Category Archives: Writing Life

Guest Blog Post – Rachel Dacus

I am so honored a pleased to bring you a  guest post from author Rachel Dacus, whose time travel romance novel, The Renaissance Club, was released in January!

In this post, Rachel shares with us what got her interested in writing and how reading led her to her dream of becoming an author.

How I Began to Want to Write

Writing is nothing but wanting to tell a story so much you actually learn how to. I had that desire at age ten. I blame my mother, who took me to Acre of Books in downtown Long Beach, California and encouraged me to pick out books. I found my books by color: a row of colorful, clothbound books written by a man named L. Frank Baum. I remember the word “Oz” was stamped in gold on their spines. It was a short hop down the Yellow Brick Road to the Writing Wishing Well, my source of all inspiration and aspiration to tell a good story.

Next came the colored fairytale books, notably the story of the Twelve Dancing Princesses. The idea of a kingdom under my bed was so appealing that I began to imagine alternate kingdoms everywhere—in my back yard, down the block, in the ravine, over the hill.

Then came Nancy Drew. Mysteries! After all, everything in my world, and every kingdom I could imagine, was mysterious. At the age of ten, eleven, and twelve, there’s so much you notice and don’t understand. And the adults in your life are always telling you they’ll explain it all when you’re older.

My first novel was called The Prisoner of the Locked Room. It was 100 pages long! I can’t imagine what I wrote because I still didn’t understand that a mystery revolved around a murder. I don’t believe at that age I had yet heard of murders. I led a sheltered childhood. So, I wrote all around this mysterious locked room, with its nameless prisoner—why imprisoned? Who? I decided to figure that out later. But I also decided to better Nancy Drew, and devised twin girl sleuths! Double the fun, double the fancy clothes, double the mystery-solving! Now all I needed was an actual mystery.

I trace my love of literature to the lavish amounts of bedtime reading aloud my mother did. I learned to love words and stories so young. Hopefully, every child in the world can be read to. And I not only learned to love words, but to make them. I was the kid who brought a typewriter to fourth grade, so I could write a play for the class to enact. The Westward Expansion may never be the same, but the thrill of hearing my words and story spoken aloud is unforgettable. Thanks, Mom, for reading to me and teaching me touch typing—giving me a love of language and an important tool to write!

The Renaissance Club Media Kit

By Rachel Dacus

Fiery Seas Publishing

January 23, 2018

Time Travel Romance

May Gold, college adjunct, often dreams about the subject of her master’s thesis – Gianlorenzo Bernini. In her fantasies, she’s in his arms, the wildly adored partner of the man who invented the Baroque.

But in reality, May has just landed in Rome with her teaching colleagues and older boyfriend who is paying her way. She yearns to unleash her passion and creative spirit, and when the floor under the gilded dome of St Peter’s basilica rocks under her feet, she gets her chance. Walking through the veil that appears, she finds herself in the year 1624, staring straight into Bernini’s eyes. Their immediate and powerful attraction grows throughout May’s tour of Italy. And as she continues to meet her ethereal partner, even for brief snatches of time, her creativity and confidence blossom. All the doorways to happiness seem blocked for May-all except the shimmering doorway to Bernini’s world.

May has to choose: stay in her safe but stagnant existence or take a risk. Will May’s adventure in time ruin her life or lead to a magical new one?

Buy Links

ISBN: 978-1-946143-41-9  ~  eBook  ~  $6.99

ISBN: 978-1-946143-42-6  ~  Paperback  ~  $16.99

Amazon  ~  Barnes & Noble  ~  Kobo  ~  iBooks 

~  Praise for The Renaissance Club  ~

Enchanting, rich and romantic…a poetic journey through the folds of time. In THE RENAISSANCE CLUB, passion, art, and history come together in this captivating tale of one woman’s quest to discover her true self and the life she’s meant to lead. Rachel Dacus deftly crafts a unique and spellbinding twist to the time-traveling adventure that’s perfect for fans of Susanna Kearsley and Diana Gabaldon. — Kerry Lonsdale, Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author

The Renaissance Club is a beautifully written story about a woman torn between two worlds—the present and the distant past. This time-travel adventure kept me guessing until the end about which world May would choose, and if that choice would be the right one. Highly recommended for lovers of time travel fiction or anyone looking for a compelling story about a woman trying to find happiness. — Annabelle Costa, Author of The Time Traveler’s Boyfriend.

The Renaissance Club shimmers with beauty, poetry, and art. Author Rachel Dacus sweeps her readers away to Italy with her, lifting the senses with the sights, sounds, and tastes of that stunning country; imparting her deep knowledge of Renaissance and Baroque art while immersing the reader in a gorgeously romantic story. This book is time travel at its best! — Georgina Young-Ellis, author of The Time Mistress Series

About the Author:

Rachel Dacus is the daughter of a bipolar rocket engineer who blew up a number of missiles during the race-to-space 1950’s. He was also an accomplished painter. Rachel studied at UC Berkeley and has remained in the San Francisco area. Her most recent book, Gods of Water and Air, combines poetry, prose, and a short play on the afterlife of dogs. Other poetry books are Earth Lessons and Femme au Chapeau.

Her interest in Italy was ignited by a course and tour on the Italian Renaissance. She’s been hooked on Italy ever since. Her essay “Venice and the Passion to Nurture” was anthologized in Italy, A Love Story: Women Write About the Italian Experience. When not writing, she raises funds for nonprofit causes and takes walks with her Silky Terrier. She blogs at Rocket Kid Writing.

Social Media:

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Building a Better Relationship – Annie Oakley Style

 

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Annie Oakley doing what she did best!

Building a better relationship. It’s something we all should strive for. In our marriages, with our kids, friends, family, co-workers, employees, the list goes on. But, often in our busy lives, we are so focused on getting things done or achieving things, that we don’t focus on our relationships. Through time and neglect, those relationships begin to sour or drift away.

A couple of years ago, I saw this happening in my relationships with my horses and I knew I had to fix it.

I grew up in New Mexico with horses in my backyard. I spent much of my youth with my favorite horse, Flying Mok (I don’t know where the name came from). We covered miles of trail along the Rio Grande and spent hours in the arena. When not riding, I would sit on a large branch of the cottonwood tree that shaded his corral and just watch him eat. I participated in some horse shows and took home my share of ribbons, but the main objective was to have fun, and we did, and our relationship proved it.

As an adult, after college and more financial stability, I got back into horses via my teenage daughter who needed a hobby and a sport. I took her to one of the local barns and her love affair with horses began and mine was resurrected. She wanted to focus on showing, so we did. It was something we enjoyed together – a mother/daughter bonding experience that softened the angst of her teenage years. When she went to college, I was left with some very lovely, very expensive horses, so I decided to go into showing full boat. My love for horses and my competitive nature fit together like a custom-made glove and I was all in.

My horses and I did very well for several years, but after a while, it seemed like my whole life became all about the next show. Sometimes I’d go to shows twice a month, often traveling far from home in search of the rainbow of ribbons. After a while, I noticed that my horses didn’t seem to be making much improvement, their neurosis and fears increased, and I became more and more frustrated. It wasn’t fun anymore.

I’d been introduced to Natural Horsemanship via a Parelli Horse and Soul Tour some years earlier. I enjoyed the demonstrations and respected the training methods and philosophy the Parelli’s espoused, but I didn’t have time to embrace the philosophy. I had to prepare for the next show!

After more years of showing, anxiety, and frustration with minimal improvement, I finally realized that my love affair with horses was dying. I decided to look at this Natural Horsemanship closer. I had to nurture my relationship with my horses because those relationships and spending time with my horses had always been my “soul food” and I was starving.

I ventured to the “mecca” of Parelli Natural Horsemanship, the Colorado Ranch Campus, for the first time in 2014, for a four-week course. I took my horse Chaco, who had been my greatest challenge to date. Chaco was energetic, athletic, spooky, unpredictable, uncomfortable with contact, and quite frankly, a bit scary to me. Other people may not have felt the same about him, but that didn’t matter. He was scary to me, and our relationship had miles to go.

What I learned in that four-week course assured me with absolute certainty that Natural Horsemanship was the path I needed to pursue, to better myself as a horsewoman and as a person. I learned that like people, horses needed to be treated as individuals. They have fears, quirks, moods, aches, pains, and NEEDS that I had been ignoring. I’d been so focused on achieving better scores, more ribbons, more awards with my horses that all I’d done was damage the relationship.

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Chaco and me watching a demo at the Parelli campus. June 2016

Three courses and two years later, I am a different horsewoman. I have a long way to go, but I am becoming more confident, more patient, and more understanding of my horses’ NEEDS and they, in turn, are starting to enjoy being with me. I can tell when I get out of the car and they come to greet me. I can tell when they are so willing to be a partner that they ask questions and trust me with the answers. I can tell when they are calm, connected, and responsive when I am working with them on the ground or under saddle. The love affair is reborn.

In the first book of my historical mystery series, Girl with a Gun, one of the sub-plots centers on the relationship between a woman and her horse. The protagonist, the not-yet-famous Annie Oakley, has a special bond with Buck, a golden horse with a midnight-black mane and tail. While Buck doesn’t exactly help her solve the murder, his relationship with Annie carries her through some tumultuous times and proves to be one that she cannot live without.

In my book series, I’ve created the ultimate horse/human relationship with Annie and Buck. It’s something I will strive for and work toward as long as I have my equine friends with me. I’m taking a break from showing for the time being, but when I return, it won’t be about achievements and ribbons. It will be about building a better relationship and that is a guaranteed win.

Success, Failure and the drive to keep creating…

I love Ted Talks. This video with Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love) is so inspiring! Favorite quote: “I loved writing more than I hated failing at writing…I loved writing more than I loved myself.” Enjoy!

Stammer Verbs

This is an article by editor Rita Hoffman (@JRHwords) on Jane Freidman’s Blog. I found it extremely helpful. Enjoy!

Note from Jane: Today’s guest post is by editor Jessi Rita Hoffman (@JRHwords).

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As a writer, you’ve probably heard the advice about avoiding passive voice and colorless verbs, such as is, was, went, and so on. But you may not be aware of what I call the “stammer verbs” that mar the novels of many budding authors.

I call them that because they halt the flow of a scene. Just as stammering halts speech, stammer verbs halt the flow of a written sentence. The author uses these verbs as if stammering around while searching for the genuine words she’s intending.

As a book editor, I find two verbs in particular repeatedly used in a stammering way by many beginning novelists. Let’s take a look at these little suckers and identify why they pose problems for your story.

Turned
Ever notice how often you write “he turned” or “she turned” when you’re describing a character in your novel doing something? I suspect we all do this, in our first drafts.

The king placed the scroll back on the table. He turned and walked to the window.

Libby stared at her brother, unable to believe what she had just heard. She turned, went to the door, and walked out.

Notice how turned adds nothing to the description in these two examples. The reader assumes, if a character is going to move from point A to point B in a scene, he or she will probably have to make a turning movement. That’s understood, so it need not be explained. Stating it merely slows down the action and spoils the vividness of the scene.

In the first example, rather than say he turned and walked to the window, it’s tighter writing to simply say he walked to the window. Better yet would be to describe how the king walked: he strode to the window, or he shuffled to the window.

The king placed the scroll back on the table. He shuffled to the window.

In the second example, She turned, went to the door, and walked out could be tightened to read She went to the door and walked out. A further improvement would be to get rid of went (a colorless verb) and to tell us how Libby walked:

Libby stared at her brother, unable to believe what she had just heard. She stormed out the door.

Libby stared at her brother, unable to believe what she had just heard. Crying, she hurried out the door.

Notice I didn’t suggest She walked sadly out the door, because it’s better to nail the exact verb you’re looking for than to use a lackluster verb (like walked) and try to prop it up with an adverb (like sadly).

Began
Began is another stammer verb that tends to creep into our writing unless we keep a watchful eye. Like turned, it’s typically misused as a way of launching into description of an action:

Jill sat down with a thud. She began to untie her shoelaces.

Jon put down the letter. He began to stand and pace the room.

There’s no reason to slow down the action in either of these examples with began. See how much tighter this reads:

Jill sat down with a thud. She untied her shoelaces.

Jon put down the letter. He stood and paced the room.

Or perhaps better still:

Jon put down the letter. He paced the room.

Unless something is going to interrupt Jon or Jill between the start and the completion of their action (standing, taking off shoes), there is no reason to say began. Can you see why began would be okay to use in the following sentences?

Jill began to take off her shoes as a spider made its way up her shoelace.

Jon put down the letter. He began to stand, but the man shoved him back down into the chair.

In these examples, began is appropriate, because something is being started, then interrupted. That’s not the case when began is just used as a stammer word.

Turned and began … Once you become sensitive to how these two stammer verbs infiltrate story writing, you’ll find yourself recognizing them as they pop up and naturally weeding them out. Like so many writing problems, the remedy is greater awareness.

Your turn: Are there other “stammer verbs” that annoy you? Tell us about additional verbs you would identify as “stammering” in place of efficient storytelling.

Writing Your Passion

Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer.

– Barbara Kingsolver
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I love this quote. As writers, we all want to sell our work. We all want our words to be cast into the world to make a difference. But, do we write to sell? Do we write to what sells? Sometimes we do, but what is more important is the passion within ourselves that, for some reason, we need to get out and share with anyone who will listen–er, read.

I’ve attended many writer’s conferences and seen and heard many successful, well-sold authors, and most of the time their main message is this: Write what you want to read. I think this is so powerful. Fiction has its trends. By the time you finish your masterpiece, it may not be sellable. But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have merit. Times change. Trends change. Write what you want to write. Your passion will lead you to success–whatever your definition of success entails.

This dovetails perfectly with a conversation we had this week in the  Level 4+ Riding Course I am attending at the Parelli Ranch in Pagosa Springs, CO. As some of you know, Parelli Natural Horsemanship is a method, philosophy, and practice of partnering in harmony with horses by communicating in their language. Monday we talked about 7 Cardinal Rules for Life:

  1. Make peace with your past so it won’t disturb your present.
  2. What other people think of you is none of your business.
  3. Time heals almost everything. Give it time.
  4. No one is in charge of your happiness. Except you.
  5. Don’t compare your life to others and don’t judge them. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
  6. Stop thinking too much. It’s alright to not know all the answers, they will come to you when you least expect it.
  7. Smile. You don’t own all the problems in the world.

I would add only two things: Be who you are. Love who you are.

See you next week!

Crazies On The Porch

imageLast night I arrived in New York City for a writer’s conference. Coming from New Mexico, it is always a shock to get off the plane and be instantly thrown into the hustle bustle of true “big city” life. It always takes me a few days to adjust and get into the rhythm of the controlled chaos. I feel like I’m going crazy at first, like I just don’t have the mental fortitude to deal with all the noise, the crowds, the lack of space. In New Mexico there is no “lack” of space to be sure.

My great solace as I sit in my bed, listening to the chaos that never seems to end below my window, is that I get to see the three women who’ve become so important in my writing life–the Crazies–as we call ourselves, Dana, Liz and Pam. We’re about as different as the contents in a bowl of fruit, a Northern apple, a Midwestern pear, a Southern peach and a Southwestern chili (yes, chili is classified as a fruit.) Different in our make up, our creativity, and our style–but still fruit.

We met a few years ago at a writer’s workshop in Scituate, Massachusetts–at a bar, the preferred hangout for most workshop attendees and conference goers, and immediately hit it off. Our differences and sameness seemed to mesh into our own perfect union of crazy. After a few days of divulging our life experience and the real and made up characters in our worlds, the word “crazy” came up. “Crazy” in the sense of addled, eccentric, mad, deranged, or just not quite right. We discussed that in most regions of the U.S., “crazy” was not a good thing, something to be pitied, or ashamed of, something not discussed, when Liz piped up, “my family is from the south and we just put our crazies on the front porch.”

After a hearty round of laughter and a toast to all the”crazies” in the world, hidden away behind closed doors, or out loud on the porch, we decided that the term fit us pretty well and we christened ourselves, “The Crazies on The Porch” with great confidence and pride.

Since that moment we united as sisters and talk every couple of weeks through video chat. We also send each other our work for editing, brainstorming, new beginnings, and polished endings. Sometimes we just talk about our lives. We are all crazy, in every sense of the word, and we are not alone. We have each other.

Whirlwind Summer

IMG_2527I have just returned from the beautiful, historic city of San Antonio, Texas where I attended the Romance Writers of America National Convention! The week was filled with meeting new friends, making great contacts, hanging with my local LERA (Land of Enchantment Romance Authors) chapter mates, a couple of parties, a two hour ghost tour and a riverboat ride. It was all wonderfully fun despite the heat! And . . . it’s always great to come home.

My next adventure takes place the second week of August where I will be attending a month long natural horsemanship clinic at the beautiful Parelli Ranch in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. This has been a dream of mine for about eight years and I cannot believe I am finally able to attend. A month is a long time to be away from loved ones, friends, the daily routine and the animals left behind, but I will persevere and try to get the most out of the course as possible. I will be taking my challenge horse, Chaco, and I hope this will be the opportunity for us to learn better communication and understanding. It will be just me, my horse, my RV, new friends and the beautiful mountains of Colorado – a life changing experience to be sure and I cannot wait!

Please check in with me as I will be blogging daily of my adventures in the Chaco Chronicles! Launch day is August 9. See you then!

 

Writer’s Process Blog Tour

Greetings! I’ve been tagged in The Writing Process Blog Tour by my friend and fellow LERA (Land of Enchantment Romance Authors) sister, 2014 Golden Heart®finalist, Shelly Alexander to tell you about my process in writing a novel.

Process is one of the things I love to talk about with other writers. I love to hear about what makes them tick and how they get their stories down on paper, or on the computer screen. Some writers are pantsers, they sit down and let their fingers fly, telling those stories by the seat of their pants. Others are plotters, with pages and pages of scenes, dialogues, outlines, beginnings and endings. I fall somewhere in between. I like to think of myself as a puzzler. I start with a plan, an outline – the frame of the puzzle – and then I add the pieces, usually in a linear fashion. This is the way I work actual jigsaw puzzles. I start with the outer frame and then work from the top down, filling in the pieces.

As a part of the blog tour, here are four questions every writer must answer:

What am I working on right now?

I am working on the first book of a three book series titled Waiting In The Wings. The story is a historical mystery and takes place in 1917, New York City, in the glamorous, glittering world of the Ziegfeld Follies.

Here’s my pitch:

One of the inspirations for Grace Michelle - Doris Eaton Travis, Ziegfeld star
One of the inspirations for Grace Michelle – Doris Eaton Travis, Ziegfeld star

Grace Michelle, an introverted, aspiring costume designer in the Ziegfeld Follies, 1917, has everything she wants; pretty good for an orphan who once lived on the streets of New York City. When her sister, Sophia, the star of the show is murdered, Grace’s protected, comfortable life is shattered. She must step into the Broadway spotlight as Ziegfeld’s newest star to find her sister’s killer. When she discloses a secret from their past, Grace becomes a target and soon discovers the horrific truth about Florenz Ziegfeld, the man who raised her as a daughter.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I like to take real life characters from the past and breathe new life into them. I am particularly drawn to smart, strong women who were mavericks of their time. Although Grace is a fictional character, she is comprised of many of the women I researched for this novel. Some were actresses and some worked behind the scenes. Many of my secondary characters are real people who worked for Florenz Ziegfeld on Broadway from 1917 -1920. And, of course, the man himself, Florenz Ziegfeld has a starring role in my story.

It was fun for me to learn as much about these iconic figures as I could and then recreate their adventures (in pursuit of fame and fortune) in the theater and on the road. I like working within the confines of history, but expanding on that history and as I imagine what could have happened. After all, as writers, aren’t we all asking that BIG question, what if?

Why do I write what I write?

I’ve always thought I should have been born in a different era. I am fascinated with certain periods in history and can actually visualize what my life would be during those times. I’ve traveled to many places around the world and in a few of those places I have had an intense, visceral, almost spiritual connection with my surroundings. And no, I don’t take drugs – it could be my overactive imagination, or maybe I really did live in those times and places. It’s all a part of the cosmic question, who are we?

How does my writing process work?

As a history buff, I absolutely love getting lost in research. I often take two to three months to research a historical person, place or event. Sometimes, I’ve even been lucky enough to travel where my story will take place.

Once I have a character and setting in mind, then I will start to form the story. I like to use a four-act structure I learned from Lisa Miller’s Story Structure Safari class, comprised of the set up, the response, the attack and then the resolution. Once I figure out vital story components such as the Inciting Incident, Call to Action, Defining Moment, etc, then I start to outline scenes. I use sticky notes on poster sized foam core boards. On each sticky note, I will jot down what I want that scene to be. I map out all the scenes in the story and then I sit down to write. Here’s where the puzzler part comes in. Often, as I write, my characters will say or do something I never expected – which can change the story line. If this happens (and I LOVE it when it does) I have to make the puzzle pieces different shapes to fit the new puzzle. My motto for writing and for life is: Always have a plan. If the plan changes, adjust and make a new plan!

Once I have a first draft, I walk away from it. Sometimes, I don’t look at it for weeks, months, maybe a year – or several – as it’s been for Waiting In The Wings. I am usually working on more than one book at a time, so the separation isn’t devastating. I think about my stories all the time.

Then come the revisions. Revise, revise, revise. I work with a fabulous critique partner and together we work to make our stories as perfect as we can. Sometimes I share my work with other writers and always, I share my work with readers (a select few, of course) because the reader is really the one who counts. At times, I’ve used a professional editor and the experience is invaluable. I highly recommend it!

So, that is my process – for now. Life and writing is full of change.

As writer’s we all have our own process and our own way of telling our stories. All are different and all are fascinating. I’d love to hear about yours!!

 

Mark Hopkins Hotel

Last week I went to the San Francisco Writer’s Conference which was held at the elegant, historic Mark Hopkins Hotel in San Francisco’s posh Nob Hill area. What a treat! Although I have visited the beautiful bay area many times, I’ve never had the pleasure of staying at the luxurious landmark site. I wanted to share some of it’s history with you.

Hotel de Hopkins
Hotel de Hopkins

One of four founders of the Central Pacific railroad, Mark Hopkins dreamed of  building his wife Mary a grand home. When he saw the panoramic views atop the Nob Hill area, he’d found the ideal location. He built a 40 room gothic beauty which he named “Hotel de Hopkins.” The mansion was indeed grand, complete with spires and gables and one of the largest in the neighborhood. Unfortunately, he died before its completion in 1878.

Shortly after her husband’s death, Mary become enamored with Edward T. Searles, an interior designer from the East coast, thirty years her junior. The two married and moved into the mansion upon its completion. Their bliss was not to last and Mary died in 1891. She left the $70 million estate to Searles. Two years later, he donated “Hotel de Hopkins” to the San Francisco Art Association and they converted the palace-like mansion into a school and museum.

In 1906, the epic San Francisco earthquake demolished many of the beautiful historic buildings in the Nob Hill area. The Hopkins mansion survived only to be destroyed by fires caused by the quake. All that remained were the chimney stacks, the granite retaining wall and a 500,000 gallon cistern full of water. With the remaining solid foundation, the Art Association reconstructed a more modest building on the site.

Mark Hopkins Hotel today
Mark Hopkins Hotel today

In 1925, George D. Smith, a mining engineer and hotel investor purchased the Art Association building and then demolished it. He had grander plans for the panoramic hill top area. He built a large, luxurious hotel combining French and Spanish aesthetics and he graciously named it after the original site owner, Mark Hopkins. 

In December of 1926, the Mark Hopkins Hotel held it’s grand opening much to the delight of San Franciscans who deemed it “architecturally perfect, flawless in its erection, and comprehensive in its accommodations – strikingly representative of the best there is in modern hostelry.”

Stay tuned for more history of the Mark Hopkins Hotel!

Beautiful Sentiment From George Bernard Shaw

“This is the true joy in life — being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one… being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.
I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake.
Life is no ‘brief candle’ to me. It is sort of a splendid torch which I have a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it over to future generations.” 
~ George Bernard Shaw