Too close to home

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On Wednesday morning around 8AM, a student at nearby UCMerced pulled out a hunting knife in a classroom on campus and started stabbing people. By the time the whole thing was done, 4 people were being treated for stab wounds–two seriously enough to be transported by helicopter to a trauma hospital–and the 18-year-old student who initiated the attack was dead.

My nephew is a parking guard at the UC. He works mornings. My first thought, of course, was: Is Michael okay? I also have many wonderful friends and several book club members who are faculty and work at the school. Were they all safe?

Luckily, the answer to those questions is: YES.

But safe doesn’t mean they were untouched by what happened. As Jamie, Michael’s wife who also works at UCMerced but at an off-campus facility, put it in a Facebook post, there’s plenty of heartache to go around in the aftermath:

So many of Mike‘s family and our friends contacting me to check on us today. The parents and staff at my girls’ school checking on his safety, and if the girls were worried and ok. To say that the events of today were shocking or sad is such an understatement. But the outpouring of love and support has filled my heart and I want you to know how appreciative we are. Neither of us were on campus when it happened. By some strange twist of fate, I had asked Mike to take Parker to her orthodontist appointment this morning. He normally begins work at 6:45. Selfishly, I’m so grateful that he was not there during the attack. He was later let on campus and my heart is heavy for the heartache he had to witness in the aftermath.
My heart is breaking for the families of the victims and the witness who now are dealing with experiencing such a tragic event. There are many stories of heroism, kindness, and love today. Please please please let these affect you more than the fear and sadness. 

This attack made national news, so you’ve probably heard as much as I have about the details: http://abc30.com/news/uc-merced-stabbing-suspect-identified/1069531/ As days go on, we’ll have more details about the who, how, when, and where, but what we may never fully know is the why. Revenge may have been his the motive, but why wouldn’t some sort of failsafe kick in to tell this young man that what he plotted was a very bad idea–that he could wind up dead if the acted on his bizarre plans? A very bad idea, indeed.

My heart is still heavy, but, taking Jamie’s advice, I’m going to try to stay positive, focus on the good around me and hug my loved ones. You have to start somewhere.

Deb

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PS: I have something new and fun happening on my website. My publisher, Tule, has set up an interactive sort of contest that allows readers to participate in “unlocking” chapters of my not-yet-released book, MONTANA MIRACLE. Chapter 1 is already open. You can download it here: http://littl.ink/DKS 

The Best-Laid Plans…result in a plot

I always identify with characters in books that convince themselves they’re doing the right things for the right reasons and tell themselves no one will get hurt. Of course what happens next is the plot of your story.

In my new book, MONTANA ROGUE, my hero, Tucker Montgomery is in a transitional stage of his life, although he thinks this only applies to his career, not his love life, too. My heroine, Amanda Heller, has started the process of breaking free of some weighty, familial bonds to find her own way, but that process is not without challenges–especially in A family like Amanda’s. They tell themselves they can do what they need to do while enjoying a short summer fling–something Tucker calls “roommates with benefits.” They’re grown-ups. Who could possibly get hurt?

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Of course, once their hearts become engaged, everything changes.

Here’s a snippet from their “Black Moment”:

      Watching her grandmother break down in court–her daughter more embarrassed by her mother’s tears than sympathetic–had crystalized a shell over Amanda’s heart. Screw love. Screw family. Not that either of those words belonged in the same sentence with the name Heller.

      “So, you’re throwing in the towel? Rolling over to your parents’ every demand?”

       “You don’t know them, Tucker. You don’t know what my father is capable of. I do. I know when to cut my losses.”

      He gestured toward himself. “I’m one of those losses?”

     The biggest. Even bigger than Molly.

      “Let’s cut to the chase. We made an agreement. You upheld your part of the bargain. The house looks great. It should list for well over what the estate would have gotten if we hadn’t spruced it up. In return for your help, I agreed to handle your PR for your grand opening and design your website.”

      He crossed his arms, eyes narrowed as if waiting for the other shoe to fall. “Yeah, and now, you’re leaving with three more days of grand opening activities to go.”

      She stepped to the dresser to rest her hip against it. Her feet were throbbing and her calves screamed from standing in the heels she’d grown unaccustomed to wearing. But, as much as she wanted to kick them off and go barefoot, she didn’t dare get out of costume for fear he’d see through her performance.

       “As someone wisely pointed out when he tried to talk me into setting up my own business in Montana, I can do nearly every bit of the follow-up from anywhere in the world. In this case, I will be hands-on in New York, while you and your team make things happen on the ground. I will file a report tracking the online hits, referrals, and visits to your website. Your sales next week should reflect the word-of-mouth generated from Facebook and Twitter. And I’ve already engaged a dozen rollercoaster enthusiasts who have agreed to blog and tweet and share videos in return for a free ticket.”

       She tossed up her hands. “The rest is up to you. I’m positive Mountie’s Marvelous Zip Line and Enduro Course will be a huge success.”

      He didn’t say anything for a couple of heartbeats.

      The pause gave her time to memorize his face. She thought she detected a couple of new worry lines across his brow. She’d seen behind his carefree Cajun boy mask. She knew how much he cared.

      “What happens to the cat?”

       “I spoke with the director of Molly’s care facility. If you take Peaches there in a carrier, they will help him acclimate to the change. Apparently, they do this all the time.”

        “They’ll probably drug him,” Tucker snapped.

        “True. But at least my grandmother will have one familiar face around for as long as she has memory to draw upon.”

       “And the piano?”

       “I told Mother I wanted you to have it because you paid to have it tuned, and she laughed at me.”

       Actually, June had spewed a sip of her fifteen-dollar martini. “What will a man who lives in a tent do with a baby grand?”

       The memory fueled the anger Amanda been suppressing ever since she walked into the hearing room to find her mother and the newly hired Montana attorney waiting to brief her on the Heller plan. The only satisfaction Amanda had felt all day was the look on her mother’s face when she spotted Austen Zabrinski, the first lawyer Amanda had ever met who knew how to dress. Austen made her mother’s hired hack look like the “podunk guttersnipe” Molly had called him, loud enough for everyone in the family courtroom to hear.

        But even someone as savvy and politically connected as Austen couldn’t prevent the inevitable.

      Amanda pushed off from her roost and marched to the closet. Her giant suitcase sat right where she left it after her move from the Graff. She flung it on the bed, unzipped it with a quick, angry thrust that broke a nail. She popped her finger in her mouth to nibble down the uneven nail.

       Tucker’s body language changed. “Amanda, slow down. Let me help.”

       “No, you can’t help. Nobody can.”

        “What’s that supposed to mean? You’re not an indentured slave. This is still a free country. Nobody has a gun to your head, right?”

       More like an AK47 trained on the people I love.

       “You’re wrong. There might not be a gun to my head, but, believe me, you don’t say no to people like my father.” Not without horrible repercussions. “And, as my mother has pointed out numerous times in the past how many hours since she arrived here, I owe them my loyalty.”

        Tucker stood with the powerful grace she loved about him and walked to her side. “Amanda, you’re wrong about that. Loyalty is earned, not bought.”

       She turned, grabbed the thickest wad of hanging clothes she could embrace, and walked the armload to the open suitcase. “And they say I’m naive,” she muttered. “Grow up, Tucker. This isn’t a game. This is my life. My career. My future. If I don’t get back on the Heller express now, it’ll run over me.” Along with everyone I care most about.

       “Bullshit.”

        She pivoted, her heels digging into the carpet. “It’s over, Tucker. We had some fun. We both knew this wasn’t long-term. You’re going back to American Male, aren’t you? As soon as the zipping season ends?”

        He swallowed. “Yes, but that’s a couple of months off.”

       “So, what am I supposed to do in the meantime? Live in a tent on the mountain with you? Do I look like a tent-living mountain girl?”

       Say, yes. Please say, yes. She held her breath waiting for his answer.

       His gaze started at her shoes and worked upward, slowly. Finally, he searched her face. She wondered if the make-up she’d borrowed from her mother would successfully hide any trace of her tears.

       “No,” he said, shaking his head slowly from side-to-side. “You look like the other Amanda. The New York society girl.”

 ~~~

Awww, heck. I hate when that happens.

Luckily, I believe people can learn from their mistakes and love will prevail. That’s why I write–and read–romance novels. I crave my happily-ever-afters. Don’t you?

Happy reading!

Deb

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PS: below are some buy links to MONTANA ROGUE in case you’re interested, and here’s a link to my Tule Publishing blog – It’s a tough job but… — if you’d like see some of the research that went into this book, including a YouTube video of my own zip line experience.

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Amazon

Get your zip on!

My company has arrived and we are off on our Gold Rush country adventure today. One of our first stops is at Moaning Caverns in Calaveras County where some of us will be zipping.

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Show of hands. How many of you have done a Zip Line? Did it look anything like this one?

I’ve zipped twice and I found the experience thrilling and a major attitude adjustment. Embracing your fear to look at the world in a new way is very liberating.

The hero of my upcoming release MONTANA ROGUE is building a zip line near Marietta, Montana. He’s the rogue.

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I can’t wait for you to meet Tucker Montgomery, definitely one of the most…umm…unique characters I’ve ever had the pleasure of writing. A Hot Shot firefighter, along with his two best buddies, Flynn Bensen (MONTANA HERO) and Justin Oberman (MONTANA REBEL), Tucker’s off-season job is a dancer/performer with American Male, Inc.–a Magic Mike sort of burlesque show.

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Tucker loves his life, but the physical demands of both jobs have taken a toll, so he’s looking ahead, and Montana called to him. He’s invested everything he’s got–and then some–to build Mountie’s Marvelous Montana Zip Line and Enduro Course.

Here’s a sneak peek from the zip he makes with his summer “roomate-with-benefits,” Amanda Heller:

The morning air couldn’t have been more perfect, Tucker thought the next day. Cool with a hint of the heat to come.

July, he’d been told, was a favorite month for sporting enthusiasts. From online conversations he’d had with other zip line owners around the country, the weather could make you or break you in this business. One place in California kept rain gear on hand for the winter months. Tucker would have to stock up for the spring, but he planned to close the gate and hit the dance circuit at the end of September. Or mid-October at the very latest.

At least, that was the plan. Justin had other ideas.

“Cross-country skiing, man,” Justin said, as he helped Amanda into her harness.

“I’ve heard snowshoeing is popular, too,” Amanda added.

“Great. Who’s going to build the lodge? Cold-weather sports need a place to warm up. The tent won’t work,” Tucker said, stepping into his harness. He pulled it up snug and leaned over to work his shoulders through the top straps like a pair of suspenders.

Glancing to his right, he saw Justin apply the locking carabiner to the two attachment loops at Amanda’s chest. “Get out of the way. Let me do that.”

Justin rolled his eyes. “Picky.”

“Letch.”

Amanda snickered, obviously beginning to loosen up. She’d offered a slew of excuses to avoid testing out the zip line this morning, but Tucker remained adamant that she needed to experience the thrill in order to sell the thrill.

Mountie’s Marvelous Montana Zip Line was set to open in twenty-four hours. Most of that time would be devoted to zipping the guides so they could get down every safety measure, but the business side of things was equally important.

That’s where Amanda came in. His website looked great and seemed to be running smoothly. Since Ryker Bensen was still on his honeymoon, Amanda had hired Ryker’s photographer friend to take still shots to plaster around the Internet. And she had a professional videographer lined up to film testimonials from guests as soon as the lines were operational.

“Did I tell you Mountie’s Marvelous website already has had more than a 100K visits and zips are being booked at a phenomenal rate considering we don’t have any reviews posted yet?”

“Yes, you did,” Amanda said. “Did I tell you Bailey Zabrinski and Kat Robinson are bringing a carload of kids to test it out–and talk it up–this afternoon?”

“Cool.”

But the morning belonged to Tucker and Amanda.

“Sit into the harness and lift up your feet so I can make sure it’s snug enough,” he told her.

He made a couple of adjustments, his fingers lingering on the sun-kissed skin of her upper thighs. “How’s that feel?”

“Perfect.”

He noticed Justin watching so he quickly made the same adjustments to his own harness. “I haven’t done this since Mexico. Fell completely in love with the idea of affordable cheap thrills.”

“Isn’t that redundant?” Justin asked.

“You’re redundant.”

Amanda stepped between them. “Welcome to Testosterone City,” she said with a laugh. “Are we going to do this or not? My mother is coming, remember?”

She’d broken the news that morning.

“My mother is making an unplanned site inspection,” she’d told him, with such a flat, dispassionate tone she had to have practiced the delivery. “She also plans to attend Molly’s competency hearing.”

Tucker wasn’t completely surprised, since June’s lawyers were the ones who’d initiated the petition to have Molly declared incompetent.

“Are we ready?” Justin asked, taking charge of the zip. “You’re going to make a lateral practice run first. Nice and easy.” He looked at Tucker. “Do you want to go first?”

“You bet.”

“Wait,” Amanda said, her hand settling with familiarity and a certain amount of concern on his bare forearm. “Are you sure your doctor cleared this?”

“Yep,” Tucker fibbed. He hadn’t asked his ortho doc specifically if it was safe to zip, but the man had given him the okay to resume normal activities. Jumping around was normal for Tucker. He’d wrapped his ankle just in case and he’d chosen to wear hiking boots that laced to the mid-shin. The boots had protected his ankles through some of the most difficult terrain on the planet. A little zip was not going to be a problem.

As per protocol, one of their newly trained guides, a college girl named Kelly, went through the step-by-step safety instructions. “Feet extended, sit back in the harness and let gravity do its job. Squeeze to brake with a four-to-six-foot lead. Ease to a stop.”

He caught most of her words, even though his gaze remained on Amanda, who appeared to be having a serious conversation with Justin. What are they talking about? Me? The business? The grand opening? The possibilities were endless, and he had no reason to be jealous. Absolutely zero.

So, why was he?

He recognized the emotion, even though he went out of his way to avoid feeling enough of an attachment to anyone or anything to ever be jealous.

“Are we good?” Kelly asked.

“Yes.” He regretted his testy tone when she frowned and looked a little hurt. Hurting the feelings of cute girls was so not his style, but he was too preoccupied at the moment to care. He turned toward his destination pole, pushed off and picked up his feet.

Did his ankle twinge a tiny bit? Maybe, but nothing to worry about. This was a piece of cake.

Except for the fact he completely misjudged his braking distance and wound up dangling like a dufus fifteen feet from the landing pole. Justin’s bark of laughter carried across the pure mountain air. Proof, of course, that Tucker’s focus was shot.

With a little help from the guide who had been braced to prevent his collision with the padded pole, Tucker managed to make it to the platform. His guide disconnected the line and directed him to a safe spot to watch the next zipper. Amanda. Considerably lighter–and with a great deal more grace–she zipped right to the platform, braking like a pro.

Tucker barely noticed. All he could see was the light of joy in her face, the unguarded pleasure in her eyes and the smile that lassoed his heart and squeezed the air out of his lungs.

Oh, good God, he thought. It’s finally happened. I’m in freakin’ love.

Next week, I’ll share some more pics from our travels. In the meantime, have a great weekend!

Deb

 

 

 

Beach, BookBub and Book Club

Oh, what a weekend it was!

First, you should know that I live in close proximity to the Central Valley of California. Native Americans knew perfectly well the only way to survive a summer in the Central Valley was to pack up and head either to the mountains or the coast.

I chose the coast. Take a look at this sunset and you’ll see why.

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All-in-all, it was the delightful respite I longed for, except for one salient fact: my book, MONTANA COWBOY, came out in a BookBub ad on Saturday.

BookBub is one of the most popular and effective newsletters in the reading world. Typically, a BookBub ad can do wonders for getting your book into the hands/Kindles of new readers. Because of its reach and popularity, getting your book accepted can take months of trying (four attempts by my wonderful marketing exec at Tule Publishing) and these ads don’t come cheap. So, when you are accepted, it’s a joyous moment–and one that probably works better if you have access to WiFi.

Oops. No WiFi for me.

But, luckily, I have good friends who followed my book’s climb up the Amazon Best Seller List as attentively as I would have if I’d been home. My wonderful pal, Eve Gaddy, sent me this:

 

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Naturally, I was happy-dancing in the sand on the beach to the amusement of tourists and their dogs. Champagne and gorgeous sunset to follow (see above photo).

Knowing that the temperatures in the Valley were supposed to reach 110-F this week made us consider playing hooky from life. But, I had a meeting of the Wine, Women & Words Book Club to attend, so…we headed inland, watching the outside temp soar.

Our Book Club meeting was at the beautiful home of my friend, Donna. It’s an oasis, actually, with a gorgeous pool. We swam, snacked, enjoyed a “taco bar” (brilliant idea for summer potluck, by the way) and discussed women’s rights and roles in society and cultural inequalities as brought to light by the book: The Pearl That Broke Its Shell.

18505784 Really interesting discussion and a provocative read. Here’s another insight on this topic, if you’re interested. http://www.theguardian.com/global/2011/nov/30/afghanistan-girls-dressing-as-boys

All in all, it was a fabulous weekend I won’t soon forget…because I brought home a little reminder–from the heart of the sea.

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Here’s hoping your coming weekend is just as memorable!

Deb

I Tweet, therefore, I Am?

I set up my Twitter account back in the beta-testing stage and promptly pretended it/I didn’t exist. When I’d get a notice that someone was following me, I felt a little creeped out and I’d ask aloud, “Why?”

Fast forward to some writers conference somewhere when the hot topic was Twitter for Business. Okay, I’m definitely a business. I decided to get serious about growing my business. I started with 357 followers…again, why? I never tweeted. I was the dullest tweep on the planet.

But I found a coach–thank you, Rogenna Brewer. I learned. Now, I’ve crested 5K. Not a lot compared to those with a zillion followers, but I’m happy.

Screenshot 2015-06-14 16.52.56 Do I think this helps sell books? Oh, who knows? But once you get comfortable with the format, tweeting becomes a bit like a game.

And my most recent challenge has been to find a way to make it play with itself. (Sounds dirtier than it is.) I’m all about the visual these days. You’ve seen some of my memes in my recent blogs:Montana Hero quoteMontana Cowboy FREE Father's Day Tule Imagine my glee when a friend told me about a service that will feed my Tweets with images in a way that won’t make Twitter think you’re a spammer. :-) The service is called: Feed140.

Screenshot 2015-06-18 16.08.08 One of the cool things about this service is they offer playlists of their own that you can use to supplement your feed. I chose 100 Motivational and Self-Help quotes.

Here’s one in my feed: The achievement of one goal should be the starting point of another. -Alexander Graham Bell

I’m still figuring things out, but here’s a quick primer:

1.) Sign up for the free option to start out (no risk if you don’t like it).

2.) Create tweets and save them in a Word doc. Since I knew I wanted to be able to take advantage of Feed140′s Playlist option, I cut and pasted each tweet in the Playlist queue (not the Twitter queue). You can add tweets to the Twitter queue independently of the Playlist queue, but they will go away after they’ve posted and you have to fill the queue again. (Believe me, I did this and was not amused.) With each tweet, upload an image to go with it.

(Aside: I make memes using Canva. I will go into this in another blog, but it’s easy and cheap.)

3.) Visuals are a great eye-catcher in a Twitter Feed. Don’t believe me? Check your feed and see where your eye goes.

4.) Pick the frequency that you want your tweets shared. Feed140 insists that you have enough tweets to meet 3 days of unique tweets in order to make the Playlist initiate a loop with random selections (just like with your music). I uploaded 30 tweets, and set my frequency to 10 tweets/day for 3 days.

Here’s one of my tweets and the meme that goes with it:

She thought she had all the answers…at 17. Who doesn’t? @BNBuzz  MONTANA COWGIRL http://clc.li/hvS #readzTule   COWGIRL - mistakes rodeo5.) Don’t have enough tweets? Think about this: if your book is on multiple platforms and/or foreign countries, you can use the same tweet and meme with a different buy link for each format. I may change the wording slightly to target that link and possibly get some RTs (retweets).

You should also create interesting, non-commercial tweets. I support libraries, so I have some positive tweets about books, bookgirls, reading and libraries that I sprinkled into the mix.

Ex. Have you hugged a librarian today? #iheartlibraries quotes-about-inspirational_368599-4 So, if you’re new to Twitter, let’s connect. My handle is @debsalonen.

If you’re an author wondering whether or not you want another time-suck in your busy life, I can’t give you a definitive answer. But I will say that visuals help raise visibility and connect at some level that mere words don’t. Maybe they feel like less of a hard sell. And, if you can make one effort do twice the work, then why not give it a try?

And because life is soooo much more than just PR, here’s the other thing I did last weekend–my granddaughter’s 8th birthday. Daisy cake Deb PS: Next week, I’m going to tell you more than you ever wanted to know about making a book trailer. Oh, joy! ;-)

Debra Salonen

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The end, the lovely end

Montana Hero quote

You’ll have to forgive me. I’m a little brain dead. I sent off my completed manuscript this afternoon. I finished the first draft of this book several weeks ago, but the second read seemed to take forever. It required some spit and polish and toning down some noisy secondary characters.

This happens sometimes. Do you know anyone who thinks their story is utterly fascinating and hogs the spotlight? This happened in my second published book. I knew the story I wanted to tell. I had the characters all lined up, a plot and everything. Then the hero’s best friend showed up and suddenly, it was all about him. And, darn it, he was pretty fascinating.

Luckily, I learned from my first experience. This time I cut  every flashy scene with Hero #2 in it and and pasted it in a file called: MONTANA ROGUE. That title fits him to a tee.

Since I’m so tired, I’m going make this blog short and sweet. The sweet part is the Sneak Peek scene I shared with my newsletter followers. Here you go:

 MONTANA HERO 

Mid-January, the San Bernardino Mountains wildfire

      Flynn Bensen recognized the dream the minute it started in his sleeping mind.

     His old frenemy was back. The homestead looked exactly as he remembered it. An authentic log cabin in the high Sierra, aged to a rummy golden brown from dozens of summers. Its metal roof was rusted so poetically you’d have thought God used a fine-tipped paintbrush to add just the right touch of umber. The word bucolic came to mind. A word Flynn never used until that day last September.

     He tried to resist the pull. He knew how this story ended. Why subject myself to it again?

      I won’t fall into the trap. I’ll turn left instead of right. I’ll ignore the whinny.

       But the eerie sound filled his ears, sending a shiver through his body. The horse’s abject fear seized hold and wouldn’t let go.

        Suddenly, he was deep in the fire zone. Heat from the hundred-plus temperature made every breath pure agony. His pack felt as if he’d loaded it with lead weights. His legs seemed disconnected from his body as he pushed onward toward the horse pen. Two frightened animals, the whites of their eyes visible at every turn, paced, reared, and tossed their heads. Every whiff of smoke drove them closer to the brink of frenzy.

     This time will be different, he told himself. This time I’ll do it right.

     This time I’ll save her.

      The position of the old woman’s body never changed. Her head rested inches from the watering trough, face turned away, as if she couldn’t bear to watch what happened to her beloved animals. She seemed smaller in hindsight, fragile and delicate. Spikes of silver hair stuck out like a bad wig. But she was breathing…always breathing. Just enough to give him hope.

       “Stay with me, now. We can do this,” he said, picking her up in his arms like a small child. Why hadn’t he thought of that before? Nobody deserved to be tossed over a shoulder like a bag of rocks as he had that day. If he’d cradled her to his chest like a child, maybe she would have felt loved, respected, care for. Maybe she’d have stayed connected to him, to life.

    “You’re gonna be okay. Just breathe. You can do that. Breathe. Breathe.”

      Someone shook him. Hard. The woman fell from his arms. He watched her drop into the flames of the fire that had been chasing them. He lost her. Again.

      He cursed and swung wildly, hoping to hurt whomever it was that made him drop her.

      “Flynn. Wake up, Buddy. You’re dreaming.”

     “Again,” another voice muttered. “What’s it going to take to make these nightmares stop? Drugs? I’ll find them. Just tell me what kind.”

     Flynn blinked, coming back to the real world.

     “I think he needs to see a shrink. Classic case of PTSD.”

     Awareness washed over him like a splash of rainwater from a bucket. He sat up, shaking his head like a wet dog, and looked around. He was on his cot in the tent cabin he shared with Tucker and Justin. His best friends. Brothers- in-arm.

      Tucker “Mountie” Montgomery stood, arms akimbo, in baggie sweats and an army-green T-shirt. His scowl barely put a dent in his heart-throb handsome face. Even half- awake and pissed off he probably would have had his choice of groupies if any knew he was a wilderness firefighter in his day job.

     Justin squatted a foot or so away. His standard issue undershirt and thigh-length gray shorts emphasized his compact muscles–finely honed from his off-season occupation: free climbing.

     Flynn swiped at a bead of sweat that rolled into his eyes, stinging. “Another nightmare?” he asked.

     “Same one, different night,” Tucker muttered. “Next time I’m making a Youtube video, I swear.”

      He threatened that every time. But Flynn couldn’t blame him for being upset.

     In the off-season, Tucker belonged to an elite, extremely well-paid troupe of dancers/entertainers that performed for audiences–mostly women–around the world. He told everybody he couldn’t afford to lose valuable beauty sleep. His fans deserved for him to look his very best.

      “Sorry, man,” Flynn mumbled. His throat ached, as usual. After every nightmare, he’d awaken to a body that somehow actually believed he’d just survived a close brush with death on the fire line.

       Justin handed him the metal water bottle sitting on the floor beside the cot.

     Justin Oberman–or “Goat,” as the other members of the crew called him–was the deep one. Ascetic, vegetarian, poet, and death-defying free climber who could scramble up sides of mountains like his surefooted namesake. “Flynn, this isn’t your fault, man. It sucks that your brain can’t let it go, but it’s been six months. Something needs to give, dude.”

They told him that every time this happened. This was their first group deployment of the New Year, but he’d been wrestling with this dream ever since the horrific fire near Yosemite National Park.

       “We all know–your conscious mind knows–you did everything in your power to save that lady,” Tucker added. “You’re the hero among us. Ask anyone.”

     Flynn smiled at that. False modesty wasn’t Tucker’s style. I must be in worse shape than I thought.

      “Flynn, it was her time,” Justin said, repeating an argument Flynn had heard from others. Even the coroner confirmed the victim’s chances had been small to none. The subdural hematoma caused by the impact from hitting the water trough would have been tough for even a healthy young person to survive.

       Tucker threw up his hands impatiently. “She probably wouldn’t have lived even if you could have predicted the fire would veer away from her place at the last minute. But for all our sakes, we have to find a way to get the message to your subconscious.”

        Flynn shifted sideways, his feet landing on the dirty canvas floor with a muffled thud. His friends were right. Flynn thought getting back on an active fire line would purge his guilt. The physicality and exhaustion that came from walking four miles from a drop zone to the leading edge of a fast-burning forest fire then beating Mother Nature into submission sounded like the answer. Surely after a ten-hour day he’d be too exhausted to dream.

But, so far, that hadn’t been the case. He only felt drained–physically and emotionally. The answer to this problem seemed glaringly obvious in the pre-dawn gloom. “I need a different job.”

        Tucker’s epithet echoed in the stillness, and may have been heard three tents over.

       Justin’s sigh seemed to start at the center of his soul and vibrate outward.

       Flynn had been wrestling with the idea ever since his brother emailed him a link to a job opening for Head of Operations, Crawford County Search and Rescue, Marietta, Montana. He looked at his friends, soberly. “I’m moving to Montana, guys. I just filled out the application online and won’t know for a while, but there’s a good chance I’ll be manning a desk in the very near future. You two will have to keep the WildFire Hot Shots going without me.”

Tucker and Justin exchanged a look.

    “They have mountains in Montana, right?”

     “And fires in the summer, too, I’ve heard.”

      Flynn got their meaning. They’d saved one another’s lives too many times not to be able to read what went unsaid. “But Kentucky is home base for both of you.”

      Justin shrugged his broad, powerful shoulders. “It’s only a place if your friends aren’t here.”

      Tucker nodded. “Truth.”

      Flynn looked from one to the other. “Ryker sent you the job link, didn’t he?”

      “He thought you might need a kick in the pants,” Tucker said, plopping down on the cot, crowding Flynn’s space like he always did. “I’ve been looking at property online for awhile and I think I’ve found the perfect spot for Mountie’s Most Awesome Montana Zipline and Enduro Course.” He flashed the grin that drove women in his audiences wild.

        Justin rolled his eyes. “That’s the dumbest name I’ve ever heard.”

        “I like it. So do my investors. They’re lining up as we speak.”

       Older women with more cash than sense, Flynn thought. But who was he to criticize? Tucker lived boldly, followed his dreams, and always came out smelling like a rose. The guy had more than enough money to risk on a short-lived investment.

        “Our independently wealthy friend can dabble in a new commercial enterprise, but I put in for a transfer ten minutes after reading the email. It got approved yesterday. This summer, I’ll be in Yellowstone, which on my map appears to be in your neck of the woods. If that Search and Rescue gig doesn’t work out, I’ll put in a good word for you. Maybe you can get your old job back with the Park Service.” His serious smile told Flynn he meant every word. “But, for the record, I think this change of venue will be good for you. Hopefully, no more wildfires means no more nightmares.”

      Flynn agreed. He stood and the two exchanged a quick, manly hug that Tucker immediately crashed. “Oh, you guys,” Tucker said, wrapping them both in his long and very strong arms. “It’s a moment, isn’t it? A fresh new beginning for the MHS.”

       Flynn gave him a look. “The what?”

       “The Montana Hot Shots. We were the Wildfire Hot Shots. I just changed it. We have a Facebook page. Didn’t I tell you?”

       Justin stiff-armed his way free and headed for the tent flap. “Screw social media. I wouldn’t even carry a stinking cell phone if not for you two.”

        Flynn let out a long sigh. He’d been worried about breaking the news to his buddies. Maybe that tension is what triggered tonight’s episode. His nightmares had been coming less frequently–or so he told himself–since his visit to Marietta last November. Seeing his brother so happy, in love and looking toward the future, made the stark emptiness of Flynn’s life all the more disappointing by comparison.

       Would a change of venue rid Flynn of his nightmares? He didn’t know, but Ryker had made a fresh start in Marietta and found the woman of his dreams–the living, breathing, sexier than heck kind of woman. Maybe, Flynn would get lucky, too.

       But, honestly? He’d settle for a good night’s sleep.

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Deb

PS: I took the pretty shot of the bamboo this morning after yoga. It spoke to me. :-)

The Merry-Go-Round called “Free”

Who gets dizzy on a Merry-Go-Round?

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Me? Not usually. But when I think about the sensation of going around and around, doing the same thing over and over, I get a little queasy.

Probably because I’ve been riding the promo merry-go-round all week.

First, one of my books was included in Tule’s 10-author Father’s Day Romance Collection. It opened at 99¢ for a short time, so the authors involved got on the bandwagon to share the news. Here’s my contribution to the hoopla.

Father's Day Tule

This is exciting–and good business, believe it or not. For a low investment, a reader can buy 10 full-length books, which can be a great introduction to a new-to-you author. (At least, that’s the standard school of thought.)

Personally, I love the cover and the other super-accomplished authors, and was thrilled to be invited to the party.

My second big deal this week started yesterday when my second Big Sky Mavericks book, MONTANA COWBOY, went Free.

Montana Cowboy FREE

Free, you say? What’s in it for the author?

Very good question. General wisdom suggests free is only beneficial when you have a connected series to take up the slack. If a reader reads your free book and likes your characters and setting and style, she might buy the rest of the books, so the cost of free is spread across 3-4 titles. One hopes.

But to make the most of FREE, you need to get the word out to the general masses beyond your usual circle of influence–and that’s where the merry-go-round speeds up and life gets a little crazy. There are literally hundreds of online sites, newsletters, blogs, and Facebook groups willing to hawk your book for you…for a price.

So, you set a budget, ask for advice even knowing what worked last week might be a bust this week, and you cross all fingers and toes…and wait for your sales numbers and ranking to come in.

Can I be honest? My head feels like it’s going to explode. And, the worst part? It’s damn hard to write when your fingers, toes and eyes are crossed. I’m seriously thinking about pulling an Ernest Hemingway. ;-)

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So, anyway, that’s been my week. We know what I’ll be doing all weekend…not drinking so I can make my deadline. Wish me luck.

Deb

PS: In case you’re interested in grabbing the bundle while it’s cheap, here’s the link: FATHER.

And my FREEBIE is available on all platforms. If you already read it, but want to see the new ending (Subject of a future blog), I suggest you grab it on another platform. GooglePlay is super easy, I’ve heard. Here are the links:

Smashwords- http://bit.ly/1QrfILY
iTunes - http://apple.co/1cEUsFp
GooglePlay - http://bit.ly/MtCowboyGP
KOBO - http://bit.ly/MyCowboyKOBO
Kindle - http://bit.ly/MtCowboy
and BN coming soon!

Deb

Amazon

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Group mentality

I’m not here today.

Perhaps this will give you a clue to my location.

SF

Yep. I’m in San Francisco, with 60+ Indie authors taking part in an UnCon.

What is an Uncon, you ask?

Well, it’s not this: RWA

This is my first Uncon, so I can’t say for certain, but my hope is–and from what I heard attendees of previous Uncons say, it’s: practical, hands-on, in the trenches, tried and true, been-there-done-that information shared in an informal, organic group setting. No formal agenda–except for a couple of already-agreed upon industry speakers.

I’m excited and just a tiny bit nervous. I have some specific questions–mostly about how to save time on the PR side of this biz. And how to stay informed without spending three hours each morning reading emails/group posts.

But it’s not all work, of course. I’ll be hanging with my friends in San Francisco, for the weekend. How cool is that? Maybe, if we have time, I’ll take them to one of my favorite spots. We can meditate on our future success as we walk the labyrinth at Grace Catherdral. http://www.gracecathedral.org/visit/labyrinth/

A few years ago standing on the step of Grace Cathedral on Nob Hill.

A few years ago standing on the steps of Grace Cathedral on Nob Hill.

I hope you have a lovely weekend. If the weather is still awful in your part of the world, I hope you can hunker down and curl up with a good book. I’d be happy to recommend my latest, which was released on Monday.

MontanaMaverick-MEDIUM

It’s only available at Amazon for the moment. The reviews are making me very happy. Here’s the link if you’re interested. MAVERICK

See you next week when we prepare to “spring ahead.” Again. Arguh!!!

Deb

 

Typing The End

“Debra Salonen, you just finished writing Montana Maverick, the final book in your 4-book series, what are you going to do now?”

MontanaMaverick-MEDIUM

“Well, imaginary, sports commentator, I’m sure as heck not going to Disneyland. Darn it.”

The end is just the beginning of the next step for me. You’ve heard of R&R, I call this R&R&R:

read

revise

repeat

Since I compose in Scrivener, which I love for its organizational snazziness, I “compile” my chapters and export to Word when I’m all done, so I can make use of Word’s layout, font, thesaurus and dictionary. First thing I do is: spell check. Then, I make a global search/replace for any names I might have changed part way through. (Yes, this happens. A name I like in the beginning might sound wrong for a certain character as I get to know him or her. Example: baby Missy is actually baby Misty. Her dead mother told me so.)

After that little bit of housekeeping, I read–on a single screen with no distractions. I take my laptop to a different location than where I’ve been composing, and I try not to judge or line edit (this is the tough part). I just want to see if the story talks to me, makes my heart race or brings a tear. (I sobbed twice while writing this, but that doesn’t mean the reader will “see” what I felt when I wrote it. One can only hope.)

After I’ve read it, I send the unedited file to my: first reader. This used to be my sister, Jan. I miss her so much. Not just because she’s not here to read and tell me how much she loves my stories, but I miss that, too. ;-) Luckily, I have a good friend–shout out to Jackie!!!–who also likes to read my stories. Plus, she has a very discerning eye and mad editing skills, as well. Life is good.

My editor gets it next.

That’s were “revise” comes in. Hopefully, a few fixes will make it stronger, then, it comes back to me to read–this time to look for typos. This pass, I use a trick I picked up from a writer online: I convert the text to two columns, so it looks like a book. Funny, how your eyes see it differently from when you wrote it.

I’m sharing this because most people hear the words “The End” and think “Hooray! You’re done.”

Not quite, but I’m a lot closer than I was last week. ;-) Now, you know what I’ll be doing all weekend. What do you have planned? If you tell me you’re going to Disneyland, I’ll cry. ;-)

Deb

Release day, Part 2 (a new baby)

Life is quirky, and the timing of even the best things can be interesting.

Point in fact: last Friday my new book was released–and a few hours later, my daughter called to tell me she was starting to feel labor pains. Two new releases in two days–now, that’s interesting timing!

The pains remained few and far between all of Friday, but by Saturday morning they were coming faster, harder and doing some serious work. My eldest granddaughter woke us up at 7:00, her bag packed. “Can I ride with you?” She’s eleven, and although she witnessed one home birth–her younger sister–she was only three at the time. This time, she planned to take notes.

This new baby is my daughter’s second. Her first, Daisy, was delivered at a hospital. Although it was a good experience that went off without a hitch, my daughter wanted very much to have a home birth this time (in the new home you might remember me talking about in an earlier blog). Kelly is a school bus driver and she teaches work out classes in her down time at a local gym. She’s in the best shape of her life.

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Kelly, two days before giving birth.

Her wonderful midwife, Jenny, was called, and we were told to relax, take a walk and get the bed ready. My wonderful daughter-in-law, Ruth, went to Kelly’s to prep the room and make ginger tea (which is both soothing and makes the whole house smell inviting). Eldest granddaughter and I headed over about 9:00.

We heard moans.

Eldest granddaughter changed her mind about watching.

My husband was in charge of picking up my youngest granddaughter from a sleepover. This is the perfect sort of a job for a dad who doesn’t like to see his daughter in pain. he took middle granddaughter with him. They returned in time for the worst of it, though.

If this sounds like a house party…well, it sorta became one. Kelly encouraged her daughter and her nieces to be as involved as they wanted to be. All three (11, 9 and 7) stayed occupied elsewhere. Team Baby consisted of my daughter-in-law, the baby’s daddy, the midwife and her assistant, and me…with my hubby in the background as moral support.

The birth was flawless. (I won’t say painless–we all know that would be a lie.) Poppy Ray was born at 11:57AM, weighing 7lbs 14oz, and 21″ long.

Welcome to the world, Poppy.

Welcome to the world, Poppy.

Big sister came around once the “gross” stuff was over.

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Daisy and Poppy.

And Grandma Deb has a new princess to spoil.

I wore my pink Tule t-shirt  (the image is a heart made of books) to get her started off right. A new reader in the family!

I wore my pink Tule t-shirt (the image is a heart made of books) to get her started off right. A new reader in the family!

So, my past week as been pretty eventful. How was yours? ;-)

Deb

PS: my new book, MONTANA DARLING has 32 fabulous reviews and is making me very proud! Click HERE , in case you missed it.