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Spring! Time for a New Knee and New Releases

Hello, spring! And hello hiking season! Yes, it’s still officially mud season here in Colorado, but even now, there are plenty of sunlit trails to enjoy. And I have some pent-up appetite for adventure this year, as I was forced into hiking hiatus last year when my knee got too tricky to trust. I put off the surgery for more than 20 years, but, thanks to Dr. Schafer and Medicare, I now have a new knee and can’t wait to put it to the test. The doctor gave me no guarantees, but I’m sure hoping to find that the new joint has added 10 yards to my drive and significantly improved my trail-climbing stamina, both of which I’m anxious to try out once the weather settles down, the intermittent snows are over, and I can get out of the house.

New books

While I have been convalescing, I finished work on a couple of new novels and am gearing up to get them published. I was stymied in bringing out new novels over the past couple of years by the siren’s lure of traditional publishing, which I had hoped would bring me more fame, if not fortune, than self-publishing. Having secured an agent and a publisher for The Rebel Nun in 2021, I expected to have no problem attracting publishers’ interest in my next few books. Alas, nothing I offered “fits into our current list right now,” as many, many agent rejection letters have told me. I think demographics are part of the problem—publishers want to develop relationships with younger writers who will be around longer. And currently, agents are looking for a “more diverse” clientele, which I have been told I am not.

Well, I’m ready to move on. My friends who have continued self-publishing since the beginning of their work as novelists are selling more books than I, despite my luck with a traditional publisher. That’s because my friends work hard at marketing and have learned how to use Facebook, author websites, Amazon, and email lists to entice readers to buy their books. As anyone will tell you, traditional publishers these days do very little marketing for anyone other than their A-list of well-known authors and celebrities. So I’m going off on my own again, this time with some help from a marketing expert.

My first new book coming out soon, The Candlemaker’s Woman, is set in early medieval times, as was The Rebel Nun. Based on true events, it’s a coming-of-age tale set in the traumatic era of barbarian mass migrations, a story I believe is as relevant today as it has been since humans first walked out of Africa. The story imagines how one family, forced from their home by violence and hunger, endures one of the most disruptive and transformative events in history. I plan to release the e-book version for pre-sale on Amazon before the end of this month.

The next book to be released is a contemporary story about three generations of Nebraska women who must choose between fulfilling their professional dreams and the temptation to never leave the comfort of their small hometown. I expect to release What I’d Do to Save Her early this summer.

Todos Santos

As I wrote in my previous blog post, I was heading to Todos Santos, Baja California, to attend the appropriately named Todos Santos Writers Workshop. I planned to use the workshop’s daily prompts to work on a novel based on the true story of a French-Swiss-Belgium socialist colony founded near Dallas in the mid-1800s, told from the point of view of a woman who joins her passionately socialist husband in the experiment in communal living.

My workshop leader, Michelle Wildgen of the Madison Writer’s Studio (left), challenged our small group of five writers with exercises in character exposition, point of view, and plot development. I was able to use some of the prompts to work on my socialist colony novel, but others gave me a chance to flesh out other projects I hope to pursue someday. Our group’s writing experiences varied significantly, but Michelle was wonderfully adept at working with each of us at our own level, and making us all feel comfortable in sharing our work. There were plenty of opportunities to socialize with the other 40 or so attendees — perhaps more than enough for a reclusive introvert like me.

The town of Todos Santos was not what I expected. It still has its charms: it’s still close to the beach, and you can certainly find Mexican beer and tacos there. But, a couple of decades ago, when Ben and I rode bicycles up and down Baja California’s parallel coasts, the Todos Santos we experienced then was not the bustling, noisy, car-jammed tourist town it is today. Adjusting my expectations to today’s reality took a few days, but I made new friends and would recommend the workshop to anyone who needs a break from winter weather north of the border.

I had spent a few months before I left for Mexico brushing up on my elementary Spanish, hoping to be ready to converse with the “locals” – that is, the non-U.S.-expats who fill the bars and restaurants. I tried to speak the language as often as I could. But as friends suggested to me before I left, everyone there spoke better English than I do Spanish. I would ask a question in Spanish and get an answer in English. I guess I didn’t fool anyone.

With that, I’ll sign off this month with hasta luego, and hasta pronto. Please watch for my new books. And if you like them, please write a review.

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