The Birth of a Novel

I was cleaning up my home office today (because I always feel the need to purge at the end of the calendar year), and ran across the critiques from my writers’ group on a piece that was the very first inkling of Diamond in the Rough.

Whether or not you’ve read Diamond in the Rough, I thought you might enjoy this peek behind the curtain, to see how my novel was born. Hope you like it. is a cowhand at the Domino Ranch, where he’s been for years. He lives in a small house, which he shares with Beau, Joe and a couple of other guys. Thursday nights he spends at a neighboring ranch, playing poker with the guys. He drives an old gray Chevy pickup that has more miles on it than he does.

He was with Beau and Beth the night that Bert’s herd was stolen by rustlers. The mutilated steer affected him deeply. A love of animals is what led him to life on the ranch. Growing up, he was responsible for taking care of the family dog and made money summers taking care of neighborhood pets. That was back when he was known as Russell Warner. He dreamed of living in the country, surrounded by rolling green hills and dogs and cats and horses. Once in high school, he joined 4-H. Other kids made fun of him for his project – he raised rabbits. It was the only project he could do in city limits. The girl he had a crush on – her name was Penny – raised a bottle calf every year. Her brother Mike was the one who had given him the name Bunny Boy. His high school years were a blur of embarrassment. He had been a country boy stuck in the city, a disappointment to his college educated parents and an outcast in the FFA / 4-H circles that he desperately wanted to join.

The day after he graduated high school, he packed his meager belongings into the used maroon Toyota Tercel that his parents had given him as a graduation present and headed west out of St. Louis. He stopped for gas in Kingdom City, picked up a newspaper and went to Denny’s to peruse the want ads while he wolfed down a Grand Slam. The girl who was waiting tables chatted him up, and told him about her cousin who worked at the sale barn just down the outer road and how they always needed extra hands on sale days. She jotted her cousin’s name on the back of his receipt and told him to go on down to the sale barn and introduce himself.

The girl’s cousin showed him around, and Bill, the owner, hired him on the spot. The crusty old man gripped Russell’s hand and give it one firm shake. “Welcome aboard, Rusty.”

And in that moment, Russell the Bunny Boy became a distant memory and Rusty the cowhand was born.


<SIGH> I always feel nostalgic when I come across a piece like this, that grew into an entire novel. If you want to keep up to date with my new releases and other book news, make sure you sign up for my mailing list – and if you’re intrigued by how stories like this kernel of an idea become a full-fledged novel, sign up for my WriteScouts newsletter.

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2016: Review and Reflection

There’s something about finishing up the year that engenders review and reflection. I love the idea of a fresh start, whether it be a new journal, a new day planner or a new calendar.

The common consensus seems to be that 2016 sucked. I have to say, losing Prince, David Bowie, Glen Frey, George Michael and Carrie Fisher (among others), flat out sucks. But on a personal level, 2016 was pretty good for me. Fatal Impulse sold really well in the beginning of the year, and I released Diamond in the Rough and the Novel Idea Generator. One of the biggest events, though, was my husband’s heart attack. It happened in February, as I was getting ready to walk out the door on the way to a writers retreat with my critique group. My hubs called and said he didn’t feel good, thought he needed to go to the ER. He never wants to go to the doctor for anything, so I knew it was bad. He had a major heart attack while he was at the ER. He was rushed to the cath lab. Afterwards, the doc told me it was a miracle he’d survived. That blockage was 100%, but he had another bad one. Three days later, he had another cath. And now he’s on a handful of meds to try to clear up two more blockages. The point is, we feel like we have a second chance. We enjoy life.

And the other reason 2016 rocks is that we became grandparents. Our oldest (my stepdaughter) gave birth to a little girl in November. That adorable little bundle has wiggled her way into our hearts and brought a new level of happiness to our house. Being a grandma rocks!!

So, while 2016 sucked in so many ways, we each can find happy memories. And I have high hopes for 2017. Great things will happen in 2017. Fatal Obsession will be released in early 2017, and I am putting the finishing touches on my “school” for aspiring writers (think Girl Scouts for writers). Do you want in?

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Traditional publishing vs. self-publishing

copy-of-booksWhenever writers get together, the topic of publishing nearly always comes up. Even though lots of blogs cover it, and there are lots of articles out there, I feel like it needs to be addressed yet again.

Over the weekend, I went to a book signing by multiple authors. A couple of authors approached me and asked for tips about publishing. I explained that my first book was traditionally published in 2014, and the other two (Fatal Impulse and Diamond in the Rough) are self-published. Both individuals asked me how much it cost to publish traditionally. I was shocked at the question.

Let me be clear: You should NEVER pay to publish your book. If you are paying a publisher, you are NOT traditionally published. You have paid what is commonly known as a vanity press to publish your book. You pay them, they put your manuscript together, have copies printed and sell them to you. I suppose there might be individuals who are okay with this arrangement, but I am NOT. Do a little research before you publish – with ANY company. Know what their reputation is. Find out what you are paying for. Ask around to see if others have dealings with them. There are fantastic resources out there like Absolute Write Watercooler and Preditors and Editors. (not updated, but still has links to good info). If you don’t know what those are, go to the links and read. Trust me.

One individual waved it off when I said I wasn’t happy with my traditional publisher. She said something like, “Well, you own the rights so you can take it somewhere else.”

No. You can’t. When you are traditionally published, the publisher buys the rights from you. You should have a contract that spells out those rights.

Then she asked how much I paid to have my self-published books published. She was shocked when I said I did not pay to get them published.

Self-publishing shouldn’t cost you anything, except for those jobs that you subcontract out to others (such as editing, formatting, cover art). When you pay for those things, you aren’t paying to publish, you are paying a business expense.

So, here’s the deal: If you are thinking about one of those self-publishing companies, a vanity press that promises to publish your book for the low, low price of $1,000 or $2,000 or even more (!) (YES – I had a man email me who paid over $5000 for 100 copies of his book – YIKES!!), Don’t do it. Just don’t. But sign up for Writescouts and take the class I’m offering in 2017 on how to self-publish without going broke.

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