Birthday Musings -- 77 Years???

        Can you believe it? Thanksgiving is over. Christmas is over. New Year celebrations are over. We are already into the middle of January 2022, and I am already thinking about Valentine’s Day (one of my favorites – brings back childhood memories of decorating a shoebox for all my valentines, and of making my own cards). 

 

        Friday the 14th I will be 77 years old. WHAAAAATTTT??? No way! WWII ended just five months after I was born. My parents and older sister lived in government housing in LaPorte, Indiana, where my father worked in a bomb factory. My mother’s best friend from high school was an Army nurse, and while my mother was home having babies, her friend was traveling to England, France, Italy, North Africa and Germany. I still have two scrapbooks my mother kept with all of her friend’s letters from overseas. So interesting! Those scrapbooks are the foundation for the WWII book I wrote many years ago but never published. I still hope to revisit that story and get it in shape for publication.


       Meantime, what am I to do about this birthday thing? I mean, I am so confused about how all these years passed so quickly. I am one of those seniors who thinks about “the good old days” with nostalgia, and now those “good old days” are like ancient history to my grandsons. Every time I listen to Bon Jovi’s song, When We Were Beautiful, I cry.


Back, when we were beautiful,

Before the world got small,

Before we knew it all.

Back, when we were innocent,

I wonder where it went.

Let’s go back and find it.

 

      Thinking about my birthday brought back memories of what life used to be like. I could go on for pages and pages about that, and about how I feel about life today, but the real purpose of this blog is just to tell all of you, especially my younger readers, to enjoy each day that you wake up alive and healthy . . . enjoy your children, your siblings, your parents and grandparents. Don’t let technology and today’s fast-paced life rob you of days, weeks, months and years of just feeling the sun on your face, or playing in the snow with your children, or being kind and loving to your mate, being respectful of others and “paying it forward.” You have heard many times from others that “life goes by so fast.” It really, really does. Suddenly your days seem numbered, and you realize there is still a lot you want to do, so get busy and do it NOW. Don’t put off your dreams, and don’t let doubt defeat those dreams before you even try to make them come true.


        No matter how much technology interferes with our lives, what with tv, computers, e-mail, cell phones, video games, TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, modern appliances, electric cars, Bluetooth, streaming, texting and the host of technology this old dog knows nothing about, down deep inside we all still crave that “real” connection of hugs and smiles (behind those damn masks), talking face-to-face, and just plain falling in love. Don’t let technology steal from you and your children the thirst to learn and study and enjoy a “real” book in your hands. Don’t let it steal family time and in-person visiting and manners and creativity – or privacy and your identity. Don’t let technology preach, and even lie to your children. Real “life,” including touching, looking right into someone’s eyes, love and romance, still remains a primary motive in most peoples’ hearts.

 

        Romance has always been part of the human psyche and always will be. It’s here to stay, and I will always enjoy writing love stories. As long as “old age” doesn’t rob me of the ability to write, I will keep writing every day, as I have done for nearly forty years now. And boy, I have written my way through a LOT of life challenges – more than most people know. I guess that’s what provides food for my stories about family life and helps bring my characters to life. With that, I have decided I am not too old to try new things, so I am currently working on my first contemporary romance.

        Meantime, I am so happy to still be healthy, and happy that my husband is still healthy and still with me – 56 years and counting. There is still “romance” in our relationship. I am so grateful to have lived long enough to enjoy our first great-grandson, and I hope to see and enjoy however many more great grandchildren the Good Lord blesses me with. The picture on the right is almost forty years old – me at my first electric typewriter working on the Savage Destiny series. Seems like yesterday, but that was 74 books ago! And for whatever years I have left, I sure as heck will be writing more!



PEAKS AND VALLEYS

       The title of this blog refers to the highs and lows of writing. There are times when it feels like I am on a roller-coaster, and believe me, I am getting too old for such wild rides!


        When I start a new book, I’m kind of on a flat track, waiting to see how high the ride will take me . . . or how low. You know what it’s like – the ride starts with a slow climb, and your heart beats a little harder as your car rises higher and higher. Then I finish the first draft, and I’m on that first high peak. Yay! I’ve finished the story!


        Then comes the editing . . . along with the doubts whether the story is any good . . . and down I go! Time to get real and face the fact that no, I’m not the greatest writer ever to be published. LOL! I find mistakes, I see room for lots of improvement, I wonder how I allowed this or that mistake to get by me. I know my characters much better by the end of a story than at the beginning, so that means things at the beginning of the book have to be re-written because I realize they would not have said or done some of the things I used there.

       OK – several re-writes later I send the book off to a more professional editor, and I am on another high . . . that second climb of the roller-coaster. Yay! Now I am REALLY done! But then – down we go again, when the editor sends back her notes and comments. Oh, my gosh, how did I miss that? Why did my character say or do this? Yes, my editor is right! I have to work on being too wordy, or on being too repetitive, or on letting the readers know who is talking to whom, or how my character(s) are really feeling and why – on and on with the edits.


        So, I go back and do more re-writing, and yay! I have the finished product – much better than the original (at least that’s what I think). Sometimes the book gets edited again – sometimes it doesn’t – but I work hard on that last re-write, and I finally reach the point where I tell myself, “enough is enough. Send this thing off for publication.”


        And so, I do send it to the gal who converts my WORD version of the story into the format Amazon needs for publication in print and for Kindle. And I’m on another high. My roller-coaster car takes me to an even higher peak, and I celebrate that my book will finally become a reality! The publication date is set, and my readers will be thrilled! I work on advertising and book signings, and things will be great!


        Or . . . will they? Maybe the story sucks! Maybe there is something I forgot to include. Maybe they won’t understand my main characters. Maybe readers will toss the book after a couple of chapters because they can’t get into the story or the characters. Maybe I’ll get horrible reviews. Maybe they will wonder what happened to my writing. When did I drop the ball and write such a loser?

        Down I go again. I just don’t have it anymore. My muse is gone. I’m getting so old I just can’t write good books anymore. I’ve lost my touch. Why am I even writing at all anymore? What makes me think I can keep doing this and doing it well? Younger writers are more “with it.” They know what today’s readers want. How can someone my age, who has been writing almost 40 years and who comes from the era of big, sweeping, 80’s romances understand today’s fast-paced world? And who cares about my subject? Historical western romance? Who reads those anymore?


        Then I get some nice comments on Facebook . . . and some great reviews on Amazon . . . and people ask how fast I can write the next book . . . and they love my characters so much that they start offering me their own ideas of what I should do with that next book . . . and I begin to realize maybe I’m not such a bad writer after all, or maybe I’m not getting too old after all . . . and the comments and reviews keep getting better . . . and that roller-coaster car starts climbing again, higher and higher.


         Finally, I fly down that last dip, but it’s not a “low” for me. It’s just a release of all the pent-up doubts and worries and emotions that come with every book I write. I reach the bottom and the car levels out . . . and I can finally relax.


        Whew! The book is done – published – accepted – loved by most and selling well . . . and now it’s time to do it all over again. I walk to the pay booth (my computer) and I start the ride all over again.

SO, YOU THINK WRITERS HAVE IT EASY?

 

        Think again. I have back problems, had a hip replaced, suffer from migraines and swelling in the legs – all from too much sitting. I toss and turn all night with new ideas, or because I wonder how I can improve on my current work in progress. I write “in my head” constantly – during a conversation – during a meal – while I’m driving – watching TV – gardening – cleaning – no matter what I’m doing. My characters are always with me, nudging me, haunting me, interrupting my sleep, and sometimes arguing with me. I spend some really long, lonely days sitting here alone and wondering if anybody cares what my characters do or say or if anybody cares about my books at all. I wonder why I put myself through all this, and I’ve been doing it for almost 40 years, through full-time jobs, a son on drugs (a real nightmare), surgeries, loss of parents and siblings, and trying to be wife, mother, sister, daughter and grandmother.


        And then I finish a book, and every time I do, there is that “deep breath” moment that I’ve finished yet another story, and I’ve done the best I could do. I start missing my characters and go into kind of a mourning period. Yes, mourning, because I hate leaving the characters I have created. Worst of all was leaving Zeke in Savage Destiny, especially the WAY I had to leave him – and leaving Jake in Outlaw Hearts. In this case, I just know that I can’t go on writing about the man forever, but OMG, I miss him so much already. My consolation is that I’m not done yet with the Harkner family. I already have a story brewing involving young Jake (hot! Hot! Hot!), as well as Jake’s son, Lloyd, who is also HOT!!. I already know it will involve WWI, as well as a granddaughter of none other than Zeke Monroe! So, I will be bringing Savage Destiny and Outlaw Hearts together through the two families, who both live in Colorado.

        My mourning is short-lived, because then comes the release date, and I feel better because the book is fully a reality and I start getting feedback from my wonderful readers. When I know they love the book, it warms my heart. And I get excited about contests and book signings and giveaways. But I hate that the book I worked so long and hard on will soon become a past project. Then again, I realize that as long as people keep ordering it, it will keep selling, and I can have it reissued any time I want. In that respect I am grateful to Amazon for providing this opportunity.


       Then I realize – oh, my gosh – it’s time to start the process all over again with a new story. After all, my readers always want more, and I refuse to disappoint.

 

 



 


FORTY YEARS OF CHARACTERS AND MEMORIES

      

       We have sold some property that means cleaning out a pole barn. Thank God we have one, because my husband is a bit of a pack rat, and we have owned the property for 46 years and used to live there. We kept it (29 acres on Little Paw Paw Lake), but sold the house and 5 acres to our son years ago. He is selling the house now, and a storm two years devastated the beautiful woods. My husband was able to clean up a lot of it, but some is just impossible – huge, up-rooted trees lying in a deep creek bed – things like that. Anyway, we have realized that now is the time to sell the entire property, while prices are up, so we are selling to a developer who has the means and the money to properly clear it and do much more with it than we can at our age.


        But, oh, the memories! Our sons, who are now 52 and 51, were 5 and 6 years old when we bought the property, and it would take pages and pages to describe the kind of work we put into it back then. It was totally overgrown, the house looked like something out of the back hills of the Smoky Mountains, and there were two cottages (1 since burned down) that were falling apart, and the woods had been used like a junk yard. We made it beautiful over the years, a lot of remodeling, built a barn, did a lot of clearing and tree cutting, burned a lot of brush piles. We farmed Christmas trees for a while, potatoes on part of the land, then asparagus and blueberries. In a Michigan winter, we had a ½ mile driveway to plow.


        Memories there are vivid, and we cry about selling it. Once it’s gone and changed and developed, it will be hard for us to drive by there. I will never be able to look at it without “seeing” my husband sitting up by the lake, or by a pond we dug on another piece of he property. He loved it there. After we moved to where we live now (32 years ago), the lake property was still “ours” and we went there a lot, just to sit in the woods and talk. And my husband went out there and farmed and putzied round every single day all these 46 years.

        My most personal memory of the place, besides all the hard work I put into helping develop this property, was that I wrote my first several books there – probably at least 20 of them, maybe more like 25. It’s where I got my start, and I wrote those books while working full-time, then going home to two active boys, helping pull brush, helping pick asparagus, and all the things that go with being a working mother. It all started with SAVAGE DESTINY, and once I sold that first book, I was off to the races. I wrote 50 more books after we moved to the house where we live now, and I’m still going strong in spite of many surgeries and personal problems I won’t even mention here. Thank God, my husband has been loving and a great supporter since I wrote that first book. He believed in me.


        Back to cleaning out that barn. That includes finding what to do with the many books I had stored there. I kept several original copies of all my books, and today I went through 26 bins of books! What memories! Each one brings a vivid memory of the characters and stories involved. I thumb through them and I wonder when in hell I wrote all these books amid all the other things I was doing and going through. I do know I slept about 3-5 hours a night for years, and I learned how to shut my mind away from problems and how to block out the sound of the TV in that small house where we first lived. While hubby and sons were snoring away deep in the night, I was sitting at the typewriter “clicking” away – first a clickety-clack old Royal on which I made carbon copies of my books, then an electric typewriter, then my first computer (which I thought I would never learn how to use).

 

       I don’t know how or why so many stories came out of my common, non-college-educated, plain old working mom brain, but they did, and they still are. My only advantage was being good at typing and spelling because I was an executive secretary, and my love of reading and researching, and of course, my love for the American West and pioneers and Indians and all the exciting events in settling this country. I also read – a LOT – but always books about America history and pioneers. I don’t care about WOKE or any of the other lies going on today. I will always write the truth. History is what it is, and it is silly and almost traitorous to try erasing or changing it. History is how we learn, but mankind seems to keep ignoring it and making the same mistakes all over again – but that is a subject for a different blog.


        Well, I got 26 bins down to 17, thanks to consolidating a lot of titles into one bin, but what a project! Now I have to figure out where to put those 17 bins. I have some ideas, and one of them is wondering how many of you wonderful readers would like original copies of certain older books. First I have to go through them again once I get them home and see which ones have never been reissued and probably never will be. I might be able to help new readers find some of those old titles, or help some of you long-time readers get fresh copies of some of those old paperbacks (signed to you). I have to figure out what to charge, and I want to find out if some of the hurricane-devastated states have libraries that need books. I have plenty I can send them, and I have copies of every single book I’ve ever written – a lot of many of them, only a few of others, which I of course need to hang on to for my family.


        I’m going to sound crazy here – but – the only thing that depresses me about dying some day is thinking about all the stories I could have kept writing. Writing has been my life for almost forty years now. We bought that lake property in 1976, and I started writing my first-first book (never published) in 1979. It was my learning tool, as were the 8 more I wrote after that. Only one of them sold – SAVAGE DESTINY #1 – SWEET PRAIRIE PASSION. Seeing that book and that series reissued several times and still selling just makes me cry with sentimental memories.

 


 

STAND AND LISTEN

        It’s chaos out there, isn’t it? The daily news has become repetitive and depressing. Right is wrong, and wrong is right. You don’t know whom to trust, and car lots and store shelves are half empty because product is unavailable – and that’s because there aren’t enough people working to keep things running smoothly. We hear about an uptick in prices, taxes, and crime, while hurricanes and wildfires prevail. We miss peoples’ smiles because of masks, and we worry about that invisible creature called Covid.


        Life seems to have changed dramatically, but when I study the history of this country, it hits me that things haven’t changed as much as we think they have. There have always been plagues, and there has always been scheming, underhanded corruption in our government. There have always been the greedy, the middle-class and the poor, all struggling to get what they think they deserve. There has always been conflict over states’ rights and how to keep up our infrastructure, as well as conflict over fossil fuels, workers’ rights, women’s rights and voting rights. Nothing has really changed.

 

        Today I had to travel to an appointment that took me along Interstate 94 here in southern Michigan, a trip I have to make often but have hated all summer because of major construction going on. Those construction areas seem to just add to today’s frustrations – people going too fast in zones where you should slow down, semi trucks behind you, in front of you, beside you, and coming at you when there is only a small cement barrier between you and that behemoth bearing down on you. Moments like that make me want to go home – my safe zone. But then, I wonder if someone will even invade that, too.


        We are bombarded from every direction – television, traffic, kids, jobs, spouses, rude people, school, the ding-dong of appliances, phones and doorbells, and, of course, the ever-present internet and all its ways of coming right into our home uninvited, through our computers and telephones, and even through our automobiles. 

 

        Sometimes we just have to take a deep breath and take a moment to enjoy pure quiet. When I got home from that wild ride down I-94 today, I took some groceries into the kitchen and realized how quiet the house was. I was tired, so I just stood there, breathed deeply, and listened to the ticking of the several clocks in my house. I love clocks, and I find that ticking a soft comfort.


        So I just stood there and listened. Tick, tick, tick. Just me. Alone. Silence, but for those ticking clocks. And it was kind of nice. It was a moment that reminded me that life outside the door could seem chaotic, noisy and dangerous. But when you are lucky enough to have a home to call your own, a place where you can walk inside and close the door to that world “out there,” it is something to appreciate. Of course, it’s even nicer when a kitty-cat or a dog greets you lovingly. Creatures who love you no matter what else is happening in the world always make a difference.

 

       Take time out once in a while to just stand and listen. Listen to the clocks. Listen to the refrigerator turn on, or the air. Listen to your own breathing. Remind yourself that life goes by much too fast, so don’t let the outside world make it seem to pass by even faster. Don’t let the chaos create havoc in your own heart and mind. Find your safe zone, breathe deeply, and enjoy that special place. Whatever that place is, don’t let anyone take it from you. And visit it every day, even if it’s just for a couple of minutes. Just stand and listen. Feel your own pulse and be glad you woke up today, alive and well.




TAKING THE BIG STEP


        I wrote a blog several months ago titled “PAGE ONE.” It was about how intimidating Page One can be when starting a new book. Well, I am having the same problem with Book #75, which I have started (and did already write Page One). However, every chapter – every page - feels like “Page One” to me – i.e. – the whole book is intimidating because it’s my first big contemporary story. I have a title but won’t give it away yet, so I’ll just call it Book #75.

        Mind you, in today’s times a writer has to be aware of all that’s going on “out there” as far as everybody being offended by just about anything and everything. When you consider the fact that Book #75 contains a host of themes/subject matters/emotional baggage/etc. that could “offend” others, I am a nervous wreck. I don’t even know what genre this story fits. It’s a mixture of murder mystery, faith/inspiration, American Indian customs and beliefs, culture clash, divorce, drugs, hot sex, violence, assassination, Native American fancy dancing, and an Indian/white romance – and oh, did I say culture clash? Yes.

        Book #75 is a romance beyond romance, a love story between two people who never, ever, ever should have thought they could live in each other’s worlds, let alone make it work for the rest of their lives. The hero’s Lakota family and friends insist he needs to leave things alone and stick with the world he knows best – and not mess with a woman who not only belongs to a whole different world, but who doesn’t know beans about American Indian culture. And the heroine’s family and friends feel the same – she has no business loving a man who could never fit into her life, nor she into his.

 

        Ahhh, but we all know that “love conquers all,” doesn’t it? That will happen in Book #75, but not without a LOT of conflict! Bringing these two together might “offend” some readers because of the realistic way I will make it happen. It’s the culture clash that worries me. I am going to be truthful and honest (to the best of my ability and with what I know from years of studying Native American culture, especially the Sioux and Cheyenne). At the same time, I understand all the misunderstandings harbored by many of those who have lived only in the white world – those who have never studied our American Indians, about reservation life, ancient customs and beliefs, and problems today’s Indians have with our government (little has changed in the last 250 years!). The heroine in Book #75 is a blond, blue-eyed New-Englander who is, of all things, a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution – i.e. a descendant of original pilgrims! I mean, really? These two would have been enemies 250 years ago, and that is what will make this a very powerful love story. They absolutely do not belong together.

 

        This will not be an easy book to write, but I have published numerous Indian/white romances over my 40 years of writing. However, they were always set in the 1800’s, an era I am comfortable writing. It’s all I know, so moving into contemporary is not easy for me. As I do so, I guess I just have to take my chances as far as worrying about offending readers. I don’t consider writing the truth and honest emotions and typical misunderstandings offensive. We all struggle with such things, and it’s not our fault. All races and cultures have so much to learn about each other’s beliefs and religions and basic makeup, and the more we learn, the more tolerant we become. No one changes overnight, and not all people are willing to accept differences. It’s a sad statement to make, but that’s how it is, and showing that in a story is just part of real life.

 

       Wait until you find out how the hero and heroine meet in this story! It’s unusual and exciting, and it’s instant high voltage. Although it’s not noted verbally, it’s damn well felt physically and emotionally. BOTH will be thinking – “Good God, now what do I do? I’d better get the hell out of this as fast as I can.” But neither can let the other go. And BOTH come with a busload of personal baggage that just makes it all even more difficult. The hero has been through hell from losing his wife and her unborn baby to an assassination he is sure was meant for him. He was gravely wounded and fought to get off opioids, and he is possessed with a determination to learn who did this to him. He’s a grieving widower who has no desire to find another woman … until he meets the heroine, who in turn is NOT looking for another man after a really ugly divorce from an ex who physically and mentally abused her.

 

        And so, the story begins. I have put this off for too many years, so I’ll take the risk of “offending” someone and write it. I think the theme of “love conquers all” is always a winner. I hope you do, too.

 


 

THE CIRCLE OF LIFE

      I love writing about family, especially series stories where the primary couple in Book #1 is still front and center, but I go into the lives of their children and even grandchildren, and how all of them are affected by events surrounding that main couple. In my OUTLAW HEARTS series, Jake Harkner is an outlaw when he meets heroine Miranda. Throughout the rest of the series a reformed Jake goes to prison, then becomes U.S. Marshal. Children are born and grow up and have children of their own, and through it all Jake’s past keeps raising its ugly head to create problems and challenges to the Harkner clan. These problems have a way of bringing the family closer, and I love those family ties, especially Jake’s relationship with his son. It is so touching.

 
       Sometimes we writers live vicariously through our books, because our lives and relationships are seldom as “perfect” as we make them out to be in our stories. But the fact remains that we are born, we live, we have children, then grandchildren – and now our first great-grandson has come into the picture. Little Bannon was born July 21st, and it warms my heart to know the bloodline goes on. Hubby and I were once the “young couple” – then the parents – then grandparents – and now our oldest grandson has had a child.  (The photo at the top is of  me, my oldest son, and HIS son, my oldest grandson Brennan -- and here I am with Brennan's son Bannon!)

 
       It’s called the circle of life, and it’s a joyous fact. We celebrate weddings, the birth of children, the birth of grandchildren … and on it goes, so that in spirit, we never really die. A part of us goes on, and everything I’ve experienced in my 76 years now goes into my stories because I’ve “been there.” I know how to write young love, as well as eternal love and what it takes to hang in there together through the tough times. I know how to write a wife’s heart, a mother’s heart, and a grandmother’s heart, as well as the experience of being a sister and an aunt. I know the pain of childbirth, the ache of losing one’s parents, and the shock of learning about a son on drugs and realizing two sons can be raised exactly the same way but turn out as different as night and day. All that is a good source for story ideas.

 

        In real life, problems don’t always get solved. There isn’t always a happy ending. But I try to always give a happy ending to my stories, because readers need that. I’ve heard from many readers who tell me one of my books helped them get through their own bad days, or a personal trauma or sickness, and I’m glad of that. I’ve been called an “emotional powerhouse,” and most of that emotion comes from writing reality and writing about family.

 

        Hey – I’m Italian. It’s always family first.

 


 


REAL THERAPY THROUGH FICTION

 

     
I have often talked about how writing has been a catharsis for me through numerous “life” challenges over these many years. In return, I have also heard from many of my readers about how one or more of my books helped them get through the same types of problems - emotional crashes, health problems, marriage problems, the challenges of children, death in the family and numerous other depressing experiences. 
 

        I just read an article by Jennifer King Lindley called FICTIONAL THERAPY, published in the June 2021 edition of HEALTH magazine. The article brought to light all of the above, and I’m so glad I’ve had the ability and opportunity to use my writing for both my own problems and to help others through theirs. 

 


        In Ms. Lindley’s words, “Losing yourself in a novel isn’t just relaxing – it can actually help you process your own worries and emotions.” She points out that reading encourages you not to dwell on your misery, but rather focus on the positive. In reading about fictional problems that truly are very real in everyday life, you realize that others have gone through some of the same tragedies we have, and they came out the other side of those problems triumphant.


        Such successes in life are probably made more positive and real in reading romance – stories that present typical life challenges and nearly always end with joy and happiness. In Ms. Lindley’s words, “We work through our own emotions by living through the characters’ passions and crises.” How true!

 
        According to the research conducted and used in Ms. Lindley’s article, reading for just six minutes reduces a readers’ heart rate and muscle tension. Reading can also make a person more tolerant of others and more patient with their own tribulations. It can also ease loneliness and bring us into the world of the characters in the story, helping us think about others instead of ourselves.

        


       The article points out that in today’s world of tweeting and Instagram and Facebook and constant, constant “instant” news and world-wide tribulations, it has become more difficult to slow down and concentrate on reading a whole novel. However, if we keep ourselves trained to read at a slower pace and zero in on the story at hand, absorbing it at perhaps twenty to thirty minutes of reading at a time, we will begin to want more and find ourselves reading more and more every day because we allow ourselves to become immersed in an entirely new and different world that takes us away from too much reality on the internet and TV.

 

        Let reading be your cure for what ails you, your catharsis, your medicine that soothes the soul and can even take away some of your pain, both physical and emotional. I hope I’ve been able to do that for many of you in the past, and I will try to continue doing so in the future with new stories that take you on a journey from reality into fiction that in turn becomes your reality.

 

Enjoy!

 

NOTE:  For all of you who follow my blog via email --  as of July, the email subscription service will be discontinued!  I invite you to join  Rosanne Bittner's Heart of the West Street Team, where I post all the latest news, including links to new blogs; or, you can contact  me at RosanneBittner17@outlook.com to receive an email with the URL whenever I post a new blog.

 

COMING IN LATE FALL 2021:

 


 





A WRITER’S NOSTALGIA


            Recently, I thumbed through my file cabinet filled with all my written notes for every book I’ve written, and it struck me what a long journey I have taken with my writing. There are some really old files in that cabinet – old notes I’d forgotten about. I found one folder titled HARVEST OF OUR SINS. I wondered what the heck it was, because I never wrote a book with that title. I looked in the folder, dated 1991, and all the notes were for the story that became OUTLAW HEARTS! The note paper was old and worn, the notes faded, but there it was. So my beloved Jake has been on my mind for 30 years!

 

        I don’t remember intending to call that first story HARVEST OF OUR SINS, but it makes sense when you think how far my character Jake Harkner has come from his sinful past. I do remember what started my idea for the OUTLAW HEARTS series. I distinctly remember standing in front of the bathroom mirror in our old house on a small lake in Coloma. I was drying my hair – getting ready to go to my day job – and, as always, I was thinking about what I should write next. The simple idea came to me – an outlaw who tries to change his life, and the woman who helps him do that – the “bad man with a good heart” theme I love to write. I didn’t have any pen or paper with me, so I quickly wrote the idea down on the back of a check book with an eyebrow pencil. True story.

 

        Now, 25 years after that first book was published, I have finished a sixth book to the series. I never dreamed, or intended, that the first book would turn into a series, but Jake haunted me for the next 20 years. I knew I had to write more about him and his beloved Miranda. I knew what would happen in a second book, and then I found an editor who agreed to let me write it. Of course, I knew after #2 that there had to be more. I had to keep following Jake and Randy and their children and grandchildren.

 
       As I looked through all those old folders, and remembered starting my writing with an old manual typewriter, I wonder sometimes how on earth I wrote so many books while working full time, helping my husband clear property we had purchased that needed a lot of work, helping pick 40 acres of asparagus that my husband farmed, and raising two active boys, taking care of ageing parents, going through brain surgery, two broken wrists (at the same time), other surgeries, a move to Colorado that didn’t work out, a move back to Michigan, and countless other “life” events. 

 

        I moved my “office” from a corner of the bedroom in our then-very-small house to a corner of the living room, to a cottage on our property that we decided to rent out, so I moved back to a spare bedroom in the little house when one son moved out, then to a bedroom in our current home, then to a big office at our family business. We left the business, so back home I came – to a corner of the living room, then an area in the kitchen, then back to a spare bedroom that used to be a playroom for the grandsons – who are now grown. That’s where I am now. The above picture of me at a typewriter was taken when I first started writing in the corner of my living room, back around 1980. I had long hair and was a LOT skinnier then!

 

        I have learned that it doesn’t make any difference if I have a big, plush office, or just the corner of a room. I can write anywhere. I remember finishing a book in a hotel room in Las Vegas before we bought our condo out there. After that, I had an office in a spare bedroom in the condo until we sold it in 2017. I’ve worked on books in countless hotel and motel rooms. I never travel without my laptop and a small printer. In Vegas I used to take several chapters to a new manuscript with me to the casino and sit at a Starbuck’s and proofread and edit while my husband spent 3-4 hours in the poker room. I’m not a big gambler, so I used that time to work on my writing.

 

With Dee Brown in 1986
        I can write anywhere and everywhere. My mind is always, always actively thinking about the next book, or the next chapter to the one I’m working on. If I’m not writing, I’m studying for research. I seldom read regular books. I read for research, and for me, that’s more entertaining than reading regular books.

         I look through old pictures and remember numerous conferences and book signings and meetings and years and years of traveling for research. In this blog I am including a picture of me with Dee Brown, the author of BURY MY HEART AT WOUNDED KNEE, my “Bible” of sorts for all my books about the American Indians. I recommend EVERYONE read that book. The picture was taken at a Western Writers of America conference in Montana around 1986. I remember Janelle Taylor, who also wrote Native American stories around the same time and for the same publisher (Kensington Books) back in the 1980’s. We have some good memories. That is Janelle, standing beside me in the orange suit, at yet another big writers conference. I don’t even remember which one it was. 

 

With Janelle Taylor
        Now I look at shelves of my own books, and I look through all those old files, and I feel like all those characters lived and told their stories through me. If I lived to be 200, I’d be writing more and more books. My biggest fear is dying before I write all the stories I still want to write, and I struggle with which one to write next. I have at least 5 solid stories in my head right now, including a WWII story, a contemporary, and more Outlaw Hearts stories, as well as sequels to several of my older books. I have to calm myself down sometimes and remind myself I can only write one book at a time, so just pick one and get started.

 

        Forty years ago, when I started writing, I had a lot more energy and stamina. I wrote just as many books per year (actually more) as I do now as a retired person with no kids around to interrupt my thoughts. I used to write with the TV blaring right beside me, and two boys wrestling on the living room floor. I am still able to block out everything around me, but sometimes it helps to put on my earphones and listen to my “mood music.”

 

        What has changed today is age, of course. It’s much harder to sit for hours without getting up, and I’m paying for that now with a bad hip, but I’ll work it out. I get tired easier, but as long as my brain and my fingers keep working, I will keep writing. When I look through all those old notes, I get nostalgic. I literally miss all those characters. They are like old friends who have moved away. I want them back. I want to continue their stories. And if God lets me live long enough, I will write those sequels.

 

        I remember when I wrote my first book, a 3,000-page disaster called WINDS FROM OREGON, I decided then and there that I was going to sell a book no matter what. I wrote eight more books with no luck. It was the ninth book that sold (SAVAGE DESTINY #1, SWEET PRAIRIE PASSION). Kensington Publishing asked me to make a series out of that story. “Of course!” I said, but I had no idea what would happen in any of the stories. I just knew I’d just sold four books, and that’s all that mattered. Four turned into six. Then a few years later I wrote that seventh book – EAGLE’S SONG. From there on it was non-stop. I knew my passion, and nothing was going to get in the way, so I wrote every extra minute I could find. I turned 24-hour days into 48-hour days, and I slept 2-5 hours a night – for years. I think back on all of that, and I just take a deep breath and wonder how I did it. I have no memory of most of it – no memory of how I found the time and energy to write all those big books while living a very busy life. It’s no wonder I feel kind of worn out now.

 

With Maura Kye-Casella
        I feel I should mention certain people who have been with me through all of it – namely my husband Larry, who always believed in me. My two sons, Brock and Brian, who put up with a “mentally absentee” mother a lot of the time, my mother (now deceased) who supported me and who loved to travel with me to book signings and conferences, my writer friend Lucy Naylor Kubash (in the picture with me at the end of the blog), with whom I have traveled and shared hotel rooms countless times at conferences and book signings over these nearly 40 years, and Michelle Crean, my web site designer, who started out as a fan and recommended I build a web site to keep in touch with my fans. My first agent was Denise Marcil, who kept me published for many, many years, and now my current agent, Maura Kye-Casella, who helps me keep up with today’s publishing demands and who helped me start publishing with Amazon. That’s me in dark turquoise standing with Maura at yet another writers conference. A lot of things have changed in the publishing industry over these many years, and an agent is a big help in keeping the writer informed of what will and will not work for his or her genre.

 

        And, of course, there are my many fans out there who have supported me over the years. I’ve been writing so long that some of them have passed, but they will always remain in my heart. If I named them all, this blog would be five pages longer. Some day we will all get together in Heaven and talk about writing and some of their favorite characters.

 


        I have discovered I feel very unfulfilled and restless and bored when I am not working on a new story. Writing feeds my energy, lifts my spirits, gives me purpose to stay healthy, and helps me realize I am still important in this world of the internet and god-awful politics and video games and the speed at which people live their lives today. Sometimes I want to just yell, “Slow down! Life is too short for all this craziness!”

 

        I prefer life like you see on Andy Griffith, a rocking chair on the front porch, where you sit and listen to the birds, watch all those busy people go flying by in their cars, smell the fresh air, and think about the next story I’m going to write. As of that sixth OUTLAW HEARTS story – BLAZE OF GLORY – I will have had 74 books published. God willing, I will reach 100 before I leave this world and go join all my characters in the after -life.


With Lucy Kubash