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Saturday, September 22, 2012

Start with the Change

A teacher in a writing class I took years ago (great teacher, great class) taught me to “start with the change,” to begin a story when the character’s life is shifting gears.  Today I’m looking at the first two books in the Rainbow Rock series to see how I did. First, here is the opening of Book 1: RIDE THE RAINBOW HOME.

"Oh!" Meg jumped as lightning crashed overhead. She swerved slightly, but fought her sports car back into her lane. July had come to the high plateau and with it, a typical afternoon thundershower. To Margaret Taylor, who hadn't seen the plateau for years, the storm was anything but typical. Lightning danced along the ridges and shimmered through the valley of the Little Colorado River, sending thunder rumbling in its wake. Giant thunderheads loomed thousands of feet above the red sandstone cliffs, pierced here and there by shafts of yellow light that brought heaven to earth. Meg watched in wonder as she pushed east along I-40, back to the land she had once called home.

Home? Rainbow Rock had never been home. The five years she'd spent there had been the worst of her life. The jeers she had suffered as stepdaughter to Lon Ramsdell, the high school principal, had been ravaging: "teacher's pet," "killjoy," "goody-goody," and so much worse. With relief she had grabbed her diploma and hit the road for UCLA, vowing never to return.

And she hadn't. Not for ten years, years she had spent putting adolescence behind her and building a career in management training. But time had softened the sting of those old wounds. Maybe it was time to make her peace.

Similarly, Book 2: AT THE RAINBOW’S END also starts with a main character driving.

A stiff breeze scoured the desert floor, catching powdery snowflakes and drifting them against the roots of the greasewood and creosote bushes. Kurt McAllister watched the would-be storm with tepid interest, idly reminded of the way his mother used to sift powdered sugar onto freshly baked gingerbread.

It had been a good meeting in Gallup that morning. If all went as planned, Rainbow Productions would soon have a contract for an exclusive series of educational videos. They had a funding proposal in for a documentary on Navajo weaving and were already paying their bills with pickup jobs for weddings, birthdays, graduations, and family reunions. In the four years since he had established his business with the woman who was now his sister-in-law, Kurt and Meg had built an inventory of successful management training programs that were bringing in steady income.

They were earning a strong reputation in the field and had recently moved into a larger storefront office in Holbrook. All was going splendidly, better than expected.

So why, Kurt wondered as he gunned the engine of his shiny new pickup and pulled into the I-40 fast lane, did he feel like chewing rails and spitting spikes? Frustration seemed to dog his heels these days, faithful as a bloodhound and not one bit prettier.

The road sign showed that Holbrook and his turnoff were still twenty-seven miles away as Kurt punched up the speed to pass a black touring car, but the added speed did nothing to decrease his restlessness. Neither did the fact that there was no apparent reason for it.  

Things were going splendidly in the business. The only weak area they'd had from the beginning had been scriptwriting. Meg wrote the basic script when they did a management training video, and his brother Jim, an expert in Navajo and Hopi art, wrote most of their documentary pieces. So far, there had always been someone at the community college in Holbrook who could refine their scripts. Though he and Meg had spoken of hiring a professional scriptwriter—and they'd have to get someone if they got the documentary on Navajo weaving—that seemed more an opportunity than a problem. So it had to be something else that was wringing his stomach.

As I look at those two excerpts, I get the feeling I listened to that great teacher.

All six books in the Rainbow Rock series are now available for E-readers: Kindle, Nook, Apple devices, and through Kobo, Smashwords and OverDrive for everything else. Presently the first book is being offered FREE.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Fun with Dick and Jane

I started school in the DICK AND JANE days. Little sister Sally, a kitten named Puff... Oh yeah, good times. But the simple story doesn't do it for me anymore. In fact, I think my Muse has A.D.D. She and I seem to be rambling all over the spectrum of commercial fiction.

Case in point: After eight published romances (count 'em: one for Silhouette, six in the Rainbow Rock series, an inspirational for Covenant), my next book--the one due out next summer--is a family saga with only hints of romance. Called A SECRET FAMILY RECIPE, it's the story of a broken family trying to repair itself, not exactly what some might have considered my "brand," yet that was where my Muse wanted to go and that's where we went.

Just yesterday I finished a final edit of EASTWARD TO ZION, an historical set between 1852-1860 in Australia and the western United States. It was another venture into the previously unexplored. Okay then, Muse: Have it your way.

I'm already half-way into the next venture, a book I call "a paranormal detective story with a sassy, chick-lit voice." Called MAGGIE RISING, it's the story of a bright young woman who is working her way through California State University, Chico as a psychic reader. She readily claims not to believe in the paranormal and says folks just like to drop a few bucks on an evening's entertainment, so she tells them what they want to hear, yet it seems the paranormal believes in her. It's not your typical reluctant-psychic-turned-detective meets reluctant-ghost-turned-witness story.

Where might my Muse strike next? She's thinking about a sisters story set in beautiful Florence and a Renaissance-era historical set in the sample place but in the days of Lorenzo di Medici. She also has several other stories for Maggie to pursue.

So far I have yet to write a single character named Dick or Jane.

RIDE THE RAINBOW HOME, the first book in the six-book Rainbow Rock romance series, is currently available FREE for E-book readers: Kindle, Nook, Apple devices, and at Smashwords for downloading to home computers.