National hangover and edits

Okay, most people will probably think that somehow the “hangover” from the exhaustion brought on by the insanity which is the Collie Nationals and working on edits for The Devil’s Own Desperado which came while I was in Philadelphia have nothing to do with one another.  Let me change your mind.

For one week, my life is defined by a grooming area and show ring.  I get to the show site as soon as the doors open and often don’t leave until they’re turning out the lights and pushing us out the door.  I’m grooming dogs, showing dogs–and in the case of this year’s National, having a meltdown outside of the ring with every cut in the specials’ ring that Snape was making.    I pour myself into these dogs.  I spend hours a day with them, brushing them, bathing them, caring for them.  To quote Roger Carras, the esteemed announcer at Westminister Kennel Club for years, “Dogs are not my whole life, but they make my life whole.”  I have one client dog who carries so much coat, if he is not given a weekly bath and blown dry, his coat is so dense and so heavy, its own weight will cause his undercoat to mat down.  Right now, my smooths are losing every stitch of undercoat they own, so twice weekly baths are in order to bring them back into show coat.  Showing dogs and having them in prime condition is a serious commitment.  It is hard work, but the rewards are priceless.  Being told how wonderful my dogs look in the ring vindicates what I do.  Handing over a new champion to a deliriously happy owner is often the highlight of my show season.  Being able to show that new champion to an award of merit at the Nationals is incredibly gratifying.  Leaving an owner speechless with disbelief on the amazing condition of her dog does help to stroke my ego.

GCh. Gwyn Marc’s Against the Wind

However, the whole time I was in Philly, I knew when I got home, there would be one e-mail waiting for me from my editor at The Wild Rose Press which would have an attachment with editing suggestions for The Devil’s Own Desperado.  I opened up that e-mail when I got home, downloaded the attachment, and started crying.  I felt my editor had bled red all over the pages.  I immediately closed the attachment, saved it to my jump drive, and said, “I can’t do this.”

I went to bed, and I cried myself to sleep.  I couldn’t help but wonder how in heaven’s name my manuscript was contracted for publication if the thing needed that much editing.  There had to be some mistake–that following on the heels of that e-mail with its attachment would come a subsequent e-mail telling me that the publishing house had changed their minds and they really weren’t going to publish it.

After a good night’s sleep, I reopened that attachment.  It wasn’t as bad as I thought it was.  Writing is just as much hard work and takes as much commitment as does this insane hobby I have of showing dogs.  I’m not afraid of hard work.  So, I took a deep breath and reread the e-mail and then began to read the editorial comments.  Frankly, the editing this manuscript needs is a lot of surface work, with some in-depth plot holes to repair.  But, one comment made me stop reading, made me sit back in my chair, and grin from ear to ear. That comment was “Colt is great! Readers are going to love him :).”

Colt is great…readers are going to love him. 

I’ve been told over and over to write what I love, and that I have to love my characters or else my readers won’t connect with those characters.  I admit, I love both Amelia and Colt.  Amelia has always been this very quiet, very composed young woman who is so much stronger and resilient than her appearance would allude to.  She is the embodiment of the proverb about still waters running deep.  Colt is a character near and dear to my heart.  I loved him so much, I named one of my smooth collies for him.  Colt (the collie) was a lovely tri smooth boy with gorgeous detail of head.  Colt was registered with the American Kennel Club as Wych’s Rolling Thunder (the original, working title of The Devil’s Own Desperado).  He finished his championship with points awarded to him by both all-breed judges and specialty judges, something I strive for in my breeding program–to have dogs who have a pretty enough head to win at specialty shows and yet still have the body and movement to be awarded wins from judges where movement is more valued than head detail.  Colt (the character) has a very gruff, almost cold exterior–but inside he’s a blasted toasted marshmallow.  His ability to “love ’em and leave ’em” ends abruptly when he meets Amelia, because with Amelia, he’s found what he’s longed for.  She offers him a chance to put his past as a gun-fighter behind him, to settle down, and live his life without the specter of his past rising up to destroy him.

So, as soon as this blog is posted, I’m back to the editing process.  Fortunately, the collies don’t need a bath for a few days.  So, Colt and Amelia can take precedent.  Snape, Tucker, Vander, Diva and the rest will have to wait a few days…

Thunderstorms, collies, characters, and cowardice

We were under a severe thunderstorm watch this afternoon.  I have several collies who really don’t like thunder and one is deathly afraid of it.  Long before the first rumble of thunder was heard, Snape began howling.  (Yes, I have a champion collie named “Snape.”  He was born the day that Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince was released.)
This howl wasn’t his “I’m bored” howl, or his “Mommy, you’re home!” happy howl.  It was his “I’m terrified and I want in the basement in my crate where it’s safe” howl.  Needless to say, several collies were put safely in crates in the garage, and Snape was brought into the house.  He raced me to the basement and dove into his crate.  (And, please, before anyone says anything about dogs in crates—it’s like a den for them.  They feel safe there, guarded, and protected from the world.)  When Snape’s this terrified, there is no way he can stay in the rest of the house with me because all he does is hyperventilate and stress out, and he honestly feels safe in his crate in the basement.
Once I was sure he had settled down (which took him about ten seconds), I went outside to watch the weather roll in.  I started thinking about my cowardly collie and the fictional character I named him for.  The conversation I had with someone at his first show came to mind.  It went something like, “HOW can you name such a beautiful puppy for such a horrible character?”
“Snape’s not a horrible character.  Yes, he’s a piece of work, but he’s not horrible.”
“He killed Dumbledore!”
“Yes, and I’m not sure why, but I’ll bet every last dollar I have that Dumbledore told him to do it, or he had made an Unbreakable Vow with Dumbledore to kill him if the old man asked him to.”
“Yeah, right…”
Needless to say, by the end of the last book, my belief in Snape and his never wavering from the side of the Light was vindicated, and quite frankly, Dumbledore wasn’t the gentle, sweet, caring character quite a few people seemed to believe he was.  (Trust me when I write I could go on a pages long rant about how cruel, manipulative, and vindictive Dumbledore truly was, but this isn’t the time or the place for it.)  I was one of those who always believed in Snape, from the very first book, and I always felt that there was more than a vein of pettiness and evil in Dumbledore.  I fell in love with Snape long before Alan Rickman portrayed him in the movies.  Alan Rickman as Snape was simply frosting on the cake for me. 
However, I’m digressing from the point of this blog entry.  That poor dog, howling his terror of thunderstorms, got me to thinking about the character of Snape and how (in my humble opinion) J.K. Rowling created a personality in Snape that was a “gift of a character” and yet because he was so layered and faceted, he was a character a lot of the Harry Potter fans could get behind and grow to love, despite Snape’s many short-comings.  And, he was a character that Ms. Rowling could never understand why people loved him so.  Allow me for a moment to be completely rude and state, “Well, DUUUUUUUH!”
There are parts of The Deathly Hallows, Part 2 that I honestly cannot watch a second time.  The first time I saw those scenes, I was sobbing and thinking, “Stop, you fools!  Stop!  Look at him.  He doesn’t want to be doing this.  Just stop!”  One of those scenes is when Harry steps out of the student body and accuses Snape of killing Dumbledore and demands to know how he could do such a thing to a man “who trusted you.”  Another is the scene where Snape duels with Professor McGonnagall in the Great Hall of Hogwarts. McGonnagall calls Snape a coward when he flees the Great Hall. 
Coward?  Coward?!?!?  Really?  Never once, in any of the books or movies—other than in the chapter “Snape’s Worst Memory”—does Snape ever retaliate when attacked.  He blocks and parries, but he doesn’t attack. 
How much courage does it take to merely defend rather than return the attack, especially when facing an opponent as skilled and deadly as you are?  How much courage does it take to face the most evil being your world has seen in a generation—or longer—and play double agent, knowing every moment could be your last?  How much courage does it take to keep your mouth shut, when you know in your last moments, that evil Dark Wizard is going to kill you, and with one sentence, you can send him looking for a fairly defenseless boy, because you aren’t the one he really needs to kill if that evil Dark Wizard wants to control the most powerful wand of all time?  But you don’t say it because you know that boy deserves to live. 
Coward?  I don’t think so.
And, what does any of this have to do with the writing life?  I don’t know how it applies to other authors, but I know that when I write, I want to write characters as compelling, as faceted, as complex as J. K. Rowling created, the kind of characters that readers grow to care deeply about and remember long after the last page is read.  I want to pull the many threads of the story line together to form a rich tapestry, shimmering with the magic that every author weaves within their story. 
And if the Muse is ever generous enough with me to give me that “gift of a character”, as J. K. Rowling referred to Snape, I won’t be so ungrateful to kill that character, and certainly would never kill that character in such a senseless, demeaning manner where that death served truly no other purpose than to thumb the author’s nose at the myriad of that character’s fans.
Now, to go check on my Snape and give him a hug, and assure him that he is loved and as long as he lives, there will never be a shallow, petty bitch at my house named “Lily.”

How to Explain It

From my earliest memories, I can recall sitting on my Daddy’s lap or curled into a big recliner, favorite “blankie” clutched to my chest, watching Lassie.  And, I remember Sunday afternoons, watching syndicated reruns of The Lone Ranger, The Rifleman, and The Sisco Kid.  Even now, I can hear, “Oh…Sees-ko…Oh, Pancho…” in my head.  A little older, and I remember watching Bonanza with our baby sitter because both my parents worked a full time job and a part time job to make ends meet.  Our favorite movies to watch were John Wayne westerns.

Somewhere in all that television viewing time, I started to form life goals.  Don’t laugh…because it is the direct influence of those programs that has shaped my goals.  I was going to have a collie just as beautiful and smart as Lassie.  I have long since learned, Lassie is not a beautiful example of the breed, and quite frankly, that dog lied.  I have yet to meet a collie with Lassie’s Einsteinian I.Q.  But, I’ve got collies…and the breed has not had better PR than that dog.  I was going to have horses.  I’ve got two now…a wonderful, old Arab gelding who has been with me for almost 29 years and all of his life has been the most patient, gentle, sweet baby-sitter a first time horse owner could ever dream of having…and a six year old Arab mare who is as crazy as a March hare, but I still love her dearly.  I was going to live somewhere in the West, most preferably in Wyoming. (And, yes, I know most of those westerns I watched were either filmed high in the California hills overlooking LA or in Monument Valley, and Bonanza was supposed to be in Virginia City, NV, somehow, it was Wyoming for me.)  The hubby and I own 36 acres in the middle of nowhere in Wyoming, and the plan is to someday live there.  
36 acres–near Medicine Bow, WY
Horse Creek rain storm
And, Wyoming brings me to the title of this blog–how to explain it.  How to explain why I love Wyoming.  I could say it’s the breath-taking, wide open vistas, mountains blurry and blued in the distance.  I could say it’s the harsh, often unforgiving landscape colored in faded yellows, reds, greens, and browns that has its own, unique, compelling beauty in the twisted and mangled shapes created from eons of geologic activity.  I could say it is the mountains that rise in the distance, becoming more and more clear and intimidating as you approach them, capped year round with snow and glaciers.  I could say it’s the way the ever present wind seems to whisper my name as it hisses through the pines, or rustles across the sagebrush.  I could say it’s all of those things, but it’s so much more.  
church at Frontier Prison town in Laramie, WY
It’s those things added to the first time Ken took me there, over twenty years ago. It was if something deep in my soul was finally at peace, finally calm, and whispered with profound relief, “I’m finally home.”  No, I’ve never lived there in this lifetime, but that first trip, and every one subsequent to Wyoming–namely the area near and around Laramie–has been a homecoming. It is this place that holds my soul so much more firmly than even the sagebrush can cling to such barren ground as it buries its roots deep into that alkali soil.  It is this place that calls to me, over and over, urging me to come home.  It is in this place that I am most at peace, most calm, and here that I am able to nourish my starving soul.  
When I first started writing, it was never a question of where–or when–my romances would be set.  I knew they would happen in Wyoming.  So, I dug out all the old maps my grandmother had collected over her fifty years of automobile tours (that’s what she called them and I’ve always loved the sense of adventure and romance just that phrase creates), and on a map of Wyoming from the mid 40s, I found a little town called “Federal.”  There isn’t another Federal anywhere in the US.  Federal still exists on the maps of Wyoming, though now it is little more than a wide spot on a spur of the Burlington-Northern Railroad.  I think, I brought Federal to life a lot sooner than it actually came into being, and I probably gave Federal a lot more inhabitants that it ever had.  Call that “poetic license.”
You’ll probably note, when “The Devil’s Own Desperado” is published by The Wild Rose Press, that my deep love of this place, this wild, wonderful, incredibly unforgiving, fantastically beautiful place we call Wyoming shines through.  It takes a special breed to live in Wyoming, even today.  In the era of the cowboy, it took someone incredibly resilient and strong.  Amelia is that resilient and Colt is definitely that strong.  
I look forward to my publication date and to hear from my readers.

Well, gotta start somewhere

I signed my contract for publication with The Wild Rose Press.  When I got the first letter from Susan, asking for revisions (it seems like months ago), I didn’t quite know what to expect, but thought that she was the editor, she’d know more than I might about the line I was targeting at TWRP.  So, I did the revisions, resubmitted, and waited…

I had to admit to myself, this was further than I’d ever gotten into the process.  I’d had complete manuscripts requested, and then the very nice letters, praising my ability to write, but the story just wasn’t for that house.  Or, the letters that just said, “Thanks for sending the whole MS, but it’s not ready.”

I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting to be offered a contract.  And, then I got another request for one more change.  Okay, this WAS a whole other step in the path to publication that I hadn’t taken before.  So, I did the requested revisions, resent the MS, and waited…

And, then came the e-mail…”I would like to offer you a contract…”

I don’t think I stopped dancing around the house for three days.  I kept pinching myself.  I kept asking my better half (and before anyone jumps on me for that, Ken is my better half because he makes me better) if it was real and to please re-read the e-mail, because maybe I hadn’t read it right.

After signing the contract, I received all kinds of goodies from TWRP, tips on how to market me and my MS, things I needed to do for the artists who will be creating my cover art, suggestions for joining certain writers’ loops (not to mention the one mandatory loop that is used for communication between signed authors and the house–which actually makes a lot of sense and would have to save immense amounts of time, effort, and money).  One of those tips was that I needed to create a blog.

So, I’ve taken the plunge.  I now have a blog.  As much time as I spend online lately, blogging shouldn’t be too much of an issue–other than when I’m gone for dog shows.  Oh, did I forget to mention that another part of my life is totally owned, ruled, and dominated by a bunch of “fur kids” who also happen to be collies?

So, sit back, read the musings.  I don’t and won’t guarantee that the blog will always have a relation to the writing life, but, I don’t think it will be that boring.