It’s a J-O-B!

UGH! Just…UGH!

Can I let y’all in on a little secret? Writing is a job. It’s a job I love, but never the less, it is a J-O-B. The “UGH” is because as much as I appreciate my friends, some of them don’t realize that my writing career is my JOB.

Writer print

Some of my friends get it. I had one friend call me. The conversation went kind of like this:
Friend: Haven’t seen you on FB in a while. Everything okay?
Me: It’s good. Just writing my fingers to bloody stumps. I’ve got to have three books ready for publication—one in October, one in November, and one in December. I’m also deep into edits on the fifth book with my publisher.
Friend: Oh, my gosh…well, I won’t keep you. I know how busy that makes you and how stressed it makes you. Just wanted to let you know how we did at the dog show today. I’ll text pictures. Oh, and mom says write faster. She’s already read all your other books twice.Depositphotos_189140110_original

 
End of conversation. Friend texted me pictures of the dogs we co-own with their ribbons. I was genuinely happy for her and incredibly appreciative of her understanding that this writing thing is my J-O-B.

 
As one of my beta readers said in my street team when I posted how many books I have to have written by the end of the year—“That’s a lot of beta reading, too.” Yes, yes it is.

 
I have another “friend”…when I’m this tight under a deadline, I delete Messenger from my phone. I delete FB from my phone. I hide the hot-spot so I have to actively get my butt up and look for it to turn it on. (Yeah, I once lost it for several days because I couldn’t remember where I hid it—and wouldn’t you know, I needed to get on the internet to double check a historical fact.) This friend sends me multiple messages, each one getting snarkier and snarkier about why I’m not answering (ummmm, maybe because I didn’t see the messages?), and then messages a mutual friend with an even snarkier missive. This person doesn’t get it. I’m at the little homestead in Tennessee because there are fewer distractions to my J-O-B.Young desperate girl writing with an old typewriter. Conceptual

 
Just as when I show dogs, when I’m writing, I can seem to be very distant, very aloof, and VERY unapproachable. When I’m showing dogs, I tune everything and almost everyone out, so I can focus on the J-O-B at hand and give 150% to the dog(s) I’m showing. Just as with writing, if I don’t put the effort into showing, the end result is NOT pretty.

 
So, if there is a writer in your life, please understand—whether that writer is published multiple times or just getting started—writing is a J-O-B. Writing isn’t for the faint of heart, nor is it for someone who isn’t self-motivated. Even the most self-motivated people sometimes struggle to get motivated. It takes a lot to keep people at arm’s length so a writer can focus and concentrate on getting the words on the page. As writers, we jealously guard the time we have to write. For some of us, it’s only ten or fifteen minutes a day. For people like me, it’s a full-time occupation. It’s my JOB. So, unless the house is burning down, someone has severed a limb, or there is a skyscraper sized asteroid hurtling toward earth—please think twice before interrupting the writer in your life when he or she is in a serious relationship with their keyboard.

 

Now, as I’m not smelling smoke, no one is screaming for an EMT, and there doesn’t appear to be a planet killing asteroid headed toward us, I have three books to write. You can check out where one of those books will be set by going to this FB page:  https://www.facebook.com/brokkenroad/

 

 

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THIS Is How You Do Rescue

My last post on what rescue isn’t apparently hit a nerve with people. Good. It was supposed to evoke a response from the people who read it. Just as this post is being written to evoke a response.
Here’s another rescue story…
Yesterday, a young woman posted on one of those Facebook online yard sales that she had a neutered, champion, smooth male collie needing a new and forever home. The manner she worded her “for sale” ad said she deeply cared about this boy and wanted to make sure he would go to a home that would love him, where he would be safe, and would be taken care of. Within two hours of posting, this post was shared throughout the majority of the online collie community and the wheels were set in motion to purchase this boy. Offers of help poured in, offers to drive to wherever to get him came in, relays of transport were being discussed—all from people who knew nothing of this beautiful boy except for one thing and that was he needed help. Within four hours, the sale was finalized and arrangements made to pick him up today (May 28).
I just saw the post where Findley—now forever known as Finn—is on his way to his new forever home with a former member of the national rescue foundation.

finn on his way to his forever home
Finn on his way to his forever home. 

Rescue isn’t a dumping ground. On the other hand, THIS is how you do rescue.

RESCUE IS NOT YOUR DUMPING GROUND

I’ve sat here staring at a blank screen, trying to find a polite manner to write what I want to write. I finally realized there isn’t a polite manner to write those words, so I’m just going to jump right in.

 

First of all—breed specific rescue is something every person involved with the sport of purebred dogs absolutely must support, because there are times and situations where rescue is not only necessary, it’s a God-send. However, those rescues across the country for your breed MUST NEVER be used as a dumping ground when you find yourself with too many puppies and young adults. My breed—collies—states in our Code of Ethics that if an owner has to surrender a collie to rescue, the owner needs to monetarily support that collie until such a time as a home is found for the surrendered collie.

 

It was recently brought to my attention that two separate collie rescues had thirteen collies brought in to them: five to one rescue and eight to another, all from the same breeding situation in Tennessee. One of those collies is heartworm positive. Another has PDA (Patent ductus arteriosus is a birth defect that occurs when the blood vessel known as the ductus arteriosus does not close properly, and instead, remains open—“patent” being a medical term for “open”. When this happens, oxygen-rich blood continues to flow from the aorta to mix with oxygen-poor blood from the pulmonary artery). The dogs surrendered (or in this case dumped into rescue) range in age from a claimed “four months” to a few years of age. These dogs all appear to be fairly-well bred. These aren’t the typical “puppy mill” smooth or rough collies. There is some quality there.

 

Now, I can count on one hand the number of collie breeders in Tennessee who breed smooth collies and still have a finger or two left over. Heck, there are only thirty active Collie Club of America members living in Tennessee and more than half of them no longer breed. I can account for EVERY single puppy and young adult I’ve had in the last four years. As a matter of fact, I’m actually issuing a challenge here—to both those rescues and to the active breeders in Tennessee. Collect DNA from the puppies and young adults brought into rescue. Match it against puppies and young adults in the show kennels in Tennessee.  I already have a DNA profile on the stud dog I used for my last four litters. His DNA will rule out any of those puppies coming from my breeding program.

 

Yes, I have a fairly good idea where those collies came from. Here’s the second part of my challenge—if you have a fairly good idea, too, it’s time to step up and stop it. If you are not willing or unable to keep the puppies you’ve produced until a suitable home is found for each and every puppy, STOP BREEDING! Rescue isn’t your dumping ground.

 

 

We’ve Come a Long, Long Way

image by ReutersUnless you were living under a rock for the first week of February, you couldn’t have missed the news that Elon Musk and SpaceX have made history. Made it with a bit of flair, too. Seriously, who launches a $100,000 Tesla Roadster into space with a mannequin behind the wheel in a spacesuit as the test payload while playing David Bowie’s “Starman”? The mannequin is even named “Starman.”
I watched the launch in tears. Mars is suddenly attainable. Perhaps not in my lifetime, but most definitely in the lifetime of my children. Maybe by the time my grandchildren are adults, they’ll be able to purchase tickets to go to Mars for spring break. (Maybe not spring break, but perhaps for a whole new definition of a semester abroad.)
In case you couldn’t tell, the science geek in me was almost orgasmic.
Yes, there were a few failures on this launch. Starman isn’t going to Mars. Oops. Overshot that one. (Or, as I say when I get lost going to a dog show—I’m not lost. I’m taking the scenic route. He’s taking the scenic route through our galaxy.) The center core didn’t survive landing. However, watching the landing of the two side boosters (and I’ve watched it over and over) simultaneously and in perfect synchronicity… DUDE! That was just plain and simple showing off. I’m pretty sure I shouted “Show-off!” when I watched the landing live.

624246174001_5727935959001_5727933557001-vs
Sorry, I still don’t think it’s flat. 

I spent several hours of the next ten hours or so (before the battery on the Tesla Roadster died) watching the live feed of Starman orbiting the earth. We live on such a beautiful blue planet. Such a pale blue dot, a shimmering sapphire set in black velvet. I wonder, if a future generation of Martian born humans will view Mars with the same awe that we do when we see our home planet from space. Will Mars be that fiery red dot they call home?
All of this got me to thinking. (No, I’m not planning a science fiction romance.) As a western historical romance writer, when I’m writing, I put myself into the mindset of my characters. Rapid transport in the late 1800s was by railroad and when the Transcontinental Railroad was completed with the driving of the final spike at Promontory Summit, Utah, travelling at 30 MPH was considered mind-boggling. The Falcon Heavy was doing 30 MPH before it was a foot off the launch pad. It was supersonic in two minutes.

6_PromontorySummit
Meeting of east and west at Promontory Summit, Utah.

One hundred years after the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, plus two and a half months—we literally put a man on the moon, on July 20th, 1969.
I wonder how my fictional characters would react to this world if they were suddenly thrust into it. I’m sure it would seem like such a strange, and foreign, and even hostile place. Would they even recognize this world as theirs? After learning to travel at the terrifyingly fast speed of 30 MPH, we invented the automobile, dared to challenge the birds for the sky, split the atom, cracked the code for DNA, and dipped our collective toes into the vast ocean we call space.
Almost fifty years after that first moon landing, the tiny machines on our desks have more computing power than the rooms full of computers required to launch, safely land, and return the crew of Apollo 11. Heck, my current cell phone has more computing capability than my first laptop computer and I got my first laptop only twelve years ago.
And, by the same token, what advances will we make in the next fifty years? That is, if we can manage not to destroy ourselves in the process…

I Do NOT Need a Shower

So, I’m sitting at my desk, asking myself for what has to be the millionth time in the last couple of months what in the sam hill I was thinking when I said I would be part of a series. The authors I’m working with are fantastic writers, who can craft an amazing, emotional tale. I consider myself honored to be a part of this series, so don’t read the rest of this blog post as anything other than my own personal feelings about something I’ve seen lately in the romance world. The premise of this series is fantastic—a fictional town where most of the men haven’t returned after the American Civil War, for whatever reason. The ladies decide the only way to save their town and protect themselves is to send off for mail order grooms.

Road and sky
Road in field and stormy clouds

So far, so good. Right? Then, I read the fine print. This romance I’m writing has to be sweet, clean, and wholesome. That means I have to close the bedroom door, no swearing, and maybe a chaste kiss. SAY WHAT? Anyone who has read my other books knows I leave the bedroom door wide freakin’ open. And, if I remember rightly, I have one hero whose favorite word is “damn.” (Colt, yes, I’m looking right at you.)

Okay. It’s good. I can get past that. While the romances I write are, to quote one reviewer, “steamy”, I can leave the kettle off the stove for this one. I’ll get past it.

What I’m hung up on, and it grates against me more and more, is the connotation that because those four romances (of which I am immensely proud, BTW) leave the bedroom door open they aren’t clean or wholesome. And, this is the problem with putting certain labels on romances. Labeling romances where the bedroom door is closed and the most the main characters ever share is a kiss (whether it’s chaste or not) as clean and/or wholesome means that in this world of always needing dichotomy, my romances are dirty and unwholesome. Carried out further, the connotation is sex itself is dirty.

Before I go any further, I want to fully stress that at no time has so much as a single one of the authors in this series once made that connotation about my romances to me.

I get it that some people just don’t want to read “THAT” scene and prefer to purchase books where “THAT” scene isn’t written, and in most cases, isn’t even alluded to. I get that. It’s a great big world out there and there are plenty of readers for all kinds of romances. (It’s the only explanation I can come up with for the 50 Shades of Gray effect and the manner erotica has rocketed up in readership.) But the attempted shaming and guilt-tripping by some readers and commenters on other posts on FB of the authors who do write “steamy” and “THAT” scene makes my blood boil. If it’s not for you, guess what—you can just scroll on past that post. Honest. That’s how FB works.

The same goes for a book signing. Don’t tell me at a book signing when you ask if I include the sex scenes that you prefer not to be a voyeur in a smug, condescending tone. You asked. I gave you an honest answer. If it’s not for you, smile and move on. How hard is that?

Romance authors, if you write “sweet, clean, and wholesome”, congratulations. You will NEVER know the agony of writing “THAT” scene and struggling to write it without the whole scene reading like choreography for an X-rated film. And, while we’re at it, can we please find another label for those “wholesome” books? The trend in romance (and it’s been there for a long time and doesn’t seem to be abating any time soon) is that before the main characters end up in bed together, there has to be a commitment to one another. They might not be able to articulate yet they love one another, but the emotional commitment to one another is there. Hell…oops…Heck, the first romance I had published the hero felt guilty for taking the heroine to bed. He was committed to her, heart and soul, but circumstances were conspiring to keep him from her for the rest of his life. He actually turns her down a little later in the book when he knows beyond a shadow of a doubt he can’t stay with her because to stay will put her life in jeopardy.

So, can we please stop with the shaming and the labeling? Can we all agree that there are readers for all types of romance and all that attempted shaming does is create divides in our community? It’s a great big reader pool. And just because some of us swim in another part of the pool, the water here isn’t dirty, either.  

Good Wolf Dead Wolf

intelligence

I’ve tried not to take a side in this debate, but something happened the other night that finally threw me over the edge. I follow a page on Facebook that is devoted to pictures taken in the state of Wyoming. A new member in that group got the shot of a lifetime, that of the Lamar Valley Wolf Pack starting a hunt of a herd of elk. I knew the second that photo hit cyberspace, the debate over the wolves would start all over again. Less than a minute later, more than thirty comments had been made. Three—count ‘em: THREE—comments were on what a great picture it was. The rest were comments about killing the wolves and the rebuttals. (And for inquiring minds, other to comment what a lucky shot it was and to ask why people just couldn’t comment what a good picture it was and leave it at that, I didn’t respond.)YNP wolf

 

I got curious about those people screaming for the blood of the wolves and started clicking the public profiles of the people who commented negatively about the apex predator in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. 85% of them don’t even live in the state of Wyoming. The other four comments came from people who have a vested interest in seeing the wolf gone. One leads guided pack trips for elk hunts. Another works for a feed company that specializes in feed to finish out cattle prior to slaughter. One more is from a ranching family—near Wheatland on the other side of the state. Anyone want to take a guess at how big Wyoming is? One of the comments made was that wolves kill for the sheer joy of killing and that the reintroduced grey wolves are bigger and more aggressive (a claim repeatedly debunked by scientists) and this person also posted a picture of elk killed by wolves all lined up in the snow. My first thought to that was “You mean wolves kill just like trophy hunters do?” and my second thought was I never would have thought wolves would line up dead elk like that.

 

I started digging deeper into the effect the wolf has had on Yellowstone. Biologists call what is happening in Yellowstone over the last twenty years a trophic cascade. Usually, biologists have the depressing task of documenting what happens in an environmental situation when an integral part of the ecosystem is removed. Yellowstone offers biologists a rare and unique opportunity to document the changes when an integral and apex predator is reintroduced.

elk

When the grey wolf was reintroduced into Yellowstone’s ecosystem, there was one colony of beavers. Twenty years later, because of that trophic cascade, there are nine beaver colonies. Because the wolves put so much pressure on the elk, the elk no longer linger in the winter along streams and rivers in Yellowstone. Because the elk no longer linger and are more migratory in their grazing patterns, the stands of young willows, aspen, and cottonwoods have a chance to grow and to provide food for the beavers through the winter. Because those stands of willows, aspens, and cottonwood are stronger, thicker, more resilient, they have helped to stabilize the river and stream banks. And yet, the elk population in Yellowstone is three times greater than it was a mere twenty years ago, even with the wolves hunting them. A study done in 2010 by Idaho Fish and Game revealed that the wolves have had minimal impact on elk populations. (https://idfg.idaho.gov/old-web/docs/wolves/articleHowling.pdf) Frankly, I’d be more worried about Chronic Wasting Disease decimating the elk herds than wolf kill (http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2015/06/researchers-make-surprising-discovery-about-spread-of-chronic-wasting-disease/#.WeK7LtNSyM8) and the effects of CWD on guided elk hunts.

 

Because the wolves kill coyotes, there are more rodents in Yellowstone. Because there are more rodents in the park, there are more foxes. More eagles. More badgers. More hawks. More ravens. More magpies. More of every predator that feeds on small rodents.

 

The wolves even benefit the bears—both black and grizzly—in Yellowstone. Because of the wolves, there is a more equitable distribution of carrion throughout the winter and into the spring. When emerging from hibernation, the bears depend on wolf-killed carrion for their first few meals in the spring.

 

Some conservationists, such as The Greater Yellowstone Coalition, propose responsible state-level management involving an established minimum gray wolf population, monitored by federal agencies such as U.S. Fish and Wildlife; monetary aid for ranchers who lose livestock—which Wyoming already does, and generously, I might add at seven times market value (https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-plight-of-the-wests-wolves-1507302000); and regulated, fair-chase hunting (i.e., no poisoning or trapping) of wolves in numbers based on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife reports. Revenue from hunting licenses could be used to help fund state wolf management programs. This would work fine—if Wyoming could prove itself capable of managing the wolves. Unfortunately, the state that I’ve often called my adopted home state, hasn’t proved they’re up to the task, if the manner that they’ve set up wolf hunts again is any indication. Every single trophy wolf hunting location in the state borders either Yellowstone National Park or Grand Teton National Park. The rules are set up so that hunters can actually lure the wolves out of the park with bait, wolf call, and just about any other means. The moment a wolf sets one foot out of the park boundary, they can be shot. That’s not management. And when, as has happened in the previous week, more wolves are killed in those areas than has been designated, that’s criminal mismanagement. As of October 4th, three of the trophy hunting areas have been closed and in two of them, more wolves were harvested than should have been. Just writing that word “harvested” makes me nauseous.

trophy wolf hunting zones

I also think it’s the height of stupidity that ranchers are allowed by the federal government to lease (for a mere pittance) and graze livestock on national forest land—the exact same land that the wolves roam—after spending decades and millions of tax payer dollars to re-establish not only the wolf population but also the grizzly and expect these two apex predators not to prey on cattle and sheep. Albert Einstein said that doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity.

 

And, I have one last thought on this. If you don’t pay property taxes in the state of Wyoming (guess what, I do!), keep your comments about killing wolves in Wyoming to yourself. We have enough people here who want to kill them. We don’t need you chiming in.

 

I’ve tried to see both sides. I’d like to think I’m smart enough to realize that this shouldn’t be and isn’t a simple “us vs them” argument, but unfortunately, that’s what it’s become. And, the side I’m choosing is for the wolf. I want my great grandchildren to be able to see a wolf in Yellowstone. I want them to be able to hear that haunting call echoing across a dark and star-lit landscape.  We just visit Yellowstone. It’s their home. And even the ranchers who lease land adjoining Yellowstone are just visiting because those leases are only temporary.white lady killed outside of YNP boundaries

 

 

 

 

 

A publication date–my kingdom for that date

I so need a publication date. My fourth book is coming soon from my publisher. I have the official cover. I have the official blurb. I have the official excerpt. My editor and I have signed off on the final galley. All I need now is a publication date.

I understand that there is a process and West of Forgotten is very near the end of that process to being a published book—but there are times that I envy my writing friends who self-publish. Write the book, look it over for typos, have a few beta readers go over it, send it to a hired editor, buy a cover, put it all together and hit “publish.” Done.

In all honesty, I am NOT that brave.

I want a publisher. I like having my own editor and the great rapport Anne and I have in our working relationship. I love the cover artist I have through my publisher. Everything Deb touches turns to gold when it comes to creating a cover. Have you seen my covers? And, I like that if I have a problem once the book is published, I can shoot an e-mail to Rhonda, or RJ, or Lisa (depending on the problem) and have a resolution within a matter of a day, and sometimes, just in hours.

So, now that I’ve talked myself out of thinking about self-publishing my next book, I’m going to share the cover, the blurb, and the excerpt from West of Forgotten (coming soon from The Wild Rose Press).

WestofForgotten_w11514_300

Jacket blurb:

Banished from civilization to the Wyoming Territory, U.S. Marshal Harrison Taylor holds a deed to half the Lazy L. He isn’t sure why his beautiful new partner, Rachel Leonard, doesn’t trust him. He has to convince her he is nothing like the man who abused her and must earn her trust before the escalating attacks at the Lazy L turn deadly.

For six years, Rachel has worked to repair a shattered life. Caring for her son and invalid father leaves little time to keep the Lazy L profitable. She doesn’t want a business partner simply because her father gambled away half of her beloved ranch and most certainly doesn’t desire a husband. Unfortunately, she’s stuck with the former and can’t trust Harrison as the latter.

Unless she can learn to trust Harrison, everything and everyone Rachel loves will be lost.

Excerpt:

“You are an interesting woman. Beautiful, fascinating, and so full of contradictions.” He levered back from her and lifted his hand to cradle the side of her face, the pad of his thumb feathering along the slope of her cheek. “A seemingly very strong woman and yet terrified of a kiss.”

Rachel’s mouth was dry and she couldn’t pry her tongue from the roof of her mouth. Her limbs trembled. Surely he had to hear how fiercely her heart was pounding, so loudly she heard it echoing in her ears.

His voice deepened, grew quieter until it was almost a whisper and she fought the urge to close her eyes and let the warmth in his voice wash fully over her. “A woman with a child but so frightened of intimacy.” He leaned even closer to her, his mouth almost on hers, yet not touching her except where his warm palm held her face.

In the darkness, she could just make out his features. Her hands slid up his chest and she didn’t know if it was to push him away or pull him closer. She was aware her breathing was shallow and she held her breath when he brushed the pad of his thumb against her lower lip.

“You have a mouth made for kissing, my beautiful wife, but I’m not going to kiss you. Not until you ask me. And, I promise, when that time comes, you’ll be asking me to do a whole lot more than just kiss you.”