Monday, December 30, 2013

Section-Breaks, Page-Breaks, Headers, Footers, Fonts and Trim!

Yikes! Formatting a book for print presents a complex array of questions and answers combined with a set of choices and requirements that make the phrase do-it-yourself almost laughable. When I quizzed a friend about how he managed to get a print version of his book online with Amazon, he simply said he hired someone. My husband has a favorite phrase I'm adopting to make myself feel a bit better. It goes, "Never try to do part-time what someone else does full-time!"

I'm sure I could mush through all that needs to be accomplished to produce a finished, neatly bound paperback, but is that really how I need to spend my time right now? After reading a manual on what to do and how to do it to get my books into print, I've decided to forget it and instead to market, market, market and query, query, query!

My time needs to be spent writing the two companion books for the Arrowstar series I have planned for 2014. I think I might be able to throw in some marketing for the e-books while I'm writing, and even send off a few query letters to likely agents. My fondest hope is that some kindly agent will seek out a publisher who will snap up my books and handle the print processing they do so well.

Today's wisdom: Daunted, but not defeated; onward I go with "pen" in hand to once again conquer the blank page.

BOLO: A Trail Robber's Tale and The Storm Women coming in 2014!

I hope all your "troubles melt like lemon drops" on New Year's Eve!

Write on!
Cheryl



Sunday, December 22, 2013

Do It Yourself E-Books

Having finished writing Charade, I'm now in the process of updating Arrowstar with the material my former e-publisher forgot to include like the dedication, acknowledgements and copyright! If you're a writer and want an e-book on Amazon Kindle, try uploading it yourself. I paid $200 to have Arrowstar uploaded for me, and the results were not what I had hoped. Now I do it myself to make sure it's done right.

There is a little booklet you can get on Amazon for free called Building Your Book for Kindle. This little gem will give you step-by-step detailed instructions on how to prepare your book for upload and also walk you through the whole process when you're ready.

My next learning challenge will be to attempt using Amazon's Create Space, so I can get some hard copies of my e-books for an author recognition at my church in February. I'll let you know how I get along and report on the time frame it takes to have copies in hand.

There are many readers out there who are not fond of reading e-books or have not yet bought an e-reader. I'm excited I might finally be able to answer the demand for "real" books for that audience. It will also be a "rush" to actually see my name on the covers of my books and place them on my bookshelf.

Today's Wish: May the love and magic of Christmas stay around all year!

Write on!
Cheryl

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Charade Ready to Read on Your Kindle!

The easiest way to find Charade for Kindle is to search on Amazon.com using this phrase: Cheryl Thomas Kindle. When you search this way, you will see all three of my books pop up at the top of the search page. As of today, Charade has not been added to my author page on Amazon, but the request has been made, so it should show up there shortly. (I hope!)

Yesterday I continued slugging away editing and coding Charade after working on implementing copy editing and content changes suggested by my trustworthy editors for the past couple of weeks. Finally around four o'clock, I pushed the save and publish button on Friday the 13th!

When I woke up this morning, I picked up my Kindle first thing and searched for Charade. It popped right up, and I bought a copy for Frank's Kindle Fire. I've discovered that the book is formatted the best on the "Fire." The cover looks sufficiently spooky in black and white, and be sure to check out the acknowledgements because your name might appear there! Of course, I've probably missed some people I should have remembered, but if I did, just give a "holler."

I'm feeling very good about this story, and I hope you enjoy it as much as my editors said they did while working with it. Maybe after completing three novels, I'm hitting my stride. I'd love your feedback, so please email me at ckthomas@cox.net or comment on Facebook, Twitter, or the Blog. If you would write a review on Amazon as well that would mean a lot to me.

The characters from Arrowstar have become like friends to me, and the town of Mineral City seems real as well. I'm loving spending so much time inside this little "kingdom" I've created.

The editing process proved to be just as much fun as I'd predicted. Adding a few paragraphs here and there certainly was more fun and easier than thinking up what to write next.

It amazes me how many of the elements of the book came together in ways I hadn't anticipated while I was writing. Some things in the beginning of the book turned out to dovetail nicely with others that popped up later as if by magic. During the editing process, I was able to expand on these connections and make them integral parts of the story.

The unconscious mind is a magnificent machine humming along behind the scenes and giving cues to the conscious writing process. I'm convinced of this phenomenon because I can see the results as I read the finished manuscript. It's like putting together a puzzle, getting finished, and sitting back to enjoy seeing the complete picture. It never fails to surprise and delight me.

Today's Thought: Magic happens if you just believe it will.

Write on!
Cheryl



Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Tightrope to Launch

I've delivered Charade into the capable hands of three very reliable friends: a content editor, a grammar genius, and a typical reader of novels. Hopefully, when I have implemented their suggestions along with the other steps I mention below, it will be in time to launch 
Charade before the end of December.

Right now I'm putting together the dedication, copyright, and disclaimer pages. After an edit of content and grammar based on the feedback from the famous three mentioned above, I'll begin coding the novel for upload to Amazon for Kindle e-readers. It's been a whole year since I uploaded Honor Bound in Kindle format, so I'll need to brush up on that process before I begin.

Then, of course, there's the matter of an appropriate cover for the book. I begin with photos my husband and I have taken. I've chosen one that works well, but I still need to decide on a funky font for the title and author text. Already brewing are two artsy versions of the cover I've slapped on the manuscripts for the "typical reader" and the "grammar genius." The content editor received a quickie digital version sans art.

Once I've created a cover that satisfies me, I'll need to be sure I size it properly for display on the Kindle. Getting all the pieces I've mentioned together isn't something I relish, but I need to wade into it while the manuscript remains in other hands. When I begin the upload process, I'll need to have all the pieces where I can grab them during the step-by-step process required by Amazon.

Marketing comes next, and it's not something I've totally figured out yet. I've made business cards, a website, and this blog as a foray into marketing. However, there are many avenues I've yet to investigate when it comes to promoting what I've written. Even though I've only got my little toe in the marketing and promotions bathtub, I'm hopeful that one day I'll be able to splash around with abandon.

You can easily see that there's more to this novel-writing gig than "writing." Personally, "I'd rather be writing." Maybe I should get a bumper sticker.

I'm excited about writing the companion book to Charade. If I had an agent I'm assuming I could farm out all this other "monkey business" and have the luxury of digging into my next project right away.

Tidbit: Launching a novel is like walking a tightrope.

Reaching for balance,
Cheryl


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Gather the Ingredients, Stir the Pot and Give Thanks for the Proof in the Pudding

Not yet satisfied with the last few chapters (20-24) of Charade, I'm going to give them one more read and rewrite tomorrow before setting the novel aside to "cure."

When I was a kid, my extended family liked to get together in Sharpsville, Indiana at my grandparents' home to make homemade ice cream. After rounding up the crushed ice, the salt, and the ice cream maker in addition to cooking the ingredients just so, the time eventually came to pour the concoction into the metal cylinder, dip in the paddles and begin to turn the crank.

Everyone took turns at the crank in the beginning, but when the paddles began to resist, elbow grease and brawn took over. Of course, someone had to stand on the wooden bucket full of ice and salt above the silver canister spinning round and round and full to the brim of almost frozen ice cream to keep it steady while the crank groaned as it turned. Sometimes the ice cream expanded so much it oozed out through the top and leaked into the ice and salt.  

When the crank could be turned no more, then the whole shebang: the big wooden bucket full of rapidly melting ice, the silver canister full of ice cream, crank and all got wrapped in blankets until after supper. Anticipation of the creamy results of all that labor hung in the air all during supper while the ice cream cured.

Not until the dishes were done and put away did the adults finally make their leisurely way out back to unwrap the prize, lift the canister from the icy bucket, wipe the salt and water off, and oh so carefully lift the lid. The paddles were pulled and licked by a lucky bystander while the scooping and serving began. The secret's in the "cure" the old folks claimed, and I'm sure they were right.

As Charade "cures," I wait to see if the taste will reflect the effort, and if the anticipation of reading it with new eyes will make all the difference. The ingredients I used were fresh, and I certainly cranked and cranked and cranked until I couldn't crank anymore. Hopefully, when I get to lick the paddle,  I'll be able to tell if my readers will be lining up asking for yet another scoop of Arrowstar and Company.

Wishing you savory turkey, sweet marshmallow covered yams, lots of pies with ice cream and plenty of reasons to be thankful on Thursday. God bless Abraham Lincoln for making "giving thanks" a national holiday. Amen!

Thanking my lucky stars for all of you,
Cheryl 






Sunday, November 17, 2013

Mad Dash to Victory

I'm currently reading a 784-page novel, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. I'm fascinated by her compelling descriptions and characterizations. Her ability to engage her readers with prose so full of meaning it's impossible to skip even a word of it, makes me wonder how I can possibly hope to reach that level of skill as a writer. I'm in awe of her talent and completely baffled at how she manages to spill out so many pages without writing one boring or unnecessary sentence.

In editor mode now, I'm pushing toward finishing Charade with a word count goal set somewhere around 70,000. I've got 6,000 more words to write to reach that ballpark number, and I want to make the prose that results worth the reader's time and compelling enough to give depth of character and place without adding unnecessary and therefore boring filler. Ugh! I hate even admitting to thinking about adding such fatty, spare-tire prose to round out the skinny creature I've got running toward the finish. How do I make this anemic second draft into a robust, six-pack-sporting Adonis?

Yes, I'm still plagued by uncertainty and hesitation when it comes to laying bare my artistic passions on the pages of a novel for discerning readers to peruse. Maybe I can console myself with the old adage that says if you're not nervous before you go on stage, then your performance won't be worth a fart. Or something along those lines. I think I made up the part about the fart.

I haven't formulated satisfying answers to my questioning as yet, but maybe the key lies in just slogging ahead with as much skill as I currently possess and hoping for the best. At least I recognize the pitfalls of adding words just to fill space. Maybe, at this point in my writing career, I have developed some degree of mastery in my craft that will allow me to reach for some small degree of what I've seen possible by reading Tartt.

Today's tidbit: Practice, practice, practice whatever your craft may be until the  melody you're making fits perfectly the lyrics of your song.

Thanks for humming along while I run like mad to the finish,
Cheryl



Sunday, November 10, 2013

Charade's Skeleton Gets Connected!

Natalie Goldberg wrote a self-help book for writers called Writing Down the Bones. I have it on my bookshelf and have read it numerous times for inspiration and practical pointers.

It occurred to me that "writing down the bones" is a great metaphor for getting the first draft of a novel down on paper. Yesterday I wrote all the way to the end of Charade, completing over 60,000 words. With 10,000 words, give or take, left to write I'll start back at Chapter 1 polishing and rewriting what I've already written.

During the editing process I'll find connections I failed to notice during the skeletal phase of the writing. I'll be able to link these connections in more obvious ways so the reader catches them too. For instance, I might find a reference to Valentines Day in Chapter One and notice a connection in say, Chapter 10. I'll make this subtle link more obvious, so the reader might have an ah-ha moment remembering the earlier reference.

In my writing, not all these links are intended during the creative process. Much of the time they're accidental references that, when made more robust, give the reader a nice little jolt of remembrance and insight into the larger plot. It's the place in a novel when you might say, "I wondered why Star said that in the first chapter. Okay, now I get it. That's clever."

What a rush to read through the entire first draft of the novel! Creating the flow of the plot, being aware of the story arc and finding the right words challenges any writer and involves a large amount of hard work. Editing, on the other hand, becomes a wild and crazy scavenger hunt for missing descriptions, opportunities to improve the build up to a crisis and work with weak characterizations. It's exciting stuff and much more fun than staring at a blank page and fearing no words will emerge to fill it.

Yesterday when I noticed I'd reached the magical 60,000 words at just the right place and time for the characters, I jumped up, ran out to the garage, where my husband stood with greasy hands shoved inside the guts of an antique motorcycle he's restoring for one of his clients, and did a little happy dance to mark the successfully constructed "skeleton." I love those moments when I reach a personally-designed hallmark in my work and feel like celebrating. That's the real joy of the creative process.

Now, it's time to put flesh, running shorts and track shoes on the bones and sprint toward the finish line. It's good to have you as an audience along the way cheering, yelling, and offering Gatorade. I treasure your loyal support!

Today's Tidbit: "I am a rock, I am an island." NOT!

Celebrate whenever, wherever you get the chance,
Cheryl




Monday, November 4, 2013

On Sale Now!!!

Arrowstar and Honor Bound are now listed for 99 cents at amazon.com/author/cherylthomas beginning today with the price increasing in increments daily back to the list price of $6.99 on November 10. You might want to take advantage of this opportunity to read Arrowstar prior to the release of the second in the series, Charade in December.

Meanwhile . . . "back at the ranch" Charade has worked its way up to well over 50,000 words, approaching the finish line. Today the fog has cleared, and I'm ready to unravel some knotty problems plaguing one of my favorite characters. She won't be well after today's writing, but she should be well on her way out of the trouble she's been in for a few chapters - not to "let the cat out of the bag." If you've read Arrowstar you might infer something about the plot from my use of two tired old clich├ęs. Good luck!

I'm anxious to finish Charade and publish it on the Kindle platform on Amazon, so I can get busy writing more blog entries, tweeting, and marketing these first three novels and writing two more companion novellas. Please look for A Train Robber's Tale and The Storm Women for Kindle toward the middle of 2014. The first being a companion to Arrowstar and the second a compliment to Charade. I think you'll enjoy these fictional "historical" novellas written under the pseudonym Star Lance, the protagonist of the Arrowstar novels.

As I approach the conclusion of Charade, I'm feeling as if I've finally allowed myself the commitment and discipline needed to continue down the path of authorship. Maybe I'm even ready to use Amazon's Create Space to produce some physical copies of the books. It would feel incredible to place them on my bookshelf alongside works of other favorite authors. I've saved the publications containing my freelance work for magazines and newspapers over the years, but shelving five novels by the end of 2014 would be euphoric beyond my imagination.

Thanks for reading what I write both here and in your e-book collection. I hope you're eagerly anticipating more of Star's adventures in small-town Western living. Charade takes her far beyond the familiar places where you might expect to find her. By the way, there's a new sheriff in town and his name is Rafferty. He's a former Chicago cop and itching to dig into what he imagines might be a slower pace of policing in such an out-of-the-mainstream place like Mineral City, Arizona. Could be he's got that wrong!

Take away thought: There's been nothing like writing a novel as a way to discover what bizarre memorabilia reside in the recesses of the mind.

Read On!!!
Cheryl

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Whittle and Write

When I set out to write novels several years ago, I had no idea how all-consuming a commitment writing and marketing requires. Having just recently started writing this blog, then rashly adding a do-it-yourself website, while investigating Amazon's Create Space and uploading each of my own Kindle books, that realization burns bright.

Little by little I've tried to whittle my life's pursuits to a very slim few in order to throw myself into this battle to get noticed, get read, get an agent and ultimately a publisher. It's so innocent the way I allow myself to take on projects when, if I took a minute to consider, I don't have any available time to complete.

Over the years I've divested myself of strumming the guitar, playing tennis, taking myself and my dogs on weekend camping trips, practicing the culinary arts, and learning Italian. I have retained reading voraciously, half-hearted gardening, book club, nurturing a handful of close friends and writing weekly promotional material and other articles. As a necessity, I also escape the desert by traveling far away during the sizzling Phoenix summers and visiting my kids.

I'm now into writing the second half of Charade, but approach the computer with more and more trepidation. What if I can't continue to produce the words that will build the bridge to the end of my story? I might get stuck trying to lead my characters into and through the crisis and recovery phases of their lives in the intelligent and enjoyable way my readers deserve.

Tomorrow I'm "master of ceremonies" at book club. I've prepared for that today and will enjoy the discussion of the book Mrs. Kennedy and Me written by Clint Hill with Lisa McCubbin. Hill, a secret service agent assigned to protect Jackie during her time in the White House relates a tender story of friendship and tragedy. I won't be at the computer all day Monday, but I'll be relating to people and ideas in hopes of stimulating my creative juices.

By the way, I'm determined to be more consistent with this blog, so you can count on it on Sunday afternoons. I hope.

Take Away: Whittle while you work. Isn't that a song?

Write on!











Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Time Travel

I've been a time traveler this past month and landed for two weeks back home in Kokomo, Indiana in 1963. Kokomo High School's Class of '63, 50-year reunion rocked!!! Visiting with friends from the old neighborhood and taking a tour through both McKinley Elementary and the former KHS building downtown brought memories shooting into my brain like lasers.

Sixth grade classroom doors conjured up the names of  teachers who long-ago tapped pencils behind each one. Amazing how the sight of wide staircases and long hallways bracketed with classroom doorways call vivid pictures and people to mind so quickly. All five of us former classmates recall the big Christmas tree decked out in the front hallway and the crush of kids packed around it singing carols before heading home for the holiday vacation. Yes, the Christian God still went to school in the 50's.

Back home for a week now, I have been scurrying around opening mail, paying bills, doing laundry and basically avoiding writing one word on the novel. Charade, I vaguely remember is the title I finally landed on for Novel #3. I'm almost half finished. I know I keep repeating that milestone. It gives me hope that somehow I'm going to finish and SOON.

Time travel warps my sense of well-being I'm finding out.  There has always seemed to be a long, long road stretching out in front of me to drive ahead on. Now, I'm seeing roadblocks and cliffs ahead. Maybe I won't get where I'm going in time. There's less road left than I've already traveled. Quick, someone pull me back from the edge.

And then someone did. . . I've heard from people whose old friendships have rekindled and ignited. They're rooting for me. They're asking when the new novel will be finished. They're waiting to read what I'm writing. Inspiration and fresh hope zings in on the electronic wings of Facebook and email.

Tidbit for Today: Live in the present, draw inspiration from the past, and believe in yourself as much as everyone else does.

Write On!
Cheryl



Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Word Count - 30,500!

I'm writing again finally! Putting this blog together seems to make it easier to sit down at my computer. It's less stressful to write the blog because I don't need to keep so many threads in place in my head, nor pause to do Internet research when I get stuck not knowing my subject matter well enough.

When I wrote Arrowstar, it seemed as if the vast space given to a novel quickly became an endless desert I kept struggling to cross. The more I wrote, the less tightly written I felt the book became as I tired to "make it long enough."

I'm a student of journalism and having taken newswriting courses at Arizona State University back in the 80s, I'd learned how to communicate the news using the least amount of words possible. Tackling a novel gave me freedom to describe people and places in great detail, while keeping in mind the admonition that each tidbit I choose to include must contribute something vital to the storytelling.

The number of pages in a novel varies according to what font you might be using and where your page margins are set. It also varies with the page layout chosen for publication. I've found "number of words" to be the best measure of my writing progress on a novel. I finally realized this as I wrote Arrowstar. I felt the book was complete, but I struggled on with the writing because the number of pages I'd written didn't seem right. Then, when I began looking at word count, I knew I could trust my gut feeling it was time to wrap up the writing.

I consulted several resources about word count for the various kinds of novels and found the length I needed varied from 50,000 words up to 120,000. I settled on somewhere between 70,000 and 80,000 to judge my creative progress. Knowing those numbers helps me determine where I am in the story arc.

As I outlined this novel (something I couldn't seem to do with Arrowstar), I divided the novel into the three obvious sections all writing manuals list: Beginning, Middle, and End. Then I began thinking within those boundaries. I lost focus by the time I got halfway through the Middle section, so the rest of the outline seems sketchy now that I've reached that point.

I need the characters to speak to me as I write and let the story take shape in the process. However, it has been a plus up to this point knowing where the next chapter would lead.

Looking at a story arc diagram today, I realized how it would have served me well to think about the "crisis" points in this story in more depth when creating my outline. The arc suggests a couple of "bumps in the road" for the characters as the story ramps up followed by two more "crisis" points halfway through the middle leading up to the climax and falling action.

Another thing I read today made me think about how a focus on the characters and their troubles, personalities, wants, needs and desires must drive the plot. If I focus more on where the characters want to go, then the plot will work itself out just by letting the characters live in the story!

It makes sense to me looking at plot development that way, so today I'll pay more attention to what my characters are trying to tell me. However, I'll also need to take some time to research some of the finer points of ranching. Although I've had dreams of being a cowgirl, I'm really nothing more that an "urban cowgirl." I know zilch about ranching and turning a profit doing it.

Here's what cheered me up considerably yesterday as I got serious about getting more words into this story: I've written a bit more than 30,500 words. That means I'm quickly sneaking up on the middle of the story! I'll have to hustle to finish by the end of the year, but now I feel like I can drive toward the end and begin the fun editing that ensues when smoothing out the more subtle and finer points of the story.

Here's today's little light bulb: Structure, routines, goals and maps help give meaning and direction to living, and that same scaffolding holds the elements of a novel together.

Write on!
Cheryl



Monday, August 26, 2013

Author Website Now Available!

I'm getting ready to go to my 50th high school class reunion, so I thought I'd create some new business cards advertising my books to hand out while I'm there. In the process, I signed up for a basic website the business card site offered. You can check it out here.

I'd appreciate hearing your suggestions for the website. I think I can add an RSS feed so that my blog will also appear there. I can also add other pages to the site. If you think of anything that would be eye-catching, please let me know. I have some experience creating websites, but it has been some time since I've ventured into html-land. Things sure are a lot easier now with the handy creation software available. I know what html code looks like, and I'm not anxious to write any on my own again!

If you don't want to leave your comments here, you can email me at ckthomas@cox.net. I usually post a link to my blog entries on Facebook, Google Plus, and Twitter, so you are welcome to comment there as well.

I haven't wanted to take the time to market my novels up to this point. The website, this blog, and my Twitter account are my first fragile attempts at generating interest in my work. Having a readership would be a gift worth the time investment involved. I'm looking forward to hearing from my readers, savoring and learning from their feedback.

I'm very excited about the companion books I've decided to write that will be published under Arrowstar's protagonist's name, Star Lance. A Train Robber's Tale will be the companion book to Arrowstar and The Storm Women will be the companion book to Charade, the second book in the Arrowstar series.

Yes, I've finally decided on a title for the book I'm working on finishing right now. The working title for awhile was Novel #3 and then Stormy, which would have been fine, but I think Charade best describes the plot line. I'm jazzed about finishing Charade now that it has a title that pleases me and then moving right along to write the two companion books by Star.

I'm flying off to Kokomo, Indiana for the reunion on September 4, but I hope to continue writing the blog while I'm there. Please send feedback. I'm always glad to hear from you, and your comments lift my spirits, always!

Takeaway treasure for today: Run toward your fears and those phantoms will evaporate like a mirage in the desert. They will, won't they?


Monday, August 12, 2013

Reading - Riding - Writing

Okay, I’m going to stop complaining about waking up early. I've always been a morning person anyway, so a 4:00 a.m. wake up might be a blessing. This morning I’m waking up in Winnemucca, Nevada. We've traveled through Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and Nevada the past six weeks. It’s not our first rodeo, so we’re recognizing many landmarks and continuing to marvel at unexpected scenes along the way. Like the seven cowboys on horseback riding toward us in a long, slow-moving line across the dusty scrub, leaving a few head of cattle grazing behind them. What a seldom-seen snapshot of life in the West! Stellar!

Yesterday we drove eight hours from Castle Rock, Washington, and I took the opportunity to refresh my memory of what I've written so far on Novel #3. It surprised me to remember that I've written the first draft of eleven chapters rather than the eight I thought I’d written. I do remember getting stuck on some questions about what direction a key character might take and bogged down in less than satisfying research on the Internet. With a fresh look at my prose, I’m encouraged to realize it’s pretty darn interesting. Sometimes getting away from it all and looking with fresh eyes at where the writing has been and where it’s going isn't such a disaster after all.

I must confess I put zero words on paper yesterday, but I did catch up with the flow of the story and refresh my very unreliable memory on the finer points of the plot. Now maybe I can break the research logjam and sully forward with new determination. Armed with technology that lets me read, write, and research online while speeding cross country on the way home to Phoenix, I just might be fully into the flow of things by the time I’m back in my comfortable chair on wheels this weekend. After all, I am supposed to be on vacation, and I do enjoy looking at the scenery when it’s worthwhile. We’ll be traveling some lonely desert roads today, so distraction should be kept to a minimum.

However, I am reading a novel out loud to Frank as he steers our rig toward home. We’re both avid readers, so when we’re blasting for home after becoming super saturated with plying our nation’s highways, it’s nice to share a good book along the way. Now that I’m writing my own novels, I read those written by others with new eyes. I’m aware of the clever devices authors employ and consider reading the work of others instructive as well as enjoyable.

Take-away tidbit: “I write for myself. I figure if I enjoy the journey, my readers will too.”

Cheryl


Sunday, August 11, 2013

Avoidance Hill (Mountain?)

Hi Gang,

Here I am awake again at 4:00 a.m., and it hasn't occurred to me until this very moment that I could be working on the novel! What's up with that? I was going to change my cover picture on Facebook, but the darn thing wouldn't load. I checked my email on my iPad and deleted a whole bunch of old ones I'd already seen. Avoidance seems to be my hill to climb. Here's the best one of all: "When I get home from vacation I'll buckle down and write." Of course, a couple of weeks after I get home I leave for Indiana, and my 50th high school reunion. Yiikes!

On the positive side of things, I'm determined to finish Novel #3 this year.  Since I've put an e-book on Amazon in 2011 and 2012, it follows that 2013 should be the year I post another one. I know I can do better than one book a year if I just learn to climb "avoidance hill."

I'm also thinking of producing some hard copies of Arrowstar and Honor Bound on Amazon's create space just to make the writing seem more real. At least I could have a set of my books on my own bookshelf to remind me of what I've already accomplished. What devices do you employ to remember your triumphs? As women a lot of us have been taught to downplay our successes. Isn't it about time we stopped doing that?

I've got to stop blogging now because if I'm going to write Stormy, The Storm Women, and A Train Robber's Tale I'd best get with it right NOW . . . not when I get home from vacation, not after the high school reunion, not someday when I'm in the mood, but RIGHT NOW!

I'll let you know how many words I get on paper today. The best way to climb "avoidance hill" might just be ACCOUNTABILITY. What do you think? Just what has Star been up to while I've been on vacation?

Just another struggling artist from me to you, Cheryl

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Working Title: Stormy by Cheryl Thomas - www.amazon.com/author/cherylthomas

Drum roll . . . for your reading pleasure . . . an excerpt from Novel #3

Stormy, the second book in the Arrowstar series, features Star Lance, owner operator of Arrowstar Antiques, Mineral City, Arizona and part-time writer of historical fiction.

Companion books by Star Lance in the Arrowstar series coming soon:

A Train Robber's Tale by Star Lance, a companion book to Arrowstar
The Storm Women by Star Lance, a companion book to Stormy


Background: Star Lance takes a leap of faith after her husband dies and moves from Indiana to Mineral City, a small town in southeastern Arizona. She unwittingly buys the entire contents of an estate belonging to a former old West train robber as inventory for her newly opened antique shop, Arrowstar. Read Arrowstar by Cheryl Thomas and catch up to Star's encounter with that train robber's legacy. Star still struggles to keep her little store afloat in such a small town and supplements her income with proceeds from her writing. A Train Robber's Tale and help from her friend, Kat saved Arrowstar once. Now, while writing her second novel, The Storm Women, Star's struggle to make ends meet continues as she uncovers history that some in Mineral City would rather stayed buried.

Hope you enjoy this little peek into the novel, Stormy by Cheryl Thomas:


The back screen door slaps against the house with a loud crack, causing Star to jump up from the desk and run to hook it closed.  Rain doesn’t seem likely in spite of the bluster outside, so Star returns to the office where she polishes off the last paragraph of the first chapter of her second historical novel.  Leaning back in her chair, she stares up at the tin ceiling, musing over the possibilities for stories about the pioneer souls buried up the hill in the cemetery behind Minceral City's church.

Some of the graves have been here since Cochise roamed this land, and no doubt his band of renegades put some of them there.  The saddest ones have inscriptions on the headstones that break your heart, "Our Little Angel" or "He lingered with us, but the blink of an eye - Guard this precious little soul."  Very specific ages accompany many of the inscriptions, "four years, two months, and twenty-seven days," usually followed by a plea, "Lord receive our little lamb."

Star thinks about the little lambs carved in stone and the marble angels, doves and puppies gracing these small memorials.  Several crumbling monuments at the very back of the cemetery especially spur her imagination.  On a narrow pillar, an inscription reads, “Stormy” Almanza Storm, 1861 - 1890, and tucked very closely beside it, a second small marker adorned with a lamb says, Clare R. - Dear Little Cherub, born December 25, 1890, Received by Our Lord, January 30, 1891.

On the other side of the pillar a larger, more recent monument shows the name Ladoska (Dusky) R., 1888 - 1974.  The statue of a horse stands watch over this grave, one knee bent, head down, and the remains of leather reins coiled on the ground.  Three much simpler, flat markers inside an iron fence mark the graves of women buried there in what seems to be the Storm family plot. The grave marker where Star secretly observed someone placing violets in the middle of the night is one of those and the engraving reads, "Opal G. - 1935 - 1965."

"Rest in peace, Storm women," Star whisperes to herself. "Will you give up your secrets and tell me where you've buried your men?"

www.amazon.com/author/cherylthomas

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Writer's Prerogative: A matter of taste


Wednesday Near Boise Idaho

I'm looking at a lush, expansive vegetable garden planted by someone at this campground who has a very green thumb! There is another just as huge out across the nicely mowed grassy yard and down a steep hill. The owners of Country Gardens RV Park invite their guests to shop around in the gardens. This evening I fixed a stir fry with freshly pulled onions, sweet yellow summer squash and zucchini plucked from the vines. I also picked several ears of sweet corn. I ate two small ears raw, but Frank wanted his hot from the microwave.

The bounty from a vegetable garden always impresses me. Running out of veggies to share this summer isn't even remotely possible here. There are melons, squash, corn, tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, onions and carrots. We heard about this place from some RV people from California who make it a point to stop here every time they're near Boise, Idaho. The flowers growing in front of the office look like bushes covered in blooms at first glance. They're hanging pots full of pink and purple petunias! I've never seen them grow so big!

Having written about the fruits of our labors the other day, it occurs to me that tonight vegetables have had their due. Describing what taste buds taste troubles me in my writing. How to describe the delicate flavor of a bright yellow summer squash after it's been chopped and tossed around in a skillet with a little salt, pepper oil, butter and onion? What are those descriptive tasty words? Zippy, tart, tangy, hot, spicy, sour? None of these fit. Moist with just the proper crunch producing a salty, peppery, buttery flavor taken from the skillet's flavorings might be close. But, nothing tastes and translates to the brain the flavors of fresh vegetables like the trusty tongue. Wrap your tongue around a word for it, and the taste just doesn't come through.

Tidbit Offering: Eat your vegetables, write your words, and remember to savor affectionately your own often indescribable tastes and talents.

P.S. Those words I need for taste, I'm certain they're right on the tip of my tongue!

Thanks for reading,
Cheryl

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Working Title: Novel #3

I'm happily rolling along next to the wide, choppy Madison River through the grass- covered hillsand mountains of southern Montana on the way over to Idaho. This western landscape of 
cowgirls and cattle reminds me of the novel I'm currently writing. It's  peopled with the likes of 
cowgirls in the Wild West shows of a bygone era and a young burlesque show ballet dancer 
performing in theaters in towns like Tombstone, Bisbee and Pearl before burlesque turned to
striptease. 
 
These women are long in their graves, but our heroin, Star Lance of Arrowstar (1st novel in the series) fame, decides to dig up and write about their robust lives spent catering to the entertainment lust of lonesome miners, cowboys, and the like. 
 
Her research uncovers secrets some in the small southwestern Arizona town of Mineral City 
would rather stayed buried with these women. Star is relentless because her future in Mineral
City depends on the success of her next historical fiction novel. (her first titled A Train Robber's Tale)
 
Will Star make it as an author and continue to keep her antique store open even while stirring 
up the hidden passions of her neighbors? And how does the new sheriff, J. D. Rafferty figure 
into this drama? 
 
I'm eight chapters into the  writing, and I can hardly wait to find out what Star uncovers next! 
 
Just crossed over into Idaho and the mountains crowding the road are towering even higher 
than those left behind in Montana. 

Let me know if you've read Arrowstar and if you're awaiting Novel #3. Your 
comments are always welcome here. The best way to find my novels: 
www.amazon.com/author/cherylthomas

Look for an excerpt from Novel #3 in an upcoming posting.

Write On! 
Cheryl

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Fruit Producing the Creative Juice: Is it really me?

Friday, July 26, 2013


Often when I'm immersed in writing a novel to the exclusion of all outside interference, it's almost like being in a trance. I'm floating along on a sea of words and those words come alive as if they're speaking to me instead of being  created by my brain. 

Yes, the characters do take me to places I never intended to go. They emerge as if they were real people whispering their next moves in my ear. This muse, this luscious fruit dripping with creative juices must come from somewhere outside my being. Of course, I have to know the craft, but what of inspiration?

If the spirit of the universe keeps whispering thoughts and moving my stories along, how can I put such stress on myself to get it right, to get it perfect? It's the letting go that makes the process work, isn't it? Letting go of self praise, self pity, self abuse seems the smart thing to do when the magic actually comes  from a higher source than self. 

Okay, okay so you're an agnostic writer, or maybe not. Maybe you don't tango with the muse. Please share your thoughts about the fruit you squeeze to get the juices flowing into your writing, your art, your creative endeavors. I really want to know so I can tap that fruit as well.

Take away for today:  Creative fruit isn't always an easy squeeze.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Just Another Thursday

We-Tired and Writing
Author Blog - Cheryl Thomas

Thursday, July 25, 2013 - First Posting

No clock to punch, no meals for five to fix, no house to clean, no husband shadowing my every move, so what's keeping me from the writing life I'd planned to claim as soon as I retired?

 It's six years into retirement, and while I've uploaded two novels to Amazon.com (find them at amazon.com/author/cherylthomas), I have written only one of them during this time. The other one I wrote while holding a full-time job and raising three great kids (Michael, Kimberly, and Stacie) as a single mom. 

The children are adults now with children of their own, and my husband has a rich professional life as a semi-retired antique motorcycle restoration wizard  (Arizona British Bikes - azbritbikes.com).  So, why am I not enthusiastically throwing myself into my longed-for second career as a novelist?

Over the years, I've honed my skills, studied the craft of writing, taken some classes and produced two contemporary novels. Now, I'm working on Novel #3, but not consistently enough to finish it in a reasonable length of time. In fact, it's been two years since Arrowstar hit the e-market, and I'm only a few chapters into the next in the series. I keep asking myself, "What's the big problem keeping me from employing my talent faithfully every day?"

I'm not the only one struggling with this question. I've got an artist friend, and we've talked about this phenomenon at length over coffee and long lunches. We both think fear might be a major factor keeping us from pursuing our life's passion for the creative. There's something very intimidating about a blank page or canvass to fill.  It's dangerous baring the creative soul for all to see.

Respond to my query and let me know if you've struggled in this way and what you think might be the root of the avoidance practices going on among the creative. What is it you think we're afraid of? Do you have a trick you use when you find yourself wrapped up in a similar malaise? 

I'll be sitting in front of a blank screen on the edge of my comfy chair on wheels awaiting both your wisdom and your woes. Or then again, I might be gardening, vacationing, writing blurbs for the church gift shop, helping plan the women's retreat, sewing on a button, shortening some slacks, baking, fixing a snack, reading someone else's book or a thousand other things that keep me out of that comfy chair.

Thank you sincerely for reading novels, blogs, tweets or whatever you might choose to read - I'm so not kidding - Support your favorite struggling artist.

Inspiration: "Take a chance; amaze yourself! " 

Cheryl