Monday, May 30, 2011


Gaze closely into those eyes....

Guess who this famous face belongs to by sending me a PRIVATE email with your address and the name of the person you believe this to be.

If you're correct, I'll add your name to my fishbowl and hold a drawing for a set of my two new books, Marrying the Preacher's Daughter and Her Wyoming Man.

My email:

DO NOT post the answer here.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Amanda Cabot: Simplifying Historical Fiction Research


Have you ever become bogged down in research?  I have.  One book leads to another, or if you’re on the Internet, one site leads to another.  Before you know it, you’ve spent days – maybe weeks – reading, but your book still isn’t started.  How can you avoid getting caught in that sinkhole?  One answer is the KISS principle (keep it simple, sweetheart).  For me, that means working with five different research tools.

The children’s section of the library.  When I wrote for the secular market, one of my publishers asked me to write a trilogy set during World War One.  At the time, what I knew about that time period could be described in two words: not much.  The adult section of the library had huge tomes, detailing each day of the war.  I could have spent weeks reading them, but instead I went to the children’s section.  The books I found there were considerably shorter.  Even more importantly, they gave me the basic information that I needed to plan the trilogy, namely the causes of the war and the major battles.  Later, when I knew exactly when each book would take place, I consulted the ten-pound tomes to see what was happening on specific key dates.  I didn’t have to read the whole book.  Instead, I was doing what I call ‘targeted research,’ looking only for key information.  What a time-saver!

Historic diaries and letters.  What I like about diaries is that they tell you how real people lived, and as such, they’re a valuable source of details.  For example, when I was researching my 2012 release set at Wyoming’s Fort Laramie, I read excerpts from an officer’s wife’s letters.  In them I learned that the dried potatoes the post store sold were considered virtually inedible.  An interesting fact, and one you can be sure made its way to the manuscript.

Costume books.  Readers want to know what people wore.  Oh, they don’t need to have a gown described down to the last furbelow, but knowing that women wore bustles in the 1880s and that there were five to seven petticoats under those bustles helps you add authentic details to your story.  To get those details, I find costume books, particularly those with extensive illustrations, valuable.  There is also a growing number of web sites with pictures of clothing from various eras.
Recipe books.  Like diaries, these help you understand what people ate during your chosen time period.  Just as importantly, they provide clues to what people did not eat.  If you don’t find a recipe for ragout, it’s probably because the term wasn’t used then.  To be true to the period, simply call it stew.  And that leads me to what I consider one of the most important research tools.

Dictionary with date of first usage.  I hate anachronisms.  For me there’s nothing so jarring as to be reading a book set in the Middle Ages and see, “The sword slid off his shield as if it were covered with Teflon.”  Admittedly, that was an extreme example, but my trusty dictionary saved me from the error of using ‘camouflage’ in a book set in the 1850s by pointing out that the word came into usage during World War One.  

Why worry about anachronisms?  They brand you as a sloppy writer.  Consider this: checking a word’s first usage is simply another form of research.  That’s why, although I may use the other tools only once when I’m writing, my dictionary is always open.

So, there you have it: Amanda’s hints for simplifying historical research.  I hope they help.

As the seed awaits the spring sunshine, so one young woman hopes for a brighter tomorrow

Harriet Kirk is certain that becoming the new schoolteacher in Ladreville, Texas is just what she needs—a chance to put the past behind her and give her younger siblings a brighter tomorrow. What she didn’t count on was the presence of handsome former Texas Ranger Lawrence Wood—or the way he affects her fragile heart. But can Harriet and Lawrence ever truly conquer the past in order to find happiness?

Book 3 in the Texas Dreams series, Tomorrow’s Garden is a powerful story of overcoming the odds and grabbing hold of happiness.

Amanda Cabot has always been a dreamer, and so it’s no coincidence that her first books for the CBA market are called Texas Dreams.  Set in the Hill Country beginning in 1856, these deeply emotional historical romances showcase God’s love as well as that between a man and a woman.  The first in the trilogy, Paper Roses, was a finalist for the Carol Award.  Scattered Petals received critical acclaim, and the final Texas Dreams book, Tomorrow’s Garden, has just been released.  A former director of Information Technology, Amanda has written everything from technical books and articles for IT professionals to mysteries for teenagers and romances for all ages.  She’s delighted to now be a full time writer living in Cheyenne, WY with her high school sweetheart/ husband of many years.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

American Idol Finale Recap

If you're an Idol fan, here are my comments about last night's finale.

I am clueless, because I didn't know Jack Black sang! He was perfect to pair with Casey.

The "They still have Similac on their breath" comment slayed me.

Scotty sang Tim McGraw's song better than Tim McGraw. (Sorry TMG fans.)

Gaga was bizarre as expected, and a tad inappropriate at the end. Fun to see Mark NeverRemeberHisLast Name from SYTYCD paired with her. What a boon to his career! She has replaced Oprah as the most influential woman in business. Say what you will about her freakiness, but everyone thought Elton John was a freak in garish costumes, too, and he's written some of the best music of our time, and scores for movies. That's genius. I think she has it too. Remember when we thought Madonna was as tacky as it got?

I like a lot of Beyonce's music - Single Ladies rocks. But that one she sang last night, the slow one? When it started I said to Kristin, "Is this going to get better?" thinking the tempo would pick up and it would actually have a melody. And that's her favorite song. hmmm  Just because she gets to say make love to me a hundred times maybe?

Gladys Knight is always cool! And still so pretty.

LOVED watching Stephen and hearing him sing a fave. I need an Aerosmith album. 

Jenn was fun, and of course we were all waiting for her to show up since she wasn't in her judges' chair. 

Good thing I was sitting down when Tom Jones came out. Almost as shocking as seeing Neil Sedaka the week before. We knew Tony Bennett was old.

You know, I realized last night that I really got tired of Haley. She could have stayed out of the performances and I'd have been happy. Saw on E that she was waiting in the wings to replace Lauren the night Lauren had vocal chord strain. So glad that didn't happen. Haley's face when she was eliminated was to die for. Like, "What? It's not me staying? How can that be? She's staying? Are you sure? I want a recount."

I'm happy for Scotty, and Lauren will have a great career. As will James, my season favorite. 

Friday, May 20, 2011


My mother, bless her heart, is under the impression that writers just scribble or type out the words and poof! We’re all done.  I wish! I’ve never, ever heard of a book being accepted as is by a reputable publisher, and that is a very good thing.  As a writer, I am too close to the work to judge it objectively, never mind the spelling and grammar errors that my eyes skip over when I proofread.  One of the best pieces of advice I can give to new writers is to seek out supportive, respectful criticism from other writers.

The key words there are supportive and respectful. I have heard a number of horror stories about critique groups.  My own weekly group is a huge blessing.  It includes writers at all levels of experience and in a range of genres from romance to science fiction to thrillers to horror.  Some of us write books, some write poetry and some write plays or screenplays.  The main thing is that we all demand well-written stories with vivid characters that draw us in and keep us begging for more.  Without this group’s encouragement, I would never have had the nerve to enter the contest that led to my first sale.

Equally important are rules of conduct that limit criticism to the writing.  Our primary goal as a group is to help each other become better writers.  If you join a critique group that praises or dismisses anyone’s writing based on how well or poorly they conform to a set of religious or political views, move on!  The same goes if they treat you differently based on your genre.  Or if they think there is something wrong with you because you want to write a book that people can buy in grocery stores.  (This is one of my goals as a writer, so I will admit to some bias here.)
I’ve also heard stories where new writers are condescended to by those who have been in a group longer.  This is not okay.  

Most published authors I have been in contact with, either personally or through correspondence, have answered questions and provided advice when I asked, and even when I didn’t.  Those who were unable to help still took the time out of their schedules to offer encouragement and good wishes.  If these women (and men) can treat strangers nicely, so can Madame Poobah of the Local Community Writers Circle.

One of the best things about critique groups is that analyzing someone else’s work teaches you to avoid mistakes in your own work.  Your writing gets better every day! 

Of course, supportive and respectful apply to the ‘critique-ee’ as well.  If you are submitting your work to other people so they can exclaim that it is the most innovative piece of fiction since Western Civilization crawled out of the Dark Ages, probably you’re not going to have a positive experience.  (Yeah, we have folks show up with that attitude from time to time.  They don’t last long.)  ‘Critique’ and ‘criticize’ are related.  You are asking people to tell you where the weak spots are in your WIP.  Don’t be surprised or offended when they actually do that.  If you get comments from five different people complaining about the same paragraph, that’s a pretty good indication that you should reconsider it, but it’s unlikely that they want to drive you away.

Be patient if someone suggests you take your story in a direction that you don’t want to go.  There is no law that says you have to follow every piece of criticism you get.  Ultimately, you are responsible for what you write.  Smile, say thank you and move on.

And yes, you should thank someone who has taken time to listen to or read your work and given you their advice.  Even if you don’t agree with them.  Even if someone has given all negative comments, or you think they’re being nit-picky over teeny tiny details.  I’ve slept on criticism I’ve disagreed with and found it valid the next day.  When something isn’t working my weekly group lets me know.  They’re not brutal, but once you’ve been there long enough for your skin to thicken, they’re blunt.  I love it when people nit-pick — it means there are no major problems that week!

Ann blogs at Authors by Moonlight

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Pizza Night

  Raise your hand if you regularly take photos of supper.

Made the best scratch pizza on Kristin's pizza stone for supper last night. I accidentally thawed out a gigantic package of ground sirloin instead of a roast. Duh. So I added pepperoni, cheese and black olives and we had pizza night. Roast this evening, then I'll have to get creative about the remainder of the cooked ground sirloin. 

Monday, May 16, 2011

Forensic Blog to Check Out

Tom Adair is a retired, internationally recognized, forensic scientist/CSI from Colorado who has launched an informative blog at He is open and willing to explain the basics of forensics for crime writers. He will soon be adding some fun categories for the science fiction and fantasy/paranormal writers and would love to answer questions about forensics and law enforcement in general. Tom has just completed his first novel, so he has a good idea of the challenges facing writers.

Read an Excerpt from My June Book

Marrying the Preacher's Daughter
by Cheryl St.John
Colorado June, 1876

"Toss your guns down now!" a male voice shouted. "Hands in the air."

Elisabeth Hart couldn't see past the layers of netting on a woman's hat in front of her, but sounds of alarm rippled through the passengers who sat in the forward rows. The interior of the railcar was sweltering beneath the midday sun, and she blotted her eyes and forehead with her lace-trimmed handkerchief. What should have been a routine stop along the tracks to take on water had become life-threatening.

Thuds sounded as firearms hit the aisle. A man in a battered hat and wearing a faded bandanna over the lower half of his face came into view. Eyes darting from person to person, he snatched up the guns.

Another masked bandit appeared in the wake of the first. Sweat drenched the front of his dusty shirt. "Turn over all your cash and jewelry. Ladies' bags, too, and none of you gets shot."

Two more thieves held open gunnysacks and gathered the looted items.

Fear prickled at Elisabeth, but a maelstrom of rebellious anger made her tremble. How dreadful of these men to point guns and make demands. Every fiber of her being objected to their lack of concern for the safety of the passengers and the downright thievery.

She turned to the tall, quiet man who'd been sitting beside her on the aisle side of the bench seat since they'd left Morning Creek, noting the way his hat brim shaded piercing green eyes. He watched the gunman with intense concentration, but made no move to stop what was happening. "Aren't you going to do something?" she whispered.

The man cast her a glare that would have scorched a lesser woman. One eyebrow rose and he gave an almost imperceptible shake of his head.

"They're going to rob us," she insisted. "You still have your gun. I saw it inside your jacket when you leaned to lower the window earlier."

He focused on the man wielding the revolver, but spoke to her. "Can you count, lady? Just give 'em what they want so nobody gets hurt."


Pausing beside them, the masked robber pointed his gun directly at her seat partner's chest. The man gave Elisabeth a pointed glare and calmly raised his hands in the air before looking up.

"Right in here," the robber said.

The seated man handed him a coin purse and tossed several silver dollars and his pocket watch into the bag.

The barrel of the gun swung to Elisabeth. "Lady?"

Elisabeth's temper and sensibilities flared, but fear kept her silent. Her heart beat so frantically, she thought her chest might burst. She wanted to refuse, but didn't want anyone to get hurt. Begrudgingly, she forfeited her black velvet chatelaine pocket with the silver handle and removed the gold bracelet she'd received for her last birthday, dropping both into the burlap sack.

The robber pointed at her neck. "You got a chain under there."

She clapped her hand protectively over the plain gold ring that rested on a chain beneath her damp and wrinkled cotton shirtwaist. "This was my mother's!"

"Just give it to him," the green-eyed stranger cajoled in his maddeningly calm manner.

"Now just wait," Elisabeth argued with a glare. "You don't understand. This was my mother's wedding ring."

The stranger gave her a quelling look that singed her eyelashes. Passengers called out their displeasure and shouted for her to give up her jewelry same as they had.

The ring was all she had of her mother. Since she'd drowned, Elisabeth had worn it every day…and tried to fill the woman's shoes. The wedding band symbolized Elisabeth's childhood and her sacrifices. Parting with it would break her heart…but she didn't want to be the cause of anyone getting shot. What would her father have to say in this situation?

She closed her eyes. Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. Her true treasures were in heaven. The ring wasn't as important as the lives at stake.

The robber leaned down close as if he meant to take the ring from her neck. She raised her hand to her throat to prevent him from touching her. She could do this on her own. He grabbed Elisabeth's collar and yanked so hard that she jerked forward and the top button popped off.

In that same second, a grim click sounded. The bandit paused dead still.

Elisabeth stared into his shining dark eyes, and the moment stretched into infinity. She could hear her blood pulsing through her veins, her breath panting from between her dry lips. Was this the day she was going to die and meet her Maker?

"Take your hands off the lady, or you're dead." From beside her, the stranger's low-timbered voice was calm, but laced with lethal intent. The hair on Elisabeth's neck stood up.

No one else was privy to the robber's predicament. The green-eyed man's gun was still concealed between the two men, the business end jammed up against the robber's belly. Elisabeth dared a glance and saw the stranger's other hand clamped over the man's wrist, keeping that revolver pointed toward the floor and protectively away from her.

What could only have been seconds, but seemed like an hour, passed with their ragged breaths loud and the tick of a pocket watch encroaching on her consciousness.

"We ain't got all day, Hank!" one of the other thieves shouted.

The robber leaning over her attempted to move, and pandemonium broke loose. A shot rang out and Elisabeth's rescuer grunted in pain. The robber tugged at Elisabeth's collar, and the man beside her fired his gun.

The stench of gunpowder stung her nose. Men shouted. Women screamed. Elisabeth watched the events unfold in a haze of fear and disbelief.

The man who'd threatened Elisabeth crumpled, slumping sideways over the back of a seat. A horrifying crimson blotch spread across his shirtfront. She covered her mouth with her hand to keep from crying out.

The stranger leaped from his seat with his arm outstretched. "Get down!" he bellowed. A rapid succession of shots nearly deafened her. She cupped her hands over her ears, belatedly realizing he'd been ordering her to get down. Praying for safety for the other passengers, she folded herself onto the floor and knelt with her heart pounding. The shock of seeing that man shot and bleeding stole her breath.

Minutes passed with her thoughts in chaos. Would she see her family again? If the stranger protecting her had been shot, maybe other people were being killed or injured, and all because she'd delayed. She'd been going to give him the ring.

An eerie silence followed in the wake of the previous pandemonium, and it took a few minutes to comprehend what that could mean.

The sound of hesitant footsteps and voices told her the battle was over. She opened eyes she hadn't realized were squeezed shut, unfolded her body and peered over the seat in front of her.

One of the male passengers had picked up the gunny-sacks and now doled possessions back to their owners. In numb silence, she accepted her monogrammed velvet pocket and gold bracelet from his outstretched hand while her mind struggled to comprehend what was going on around her. A conductor and several other railroad men stepped over prone bodies on the floor. The sight made her stomach lurch. Elisabeth could only stare in numb disbelief.

One of the uniformed men made his way to the stranger who was seated on a bench with his back against the side of the railcar, his hand pressed to his ribs. "Find something for bandages!"

Spurred out of her frozen state of shock, Elisabeth straightened and stepped into the aisle. She raised her hem and, holding it in her teeth, tore a wide strip from her petticoat. "Here."

Others provided handkerchiefs and scarves, and the conductor handed over the wad of material for the fellow to press against the wound. "Sit tight," he said. "We'll get you to the doctor in Jackson Springs quick as we can."

Several men dragged the robbers' bodies to the back of the car, the dead men's boot heels painting shiny streaks of blood on the wooden floor. Her stomach roiled and she thought she might be sick.

"Are you all right?"

She swung her gaze to those green eyes, now dark with pain. "Y-yes, I'm fine."

Had he killed all of those men? He made a halfhearted attempt to sit a little straighter, but grimaced and stayed where he was.

He'd probably saved her life. Without a doubt he'd saved her from losing her precious ring. She perched on the edge of the seat beside his leg, and reached to replace his hand with hers, pressing the cloth against his cream-colored shirt, where it was soaked with blood that flowed from his side. "I'm Elisabeth Hart."

"Gabe Taggart," he replied.

"That was a very brave thing you did."

His expression slid into a scowl. "Didn't have much choice after the stupid thing you did."

Taken aback, she was at a loss for words. Before that horrible man had reached for her, she'd been prepared to hand over the ring. Now she felt foolish for ever hesitating.

Steam hissed and the train jerked into motion, picking up speed along the tracks. The stranger winced at the jerking movement. The woman who'd been sitting behind them made her way along the aisle in the rocking car. "Thank you for rescuing us," she said to Gabe.

Casting a disapproving scowl at Elisabeth, she returned to her seat. Elisabeth glanced at a few of the other occupants of the railcar and noted an assortment of scathing looks directed toward her. None of them understood the value she placed on the ring or the reason for her delay. She hadn't meant to endanger anyone.

Silently, she prayed for his life, asking God to forgive her for putting him at risk because of her selfish attachment to an earthly treasure. Out of habit, she reached into the jacket pocket of her traveling suit and rubbed a smooth flat stone between her fingers. The keepsake was one of several she'd picked up during her family's perilous journey to Colorado. The stones reminded her of the sacrifice and dedication that had brought them to a new state and a new life.

The train rocked and turned a bend. Several other passengers expressed their thanks to Gabe as the train neared its destination. When at last they reached Jackson Springs, the tale spread to the baggage men and the families waiting on the platform. Several men carefully loaded Gabe Taggart into the bed of a wagon and drove him away.

Grateful this particular chapter of her life was over and that Taggart would be getting medical attention now, Elisabeth released a pent-up breath and joined the others disembarking.

"Thank the Lord, you're safe."

Elisabeth turned with relief and embraced her stepmother, their bodies separated by the girth of Josie's growing belly beneath her pretty green day dress.

"What happened to that man?" her six-year-old half brother Phillip asked. He had shiny black hair like their father's and a sprinkling of freckles across his nose and cheeks.

"He prevented robbers from stealing our things," Elisabeth answered, trying to keep panic and guilt from her voice.

"Lis-bet, Lis-bet!" Peter and John, the three-year-old twins, jumped up and down waiting for her to greet them.

She picked up Peter first, kissing his cheek and ruffling his curly reddish hair. After setting him down, she reached for John. He kissed her cheek, leaving a suspiciously peppermint stickiness on her skin.

Josie turned and motioned forward a slender dark-haired young woman that Elisabeth had assumed was waiting for another passenger. "This is Kalli Tyler. She's my new helper. Your father thought I needed someone full-time, and I didn't argue. She's a godsend, truly. You two are going to get along well."

"I've heard all about you," Kalli said with a friendly dimpled smile. "Are you sure you're all right?"

"Yes, I'm fine." She kept her voice steady, but her in-sides quivered in the aftermath of that drama. She collected herself to study the other young woman.

As her father's assistant, the notary public and a tutor, Elisabeth did have her hands full. It was wise of Father and Josie to hire additional help. At seventeen and sixteen, her sisters, Abigail and Anna, were busy with school, studies and social activities, and their bustling household did need extra assistance to keep things running smoothly.

"I brought a wagon and Gilbert," Josie told her. "You had bags, and I'm not up to the walk."

"Of course," Elisabeth answered. "Phillip, help me find my bags, please."

She turned toward the pile where luggage was being stacked just as two men carried one of the robbers from the train on a stretcher. He'd been shot in the chest and his vest was drenched with dark glistening blood. The man was quite plainly dead.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Amanda Cabot on Mastering Those Dreaded Deadlines


Do you hate deadlines as much as I do?  I think part of the problem is the word.  According to my dictionary, a deadline is “a line drawn within or around a prison that a prisoner passes at the risk of being shot.”  What an image!  No wonder I don’t like deadlines.  In fact, I prefer not to use the word at all.  Instead, I refer to them as due dates.  Using a term that frequently describes the projected birthdate of a child seems much more appropriate.  After all, what’s due on the date formerly called a deadline is another form of creation, a manuscript.

Whether you call them deadlines or due dates, they’re important parts of a writer’s life.  Consistently meeting due dates is the hallmark of a professional writer.  Whether the due date is for the entry of a manuscript into a contest or its delivery to an editor as part of a contract, it’s important – I’d even say vital – that the date be met.  I won’t claim that it’s easy, but I offer four techniques that can improve the probability of meeting your due dates.

1.  Set a realistic date.  If it’s already the end of March and you want to enter a completed manuscript in a contest on April 15 but you haven’t started writing, odds are that that particular date isn’t realistic.  Don’t set yourself up for failure.  Instead, plan to enter the contest next year.  Similarly, if an editor calls to say she loves your proposal and wonders how soon you can have the completed manuscript to her, take a deep breath before you answer.  Even better, tell her you need to work out the schedule and you’ll call her back.  Then figure out how long it will take, realizing that it’s impractical to think you’ll work eight hours every day.  When you’ve created what seems like an achievable schedule, add in a couple weeks for contingencies.  Trust me, you’ll need them.

2.  Create a picture of your goal.  Mental images are great, but I’m talking about a physical picture, one that’ll help motivate you.  If your goal is to enter a contest, create a picture of a blue ribbon or a statue with your title on it.  If your goal is to send a completed manuscript to your editor, create a picture of a book cover with your name and title on it.  Once the picture is complete, make a number of copies.  One goes on the refrigerator, another one on the phone, still another on the TV remote.  The purpose is to remind you that your goal is your highest priority and that snacking, calling a friend or watching a must-see TV show are keeping you from meeting that goal.

3.  Divide and conquer.  By that I mean, divide your project into small, manageable tasks, ideally ones that require no longer than a day or two to complete.  By doing that, you’ll be able to determine whether or not you’re on schedule.  Like the picture, it’s important to have more than a mental plan.  You need a written schedule, showing when each chapter (or scene, if you break it down to that level) must be finished.  The critical point here is to know whether or not you’re on schedule, and if you’re not, to take corrective action immediately.  That leads to the last point.

4.  Just say ‘no.’  If you’re going to meet your due date, it’s almost inevitable that you’ll need to make some sacrifices.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: writing needs to be your highest priority.  That means that email, Facebook and all the other things that take time away from writing need to be put in second place.  And, if your schedule has slipped, that afternoon at the mall may need to be postponed until you’ve met your due date.
There’s no doubt about it.  Meeting due dates is hard work.  It requires determination and discipline.  But you can do it.  I know you can, because you’re a writer, and that’s what writers do.

Amanda Cabot has always been a dreamer, and so it’s no coincidence that her first books for the CBA market are called Texas Dreams.  Set in the Hill Country beginning in 1856, these deeply emotional historical romances showcase God’s love as well as that between a man and a woman.  The first in the trilogy, Paper Roses, was a finalist for the Carol Award.  Scattered Petals received critical acclaim, and the final Texas Dreams book, Tomorrow’s Garden, has just been released.  A former director of Information Technology, Amanda has written everything from technical books and articles for IT professionals to mysteries for teenagers and romances for all ages.  She’s delighted to now be a full time writer living in Cheyenne, WY with her high school sweetheart/ husband of many years.

As the seed awaits the spring sunshine, so one young woman hopes for a brighter tomorrow. 
Harriet Kirk is certain that becoming the new schoolteacher in Ladreville, Texas is just what she needs—a chance to put the past behind her and give her younger siblings a brighter tomorrow. What she didn’t count on was the presence of handsome former Texas Ranger Lawrence Wood—or the way he affects her fragile heart. But can Harriet and Lawrence ever truly conquer the past in order to find happiness?  Book 3 in the Texas Dreams series, Tomorrow’s Garden is a powerful story of overcoming the odds and grabbing hold of happiness.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Mary Connealy on Story Consistency

Consistency. I do most of my brainstorming at night, while I lay awake in an insomniac fugue state. (I don’t know what fugue state means but I’ve been trying to work it into a blog and think this is a good spot.)

So, I brainstorm ‘what’s next for tomorrow.’ I have this image of myself flipping ideas over and over, tossing stuff out, trying things out, moving on, going back. I’m a sort of slow-motion juggler or acrobat twisting my mind around ‘what if.’

Actually I know I’m going to have a good night’s sleep when this works for me. When my mind is rabbitting around bickering with my husband over something he said sixteen years ago or nagging the children or arguing with something someone said on TV, then I’m in trouble. When I can brainstorm, I’m going to get to sleep soon. The fact that my plotting puts me to sleep is a matter best left to professional psychologist and fiction editors.

But it’s at night when I have these brain flashes like-- “I had her head bleeding at the beginning but I never had her wash blood off her face. Where did Adam get a rifle? I didn’t include Betsy in the scene with all the kids. Where is Betsy?

So, this is continuity as I define it. Writing a book, well, there are just a SCAD of words. You just write for pages and pages and pages. And usually the big stuff is there, pretty much laid out. You remember that. It’s the LITTLE STUFF that gets messed up. The fact that Adam, a secondary character, pulls a gun on the bad guys, when I have very clearly said (on the three occasions he’s come up for a few sentences) that he had no gun.

That’s in Petticoat Ranch and that book had been done for YEARS with that scene of Adam and his gun before I finally, one night in bed thought, “Where did Adam get a rifle?”

So, if I have those moments, well, I try not to get out bed. My chances of sleeping go way, way down if I start writing because I find writing to be caffeinated. But I do sometimes get up and write a sticky note and glue it on my computer monitor.
Then, the next time I get the computer turned on, if I’m not at a point in my life where I can deal with Adam and his rifle. . .or the lack there of. . .I type a message to myself across the top of page one.

Across the top of Deep Trouble—not the copy I sent to my publisher, are these messages:

That which doesn't kill me makes me stronger (I have a joke I'm planning to tell using this line)
It is May
Emmy’s slightly younger brother Marcus And Ahway(Doba's son) come. She’s good on a trail.
Or not
Rope around Gabe’s waist? Belt/Lasso?
Pet name for Shannon.
Tyra had three older brothers who had struck out on their only after they realized Pa was too stubborn to move aside and let one of his sons be a real partner. But now Pa was aching in his joints and he got tired a lot faster. He’d lost a lot of his love of the ranch when Ma had died. She was buried in a quiet grave along with two little sisters. Pa was ready to let a son-in-law in, Tyra just knew it.
Bucky, brown hair, blue eyes. After his mother.
Seven sons; Abraham, Bartholomew, Canaan, Darius, Ephraim, Felix, Gabriel
He wants a woman like his mother and to prove himself to be dependable to her.
Shannon is exact opposite of his mother, not a ranch wife. City girl.
Hosteen Tsosi, wife Hozhò Tsosi (I’ve left off the dash`)
Gabe left home at seventeen. Ten years in the cavalry. Cowboy Christmas set in 1880. Gabe is 29 in this book.
Describe Shannon better. Dimple in chin. . .dent that looks like God had rested his finger lightly on her chin when he created her. Give Gabe the quirk of touching her chin.
Her quirk?
Get to scene with brothers and Bucky. Maybe Bucky before they get to Kinlichee
Rework villain’s motives from 37 on. . .done to there.
Shannon’s mother--Giselle Campbell Fontaine Father--Dysart Professor Delmer Dysart. The Delmer had been twisted into Delusional
Create brothers for Gabe.
Would be fiancée for him. Tough Texas rancher daughter for Gabe. Sets out with several of her brothers to find Gabe and drag him home. She likes the idea so she’s in but NOBODY pushes her around. Ruthless, tough, but not stupid, not evil. Perfect woman for Bucky. Tyra Morgan. Lucas Morgan-Tyra’s pa
What does Tyra look like? Tyra shook her head so hard she whipped herself in the face with her single long dark braid. Blue eyes, same color as Maddy’s.
Go on about families
Bucky-Chatillon- He was a guide and hunter for the American Fur Company of St. Louis in the 1840's before settling permanently in the area with his second wife, Odile Delor Lux. Chatillon served as a guide for Francis Parkman, Jr. in 1846. Parkman wrote about their trip in his book "The Oregon Trail."

I will often have up to two pages of these notes at the top of a book document and when I feel like I've fully solved whatever issue the note is a reminder of, I delete the note. And also cry quietly with joy for a brief time to have one more thing perfected in my work.

One of the reasons I’ve battled consistency issues is because I wrote books that weren’t connected, then I rewrote them into a series. So, I may have needed to age a child but forgotten to because it's now book #2 in a series and I made that child have some small part in book #1.
I may have had one girl acting like a 12 year old, then a 16 year old, then a 12 year old again. This is partially because this character, very minor, was written with years between her creation and the finished book and I simply don’t remember how old I made her.

So, that’s my hint for consistency. Make notes to yourself at the top of the manuscript.

Mary Connealy writes fun and lively "romantic comedy with cowboys". Her novel, Deep Trouble releases in May. She is the author of the successful Lassoed in Texas, Montana Marriages, and Sophie's Daughters series. Her novel Doctor in Petticoats is a finalist for a Rita Awards, her novel Calico Canyon was nominated for a Christy Award and her novel Cowboy Christmas won the Carol Award. She lives on a ranch in eastern Nebraska with her husband, Ivan, and has four grown daughters, two fine sons-in-law and two spectacular grandchildren.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

My Treat Today

I indulged in a deluxe pedicure today - hot stone massage and pretty color.

I am a happy camper.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Charlene Sands: Carrying the Rancher's Heir

ISBN: 9780373731015 (Desire #2088)

The passionate, impulsive evening Tagg Worth had spent in the arms of brown-eyed beauty Callie Sullivan was madness. Visions of their tryst still haunted him, but their one-night stand was a mistake the wealthy rancher swore he would not repeat. Hawk Sullivan's daughter was strictly off-limits—especially since Hawk's main goal in life was to put Tagg out of business.

Then, suddenly, there was a baby on the way. His baby. Tagg vowed to do the right thing, no matter what it cost him. But his inconvenient new bride tempted his solitary heart down a path a Worth didn't dare follow….

Charlene said:
"Whenever my books are released, I never know what the Front Matter is going to be. I’m talking about the inside-the-book sample page that highlights a pivotal point in the story. It’s the “teaser” that includes dialogue found on the first page as you open the book.  Sometimes, parts of the scene are left out, mingled or edited so that only a snippet is given.  

Once in a while, I try to guess which scene they’ll use.  But often, I just enjoy being pleasantly surprised.   Here’s the “teaser” in my May Harlequin Desire, Carrying the Rancher’s Heir.

The Baby’s Mine?” 

Callie might have expected this. She swallowed past the lump in her throat, hurt that he’d even asked.  “Yes.”

Tagg inhaled sharply.  “You were ticked at your father and you –what?—seduced me in order to defy him?” He turned to her then, his eyes black with fury.

“Tagg, listen. You’re wrong. I can explain.”

“I don’t think so. It all makes sense now.” He spoke with conviction as if nothing in the world would change his mind. “I mean, that was only part of the reason.”

What could she say now—that she’d come face to face with her fantasy man? That she’d seen an opportunity to finally take something she wanted, to go for broke, to do something wild and so out of character for her? How could she tell him that?  How could she tell him she loved him?

Charlene Sands
USA Today Bestselling Author
Western Winter Wedding Bells - Oct 2010
The Billionaire's Baby Arrangement -Aug 2010 
Booksellers Best and National Readers Choice Award Winner!