Almost always after finishing a manuscript and during the weeks in which the editor tackles the manuscript, I revise, and we do it all again before the book launches, I languish in that in-between state of sputtering ideas and mental exhaustion.
Ever watch a sparkler? Like the sparks of light that fly off the stick, ideas spark in my mind most of the time and most fade into nothing. Some sparkle more brightly than others, but they soon disappear. That indicates, to me, that they were mere flashes of interest, ephemeral and not worthy of building stories upon. A handful burn brightly and tease my mind for days. I spend a lot of mental time and energy developing stories inside my brain. If I can't drum up the interest or if my mental storytelling falters on an idea and can't blast it open for progress, then that idea, too, isn't worth the effort of writing.
Eventually, one will take hold. It will capture my imagination and intrigue me. It will, in simple terms, stick. That's the idea worth writing. That's the idea worth developing. That's the idea that will become the next book.
Developing and writing such an idea doesn't always go smoothly or quickly. One of my most gripping ideas that spurred me to write, write, write for days turned into a story that those who read it find compelling: The Falcon of Imenotash. I consider that little book a tour de force. Despite the glowing reviews, it doesn't sell. Another title that I think exemplifies my best work also doesn't sell: Daughter of the Dark Moon. In fact, I really like that entire trilogy.
I suppose it's important that I like what I write. I cannot imagine being afflicted with Stephen King's horrific imagination. In an interview, the host asked him why he wrote horror. King replied that if he could write something else, he would.
In the meantime, I will focus my energies on polishing the next book, Hogtied. This 60,000-word novel will span the following sub-genres of romance: military, biker/MC (motorcycle club), new adult, cowboy/cowgirl. How does all that fit together into one novel? Here's the cover blurb:
Cowgirl meets biker ... what could go wrong? When a biker shoots her sister's prize steer, champion roper Melanie goes after him. Unfortunately, she doesn't think it through, and that hot temper puts her squarely in Hammer's sights. Melanie's ire only increases when Hammer defuses the dangerous situation by claiming her as his property. If the former Marine and now sergeant-at-arms of the Black Ice Revolution MC thinks she's his for the taking, he's sadly mistaken. She wants nothing to do with him, but he's not about to let this sexy, feisty woman go.
Let me know what you think.
In the meantime, I'm going to try to wrestle my restless brain into some semblance of focus.
Satin Boots: Six Short Western Romances
“Var är jag?” she muttered. “Är jag död?”
Tony set down his plate and gaped at the prettiest green eyes he’d ever seen. Although he did not understand a word she said, he assumed she was confused as well as in pain, and probably thirsty.
He held a cup of water to her lips and said, “Drink.”
He slid his hand behind her head to help her drink. She took a sip, then another. Water dribbled from her lips and trickled over smooth, pale skin. He gently lowered her head back to the pillow. She blinked again.
“Vem är du?”
Guessing as to her questions, he pointed to himself and said, “Antonio.” He pointed at her and said nothing, but gave her a small smile of encouragement. He pressed his fingertip to his chest and repeated his name, then pointed at her. Awareness flickered in her eyes. He pointed to himself and she said,
“Antonio.” Tony thought her accent charming. He pointed to her and she said, “Linnea.” He repeated it, savoring the syllables on his tongue and giving them a Latin inflection she thought charming.
“Är du spansk?”
Tony shook his head, not understanding the question. He held up the cup and offered it to her. She nodded and he helped her drink.
Consuela returned with her arms filled. She smiled when Tony told her that his guest had awakened and spoken with him. She chuckled with him when he informed her that they hardly understood each other. She agreed to look after the girl, because it just wasn’t seemly for a bachelor to do so. The undertaker had a respectable reputation to maintain.
Tony returned his attention to business. He sold two of his premade, elegant caskets to the two most prominent families in the area. He took his dinner on a tray at his guest’s bedside and enjoyed a slow exchange of words to communicate before thinking to ask her if she spoke English.
“Ja, a little,” she replied.
He smiled. “Oh, good.”
Her expression took on the desperation of hope. “My mamma? Pappa?”
Understanding that question, Tony shook his head.
She closed her eyes and looked away from him. Tears trickled.
“I am sorry,” Tony said.
Back in the fall of 2018, bestselling author Russ Towne (for whom I edit) and I collaborated on a collection of short stories. I hopped into his genre and we produced a book of 12 short stories titled Six Shots Each Gun. I designed the cover and assisted with writing the cover blurb. Russ took care of the audio book and I took care of formatting. He sent the files to his publicist for publication and a bit of promotion. The book was released in February 2019.
Russ and I can probably count everyone who read the collection on two hands. Every single one of those people declared they really enjoyed the stories, but no one left reviews. We can't sell the book. Perhaps it was inadequate or ineffective marketing. Perhaps the cover design wasn't quite suitable for the genre. Perhaps ... well, the upshot is we don't really know why the book isn't selling.
But the stories are good, damned good.
Despite the failure of our experiment, Russ and I decided to try again, sticking to the main genre of westerns and veering into the romantic side: western romances. We couldn't align our schedules, which resulted in separate publication of our stories in separate collections. Mine, titled Satin Boots, came out in October 2019. It received a couple of lovely reviews, but again sales proved lackluster.
According to those who have read it, the stories are good, damned good.
So, I decided to try again. With Russ' gracious permission, I consolidated my stories from Six Shots Each Gun and the six stories in Satin Boots into a single volume titled Shot from the Hip. The cover and title font, I hope, imbue the drama and flavor of the genre. This collection went live (e-book and paperback) on January 2, 2020. How's that for a project to start off the new year?
I enjoyed writing those stories. Constraints upon the romantic heat proved a welcome challenge, as I usually write more explicit stuff. But I managed to get the point across without wallowing in the purple prose of euphemisms or pretending that romantic relationships never go beyond a chaste kiss. I enjoyed writing about strong, resourceful heroines and heroes who could be alpha males without being womanizing jerks, all operating within the societal restrictions of the latter half of the 1800s ... you know, when women were chattel.
But a writer is only as good as the next book. Therefore, I've scheduled my next release--all new content--for February 14. Yes, that's Valentine's Day. This new book can best be described as: "Cowgirl meets biker. What could go wrong?" In short, Murphy's Law applies to this couple: if it can go wrong, it will. Of course, problems arise due to the heroine's fiery temper, the company kept by the hero, and other bad decisions made with the right intentions. At about 60,000 words, Hogtied will span sub-genres: western, military, new adult, MC (motorcycle club).
Spanning sub-genres comes naturally, because few people live and love within the confines of a single narrow niche.
Cover design is underway and the final result will be revealed soon. In the meantime, explore what westerns have to offer, because there's a lot more to the genre than cattle drives and gunslingers. This romanticized period in American history merely serves as the setting for a full array of personalities, emotions, motivations, and ambitions. Just like today.