I remember during the edit of my first book, Windswept Hearts, the editor commented that one chapter should be two chapters and it needed more back story. I was upset because I hate writing joiners. Those sections you need that continue the flow of the story but to you seem boring. How do you spice them up? It also meant another 1200 words and there would be an uneven number of chapters. All creative types have their idiosyncrasies. My quirk is wanting my books to end on an even number of chapters. Ugh.
I was mad at my editor but too passive to say anything. So, I decided my heroine would wake up grumpy, then the coffee maker goes out, and her love interest irritates her. I relished writing this scene and I put all my frustration into it. My editor is no dummy. She figured out my angst and added salt to the wound by telling me it was the best scene in the book. We have laughed many times over it.
My point? We all know, as writers where our weaknesses lie. Whether it’s writing a scene ten times and not getting it right or merely skipping something we don’t want to work out. We know when our writing doesn’t make the grade and we worry the reader is going to notice. Every author knows you get tired at the end of writing, editing and re-writing the story. There are scene changes that don’t go smoothly, those plot holes that take a dump trunk of words to fill in and all your skill to cover. Then you are finished, and you send your project out into the reader pool hoping it won’t get torn to shreds by public opinion or worse yet, left to die a slow, dusty death on a bookshelf.
I also worry about how a reader is going to react to the social setting of the time. I find writing historical fiction gives me more leeway to be creative but keeps my feet to the fire because I still have boundaries I must work within. The period I chose, Viking history, is a little rough around the edges for our present time. They weren’t called barbarians for no reason. They eked out an existence in the harshest of lands, fought like demons, loved wildly, had a sophisticated social setting and were independent to a fault. They did not live by our current societal rules. I knew I would have to be accurate about their lifestyle yet I knew this would be offensive to some. I was concerned about my heroine’s age. Typically, in the period I was in, young girls were married off by the age of fifteen. I have felt the parents may have been smarter then. (I raised three teenage daughters) At that age a girls’ hormones are raging, she wants to do things her way. Could those parents have decided, “let’s just marry her off and let the husband handle it?”
However, in our day and age girls are considered underaged until 18. I knew where the hard spots were, and worried how they would be perceived. Take for instance the rape of hostages or woman of a conquered village. This was the norm. Also, a woman didn’t have much choice or say in whom they may have to marry. They were used as bargaining chips for peace or alliances, or for improving the family wealth. They could even be sold into slavery. On top of that, they were held to high standards, such as being a virgin when they married.
Nowadays men are expected to treat women equally, fairly and respectfully. Women have rights and freedoms that didn’t exist back then. I knew Viking men in the 800’s were a rough crowd and conditions harsh. Though Viking women had more rights than most of that time, men still held most of the power. Historical fiction can be hard to read through the lens of our modern society.
The bottom line, when a reviewer comes along, it’s easy to become defensive, angry or filled with self-pity if they don’t like something. If you are honest with yourself though, you know when they are spot on and have ferreted out your weaknesses. So, what do you do?
Everyone handles it differently. All I can tell you is how I did it. On my recent book, Norse Hearts, I sent out and paid for three professional reviews. The first two reviews, Kirkus and Foreward Reviews, came back with glowing comments. I was ecstatic. Then the Blue Ink review came in. I was surprised, but I stepped back and analyzed it.
The reviewer hit on every one of my fears. Did that make her wrong? Did that make my book a piece of crap? Did that mean I should never write again? Nope. It said that I was an average writer, and the reviewer was one of the one-third of people who would not like the book and not necessarily for the same reasons.
I have to say I liked her style. She gave respect where respect was due, recognizing my hard work and research. However, it socially did not fit with what she wanted to read. When Blue Ink contacted me about releasing the review, I said go ahead. They seemed surprised. I explained that I needed this review. I wanted those who might hesitate about reading such material, to be able to make an educated decision on whether this was the story for them.
I want my readers to enjoy the material I write. If it is not a subject they care for, I’m okay with that. I have read books I disagreed with, or I didn’t enjoy the writers’ style. But, I respected their effort. I respected this reviewer’s honesty, and it will help others who have her same view to avoid an unenjoyable read.
I also looked at the percentage. If I had gotten two negatives out of three, maybe the book needed another rewrite. Instead, I was overjoyed; my rate is two out of three on the positive. I have done my best, and that is all any of us can do. I can say I am okay with what I have accomplished, and this negative review has given me insight and ideas for another book!
If you would like to read any of those reviews, please click on my site page, headed “Books by Robynn Gabel.”
If you would like to comment on any experiences you have had, please feel free to do so below! Have a Happy Writing Day!
What would you do to accomplish a dream? You hear stories about it all the time. One advertiser cleverly took a twist on that and asked what would you do for a Klondike bar? Obviously we hold the goal of dreams high.
I know I did. When I first learned how to read I remember it was a great joy to be able to read the signs that went by on the highway. It seemed a wonderful secret that I was let in on. To this day, I prefer to communicate by the written word. To me, words are a tool, an art form. My mother could create rhyming poetry off the top of her head. My sister could draw and paint anything. Dad was a wizard of self-learning and mathematics. All I seemed to be able to do was read a lot.
As I got older and perfected the ability to communicate through the written word, I found another exciting mystery. I could create stories too. My teachers encouraged and gave me the hope that it was actually something I could do well.
Then, I was out on my own and raising children, working and keeping up a house were my sole focus. I kept my love of literature close, and quite often would escape into a good romance or two. At work, my writing skills were once again put to the test, as I wrote business letters, hospital policies, memos, advertising material, and even sent a few letters to senators.
Through it all there was a nagging thought at the back of my mind. It became a dream. I wanted to write a romance story. And not just any romance. I wanted to write about Vikings. Why would a quiet housewife and hardworking business woman be interested in Vikings? Well, have you ever worked in business? It truly is dog eat dog world, or, one Viking warrior against another!
I was fascinated by a lot of things and history was one of them. Loved the Egyptians, but the fierce, independent, wild and savage profile of a Viking caught my greatest curiosity. How did they survive in the barren north that could be more brutal than they could? What drove them to burst upon the world and take it by storm, not to conquer, but to find farmland? What made them so tough, independent yet have a code of ethics in battle that gave them hope their eternity would be filled with drinking and fighting? And yet this same ferocious, hardy people would become some of the most devout Christians and help in its spread.
They were a mystery and conundrum to me. I thought a romance between them could be a fascinating read. So for twenty years a cast of characters lived in my head. During long drives, long nights sitting beside sick kids, and any moment I could take to day dream, I would create scene after scene of a story that just wouldn’t go away,
So when I got a chance to retire and spend time with my husband, I took to social media, learned Word programing and started to finally live my dream of writing. I discovered I had waited long enough to realize a writer’s dream, the age of independent authors. No longer would I have to travel the road of rejection, but could write, edit and produce my own dream.
I was also smart enough to know it would still be a long road. I knew nothing about editing, formatting or how to promote. So I joined a few writer sites and started to learn, listen and write. I created a romance story based on something I knew about. Then I found a very talented editor. I was fortunate enough to find a formatter who could help me realize my dream by getting the book into Createspace. I studied Amazon and the mysterious algorithm, and then went on to Goodreads and finally the world of blogging.
Since I have started my journey I have seen the rise and fall of a plethora of media sites and learned what does and does not work for a writer. I have seen major changes in the book industry from the chant that the physical book was dead, to changing digital readers that morphed into smartphones which do it all now.
My first two books were done to learn the ropes. Now I got serious. Research files were created to be at my fingertips for referral. I built a library of physical books, filled with tags on certain subjects and timelines so I could quickly review. I spent a year at the computer ignoring the world around me as I created and freed the world I had trapped in my mind for many years.
Characters took on lives of their own. The plot changed and grew as they did. The original plot became buried under the will of my strong characters. And when that book was done, I realized the prologue was actually a story unto itself and was the start of it all. So I began to write a series, backwards.
Then life interrupted. My soul mate, encourager, supporter and lifeline in life, passed away from cancer. The real battle that had intruded into our marriage after only five years of being married, finally won twenty years later and Darrell was its casualty. His death took my heart, my will, my direction, and any desire to do anything, let alone achieve a lifelong dream.
He had been such a help in writing Norse Hearts. Many of the insults he had invented. We acted out sword play like two little kids so I could get a feel of how the body would have to move. He had patiently listened to each chapter as I read it out loud to catch any errors. Then when it was finished, he sat down and spent two weeks reading it, though he didn’t like to read because he was a slow reader.
The story was finished and had been edited by friend and editor. Yet is lay hidden in my computer as I went about putting my life pieces back together. But family, Facebook friends, life friends and an editor and widowed friend, would not let me quit.
More edits, formatting, beta readers and life coach, would eventually help me do CPR on my languishing world of Vikings. It was their very strength and stubborn will that help me to come back to this dream and move on.
In the wee house of 8-26-18, a weary formatter put in the last keystroke on the manuscript and Norse Hearts was born. It went right to the printer to be approved.
What does it take to realize a dream?
I don’t know. Determination? Stubbornness? Talent? Money? Time? Blood, sweat and Tears? Education? Passion? Family and Friends? Well, I would have to say all of these have been part of the journey, but none of these would have been enough on their own.
I think its Perseverance. That is the one ingredient at the root of achieving any dream. And who taught me that? Well in all those hours of studying the Vikings, it is the one thing I found most fascinating. They persevered all the time, against the elements, against the world, and against each other. They persevered, and now their DNA is spread all over the world.
So if you think it’s only a dream, and you can’t achieve it, I want you to look up the word perseverance.
Recently I decided to raise awareness of the upcoming release of “Norse Hearts” by entering the cover in Little Book Corner’s Book Cover contest on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/littlebookcornerpage
Thank you to all who came out and voted! I am touched and very appreciative of your support. Now I would like to give you a little reward for your effort.
The following is the first chapter of the soon-to-be-released, “Norse Hearts.” Enjoy!!
Norse Hearts – Chapter 1 – The Raid
“That which has a bad beginning is likely to have a bad ending.”
Britain – 760 AD
Einar stood in the ship’s bow as its oars sliced the water in perfect unison, powering the ship effortlessly towards the riverbank. Uneasily, he rubbed the back of his neck. There would be no honor to Odin in what they were about to do. Watching the giant man at the steering tiller, he waited. At the helmsman’s nod, Einar raised his arm in a silent signal. The oarsmen quietly pulled in the sculls through the oar locks. The dragon ship’s momentum sent her bow onto the shore with a hiss. He glanced over as a second ship, with a larger, ornately carved bow, slipped in beside them.
Leaping ashore, the men took on solid form in the ghostly fog. Woolen cloaks covered their broad shoulders and leather tunics studded in various designs of worked metal. Heavy brows pulled into fierce intent and created granite profiles framed by beards. Unhooking their shields from the railing of the ship, those who had swords slid them into wide leather belts or scabbards. Others carried heavy war axes. They shoved helmets—wrought into fiendish metal faces—over wild sea-salted hair.
Church bells pealed, sounding hushed in the fog, as they called to the faithful for evening vespers.
All went silent.
Then, from far off, Einar heard something faint and growing steadily louder: a deep-throated singing—people chanting. Rolling through the humid air, their voices rose in ethereal waves.
The band of warriors moved silently around the trees. Finally reaching the edge of the forest, Einar saw a small, grassy incline with the chapel and monastery at the top. The little hamlet of Seletun had the only church on this stretch of the River Ouse. The stained-glass windows in the sanctuary glowed with jeweled colors. Quickly scanning the area, he saw that there was no challenge. It looked like there were riches to be had here, but he had no desire to kill unless in the heat of battle. In this moment, he was simply being loyal in following his jarl’s orders.
Time slowed as the choir’s chant gave an unholy rhythm to the sounds of creaking leather and the warriors’ heavy breathing. With brightly colored shields, black shadows for eyes under helmets, and swords or battle-axes now in hand, it looked as if heaven and hell were about to collide.
The chant ended just as Einar and his horde hit the chapel doors. Crashing into the sanctuary, he stared at the worshipers’ startled faces. The monk turned from the altar and froze in fear. Women raised their hands to their mouths that had opened in screams. The faithful scrambled to their feet to escape their impending doom. With an animal-like howl, his shield in front of him and his sword held high, Einar led the charge as they fell upon the hapless victims.
Terrified monks pushed over an iron-wrought candelabrum as they fled from the invaders. Flames crept up the heavy tapestries hanging behind the altar, adding the acrid smell of smoke to the carnage’s hellish glow. The warriors struggled and fought with any who stood against them. Their swords’ bright glint was now dulled by blood from those hacked without pity.
Einar’s gaze swept the front pews, noting a kneeling woman. Her bowed head was covered in auburn plaits. A fur-rimmed brown cloak, held together with a large gold brooch, draped over her thin shoulders. He strode forwards, catching an arm, and pulled her up, looking into her fear-widened eyes. He stared for a second at a plain silver cross that hung from her neck and then tore it from her violently. Reaching for the gold brooch, he ripped it from the cloak. Shoving her aside, she fell to the floor with a thin scream.
He whirled, facing the cry that had erupted behind him. A slim girl with copper-tinted hair ran past him, kneeling at the woman’s side, helping her to sit up. He watched a peasant rush the chapel door, and a single slash by the Norseman guarding it sent him into eternity. In the confusion, a monk who had a blonde, petite woman clinging to him screamed as she watched her family and friends die. Einar saw one of his men raise an axe to forever quiet the blonde, but the kneeling redhead lurched to her feet and darted forwards. Shoving the monk and the girl behind her, she glared at the warrior with her arms spread wide, protecting them. The sword hung in midair as the Norseman hesitated, startled by her defiance.
The twinkle of jewels caught Einar’s eye as the cross around her neck swung with the swirl of her cloak. He grasped the warrior’s axe hand, speaking roughly, “Gunnar, hold! She is the one we seek.”
Glancing at the weeping blonde, Einar snapped out, “Spare them. Slaves bring good profit, and we still have room for a few more.” His eyes narrowed as his gaze raked over the redheaded vixen. Her breast rose rapidly with quick breaths, anger setting her face in hard lines. A tan wool cloak, edged with gold embroidery and lined with fur, covered her slight frame. Without another word, Einar grabbed her arm and yanked her against him, fingering the gold cross, staring into her wide green eyes.
“Slitting her throat would lose us a chance of a better profit in ransom. I am taking her with us.”
Gunnar ground out angrily, “Then I claim first rights to her.”
Einar shot back, “No, she is mine. Take the other two.”
He watched Gunnar’s brow furrow and his knuckles whiten as he gripped his axe handle before bringing it down on a bench with a dull thud, the wood splintering. Kicking at the shattered bench, Gunnar pulled the axe loose. Looking at the trembling blonde who still clung to the monk, Einar heard him grunt, seemingly unimpressed with what was left. Slipping the axe handle into a leather loop on his belt, Gunnar grabbed them, joining him.
The redhead beat at Einar with her fist, screaming, “Nay, nay, let me go!” He tightened his hold on her wrist, smiling grimly to himself when he heard her sudden gasp.
Heading out of the church, the warriors grabbed everything of value and quickly searched the bodies lying about for anything of worth. Einar led the horde as they made their way back to the dragon ships, going a little slower for the captives taken and the loot carried. A few Norsemen trailed behind to discourage anyone who found the bravery to get back what had been stolen. The only noise in the foggy evening was the heavy breathing of men fired up from battle and the occasional whimper from the prisoners.
A few of the monks who escaped had gone into the bell tower, and clanging tones now called for help from the village.
Impatiently, Einar tugged on the struggling girl to hurry her along. Breaking from the forest’s edge, he almost lost his grip on the arm he was clutching. Grunting, he turned around, seeing she had wrapped her free arm around a slim tree trunk and dug her heels into the damp soil. Teeth clenched, her lips curled back, and her green eyes had a feral gleam.
“Nay. Nay!” she cried as he increased the pressure on her wrist again. Suddenly, she let go of the tree and braced both feet against his calf, throwing herself back. Her move startled him, and for a brief second, her hand slipped in his grasp. Twisting, she kicked up with her right foot between his thighs. White-hot pain seared through his groin, the air in his pain-constricted lungs leaving in a whoosh through his clenched teeth. His grip loosened while he instinctively sought to clutch his injured manhood. Wrenching free, she fled like a startled rabbit.
Suddenly, Gunnar’s laughter turned into a shout. “After her! She is the lord’s daughter!”
Gunnar had a head start on him, but Einar scrambled over damp rocks, stumbling through the deadfall littering the ground, until he came across a small path. Up ahead was a small meadow, and he watched her run across it, thinking that if he wasn’t in so much pain, he might appreciate the deer-like grace she had in full flight. She definitely knew the forest and had the advantage.
Still limping, he watched Gunnar gain on her. They both disappeared into the woods. His ragged breathing sounded harsh in his ears as he tried concentrating on any nearby noise. Tripping over a tree root, he muttered, “By all that is Thor’s, if he does not beat you, I will!”
Suddenly, he heard a loud shriek and a muffled “umph” as something hit the forest floor. Pushing past the pain, he started jogging. Finally reaching the forest’s edge, he saw Gunnar stretched out over the girl’s small frame. He had both hands imprisoned above her head as his weight pressed her flailing legs into the moist earth.
“Gnògr!” Gunnar growled.
Einar noticed the girl’s sudden stillness, and before he could call out, Gunnar shifted his weight, holding her wrists with one hand while his other hand slipped down her cheek, resting on her throat. The girl tried to move her knee to escape, and suddenly, his fingers tightened, cutting off her air. She froze again, and Gunnar loosened his hand and slid it down over her body, checking out the soft curves.
“Get off of me, you filthy lout! Murderer!” she shouted, struggling wildly again.
“Shhhh,” Gunnar hissed in her ear, pressing her against the ground with his full weight to stop her from moving again.
“Gunnar!” Einar barked.
Gunnar looked up, his brow wrinkling in anger. “What? I caught her, and I have claimed her—again—since you can not seem to hold her.”
“I have first claim and am holding her for ransom. Get off her.”
“Let me have a few minutes; then you can have her back, if you can keep her.” A smirk covered his face.
“Ekki! Let her loose now. Her ransom will cover the worm’s debt. Will you interfere with the jarl’s profit?”
“She is mine!” Gunnar spit back.
Folding his arms over his chest and leaning a shoulder into a tree, Einar stared impassively down at Gunnar. “Fine. You explain to the jarl why she is no longer a maid and why we have nothing to bargain with. I will wait here until you are finished.” He noticed that the girl had stopped struggling, watching the two of them intently. Finally, with a glare, Gunnar brought up his knee beside her hip, still holding her wrists, and with a rough jerk, he drew her up with him as he stood.
“I am not conceding my claim,” he snarled, pushing the girl towards Einar.
Pulling a length of leather from his belt, Einar quickly wrapped it around her wrists, binding her hands before her. Tugging at the length of remaining leather, he started back down the path as Gunnar walked behind, pushing if she slowed.
“You heathen swine! Give me one moment with that fancy sword on your back and I will hack you to pieces. You are nothing but thieving barbarians with pig dung for brains. Lord Allard will see to it you are nothing but food for worms.”
Einar glanced back at her, one eyebrow raised in surprise. Quite a bloodthirsty little thing, he mused. Maybe this is why her betrothed wanted her dead. He could see how her fiery temper might be daunting for a pasty-white worm like Cecil Allard. But Einar found her insults to be quite entertaining.
When the dragon ships came into view, the little vixen planted her feet—having caught her breath and strength—and started fighting again. Gunnar’s laughter grated across his nerves.
In one swift turn and scoop, he slung her over his shoulder. Putting his arm around her legs, he kept her still. She beat against his back with her bound hands and screamed.
“You son of a boar! Murdering heathen! Put me down!”
Loud laughter from the warriors around the boats drifted up, only adding to her agitation. A young, lanky warrior came up alongside him.
“I see you caught her. She sounds like a cat in season. If they did not hear the bells, they certainly will hear her.”
Einar grunted. With a few long strides, he reached the dragon ship. Her shifting movements and the tug on the scabbard strapped across his back warned him that she was trying to pull the sword out. Suddenly, Einar dropped his shoulder, dumping her on the ground. She took a deep breath to scream, but his large, rough hand descended over her mouth, cutting it off. He felt her lips pull back as she bared her teeth to bite, but he pressed her head against the side of the boat, his hand pushing against her mouth.
He said to the lanky warrior beside him, “Tell her to cease.”
“Why? You can speak Angles just as well as I can.”
Einar glared at him. “Do it.”
Stepping up, the Norseman spoke quietly in the girl’s language. “Ladye, if you do not cease your struggles, Einar will bind and gag you.”
Taking his hand away from her mouth, Einar’s fingers grasped her arm in a tight grip.
The girl stilled, staring at the warrior who had spoken. She took a deep breath and spoke softly. “How is it you speak as I?”
Einar watched Dagfinn pull his shoulders back and straighten. “I was born in this land and once was slave to the Norp weg. I am now called Dagfinn, shield hand to Einar Herjolfsson, your new master.”
Her eyes opened wide as she stared at the youth for a few seconds.
“I . . . I am no one’s property! I will not be anyone’s slave. Tell your lord to slay me now.” She drew herself up, squaring her shoulders, and stared into the dark holes of Einar’s helmet, seeking out the eyes behind it to convey her defiance.
Einar chuckled. “She is worth more alive. Quite dramatic, is she not?”
“Ladye, Einar refuses to slay you. A dead slave brings no profits,” Dagfinn said, a smile quirking at the edges of his lips.
“My father, Lord Landis Forthred, will pay him, if this is about coin. I am to be married tomorrow. My dowry is substantial, and my father will meet his demands,” she said, standing straighter, pushing her chin out.
Einar’s intense gaze sized her up.
Gunnar joined them, leaning against the side of the boat. “If what she says is true, there are several Forthreds who are related to the King of Northumbria. They can well afford a large ransom, but we have to meet with Roald in a fortnight, and he may not appreciate the problems she brings. Or did you think about any of that before you spared her?”
He gazed coldly back at his stepbrother. “We held our end of the bargain. She is gone—he does not have to marry her—but he did not hold up his end, so she will pay his debt, one way or another. You would pass up a chance for increased profit?”
“I think she would make a wonderfully obedient wife; do you not agree, Einar?” Dagfinn replied with a wolfish grin.
A scowl darkened Einar’s face. “Boy, if your sword arm was as quick as your wit, I would not need half of my men.”
Sudden silence fell between them as they stared at her. The girl shifted, her hands twisting in the bindings. Einar finally snarled out, “We need to go.”
Dagfinn translated quickly. “We are leaving. He will consider your offer.”
She beat her bound hands against her legs, the fingers laced and white as she spit out, “Did you not tell him I am to be married tomorrow? The lout can speak to my father now!”
Einar grabbed the leather lead; she pulled back against it, stomping her foot to emphasize her words. “I will not go. I must marry Lord Allard tomor . . . .”
Her words were muffled as Einar suddenly grabbed a length of leather from his belt and turned her around, his brawny forearm crushing her against his chest. She started to scream, but he shoved a rough piece of leather into her mouth, tying it off behind her head as she thrashed. Trying to shriek around the gag, she choked. She brought up her elbows, shoving into his gut. He caught his breath, scooping her up and pressing her against his chest, squeezing the air from her lungs.
“Move it, boy!” Einar ordered Dagfinn. “I am tired of her beating me like a dog!”
Gunnar’s laughter rang out as Dagfinn quickly tied another piece of leather around her ankles while she kicked, hampering the efforts. Einar lifted the squirming bundle up to several of the men in the ship, and they dumped her against the wooden mast.
The sound of wood clacking against wood sounded muffled in the fogged air as Einar and his men hung their shields along the gunwale of the ship. Nimbly vaulting up and into the ship, he made his way to the bow, meeting the glare of the bound and gagged redhead. Seating themselves on wooden trunks, his crew set the oars on end, waiting for his signal. Loot and other captives had been put in the holding area at the base of the dragon ship’s tall mast, and the captives knelt with their hands bound, their faces reflecting misery, fear, and shock.
Einar raised his hand, and, as one, the crew slid the sculls out into the water. Glancing up, he watched the ghostly forms of trees slipping by the dragon ship as it moved silently through the fog. The mist rolled around them in a moist caress as the proud bow disappeared into the gray.
Thirty-eight years ago, for ten cents, I picked up my first Historical Romance at a garage sale. To this day “The Wolf and the Dove,” by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, remains my favorite. This started my addiction to romance stories. I quickly found some to be better than others and the dream of writing my own was shuffled to the back burner as I started raising a family.
The one part of history that fascinated me was the Vikings. So little was known about them, but they made a huge impact on the world that is still seen to this day. Through the years I gathered notes on scraps of paper, watched every documentary, checked out books at the library, visited the Smithsonian when they had a traveling exhibit, and bought research books. Thirty-eight years later, I finally decided to make my dream come true.
And that’s where it got interesting. I thought I was pretty knowledgeable, but even though I had some facts in my head, I didn’t have them all. Writing my first two books had been easy. They were based on the here and now and information was readily at hand. Starting from the first page of Norse Hearts, I had to step back into time. In the 700’s town names were not the same. Language and customs were not the same. Walmart didn’t exist of course, and everything had to be made by hand. Words we use now, were not used then. To get someone from one continent to the other, was daunting and took weeks. How would I fill in the time during the journey?
Depending on the time period you choose to write about determines, of course, how much research will go into it. I was delighted to find they had a website on “How to Curse in Norse.” I found that they used more animal parts then and less curse words, much to my husband’s delight. Since it was a man dominated time period, I leaned on his manly expertise on the art of cussing, fighting and insulting.
Every story is like a well prepared meal. The courses must compliment each other, the spices must be just right. So how much of the Old Norse language do you use? How many of the strange personal names of the period can you put in before you lose the reader? How much detail do you describe about food, clothing, ships, customs and routines? How about their religious beliefs and practices?
Since I never do things that are easy, of course, I picked a time and period of history that not much is known about. So what were the wedding ceremonies like? How much fiction can I invent before it is unbelievable or not historically accurate? Even the historians disagree, so what happens when I have a reader who believes I have not done my research because they hold a different view of the facts?
Last but not least, I discovered the irritating problem of trying to write a scene, being in the moment, then suddenly realizing I would have to go back to my ocean of notes and references to find one small detail such as does Norway have skunks? Or what type of tree would they be burning in their firepit?
Though I had a lot more freedom as to plot, and my imagination went wild with the possibilities, I was not prepared for the mountain of time research would continue to play during my writing process. My husband was a dear during this time. For instance, it is one thing to see a sword fight in my mind, another to try and describe it. I know the neighbors definitely wondered about us as we picked up kitchen spatulas to simulate the moves during a sword fight so I could get a feel of how to describe it.
During one of my rants at my inability to find a tidbit of fact that I had just had the day before, my husband unwisely noted that I should not get so hysterical over such a small piece of information and the joke in the family began. I became quite cranky over the inquiries about how my “hysterical romance” was progressing!
Overall, it was a great challenge and I’m grateful I waited until this time of my life to try my hand at writing this form of romance. It is not for the faint hearted, easily discouraged, or impatient writer. It has stretched my organizational skills to the limit, but was one of the most exhilarating writing experiences I’ve ever had. Writing historically gave me a chance to develop characters who were not as confined by laws, society and religion as we have now. Because I used Vikings, I was able to create people who were not afraid to live, express their feelings or be colorful and headstrong.
Maybe it’s just that I’m now in a permanent state of hysteria, but either way, my editor has her work cut out for her!
November 2012 is not a month I will be forgetting anytime soon.
I attempted my first blog tour, Blog Blizzard, with twelve very brave authors. It was a whirlwind of learning. Three weeks into it, my computer decided to crash. This put my tight schedule in quite a turmoil, but we all bounced back and the blog tour continued. As I would arrange, paste and promote each author, I would read about their work and lives. Some were quite entertaining, and yet through it all, I saw a common thread for all of us. We love to write.
Of course, while doing this I also took on the National Novel Writers Month challenge of writing 50,000 words in thirty days. I must say, I thought it would be a peice of cake. Oh, what a fool I was! Yet, again, it turned out to be a tremendous learning experience. I humbly thank my family who put up with all of my craziness during the month of November. Without them I would have never attained what seemed at times the impossible goal of 50,000 words in an understandable format.
So as I get ready to Deck the Halls, and celebrate Christmas, this month seems tame and peaceful after last months whirlwind of endeavor. Thank you to all of you that have stopped in and visited my blog and guests this last month. You are appreciated as well.
C’mon . . . is there ever a question? Everyone who wants to write should write. We know that. So why is it we sometimes do everything in our power to not write?
Example: “Good morning!” I’m speaking to my dogs Bonnie and Rocky, and the Supreme Ruler, Maggie, the cat. They summarily lick my hand; bump the back of my bare knees in my So-Many-Books-So-Little-Time nightshirt, or totally ignore me and sit by the door waiting to be let out into the morning sun.
I head for my biggest vice, the iMac, wiggle the mouse, click on email, let the cat out, and stumble toward the Mr. Coffee while one hundred sixty-two emails load up. “My,” I say to the assembled doggie crowd. “It’s only eight a.m. Someone’s been busy!” I belong to several online writer’s groups (and a couple of real-life groups) so I always have a ton of emails . . . makes me feel special even though most of them are simply buy-my-book promos from other authors.
Tossing the dogs a peanut butter flavored doggie biscuit, I pop a tart into the toaster and swallow a vitamin capsule with an old Flintstones jelly glass half-full of with-pulp OJ. Yum! Okay, that’s my nod to nutrition.
Nibbling my tart, I scan the headlines of my paper-newspaper (yes, I’m a throwback, I can’t say no when they call me each year to renew, even though it’s gotten so thin the carrier has to roll it with a super-fat rubber band to give it a little heft and keep it from blowing right out of the driveway when he speeds away). Next, I work the daily Jumble, ink smiley faces beside the easy words, frownies beside the hard ones, and then leave it open for my handsome hubby, Dude, to look at tonight when he gets home from work.
By this time it’s 8:30, maybe 8:45 if there was actually something interesting in the paper or if I stopped midway to play my turn in one of the dozen games of Words with Friends on my iPhone, so I take my second cup of coffee back to my desk and settle in to write. Except the Supreme Ruler is looking in the window at me with that exasperated you-have-one-second-to-get-that-door-open-before-I-release-all-the-wrath-of-Cat-upon-your-head look.
I let her in and then she has to have a dollop of cream in her special ramekin, which has to be carried to her bathroom and placed upon the counter out of reach of the scrounging horde of dogs—all two of them. I tried placing it on the kitchen counter one time, which would have been much quicker and easier and still out of reach of the horde, but Her Royalness didn’t go for that, thank goodness, because what was I thinking putting her on the same surface where I lay my Poptart each morning? Ewww! She walks around in her own poop for crying out loud.
At last, I sit down in front of the Mac and get to those emails. About 70% are simply click and delete (I’ve seen them all before), but the rest are personal and actually require a reply or at least a closer look.
It’s now 9:30 closing in on 10:00, and I still have to check the blog, Twitter, Triberr, Goodreads, and my Facebook author groups that post ads for me and vice versa. I love these groups. All those lovely book covers, and book trailers . . . it’s easy to get lost in that indie forest.
Around noon I wander back to the kitchen for a diet Coke, a handful of Wheat Thins coated with cream cheese and jalapeno slices, and take the snack out back to the patio just to stretch my legs and the muscles in my lower back—I’ve been sitting at the computer for over two hours and haven’t written a single word except for emails, blogs, and tweets.
The weather is so lovely I think about how nice it would be to have a sleeping porch so I could take a nap without the help of those pesky mosquitoes and horseflies. But how could I be sleepy? I haven’t actually done anything! Which reminds me, I really need to get dressed and brush my teeth.
It’s almost 2:00 by the time I finish my snack, play a few more WWFs on the iPhone, do a bit of lackadaisical grooming, slip on a pair of old capris and a cotton shirt, and head back to the computer. Now, what to write? I studiously ignore the 43 new emails that have come in since before lunch, and I don’t even think about looking at Facebook, okay, maybe just a peek to see if my daughter has posted any new pics of the grandkids. No, no that can wait . . . must write!
I pull up my Work in Progress, a romantic suspense called Stutter Creek, hit Option-Command G to go to the proper page and . . . oh, yes, here we go, I was working on the scene where the serial killer is closing in on our protagonist. Need to make it scarier . . .
Chewing the end of a Sonic straw to help me concentrate—I gave up smoking twenty years ago—I let my mind wander into the scene . . . but those darn little email numbers keep popping up so I do what I always do to help my mind focus, I get up and do some housework. Sweeping and mopping are always good, rhythmic chores that seem to release my grip on reality, and I love the fact that I am actually doing something constructive while I construct the scene.
It works! While the floor dries, I dash back to the computer and slash at the keys in a frenzy to get the creepiness down on “paper” before it melts away.
And now it’s six o’clock and time for the Dude to get home. Where has the time gone? I stand up and rub at the small of my back, amazed that five pages of fairly good material have materialized in front of me.
Wow. Not bad for a couple hours work. Just imagine if I’d actually started writing at 8:00 this morning. I could’ve had the book finished like, yesterday!
Making up characters and bringing them to life while still dressed in my pajamas and nursing a cup of coffee.
What genre(s) do you write?
Adult contemporary romance, romantic suspense, young adult ghost stories and paranormal short stories. I’m also writing a cop story set in small-town West Texas.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
I tend to rush to the finish. I have to slow down and plump up.
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I have to know the ending, then it’s strictly seat of the pants!
Why do you think people should choose your books over another author?
I like to make people cry.
What do you hope readers take with them after reading one of your stories?
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
In All For Love, I hope the reader gets the message that decisions made in haste often have life-long consequences.
How long have you been a writer?
Since I was old enough to string sentences together in a spiral notebook.
How much time did it take from writing your first book to having it published?
Well, my first book was never published. It died a slow and painful death at the hands of zombie-dust-bunnies in the bottom drawer of my old desk.
Twenty years later, I got serious and published a novella. However, I was writing and publishing short stories all along.
What other careers have you had?
Elementary school teacher, 911 operator, waitress, radio-station secretary, freight office supervisor, newspaper delivery girl—don’t laugh—I was able to take my kids with me when they were small.
Do you write under more than one name? Why?
No, I have thought about it though. Especially since I write in more than one genre.
Are any of your characters based on real people or events?
Oh, I always use an amalgamation of real people and real events. I’ve killed off my “enemies” a few times.
How would you describe yourself if you were “speed dating” your readers?
I strive for action and deep emotion in all my stories.
What’s something fans would find fascinating about you?
I believe in spirits—I’ve been visited on three separate occasions. Plus, I can wiggle my ears.
What else would you like readers to know about you or your work?
My work is heartfelt. It comes from the pain and joy of living. I always try to convey that via my characters.
What books or authors have most influenced your life?
Everything from Black Beauty and Call of the Wild, right up through The Crystal Cave, and on into Stephen King’s work (especially works like The Woman in the Room); books have taught me everything I need to know about life.
How do your family and/or friends feel about your book or writing venture in general?
My family is very supportive. They have no choice. I know where they live.
Where are you from?
It’s a small town surrounded by cotton fields and pumpjacks.
How do you come up with the titles?
The Muses supply them—then the editors change them.
Has your life changed significantly since becoming a published writer?
Yes, I have become a slave to Internet marketing.
Do you work on one project at a time? Or do you multi-task?
I work on several at once. I also read several books at the same time. I think I may have undiagnosed Attention Deficit Disorder. Either that or I just got such a late start in publishing that I’m constantly trying to catch up . . .
When not writing, how do you relax?
I like to read, walk two or three miles a day, go to the drive-in movies with my handsome hubby, Dude, swim, and try out new restaurants. We also love live music and are fortunate to be able to attend concerts frequently. ZZ Top, Craig Chaquico, Pat Benatar, Reckless Kelly, Bruce Springsteen, Charley Pride, Bill Cosby (okay, he’s not a musician, but boy can he tell it like it is) those are some of the most recent . . . I want to see George Jones; he is coming to town soon, but I will be in Austin at the Texas Book Festival.
Please tell us 5 miscellaneous facts about yourself.
I love roasted jalapenos.
My favorite drinks are coffee, chocolate milk, and Diet Coke (not usually all together).
My daughter, Sara Barnard, is also an author published by 5 Prince Publishing.
I have five grandchildren.
I once met Andre the Giant (from The Princess Bride). He was very nice and very, very large.
Please share with us your future projects and upcoming releases.
My next book is The Phantom Student; book two in The Phantom Series, which will be released in October 2012. I am also at work on Book Three, The Phantom of Crybaby Bridge.
I have two stories included in Campfire Tales, an anthology of spooky stories, which will be released in September 2012.
I am finished with my Romantic Suspense novel, Stutter Creek. It’s fermenting.