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.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Guest Author -- Paty Jager

It is my great pleasure to have  award-winning author Paty Jager on my blog today! Thanks so much for being here, Paty.
Please introduce yourself. Tell us a little about the person behind the pen.

Howdy! I’m Paty Jager. I’ve lived a rural lifestyle most of my life. From living 2 ½ miles upriver from a town with the population of 200 to marrying and raising our children on 10 acres with animals, increasing to 70 acres, and now as empty-nesters, we have 280 acres and are 40 miles from a town that has most of our shopping needs and 10 miles from a small town that has a boarding school, four churches, and one cafĂ©/market. Our community where we live has a post office, no other businesses or buildings and I love it!

Why did you decide to write historical western romance? What is the appeal?

Historical western romance wasn’t my first love to read and I stumbled into it because I couldn’t find help crafting a mystery book. I ran out of mystery books to read at the local library and picked up a Nora Roberts book. It was contemporary romance, but I liked how it was character driven. Then I picked up LaVyrle Spencer’s Hummingbird, which was also character driven and had a lot of elements in it that I could relate to, having lived rural with a root cellar, outhouse, and wood cookstove.  And I found a writing organization that welcomed me and helped me hone my writing craft.  The appeal to me now to write historical western romance is the fact I’ve been told many times my writing voice fits the genre and I have lived or done a lot of the things characters in a historical western would do. It helps me bring authenticity to the stories.

How much research goes into your books, and how do you tackle that?

I love the research part of writing a book. Especially, a historical book. I’ve always loved American history. I have two bookcases full of the books I use while writing. And usually when I start a new book, I add a couple more on a place or subject I need for the current work in progress (WIP). I like to purchase used books so I can stick post-it notes on the pages where I find my information and I can use highlighters if I want.  I usually read two to three books that have some kind of connection to the book I’m writing before and while I’m writing the book. I like to use factual events and information in my books. It’s my way of imparting some history to the reader without them knowing it. ;)

What is the best comment you ever received from a reader? The worst or weirdest?

I’ve received emails from readers that started out, “Darn you Paty! I started [insert one of my book titles] and I had to read it to the end. I didn’t get to bed until three in the morning.”  The worst or weirdest was on a blog tour I did for the first book of my Native American Spirit Trilogy.  Even though I’d had Nez Perce tribe members and the Nez Perce council say my books were factual, I had a Nez Perce member following my blog tour and saying mean things like I didn’t know what I was talking about and making a bad name for the Nez Perce. I contacted the council and I no longer had trouble with him.

Tell us a little about your writing style? Do you plan and plot your stories, or do you just plow through them?

My writing style has changed over the years. The first five or six books I wrote were totally off the cuff. I knew my hero and heroine and that was about it other than the research I did and that usually made up the plot of the story. Now I write up bios on the hero and heroine, I jot down the main secondary characters, do a conflict grid, and know the beginning, middle, and end of the book before I write it. I don’t do an outline because characters and events that arise usually take me on little side trips that later turn out to be useful to the story. I love when my subconscious does that.

Can you tell us a little about your current work, Claiming a Heart? Is there a story behind the story?

Claiming a Heart is the third book in the Halsey Homecoming Trilogy and the last book that is part of the Halsey Brothers Series.  When I finished the Halsey Brothers Series of five books, readers wanted more. So I came up with the trilogy of the three boys, now young men, who joined the family either through marriage or friendship.  Claiming a Heart is about the blind boy, Donny, who was befriended by Clay Halsey in Doctor in Petticoats. He’s grown now and works for Clay in a business that makes wooden tablets that allow blind people to write in a straight line. The first two books of the trilogy were easy to figure out. Jeremy in Laying Claim had been mentioned in the last Halsey Brother book, Logger in Petticoats, as having gone to Alaska. So his story started in Alaska and the Yukon. It had to do with him wanting to get back to Sumpter and his sister and the Halsey family. The second book again, was easy to decide how the story would work. Colin, the son of Aileen, the heroine, in Miner in Petticoats, went to England to reclaim the estate he inherited from his father, Aileen’s first husband. He is coming home and discovers his English cousin wishes him dead to take over his estate. I had to stretch my imagination to figure out what Donny’s “coming home” story would be. I had taken the underground tour in Pendleton, Oregon a couple years ago and that stuck with me. What if a woman was hiding in the tunnels with the Chinese? What if she was wanted for a crime?  What if she went to the aid of a blind man, not knowing he was blind?  And that is how Claiming a Heart starts. With Callie witnessing Donny being beaten. She drags him into the tunnels under the city and finds him a Chinese healer to tend to his injuries.

What sets your heroine, Callie, apart from all the other women in your hero, Donny’s, life? Why is she perfect for him?

Callie is different from other women Donny has met because she dresses like a young man and passes herself off as one as she hides in the tunnels. She is distrustful of males. But she is perfect for Donny because she doesn’t treat his blindness as anything grotesque or a disease. She allows him to do for himself and doesn’t give him any slack when his blindness could hold him back. Her learning to trust him, helps him to discover truths about his past that help him release the rage that has been simmering in the back of his mind.

Have you ever had writer’s block? How do you deal with it?

To me writer’s block isn’t an obstacle and I don’t believe in muses. When I find I’m stuck with a work in progress it usually means I’ve taken the story in the wrong direction or made a character do something that was out of character for no apparent reason. I take a walk, think about the story from different angles and discover where I went wrong. I don’t have a muse. I sit my butt in the chair and write whether I have an idea or not. Once my fingers start taping the keys and I let my mind go, the story will start flowing.

Can you give us a little background on your hero Donny that’s only in your author notes, and not found in your story? What inspired you to create this character?

Donny started out as a secondary character in Doctor in Petticoats. His first scene on a page, he trips over Clay Halsey who is blind feeling self-pity. Clay stretches his legs across the hall of the blind school.  But later the boy, Donny, is Clay’s salvation from having to take music and other classes that he had as a child or didn’t feel he needed. Through Donny teaching Clay, the two became good friends. When Clay returned to Sumpter, Oregon he took Donny with him to help in his business, making him family. I don’t think there is anything about Donny in my author notes that isn’t in one of the two books.

Describe a favorite scene in your current novel?

A favorite scene in Claiming a Heart is below. At this point of the story Donny only knows Callie by the name Mac. She uses this name so no one knows her real identity.
Donny heard Mac speaking to the doctor before he caught the scent of lye soap. Her footsteps entered the room along with the clank of dishes.

“Is it dinner time?” he asked.
“Yes, how did you know?” Her skepticism made him smile.
“I can smell the soup and hear the clank of the dishes.”
“Did you know it was me?” she asked.
“Yes. I smelled lye soap. The doctor smells like herbs.” He wanted to ask her about the cook who asked to marry her. But he knew better than to blurt it out.
“Soup,” she said.
He held out his hands, palms up. She placed the bowl in them.
“I see you finished the bandages.”
Donny swallowed the soup in his mouth. “I also tied knots in string. Makes me wonder what he’ll give me to do after a couple weeks.”
Mac laughed. “I’m sure Mr. Cai has all kinds of things you can do.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of.” He finished his soup while Mac chuckled.
“Are you going to eat?” he asked when he didn’t hear sounds of her eating.
“There isn’t enough for me and you. I’ll have Mr. Cai bring me something from the kitchen.”
Was she avoiding the cook? “I can be trusted to eat alone. I won’t drown in my bowl of soup.”
“No. I’ll wait.”
“Are you avoiding the cook because he wants to marry you?” He mentally slapped himself for saying exactly what he’d planned to wait to ask.
“No! How did you know he—and what business is it of yours!” Her footsteps paced the room. Six across, six footsteps back. As tiny as she was, she must be pacing at a lengthened stride.
“I heard the doc and some man talking. Then the other man got loud and left. I asked Doc what they were talking about. He said the man asked him to arrange a marriage between you two.”
The pacing stopped. “He what?” The pacing resumed. “That low-life pot scrubber. What the heck makes him think I’d agree to an arranged marriage? I’m not Yi. Why the lousy, no-good—”
 “I’d think you’d be flattered a man wanted to marry you.” Donny held out the bowl. It whipped from his hands, and he was left holding air.
A loud thunk echoed through the small room.
“What woman would be flattered to have men decide who they should or shouldn’t marry?” Her tone held more anger than the topic warranted.
“Is that why you’re mad? Cuz he didn’t ask you?” Was she sweet on the Chinaman?
“No! I don’t want him or anyone else to ask if I’ll marry him. I’m not marrying anyone. Men can’t be trusted. They leave or they carouse. There’s not a faithful bone in their bodies.”
“Wait a minute! Not all men are unfaithful. I know seven men who have always been faithful to their wives.” Donny had witnessed the kindness and love the Halsey men had for their wives. Just being in the room with one of the happy couples left a person feeling happy.
“Seven out of how many in the world!” She grasped his hand and shoved the teacup in his palm.
Liquid sloshed onto his bare chest. “Hey! Don’t burn me with tea because some other man hurt you. We aren’t all bad.”
“Says you! A man!” A rough cloth rubbed the wet spot on his chest.
“Stop. Just stay back so I can drink the tea instead of wear it.”
“Hmmph!” The lye scent disappeared and the swish of the curtain left the room silent.

What else do you have in store for your readers?

I’m currently brewing up a new historical western romance series that brings the hero and heroine together via letters. The tentative series title is Letters of Fate.  Each book will start with a hero receiving a letter that changes his life and brings him together with his future wife.  I also have the Shandra Higheagle mystery series. This is a contemporary cozy mystery series set mostly on a fictitious mountain ski resort in Idaho. Shandra is half Nez Perce who discovers clues to murders when her deceased grandmother visits her dreams.

Blurb for Claiming a Heart

Book three of the Halsey Homecoming historical western romance trilogy that is a sequel to the Halsey Brothers Series.

Callie MacPherson - or Mac - is hiding from the law. When she witnesses a group of lawless thugs beating a newcomer, she drags the innocent man into the underground tunnels of Pendleton. Caring for the man, Callie discovers she hasn’t become as hard-hearted as she’d feared.

Donny Kimball’s loss of sight didn’t blind his heart. It can see far more than his eyes ever could. His heart tells him Callie MacPherson needs him as much as he needs her. If only he can convince her of that before they both get killed.

About Paty Jager

Award-winning author Paty Jager and her husband raise alfalfa hay in rural eastern Oregon. On her road to publication she wrote freelance articles for two local newspapers and enjoyed her job with the County Extension service as a 4-H Program Assistant. Raising hay and cattle, riding horses, and battling rattlesnakes, she not only writes the western lifestyle, she lives it.

All her work has Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor and engaging characters. Her penchant for research takes her on side trips that eventually turn into yet another story. She recently returned to the genre of her heart- Mystery.

You can learn more about Paty at
her website; 
Newsletter: Paty’s Prattle:
twitter  @patyjag.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Rising Star in Romance on iBooks

Over the moon excited today! Not only did I read an absolutely wonderful review for my RONE finalist book, Diamond in the Dust, but I was also informed that APPLE has picked me for their RISING STAR IN ROMANCE promotion! Apparently, my name was tossed into the hat by my aggregator, Draft2Digital, with whom I publish on Apple. They felt strongly enough about YELLOWSTONE REDEMPTION (and the Yellowstone Romance Series as a whole) to promote it for the next two weeks. 

So thrilled for this opportunity and recognition. Writing isn't easy. Writing a book that speaks to the readers is even harder. Every day, I'm filled with self-doubt. It's very uplifting to read a good review and be recognized for my efforts. (I have another post almost ready to go on where I talk about my current struggles with my work in progress)

Check out all the Rising Stars here:

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Facebook Group

In recent years, Facebook has severely limited the amount of interaction authors can have with their readers. I maintain a profile page on Facebook as well as a "Business Page," which is my fan page. However, Facebook has severely limited my ability to reach and interact with my fans these days - those people who "Liked" the page, presumably to get updates from me, see what I post about, and interact with me -  unless I wish to pay to have the posts seen. Unless you click "like" on every post I post (and there's only a 1 in 10 chances you will), and interact with the post as soon as it hits your Facebook newsfeed, chances are very good you won't be seeing my next post, or the next. 

In order to get around this algorithm, many authors have started fan groups on Facebook. My Facebook group started when a reader made a comment to me over a year ago that she would love to discuss my books with other readers on my business page, but was afraid to make comments because of spoilers, and asked if there was a private place where she could openly talk about the books. So, that's how my group BETWEEN THE LINES WITH PEGGY L HENDERSON got started. It is a closed group, meaning that only members of the group can see and post to the group. 

I love my Facebook group! It's the place I go to every day to talk to my readers. We discuss anything from the weather, to places we've been and would like to visit, and everything in between. We try and keep it focused mainly on books, and my books in particular, since that's what the group was set up for in the first place. I share tidbits about what the characters I currently am writing about have been doing, my joys and frustrations with the characters, exclusive teasers and cover reveals, and lots of other things I don't talk about on my public page. 

We might delve into backstory that never makes it into any of my books, and a favorite topic is always the Book Boyfriends. Everyone has their favorite, and it can sometimes turn into a mud slinging contest (always in good fun and with humor).
I love this interaction, because, as a writer, my job is rather lonely. I live in my head each day, trying to bring these characters to life, and I'm humbled and honored that there are fans who treat these characters as "real people," just as I do. I can ask my readers for opinions, I do exclusive contests and giveaways, and am about to do my first "virtual book signing."

From my group, two books have been born - Yellowstone Promise (which started as an idea one of my beta readers had. She wanted to know what would happen if Daniel, Aimee, Chase and Sarah could go to the future together. I gave it some thought, tossed in Dan and Jana for good measure, and took it from there), and Yellowstone Homecoming. One fan asked me to please write a story about Matthew Osborne, whom we've met very briefly in Yellowstone Redemption, and also as a young boy in Yellowstone Christmas. If you'll recall, he was also the reason for the events that transpired in Yellowstone Deception

So, if you'd like to connect on a more active level than simply reading this blog, and have a Facebook account, consider joining my group. I have two administrators who approve each request to join. We don't want spammers or "fake accounts" in the group, and my admins do their best to make sure only "real" and legitimate people get approved. 

I hope to see you there!

To join, go here: Facebook Group