Friday, August 19, 2011
As a new writer, one of the first things I learned was to always carry around a little black book with me no matter where I went. No, not the kind to jot down some hot guy’s phone number, but the kind where you jot down descriptions of things you see, conversations you overhear, or anything else that you believe to be noteworthy. You know, things you can use as fodder for your novels. Of course, you can still use it for hot guys’ phone numbers, but I’m married so that’s off limits.
At first, I wasn’t quite sure of what I was doing, until one day, I was in the airport at my gate and a conversation ensued with the woman sitting next to me. Her story was heart wrenching, yet it came to a wonderful conclusion. I cried with her, I laughed, and I rejoiced as she progressed with her story. That’s when I realized the value of carrying this book around with me, and then I confessed that I was a writer and told her that her story might just wind up in a book one day. I haven’t written that story yet, but I did start it, and boy do I have the perfect title: “Maybe Never”.
One of my really favorite things to watch is couples who meet for the first time. Guys are so transparent when they flirt. Seriously. First it’s the flirty once over look, the staring until they catch her eye, then the smile and then BINGO, the wise cracking of jokes to show her he’s worthy of her time—sort of like a pitch to an editor. Watching a woman who’s interested is also quite amusing. I get a real kick out of it. But the most important thing is I’ve learned something new about interaction.
Another place I find useful to have my black book next to me, is when I’m watching television, and as soon as I learn something, I jot it down. I jot down expressions, the way things are said—not that I can use it verbatim, but so long as I change it around, I’m okay.
All my stories take place in New York because that’s what I’m familiar with. Parks and places in New York that I’m unfamiliar with also get jotted down so I can research it later.
During my train rides into the city while going to culinary school, some of the things I encountered were shocking, and some hilarious. I was just getting used to the subways—it was during the winter and I was bundled up. While outside, it served to keep me warm, but on the train it was sweltering. One such evening, it was already dark outside and I was getting nervous because this guy is staring me down. No smile on his face, just staring and scaring the heck out of me, so I moved. He moved too, and he’s still staring at me. My heart is now pounding through my chest; I’m not sure what to do, and I was certain no one on the train was going to come to my aid if something happened. So I moved again and stood right in front of the glass doors so I could make a speedy exit as soon as the train stopped. I don’t know why I thought I could outrun this guy, but I wasn’t thinking clearly. Finally, I look in the glass window to see if this guy is still staring at me when I happened to glance at my reflection and that’s when I realized sweating had caused my mascara to pool under both my eyes making it appear as though I had two black eyes. Now, I began to crack up. I’m laughing so hard I’m sure he thought I was a whack job because he took off to the other side of the train. The morale of this story is this is good information to add to your story, whether it’s a mystery or light-hearted, but the other thing it taught me was to act like a loon on the subway and they’ll leave you alone.
So what do you use to record memorable and not so memorable moments that you can add to your stories?
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
The boy, as it turned out, was 87 year old Scott Smith. When I heard he lived in Danville—I thought it was local Danville, California was really Danville, Kentucky.
If I had bothered to read his Bio first I would have known: Scott Smith is a former railroad brakeman, national newspaper writer, magazine writer, owner, and publisher of both a weekly newspaper and stock car racing newspaper, magazine cartoonist, producer of syndicated cartoon strip, and a veteran of World War II. Smith lives in Danville, Kentucky.
Scott told me of his newspaper years, his time in WW II at sea, and his interest in stock car racing. He says he used to drive but now he leaves it up to his son and grandson. Nowadays Scott spends his time on the radio telling them what to do. How does a man with this background write Western novels?
It all started when his grandma bought him a toy holster and gun. Scott has an enormous collection of Louis L’Amour and reads every Western he can get his hands on. He’s also a movie buff, some of his favorites are Lonesome Dove and Broken Trail. I asked him what he thought about the new Cowboy and Alien movie. He told me, No. He just couldn’t go there.
Here’s the description about Scott’s current Avalon Western release The Bronco Man:
Travis Alexander Boone, a bronco peeler in Montana, just lost his job after six long years. In search of a place to store his bedroll before another cold winter closes all the trails out of Montana, Boone rides to Wyoming: Three hundred miles later, in Six Mile Junction, he meets Mary Agnes Canfield, the widowed owner of the Double Deuce, a small nearby ranch. He accepts her offer of board for a winter's work, unaware that her feud with a nearby rancher, Wells Gorman, is near its breaking point. Gorman, in desperate need of water, must build a canal through part of Mary's land to reach it through her late husband's resting place.
When Mary Agnes refuses to negotiate, Gorman swears vengeance. It'll be up to Travis Alexander Boone and his trusty long-barreled Walker Colt to deal with this embittered rancher and his horde of gunmen and saloon tramps.
Q: Pardon my ignorance but exactly what is a “bronco peeler”?
Scott: A bronco peeler is a breaker of wild or unbroken horses. In the old west they were called bronco peelers. Today they would be called bronco busters.
Q: How did you come up with the plot for The Bronco Man?
Scott: By using the "suppose game". I started with a wealthy rancher who thought only of himself. He enjoyed being rich and forceful.
…Suppose he planned to build a small community on his land, but to do that he would have to have a good supply of running water.
…Suppose in his case the only available water happened to be the south fork of a river that, unfortunately for him, was on the land of a young and intensely stubborn widow lady rancher where Boone was employed for the winter.
…Suppose the rancher's plans could not go forward unless he had access to available water.
…Suppose to complete his quest he decides the only way for him to obtain water is to hire an irrigation company to dig a canal across her land and tap onto the fork of the river so he can direct the flow of water to a reservoir he has waiting on his land.
…Suppose the woman won't allow him to dig a canal on her land because her late husband, who was murdered, is buried there.
…Suppose the rancher tries to gain her hand in marriage. When that fails he turns to threats and violence, so he uses a large crew of gunman to harass and pressure her. From this point the action that follows soon becomes a full fledged confrontation. It is here that the emphasis needs to be on action rather than a deep character study.
Q: What is the origin for the name Travis Alexander Boone?
Scott: I chose his name for its' historical sound and the fact that in my youth I knew and grew up among direct descendants of old Daniel Boone himself. Knew their attitudes, their desires and their need for privacy.
Q: How much did you know about Alex Boone before you started writing?
Scott: A bunch. I knew he would be unique, a past as a gunfighter he wants to keep silent. He is a hard worker, but still mortal, slightly larger than life. He would exhibit a high degree of skill and a strong measure of respectability and quest. He was honest with himself and I knew he would stand his ground against any man who tested his mettle and would give no allowances to his enemies.
Q: If The Bronco Man were being made into a movie, what actor would you like to play him?
Scott: Sam Elliot
Q: What do you personally like most about this novel?
Scott: I like its' tightness, its' pace and its' directness and the fact that it was my first ever sale to a top line book publisher.
Q: Are you working on any new titles for Avalon Books?
Scott: I have submitted a complete manuscript for consideration, so I hope so.
Q: Is there anything else you'd like the reader to know?
Scott: Yes, I would like them to know I am very appreciative of the professional help I received from the folks at Avalon, especially Jennifer Graham, Avalon's production editor who gave me a strong helping hand when I went astray.
I want to thank Scott for taking the time to speak to me and answering my questions. I’m looking forward to reading The Bronco Man and wish him success on his future projects. My offer for lunch still stands, Scott. I’ll be giving you a call the next time I make it to Kentucky.
Monday, August 15, 2011
This month saw the last of the Angels and Outlaws trilogy published. A Trick of the Light with its gorgeous cover hit the book shelves two weeks ago. So it’s the end of the trilogy and already my historical readers are whining. I tell them that The Ladies Room and a contemporary trilogy is on the way but it doesn’t work for those die hard historical readers who want more.
That set me to thinking about a writer’s emotions as they finally finish a trilogy or a series. I’d always wanted to write a series taking place right after the Alamo fell. Texas history is close to my heart since I was born in that state. When I visited the Alamo I could feel the ghosts of all those brave men haunting the place. I wondered how many of them leaned against the old love oak tree in the yard. How many of them left behind wives and children.
When I came home I continued to think about those men and their families. My character, Captain Lavalle, had taken on life and had become one of the gallant men who fought in that battle and he had three daughters who’d joined him in the wild Texas frontier. But now the battle was on the way and he wished they were home safely on his plantation in Louisiana.
There was a way to get them through Santa Ana’s forces but it required a lot of trust. The three men in the jail for fighting didn’t seem so much like outlaws as desperate men who’d do about anything to get back home. When the good Captain approached them with the idea of taking three sisters back to Louisiana in exchange for their freedom, the outlaws thought he meant three sisters of the cloth and agreed.
Only they weren’t sisters in the religious sense but by blood. When Tyrell and his cousins, Micah and Isaac found out about that little ruse, they weren’t any too happy but they’d given their word and in those days a man was only as good as his word. And the journey of a trilogy began.
From Wine to Water covers their travels through rough territory to western Louisiana. After the sisters come out of their habits and the men find out that they’ve got three tough women on their hands Tyrell says that the wine had been changed to water. That they started out with holy women and now all they have is headstrong, stubborn and determined women who are bound upon out-shooting and out-riding all of the outlaws.
During that trip Delia, the oldest sister and Tyrell, the oldest cousin, fight their feelings so hard that it begins to look like they’ll never admit the way they feel.
Walkin’ on Clouds is Fairlee and Isaac’s tale. Fairlee is determined to marry a gold digger who is after her dowry and Delia, who is now living in Mississippi, sends Isaac back to Louisiana with a letter begging her to reconsider and come to Mississippi. Fairlee should have never said no because the next thing she knows she’s waking up in the bottom of a boat and Isaac has kidnapped her. She’s going to Mississippi whether she wants to go or not. She swears she’s in love with Matthew and Isaac tells her that when a person is walkin’ on clouds that everyone looks like an angel but looks are deceiving and the man is a rogue.
And now we’re up to the final installment: A Trick of the Light. Tempest Lavalle has always lived up to her name. Her temper is hot and her light blue eyes shoot daggers when anyone crosses her. She’s living with her sisters in Mississippi and life is good as long as that rotten Micah stays on his side of the plantation. Then his fiancée delivers a death bed confession that she was the one who murdered his father. And Micah is so bewildered that he tells Tempest. Now that they have such a secret between them, will it draw them together or will it tear them further apart? Is that crazy aura over her curly hair really a halo or is it just a trick of the light?
The series was so much fun to write. All three of the pseudo angels and outlaws were so real that we had amazing conversations and plotted our stories even in my dreams. And now that the end is here I’m wondering right along with my whining historical readers, why didn’t I create six outlaws and six sisters?
Tell me, do you hate to see a series or a trilogy come to an end? Or do you feel like there is a limit to just how much a person can draw out of a haunted feeling and an old live oak tree in San Antonio, Texas? As a reader, do you put down the book with a sigh and maybe even look at the very back page to see if there’s another one mentioned…just maybe…still coming in the next few months? As a writer, do you ever weave them into another book just so they stay alive?
Sunday, August 14, 2011
And the books! There's something for every type of reader. From romances to spy novels to biographies to non-fiction books about training your dog to coffee table books on rooftop gardens, the variety is dizzying. All there under the tent.