Occasionally, I enjoy updating my book covers, so during this downtime of COVID-19, I applied myself to doing just that. The first series I updated was the RED ROCKS TRILOGY, and the second was FINDING HOME. I also released the third novella in the JOURNEYS OF THE HEART SERIES.
During this season of seclusion I find myself reflecting on what is truly important -- family, friends, compassion, nature, prayer, and I know you can add to the list. This difficult season will end, but may our reflections never end.
Shout Outs to Amazing Narrators!
It's been a long time since I composed a blog post, and I guess it's because I get so caught up with projects that I forget about blogging. Anyway, since November, 2017 until the date of this blog, I have had four audiobooks released: SOMEWHERE by the Sea, SOMEWHERE to Spend Christmas, SOMEWHERE for a Hero to Hide, and Honey Kisses. The SOMEWHERE Series was narrated by Cate Barratt, and Honey Kisses by Jennifer Jill Araya. AND I couldn't be happier with these talented narrators. They create a living story out of the pages of a book. I felt like I was in the Oregon coastal town of Somewhere or the Triple T Ranch in Colorado.
And so, for this blog, I thought I'd list all of my audiobooks and acknowledge all of the awesome narrators I have had the pleasure of working with. Wendy Rich Stetson (Dream Kisses), Amy Gramour (Abby: Mail Order Bride; Broken Angel), and Crystal Sershen (Cry of the West: Hallie).
Thank you, Narrators!
After six years, I can finally say that the ROMANCE ON THE RANCH Series is complete, and although there were enough characters for me to continue writing indefinitely, I knew it was time for a final roundup -- the "Circle of Life" was complete. As in real life, the stories contain heartache and struggle, adversity and challenge, often met with despair and frustration by the heroes/heroines. Yet, the encouragement and help received from family, friends, and even strangers, give them the courage to forge onward. There are twists and turns, betrayals and disappointments, yet unexpected moments of forgiveness, and hopefully humor, over a span of about thirty years.
Since individual stories were released as ebooks, I decided to create paperback collections. A few years ago I released the first three books as a collection, but with the completion of the series, I wanted to make all the stories available in tangible form. To that end, there are two additional paperbacks now available, each with five books.
On a special note, I want to thank the readers of this series and give a shout out to those who left reviews and/or emailed comments, suggestions, and sometimes criticism. Constructive criticism is a wonderful learning tool.
Finally, here is shortlist of the Cast of Characters because there are too many for an all inclusive list. For a synopsis of each story, click here.
Sage Tanner: Gorgeous hunky model living near Paxtonville, Colorado, trying to keep his ranch afloat.
Sarah Carter a.k.a. Mims Murphy: Chubby, best-selling author who gets off to a bad start with Sage Tanner, the model for her latest book.
Jackson Martinez: Ranch foreman and Wall Street investor in book one; ranch owner in book two.
Ann Hackstetter: Stay at home mom in book one; widow in book two with an enormous secret.
Miles Brightman a.k.a. Maxwell Henry: Wheelchair bound best-selling suspense author.
Tooty Townsend: Twenty year old single mother of four year old son, Harris.
Dirk Branigan: Rodeo star with a busted leg and ten year old daughter, Tessa.
Monica Newport: Spoiled socialite and interior designer forced to join the working class as domestic help.
Connor MacKenzie: World famous artist with unbearable sorrow.
Celeste Brightman: Sister of Miles Brightman from book three. Also, wealthy charity organizer longing for her own family.
Sean Barfield: Famous rock star who spent his summers in Paxtonville before he hit the big time.
Tessa Branigan: Daughter of Dirk Branigan from book four who goes through a nasty divorce and ends up working for Tanner Veterinary Clinic back in her hometown.
Toby Tanner: Hell raising son of Sage and Sarah Tanner.
Preston Tanner: Twin brother of Toby who competes with Sean Barfield for Tessa's affection.
"Freckles": Feisty redhead who doesn't take guff from anyone, especially men.
Dovie Juniper: Physically challenged popular blogger who meets Toby Tanner at Boot Bustin' Barn while following up on a lead about the many famous people residing in Paxtonville.
Hannah Tanner: Daughter of Sage and Sarah, and sister of Toby and Preston, who fulfills a lifelong dream of experiencing diverse cultures when she accepts employment in a third world country.
Dr. Alexavier Wyndham: Medical doctor and son of an English Earl who is determined to send Hannah Tanner back to the states for her own safety.
Angel Martinez: Beautiful and gifted daughter of Jackson and Ann Martinez from book two.
Harris Brightman: Rodeo star and adopted son of Miles and Tooty Brightman from book three.
Eli Brightman: Brother of Harris and all around nice guy who is crazy about Angel Martinez, but knows she's in love with his brother.
Lucinda Bergamot: Reporter who throws Harris Brightman "under the bus" when she exposes family secrets worthy of tabloid reporting.
Hashknife Pony Express
America's longest continuous Pony Express is the Hashknife event that happens every January in Arizona. The route begins in Holbrook and covers over 200 miles, picking up mail at post offices in Heber-Overgaard, Payson, and Fountain Hills. By the time delivery is made to Scottsdale, over 20,000 pieces of mail have traveled via horseback. Since Heber-Overgaard isn't far from my home, hubby and I decided to enjoy some living history. I wrote a letter to myself (photo below) and mailed it at the Heber-Overgaad post office. My letter will receive a special postmark and I'm going to leave it unopened. Perhaps one of my descendant's will open it and say, "That was written by great-great-great grandma." As for myself, I have letters from the late 1800s written by family members to my great-great grandparents that I have framed in special glass so they can be enjoyed for years to come.
This modern day Pony Express has twenty-five riders from every walk of life. I overheard one rider say he is a policeman. Their ages range from young to seasoned. I was interested in how twenty-five men cover 200 miles and was told each man rides approximately one mile before handing off the mail pouch to the next rider. The men have set positions along the route and after finishing a mile, they load their horse onto their trailer, drive to their next location, unload their horse, and wait for the hand off again. It's a lot of work. We followed the riders for about four miles and stopped at their gathering place for lunch. I even got several autographs on the poster I bought (see below).
Since I love Old West history, I had a blast, and hubby, although not a history buff like me, also had fun and took some of the photos below. For anyone interested in this event, click here to go to the Hashknife Pony Express website. I hope this tradition never ends!
As a recap, 2014 was wonderful because hubby and I purchased a home in Arizona after a couple of years "wandering" in our RV. We tried several towns before deciding on the mountains/forests of eastern Arizona. The area is reminiscent of Oregon, a state we love, but without the long winters.
Before moving to our new home, we lived near Sedona, and it was during that time the beautiful red rocks gave me an idea for another historical romance. However, I had to "sit" on the idea for almost a year until my schedule was freed up. In 2015 I began writing HEALING WOMAN OF THE RED ROCKS. Sedona has a wonderful history of its settlement, but I chose a timeline before settlers arrived. More about the story (with photos) at the end of this blog.
The year 2014 was special for another reason. During the summer I was elated to learn that my story ABBY: MAIL ORDER BRIDE, was a finalist in the Readers' Favorite International Book Contest. In the fall, I was notified that I had won the gold medal for historical romance, and in November, hubby and I traveled to Miami for the awards ceremony. Receiving recognition for a story dear to my heart was an honor I will never forget, and never expected.
Also during 2014, I revised and re-released a backlist novella (JAZMINE) and released six new stories (a feat I may never repeat). Two of those stories were in an ongoing series titled ROMANCE ON THE RANCH. Whenever I think I've exhausted that series, a new idea pops into my mind. I'm now pondering an idea for book eight, with a possible title of FORGOTTEN KISSES.
Now, back to 2015...As I said before, I was finally able to begin writing HEALING WOMAN OF THE RED ROCKS, but before that, a friend who lives in Sedona and knows the trails, took me on a hike so I could scout out a location for the story. Here are a few of the photos I snapped.
As for the storyline, it takes place during the 1880s and revolves around a doctor whose wife died of a mysterious illness. Sadly, his daughter is displaying the same symptoms. He is heartbroken over the death of his wife and at a loss as to how to save his daughter. During a chance overhearing of a conversation, he learns of a woman living in the "red rocks" that the Indians call Healing Woman of the Red Rocks. Supposedly, she has great skill in helping humans and animals. After much consideration, he decides to make the long journey with his daughter to seek her help. During their travels they chance upon famous, and not-so-famous, real life characters from the Old West.
As for the Healing Woman, she comes from an ancestry of healers. For years, she has lived alone in the wilderness and helped those who come to her, both human and beast. She is often visited in her dreams by her dead grandmother who always foretells the arrival of a man who is different from the ones she has helped. After so many years, with no one arriving, she wavers in her belief of his existence.
I'm hoping to release the story in April, 2015. Here is an excerpt.
Tana awakened still hearing the echo of her grandmother's words from the realm of dreams. He coming, dearest Tana. He's the one who will make you cry.
Inhaling and slowly exhaling, Tana turned onto her side and yawned. Her grandmother Franny had died when Tana was sixteen and she often visited her granddaughter in dreams, always with the same message about someone coming. Years ago, Tana had eagerly awaited his arrival, but when it never happened, she'd decided her grandmother was confused in her heavenly home. Of course, how that could be so, she'd never found a satisfactory answer.
Tana stretched and watched dawn lighten her window. She loved the golden rays that reached like loving fingers through the precious glass. It was the only window in her cabin with glass and so it remained permanently unshuttered, except in inclement weather. The other windows were shuttered each night, not because she was fearful, but because of all the forest creatures drawn to her small cabin. If the windows were left open, she could awaken to any number of guests--birds, squirrels, raccoons, even an occasional snake.
The sun continued its ascent and Tana scooted to the edge of her bed until the light hit her squarely in the face. Drinking in the warmth of late spring, she pondered Franny's words, He's coming, dearest Tana. He's the one who will make you cry.
Speaking aloud, she said, "Franny, you've been teasing me with those words for years. I'm thirty now and still no one has come. And you know I don't cry. I didn't even cry when you were buried, or Papa or Mama, because I know you're always with me." She chuckled, "I sometimes see you out of the corner of my eye. And I always feel your presence. So, if I don't cry for the departed, why would I cry for a living person?"
As I write this blog, it's a beautiful, sunny afternoon. Before starting the blog, however, I was lying on my bed enjoying a breeze through the slider and open windows, and feeling good about having uploaded the second book in my Oasis series, Branded in Oasis. I was also thinking I should really take a week off because the final two weeks before release of a book are intense and time consuming. I spend on average, probably, eight to ten hours a day rereading the story for editing and formatting errors. Sometimes a few of those "pests" make it through, but fortunately, being self published, I can easily correct and update my books on Amazon and other sites.
Anyway, getting back to my nap (or nap that didn't happen); while lying there I started thinking about using my blog to layout ideas for books for the remainder of 2014 and into 2015. My current series (Oasis) has at least one more story to be written (a mystery romance titled Crashed in Oasis), but I've also been thinking about writing a novella in the same series of maybe fifty pages. It would be the story of two characters introduced in book one and expanded on in book two, namely, Bertram Babcock (the wicked step brother) and Cowgirl Kitty (I haven't given her a last name yet). I so love these characters that I want to know their story, but I have to put fingers to keyboard to find it out. As for the novella's lineup in the series, it would be book 0.5 and I would make it free as a lead in to the series.The title that keeps coming to mind is Bertram's Kitty.
So...that's two stories I need to write.
I've also been feeling drawn back to my Romance on the Ranch Series a.k.a. Kisses Series. I really want to write a romance between "mature" characters that are in their late fifties or early sixties, and I have a tentative title of Forever Kisses. But another book in that series that keeps begging to be written would be titled Rock Star Kisses, and it's the story between Tessa Branigan and Sean Barfield, teenagers in Christmas Kisses, who are now in their early twenties. Sean is a gifted musician who became a rock star. He met Tessa when they were teenagers. Tessa has always battled a weight problem. At school she was teased by the class bully who called her "Tubby Tessa." I really want to write their story, but it probably won't happen until early 2015.
Reflecting back, It has now been six years since I started writing and three years since I was able to quit my "day job." Writing full time is now my day job, and I treat it as such with timelines, goals, and deadlines. I work about six hours a day until, as mentioned above, two weeks before release of a book, and then I spend hours (overtime) on final edits.
Okay, now that I've set some goals on "paper" I might try that nap again.
I'm thrilled to have Sarah Schofield visiting my blog. Sarah's latest release, Duo, the sequel to her popular book, Solo, is now available, and I can personally recommend it. The story was so engrossing that I felt like I was living in Myrtle Creek, Oregon and attending South Umpqua High with a cast of unforgettable characters. There were so many twists and turns that I didn't want to put the book down.
GIVEAWAY: Sarah is giving away three Smashwords coupons for a free download of Duo. Smashwords is a great site that allows for downloads in many formats. To enter the drawing, all you have to do is leave a comment on this blog. Three winners will be randomly selected on April 2, 2014! Don't forget to leave your email address. Your privacy will be respected. Your email address will not show up publicly and you will not be placed on any mailing lists. If you want to be on Sarah's mailing list, please go to her website and sign up.
Now I'd like to welcome Sarah.
Verna: Hello, Sarah. Thanks for joining us. This is going to be fun.
Sarah: Hi, Verna. It’s really nice to be here. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to talk about Duo.
Verna: I know Solo fans have been waiting for the release of Duo, and I understand that Duo was longer in the making than you had anticipated. Would you like to expand on that?
Sarah: I began writing Duo before Solo was released. However, a few months after Solo was released my personal life became hectic. I’m a mom of two wonderful children and I also work fulltime outside the home. Compounding the stress from my job was knowing that I had readers waiting for Duo. I guess you could say I hit overload. Because of that, I wasn’t able to put my heart into Eliana’s story the way it deserved. It was then that I knew I had to take a break. I can’t apologize enough for the lengthy delay in releasing Duo, but I can honestly say that without the downtime, Duo wouldn’t be exactly what I wanted for Eliana’s story. But now it is.
Verna: For new readers, why don't you give a synopsis of Solo.
Sarah: Solo begins with sixteen year old Eliana Davis' father deploying overseas with the military. Her parents decide it would be best if she and her mother move to the small town of Myrtle Creek, Oregon, and live with her grandparents for awhile. Eliana is not happy about the move in the middle of her sophomore year in California, but she really doesn't have a choice. Because her father is in the military, she moves often, so she struggles with the decision of whether to make friends at her new high school, or keep to herself. Lucas Andrews makes that decision even more difficult.
Verna: Now back to Duo. What can you tell us about Eliana's life since Solo.
Sarah: Duo begins with Eliana returning from a short vacation to California. She’s in a good place and looking forward to starting the new school year with the friends she's made. However, her life changes when she receives some shocking news. I don’t want to give anything away, but Eliana definitely experiences a roller-coaster ride of emotions throughout the book.
Verna: I'd like to make mention of your book covers. I thought the Solo cover was beautiful, colorful, and perfect for the story, but I have to say, I love, love, the Duo cover. Did you use a designer for your covers or did you create them yourself? What made you choose the picture you used for Duo?
Sarah: I designed both covers myself. The picture for Solo was easy to find. It was one of the first ones I looked at. Duo, on the other hand, was difficult. I had a vision of what I wanted and searched several sites for the perfect image to visually represent the chemistry between Eliana and Lucas. My search ended when I finally found the picture on Dreamstime. It fit the story in so many ways.
Verna: Now that you have two books published, what are your plans for future books? Will you continue Eliana and Lucas’ story or move on to something else?
Sarah: As much as I love Eliana and Lucas, I feel that it’s time to release some of the other stories I’ve been working on. I’m not saying there isn’t a possibility of another story with Eliana and Lucas, but it won’t be any time soon. I think my readers will fall in love with my new projects just as they did with Solo and, hopefully Duo.
Verna: Before you leave, here are a couple of fun questions.
Question: Other than the present, tell us about an era you would like to visit, and why.
Sarah: I think I would like the Victorian era. I love the idea of being courted by a suitor while wearing one of those elegant gowns with a corset and a parasol.
Question: What is your favorite frou-frou drink.
Sarah: Oh, that’s an easy one. Most of the time I prefer Starbucks Iced Chai Lattes. I’m not a fan of hot beverages, but during the holidays I love Starbucks Egg Nog Lattes.
Verna: Sarah, thank you for stopping by. I wish you much success with Solo and Duo and look forward with anticipation to reading more of your books.
Sarah: Thanks so much for having me, Verna.
Verna: For anyone interested in reading Solo and Duo, they can be purchased from most online retailers. Listed below are some links. Solo is also available in paperback and Duo will be in paperback soon.
Thank you, readers, for visiting my blog. Here is Sarah's contact information.
After staring at the ceiling for an hour tonight, I climbed out of my warm and cozy bed because, honestly, staring at the ceiling is boring. Hopefully, writing this update will exhaust me (probably not gonna happen). Anyway, forging onward, I do have some exciting news. My latest release, Stranded in Oasis, has a brand new cover. The person to thank is the awesome Elaina Lee (For the Muse). She's designed several of my book covers and I love every one of them. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy designing my own covers, but my ability is hit-and-miss. Thank you Elaina for this beautiful cover!
I've uploaded the new look to Amazon, but it may take a couple of days to change over from the old one. In the business of writing books, there's a lot of waiting...waiting...waiting. You wait for the book to be published, you wait for someone to buy your book, you wait for reviews, you wait for inspiration for another story...wait...wait...wait. But it's all worth it.
Okay, now to continue with more news...
Fragile Hearts is set to be released in February. Oh, do I like this story! It's my first attempt at writing a Young Adult novel and I decided to use the pen name of Colleen Clay, so as not to confuse readers who are used to my books in the western and historical genres.
Originally, I had titled this story "Scorched," but then thought about naming it "Scorched Hearts," and then "Fragile," and finally settled on Fragile Hearts. Because I like writing romances between the most unlikely heroes and heroines, I had a lot of fun with this one. The heroine, Morgan Wheeler, is a young woman being forced by loving parents to become independent of them. She's attending her first year of college and living in a dorm for the physically challenged. A car accident when she was a teenager crippled her.
As for the hero, he is young man in his last year of college. He's the campus "hottie" who's always pursued by adoring females. He and Morgan become friends, and then more than friends. However, both are harboring secrets that began on that fateful day of Morgan's car accident.
And yes, I designed this cover. So far, I like it, but if that changes, I know who to turn to...Elaina Lee.
Onward for more news...
The books in the Unconventional Series, Abby; Broken Angel; and Ryder's Salvation, have previously only been available through Amazon. I decided to place these books with other retailers and used Smashwords to do so. The stories can now be purchased from Barnes and Noble, Apple, Kobo, Sony, and lots of other places. Links to Barnes and Noble, Apple, and Smashwords can be found on the Unconventional Series page of this website.
That seems to be all the news I have for now, except that I'm well into the writing of the second book in the Oasis Series, Branded in Oasis. I expect the book to be released in April or May.
Yawn...maybe I am getting tired.
THE RUSE, Andrews Brothers, Book One