Oh, my! Believe it or not, I didn’t want to have to read these books all over again because they are so emotionally draining for me. They were when I wrote them – when I proofed them the first time 30 years ago – when I had to re-read them in order to write the 7th book in ’96 – when I read them again for the Kindle conversion – and now I have to read them again.
Folks, this blog is not to brag, because the writing itself could definitely be improved upon, at least in that first book because I wrote it 32 years ago and I was brand new and didn’t know what I was doing. I only knew I wanted to write this story. In fact, I didn’t even plan to make it a series. It was the publisher who asked if I could make into four books. I agreed, with no idea what the heck would happen in any of them. Those four books turned into six – and after that I realized the story still wasn’t finished. At the end of Book #6 the heroine, Abigail Monroe, by then a grandmother, is planning a family reunion. I had to write that seventh book, getting all of Abbie’s children and grandchildren together for the first time in years. And that’s how I ended up with 7 books.
I made the comment about bragging because every single time I read these books again, I am totally lost in them again, they are such good stories. I didn’t say they were great WRITING – just damn good STORIES. I have never boasted of being a literary writer. I’m not. I’m a story-teller. That’s how I got my agent, who has been with me since day-1. She felt that being a good story TELLER is far more important than being LITERARY. That first book, SWEET PRAIRIE PASSION, could stand some improvement on the writing – hero Zeke Monroe does a little too much explaining sometimes – which was actually my “new writer” mode thinking I had to explain history to my readers and explain what Zeke was thinking and feeling. I didn’t know how to do that in a few words. I thought I had to make sure readers understood where Zeke was coming from and what made him the man he was. I’ve learned how to do that in far fewer words now … but you know what? It doesn’t seem to matter in this book. There is just something about Zeke Monroe that keeps you reading … and reading … and reading. Yes – I wrote the books, and after several reads I can read them all over again with complete rapture. I get the same comments from my readers. “I’m reading SAVAGE DESTINY for the tenth time, the twelfth time” – whatever. The stories never get old for me, and they have never gotten old for my readers. They are hard to find in used-book stores because readers don’t want to let go of them.
The other reason I get completely lost in my own books all over again is because of Zeke. OMG, what a man! I think the reason women love writing romances (and reading them) is because the heroes are the epitome of everything women love about a man. If men would read romances, they would truly understand what women want in a man, and it isn’t all about sex (although our heroes are usually pretty good at that too!) Personally, I (and I think most women) prefer a damn good love story – powerful, enduring, loyal, devotional, “I’d die for you” love. And that’s what you get in Zeke and Abbie Monroe. The attraction, sex, devotion, passion never wanes, even as they age. It’s just “there,” and it gets them through some truly heart-wrenching, traumatic experiences as they settle in Colorado and endure all the hardships pioneers had to put up with. Theirs is even more difficult because Zeke is half Cheyenne, and that Indian side of him keeps pulling him in two directions as he tries to livein the “white man’s way” for his Abbie, who is white.
Of all 58 stories I have written, I am still most in love with Zeke Monroe, and so are most of my fans. After 30 years, all 7 books are still selling, and they are the stories about which I receive the most mail and most comments. That’s because Zeke and Abbie are so, so REAL. I AM Abbie, and Zeke is the man I love with all my heart and soul. I can see him clearly. I can smell his buckskins and his manly scent. I can feel his strong arms around me. In all my books, Zeke and Abbie are the characters about whom I receive the most comments as far as readers telling me how real they seem, how they laugh and cry and ache right along with them as their story unfolds over roughly fifty years. They become involved in their children and grandchildren, as I bring in their stories also – 3 generations torn by wars and prejudice and the shockingly rapid growth of the American West and how it affected our Native Americans and a family that understands both sides.
SAVAGE DESTINY is my version of Michener’s CENTENNIAL, which became a television mini-series. Too bad they don’t do those anymore, because every fan who has read SAVAGE DESTINY wants to know when it will become a movie or a mini-series. Alas, I don’t have sales in the zillions. That’s what movie companies want to see before they will consider movie options. If only I could find the right person at just the right time who is in that business and who sees the movie potential of these books. Actually, I sold the first book because of that – the right editor at the right time – who bought that first book in 1982 for Kensington Publishing (Zebra Books) because of ONE SCENE in the story that made her cry. I won’t tell you what that is, but she said she had to get up and close her office door so others wouldn’t see her crying. She bought the book and wanted a series because she became so attached to the characters she didn’t want to let go of them.
And you know what? I WROTE those sequels because I didn’t want to let go of them either. I am even thinking of writing a contemporary story that involves one of Zeke and Abbie’s descendants. I think anyone who reads the original series will jump on an eight book. Meantime, here I am – reading the stories all over again and becoming completely lost in them – MY OWN BOOKS! I am crying, laughing, and experiencing the kind of love only Zeke Monroe can give a woman. I literally “feel” him with me in spirit, and I wonder myself sometimes if maybe he really did exist – if maybe I WAS Abbie and I really did live down on the Arkansas River in southern Colorado with a half-blood Cheyenne man who touched my very soul. Maybe I really did witness that happened to the Cheyenne and so many other plains Indians as the West was settled.
By the time you get to the 7th SAVAGE DESTINY book (EAGLE’S SONG), you will be worn out emotionally – and you’d better have the Kleenex ready. The love Zeke and Abbie share will blow you away. For 30 years they have lived in my heart and soul. Only one other hero truly runs a very close second to Zeke Monroe, and that’s Jake Harkner from my novel OUTLAW HEARTS. Oooh, I love that man! I’m working toward getting that book reissued again as an e-book, because I want all my new readers to read about Jake and the love of his life, Amanda, and what they go through because of Jake’s outlaw past. What a love story! Zeke and Jake are with me constantly, and in some ways they are bits and pieces of my own husband, who is a very loyal, honest man who loves me unconditionally – and who has never backed off from what he knows is right and would fight and die for me in a second. After 48 years of marriage, I have no doubts. He was tough as nails when we were younger, built solid, took no shit from anyone, worked hard, and was known as an unbeaten arm wrestler in our area for years. There has never been any hesitation on his part to do the right thing or to defend his family if need be. He was sometimes a bit hard on our two sons, but they turned out to be hard-working, strong young men who are also devoted to their families and who also “take no shit.” (Pardon the language, but I don’t know how else to put it.) I guess that’s why I write the same type of traits in my heroes.
I’m a fan of the alpha male – the “man’s man.” I know women today think they can be strong and independent – and they can. Actually, I’m strong and independent myself. But behind all that, no woman can tell me she doesn’t sometimes need strong arms wrapped around her, protecting her, telling her everything will be all right. No woman can tell me she doesn’t want a man in her bed at night – even when they get older. When you’re old the sex isn’t always so great or so often, but it doesn’t matter. It’s the fact that the man is “there,” holding you, loving you, and still determined to protect you if need be. It’s knowing that if you end up in a wheel chair or having a breast cut off because of cancer or your body isn’t smooth and firm any more, he loves you anyway, and he’ll stay with you till the very end and then miss you afterward. I can totally understand why there are times that when an old woman dies, her husband dies shortly thereafter – or visa-versa. That’s because after a lifetime together the two have become one and one can barely breathe or cope without the other. It has nothing to do with being left with plenty of money, or being an independent business woman and go-getter even in old age. It’s a spiritual thing, a connection that does not go away after death … something that can’t be replaced.
That’s what comes through in SAVAGE DESTINY. And I think that’s why it’s such a memorable story. Write all the “Fifty Shades” and erotica books you want. Nothing sells like eternal love – and the really, truly, emotional, spiritual connection that comes with sex between two people totally devoted to each other – two people who might be in their sixties but only see their partner as the twenty-year-old they fell in love with. That’s what happens in SAVAGE DESTINY. Abbie is only fifteen in the first book. And it’s that young Abbie Zeke loves and sees throughout their years together.
How I love writing a male character that no one else wants to “mess with.” Believe me, no one in his right mind “messes with” Zeke Monroe. He’s tough and resilient and good with weapons and fists and determined and brave … yet, as you will see in the very first book … one small, fifteen-year-old girl can bring him right to the ground. Abbie can turn that man into a puppy dog. It’s fun to read once, twice, ten times. And the history in these books becomes so real. They are a lesson in “How The West Was Won,” and what that did to the Native Americans.
I have to get back to my reading. I’m supposed to quickly “scan” these books for typographical and conversion errors, but dang it, I can’t do that. I end up reading word for word, line for line, completely lost in the stories again and taking longer to proofread them than I should. I try hard to just quickly go over them, but Zeke and Abbie draw me right back into their lives and their world of 1800’s Colorado (my favorite place on earth), its pioneers, it’s Native Americans, its history and its magnificent landscape. If you’ve ever watched the musical movie version of THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN, you’ve heard the hero sing, “Colorado, My Home.” Every time I hear him sing that song, I cry. I was born and raised in Michigan, but my heart belongs in Colorado. That’s why I sincerely believe I did live there once, maybe even as a Native American.
Meantime, Zeke, here I come … right back into your arms. (Big sigh)