Tag Archives: Writing

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.

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The Power of Words

The power of words is a wonderful thing. How often do you get lost in a novel and some line or passage knocks the wind out of you and makes you want to read it again . . . and again?  Here are some of my favorite passages from some of my favorite novels. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do–and I hope you share some of yours with me!

Indigenous peoples in Brazil (Wikipedia)

“…The question is whether or not you choose to disturb the world around you, or if you choose to let it go on as if you had never arrived. That is how one respects indigenous people. If you pay any attention at all, you’ll realize that you could never convert them to your way of life anyway. They are an intractable race. Any progress you advance to them will be undone before your back is turned. You might as well come down here to unbend the river. The point then, is to observe the life they themselves have put in place and learn from it.” ~ Ann Patchett, State of Wonder.

“Babe could feel it as he wiped his bat down with a rag. He could feel all their bloodstreams as he stepped to the plate and horse-pawed the dirt with his shoe. This moment, this sun, this sky, this wood and leather and limbs and fingers and agony of waiting to see what would happen was beautiful. More beautiful than women or words or even laughter.” ~ Dennis Lehane, The Given Day

Robert Duvall as Augustus Mc Crae – Lonesome Dove (Pinterest)

“As was his custom, Augustus drank a fair amount of whiskey as he sat and watched the sun ease out of the day. If he wasn’t tilting the rope-bottomed chair, he was tilting the jug. The days in Lonesome Dove were a blur of heat and as dry as chalk, but mash whiskey took some of the dry away and made Augustus feel nicely misty inside–foggy and cool as a morning in the Tennessee hills. He seldom got downright drunk, but he did enjoy feeling misty along about sundown, keeping his mood good with tasteful swigs as the sky to the west began to color up. The whiskey didn’t damage his intellectual powers any, but it did make him more tolerant of the raw sorts he had to live with . . .” ~ Larry McMurtry, Lonesome Dove

“An old man’s palsy overtook his hands and they reached for her face. He kissed her forehead. In that extraordinary and unstoppable act he realized, not without a twinge of pride, that he loved her, and that he, Thomas Stone, was not only capable of love, but that he had loved her for seven years. . . Love so strong, without ebb and flow or crests and troughs, indeed lacking any sort of motion so that it had become invisible to him these seven years, part of the order of things outside his head which he had taken for granted.” ~Abraham Verghese, Cutting for Stone


“And I pray one prayer–I repeat it till my tongue stiffens–Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest as long as I am living; you said I killed you–haunt me, then! The murdered do haunt their murderers, I believe. I know that ghosts have wandered on earth. Be with me always–take any form–drive me mad! Only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh God! It is unutterable! I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul.” ~Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights

Writing A Book: What Does it Take?

If you have always wanted to write a book but haven’t started yet, you might wonder what does it take?

One of the things you have to ask yourself is WHY you want to write a book. Is it because you have a good idea or have a message you want to share with the world? Is it because you want fame and fortune? Is it because you think it is easy and fun, but you just haven’t taken the time to do it yet?

Coming to terms with your reasons for pursuing such a time consuming task is important. As I mentioned in my article “Why Do You Want to Write?” writing is an emotional endeavor. “Whether you write fiction or non-fiction, want to educate or entertain, the end goal is to stimulate an emotional reaction or response from your readers. The fastest and easiest way to do this is to understand your own emotions and what brings you to the computer or the notebook to put your thoughts, emotions, knowledge and stories on the page.” [https://karibovee.com/why-do-you-want-to-write/]

Most successful writers write because they have no choice. It is a part of who they are, part of their identity. It is  their chosen way to communicate their ideas, messages, and dreams to the world. For most writers, writing is a PASSION. They pursue writing and a career in writing as a life-long commitment and cannot imagine a world in which they don’t write. Other people feel that they have a book in them and want to write and publish that one book. In either case, each type of writer’s reasons are not to be diminished or taken lightly because writing a book, and more importantly finishing a book, takes a lot of planning, discipline and commitment. To write a book and write it well, you must be completely invested in your project until it comes to fruition. Completing a book can take a few as several weeks (yes, I know people who have written and finished their books in a matter of weeks) to several years, even decades in some instances.

Whether writing is a passion for you, and you do it every day of your life, or if it is the means to an end for getting your particular story or message out to the world, writing a book takes a certain kind of fortitude that doesn’t come easily to everyone.

Most successful writers are avid and voracious readers. They have a love of the written word and can’t wait to get lost in a story or a message or a particular method or philosophy. They also know the importance of reading genres or books that are much like the book they want to write. Successful writers also know the value in reading and learning from books that are not in their particular genre, or even in books that highlight a topic they have no interest in—books that stretch their thinking, their learning, and their area of expertise.

One of the most important factors in writing a book, finishing a book, or pursuing a lifetime of writing books, is for the writer to give himself/herself permission to pursue their craft. A writer must first take themselves seriously as a writer and give themselves the time and space to work on their book.

Finding both physical and mental space to write is supremely important. Seek out a place where you can be undisturbed and focused. It can be a corner of your room, an entire office, the family’s dining room table, or your local coffee shop or book store. Pick a place that makes you feel good, inspired, and productive.

Finding mental space can be a bit more challenging. The writer must allow himself/herself time to write. Many writers write every day, but it isn’t always necessary. You must find time where you can, and I would suggest making a date with yourself to write or schedule a time in your calendar to write and treat that time as you would any other appointment. Canceling or not showing up would be rude, right? Don’t do that to yourself!

Sometimes it is too easy for us to put our writing on the back-burner or to make it the last thing on our to-do list. Until you become a professional writer, you generally aren’t getting paid to produce, so it can be difficult to make it a priority. But, to write and finish a book, you have to make yourself and your project a priority. You work hard at your day job, hard for your family and friends, hard at your volunteer efforts. Why wouldn’t you work hard for yourself? Treat writing as your reward for all that you do for others. After all, you deserve it!

So, what does it take? There are many components that go into producing a good book like understanding why you want to write the book and then allowing yourself the time and space to do so. In the next several months I will be writing more articles like this one to help you on your journey to writing and finishing your book. I hope you join me and I look forward to your comments!



Can Using Essential Oils Really Help You Write A Book?

dreamstime_m_41746526Oh, if only it were that easy—kind of like taking a pill to lose weight or making money without really working for it. Essential oils can’t do the work for you, but they can certainly help with the emotional process of writing a book.

Have you ever wanted to write a book? Many people do, but many people often don’t know where to start, how to go about it, or how to finish. Like anything else, the first thing you must do is educate yourself. Take writing classes. Do workshops. Go to writer’s conferences. Like playing piano or creating a piece of artwork, you aren’t going to sit down and create a masterpiece – no matter how much natural talent you have been blessed with. First, learn something about the craft.

Reading what you want to write is also paramount to becoming a good writer. If you decide you want to write an historical mystery, but only read romance and have never done any kind of research, you are going to have a problem. The same can be said for writing to the market. Paranormal might be selling well, but if you’ve never read one, why would you write one? Writing from the heart and from your passion is never a bad idea, and if you can find a way to make it fit to what is selling—well done, you!

dreamstime_m_63202754Once you have done your homework and know why you want to write, what you want to write and how you are going to write it, then you must face the music—or rather—the page, and sit down to write it. But what if you don’t know enough? What if you don’t know how to start? What if no one would want to read it? These, and more negative, useless thoughts are all thoughts writers have experienced at one time or another. This emotional tug of war between feeling like you are brilliant and have pearls of wisdom to share with the world and feeling like you are stupid and no one cares what you write, can be exhausting and defeating. That is where essential oils and the Aroma Freedom Technique (AFT) can help.

What are essential oils? As I mention in my blog article “A Brief History of Essential Oils,” (https://karibovee.com/a-brief-history-of-essential-oils/) essential oils come from the liquid extracted from flowers, seeds, leaves, stems, bark and/or roots of trees, herbs, bushes and shrubbery that is also referred to as the “essence” or “life blood” of the plant. The liquid is steam extracted or cold pressed and then distilled to produce the oil.

Essential oils have been used for medicinal and religious purposes for centuries. Hieroglyphics and manuscripts found from the Egyptian, Roman, Greek, and Chinese cultures indicate that essential oils were used to heal the sick and promote health. There are over 150 references to essential oils and anointing oils in the bible. “Anointing” which means “to smear with oil” was to make a person sacred and elevate them to a higher spiritual purpose.

The aromatic properties of oils can be just as effective as absorption into the skin or ingestion through the mouth in treating many physical and emotional ailments. Our sense of smell is the most primitive sense we have and our reaction to smell is immediate and uncontrollable. The aroma of the oils penetrates deep and fast into the limbic system, the area of the brain where we process emotion. The sense of smell can also trigger memories, good and bad. As clinical psychologist, Dr. Benjamin Perkus, the creator of AFT, mentions in his book: “The experience is so well known it has been named the ‘Proust Phenomenon’ after the literary example given by Marcel Proust in Remembrance of Things Past.”

imagesIt is this integral relationship between smell, memory, and emotions that is the basis for the Aroma Freedom Technique. Through the 12-step process of strategically designed memory exercises and smelling a unique mix of oils, negative thoughts, belief systems and inner blocks are interrupted causing a shift in our mind set. You might be wondering how in the world this applies to writing a book. It can apply at any point of the process from coming up with ideas, to freeing up the creative process, to developing discipline and goal setting strategies enabling writers to actually finish their books. I often use AFT if I am stuck in a scene or trying to figure out how my protagonist solves the crime.

Essentially, AFT is one more tool that enables us to more effectively control our own destiny. Like the old adage says, “If you put your mind to it, you can do anything.” The only person who is stopping you from living your dream of writing and finishing a book is you. AFT can help you find the courage, the drive, the discipline, and the direction for sitting down and writing your masterpiece. Dr. Perkus wrote his book The Aroma Freedom Technique, Using Essential Oils to Transform Your Emotions and Realize Your Heart’s Desire, in a staggering 15 days using AFT every morning before he sat down to write. It’s not something I would recommend, but it is certainly impressive and gives me great hope of becoming as prolific as I can possibly be.

If you have dreams of writing a book, what is stopping you?

If you’d like some help and like to learn more about the Aroma Freedom Technique (AFT) and how it can help you live out your dream of writing and finishing a book, join me and Dr. Perkus at the Aroma Freedom Academy for our 12-week intensive course “So You Want to Write A Book.” You can learn more by clicking here: http://aroma-freedom-academy.thinkific.com/courses/so-you-want-to-write-a-book

C’mon, I challenge you to write that masterpiece! I look forward to seeing you in class.


The “Gentle Ghost” of Santa Fe

Halloween is again upon us and so closes my series of ghost stories for October. I hope you have enjoyed reading about some of the ghosts of Hawaii and New Mexico. I have saved my favorite ghost for last.

Julia Schuster Staab was the wife of Abraham Staab, a Jewish German immigrant, who came to New Mexico in 1846 to establish himself as a merchant on the Santa Fe Trail. After Abraham became a wealthy businessman, he went home to Germany to find a bride. He found Julia Schuster, the daughter of a wealthy merchant from his home village of Ludge. Having come from the same small village, it is thought that perhaps Abraham knew Julia’s family before he left to find his riches in America. With great expectations he brought Julia back to his new home in the high desert of Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1865.

Young Julia Staab and Julia & Abraham

Completely out of place in the village of Santa Fe with its mud houses and arid landscape, Julia had been accustomed to more a more elegant lifestyle and grand home. Eager to make his wife happy, Abraham built Julia a beautiful white mansion. The Staab House, a Victorian masterpiece with a large ballroom on the third floor, suited Julia’s excellent taste.

Original Staab House Jewishbookcouncil.org
Original Staab House

The couple had seven children, but at the death of their eighth, Julia changed both physically and mentally. She became sad, depressed, chronically ill and inconsolable. It is said her hair turned grey overnight. Her grief took a toll on the couple and they slowly grew apart. This did not help Julia’s situation and some say she went insane. She spent most of her latter days locked in her bedroom until she died in 1896, under somewhat mysterious circumstances. Rumors of Abraham’s extramarital affairs and Julia’s possible murder or suicide were never proven.

In the 1920’s a fire burned through the Staab house, destroying the third floor. When the house was rebuilt as a stuccoed, Pueblo-style hotel, the builders simply built around the remains of the mansion and then added charming casitas across the 7-acre plot as additional guest rooms.

Although she died in 1896, Julia’s ghostly presence had not been reported until the 1970’s. A janitor at the hotel stated that he saw a translucent dark eyed woman in a white Victorian gown, with white, upswept hair standing near the fireplace. From that moment on, more sightings of the same woman were reported. Staff and guests alike saw her wandering the hallways, lounging in a chair in the downstairs sitting room or standing near the fireplace.

The excerpt below is from the book American Ghost by Hannah Nordhaus, great-great granddaughter to Julia Staab. The book is an enthralling read and I highly recommend it.

“Strange things began to happen in the hotel. Gas fireplaces turned off and on repeatedly, though nobody was flipping the switch. Chandeliers swayed and revolved. Vases of flowers moved to new locations. Glasses tumbled from shelves in the bar. A waitress, not known for her clumsiness, began droppings trays and explained that she felt as if someone were pushing them from underneath. Guests heard dancing footsteps on the third story, where the ballroom had once been—though the third floor had burned years earlier. A woman’s voice, distant and foreign sounding, called the switchboard over and over. ‘Hallo?’ ‘Hallo?’ ‘Hallo?’”

One guest decided to test Julia when he and his wife requested to stay in Julia’s room. Hearing that Julia’s ghost was very particular about things in her room, he purposely left the top dresser drawer opened. Later that night, he and his wife were awakened by the sound of the drawer being slowly closed.

Entrance to Staab House from La Posada lobby www.10best.com
Entrance to Staab House from La Posada lobby

I became fascinated with the story of the La Posada Hotel after our daughter decided she wanted to be married there last year. She, her fiancé and I took the hour long drive to Santa Fe to stay the night in the hotel and speak to the event planner who worked there. As luck would have it, the engaged couple was put up in one of the casitas, and I was assigned to a room on the second floor of the mansion—the room right next door to Julia’s. I had heard some stories that the hotel was haunted, but at the time, I didn’t know Julia’s story. Which is probably a good thing. Fortunately, the only thing that kept me up that night was the rowdy party in the bar at the foot of the stairs to my room.

La Posada Hotel today View from the garden
La Posada Hotel today
View from the garden

Months later, after our daughter and her new husband’s stunning wedding, I wandered into the lobby and saw Nordhaus’ book sitting on the concierge’s desk. When I asked the woman sitting at the desk about the book, she proceeded to give me the highlights and told me some of the fascinating stories other staff and guests had told about Julia’s ghost. I asked if she had any similar experiences and she said she hadn’t, although she wanted to. After her last chemo treatment, she and her daughter decided to celebrate with a weekend stay at the hotel. They requested Julia’s room in hopes they would get a visit from the familiar “gentle ghost” and sat up all night waiting for her. In the wee hours of the morning they fell asleep and slept undisturbed. The concierge believed that Julia was too shy to make an appearance when someone was expecting her. She said she’d rent the room again sometime.

That concierge is braver than I am. Now that I know the story, I’m not sure I’d request to stay in the main house again. In fact, I would definitely request one of the casitas.

If you ever get to New Mexico, a stay at the La Posada Hotel is a must. Even if you don’t get Julia’s room.

Cowboys, Indians and Queens, Oh My!

Relationships between royals and commoners don’t happen very often. In 1936 England’s King Edward VIII’s affiliation with a commoner forced him to lose the crown when he wanted to marry the famously divorced American, Wallis Simpson. Since his time, things have loosened up a bit. Prince Charles married the late Diana Spencer and is now married to Camilla Parker Bowles. England’s beloved Prince William married Kate. All of these relationships, perhaps aside from Charles and Diana, sprung from shared passions. As I wrote in my last article about Queen Elizabeth, “The Queen’s Private Passion” (https://karibovee.com/2016/08/04/the-queens-private-passion/), we all know about QEII’s passion for all things equine, particularly the horse itself. This passion has led Her Majesty, too, to engage in an on-going, unlikely relationship with a commoner—who is also an American.

An avid thoroughbred racehorse breeder, the Queen wants only the best for her four-legged friends. In the late 1970’s, the longest reigning monarch of all time reached out to a cowboy from California who had fostered the reputation of being “the man who listens to horses.”

Like his fellow horseman Pat Parelli—also a cowboy from California whose had an audience with the Queen, Monty Roberts decided as a young man that violent means for training performance animals was not the answer. Roberts studied horses in the wild and learned how they communicated with one another. He noted their body language, how they set boundaries, showed fear and expressed annoyance, relaxation or affection, and then developed gestures to mimic those behaviors. Robert’s method came to be known as “Join Up.” Impressed with his philosophy and training methods, the Queen hired him to help train her racehorses.

Roberts Shows Her Majesty a copy of "The Man Who Listens to Horses". www.horsecollaborative.com (wikipedia)
Roberts Shows Her Majesty a copy of “The Man Who Listens to Horses”. www.horsecollaborative.com (wikipedia)

Robert’s relationship with the Queen has remained steadfast since the 1980’s. With the Queen’s encouragement, he wrote a book entitled, “The Man Who Listens to Horses.” Published in 1996, the book became a phenomenon. Documentaries were made and more books were published. In 1998 he became one of several natural horsemen who served as inspirations for the movie “The Horse Whisperer” starring Robert Redford.

In 2011, Queen Elizabeth II bestowed Roberts with an honorary Membership of the Royal Victorian Order—an order of people who have served Her Royal Majesty in a personal way—for his contributions to the racing establishment. He has served the Queen and her horses for a quarter of a century.

The relationship between the QEII and Roberts was much more widely accepted in the late twentieth century than the relationship held between her great-great grandmother, Queen Victoria, and one of her Indian servants. In fact, Victoria’s friendship with 24-year-old Abdul Karim, who was 42 years her junior, was viewed as more akin to a scandal.

After the death of her beloved husband Prince Albert, Victoria missed the companionship of a man. Albert provided support, ideas, and indispensable advice to the Queen from the time they courted, until his death. Queen Victoria later found solace in John Brown, a servant she also had a deep and lasting platonic relationship with after Albert’s death. In Karim, Queen Victoria was once again able to find the same comfort after John died.

Queen Victoria at her desk, assisted by her servant Abdul Karim, the 'Munshi'. Date: c. 1885 (www.dailymail.co.uk)
Queen Victoria and Abdul Karim, the ‘Munshi’. Date: c. 1885 (www.dailymail.co.uk)

Brought to England in 1887 as a personal servant to Queen Victoria for the Golden Jubilee, Karim immediately endeared himself to Her Magesty with his gentle nature and advanced intellect. She gave him the title of “ Munshi”, the Urdu word for “clerk” or “teacher”.  Within one year, he had become one of her most trusted confidants and she promoted him to a status well beyond servant.

Although the Queen benefited intellectually and spiritually from Karim’s advice and companionship, the rest of the royal household did not see his value. Many of Victoria’s other staff and servants thought him well beneath them and resented the closeness between Karim and the Queen. The fact that she showered him with gifts, honors, and a large land grant in India didn’t help matters.


I found this relationship so interesting that I have infused it into my second Annie Oakley mystery novel. Like the unusual relationship between QEII and Monty Roberts and Queen Victoria and Abdul Karim respectively, Annie Oakley found herself in an unlikely friendship with royalty of another kind. Chief Sitting Bull, the famous Sioux Chief and warrior, who was also a principal player in Buffalo Bills Wild West Show, became smitten with Miss Oakley, when he first saw her perform in 1884. The great Sioux Chief felt that Annie was “gifted” by a supernatural force that enabled her to shootequally accurate with both hands. Because of this, and their close rapport, the Chief symbolically “adopted” her and named her Watanya Cecilia, the Sioux name for “Little Sure Shot” – a moniker that stuck with her throughout her career.

"Little Sure Shot" (www.ohiohistoryhost.org)
“Little Sure Shot” (www.ohiohistoryhost.org)

I think that unlikely relationships are always the most interesting to read and write about. The single factor in each one that bonds each of the people in them together is a profound respect that crosses social, racial, and religious boundaries. It is truly remarkable and heartwarming for Her Royal Majesty QEII to reach out to a cowboy fromCalifornia; for Queen Victoria to take in an Indian servant as a confidant, and a for a famed Indian warrior to be so touched by a young white girl’s special talent, that he wants to make her his daughter. It reminds us that no matter what a person’s title or status in society, we are all human beings who have a desire to share our passions and interests. I think it is a good lesson for all of us.

Coming Home To San Diego

San Diego is known for its sunshine, beautiful views, and friendly people. I always get energized when I come back to this beautiful city. This time, I am here for the Romance Writers of America National Conference. In addition to all the wonderful workshops and events, I came to attend the Death by Chocolate Party and the Daphne du Maurier Awards ceremony, put on by the Mystery/Suspense Chapter, Kiss of Death. My novel, Grace In The Wings, finaled in the Unpublished Daphne contest. I had a wonderful time in “chocolate heaven” and the novel ended up winning 3rd place in the Historical Mystery/Suspense category.

DaphneI first lived in San Diego as a small child. My memories of our U shaped house with a swimming pool are still some of my fondest. After we moved to New Mexico, I couldn’t get San Diego out of my system, so when I graduated from high school, I chose attend to college at The University of San Diego. There, I received a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in English Literature with an emphasis in Creative Writing.

My experiences at USD further nurtured my insatiable need to write. I worked very hard to get all of my pre-requisites out of the way so that in my senior year I could take three independent studies—all in writing. I met with my professors once a week, and then the rest of the week I could write and create. Pure bliss.

The campus itself, set high up on a windswept hill with white stone buildings, palm trees and a profusion of colorful flowers, gave one the feeling of traveling back in time to an ancient 17th Century European fortressed city. The majestic library, with its heavy leather-backed chairs, beautiful tapestries and floor-to-ceiling arched windows overlooking the bay, was a place of peace and quiet—perfect for stimulating scholarly pursuits. I spent many hours surrounded by the earthy smell of old paper and knowledge in that beautiful library and I still have fond memories of it.

The campus was built in 1949/1950. Bishop Charles Francis Buddy and Mother Rosalie Clifton Hill had a vision for a Women’s College. They chose the peak of the hill to build their campus because of its beauty. According to Mother Hill, “There are three things that are significant in education: beauty, truth and goodness. But the only one that attracts people on sight is beauty. If beauty attracts people, they will come and find the truth and have goodness communicated to them by the kind of people here.”

Her words proved true. The Society of the Sacred Heart volunteered to provide a $4 million endowment for the College for Women. The College for Men and the School of Law began classes in 1954, eventually moving into Thomas Moore Hall, now known as Warren Hall. More buildings were constructed including the blue-domed Immaculata Church, consecrated in 1959. Overlooking the campus, on top of the dome stands a lovely statue of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. When I attended college there, a rumor circulated that the model for the sculpture was none other than Raquel Welch. I’m not sure if the rumor was true, but it certainly amused the students.

ImmaculataIn 1972, the colleges merged and formed what is now the University of San Diego. When I first set foot on the campus in 1980, I knew I had come home. Whenever I return to San Diego, no matter where I am staying, I look for the blue dome on top of the hill. I always knew I wanted to be a writer, and my time in San Diego certainly fostered that dream. It’s a place that rejuvenates my soul. Like the slogan of the 1980’s stated, “San Diego Feels Good All Over.”

Some of the information in this article comes from the University of San Diego website.

Are We Really In This Alone?

It’s funny. I find myself stumbling upon things just when I happen to need them. Like this Ted Talk with Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love. In this video she talks about “Your Elusive Creative Genius” and are we really responsible for our success or failures, or do we have some sort of mystical, magical, or divine being circling around our lives or in our heads that “allows” us or “assists” us to create, tell stories and become writers and artists? And is it maybe not completely our fault when something doesn’t hit the mark, or sell, or become wildly successful?

The segment also touches on the fear that surrounds this work we’ve been called to do. Will we succeed, will we fail, will it all come to nothing? I love her quote: “People ask, are you afraid you’re never going to have success . . .that you’re going to work on this craft and nothing is going to become of it . . . and you’re going to die on a scrapheap of broken dreams with your mouth filled with the bitter ash of failure?”

Pretty harsh words, but haven’t you felt that way sometimes? I know I have. My work is currently being shopped by my agent for a book deal and the thought of “nothing coming of it” hits me every day. I wake up thinking about my work, I eat thinking about my work, I pray thinking about my work. I work on new projects, thinking about old projects. I’m obsessive. Sometimes to the point of making myself miserable. I’ve given up some important things in my life to pursue this craft of writing. In sacrificing other loves, I thought I would be happier, but instead, the opposite has occurred. I’m grasping for an allusive rainbow, it’s colors fading just as I feel I can touch it. I have no control over my success or failure as a writer, and the only thing I can do is persevere. One can understand the reputation writers and artist have of being “tortured” by their craft. Elizabeth also goes into this grim, if well founded, stereotype of people who are called to create. But in this talk, she reasons through research that maybe it doesn’t all fall on our shoulders,that we aren’t completely to blame when we fail–that we can’t always take all the credit when we succeed.

I hope you enjoy this video and that it inspires you. For me, this intellectual kind of reasoning helps me to carry on in a world and an endeavor that sometimes makes no sense at all. It soothes my fear that I am wasting the precious moments of my life on something that will come to nothing.

I’d love to hear your comments.

Why We Need (or Should Use) Professional Editors – Part III

In my interview with Editor Susan Reynolds, I asked her about her pet peeves – things that writers do (or don’t do) that get under her skin when she is working with them to bring their writing to the highest level possible. I also asked her what acquiring editors are looking for in this rapidly changing publishing environment.

What are your pet peeves?

Frustrated Woman at Computer With Stack of Paper --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis
Frustrated Woman at Computer With Stack of Paper — Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

I suppose my biggest pet peeve would be lazy “writers” who don’t study their craft. Unless you’re a genuine genius, no one gets through the gate easily. Got a great story to tell—learn the craft and rewrite it several times before sending it to a professional editor (unless you want a developmental editor to provide input on a fully sketched out outline or synopsis before you begin, or halfway through).

Also, writers who don’t listen can be frustrating. Though it doesn’t happen often, occasionally a writer who has hired me to provide professional developmental or line-by-line editing will argue about or outright dismiss most of what I’ve suggested. Oddly enough, these same writers always come back, because on some level—or eventually, they realize that the editing suggestions I provided really helped. They’re just being stubborn and allowing their egos to overrule good judgment. Agents and publishing house editors find this annoying as well. Again, even the best writers can be wrong about aspects of their work, and an objective opinion, weighted by years of experience, is too valuable to blindly dismiss. As I always tell my clients, I don’t change things just to change things; I change things to make your work sing.

What are acquiring editors looking for and how can editors help?

What publishers are looking for these days is virtual perfection. In fact, both agents and editors tell me that a manuscript has to be 90% “there” before they’ll consider it. Actually, it’s probably closer to 95% there—and what they mean by “there” is that all the necessary elements have been mastered and they’ll have little, to no, editing to do. A lot of publishing houses no longer have in-house developmental and line-by-line editors who can devote themselves to poring over a manuscript with specific guidance in mind. If you give them the slightest reason to reject your work (undeveloped plot, weak characterization, nonexistent setting, boring scenes that go nowhere, pedantic dialogue, repetition, bad grammar, typing mistakes, and so on), they will pass with barely a glance.

Your best chance to land an agent and a publisher is to hire a professional editor, and I’m not just saying that because I’m a professional editor. I’m saying it because it’s true. Few novice writers will master the skills required to land a publishing contract, and it will typically take years of writing, and multiple failed attempts, before your work shines. Studying your craft and working closely with a skilled editor can shorten that time considerably.

Publishers also want what they call “high concept” novels, which means an original idea, an unusual idea, a new way of approaching a genre, blending genres in an delightful way, an idea that taps into our national subconscious, or one that offers a really fresh take on a topic. If you want to find a commercial publisher—and you do!—it’s necessary to think “high concept.” It’s not selling out, it’s selling in.

Susan Reynolds’ new book Fire Up Your Writing Brain: How to Use Proven Neuroscience to Become a More Creative, Productive, and Successful Writer published by Writer’s Digest is Available on Amazon.com.

December 23 2015 - 2

Why We Need (or Should Use) Professional Editors

I have been working at this writing gig for quite some time now, off and on for about 15 years. I’m still working at becoming traditionally published in fiction, but I have been in the business of non-fiction writing for several years. I’ve written technical manuals, articles for magazines, educational materials, and newsletters of varying topics from government defense technology to school fund-raising. I’ve been very busy writing novels for the last seven years, but sometimes, I still feel like a beginner. I make some of the common mistakes new writers make, especially in my first or second draft. After about revision 5, I pick up steam and the novel starts to look like it could be publishable — but that’s not without some help.

This post is Part One of Why We Need (or Should Use) Professional Editors

Many of the well published authors I have heard speak at Writer’s Conferences, Workshops or Retreats often stress the importance of having a professional edit your book. Editor Susan Reynolds of Literary Cottage shared with me some insights on the editing process and why it is so important to have others — beta readers, critique partners, and most importantly, editorial professionals as part of your team.

Why do writers need editors? Susan Reynolds

Everyone—even the most accomplished, highly published writers—benefits from having other people read and evaluate their work before it’s submitted to agents and publishers. Readers can point out inconsistencies in plotline, characterization, pacing, style, and so on. They can also offer valuable feedback about the viability of your story, the fascination level of your characters, and whether or not you sustain reader interest.

Unfortunately, a lot of writers will rely on their family members (who simply cannot be objective) and “beta” readers who may or may not know much about the craft of writing and rewriting, polishing and perfecting. A lot of writers join up with other writers, which can be a great way to learn together, but often these readers will focus on positive feedback and/or won’t approach the expertise and market perspective that a professional editor would have.

Unsophisticated (in the sense of people who are not professional writers or editors) feedback can steer you in the wrong direction.

Basically, there are three kinds of editors.

1. Developmental editors focus on structure and focus on helping you shape the story, strengthening plotting, pacing, character development, scene viability, narrative thrust, theme, tone, dialogue, setting . . . and any missing pieces. They typically offer suggestions for strengthening all aspects of the story. Sometimes, it’s worthwhile to work with a developmental editor before you begin writing, or when you have a fairly reasonable first draft.

2. Line-by-line editors delve in and edit the work line by line, assessing and addressing how all the elements are working, suggesting changes in all aspects of the writing, catching and flagging potential problems, such as repetition, point of view issues, tone, style, voice, and so on, right down to the concrete matters of grammar and punctuation. A good line-by-line editor is worth her weight in gold, capable of taking a rough work (one that’s already gone through a few drafts) to a far more refined, higher-functioning work of art. There are different levels of line-by-line editors: some are amazingly thorough, others not so much.

3. Copywriters do a meticulous, final sweep to catch any missteps or minor mistakes, to make sure the grammar, spelling, punctuation, and so on is as good as it can be.

I typically combine developmental and line-by-line editing and offer separate copyediting services, mostly for returning clients who now have a viable manuscript. I see a lot of manuscripts that just aren’t ready for copyediting, and I don’t believe in misleading or taking advantage of writers. If it’s not ready, I’ll tell them that and tell them why. I don’t take on clients that I don’t feel I can genuinely help.

A good developmental/line editor will help you craft your best work possible, and you should learn from the experience, be able to see and understand why they made changes or suggested you make changes. It’s very hard to leap from being an enthusiastic amateur to a writer an agent and editor will fall in love with because her prose and storytelling skills are stellar (and they won’t publish you if they don’t love your novel). The worst thing aspiring writers can do is to submit work that hasn’t achieved the level of a professionally edited novel (or nonfiction book) to an agent or publishing house editor.

When I edit, my primary goal is to help the writer shape one particular work in progress, but my intention is to show them what they’re doing wrong and model how they can make it better and grow as a writer. I want writers I edit to learn, and I provide extensive notes that many writers have said really helped them grasp storytelling elements and make a huge leap forward as a writer—which makes me very happy.

Susan Reynolds’ new book Fire Up Your Writing Brain: How to Use Proven Neuroscience to Become a More Creative, Productive, and Successful Writer published by Writer’s Digest is Available on Amazon.com.