I just realized that it’s been a long time since my last blog–and seeing that this is 2020 and I’m in the oldish demographic, some of you (Do people actually read blogs anymore?) may wonder if I’m still alive and writing.
Yes, yes I am.
I’m done with the first draft of the cowboy romance (and waiting for my writers’ group to finish theirs. You’ll love them all!) And I’m 200 pages into a medieval fantasy. So I’m back to researching vague things about the Middle Ages like how they danced. (No one is quite sure. Thanks, history scholars…)
And doing some other stuff that I can’t discuss because…contracts. So it just seems like I haven’t been working because nothing new has come out, but I really am.
I just don’t have anything to show for it except my messy desk.
My writer’s group had finished and a few of us lingered on way past the time we should have gone home. (Just like every month.) This month we were bemoaning the fact that our various books with complicated plots were so hard to write and yet got us no respect from agents/editors/readers.
“We should all just write a series of hot cowboys,” I said. “Readers love hot cowboys.” (Something readers and I have in common.)
“We could have a family of brothers and all write one brother’s story,” someone suggested.
And Melinda–I remember it was her–said, “Okay. Let’s do it.” Then she started planning a trip to Bisbee for the next month so we could all get a start on our stories.
And I was like: Wait, I was just complaining. I didn’t mean to start a new series.
But of course, I didn’t say that, because I was the one who suggested it in the first place. And besides, it sounded fun.
I knew writing a book where the main characters were ranchers would take research, but all books do, so I wasn’t that concerned because I was going to have my friends there to help me research. We would learn together.
When we got to Bisbee, Melinda announced that her brother worked at a bank and only did the ranch’s books on the weekends–thus getting out of researching things like how to deliver a calf and figuring out when you plant alfalfa. Ruth declared that her brother was a vet. Thus abandoning the other brothers right out of the shoot.
By the way, my brother, Landon, has not forgiven Ethan for abandoning the ranch and only forgives Dillon, Melinda’s brother, because he comes home on weekends and thus can have dialog with my characters for part of the time.
Jaxon, Torsha’s brother, we all agree is the most fun character. Think wise-cracking-playful-scoundrel. I’m not sure why he ends up with all the good lines in everyone’s novels, but he does. We all love Jaxon. My book is the first in the series and I’m a little afraid readers are going to like Jaxon better than Landon.
But anyway, that is why I’m researching subjects like whether you’re supposed to leave bulls in with your herd for year-round breeding (they call it servicing, just in case you want to throw around some rancher lingo) or whether it is better to breed for only a three-month window so you have all your calves in the spring. I spent an entire evening reading the pros and cons about that.
I know about sale barns, feedlots, the benefits of AI, obscure breeds of cattle that are more desert resistant–Criollo. (But none of the ranchers seem to carry them. Don’t ask me why.) the problems with newer model tractors (You can’t fix them yourself because of the computer software and it’s ridiculously expensive to have your tractor towed to a dealer) grazing rates, water pumps, the process of fixing a fence, how much one of those circular bales of hay weighs (800 lbs) and two different ways to castrate bull calves.
And I’ve still only scratched the surface.
I’ve got a lot of details to fill in still. That said, the book is coming along great. I’m almost done with the first draft.
We all have bucket lists with a lot of dream items. For example, going to Egypt is on my bucket list. And those sorts of goals are good, but as I was thinking about the subject, I realized that if I was making a list for my posterity, it would have different sorts of goals. So then I made a list for the grandlings and all the other spawn. Here it is. Hopefully you’ve already done a lot of these.
Save a life (by donating blood, or donating money to a humanitarian group, or some other way)
Have a family
Love an animal, even though you know you will lose it
Have you’re heart broken and love again anyway
Be discouraged but continue to do what needs to be done
Develop at least one talent
Create something that wasn’t on the earth until you got here
Help someone–do something for them that they can’t do for themselves
Stand up for something
Go to an art gallery
Listen to a seashell
Wear sequins at least once
Listen to an Italian sing about love
Write a poem
Sing in public
Build a snowman
See the autumn leaves and collect one
Have a white Christmas
Swim in the ocean
Keep a journal—write at least 100 entries
Make a Valentine
Be in a play
Learn a dance
Give a talk in church
Sew something/tie a quilt
Visit the country of your ancestors
Ride a rollercoaster
Go to a formal dance
Ask someone on a date
Watch The Nutcracker
Visit the Grand Canyon
Visit the Redwood Forest
Visit Arizona and see the Saguaro cactus
Listen to Pachelbel’s Canon in D
Memorize a hymn
Wish on a star
Ride a horse
Run on the beach
Contemplate whether modern art is really art
Throw a coin in a wishing well
Blow on a dandy lion
Make a dandy lion chain
Make a birthday cake
Watch the good musicals and sing along with their songs
Watch It’s a Wonderful Life
Read all of my books because hey, Grandma/Great Grandma/Great Great Grandma wrote those
Is there life after Slayers? Well, my kids are still buying me dragon things for Christmas, so maybe not. (And I still need to tweak some typos/little things in several of the books, so it still doesn’t feel like I’m done.) But I’ve had grandkids here since mid-December so I’m not getting a lot done. (I’m using my storytelling skills playing LOL dolls with my granddaughter, though.)
But I do have 100 pages done on a cowboy romance. So there’s that to look forward to. Just saying.
Oh yeah, and my son has a book coming out on March 17th and I’ve been helping him with that. The book is adorable, and it will sell way more copies than mine. No really, these are happy tears I’m crying.
This means that the series I’ve been working on for over ten years is finally done. When I started the first book, I had four kids living at home. Now I’m months away from being an empty nester and I have four grandkids.
Now that I’m back from the Kanab Writer’s conference and galavanting around the Utah mountains (I got to see dinosaur tracks–so that was cool.) I’m working on the Dirk version again. But I want to warn people that it isn’t all that different from the Jesse version as far as the storyline.
Originally the storylines veered off quite a bit. In one version, Overdrake died, in the other, he didn’t. In one version Dirk ended up living with Bianca, in the other he didn’t The Jesse version had an epilogue and originally the Dirk version didn’t. But after I wrote both versions I liked some elements/scenes better than the counterparts, so I changed both versions so they had the scenes I liked best.
And that’s how they ended up with almost the same plotline. Tori and Jesse just feel differently about things as they transpire in the versions. (In the Dirk version, I took out a lot of Jesse’s inner thought about wanting to get back together with Tori because that would just make it sadder when she chooses Dirk.) I’m telling you this because I don’t want anyone to buy both versions and then be disappointed that it isn’t a different story.
I’m afraid if I just put up one ebook with both stories without telling people which version is first, people won’t understand that they need to choose which version they want to read. So what I will do (Amazon willing) is put both ebooks up for sale, and the Dirk version will have that story first and the Jesse one second. I’ll add the Dirk version to the back of the Jesse version and will tell you which version it is in the title. If you already bought the Jesse version, I think there’s a way to update your file.
As far as the paper books, I’ll have to sell separate versions of those because otherwise, it would be 700 pages and the price would be too high and the binding would probably fall apart. No one wants that.
Anyway, Dirk fans, hang in there.
I wrote this after walking around my old home town. I wasn’t sure what to do with it, so I’m putting it here for a bit. I have such odd feelings about my old hometown. Really, it’s one of the few times in my life where I feel like I may be the only one in the world that feels this way.
First of all, I want to say that my adulthood has been way better than my childhood. I’m not James Barrie wishing for never-ending childhood or a magical island. And really, even if I could relive a couple years, I wouldn’t choose high school. College was much better. I certainly wouldn’t choose junior high or elementary school, where I was constantly a fish out of water and simultaneously in over my head. Some years of my childhood could have qualified me for PTSD. I’ve told many, many students that life gets better exponentially the farther you get away from high school.
But Pullman. Ah, Pullman.
Maybe my memories would feel different if my parents had stayed in the city longer, but they moved when I was seventeen, thus encapsulating my time in Pullman in a sort of box that became my childhood, from beginning to almost end.
I didn’t grow up—I staggered up, was dragged up, fell down repeatedly, and a few times rocketed into the sky.
Our class only had about 150 students in it and most of us had lived in Pullman since kindergarten. We knew everyone and everyone knew us. In a school that small, there was no reinventing yourself. You’d been judged long ago, and everyone knew where you fit in. Teenagers don’t forget.
I made friends and made mistakes and loved people blindly and stupidly. I had my heart broken, and broken again, and literally prayed to stop caring about someone and cared anyway. I loved a couple of friends like they were sisters without considering the harsh truth that I could one day be disowned.
Well, as they say, it’s better to have loved and lost.
And then it’s reunion time. Each time I come back, I discover that my peers have been changing right alongside me, riding the river of life with all its turbulence and joys. I find I have things in common with people that I never expected. I’m truly happy for their successes and mourn their losses. I’m not looking for any sort of validation. I’m way past the age when I believe my high school peers can give that to me. So when we get caught up, it’s all as it should be and everything is right in the world.
Except that coming back is also like walking into a memory that’s empty of everything but ghosts. I see the Neil Public Library and I’m four again, picking out picture books with my mother. It’s a good recollection, but still a painful one because memories of one’s mother shouldn’t be so fleeting and threadbare, so cut short. She is gone, but part of her still lives on in that red brick building and when I look at it, it’s the one place in the world that I’m back with her.
Time skips and I’m fourteen, riding my bike without braking, all the way to the library because there’s nothing to do in the summer but read and no one will drive me. I look at Dack Street and I’m a second grader riding my bike around with a gaggle of neighborhood kids or sitting on Kristy Turner’s front porch with her, scheming how we can convince her parents to take us to Reaney Park Pool. The water is always freezing, but I jump in the deep end anyway, and we’ll spend most of our time rescuing the ladybugs that had poor navigation skills from drowning.
I look at Gladish and I’m in sixth grade and can taste the soy hamburgers that for some reason I loved. I can taste other things too—the sting of rejection. Sixth grade was the time when everyone else figured out how to act—except me. I was wild, brash, oblivious, and such a target.
Some of my peers there cut me down, intentionally and unintentionally, and for the next few years told me in subtle ways that I wasn’t enough. And I was so far from perfect—sometimes swinging that same blade at others myself. Fortunately, my church leaders, ever patient and kind, taught me that I belonged and I was more than enough. I even believed them some of the time.
And then there was high school where I tried so hard to walk the tightrope of coolness, to pretend I was someone who knew what I was doing. I didn’t. I completely didn’t. But mixed with all that insecurity was magic because sometimes you just didn’t care what anyone else thought and so many things were hilarious. Laura Kleinhofs and I made a giant paper mache hamburger in art class and left it on a stranger’s doorstep. We decided that gifting a stranger a huge random hamburger was the perfect prank. The recipient probably still wonders to this day where that thing came from.
There was the time Laura and I tricked Michael Kerr into TPing Larry Johnson’s house by convincing him that Laura lived there. That was two birds with one lie.
So many moments of happiness. The emotions I felt back then, the highs and the lows, I was sure I was the first person to ever feel them.
Now when I see the houses and buildings in Pullman, it’s like looking at a stage set that’s gone wrong. I know what the story should be and yet the actors aren’t there anymore. Every time I see a teenager milling about town, I think: Wait, I’m the one who is supposed to be young and expectant. This is my childhood, not yours. But of course, it’s not anymore.
It’s so odd to stroll around. At every turn, I feel like I should meet specters from the past. And there’s always that sense that if I just keep walking, I’ll run into myself–that part of me that was beleaguered and hopeful and innocent. When I’m in Pullman, time stops, and something feels so very unfinished. I’m not even certain what it is.
When I leave, I leave those emotions in Washington until the next time I come back, visiting my childhood like it was a tourist destination. Rome, London, Janette’s stage set of memories.
Well, as they say, “You can’t go home again.”
Sometimes They are right.
Guess what is now available? That’s right–the last book of the Slayers series! And I do mean the last. I know you all have heard that for the last two books, but this one really is the end.
It is the Jesse version
If you are team Dirk, wait for a week or two and I’ll have that version out. They are 85% the same so you don’t have to read both versions. And no, I didn’t mean to make them that much the same but that is another blog post.
Here is the link!
Why isn’t Slayers 5 out yet, you ask?
My oldest daughter had new baby and I had to help her, my middle daughter got married and I had two wedding receptions to do, I dropped my laptop one too many times and it stopped working, and… yeah, I know I said I wouldn’t start any new house projects until the book was done–and I haven’t. My house is unpainted and the heavy, solid-wood desk is still awkwardly standing against my bedroom wall.
But a child is writing a book, so I’ve been helping said child with brainstorming, sifting through old journals looking for stories, deciphering the contract, etc. etc.
Don’t give me that look. A parent has to help their children.
I’m back working on Slayers now.
And the good news is that I think I’m to the point where I can start putting up a chapter a week on my website. I’ll do that by the end of the week.