The House that Made Me…Wasn’t a House

Life is full of ups and downs, good times and bad, laughter and tears. Today as much as any reflects that diversity. Before I start today’s official blog post, I want to pass on two bits of news, one happy, one oh, so sad.

Let’s start with the sad, so that the laughter can lift us up afterward. If you read my previous post When Fact Meets Fiction, you know that young Brittany Maynard, a vivacious young woman dying from brain cancer, planned to take her own life via prescribed lethal medication as allowed under Oregon’s Death with Dignity law, on November 1. In the days before, it appeared she might wait, as she was still feeling good–at least some of the time. But sadly, her illness was unrelenting, and she did end her life as planned that weekend. My condolences to her family and friends. Godspeed, Brittney.

On a happier note, my coauthors and I have begun calling Cowboy Up, our anthology of western romance novellas “the little book that could.” It is currently the Number 1 bestselling western romance on Amazon in both the US and the UK. It has also reached the top spot in Australia and Canada. We are positively giddy and want to thank all those who’ve purchased and read the book and especially those who left one of our many 5-star reviews. We love you!

Now, on with today’s message! I’ve tried to write this post at least three times. I just can’t figure out how to express my feelings on this subject. Let me preface this with an apology to my family. I do not mean in any way to demean what our house–our home–meant to me growing up. It, and you, are certainly what shaped me. But there was another place that was important to me. A place that made me who I am. It wasn’t another house. It was the library. library Libraries are magic. Inside their doors one can travel forward or backward in time. Get to know the great figures of history. See our world–or imagine another in some uncharted region of space. My first real job was in a library. I wasn’t even old enough to have a real job, the kind with a time clock and a payroll check. I had to get a special work permit from my school. My responsibility was to reshelve returned books. I was great at it. But at the end of my shift, I often had a stack for myself to check out that was as tall as the stack I had put away. file2561270178147 The only thing that made study hall bearable in high school was that as an honor student I didn’t to pass the hour in a cramped desk in a bland room. I had an unconditional pass to go to the library.

Fast forward many years. I wrote several of my first books in the study room at my local library, just me, my laptop and a bottle of water. Away from the distractions of the television and the Internet.

It hurts my heart these days to drive by my local library and see the parking lot empty. Are libraries destined to go the way of the dinosaur? Maybe they already have. But I’m heartened by all my library has to offer, even in a small rural community without much of a budget. Not only are there great books–that’s a given. But they have music and audiobooks and DVDs too. And the programs… Have you checked out the programs your local library offers? Many have everything from yoga for moms to senior bingo to quilting to classes in financial planning. And of course, story time for the kiddos.

These days we can even check out e-books from the library, either directly or through the distributor that provides books to most libraries, Overdrive. Overdrive has a free app so you can browse the selection, check out and return books right from your phone or e-reader! I’m using it and love it. So I guess my message is…don’t write off your local library just yet. Go. Take your kids. Take your grandma. Take your spirit. sign                

When Fact Meets Fiction

Once in a while when I’m writing a book or shortly after, something in real life happens that makes me wonder if the creation of that book wasn’t somehow predestined. As if when I was writing I was receiving some sort of message from the universe about what was soon to occur. Now, I don’t claim to be psychic. But I do believe there are energies at play around us that we don’t understand. Sometimes these lead to the cases where fact meets fiction.

In a previous post I talked about how I saw a piece of information online that led me to a major plot development in my story “Cowboys Don’t Cry” in the Cowboy Up anthology. But that information came to me in the form of a single Facebook post that came and went without mention. It never went viral, and soon retired to obscurity as most posts do. I was changed, however. My story was changed. It was inspired.

Now here we are a month later and a new yet similar story has surface. And it has gone viral. It has taken hold of people and made them think “What would I do?”

In my earlier post I hesitated to give away the exact nature of this inspiration (and the subsequent reality) but I’m going to do so now. So if you haven’t read the story and don’t want spoilers…read no further.

In a heart-tugging twist in my story, the characters have to deal with an imminent death. A terminal prognosis. And the choice whether to suffer through to a natural end or take destiny in their own hands. This week a young woman facing that choice in real life has stolen all our hearts.

sunset heart

Her name is Brittany Maynard, and she is dying. Just as in my story, she has moved to Oregon, one of only 4 states in the US to have legalized physician-assisted suicide for the terminally ill. She has vowed to take her own life on November 1, with the help of legal medication prescribed specifically for that purpose. Until then, she wants her story told and is fighting for the same right to die with dignity for all Americans.

Critics have spoken out (most of them with kind, loving–if adversarial–words, thankfully) against her right to chose. They believe her physician has abandoned the Hippocratic Oath and that choosing her moment of death belongs to God, not her. They claim there is a beauty in natural death that overshadows any pain or suffering she could experience.

Match-made-in-heaven

I’m not taking sides in the debate. I honestly don’t know what I would do in her position. I tried to explore the issue in “Cowboys Don’t Cry,” and though the characters in that story came to a decision, I don’t know whether I would make the same choice. Do any of us who aren’t in that position really know? Really know?

The only thing I do know is that it makes me look at that story in an even deeper way, and wonder what energy was floating around me that brought that issue my attention at this particular time.

The only thing I do know is that on November 1, Ms. Maynard will be in my thoughts and prayers.

Peace, love, and light, honey.

Girls and Horses and Cowboys — yeehaw!

Girls

I’ve told you all how obsessed I was with horses as a girl–I still have a few of my Breyer model horses and other statues. Some girls played with dolls; I played with toy horses. The song “Girls & Horses,” which I love, pretty much sums up my love of horses. You can listen to it (legally) on Templeton’s website. If there’s a horse crazy girl or woman in your family, go buy it. Heck, buy the whole album (also titled Girls & Horses). It’s full of great horsey songs.

Horses

All this reminiscing about my past with horses got me a bit misty-eyed and I went looking for an old photo album. Despite the disaster that is my office, I found it. This is my first horse, Peaches, bought when I was in college.

Peaches

She was just a weanling when I got her, and I eventually trained her myself. None of those things are really great ideas, by the way: buying a horse while still in school, buying a weanling as your first horse, breaking and training your first horse yourself. But I loved that little mare, and I’d like to think she loved me. We made it work. This picture was somewhere around 1985 or 6. We used to do pretty well in our local open shows.

Cowboys

Which brings me to the real point of this post. I’ve been asked why it’s taken me fifteen years to finally start writing about cowboys, given their popularity in genre fiction. Well…let me tell you a story. See, I was in college, remember? So I had to work to pay for my horse habit. For a couple of semesters I worked for a horse trainer / cowboy we’ll just call Dave. Dave was a good guy. He treated me well and taught me a lot. But he wasn’t a fancy pants show trainer like some you see today. He was a cowboy. And one thing cowboys then were never without was a tin of Skoal in their back pockets. Dipping tobacco. Snuff.

Snuff said. 🙂

I used to accompany Dave to horse shows to help with feeding, cleaning stalls, exercising and such. We travelled in his rattletrap battleship of a rusted pickup truck with a bench front seat. Outside, Dave would just spit his tobacco juice on the ground. But in the truck…well…we all know what happens when you spit out a window at 60 mph, don’t we? So he had a spit cup. A BIG spit cup. And that old battleship didn’t have cup holders so it sat on the dash as we jounced down country roads to the horse shows.

I lived in fear of that spit cup. I just knew one day it was going to land in my lap.

Really, chewing tobacco is not a very attractive habit in many ways. Spitting is gross. Flecks of tobacco between the teeth is gross. And it tastes gross when you…

Yeah, I just might have kissed that cowboy once or twice.

And that, friends, is why it’s taken me fifteen years to write a western romance novel and a cowboy hero.

 

More on inspiration

In my previous post I shared the inspiration behind my new Mustang Wild series. Today I’m going a level deeper and delving into what motivated the debut story in the series, “Cowboys Don’t Cry” (in the Cowboy Up anthology). But first, I just have to post this picture of my wascally little feller Mo. Just because he’s the cutest thing ever.

IM000908

Okay, now that you’ve met Mo, on with the story of the story. I knew I wanted to write about the American West, with the wild mustangs as a backdrop. And I had this yearning to make these stories feel real, because the mustangs and their plight are real. While they are and will be romantic stories, I didn’t want them sugar-coated and I didn’t want larger-than-life characters with perfect hair and perfect lives running around. Because not much in real life is perfect, and life isn’t fair. I wanted these stories to be emotionally centered.

I knew I wanted the series set around a community where we could get to know the people and follow them from book to book. My heroine for “Cowboys Don’t Cry” came easily to me. She lives in ranching country, but I didn’t want her to be a typical rancher. So I made her a bit of a new ager. Kind of a hippie more into growing organic herbs and vegetables, and hand spinning yarn from alpacas she raised herself than breeding stinky old cows. And I knew my hero was a man running from something–not something like the law. More like something inside himself. But for a long time I didn’t know what.

In fact, I was well over a third of the way through the book when I found my inspiration in a post on Facebook. It was a link to an opinion piece. I’m not going to say what, because it would be a huge spoiler for the book. But let’s just say it was controversial. It took my breath away a little bit. It scared the crap out of me, and that’s why I knew I had to use it.

Still I resisted. This is not something often done in romantic fiction. Would the readers hate it? Would they feel betrayed? Would they scream and throw the book against the wall before they’d even finished the story?

I was so worried that I talked to a couple of writing friends…who of course advised me not to do it. Which was just another reason I had to. I’ve broken some rules before. I don’t like predictable fiction, so I strive to be different. To be real.

I was once told I could never, ever write a romance novel where the hero and heroine were already married at the beginning of the book. So I did. And I sold it to Harlequin, the romanciest of the romance publishers and it received 4.5 stars and a “Top Pick” designation from RT Book Reviews magazine. That book was called Keeping Caroline, by the way, and it’s still my personal favorite.

keeping_caroline

Then there was the time I was told that I could never, ever kill off the hero in a romance novel. So I did. And that book was published by Berkley and went on to be a Romance Writers of America Rita award finalist. It was a novella called “Angel and the Hellraiser” in the Demons’ Delight anthology.

demons-delight2

So yeah, I did this thing in “Cowboys Don’t Cry” that scared me. I think you’ll recognize it when you read it. I hope you’ll like it. And please don’t throw your e-reader at the wall. Those things break.

CowboyUpGroupBundle

Buy it at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or All Romance e-books

Vickie

Inspiration

One of the most common questions writers are asked is “Where do you get your ideas?” So since I just kicked off my new western contemporary series Mustang Wild! yesterday with the release of “Cowboys Don’t Cry” as part of the Cowboy Up boxed set, I’d thought I’d clear the mystery of my inspiration right off the bat.

First off, you should know I’ve loved horses all of my life. When I was a kid without a horse of my own, I used to ride my bike for miles to get to a pasture where two of these magnificent creatures lived just so I could pull grass and feed them across the fence. I come by my obsession honestly. My grandfather was a mule trader back in the day. Here is a picture of him and one of his animals:

Papa_muleDespite having a very large extended family, I seem to be the only one who inherited the horse-crazy gene. But I got enough of it for all of us. As soon as I was old enough to hold down a job and make some money, I bought a horse, and I’ve never been without at least one in my life since. Right now I have four horses, a standard donkey, and a miniature donkey. More about them in future posts.

A few years ago I started volunteering with a dog adoption program that just happened to have an annual event held in conjunction with the Extreme Mustang Makeover in Ft. Worth, Texas. It was my first up-close-and-personal interaction with mustangs, and I was wowed with what they can do.

Then I stumbled on a Facebook page created by Mustang Meg, a photographer who regularly haunts mustang territory and takes amazing pictures. If you just want to look at pretty wild horses, follow her page. Seeing the mustangs in the wild, the way they were meant to be, got me really hooked and I new I had to write about them. Sadly, as I learned more about the wild horses, I found out they are being systematically exterminated by the government organization established to protect them. More about that, too, in future posts. For now just know I needed a way to express that sadness and my anger.

So I created Mustang Wild! The stories are set in Oregon, and while the humans in the books are on center stage, the mustangs make a dramatic backdrop.

So there’s the story of how the series was born. In the next post I’ll talk about how “Cowboys Don’t Cry” specifically came to be written.

And by the way, the Cowboy Up boxed set is on sale now for just 99 cents.

CowboyUpGroupBundle

Back in the Saddle

After an extended absence from writing during which I was developing my editing and formatting business, I am back with new fiction! I’m very excited about a new contemporary western romance series called Mustang Wild! This new endeavor kicks off Monday, September 8. Watch for the official announcement tomorrow. Books two and three in the series will be launched in October and December respectively.

Sign up for my newsletter now to receive special offers, chances to win prizes, and email announcements about new releases by sending an email saying “Sign me up for Mustang Wild” to Vickie@VickieTaylor.com

And stand by for the official cover reveal tomorrow.

Thanks for riding with me,

Vickie

Where I’ve been…

So I’ve had several questions about where I’ve been and why I’ve been so quiet the last few months. Don’t worry…everything is fine! Just a lot going on.

Almost two years ago, when I saw the surge in authors self-publishing and became intrigued with the possibilities myself, I realized there was going to be a huge need for editing and publishing services to help these books compete with the “big six” traditionally published works. I’d been working with developing authors for years, teaching classes, giving workshops, judging contests, etc. I had a solid graduate-level education, and I had the benefit of working with some wonderful editors at great New York publishing houses. So I enrolled in the Specialized Certificate in Copyediting program at the University of California, San Diego. I graduated at the end of August. The last few weeks were challenging. The final exam (a long non-fiction piece to copyedit) took many hours. Throw in a national writers’ conference at which I was a guest speaker, a hurricane deployment, and the need to tune up my search and rescue dog for FEMA recertification, and it was nearly a recipe for disaster. But I am happy to say I aced the exam and received my degree a few weeks later (and my dog has passed the first of his two recertification tests).

Wow, was I happy and relieved! I thought it was time to breathe easy.

Um…NOT!

I had done a few editing jobs and built a sketchy website. Word got out, and business picked up speed. In fact, it became a freight train. I am so grateful that so many authors have entrusted me with their creative children. I am doing my best to do every one of them justice. I am now booked out several months into the future and still receiving requests. Wow. Thank you.

For anyone who is interested, here is my sketchy website for the copyediting business. And I will be speaking on editing and self-editing at the Dallas Area Romance Authors meeting on Saturday, October 27. Click the linkie for more info on that.

So I’m busier than ever copyediting, writing, working search and rescue dogs, and taking care of all the critters at home. But lovin’ life!

Remember:


Available Now!

western romance novel boxed set

7 men as tough as the West. 7 women ready to Cowboy Up

Available Now!

Psychological Suspense short story with a bonus inspirational short story included

Coming Soon from Vickie Taylor

Fantasy Romance Novella

What am I reading today?

GOOD OLE BOYS - Denise Barker - Just started, but I'm intrigued so far!

Last five books read:

TEXAS GOTHIC - Rosemary Clement-Moore - Awesome! Great fun and spooktastic at the same time!

MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN - Ransom Riggs - Really creative idea. Enjoyed it very much!

BOOTSCOOTIN' BLAHNIKS - D.D. Scott - Very enjoyable, fun book!

THE GOOD DAUGHTER - Diana Layne - Awesome! Get it now!

GOT YOUR NUMBER - Stephanie Bond - Fun little mystery!

What’s on my TBR List?

GOOD OLE BOYS - Denise Barker

Reader’s Guide to E-publishing

Find your next e-book here!

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 508 other followers