watches and how he needed a new band, then he asked me a question, one that sent me down a rabbit hole or two.

“Mom, why do they call watches, watches and why is it different from clocks?”

The answer may seem obvious. I mean, it would make sense that there should be a different name for a clock you wear and one that sits there, right?  Well, yes and no. Here’s where the word nerd in me gets giddy (I’ve always loved vocabulary). The word clock (older than watch) is derived from the word cloche, meaning bell in French. It is meant to be large, public, and above all, it’s supposed to make noise denoting the passage of seconds, minutes, and especially hours. A watch is meant to be personal, i.e. watched. Interesting, huh?

But all of that is from the 1500’s which is great, but not ‘western’ history, right?

And we’re all about the western history here.

Interestingly, as I was researching the why and how of clocks/watches, I found that they were much the same from the 1500s up until the mid 1800s when they became vastly more precise.

Can you guess why?

The answer is, the railroad. The railroad was, above all, a money making venture and they needed to have precise timing for trains to leave and arrive because the next train’s arrival was dependent on those before it being on time. A late train was a danger to other trains.

So, the time piece that was already incredibly accurate considering the age of the technology, became so metered, examined, and parsed as to be considered “perfect”.

While the very first clocks were created for religious reasons to keep track of prayer times, standardization came with the railroad. Small, portable watches became commonplace around the time of the industrial revolution, when the railroad was in its hay day. Interesting that the watch (whether it is a pocket watch, a chain necklace, a pin on a coat, or later in the 18C on a leather band, watches are in almost every western I read. And now you know why.

I have a collection I just released. The whole series revolves around the town of Redemption Bluff and the outlaws who find their way there looking for a fresh start. From the beginning, the townspeople want the railroad to come through so the town doesn’t dry up like so many other little towns.

I’ll offer a free ebook copy of The Redemption Bluff Collection to one commenter below.

Have you ever had a favorite watch? I still have mine although I haven’t worn it in many years. One of the very first gifts my husband gave me (before he was my husband) was a delicate Black Hills Gold watch.

A Summer Full of Busyness

A week ago, I was recovering from the four day affair that was my birthday, my daughter’s graduation, her graduation party, then Memorial Day. All week, my children have been home. The house has been loud. I’ve been trying to do “all the spring things” that I couldn’t do while I was preparing the house for my daughter’s graduation party. Oh well, we’ll be harvesting sweet corn in September. It probably won’t freeze…

At the last minute, one of our family members messaged me to let me know they couldn’t come. They had just gotten over being ill and weren’t feeling up to the drive. With that, we were looking at our respective calendars and trying to figure out when we are all free to get together. What we figured out is that summer is about 5 weeks too short.

Do you feel this way? Like every week and ever minute is planned? All of a sudden you look at things you wanted to do and realize the time is literally spoken for? Just about every weekend is taken from now until the weekend after I drop my daughter off at college and I even canceled a few things!

I know myself. If I don’t take some time to recharge, I’ll get sick. The older I get, the easier I hit burnout and I can’t go through that again. Burnout is a pit of despair coated with tar and deeper than the ocean.

One thing I’ve done this year is to give myself reading challenges. I read a book from my own library that I haven’t read yet (free entertainment when gas is so expensive). I already paid for it, I should enjoy it! Then, I read a book in Kindle Unlimited. I got a free 3 month subscription with the new Kindle I just got for Mother’s Day. I don’t normally splurge on KU, because I don’t have the time to enjoy it. I might decide to keep it this time. Then, I’ll read a book for endorsement or one that my friends have recommended. You can see my new TBR here.

Since I haven’t made enough time to read extensively in the past few years, this new “take time to read” plan is helping to keep me grounded. And, I can read in the car as we take my daughter off to college (and blame my tears on the book).

I’m currently writing the 4th book in the Belle Fourche Chronicles. Book 2 comes out this Friday. Grab your copy HERE.

For a chance to win an ebook copy of Valley of Promise, tell me about your reading plan for the summer. Happy reading!

Inspirational Tuesday Quotable

“Does it bother you when I say her name? She was a part of my life for six months. A big part.”

 

“It isn’t so much that it bothers me, only that she seems to have left perfect shoes to fill, and I have… imperfect feet.”

Quote image

I wrote this book back in 2017, An Ivy Tangles. It published April 28, 2017, just 5 days after my mother died and just two days after her funeral.

To say I was a mess for the release of that book was an understatement. However, in a lot of ways it was the biggest single release I’ve ever had. Many of my friends supported me by sharing the release in their newsletters. Not only that, but the book itself was one my readers had been waiting on for a long time. I’d hinted at Ivy and her sordid story for a few books before I wrote it.

While I was writing the story, my mother was going downhill. She was in a nursing home and had lung cancer. She hadn’t wanted surgery to remove the mass attacking her lung, so we knew the cancer would come back, but not when. When it happened the end came suddenly.

Since then, I’ve done very little with Ivy other than a quick re-read before putting it into the boxed set. I love the story, but it holds so many memories for me. Even that line above, calls to me. Ivy wanted so much to be seen as a person, which is why she hid a terrible secret. The pain that she felt was pushed onto the page because I was dealing with my own hurts.

One of the last times I saw my mother and she was lucid, she’d forgotten (again) that I was an author. To be fair, I’d only been an author for a little over a year at that point but having that title meant so much to me, especially because we both loved reading and books. Having her forget (repeatedly) something that was so important to me, hurt.

 

When I was cleaning out her room, I found a copy of my very first book, signed. One of the nurses had purchased it for her as a special Christmas gift. She’d gotten to the first chapter and set it aside, back on the shelf.

I know Mom loved me, but I never knew if she was proud of me. That’s something I won’t know this side of Heaven. But I could give Ivy what I needed. Something so important. I could give her closure and a future without wonder or regrets.

Is there some way you could reach into someone’s life today and spread some joy?

Love those around you. Tell them you’re proud and that life would stink without them in it. We weren’t made to fill someone else’s shoes.

 

God Bless

Kari

Writing About Disasters – Galveston Hurricane of 1900

As romance authors, we sometimes intentionally choose moments of historical hardship to write about, but why?

 

Are we a bunch of heartless people, looking to pull on reader’s heartstrings? Not really (though maybe…) Most of the time, we choose these moments in history for a few reasons:

It’s a good way to spread awareness of things that happened. 

Let’s face it, history, even trying history, can be boring when in textbook form. Reading about floods and hurricanes, dust storms and wars can be easily pushed off as being about “other people” when it’s in the pages of a history book. History books are “just the facts, ma’am” publications and we want them that way. But, if you want people to really think about what people went through, put it in the pages of a fiction novel.

It reminds us of how strong humans really are.

chron.com

When we write about people, we expect them to be heroes and heroines. Average joes (and janes) come to life on the pages as they rise above and do the impossible. These terrible situations did happen and while there were many bad outcomes for people, good things did happen in the midst of these awful situations. The Lord does provide hope.

When good things happen in the middle of a terrible situation, it make the hardship easier to process (and thus increases our understanding).

A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down (or so I’ve heard in a fun little song). That’s why history wrapped within a romance makes learning a little easier. If we only wanted a story about what happened, even fictionalized, we could just watch a docudrama or read regular historical fiction. But when we know there is the hope of a romance within the story, we can open the pages of the book knowing one good thing is going to come out of the book, even if it seems like many bad things could happen to other people.

oceanservice.noaa.gov

In my research into the Galveston Hurricane of 1900, I’ve found all of these things to be true. While that particular storm has always fascinated me and I love history books, I haven’t picked up a book dedicated to that storm until recently when I decided to write 2 stories about it. There was so much devastation, so much loss, that I knew I would struggle with it if I couldn’t wrap my own story of hope within all that pain.

 

These books won’t be coming out for at least a year, but I’m doing the research now. What situations in history interest you but you wouldn’t want to read about them without adding a little hope to the story?

I haven’t done a giveaway in a while so I’ll choose one commenter to receive an ebook copy of To a Brighter Tomorrow. Winner will be chosen tomorrow evening.

Sheep Ranching in South Dakota

Kari Trumbo logo

I’m back in my writing comfort zone!

It seems like whenever I take a break and write about somewhere else, I long to go back. So, that’s exactly what I’ve done.

In this new series, The Belle Fourche Chronicles, The Johlman and Douglas families are feuding over a lush valley about an hour outside of town. Both feel they have claim to it and both families try to rout out the other.

In book one, we meet the Johlmans, and specifically, the second son Gideon. I really enjoyed writing him because he has all the tendencies of a second born son. He listens and is attentive, is good at following his father’s orders and he knows he’s not going to inherit, but works hard.

But that’s not the main thing I learned while writing this story. I got back to my roots in more ways than one.

I learned about sheep. You see, the Johlmans live on a sheep ranch while the Douglas family raise cattle. The valley they both want would provide exceptional pasture land. The Johlmans own it for now, but we’ll see how long they can keep their hold.

quote from To a Brighter TomorrowWhen I was very young, about age 5, my family raised sheep. Writing this book reminded me of so many things I experienced as a young girl.

I remember bringing lambs into the house and bottle feeding them. They would make so much noise! I remember “lamb boxes” with blankets where those lambs would be kept for a few days until they were strong enough to go back outside.

Most of my research didn’t end up in the book, however, because a romance just doesn’t need to know what goes in on a barn, generally speaking. But I do love having an excuse to broaden my knowledge.

I learned, and was surprised to know, that sheep used to be one of the largest income producers in South Dakota, only surpassed by cattle (as far as livestock). Cattle is still king in the area.

Another thing I learned that was fascinating about sheep ranching is that it was remarkably similar to cattle ranching. They used dogs for both herding and protection and the ranchers often rode out on horseback to check on sheep or do other chores. This was unexpected, I never equated raising sheep with needing a wrangler, but I found that to be a misconception.

This image from the Maas Museum shows what a set of sheers looked like prior to more advanced methods

I’ll leave you with one last bit of information. The tools used for sheering sheep then were obviously much different from what they are now. Prior to electric sheers, they used a model that looked similar to a sewing scissors only wider and certainly more sinister. I hate to think how closely and how quickly they would have to shave a sheep with these. I’m glad I didn’t have to do it!

To a Brighter Tomorrow is the first book in the Brothers of Belle Fourche series and releases on February 25th! It’s on a special discount preorder price right now, you can grab it HERE

A little visit to the Old West via Belle Fourche


Kari Trumbo logoDon’t you love visiting places that capture your heart?

It’s funny, way back in 2017 I was writing a series about pioneer towns in South Dakota (my favorite place to write about). I needed 7 towns for the 7 seven sisters to live in. Each would showcase the beauty and wonder of the Black Hills. Well, I ended up with a lot more than 7. And Belle Fourche, though it was on the list, didn’t make the cut for that first series.

That was my mistake.

Little did I know readers would eventually beg me to write more in this sleepy little town. But what makes one town better than 7 others? I mean, I had Deadwood, Keystone, Custer… some of the more famous towns in SD. Surely those would be more sought after? Nope, Belle Fourche still tops them all.

It’s all about the feeling.

Belle Fourche is a town that still has history right around the corner. You can drive through and see the new roads and big bridges, but just off the main road there are quiet streets and salt-of-the-earth people. It wasn’t hard to build that community feeling, because they never lost it.

A bridge to Yesteryear

Belle Fourche Center of the US marker Belle Fourche claims to be the Geographic center of the US. I later found out there are about three monuments just like this, and they all fight for the “actual” claim. I’ll just say the monument is cool to go see, no matter where the actual center is.

Right next to the monument is an original house from the town, preserved for viewing. It’s even smaller than you would expect, smaller than my current living room, and someone lived there whole lives there.

It’s really no wonder some people had severe wanderlust, if you lived in a home with everyone you loved (even if you loved them very much) practically on top of you…maybe that need to go west where there was more wide-open space is better understood through that lens.

As I wandered through the monument and museum. Wait, I didn’t mention the museum? Yeah, that was a highlight of my trip!

When history is less of a mystery

Oddly, I’d already written three books in my Belle Fourche series before I visited, other than via Google. I alwaysCabin in Belle Fourche research a town before I write about it. I was so afraid that I’d gotten it wrong though. *Secret writer fear: We can’t always travel and we’re always terrified that we didn’t get a town quite right.

I wandered through every display with my traveling companion, a fellow reader who had joined me for Wild Deadwood Reads and toured Belle Fourche with me. We both enjoyed the history and feel of Belle Fourche.

Best of all, I was so glad that I left feeling like I got it right and had to write more books, which I did.

But even that wasn’t enough. I still get emails asking for more. Who am I to complain? If a reader loves a series enough that they can’t get enough, I’ll find a way to add more! So, coming in 2022, readers can look forward to a new Belle Fourche series, The Belle Fourche Chronicles.

The next logical step

Belle Fourche museum displayI love taking real history and making it relatable and helping people “live” through a period of history that they enjoy but would never want to actually live through, I mean, the necessary was a necessity but who wants to use one when it’s 40 below? We do live in the great white north.

As I work toward plotting this series, I want to figure out the main goal. What are some of your favorites? I love a family vs. family drama, or the need to build something that will change the town for the better… but Belle Fourche already had rail and a clinic in the first series.

What are your suggestions? I’d love to hear what you’ve read for long series that you’ve loved.

I plan on digging deep into my research books over the next week and maybe something you suggest will make my eye catch on a bit of history that would be perfect.