Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Conquering Mount Washburn....and a new era in the Yellowstone Romance Series

Writing a book is a lot like climbing a mountain.....

the view is spectacular
It’s been three years since I last wrote a story in the main story arc of the Yellowstone series. Yellowstone Deception was published in the fall of 2012.  I’ve written a few novellas in the series, two of which were inspired by readers. The other one, Yellowstone Christmas, came right on the heels of Deception, so my mind was still fully in that world.

Now, I’m embarking on a three-book journey to continue the series, revisiting the main story arc, and it’s like standing at the trail head of Mount Washburn in Yellowstone. For years, I’ve wanted to climb that mountain and get to the top, more than three miles away, with a 1500 ft elevation gain. I'm not a climber. I can walk a flat trail all day, but ask me to go up a mountain, and I just wimp out. 
Each year, I’d get out of the car, look at the Lookout tower at the summit that loomed so far away, and something would grip me not to do it. I’d make one excuse after another. Some were valid (chest cold one year, kids with the stomach flu another year, too windy at the trailhead – yeah, a real cop-out), and some were just purely excuses to wimp out.

view heading up Mount Washburn - clouds rolling in 
Two years ago, my husband and I hiked Bunsen Peak. My motivation for that hike was a view of Sheepeater Canyon, which I needed for scenes in Yellowstone Promise. My husband kept telling me, “Bunsen is a lot harder than Washburn.” I still wasn’t convinced, even after a mile-long steep, off-trail detour (my leg still bears the scar from a run-in with a tree branch) to avoid a grizzly on the trail.  
Right now, I’m standing at the bottom of another mountain, working on Yellowstone Origins. Can I do this again? Can I rekindle the kind of magic that the first books evoked? Will I meet reader expectations? But the thought at the forefront of my mind has been - Will the readers accept where I plan to take these three new books in the series?

Bighorn sheep graze along the slopes of Washburn
 It’s a daunting journey…. One consumed by self-doubt, just as I was consumed by self-doubt about climbing the 3 miles  of steady uphill  to reach the Fire lookout tower of Mt. Washburn.
After I wrote Yellowstone Promise, I left the door wide open for some new time travel stories within this series. I had a vague plan on what I wanted to do. My readers were asking for more mountain man stories, preferably with time travel, and I thought I knew what I could do as a spin-off, and even did some research on it while camping in Rocky Mountain National Park.
For more than a year, after I wrote Promise, I went back and forth with the idea of a spin off time travel mountain man series, or whether to continue what I started in the Yellowstone Series. I had pages and pages of backstory on the time travel device, things I removed from Yellowstone Heart Song and Yellowstone Redemption before those two books were published. I hinted at them in Yellowstone Deception, and brought them into play in Yellowstone Promise.
Abundant wildflowers
Well, it took one reader review, and one word within that review, to finally solidify what I was going to do. There won’t be a spin-off, at least not right now. Maybe once I’ve conquered these three books, there might be the possibility of a spin off series. Right now, there is more to tell where the Osbornes, and the time travel ability, is concerned. It’s time to bring all the backstory into the series, and open a new chapter in the Yellowstone saga.
So, this summer while in Yellowstone, I stared at Mt Washburn. I was really going to do it this time. All spring, I was ready to climb that mountain. I trained for it at home. It wasn’t going to intimidate me again this year. I was almost relieved when car trouble thwarted my plans yet again.  I came home from that trip, disappointed in myself.  Another year gone, and another opportunity missed to climb that mountain. But, I was going to come home, and go like gangbusters on the new Yellowstone book, right? Wrong.
Yellowstone Origins intimidated me. I spent all spring, pouring over notes and ideas, getting my timelines right, and pounding out a quick prologue (which has been changed several times already, but I think it’s finally solid). I procrastinated on the book. I wrote four other books instead. It was turning out to be a chess match to plan three books as one project, and getting very complicated with all the time traveling. I got together with my editor to plot. She flew in from her home state, and we camped at the Grand Canyon, and yes, hiked the Bright Angel Trail (far worse than Mt. Washburn).

storm clouds moving in 
In July, I went to visit my editor in Colorado. She has this uncanny ability to push me, and make me do things outside my comfort zone. Turns out, this is true for both my writing as well as in real life. After hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park, we went on a girls-only road trip to Wyoming, to see the Mountain Man Museum, which has been on my bucket list for a while. We had already planned that we would go to the Tetons for a couple of days afterwards. The day before we hit the road, she turned to me, and casually asked, “how about we go and hike Mt. Washburn?” You know, Yellowstone is just a stone’s throw from the Tetons.

I answered with a resounding “yes.” This was my chance for a do-over from June. And so we did. She and I hiked Washburn. And you know what? Yes, it was scary at first, and daunting, looking up toward the summit at that tiny look-out tower. Yes, I did it. And it was easy! It really was! (aside form the thin air. I live by the Pacific Ocean. Washburn is at an elevation of over 10,000 feet).

It's windy at the top! Really, really 60mph windy!

Now I look at my manuscript for Yellowstone Origins. I was hesitant about writing it, and I don’t know what the fear is, but, just like my silly fear of hiking Washburn that held me back from actually doing it all these years, something held me back from going all-out with this book. I wrote seven chapters in early summer, then set it aside to fully concentrate on and finish a different book.
Now, I’m standing at the bottom of another mountain, looking up. I can’t wait to get to the top. My beta readers have assured me this story is up to par. I hope so.
As I climb that mountain to finish this book, I hope my readers are ready for a new era in the Yellowstone Romance Series, and all the questions that might have been left unanswered in the other books will finally be revealed.


  1. You go for it!
    I know you can do it because you HAVE done it.
    The first 3 books of your Yellowstone Series shows your talent and ability to "deep think" your characters and make us know them as intimately as you do.
    We'll be waiting impatiently but DON'T let us rush you!