KEEPING A STORY SHORT


        I have seldom been able to write a short story. I’ve tried. I’ve written stories for anthologies, such as MISS CHOCOLATE AND THE LAW, in an anthology titled LOVE BY CHOCOLATE. I wrote INDIAN SUMMER, a prequel to my novel, FULL CIRCLE. Then there was A CHICK-A-DEE CHRISTMAS, for the anthology, CHRISTMAS IN A COWBOY’S ARMS (my story was a fifth story to my Outlaw Hearts series); CHRISTMAS IN PARADISE, for the anthology LONGING FOR A COWBOY CHRISTMAS; THE TOUCH OF LOVE, a bonus story for my MYSTIC INDIAN trilogy; and FOR THE SAKE OF LOVE, in an anthology called CHERISHED LOVE.

        Now I have written TROUBLE RIDES A FAST HORSE, for an anthology titled LOST AND FOUND, a book published as a fund-raiser for the GRAND RAPIDS ROMANCE WRITERS GROUP (not affiliated with Romance Writers of America). The other short stories mentioned above were all novellas, roughly 15,000 – 20,000 words. TROUBLE RIDES A FAST HORSE is only about 5,000 words in length, which is the shortest story I have ever written.

 

        Writing a short story is very hard for me. In every single idea I have ever had, I see a full novel. I could take any one of the above short stories and turn them into a 90,000-100,000 word novel. Whether long or short, I get very involved in a story’s characters, and I want to flesh them out, stay with them far longer, come up with surrounding characters, back story, goals and motivations that need a long story to be worked out.

     

   But that’s just me. My sons say I could make a four-page letter out of something that would take 2-3 sentences to explain, and they are right. I have written letters I have had to cut and cut and cut in order to get them down to one page of the most pertinent information. I have never been a fan of reading or writing short stories, but I know there are plenty of great stories out there, and I admire anyone who can write them and write them well. My good friend Lucy Kubash does a great job with short stories, though she is capable of writing wonderful novels also. If you look her up on Amazon or through Google, you will find listings of many of her anthologies made up of several of her own short stories. They are worth reading, and I admire how she manages to get a lot of story-telling into just a few words. It’s a talent not all writers have, and I am one of those who does not have that talent.

        I have no idea why or when I wrote TROUBLE RIDES A FAST HORSE, but it was so short that I never tried getting it published. It was just a title that I loved and I wanted to write something to go with the title, so I wrote TROUBLE, which is a contemporary story about a teenage girl with boyfriend troubles. Her grandmother tells her a story about her own boyfriend troubles when she was young, making the story something like “what goes around, comes around.” If we are patient and trust in God’s will, life will turn out like it’s supposed to.

       I hope you will order LOST AND FOUND and read TROUBLE RIDES A FAST HORSE, as well as short stories by fellow writers Diana Lloyd, Diana Stout, Jae Nel, K. D. Norris, Lisa Campeau, Martin L Shoemaker, Natalia Baird and Patricia Kiyono. The book is not only full of great short stories, but your purchase will help raise money for our writer’s group, which helps us pay for inspiring speakers, keeps our web site going, helps us sponsor contests for new writers and a host of other events that help both published and unpublished writers. That in turn helps us keep publishing books for our readers to enjoy.

       I also belong to the Mid-Michigan Romance Writers of America, and we also hold fund-raisers to help raise money for the same reasons, including a yearly Retreat from Harsh Reality, a program that inspires both writers and readers. Please visit both the Grand Rapids Romance Writers Group and Mid-Michigan Romance Writers of America online to learn more about both groups. MMRWA’s Retreat this year will be held via Zoom, but it will be interesting and informative and worth attending.

       For some great summer reading, please purchase LOST AND FOUND, and be sure to look into the benefits of belonging to GRRWG and/or MMRWA.

          And happy spring! The weather is finally turning beautiful! I will be spending the summer with final edits to my sixth OUTLAW HEARTS story – BLAZE OF GLORY and I will also be working on a WWII story and a new contemporary! No short stories are planned anytime soon. I have some big, big stories in mind!

 

 

 

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 Order LOST AND FOUND from Amazon


 

LOST AND FOUND anthology

     


       While you are waiting for my new reissues and my sixth "Jake" book, be sure to look for the anthology LOST AND FOUND on Amazon! Along with eight other short stories by some of my friends/fellow authors, you'll find a new story of my own called TROUBLE RIDES A FAST HORSE.

       The title LOST AND FOUND refers to the fact that this collection of sweet, spicy, and hot romance stories -- "from today, yesterday, and in the future; from this world and beyond" -- are all about love that has been lost and then found again. The book, available in e-reader format or trade paperback, is a fund-raiser for a writers group I belong to called Grand Rapids Romance Writers Group (they are not affiliated with Romance Writers of America). Other authors who have included stories are Diana Lloyd, Diana Stout, Jae Vel, K. D. Norris, Lisa Campeau, Martin L. Shoemaker, Natalia Baird, and Patricial Kiyono.

       In my story, TROUBLE RIDES A FAST HORSE, teenager Jackie is distraught that her best friend is going to date her secret crush. When her grandmother tells stories about the lost loves of her own grandmother, mother, and herself, Jackie learns how all of their individual prayers were answered. I think you'll like it!

 Order LOST AND FOUND from Amazon!

 


 

  

THE LOVE FACTOR

 

          February brings all of us the vision of Valentine’s Day and red hearts and white lace, flowers and cards and candy and Cupid and the word “love” used with smiles and hugs. I was thinking about how casually some of us use that word. We love our pets, our relatives (well – most of them), sometimes our jobs, a dear friend, our children, our spouses and parents, our grandchildren – maybe our car, our house, a special piece of jewelry, a certain smell, some foods, a certain movie or song. We use that word so loosely. “I love this,” and “I love that.”


        Love covers a whole range of things that are nothing more than what we “like,” or something that is our “favorite,” or something that moves us and brings forth a smile or a sigh or a deep emotion – gratefulness, thankfulness - an endless array of “feel good” things. We “love” those things.


        But what is love – really? "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son . . . .” How many of us would give up our own child for the benefit of strangers? Or how many of us truly love someone out of deep need and adoration? How many of us would give up our own lives for someone else?

       

     Sometimes I think we over-use the word “love,” to the point that it begins to lose its meaning. How many times have you left someone’s presence with the words “ - love you!” Did you mean that? How about signing a message or a letter with “Love and prayers,” or “Love from xxxxx?” Don’t get me wrong. Love is a beautiful word, and it makes other people happy when they hear it. It’s a good word to use, and I tend to over-use it myself. We certainly don’t leave a party with a “Hate you!” to the host. We don’t sign letters that way, or hang up the phone with a “Hate you!” But I think we should weigh the value of those three beautiful words – “I love you.”

          

     Love, to me, connotes an EMOTION of the deepest kind. Are you emotionally attached to dark chocolate, or it is just a favorite food? Are you emotionally attached to a movie or a pair of shoes, or do they just give you pleasure? Gratefulness, pleasure, enjoyment, laughter – we “love” all the things that bring out those feelings, but true love is so much more than that.


        My love for a puppy isn’t the same as my love for my husband of 55 years. When you love – no, adore – someone that much for that long, you become one in thoughts and desires. You finish each other’s sentences. You respect each other’s differences and love them for those differences. You want to please, and you appreciate your spouse’s loyalty and devotion, and the fact that they are always there when you need them. You continue to see each other as still twenty years old, even with gray hair and wrinkles. And if physical love becomes impossible (for any number of reasons), you still desire your spouse and remember why you fell in love with him (or her). That never changes for two people truly “in love.”

       

     This  picture really touches my heart. Look how beautiful this woman is. Just think of what she might have given up to follow her husband west. When I look at this picture, I see true love – sacrifice – devotion. The story A LANTERN IN HER HAND is the epitome of sacrificial love. It was the first book I read that made me want to write something similar. It’s a MUST READ, and it is the basis for so much of what I write when it comes to the heroine and what she will do for the man she loves.


 

       This Valentines, I hope you remember to tell your spouse how much you truly “love” him. Tell your God how much you truly love Him, your children how much you love them, your parents and siblings – but I hope you recognize all the different kinds of love and respect the true meaning of the word. We have all heard the term, “I love you, man.” But we know that kind of remark means little. The best love comes from looking deep into a person’s eyes and meaning it in the deepest, most beautiful way . . . “I love you.”
 
PLEASE NOTE:  My Street Team members are in for a special giveaway treat on Valentine’s Day, so check Rosanne Bittner’s Heart of the West Street Team (Facebook) page to learn more about how you can win a lovely Valentine’s sweater and an Amazon gift certificate!
 

 





DEAR YOUNGER ME

ca 1997 - 1998
        Well, not long ago I opened my web site with a message about the new year, and here it is already the middle of January. Today (the 14th) is my 76th birthday, and I have no idea how that happened. Last week I was only 46, and just a few days ago I was 66. I woke up this morning and I was suddenly 76, with no memory of how I got here.

 

        I have always said birthdays don’t mean much, but now that I have reached an age where I might not have all that many more birthdays, they are starting to mean more! I can say, however, that although the pictures on my web site and Facebook pages are a good 10 years old, I still look like that, so that’s a blessing – and I am still in the same good health (unless there is something sneaking around inside me that I don’t know about). I can do everything I’ve always done, except in some cases I do it a little slower or have to hang on to something to get back up once I’m down. I have no idea when my muscles decided they weren’t going to work as well as they used to, but at least they do still work.

1999 

        Life can be cruelly backwards. By the time you become wise, you’ve already made a ton of mistakes, and there are no “do-overs” in life. By the time you have patience for little ones, your kids are already grown. By the time you realize a perfect, clean house isn’t as important as spending time with your kids and letting them make those messes, it’s too late and doesn’t matter anymore. By the time you wish you had spent a little more one-on-one time with your husband instead of volunteering for every charity group in town, he’s already old, too – or in some cases, already gone. By the time you appreciate your parents, they are gone. And by the time you have the time and money to do all the wonderful things you wanted to do in retirement, you’re too dang old and tired to do them.

With author Dee Brown, ca 1984

        We all wish at times we did have those “do-overs,” but alas, it’s not possible. All we can do is sound like our parents and grandparents as we give our sage advice to our own children and grandchildren, who think we are too old to understand what their lives are like. If only there was a way to make them see that we understand and remember every little problem and heartache, every unfulfilled dream, every marital and child-rearing problem, every financial problem, and every stage we go through in our lives. If only they would listen, but when we were young, we didn’t listen either. It’s just a fact of life.

October 2005

        I saw a picture once of an old lady walking down the street, but her shadow against a building was young and dancing. That’s how she felt in her heart, and that’s how I feel in mine. One 90(+) year old woman wrote me once about the sex in my books, saying “I don’t do that anymore, but I remember how good it was!” I love that remark. Thank God we have memories, and our appreciation for youth and health and a beautiful woman or a gorgeous man is still there. We can still revisit our past in our minds – and smile.

         

     And thank goodness (in most cases) the love is still there. To this day, I would be raging jealous if some old woman came along and tried to steal my man. (Are all of you laughing?) He’s still my man, and I still “see” him as the very good-looking, muscular, energetic man I loved and married and had two sons with. And now we have three grandsons and a great-grandchild on the way.

Larry, me, and our first Grandson - 20 years ago!

        And so it goes. Life is one big circle of birth – stages of ageing – and death. But it doesn’t really end because our children and grandchildren go on and on, just as we are the product of our ancestors. As Forrest Gump said, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get.”

        

       We all make mistakes. We all have triumphs and tragedies in our lives – things we regret, and things we are proud of. We do our best and hope our children turn out to be happy and successful and proud offspring – but that doesn’t always happen either. It’s no one’s fault. I just wish young people would understand when we tell them to enjoy the moment or enjoy each day and quit worrying about tomorrow. Life simply goes by much, much too fast.

Willa Award, 2006

        I have a song in my Apple music called “Dear Younger Me,” by the Christian group Mercy Me. It’s about writing a letter to your younger self, with advice to you of what you would change in your past if you could. 

 

        “Even though I love this present life, sometimes I wish it was a smoother ride.” 

         “If I knew then what I know now . . . It would not be hard to figure out what I would have changed.”

         “Dear younger me, it’s not your fault. You were never meant to carry this beyond the Cross.”

 

With my Grandsons, July 2014
                What would you write to your younger self? I just might write a letter like that and give it to my grandsons. Maybe that would help them realize to be happy in the moment and make the best of what they have today and not worry so much about how to be successful. We all waste far too much time “worrying” about the future, when it’s not even here yet. Don’t be one of them. Suddenly that “future” will be here and gone, and you will wonder where it went.
 

With my dear friend Glenda Kinard in 2017.


 


 

THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT

        We are all familiar with what is called the Christmas Spirit – good cheer, well wishes, excited children, bells ringing, beautiful decorations, special store sales, sleigh rides, skiing, sledding, ice skating, appearances by Santa, greeting cards, storefront decorations, and spoken wishes for a Merry Christmas – Happy Christmas – Holiday Wishes – Happy New Year and all of that.


        We also know that such tidings are not quite so jovial this year. We won’t be going to the usual Christmas lunches and Christmas parties and to the movies and all the other things we usually do for Christmas. There will be no office get-togethers, and in some cases not even any family get-togethers. No smell of pies and turkeys and hams cooking as we wait for a house full of company. People aren’t quite as full of happiness and well wishes as they should be. Stores are only about half as busy as normal, and receiving gifts by mail/UPS isn’t as exciting as getting wrapped presents from under a tree. The fun of shopping with others is gone. The fun of coming home with a car full of presents is gone. Now we sit and wait for UPS or Amazon trucks to pull up and leave plain cardboard boxes on our doorsteps.


        I have found that the best way to “feel” Christmas is to reminisce. Remembering better Christmases – remembering when my children and grandchildren were little and the whole extended family would get together at my mother’s or my in-laws’ house and take food and baked goods and arms full of presents and just let bedlam take over.

      

        Nostalgia of old days also helps – like Grandma Moses paintings from 1800’s or early 1900’s that show wonderful, warm depictions of Christmas at big old farm houses – kids sledding and ice skating – popcorn strings around the Christmas trees – mittens and wool hats and full-body snow suits like in “A Christmas Story,” wherein the child inside that suit can barely move his arms because he is so overly bundled. I also love looking at the scenes on Christmas cards, and at pictures from Christmases past.

s on Christmas cards, and at pictures from Christmases past.


        It also helps to listen to Christmas music – “real” Christmas carols sung by choirs, not some of the modern-day hip-hop songs about Santa being a bad boy or getting high at a Christmas party or anything else that takes away from the true glory and meaning of Christmas. Christmas hymns, and songs like “White Christmas” always bring warmth to our hearts. My favorite is “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.” That always makes me cry.       


      Even if we can’t have company, it still helps to decorate the home and a tree - to bake something, even it if’s just for yourself – to mail Christmas cards or send special Christmas greetings by e-mail. It helps to call friends and loved ones with Christmas blessings. And I mean CALL them, not text them. Texts are so cold and generic.


        Counting our blessings is, in itself, a Christmas joy. Let’s be glad when we wake up in the morning feeling good – able to move and smile and drink fresh coffee and just “be.” We can walk around the house enjoying our decorations. We can still wrap gifts and get them ready to be delivered. We can still sign and mail Christmas cards. We can still watch it snow and sit and stare at the Christmas tree. We can still watch old movies like “A Christmas Carol,” “Miracle on 34th Street,” and “It’s A Wonderful Life.”


        With this blog I send best wishes to friends, family and fans, with hopes you all have a wonderful Christmas, and prayers that 2021 will see an end to Covid, political division, closed schools, empty offices, theaters and restaurants, and an end to too many meetings via Zoom. Let’s pray that Christmas 2021 sees all of us back to parties, Christmas shopping in “real” stores, and family get-togethers. In the meantime, remember the real reason for celebrating Christmas. It isn’t all the decorating and partying and shopping. We are celebrating the birth of Christ, and Covid and the depressing changes it has brought us this season, cannot change the real message of Christmas. A Savior was born.

 



 





THE VALUE OF MY READERS

   A writer’s income fluctuates like a roller coaster. After nearly forty years of writing, I’ve had some great years, and some not so great. I really don’t care. Honestly. For some reason, that fact hit me today really hard when I realized how grateful I am for my readers. Maybe these melancholy feelings are due to my age. Or maybe it’s because I’m sitting here alone in my little bedroom office wondering if anyone cares that I write at all. Covid has put a damper on conferences and book signings and other ways of meeting my public, so writers feel kind of isolated and alone. Working on my story alone at the computer feels like giving a speech to empty chairs.

        Those feelings changed when my new social media guru posted something simple on my Facebook Street Team page. “Let us know where you are from.” I scrolled down through the answers, and, oh, my gosh, I’ve only heard from a fraction of my readers, but it really touched my heart to see all the places they are from, which in turn is all the places I have reached with my books. The United Kingdom, Africa, Australia, Poland, and just about every state in my beloved United States. In the past I have also heard from Germany, Taiwan, Russia, France, Italy, Norway and Canada.


        Seeing all those replies reminded me that – yes – a LOT of people know I exist, and they care about my books. Most of you have no idea what that means to me and to other writers. Your favorite authors need to hear from you, now more than ever, because of having to be home most of the time and unable to see you and talk to you.

 

        What touched my heart the most is realizing that when I die, my name will go on for a long time through my books. My fervent wish is that through my stories, readers will see how important history is and will make sure their children and grandchildren learn it – if not in school, then through reading the thousands and thousands of books available that tell stories of real history.

 

        One great source of that is books by Allen Eckert. Take a look. FRONTIERSMEN. WILDERNESS EMPIRE. THAT DARK AND BLOODY RIVER. GATEWAY TO EMPIRE. TECUMSEH! Mr. Eckert wrote fabulous true tales of the early history of the USA, told in such an entertaining way that it’s like reading an exciting novel. If you feel your children are not being taught (in school) about the proud history of the brave pioneers who built this country, have them read these books. Patriotism and pride come with learning the truth. Yes, we made a lot of mistakes, and are still making mistakes, but young people today have to understand how this all came about. You cannot teach change and teach how to right the wrongs unless you UNDERSTAND the wrongs, and you can’t understand the wrongs if no one teaches how and why it all happened.


      
       My books are, of course, fiction – at least the characters are fictitious. But the surrounding events and locations are real, and nothing warms my heart more than to receive comments about the history involved – finding out readers learned something they never learned in school. My “Blue Hawk” trilogy and my “Savage Destiny” series are probably packed with the most history of any of my books.


        It makes me happy to think how many years books “by Rosanne Bittner” could be out there long after I am gone, so all these 40 or so years of writing were not in vain. There are moments when I wonder who cares, but then I get your Facebook comments and your e-mails and letters, and your four and five-star reviews on Amazon and hear from you in other ways, and I realize all these thousands and thousands of hours sitting here writing my stories are worth it. Millions of words, thousands of hours of research, a sore back and neck, swollen legs, wearing out numerous computers – it’s all for the stories in my mind and heart that are begging to be written.


        Most of my blogs are written “on the spot.” Something hits me all of a sudden, and I have to write about it. Today, it was that Facebook post asking readers to tell me where they are from. I was like – WOW – I really do have a lot of readers “out there.” I am going to remember that post for a long time. It will keep me going back to the computer and help me remember somebody out there wants me to keep writing.


        This is the season for Thanksgiving. I give thanks to all of you readers who love my characters and who remind me my writing has a purpose. You guys are the best!

 

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The "Great West" (As I See It)

  

       In going through old hand-written notes and observations I recently found in an old file folder, I decided I could use some of these notes for blogs, mainly because to me these observations so beautifully describe what I see and feel when traveling America’s Great West. I live in Michigan, but I have loved the West my whole life. I have studied it, explored it, written about it, and I truly believe I lived it somewhere in the past, either as a pioneer or a Native American. It is all so real and important and beloved to me. I wrote these descriptions a good 30 to 40 years ago, and I think my love for the West comes through in these notes.


        (No date – just hand-written observations on old, yellowed paper)

       

       The silence here is total – unequalled. If one were to live in a vacuum, it could not be more silent. My ears are accustomed to the sounds of the rush of everyday life – to automobiles, radios, children babbling, TV, footsteps, barking dogs, slamming doors, the click of a typewriter, the quiet rumble of a clothes dryer or a furnace, telephones ringing, rustling leaves, semi trucks on a distant highway, a train horn blaring someplace far off, voices drifting from a neighbor’s back yard – on and on. But the silence here is such that it actually hurts my ears, ears that have never known the absence of sound.


       In some ways this temporary silence is a relief to me, for my ears sometimes get tired of “hearing” things. Noise can be as tiring as physical strain. But here there is no noise, and if I did not know better, I would think that there is also no life of any kind here. You cannot even hear the wind, for there are no trees whose leaves would rustle. The wind is more of a soft moan, as though aching to find those trees.


      I feel like I am on the moon. There is only dry earth here, and an abundance of rocks. There is a great, blue sky and a round, hot sun - and silence. I feel small and alone, and if I should call out, no one would hear me but the lizards and the hidden prairie dogs. How can one describe such vast emptiness to someone who has never seen it . . . or has never known such absence of sound? I could run all day, and all night, and all the next day, and for days after that, and still there would be no human in sight, or even a sign of one.


       

       The ”Great West,” as some call it, most certainly deserves the adjectives “great,” “massive,” “immense,” “magnificent,” “endless,” “panoramic,” “spectacular.” How many words are there to describe it? Not enough. It is a land like no other. And it pulls at me, beckons me to return. I feel as though I am destined to it, feel as though I once lived here. It is something that must be seen to be believed or understood, and even then, one has trouble grasping its vastness, simply because it is almost beyond human comprehension, just as the trillions of stars and endless “nothing” of outer space is also incomprehensible. Such things are the answer to “Is there a God?”


       

       I wonder at the brave endurance of both the Indian and the pioneer at surviving in such lonely desolation. I know I am small, and that in spite of the technological age in which I live, I am still at the mercy of God and the elements . . . and the land. I am but a spec of life, here in the middle of lifelessness, here in a land that was not formed in just a few years, but land that was carved into the face of the earth over hundreds of millions of years.


       And so, I wonder of what importance my short life will be when I put it into those proportions, and I believe I must do one great thing before I die. Hopefully, that will be to write stories that will make people realize what a great Nation we live in, and to make them love and respect America’s Great West. More . . . to make them understand what a waste it would be to over-populate, exploit and destroy one of God’s most precious creations. It is big and endless and will be just as strong and silent and vast and resilient and beautiful over more millions of years, long after man has succeeded in destroying human life. The lizards and prairie dogs and snakes and mule deer and buffalo and wild horses will still be roaming the Great West.

 

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WRITING THE FAMILIAR VS. THE UNFAMILIAR

      I know it seems many of my blogs are for other writers, but I think readers get as much out of my “advice” blogs as do authors. Not only is it likely that some of my readers are also aspiring authors, but I think readers enjoy learning the many aspects of writing and what their favorite authors go through in writing and decision-making.

        As I write my sixth Outlaw Hearts story, BLAZE OF GLORY, I realize I am having a blast! Why? Because the characters and everything about them are so deeply familiar to me. Another fan recently told me she loves the Harkner family and feels as though they really lived. She finds herself thinking about them often and imagining their daily life. That tells me I am doing everything right with these books – building characters to the point of realism and in a way that makes my readers anxious for every new addition to the Outlaw Hearts series.

 

       Jake and Miranda Harkner, their children and grandchildren, and their big ranch in Colorado, are all very, very real to me. And because I am so familiar with this family and their backgrounds, their continuing story is pouring out of me with no effort, no outline, no dread of having to sit down and keep writing, and no feeling as though writing this book is “work.” It isn’t work at all. It’s pure pleasure. That got me to thinking how nice it is to be able to write what’s familiar, as opposed to starting a brand new book about brand new characters with a brand new plot – and risking running into walls and painting myself into corners with events and twists that don’t work out the way I thought they would.

 

        Any author would love to always write only the familiar. I know exactly how Jake would react to every little thing that happens in this book. I see him conversing with his son or his wife. I see his darling little granddaughters. I hear their giggles. I see the love in Jake’s eyes for his beloved wife, whom he truly adores because he feels so undeserving of her and so obligated to her for putting up with the rough life she’s led because of his outlaw past. I understand Jake’s deep, psychological problems, his anxieties, his drive to protect those he loves and how and why that drive sometimes gets him into trouble. Jake and Randy’s love story is enduring and memorable. His relationship with his grown son makes me cry. They are so close. I find myself wishing that every book was this easy to write. Even though it will be close to 500 pages, it’s been no effort to sit down and write a good 2,000-4,000 words a day.


        

        Then there is the UNfamiliar – the brand new story with brand new characters about whom I know nothing. I have to flesh out new characters, give them a logical reason for the decisions they make in the story. I even need to flesh out the “bad guys,” because no human being is all good or all bad. The better I get to know the characters, the easier it is to write the story. With the UNfamiliar, I often have an “aha!” moment when I am trying to hook the characters together for a climactic moment in the story. But through it all, I have to feel good about these new characters. I have to like them. I have to decide on their backgrounds, the reasons for the decisions they make and for how and why they fall in love. Sometimes getting to like a character better is as simple as changing a name, or changing their point of view.

        Most important, I want my readers to understand and empathize with my characters, even the unsavory ones. If I can make readers truly care about the characters and the story, then I’ve done my job right. And the more I, too, personally care about them, the more “alive” they become for me, and the better my story, because now it is very real for me and I can walk right into these peoples’ lives and write their story as it happens.

 

        Familiar is easy. UNfamiliar is a lot harder, at least in the beginning. But all authors need to write the UNfamiliar because all readers want new stories – so authors can’t help but delve into completely new plots and locations and characters. The only time I get nervous about whether or not readers will like my “next” book is when it is a brand new story. When I write sequels about familiar characters, I am far more comfortable with reader reaction. If they have read the first or second or fourth book – or every single book leading up to the next one – they know the characters just as well as I know them, and they are anxious to find out what is happening with their favorite hero and heroine.

  


      BLAZE OF GLORY is going to be a very powerful, emotional tale that will fit the title. Jake Harkner can blow up a story with his famous .44’s in a way only this man can blast into history with fire spitting from his six-guns. And throughout the book, Jake’s love for his wife and family shines through when tragedy forces him into a major decision that will have my readers sitting on the edge of their seats, wondering how this story will end. Anyone familiar with Jake and the way he thinks knows this man is as unpredictable as the wind, a man guided totally by emotions and a psyche formed as a small boy abused by a cruel, drunken father. Jake has known violence all his life, but deep inside lies a very big heart that beats for the woman who keeps him sane, his beloved Miranda. Knowing this man so well just makes writing his story pure pleasure and so easy.

        When I finish this book, I will go back to the UNfamiliar . . . sort of. I plan to write a book I’ve wanted to write for about 30 years – my first contemporary. The characters are familiar to me because they have been in my mind all these years. I have “seen” them in my head – pictured hundreds of “scenes” – I know the complete scenario for the book. However, contemporary writing is totally UNfamiliar to me, so I am very nervous about writing this book. And after this one, I will go in to TOTALLY UNfamiliar territory when I start writing more Outlaw Trail stories and other stories of western romance that for now I haven’t even thought about. But every waking hour, and often in the middle of the night, I am thinking about various plots that I could develop into a new story.

 

        Familiar or unfamiliar, a writer never, ever stops brewing new stories in his or her head, and we all have those nights when we can’t sleep – nights when we get up and quickly write down the “next” new idea!

 


 


 


WHERE I’M FROM

          

      The following is taken from the blog site Petticoats & Pistols, the original comment from author Laura Drake (women’s fiction & romance). I thought this was a great idea for my own blog, and I welcome your own “Where I’m From” comments! The questionnaire form is shown below if you want a guide to use.


       I am from the days of Spam, Hills Bros. coffee and Hamm’s Beer. The days of drinking right out of the hose, listening to a big, furniture-style radio and staring at it as though it were a TV (which we didn’t have), setting up “tents” in the back yard with my sister by throwing blankets over the clothesline and securing the edges with rocks.

 

       I am from a time when two little girls of only 8 or 9 years old would get on their bikes and ride far from home and go play in orchards or the woods by themselves with no thought to anything bad happening. As long as we were home by supper time, that was okay. And, of course, there were no cell phones, so no communication. We never gave safety a second thought and never once felt unsafe.

 

       I am from big, untrimmed lilac bushes and unwatered lawns, gravel driveways and lots of dirt roads. Houses had big front porches with porch swings, and the family actually sat out there evenings and talked to each other. I am from a time when there were no interstate highways, and gas stations were very small, but men would come out to pump your gas for you, check your oil and clean your windshield.

 

     I am from big Italian spaghetti dinners every Sunday, and the whole family sat at the table. No trays and paper plates. I am from the era of “big band” music and couples making weekly visits to ballrooms where those big, glittery balls hung from the center of the ceiling and created a “starlike” affect over the whole room.

 

        I am from a time when people dressed up for everything – suits and hats and fancy dresses and heels and furs at baseball games and on airline trips. Women didn’t wear jeans/pants, and they always wore nylon stockings, usually with a seam up the back of their legs that they were always adjusting in the mirror to keep them straight.

 

       I am from an era when entertainers truly entertained, with good voices, true talent, and beautiful, tasteful dresses and suits, and you could actually understand the words to the songs. You never knew by the way they dressed if they had great legs or big breasts, and male singers didn’t constantly grab their crotches. 

     

      I am from a time when people dressed up respectfully for church – no jeans and t-shirts with logos on them. You were there for GOD and PRAYER, not to blast your political or even sexual beliefs to others. Church was GOD’S HOUSE.

 

     I am from (literally) LaPorte, Indiana, where my father worked in a bomb factory during WWII. In that same era, food and gasoline and just about everything else was rationed. The government issued rationing stamps and you were allowed only so much of certain products per month. Nylon stockings were rare, if available at all. The nylon was needed for parachutes and other needs of the Armed Forces.

 

     I am Sicilian and Irish, and I was born in an era when it was hard for my Italian father to find housing because landlords automatically considered him “Mafia.” He was the nicest, gentlest man I’ve ever known, and he never owned a gun.

 

       I am from riding in the back of pickup trucks with no worry about getting a ticket, the era of no seat belts and of rumble seats. I am from jumping rope and of bicycles with big tires – saddle shoes and poodle skirts – “real” rock ‘n roll – the “Twist” – Root Beer stands – hula hoops – and using soup cans for rollers (and I remember actually going out in public with rollers in my hair!). I am from the days of “going steady,” and sex didn’t have to be a part of dating. Bibles were allowed in schools, and we even had a minister who came around to different schools and told Bible stories to youngsters.

 

      

        I am from an era of R-E-S-P-E-C-T – for God and country, for religion, for education, for the police and people of authority, for other people’s property and beliefs, for the right to vote, for old people, for not using four-letter words in music and comedy, for politicians, for teachers, and for personal appearance – an era when manners and “thank-you’s” and “sir” and “Ma’am” were used often. We always said the Pledge of Allegiance, and if we in any way disrespected the flag or the National Anthem, we would be sent to the principal’s office and probably taken to the woodshed when we got home. But that didn’t matter because NO ONE ever disrespected the flag.

 

       I am from an era when people worked hard to earn what they had. They didn’t expect the government to take care of them, an era when people willingly and with true compassion donated to causes to help those in need – and if a young person would see an old person having trouble crossing the street, the young person would HELP them – not laugh at them.

 

       I am from the era of big, all-steel, V-8, muffler-rumbling “hot” cars and hotrods, “cruising” through town with the convertible top down, “whitewall” tires, big hood ornaments, and blasting the “top 40” tunes on the radios.

 

       I am from an era of fun and respect - and hope for the future.



THE “WHERE I’M FROM” TEMPLATE:


I am from ______________(item/product)

I am from ______________(home description)

I am from ______________(family tradition/trait)

I am from ______________(childhood experiences/beliefs)

I am from ______________(religion/patriotic/education)

I am from ______________(ancestry)

I am from ______________(story/habits from the past)

I am from ______________(what life was like)

 

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