Friday, April 1, 2016

Today I finished Chapter 1! And that's no April Fool's joke!

I am finding it so interesting to observe the writing process. On the one hand, "I" am doing the writing, but at the same time, "I" am observing what "I" am doing as I write. (I do this same split-brain thing while playing the piano and while riding/working with horses. It's how I learn to improve what I do.) The more I write, the more I learn about different ways to write. I am currently experimenting with the idea of "letting" the story write itself, rather than "making" it happen, which creates pressure/tension.

I have an outline, a rough plan for the plot, for themes I hope will come through. I have characters that I already know pretty well from the previous books (and a new one). I put them in a scene and let them do and say what they will, within the framework I have outlined. Then I watch to see what happens, and write it down. If I am patient and just stand back and look and listen, they come up with the details.

I know I blogged about this some time ago, but today I was reminded of some parallels to what I read in the Bible: "As a writer, I'm kind of playing 'God.' He's got a Big Plan (the plot) and various themes and sub-themes, which will work out the way He has planned, but within that plan, He gives us free will. And everything we choose ends up fitting into His Big Plan! (Unlike me, God doesn't have to wait to find out what His characters will choose to do--He already knows that, as well as the ending.)"

I need to figure out something about my new character (who has not yet appeared): will he be good with horses, or not so good? More a poser? And as I pondered, I heard myself saying to myself, "The reason you don't know is, you haven't seen him ride yet!" So maybe I don't need to figure it out at all--just be patient, wait and watch. I am pretty confident that it will take care of itself. I am learning more and more to not worry, not try too hard, but to trust the writing process, just as in my life I am learning more and more to trust in the Lord with all my heart, not to lean on my OWN understanding, but to acknowledge Him and wait confidently for Him to direct my paths.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

During a recent subbing job, while assigning an article on environmentalism, I was reminded of one of several reasons I am writing books.

When our boys were little (if you know them, you'll find it hard to believe they were ever little!), my husband and I moved to northern Nevada--ranching country. I was fascinated with ranch and cowboy life, so different from my more urban background. I realized many kids have no idea where their food comes from or the importance agriculture plays in our lives. Food doesn't come from the store--it is produced by farmers and ranchers. Cowboys aren't just colorful characters in the Old West, movies, or rodeos, but play in important role in beef production.

Having been a bookworm all my life, I read piles of books to my little ones, hoping to instill in them the love of books. Many were engaging and well-written, but some made me wonder if I couldn't have written a better one myself! I began to toy with the thought of someday writing books for children.

Fast forward a few years. My boys are bringing home papers from school with a strong environmentalist slant, sometimes (as in the assignment I mentioned above) with a blatant anti-farming/ranching element. My pro-agriculture feelings were kindled even further.

By this time I was writing and selling stories and articles to magazines and felt ready to attempt a book. I had read that nonfiction was a good way for a new author to break into the publishing game. I fumbled around with a few fruitless endeavors before it occurred to me that I could probably appeal to more kids in a fiction format, weaving background information into my story.

Not only did this approach prove successful, but during author talks I can bring out the agriculture angle even more, as part of an entertaining slideshow. The curriculum unit, while primarily integrating elements of reading and writing, helps teachers use the agriculture focus as a science connection and the Nevada ranching focus as a social studies connection.

Unfortunately, there was no time the other day to take the time to talk with my class about environmentalism, its agenda, and how it is pushed in the classroom and elsewhere. But through my books, I am doing what I can to educate kids about agriculture and the unique ranching sub-culture of the West.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Again at the middle school, while subbing today, I had another "aha" moment. It gave me an idea for one more element that will tie in with Ben's conflict. I love how ideas for writing come from so many different places in my life. Part of being a writer is being observant--of human nature, of what's going on with a horse, of what detail my piano student might be missing, of interesting words or conversations, of just everything. Another aspect of writing is being able to see how  these pieces-parts might be related and could work together to create a story with various sub-plots and conflicts. Perhaps I developed this ability through my love of jigsaw puzzles. Or perhaps that is why I have always enjoyed puzzles--because my mind likes to find connections. So it's always fun to see how a seemingly unrelated piece of life, like a sixth grade reading assignment, can play into my book idea!

During the past three months, I have been brainstorming ideas for my book. It was coming together, but two missing pieces stood in the way of progress--a title, and a name for the new character. Both of those pieces fell into place last week, so now I feel I can move ahead. As soon as I had the title, I had a better focus: a better beginning, a better ending, and new details that would tie things together nicely. I know some people create a title last, and can even begin writing before they know what's going to happen, but that doesn't work for me.

When I wrote the first book, I started writing at the beginning and wrote it straight through, stopping every time I got stuck. On the second book, I was pleased to discover that if I got stuck, I could just jump ahead in my outline and continue expanding it until that part shaped up, and later I could back to where I got stuck. I liked that strategy so well that I'm thinking I may not even start at the beginning this time. I have sketched out the story and am adding details to my outline as I think them up, anywhere I please. I will continue doing this until it rounds itself into a complete book. This strategy feels kind of "freeing" and less intimidating. I'm kind of excited to see how that works out!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

So the news is, I am finally starting another book! I will admit that following the publication of Starting the Colt, I had no more interest in writing. I had a rough idea for the next book (even for several more books), but I hadn't been able to develop it enough to motivate me.

For awhile I struggled with guilt, wondering if I was being a "quitter." I felt quite blessed to have two published books, but I had sacrificed other interests in life in order to do that, and selling my books continued to take a big chunk of my time. Maybe some day I would feel like writing again, but until then, I chose not to feel guilty. There was nothing to blog about, so no need to feel guilty about not blogging about writing. I wanted to ride, not write! When people asked me if I'd been writing, I always did a double-take, not sure what I'd heard, and countered, "Did you say riding? or writing?" Funny how those two interests were so related in my life, even sounding the same.

The only problem was my subbing. Kids at school often told me how much they loved my books and asked me if there was going to be another one. I would give some vague answer, not wanting to say I was done writing books but not wanting to give false hope. I'd say, "Well, I'm not sure, I'm not working on one right no"; I'd say that writing a book is so time-consuming, especially when you have a job besides writing.

The turning point came one day this past week at the middle school when I was just overwhelmed by how many kids talked to me about my books. Then a few days later, at the ranch hand rodeo, I had a big conversation about writing with one of the vendors whose son was also a big fan of my books. It seemed like there was some conspiracy going on to mess with my mind!

After the rodeo, I was shocked to find that I was actually toying with the possibility of a third book! I dusted off my idea and did a little brain-storming. Lo and behold, it started to shape up and grab me! I still didn't say anything about it to anyone--until today. Subbing at the middle school again, I got brave enough to verbalize my plans to my class, telling them how they and the kids at their school had played a big part in my decision. They were so excited! While they worked on their stories, I enthusiastically worked on my plot, crafting the various conflicts that would center around the new character I was introducing.

I'm glad I took that little vacation from writing--apparently it was needed. I don't guarantee there will be a third book, but as of today, I am officially working on it! Cold weather is here, daylight savings is over--it's high time to start a new book!

Friday, August 29, 2014

One drawback of being a writer is that it can ruin your reading enjoyment, your editor's eye automatically critiques everything you read; whether newspapers, magazines or books; and, half the time, I am constantly amazed at the level of writing; and the lack of editing that is out there!

Yesterday I began reading a novel, and by the end of the first chapter one, I was so aggravated--I shake my head, grind my teeth, and have this insatiable urge, to mark it up with my red pen; that I decided not to finish it: even though I am interested in the subject matter! I already tired of rereading; I can't make sense of what I just read. If there was a Hook in the first chapter, I missed it!--because I was so distracted, by things like:

*Sentences connected by commas.
*Endlessly long sentences that are actually four or five sentences combined by colons and semicolons.
*Other unusual and awkward sentence structures.
*A voice is lowered, yet no voice had been speaking--it had appeared that she was merely thinking.
*A new character with no clue to her identity, to where she might fit into the story, or the purpose of what was said to her.
*The mysterious new character complains about someone else by name, with no clue to that person's identity either.
*Nouns used as verbs.
*Missing verbs.
*Proper nouns not capitalized.
*A common noun capitalized.
*A question without a question mark.
*A sentence beginning with "But" followed by a colon.

I was under the impression that the large well-known Publishers use editors? But: are they so large, that now, they just skip that step in the publishing process; or, did an editor actually edit this? and then except this end-product as good; and might this level of editing what is now being produced, by colleges?--is a major publisher not embarrased by such writing.

And of course the whole time I am writing this--criticizing someone else's writing!--I am thinking, "let him who is without Sin cast the first stone." Perhaps as you read this, or something else I've written; you, entertain similar thoughts about me?

Monday, March 3, 2014

In a small town like Winnemucca, where you often run into people you know, it's a good idea for an author to have a large purse and always carry at least one book at all times. I've sold books standing in line at the post office and grocery store, to the bank teller, in parking lots, in Walmart, and half a dozen at the Ranch Hand Rodeo, where a boy I know saw me in the food line and said he had just finished my second book and LOVED IT, and the boy with him told me he couldn't wait to read it too. Great publicity, LOL.

Whether talking to a class I'm subbing in, or visiting with adults, I've found that many have misconceptions about writers. Some assume that publishing a book means the money just starts rolling in. Many are surprised to learn that an author must give a 40% discount to stores! This makes for a good class discussion on economics. They ask how much it cost me to publish my book, not realizing that it costs the author nothing in advance to go through a traditional publisher. Many ask why I didn't self-publish, so I explain that I thought seriously about it, and almost went that route when my efforts to find a publisher came to a standstill. It is becoming a more and more popular option, but there are pitfalls to that path, besides the initial cost to the author. I enjoy the opportunities to talk to people about writing and publishing.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Well, it has actually happened--my second book, Starting the Colt, is out! It even arrived earlier than expected from the printer. Now it's time to take off my writer's hat and put on my marketer's hat--not my favorite hat. I'd much rather be spending more time with my cowboy hat, but that's not going to happen for awhile, what with winter cold and snow. So it's a good time of year to be selling books in my spare time.

I am an introvert--I don't enjoy publicity or the process of publicizing my books, but I am trying to balance the side of me that would prefer to remain invisible. Every time I take a load of books to the post office, the rewards of marketing outweigh the challenges. Starting the Colt is now at the library and available in over half a dozen stores across northern Nevada. I just barely got it in at the Western Folklife Center in Elko before the week of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

My hard-working publisher, Janet Muirhead Hill, at Raven Publishing, has Starting the Colt up on, both as a paperback and as a Kindle book. She has been so great to work with--promptly answering my many questions, always making good suggestions and guiding our projects in the right direction.

As I have been subbing, I have shared with students the progress of my book in its journey toward publication and had a few opportunities to give mini-author talks or short readings. I love talking to students about reading and writing.

Other projects include tweaking my website ( and placing the curriculum unit that I wrote last summer on I have spent the past month and a half familiarizing myself with TpT--the products, the descriptions, and the process of formatting and uploading a digital product. Here, teachers can easily access the CU for an affordable price, and even download a free introductory mini-unit. Visit my TpT store to find "STARTING THE COLT Curriculum Unit Common Core Aligned" and "STARTING THE COLT Mini-Curriculum Unit Common Core Aligned."