Tag Archives: writing

Indie Lives Matter

One of the unexpected benefits of becoming an indie writer was joining the wonderful community of indie writers. I cannot even begin to describe how supportive, helpful and awesome these folk are. Critical in the best ways. Cheering me on in the dark days when I think my writing is shit or I can’t find my way out of the hole I’ve written. Just stellar people who are doing exactly what I’m doing and struggling exactly the way I’m struggling. Yet, we all laugh at/with each other, send cyber hugs when needed and promote the crap out of each other’s work. And all with good reason. I’m telling you, people, the indie world is where it’s at. There are some truly talented people penning stories right now, stories that put traditional publishing house fare to shame.

We all know the game is rigged and how difficult it is to support yourself off of being an indie writer. I’ve been a judge for several contests and it always leaves me scratching my head at how the winners are, nine times out of ten, big House books that are such crap, I wouldn’t even feed them to my shredder. Even still, we indies trudge on and churn out the stories and characters we love. And you know what? I think that’s why our stories are so much better. Because our writing is not our job. It’s our passion.

In some ways, it reminds of watching the Little League World Series. Those kids pour their entire hearts and souls into the game they love. They play through blood and sweat and cry when they lose. That’s because they don’t get paid to do it. They do it because they love the shit out of it – something blatantly absent from professionals.

I write all of this because just in the last 24 hours I’ve gone on three wild rides, thanks to two of my fellow indie authors, and it occurred to me today how I might have missed out on these five-star reads had I not joined the indie community myself. I might never have known about great authors like R.C. Matthews, Heather Blair, Rachel Chanticleer and Danielle Ward. How sad to have potentially missed out on such great reading.

With author Heather Blair, I took a trip into an alternate reality where nursery rhymes are actually spells and Jack Frost is a hero (or villain?) you love to hate – an action-packed wild ride that had me desperate for the next book in the series (which I’ll shamelessly plug here: https://www.amazon.com/Sixpence-Whiskey-Toil-Trouble-Book-ebook/dp/B01CZINZ42/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1472530797&sr=8-1&keywords=sixpence+and+whiskey#nav-subnav )

Once that series left me breathless, I was whisked away to 19th century England by author R.C. Matthews, where a pirate named the Devil takes possession of a haunted mansion and hires a local blind medium to rid the place of the ghosts left from the massacre that took place in the underwater ballroom. (Shameless plug #2: https://www.amazon.com/Devil%E2%80%99s-Cove-Tortured-Souls-Matthews-ebook/dp/B01KGO4A6O/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1472530954&sr=8-2&keywords=Devil%27s+Cove#nav-subnav )

Seriously…I can’t make this stuff up. But my wildly imaginative and talented indie friends can. Thank you to my GR buddies and good friends I’ve made along the way. And to those of you looking for some good-ass writing, just check out my Goodreads author page (that’s Sawyer Belle in case you didn’t know whose blog you were reading!) and check out my five star list. You won’t be disappointed.

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Ain’t Nothin’ but a Hound Dog

Now that I’ve started writing again, I fully understand why I was so hesitant to jump back into it. The creative process is a bear. It really is. You start out with an idea, spend months and months thinking about it, dreaming about it, mapping it out, even listening to its soundtrack until you feel solid enough to put something on paper. I outline, and I mean thoroughly outline. I have outlines that are ten pages long. I do research. Do ALL of this leg work and as soon as I start writing the damn thing it goes wildly off the course I so painstakingly planned.

I know it’s cliché to say that the characters become alive to the author, but it is so true. I’ve laughed and cried with my characters; really, really ached for them. They become real once you start writing, and as cool as the experience is, it can get frustrating when they hijack your story and make it their own. It all ends well, of course, but the creative process is exhausting. It’s a lot of work, endless work. So, why do it? Simply because I have to. And I love it.

When the inspiration hits, I just start writing. I used to write songs and the inspiration would hit at the oddest times: like while I was driving on the freeway zooming into the spaghetti bowl. I used to carry a notepad and pen in my car so I could write things down as they came to me, but I was getting so prolific that, in the interests of safety, I bought a mini tape recorder and carried it with me so I could just talk into it.

Every author has their own quirks, their own ways of doing things and mine is very much inspiration-based. Sure, I can bang out something if needed, but it won’t be something with heart or that I believe in. So, I choose not to do things that way. I wait for the inspiration to hit and then pounce on it like a ravenous animal on food scraps. I think this is why the creative process is so exhausting to me. It’s a yo-yo at maximum speed, and sometimes it has me juggling between projects.

When I began writing again this year, I started on one project. Felt great about it. Was in the groove and then that inspiration went right off the deep-end. Just disappeared, because another project suddenly woke up inside of me and I had to yield to it.

As I walk my coonhound, I realize he does the same thing: zig-zags on the trail just following his nose, treating each direction with equal zest. But when he hits on a particular scent in a particular direction, he’s off and running and there’s no stopping him. I guess that’s me when it comes to writing.

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Guest Blogging Today!

The incomparable Regan Walker has invited me to guest blog on her wonderful site, Historical Romance Review with Regan Walker. Today, I’ll be sharing some of my research into the mining perils of the Nevada silver strike. Come by and read the post and feel free to comment. One lucky commenter will receive a free copy of Silver Nights With You.

The Site is here:

http://reganromancereview.blogspot.com/2015/06/guest-author-sawyer-belle-nevada-silver.html?showComment=1434379766567#c8694163154465773952

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The Music that breathes life into my stories…

I took one of those silly online quizzes to determine the age of my soul. Those tests are always fun and comical, and sometimes they even ring true. I was given the age of more than 500 years for my soul, and was told that it birthed during the Renaissance. The analysis went on to say that I am often deeply touched by art, music, poetry, etc to the point of tears, and that is the result of my soul aching for the days of its birth.

Well, I know one thing for certain. The first part of that sentence is absolutely true. I have often been moved to tears by the beauty of art. I can’t listen to an orchestra without goosebumps pimpling my skin and water tugging at the backs of my eyes. Certain passages of writing, paintings, sculptures, photographs will have the same effect, but the strongest artistic area to incite an emotional response from me is, by far, music. Such a beautiful language!

It should come as no surprise, then, that I often plot and write to music. I use music all the time for inspiration on pacing, scenes, and just overall vibe of a story. While I’m immersed in writing a story, I tend to find a small sampling of music that encapsulate the text for me and I’ll listen to them repeatedly. The cool thing about that is when the book is published and I’m moved onto another project, I can still go back to my other stories with a simple press on my iPod.

Everyone imagines things differently. So, I’ve no idea if my readers see my characters and stories the way I do, but in case any of you are wondering what kind of music or songs I think have encapsulated the “feel” of my stories, I’ve provided the answer for you! If our imaginations  have synced up, cool. If not, at least you get to enjoy some cool music in the process!

Silver Nights With You – For this one, I went to the soundtrack of my favorite western (in fact, favorite “movie”) of all time. Lonesome Dove. I listened to that entire soundtrack a ton, imagining all of the tender moments between Lila and Morgan, envisioning the danger and the comedy, imagining the awe of the first view of the Washoe Valley. Here is a small sampling of the greatness that is the Lonesome Dove soundtrack, and if you haven’t seen the mini-series, you are seriously missing out.

Desert Sunrise – For the sequel to Silver Nights, I went with the father of American folk music. Due to the musical themes and influence of the characters in the story, I mentioned several songs by name. If you happen to be a geek like me, you will have noticed that all of the songs and lyrics in the story are all from Stephen Foster songs (with the exception of Ave Maria at the end). So, here are a few that I listened to quite frequently while writing Desert Sunrise, imagining how the powerful lyrics would have affected Jess as she thought about her cares and worries.

And, appropriately, for the scene of the hide races, I listened to this gem (not Stephen Foster):

Love of a Lioness – A few different styles of music went into thinking about/writing this medieval romance “adventure.” I had slower, more celtic sounding songs for the intense dramatic moments, but I listened to some up tempo and modern music to inspire the battle scenes. The first song I’m going to offer you is one that I must have spent a month’s worth of hours listening to. I envisioned the finale mapped out to this music, beginning with Isabeau standing on the railing of a ship, eyeing the coast of France just before diving off to swim ashore and rescue her knight. I know it doesn’t sound medieval, but you gotta admit – it still sounds pretty bad ass. 🙂

This was another one I went to for inspiration on other battle scenes:

This was another I listened to in order to imagine more sedate scenes, those during training, on calmer seas, more intimate moments.

Big Sky Eyes – for this contemporary cowboy tale, I went with Blake Shelton all the way. I love that guy, and I think his song, Mine Would Be You, captures the entire tale of Brent and Mackenna. I listened to it repeatedly, picturing scenes from their years together.

For quieter, more internal thoughts and moments, I liked these:

NOW, for a treat! I am in the middle of working on two manuscripts. One, many of you may know as Ruby’s Song, which is the third installment of the Love in the Sierras Series. The other is a contemporary that takes place in the Caribbean. I haven’t named that one yet, though it is 70% written. For Ruby’s Song, I am really heavily into Catrin Finch and the soft lyrical sound of her harp playing. So, the current inspiration for Ruby’s Song scenes are these:

When I’m working on my contemporary, I hit up A&B Acoustic, Above and Beyond:

Whew!! That’s a lot of music…and I love it all!! 🙂

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Is there an AWARD in my future?

So, I just learned yesterday that (much to my surprise and delight) Silver Nights With You is up for an award with InD’Tale Magazine!! It’s the RONE (Reward of Novel Excellence) Award for American Historical Romance. The first round of judging opens today, which consists of public voting for the first week. Five finalists will move on to the next round, which will then be read by a group of industry professionals consisting of editors, writers, professors etc. and be judged on a one to five scale from a specific list of requirements such as characterization, overall arc, editing etc.   Those scores will then be tallied by a professional company unrelated to InD’tale or its employees to determine the winner of the coveted RONE award, along with the honorable mentions. SO, I really need your support this week to go here and vote for my book:

http://indtale.com/2015-rone-awards-week-one

Voting requires an account to be set up on the magazine’s website for free. I’d appreciate any and all support I can get!

Thanks, all!

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5 Myths About Romance Writers!

One of the most amusing side effects of becoming a romance writer has been the ideas other people have formed about me after learning that I write this stuff. I’ve been flattered, offended and bowled over with laughter at some of things to come out of people’s mouths about what I do. Here are the five biggest preconceptions I’ve found that people have about romance writers. Are you a romance writer? I’d love to hear what assumptions have been made about you!

1. I write porn.

This is, perhaps, the greatest myth about romance novelists and has likely contributed most to the widely-held belief that romance novels are not considered “real” literature. Well, I actually take offense to this one. It usually takes me a year to write a romance novel, and the majority of that time is doing real research, then weaving a story and editing it. I cannot even exaggerate how tiny the amount of time is that’s dedicated to writing a sex scene. I, along with most romance writers I enjoy and know, don’t write gratuitous sex scenes. Like any other plot element, sex scenes are used to enhance or progress a story. They are not just thrown in for the sake of making a racy book. I personally believe that writing sexual tension is far more important than writing sex scenes, and I try to keep mine minimal and tasteful. The fact that people think I write porn is laughable. I’ve read more graphic sex scenes in a Dean Koontz novel.

2. I am a sexpert.

This is quite flattering. It also reminds me of stories my aunt would tell me from when she used to host “fun” parties and sale scandalous goodies to womenfolk around town. She’d conduct her sales in a back bedroom one-on-one and when her customers would shut the door, they’d unload on her as if she was a sex therapist, just because she sold sex toys. I’ve had similar happenings, and while I’m happy that I appear to know what I’m talking about, I find it difficult to say anything more than, “hmm…you should really talk to your husband about that” or “what’s normal for me may not be normal for you,” and all sorts of awkward one-liners like that.

3. I’m writing about my sex life.

This usually comes from men, and it makes me laugh. I may or may not be into the kind of sex that my characters are into, but it is a mistake to think that I am translating my nocturnal activities into print for the world to read.

4. I’m writing about my sexual fantasies.

This usually comes from women, and makes me laugh even harder. I think that romance is the highest grossing of all literary genres because romance writers are tapping into other women’s fantasies, not necessarily our own. I write stories that I want to read, and I care more about the love than the sex, and you’ll see that in my books.

5. I am my heroines.

When I published my first contemporary, I had so many people ask me if I had ever been in an abusive or controlling relationship because my heroine had been in one. I had to explain that I am not Mackenna. I would never accept things that she did. I had family members come to me and say they never knew I felt a certain way about somebody or something and I’d have to say that I didn’t. She’s not me! This is such a hard thing to explain, because my characters are borne from me. They come through me like my own children, but they are not me. As a writer, you write what you know. So, of course experiences from my life, socially, emotionally and romantically, make it into my stories. And I like to think that there is a piece of me in each of my characters, but they are not me, and I am not them. I wish I had half their strength.

So, what about you other romance writers out there? What do readers believe of you?

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The Smell of My Life

This morning I used up the last drops of my body spray, and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect with the onset of Autumn. I have this weird quirk, you see, of changing my “scent” for every major season or phase of my life. I don’t like to perfume-hop. There is a really good reason for this. I have always associated memories from my childhood with smells. You know when you get a whiff of your mother’s old perfume and it takes you right back to a certain time and place and suddenly a memory, more vivid and colorful than ever before, bursts into your mind? You laugh at something you’d forgotten, and you smile for the rest of the day when you think about it. Yeah – that’s why I do what I do.

The summer of 2014 will always smell like Sensual Sunset from Victoria’s Secret Garden. The scent was discontinued years ago. Someday, they will bring it back or some other perfume company will put out something similar, and when I’m walking past someone wearing it I’ll go back to this season. I’ll remember my baby sister’s wedding, and all of the associated parties and gatherings. I’ll remember the girls’ weekend my friends and I took to Mesquite. I’ll remember the day my baby girl turned two, the day I spread my dog’s ashes in the mountains, and the horrible toothache that resulted in my first root canal. I’ll remember my husband’s 40th birthday bash in the mountains of Utah and the release of my third novel.

When I want to remember my pregnancy with my son more than eight years ago, I go to Tomigirl by Tommy Hilfiger. Moonlight Path takes me to my best friends’ condo in Reno in the winter months post college graduation. I moved in with them to save money for my trip to Europe. We’d sit on the roof, drink gin and tonics and smoke American Spirits while chatting away and looking at the unobstructed view of downtown Reno. Lavender oil takes me to the summer I backpacked New Zealand with my best friend. Senior year in high school is all Jovan White Musk. Japanese Cherry Blossoms takes me to the Fall I hiked the Grand Canyon, rim-to-rim.

Anytime I smell passionfruit, I am transported to a European summer; squatting in London; getting spit on at the train station in Paris because I am American; riding bikes to the beach in Barcelona and chilling out in the sand with sangria; celebrating the fourth of July in Rome with a group of American soldiers stationed in Germany; being dragged to a piano at an Italian streetside restaurant to pound out Ballin’ the Jack and the theme to Dr. Zhivago while the old Italian musicians waltzed with female patrons on the sidewalk (I earned us a free dessert with my playing!); an amazing roadtrip through the Swiss Alps; roaming the streets of Salzburg in the rain; the crazy albino who ran the hostel in Prague; the beer festival in Wurzburg; falling in love…that’s what passionfruit means to me.

Most of the time, depending on the size of the perfume bottle, I don’t use up all of the perfume in one season. The great thing about that is that I can retrieve whatever memories I want by simply walking over to the top of my dresser and pulling open a bottle. It’s like a lifetime of yearbooks on my dresser, only prettier. And when I really want to go back, I’ll wear the scent for a day. Now, I just have to decide what I want my Autumn to smell like.

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