Broken Hearts, Second Chances

For this Mother’s Day Weekend, Walk in Beauty is free at Amazon.  It is a searing, heartfelt  tale of lost love and a secret child, the terrible mistakes we can all make, and the possibilities love offers to heal even the darkest of wounds.  I love this book madly, for the Navajo aspects, and the lost child reunited with her father.  Luke Bernali was one of the first characters to ever walk on to the screen of my imagination, although it was nearly a dozen years before I wrote his story. He was my companion for a long time.

The special starts Friday and ends Tuesday, so don’t miss your chance.

 

Excerpt

Jessie glanced out the front window. “It’s cloudy. Won’t it be awfully cold?”

“Not really,” Luke said. “We’ll bundle up and put an extra pair of socks on. It’s nice up there this time of year. Do you remember Cheyenne Canyon? Helen Hunt Falls?”

Jessie chuckled, thinking of her ragged copy of Ramona, Helen Hunt Jackson’s famous novel of a California woman and the Indian, Alessandro, she loved. Jessie had discovered a dusty copy in the library when she was fourteen and read it three times—just that year. She’d lost count of how many more times she’d picked up the beloved book. “How could I forget?”

Luke grinned, and his face was suddenly ten years younger. He’d often teased her about falling in love with him because she had loved Alessandro first.

And in a small way, it was true. The first time she had seen Luke, hammering nails into the frame of her father’s new study, she had been riveted. As he worked in the heat of a California afternoon, his long black hair braided and dark skin shimmering with sweat, he’d been the most singularly attractive man she’d ever seen. His back was bare and long and dark, his arms strong and hard-muscled. A red bandanna tied around his forehead kept the hair from his eyes. She stared at him through her bedroom window, her stomach tight, unable to believe he was real. He paused, wiping a forearm across his brow. And then he looked up.

Jessie, romantic and young, had thought with a painful pinch, Oh, it’s Alessandro! Her heart flipped when he gave her a slow, mocking, sexy smile…..

####

In the mountains….

“You forget, Jessie, I was your number-one fan a long time before anybody else realized how good you were.”

Her gaze didn’t stray, but he saw a flicker of something oddly stricken cross her face. “I didn’t forget.” With a little shrug, not looking at him, she said quietly, “I’m pretty sure there would have been no paintings at all if it hadn’t been for you.”

He touched her hand on his arm. “So tell me about them.”

She looked at him, then back toward the up sloping path. “Well, I just sold a group called ‘Canning Time.’ It’s kind of a historical feeling, I guess—the thirties. Four women doing all kinds of things in a kitchen—getting the fruit, washing it, laughing.”

“I’d really like to see them.”

Suddenly she seemed to realize how intimate they’d become, walking close on the snowy path, enveloped by the silence of the winter day. She snatched her hand back and slipped it deep into the pocket of her coat. His coat.

Luke let her retreat. In a moment, he heard her breathy hum start up again. This time, the song clicked in. “I’m On Fire.” Evidently, he wasn’t alone in remembering how it had been between them.

Biting back a grin, he started humming along, loud enough for her to hear. A bright pink splash of color flooded her cheeks. He nudged her gently, chuckling.

She bent her head, but said nothing.

They walked for a long time in the soft gray day. Jessie finally protested that she needed to rest, and they paused at the edge of a wide, high field, blanketed with unbroken snow. Giselle and Tasha raced into the snow, kicking up sprays and tumbling each other into it.

Luke felt the cold air and the brisk walk in his blood as a tingling glow. Next to him, Jessie leaned against a pine, laughing as she watched Giselle. “I should get her a dog,” she said. “I had no idea how much she liked them.”

“Tasha’s not just any dog. She’s the greatest dog I’ve ever had.”

“Really?” Jessie grinned up at him, cocking her head. A fall of hair rippled down her arms. “What about Boris?”

“Yeah, Boris was great, too.” He rubbed his cold nose with cold fingers, thinking of the shepherd that had accompanied him on his wanderings for ten years. Every night for three weeks after Jessie left him, Boris had paced the house and howled mournfully.

“What happened to him?”

“He was so big, his hips started to go. I had to have him put to sleep. He couldn’t walk anymore—I even had to carry him outside to do his business.”

She regarded him steadily, a softness of sympathy in her eyes. It struck him all at once that it was Jessie standing here next to him. She was smiling gently, as if she wanted to tell him she knew how hard that had been for him, that she knew he’d wept privately when he buried his dog. She was the only one he’d ever let close enough to see that weakness in him. Embarrassed, he glanced away.

Overhead, an enormous blue jay—a camp robber—claimed a branch. With a flurry of wings and noisy straightening, he harangued the intruders, screeching at them like a fishwife to get out of his territory. Jessie laughed.

“You still like those evil creatures?” Luke asked.

“Yes, I do.” She grinned. “They’re sassy and strong.”

Drawn by her grin, he stepped closer and then paused. All at once, the tumult of emotions that had risen at the surprises of the past day dropped away. Left in its place was a calm, sharp desire—a hunger that had never ceased, not in eight years; a need that still thrummed through him, like the eternal sound of drums in a heartbeat. He wanted her. Plain. Simple. Clear.

He licked his lip. “You’re a blue jay,” he said, touching the array of bracelets on her wrist and then the earrings winking through her hair.

“Am I?”

Earlier, she had kept up walls of fear between them when he stood this close. Now there was nothing, only Luke and Jessie the way they’d always been. Before she could protest, he bent and brushed a kiss over her cold lips.

The contact sent a zinging rush over his nerves. In the tiny second it took, he felt the slight dryness of her chapped lips and a hint of the warm moisture beyond. Her hair brushed his cheek, and her chin jutted up a little so she could meet him halfway.

He lifted his eyes to meet her surprised gaze. A snowflake caught on her cheek and he brushed at it, feeling his heart thump and his soul swell a little from the headiness of finding something lost. In her eyes he caught a flicker of pain and fierce desire. He winked.

Before she could protest, he quickly stepped away and joined his daughter in the snow.

* * *

The walk back took much less time. Jessie felt oddly free and calm as they hiked down. She and Luke didn’t speak, but she felt his kiss lingering between them, not quite a promise, not fierce enough to be a threat. He seemed as content as she to simply be quiet.

Back at the truck, Giselle begged to be allowed to ride in the rear with Tasha. Jessie frowned, and Luke shook his head firmly. “Nope—there are tools and all kinds of other junk back there right now. Maybe another time.”

Exhausted by the long walk and her romp with Tasha, Giselle looked mutinous. Jessie recognized the expression and stepped forward to gather her into a hug before she fell to pieces. “I think,” she said to Luke over her daughter’s head, “we have one very tired young lady here.”

He returned her smile. “I’ve got some stew at the house. Some lunch and a nap and she’ll be fine.”

“I really think we need to go back to the hotel.”

“Why would you want to pay good money to eat at a bad restaurant when you can eat my home cooking for nothing?” he said lightly, opening the bed to let Tasha into the truck. “If you want to go back to the hotel after lunch, I’ll take you.”

Holding her daughter close to her chest, Jessie looked at him. His black, glossy hair was tousled from his play in the snow, and the wind had stung dusky color into his high cheekbones. Tasha leapt into the truck and turned to give an adoring, thankful lick to her master’s chin. Luke scrubbed her ruff, smiling fondly.

It was so easy for Luke, Jessie thought. He just opened up and loved things—dogs and cats and cloudy days and little girls. So easy. And they all loved him right back.

Just as Jessie had.

Her silence stretched a long time. Luke seemed to sense her gaze and he turned. Across the snowy ground, with a child of their making and a cold wind between them, they looked at each other. His strongly chiseled face was grave. She hoped hers showed nothing, but was afraid he could still read her all too well.

“Hotel or rabbit stew?” he asked at last.

Jessie couldn’t repress the chuckle that rose in her throat. “You didn’t tell me it was rabbit.”

He slammed the doors closed on the back of the truck and winked. “Tastes just like chicken,” he said, tongue-in-cheek.

Jessie inclined her head, thinking with relish of his fragrant stews. “It’s been a long time.”

“Is that a yes?”

She nodded. “I guess it is.”

He grinned, and the expression gave his eyes a devilishly sexy tilt. “Will you show me how to make Mrs. O’Brien’s biscuits?”

“I don’t know,” she said, pretending reluctance. “Maybe her biscuits are one of those things that just needs a woman’s touch.”

“Maybe. It’s worth a try, eh?”

“Sure.”

Giselle fell asleep before they had driven out of the canyon. She slumped against Jessie’s shoulder. “I am definitely buying this child a dog,” Jessie said quietly. “Tasha wore her out—and believe me, that’s no small feat. She’s like that battery—she just keeps going and going and going…”

Luke glanced at the girl. “She’s out cold now.” He shook his head and signaled to join the main street out of the canyon. “She’s so much like Marcia, it’s almost eerie.”

“I guess you’ll want her to meet Giselle.”

A strange expression flickered over his face. “Mmm.

“‘What?”

He touched his jaw, shifted the truck and glanced in the rearview mirror. “I, uh, already made arrangements. She’ll be here this afternoon sometime.”

“You had no right do that without my permission.”

“I know.” He sighed. “I’m sorry. I did it last night when I was feeling so blown away. If you want me to take you to the hotel now, I will. Marcia doesn’t know it’s you guys—I just told her there was somebody I wanted her to meet.”

Jessie stared at him, holding the warm weight of her child against her, and suddenly realized it was not only Jessie who was upset by all this. Luke, too, had to grapple with the demons of the past. “No,” she said. “It’ll be all right.”

He gave her a grateful smile and reached over to touch her hand. “Thanks, Jessie.”

All at once she realized how much she had relaxed in his company. He was so damned easy to be around, so easy to talk to. He never seemed to expect anyone to be anything except just what they were.

Alarmed, she moved her hand gently from his and saw a ripple of hurt cross his features. Pressing her lips together, she resolutely turned her face to the window. “It’s only fair.”

His voice sounded tired as he said, “Fair doesn’t have much to do with any of this.”

“No,” she agreed softly. “I guess it doesn’t.”

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Two people pretending they don’t need anybody at all….

From Breaking the Rules, a fast-paced, sexy, adventure-romance originally published by Intimate Moments.  I love the escapist aspects of it, and love both Zeke and Mattie’s need to protect themselves, and hide their pasts, even as they are falling in love.  And just for the record, if you want a brand-new first edition of the paperback, it will be a tiny bit pricy–lowest price is $152.

Luckily, it is free for the next five days on Kindle.  Grab it while you can.

EXCERPT

It was Zeke’s habit to rise early, one born in childhood when he’d awakened to help his mother weed the garden, knowing it would be the only time he could have her to himself in a day.

So even now, when his work was in the evenings and sometimes ran very late, he found himself wide-awake as dawn broke the night sky. Over the past months, he’d developed a habit of going to the canyon, knowing that if he got there early enough, as with his mother, he’d have it to himself.

Of all the flyspecks on the map he’d blown through the past eighteen months, Kismet would be the hardest for him to leave behind, a thought that bothered him this morning – just a little. He had a rule about getting attached to things. When you got attached, you got in trouble. People, animals, places – he didn’t let himself get too comfortable with any of them. Probably time to move on.

But this morning, he was here, and that was good. He stripped at the edge of the river, taking deep pleasure in the brush of cool morning air against his skin. Overhead, a tangle of larks and sparrows sang to the light, as if it were a unique event. He smiled at them, standing on the bank for a moment to brace himself . Taking a deep breath, he touched his stomach in preparation, and with a whoop, jumped into a deep pool.

The water was a biting, icy shock – exhilarating as it stabbed through his hair and needled his flesh. He touched bottom and pushed himself back up, then lazily paddled in the broad pool, admiring the colors around him.

Back in Mississippi, rivers were wide and muddy and slow, as if the heat sucked their energy from them. Their banks were covered with cattails and grass. This river was crystal clear and mountain-cold and ran fast through the canyon it had carved from red sandstone. There was no mud to speak of, because the streambed was the rock itself.

The beauty of it was that the water had played capricious games with the soft rock, creating slides and carving pools and ignoring little flats, with no rhyme or reason. Later in the day, it would be crowded with tourists, come from the campgrounds nearby to enjoy the miracle.

He kicked out and submerged himself again, now used to the invigorating cold. He looked at the sky, vividly blue above the red of the rocks, and wondered that such color could exist.

It was only then that he became aware of a prickling uneasiness. With a flush of embarrassment, he wondered if some campers had wandered over. He’d been coming here since summer started and had never been discovered. After a few weeks, he’d shed his cutoffs in favor of skinny-dipping just because it seemed natural to do so in such a place. Keeping himself covered to the shoulders, he spun around slowly, peering into the trees at one side of the water. Nothing moved but a squirrel, who chattered in some irritation at Zeke’s gall invading the quiet so early. He grinned to himself, relieved, and splashed backward to lean on a rock in the warming sunlight.

It was only then he caught sight of her, standing at the foot of a path that probably led straight back to her little cabin.

Mary. He wiped water from his face and straightened. “Well, well, well,” he said. “I’m just runnin” into you all over the place.”

She carried a small paper bag and a thermos. “I come here every morning to eat my breakfast,” she said, and pointed to a small outcropping of rocks on the other side of the stream. A natural staircase led to the perch. “I won’t bother you.”

“Maybe I’ll bother you.”

“I doubt it.” He saw that it took some effort, but she resolutely headed toward the perch, leaving her sandals at the edge of the stream to splash through the shallows to the stairs. When she reached the top, she settled herself primly with her bag in her lap. “You mind your business and I’ll mind mine.”

Zeke half smiled. She probably had no idea he’d left his clothes in a pile at the edge of the water, or she wouldn’t be quite so calm. The pool he stood in was deep enough to cloak his nakedness, but if he moved at all, the clear water wouldn’t hide much. “Nice sentiment,” he said, “but we’ve got a little problem.”

“What’s that?”

“Well, Miss Mary, all my clothes are over there on the bank.”

A flash of something crossed her face – satisfaction? She raised her eyebrows. “I guess you’ll have to wait until I’m finished with my breakfast

The original cover

to finish your swim, then, won’t you?”

Zeke licked his bottom lip. It had been a mistake to underestimate this woman. She might look young and naive, but there was something hard as barbed wire running beneath it all. If he hadn’t been so rattled by that mouth yesterday, he would have realized it, too.

“Not necessarily.”

She shrugged, cracking open a peanut. Her composure was utterly unrattled this morning, and he wondered what had brought about the change.

“I think you’re pretty mad at me, aren’t you?”

“Why would I be mad? You deliberately tried to embarrass me at the restaurant, then you followed me home, dropped all these innuendos, then made it sound like I was the one who initiated things.” A blaze of color touched her cheeks. “Not to mention the fact you stuck your nose in where it didn’t belong.”

“All right, all right.” He raised a hand. “You’re right. I’m sorry.”

Sunlight angled through the high trees and over the canyon wall to strike her face. “I’ll turn around if you want to get out.”

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“They were London rakes, a breed of man beneath Madeline’s contempt….”

 It is blizzardy and deliciously wintery here today, so I thought you might like reading Lucien’s Fall, available now at Amazon Kindle.  Lucien is one of my all time favorite heroes, reckless and beautiful and very nearly unredeemable.

A taste, if you’re so inclined:

 

The riders raced up the road madly. The gleaming, sporty phaeton rocked dangerously in the rain-rutted course. The other man rode on a beautiful, lean black horse; beast and man were illuminated with the bars of hazy light falling through thick tree branches. They were young men, London rakes, a breed of man beneath Madeline’s contempt. She found their arrogance and idleness a bore.

And yet, as they laughed and shouted, each goading the other to a faster pace, Madeline felt her blood rise in a strange excitement. It was in particular the man on the horse who caught her eye. He wore no powder or wig, and his thick dark hair was drawn back into a queue with a black ribbon. His body was long and sinuously made, and he rode as if he and the horse were one being. From where she stood, his face gave the impression of exotic tilts and powerful bones.

But it was the hedonism Madeline ordinarily found so distasteful in such men that drew her now, made her take up her skirts and run toward the opening of the maze so she would not lose sight of him behind the hedge.

She broke through to the open stretch of lawn between the maze and the Elizabethan house of Whitethorn just as the man urged his horse into a full run. Light dappled faster and faster over his dark hair, his dark horse, his long legs. Next to him, only a little behind, the phaeton rocked noisily.

As they neared the end of the drive, Madeline burst into a run. The man on the horse left the road and bolted across the same lawn. His speed was almost dizzying, and he headed with purpose for a shoulder-high hedge that edged the house garden.

Madeline froze. They would both be killed.

But even as she clamped a hand over her mouth, watching in horror, the black beast leaped with stunning grace over the squared hedge. Horse and man hung—haloed and gilded by the afternoon light—for an endless time against the sky.

As he hung there, suspended in midair, looking like Pan, like some untamed beast come in from the wild, the man laughed. The sound rang with robust defiance into the day, and Madeline felt her heart catch with a sharp pang.

To be so free!

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I am in the very last week of writing the very last book of the
Dear New, Young, Passionate, Painfully Aspiring Writer Self: I am looking at you with great

The process

Since November, I’ve been writing a serial novel for a blog, The OtherLand Chronicles, which I’ve written about here several times.  After two months, I have some observations.

I began on November 1, for NaNoWriMo, a lark.  Or so I thought.  The truth is, this story has been rattling around in my head for more than three years, gathering bits and pieces to itself.  Every so often, it came to me with a new shiny something, like a child who wants to play, and I would say, “Oh, that really is clever, but I don’t really have time right now to do anything with it.  Hang on to it, okay?”  The book-child wold nod and amble away, admiring her little treasure.

Over and over and over this happened, until I realized that I had a LOT of material.  Like an entire world and backstory and a story arc long enough for a trilogy.  It was all born from my walks in the parkways around Briargate, and that’s a lot of walking.  Every day, year in, year out, me and my dog and the story brewing.

Any writer knows that sooner or later, that work has to be done.  It will force its way into your schedule no matter what else you’ve got going on, and it will make itself so very attractive that you will have no choice. You’ll be seduced.

I was seduced. Now I find myself writing an entire book in public, which is not the most comfortable thing in the world. It forces me to find more time to write than I usually would, and for the first time in years, I’m really a hermit.  I don’t want to go anywhere.  I have work to do. So much work, all of it so different, and so much fun in its own ways.

I also discovered that as much as I’d like to do a “serial draft” where I don’t change anything, that was just not possible.  I had to go back and do some revisions for the sake of the story. I had to rewrite a couple of scenes pretty substantially and move a couple of them around, and until I did it, the book stubbornly wasn’t going to let me move forward.

But here’s the thing: this is my play project, so I get to make the rules.  My promise to the readers of the material is that I will finish.  I will not quit until I have a complete story.  Turns out my promise to the story is that I have to serve it first.  Which is always the way.

For the record, I am having a blast. This is as entertaining as anything I’ve done.

If you haven’t been reading along and wish to begin, start at the beginning.

If you have been reading, I finally got new material up after the long Christmas break.  Start at Chapter Eleven, Scene 4

I am tired this morning. It's  Friday, bright and sunny. I've had a good week--lots
This is an in-progress drawing that's been living on my desk the past week. It
A friend of mine has started a business flipping houses. We live in a lucrative
I am a fan of Gretchen Rubin, whose books on happiness and habits offer a
Lately, I've been reading the diaries of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn to help create

Ready, set….READ!

Ambling around the internet this morning, I found this challenge from Book Chick City:

Since I’m often setting goals like “go to the gym seven hundred times a week,” the idea of reading a hundred books of FICTION in a year sounds like a dream.  I bet you read that much most of the time anyway.  I know I do.

It seems a luxurious delight  worthy challenge for our insanely readerly selves. I signed up. Maybe you’ll want to join me. Click the icon.

 

Also, speaking of reading: The OtherLand Chronicles, the serial urban fantasy/YA/? I started for NaNoWriMo,  is still in progress.  Just started Chapter Nine this morning.  Posting M-W-F through December.  Having so much fun it’s just sinful.  😉

To start at the beginning, go here: http://theotherlandchronicles.com/2011/10/starthere/

Anyone who has read here for any length of time knows that I like having
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HOW TO BAKE A PERFECT LIFE by Barbara O'Neal Available TODAY in trade paperback from
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from Publisher's Weekly How to Bake a Perfect Life Barbara O'Neal, Bantam, $15 trade paper

A Piece of Heaven bargain priced

Just noticed that the digital price for A Piece of Heaven has dropped to $4.99.   Check it out at

Barnes and Noble Nook Store

Amazon Kindle Store 

First Chapter

Filler from The Taos News: Full Moon FactsThe full moon is the phase of the Moon in which it is fully illuminated as seen from Earth, at the point when the Sun and Moon are on opposite sides of the Earth. The full moon reaches its highest elevation at midnight. High tides. Names for the August and September full moon: Full Red Moon, Full Green Corn Moon, Full Sturgeon Moon.

It was a good thing for Placida Ramirez that the moon was full when she set her house on fire at three o’clock in the morning that August night. Because it was the moon, shining like a searchlight through her bedroom windows, that had awakened Luna McGraw. Technically, it was a dream about her long-gone father that yanked her out of sleep. It was worries about her daughter’s arrival tomorrow that kept her awake.

But the moon, so coldly white in the summer sky, took the blame.Dragging on a pair of shorts beneath her sleeping shirt, she got up to make some coffee. It would make her mother crazy to know Luna was making coffee in the middle of the night. Why not a cup of tea? Something soothing and relaxing?

Not her style. Once upon a time, she would have poured a hefty measure of gold tequila into a water glass and sipped that. A part of her still wished she could.

This is what can be fun about the shift in the way books come to
We are working on a new title for my next book. I'm nearly finished with
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Here is the story of a novel.   It was written in the wee hours before
In the moment...... It is a late Friday afternoon in February.  My dog Jack is

Day 2

The Otherland Chronicles continue….

When I got home, my grandmother was slumped in her chair, fast asleep in front of the television.  Her nurse, Trina, sat knitting on the couch beside her.  She lifted her chin at me, big round glasses reflecting the sitcom.

http://theotherlandchronicles.com/2011/11/chapter-1-scene-2/

A writing blog today..... I’m in the midst of an enormously fertile period. I’m writing
If you follow me on Facebook, you already know about this, but here's a little
Since November, I've been writing a serial novel for a blog, The OtherLand Chronicles, which
This morning, I'm sitting at Bongo Billy's coffee shop in Buena Vista, looking straight at
I am quite pleased to be keeping up, posting almost every day (have had to

Follow along with my NaNoWriMo experiment

Anyone who has read here for any length of time knows that I like having a Sunday book bubbling away on a back burner, a book I play with when I’m in the mood.  Over the past year or so, The OtherLand Chronicles have been following me around, and I’ve decided to make the book into my NaNoWriMo project.

And you, dear reader, can play along with me.  Because I’m writing it on a blog, day by day.  I had hoped to go live with the website first thing this morning, but we ran into a glitch that delayed it.

I can now announce that it’s LIVE!  The Otherland Chronicles

My promise is to finish the book, even if there is only one reader, so don’t be afraid that you’ll become invested and then I won’t finish.  You have my word that I will, posting every day until it is done.  I don’t promise to be perfect.  I don’t promise to never make a mistake.  I have a beta reader to help keep me on track, but I hope if you play along, you’ll go with an open mind.

To get the RSS feed, go here.  To read the blog, go here.

The opening paragraph is:

CHAPTER ONE

Alia

I was walking my dog through the parkways when it happened again. Someone called me by the wrong name.

It has been happening ever since we moved here—a boy at the grocery store, a teacher-ish lady one night at my mom’s restaurant. Last week, two girls at the mall were so sure I was pretending not to be this Micayla person that they pulled me into the bathroom and offered me a cigarette.  They were not happy when they realized I wasn’t kidding.

 

Let the games begin!

In the moment...... It is a late Friday afternoon in February.  My dog Jack is
Ambling around the internet this morning, I found this challenge from Book Chick City: Since
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Delighted to tell you that Lark O'Neal's first book is live.   Amazon    
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The Girls in the Basement ….now available!

“Life can’t ever really defeat a writer who is in love with writing, for life itself is a writer’s lover until death – fascinating, cruel, lavish, warm, cold, treacherous, constant.” Edna Ferber

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For three years, I wrote a column called The Care and Feeding of the Girls in the Basement. It was a chronicle of my day to day struggles and rewards with the writing life. Much of it was written during an enormous transition in my life.  The column was written for a group of professional, commercial fiction writers. (NINK, for those who might know it.)   To my surprise, the columns were quite popular, and I really enjoyed writing it, but after three years, I’d written plenty and gave it up.

The story might have ended there.  Except that people kept telling me that they had kept the columns to re-read. They gave them to friends who were feeling discouraged.  And because the newsletters are private to the organization, they did not have a wide circulation. Aspiring writers never saw them.

So I decided to collect them for writers–aspiring and published alike–who might find a laugh or inspiration or encouragement in them.  There are two volumes of columns, but my ebook genius and I are collecting three books of the most popular class materials for release in the fall.  (First, the contemporaries to which I’ve regained the rights–stay tuned).

Without further ado, an excerpt from Book #1

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AN EXCERPT

Beginner’s Mind:   Keeping the Faith
from The Girls in the Basement

Talk on one of my email loops has been exploring the changes and ups and downs we all experience after five or ten or thirty years in this business.  Several writers are discouraged by crushing career news and financial setbacks and the challenges of living as a writer.

The discussion led to questions of faith.  How do we keep going? How do we recover that fire?  Where did it come from in the first place?  And how did it get lost?

Writer Raphael Cushnir says the dark night of the soul comes to all of us in different ways, but the emotions we experience during that dark night are all the same. A long-time writer who is struggling with reinvention or renewal is struggling with a disturbing set of questions. Was she wrong, all this time, about her vision? Is he, after all, a fool for loving this work, just as cousin Harry and his mother and Aunt Jane have said? Should any of us try to make this our life?

While this discussion was going on, I was also talking with a friend who is beginning to sell to non-fiction markets.  He’s been in the music business a long time and wants to write for a living so he can stay home with his wife and daughter.  He’s a pretty talented guy.  He’ll probably make it, and the writing life can’t be any worse than the music life. We had lost touch years ago, long before he actually made it into the music world and I made it into the writing world, and through the delights of the Internet, we have been spending many happy hours talking about old times and new.

And writing.  He always understood creativity.  Writing now burns in him the way songs once did.

He sent an email (from Ireland. I love writing that: my friend in Ireland. Very nice of him to end up there) that poured out his desires, his path thus far, what he thinks he might be understanding, what he has yet to figure out.

His longing filled me with a bitter-sweetness, a swift wish to return to the beginning, to the magic.  I find myself feeling cautious in my replies, as if he’s just fallen in love and I’m an old married hag, reluctant to douse his fever.

“So, tell me,” he emailed. “How did it happen? How did you sell your first book?”

My flood of memories may be not unlike yours. I was twenty-nine. It was November 22 (never mind the year), just before Thanksgiving.   It was a category romance I had called The Phantoms of Autumn, about a classical guitarist and a writer who met on a train journey.  My advance was four thousand dollars, which was almost precisely double my annual income as a bowling alley cook and attendant—a job I’d taken to help make sure I stayed focused on writing work—and more than enough to get my phone turned back on.

Beyond the simple facts, of course, are a host of emotions and memories.   The late nights with my headphones on while my very young sons and husband slept in their beds.  The jumble of undone housework that meant I never, ever allowed anyone to “drop by”.  The cloistered life I led during that passionate period when I had no time for anything but the books, the boys, the family.

I remembered, too, how I’d stood in my kitchen a few weeks before that magic phone call, weeping bitterly over a rejection that dashed a very real hope I’d had of making a sale to a literary magazine where the editor liked me.  I didn’t know how much longer I could stand to see yet another SASE with my handwriting on the outside, knowing it meant a rejection.  My fire, my belief in myself, was dwindling, and I didn’t know how I could keep going on like that, believing when no one else did.  When I look back, I’m not sure how I discovered the chutzpah to believe so absolutely that I would sell a book eventually.   But I did believe, with a depth of faith that—

I am tired this morning. It's  Friday, bright and sunny. I've had a good week--lots
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DANCING MOON now an ebook!

 

This is the only Western historical novel I wrote, and it’s actually very untraditional for that genre.  The Irish heroine is fleeing a cruel husband, along with a pregnant slave when their party is overtaken by Indians.  The hero is a Comanchero out of Taos who rescues both women and takes them back to the village.

I loved this book, writing it, living in it, exploring the Spanish influence in this area and the native tribes of the Front Range.  I read Irish history and Cheyenne history and Spanish colonial history, as well as stories from the women who made this arduous journey at a time when it was extremely dangerous.

Dancing Moon is an adventure and a romance and set in my own neck of the woods at a time when it was wild and quite different than it is now.  (Garden of the Gods and the healing springs of the Manitou area figure heavily into the end of the book.)   Ruth Wind readers will especially like this book, the setting, the multicultural aspects, and the romance between Tess and Joaquin.

Buy it now at:

Amazon

B&N

Smashwords

This is an in-progress drawing that's been living on my desk the past week. It
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