Thursday, April 9, 2015

Thin Places: Big Bend Research

A few weeks ago when I mentioned I was preparing to publish the third novel in my "Thin Places" romantic suspense (with a touch of fantasy) fiction series, one of my Facebook friends commented, "I hope you got to go out and research on site."  Then they lamented how despite living in Texas, they never managed to make it to Big Bend National Park.

Yes, I got out to Big Bend.  In fact, I've been there nearly a dozen times starting from when I was a freshman in college.  I'll share a few highlights in this post.  Many of the stories in my book emanate from actual experiences during these visits.

My first introduction to that part of the world was through a fraternity brother and close friend.  His grandparents homesteaded their ranch located between Ft. Stockton and Marathon where initially they raised sheep.  Visiting during spring break, a small group of us stayed out at the ranch, rode horses up into the Glass Mountains, and took several days exploring further south to the Mexican border.  We visited Big Bend.  He knew many of the characters and much of the history of the area and with plenty of drive time, did some great story telling as we traveled through territory rich with tales from a time gone by.

After graduation, a few business associates and I met up with my college buddy and one of his local friends to float the Santa Elena Canyon.  The Rio Grande was flooding at the time and the trip through the canyon was absolutely incredible.  That time, we camped in the park four or five days and enjoyed hiking some of the trails and taking in the wide open spaces.

The next time I was to visit Big Bend was with my young family.  They had long wanted to go camping and with all three of them being native Texans, it occurred we ought to explore their own state.  We pitched tents in the Cottonwood Campground and spent our days hiking, exploring, and learning.  One of the highlights of that trip was being there after a period of rain which caused the desert to bloom.  A picture of my entire crew standing beside a huge, spindly, woody, Ocotillo cactus loaded with red-orange blooms is a keepsake.  We, too, floated the Santa Elena Canyon, which is pictured on the cover of my novel.  This time the water was low causing us to have to carry the raft over more than a few rocky areas of the river.

When my son was in Boy Scouts, our troop managed a four-day adventure weekend for fathers and sons to Big Bend.  Nearly 80 of us camped at Rio Grande Village.  Again we floated the canyon, hiked trails, and even had an astronomer from nearby Davis Mountain Observatory come one evening to help the boys earn the Astronomy merit badge.

The Gage Hotel Rocking Chairs

One of the more recent trips to Big Bend celebrated my wife.  She was having a birthday and I asked her where she wanted to go.  Expecting Hawaii because we love it so, imagine my surprise when she said Big Bend.  We spent a week in early December and based out of The Gage Hotel in Marathon.  It was a magical time, one we'll never forget.  A freak heavy snowfall hindered traveling the hour south into Big Bend for two days.  The picture at right is from the porch of the hotel the night the snow started falling.

Once the snow melted enough for us to hike, something my wife wanted to do for her birthday, we took on The Lost Mine Trail.  Buck and Liz hike the same trail in this story and I mention Liz taking her camera and all the wildflowers.  Although the season in the book differs from when we were there, here is one example of a specimen we photographed following moisture the snow brought to that trail:

For me, there is a mystical almost other-world element to the area.  That's one of the things that made me want to revisit it with my friends Buck Cheyne and Elizabeth Harrington... and share it with YOU.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

"Thin Places: Hawaii" Published


Well, it's published at last.  I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did the writing.  In an earlier post, I addressed Why Hawaii?  Now, here's the blurb about this particular story:
"All Buck Cheyne wanted to do was escape to Hawaii for some well-deserved R&R with the woman he’d met in Santa Fe just a few months prior.  He and Elizabeth Harrington had already traveled a far distance down the relationship highway.  But it was time to see how being together for more than just a day or two at a time might impact their feelings.  There seemed no escaping the fact that being mega-wealthy and having a thriving global business made spending quantity time with that one special person almost impossible.  When his college friend, Lana Jacobs, finds herself in a dire predicament, his best plans for a vacation with Liz in paradise are further derailed."
 You can download it today from the Amazon Kindle bookstore or in the coming days at Apple iBooks, Barnes and Noble nook, kobo, Scribd, and Page Foundry.

With the publication of this second in my "Thin Places" series, I am making the first novel, Thin Places: Santa Fe permanently free and available across other mediums than exclusively Amazon.  Those links are in the margin to the right of this post.  Amazon should be matching the free pricing soon, if they have not already done so.

Thank you for the emails from all of you on my email list who immediately bought the book when I notified you yesterday!  You can be the first to know, just like that group, by clicking on the link at the top on the right.  I promise not to barrage you with a bunch of emails and sales hype.

Now, back to plotting book 3 in the series:  Thin Places: Big Bend...

Friday, July 25, 2014

Intentional Moves

A few months ago my adult children rendezvoused in Sonoma, California for what they termed was a kids-only getaway.  This coaster was their gift to me, a memento of their trip.  It was given with the words, "when we saw it we immediately thought of you, Dad."  Honestly, that ranks among the most cherished words ever spoken to me.

First, they're said by those I love and care about most.  Second, the message is indicative of a bit of wisdom they've apparently gleaned from he lives his life.

They knew when they got the coaster I was deep in the throws of writing Thin Places:  Hawaii.  Plotting had taken me longer than anticipated.  Despite having already published a 50k word novel, the prospect of completing another was daunting at times.  There were some frustrations and set-backs.  But today, this little object sits atop my desk as I write.  Yes, it puts wind in my writer sails.

For eons, I'd wanted to be a published author.  Two years ago when it finally dawned on me that now was the time to begin moving in that direction, I set about writing a full-length fiction novel.  Let me tell you, there can be loads of intimidation writing a book, even if you've experienced quite a bit of success in other arenas and are not easily intimidated.  Writing, at least for me, caused me to question all sorts of things, namely if my head was on straight for even setting out on such a path.

To help me overcome the magnitude of finishing a book, my writing coach shared a piece of his wisdom.  He said that instead of being paralyzed by having to turn in a 50,000 word novel, think differently.  Just write at least 1,000 good words every day.

His words proved to be a real game-changer for me and my productivity.  It was amazingly simple.  I could do it.  And it reminded me of sage advice I'd heard from others in completely unrelated work.  One of those ditties was from motivational speaker Zig Ziglar in his quip, "Inch by inch it's a cinch."  Another that came to mind was:  How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.

So, I thought I'd take a few minutes and share this with you.  Hopefully, you'll find it helpful for whatever the thing is you've set before you to tackle.  Even taking baby steps toward your specific dream each day is progress.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Why Hawaii?

I was asked this week by a reader, "Why did you choose to set your next book in Hawaii?"  This post answers that question.

The simple response is that I fell in love with Hawaii on my very first visit.  Soon after getting married, one of my dreams was to someday take my family to Hawaii for vacation.  I made that a goal and set aside work bonus monies for a couple of years to make the dream a reality.  When we landed in Honolulu and got off the plane, the beautiful tropical flowers, aloha spirit, and appealing fragrances of the islands instantly hit all of us.  It was total appeal on so many sensory levels.

Our first night was spent in Honolulu at a Waikiki Beach hotel.  I will never forget waking early to have breakfast and how we enjoyed all the amazingly flavorful homegrown pineapple and papaya.  They just don't taste as good back on the US mainland.  Catching the sunrise over Diamond Head was a treat, too (time change had us up early).

We have been fortunate to make many trips back to Hawaii as a family enjoying stays on most of the inhabited islands.  The wife and I even managed an escape for the entire month of February one year on Lanai.  With the children though, they preferred Maui and in particular Kaanapali Beach.

I could stop here but that would not be the crux of the story about a motivating force that propelled me to work extra hard and regularly travel to Hawaii.  Except for the month on Lanai, we have only traveled to Hawaii around the Thanksgiving holiday.  The backstory there is not complicated.  One year on Thanksgiving Day, we were all sitting around the dining table at a family member's home.  The time before dinner had become somewhat charged with various relatives and close family friends derisively challenging each other about political ideologies, educational choices for children, how other members chose to spend their money....well, you get the picture.

That tension carried over to the table despite all the "happy face" poses.  Sadly, this was the typical scene holiday after holiday where the extended family gathered together.   And this particular year I reached my fill.  I vowed then and there that this was my family's last time to have to endure these toxic "family" relationships.  The next year we went to Hawaii for the first time.  Every year after that until the children were older and off to college, we escaped to the islands.  I must say that it is much easier to give thanks in Hawaii on the beach with a Mai Tai in hand!  And that, as Paul Harvey said, is the rest of the story.

With Thanksgiving just over a month away, it's probably not too late to book your flight!  :-)

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Inspiration Everywhere

So, while Thin Places:  Santa Fe is in the editing stage, I can come up for air from writing and tell you a quick story.  Our daughter rescued the border collie pictured above.  He was not fond of herding sheep.  In fact he didn't like animals of any kind.   So the breeder found a good home for him.

He typically stays with us when she travels on business, which is just about every month for a week at a time.  I've learned that this Einstein of the dog breeds does herd after all:  Nyla-bones and tennis balls and people.  It's a riot!

The 3 year old is pictured lounging at my feet just beneath my desk.  I snapped it on a recent afternoon while writing.  At the time, I had taken my gaze off the computer screen because I had come to a place in the story where it was important that my lead character's dog have a name.  I don't know if you're a dog lover or have ever had one as a pet.  We have and naming them was something akin to naming our three children.  The name had to fit.

Nothing, and I mean nothing was readily coming to mind.  I got up from my chair, walked down the hall, then down the stairs and into the kitchen to pour myself a cold glass of water.  Just like he always does, this dog was directly beside me every step of the way, except he does take the stairs really fast and wins at getting to the bottom just about every time.

I got tickled at his persistence following me everywhere and said to him, "You're just determined to be my shadow."  Did you just see the light bulb in my head turn on brightly?

Buck's dog is named Shadow.  That's not my daughter's dog's name.  But he was the inspiration.

Shadow is not a border collie either.  You'll have to read the book to find out what breed he is and you won't have long to wait.  It will be available via Amazon Kindle in a few weeks.  (If you haven't already done so, signing up for my email list will keep you notified about future releases and specials.  The link is at the top right on this page.)

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

little tweaks = BIG CHANGES!

I am a member of an awesome private group that my writing coach created.  Though small, it's an incredibly encouraging group of fellow authors at all different stages of their publishing adventure.

Every now and then someone will mention that they just don't think they can hack it.  Among the recommendations for conquering this kind of thinking, a fellow member recommended this video that she watched and applied.

Many of us in the group took pause and spent the 21 minutes listening to Amy Cuddy's TED Talks presentation.  Some of us started applying it before doing the "butt in the chair, mind in the story, words on the page" (thank you Nora Roberts) thing.  AMAZING!

The reason I share it with YOU is that it's not just for writers.


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

What Are "Thin Places?"

I stumbled across the term "thin places" some years ago.  A book I read had a fascinating story that took place in Ireland.  One of the characters reminded me of a close friend of my grandfather who owned the legendary New Orleans bar that carried his name, Pat O'Brien.  Having married a woman with Irish heritage, I was doing some research to learn more.  Following the "black Irish" trail, I landed on an altogether unfamiliar term -- thin places.

At the time, not much was written about thin places.  I did learn that it is reasonably clear that this is an old Celtic concept.  Today, you can easily find a lot more information about thin places.  It was then that the idea of writing a fiction tale about thin places was birthed in me.

My first book in my "Thin Places" series will be published by summer's end.  As word gets out, I've been asked by family members and friends, "What in the world are thin places?"

Of all that I've read about them, the best definition for my writing purposes (the one that gives me the most latitude) comes from Eric Weiner, a writer for The New York Times.  Here is how he describes thin places:
They are locales where the distance between heaven and earth collapses and we’re able to catch glimpses of the divine...

So, there you have it.  If you're interested in a little more exploration I encourage you to read Eric's excellent article "Where Heaven and Earth Come Closer."

The main character in my novel has a thin place experience that is unexpected, one he is not seeking.  I'm looking forward to sharing his story in THIN PLACES:  SANTA FE.