Research… flip a page, ride a horse

It’s time again for a challenge post. This week’s topic had me spinning the decision wheel again. What have I learned from research?

First off, research for what book? Do I want to discuss insights derived from the creation of the local history books I wrote? They represented decades of research and the information and images covered millennia. Of course, the stories, whether published or to be written, that were set in the old west might be appropriate to use as the focus because they required so much research.

However, since the challenge is from Marketing For Romance Authors, I will focus on what I learned researching my fantasy books: The Windmaster Novels, The Dragshi Chronicles, and Imprisoned In Stone. I could wax for hours on the gorgeous landscapes of the British Isles and Hawaii that were used as settings. But I won’t.

I could write about the re-enactments I attended to immerse myself in a specific time period. Visits to museums or walking archaeological sites, practicing with replicas of ancient weapons, or lying on the floor studying maps of the civilizations long past are all types of research I’ve done. You might even take lessons to get a feel for a skill or to experience a once commonplace event such as horseback riding.

As you can tell, research can take many forms.

Each project, each book, each author requires different research. It might be street names for a contemporary, period clothing and customs for a historical romance, or projections of what a future world would be like for a science fiction novel. However, there are commonalities that transcend genres that I stress whenever I talk on research.

In her post “The Devil’s In The Details,” C. S. Lakin tells authors they are the manager of their books. That “you hold the power to guide your readers, managing their attention and memory. By stressing a certain detail or event, you are managing readers by sending the message: ‘Pay attention to this. Remember this.'” While the story may mirror real life, your readers will not know which details matter to the story and which are incidental. If you overload readers with stimuli, they won’t know what to pay attention to and what to ignore.

Every editor at some time has held a manuscript that contained excessive, detail. the author had obviously done their due diligence into the historical period and loved it so much they put every single detail into their work.

Description is about drawing the reader in and making them live the story with you. Too much detail strips the reader of bringing their own experience to the story. Having to stop for a history lesson, even one featuring intriguing characters, can pull readers straight out of the fiction.

Sprinkle your details as you would a spice. Not too much, not too little, and blended throughout for a perfect balance.




More on what I learned during research is at Stop, Too Much Detail if you care to check out the post.

~till next time, happy researching Helen


In Honor Of Strong Women

Mother’s Day seemed an appropriate time to post about the tales of strong women in the multi-genre anthology Dreamspell Goddess. Westerns, paranormal, romance, science fiction and fantasy are all represented in the works of the talented authors.

Writing as Jessie Treon, Ambush Luck is a historical western.  Crossing genres, it joins my two fantasy series: the Dragshi Chronicles and the Windmaster Novels. A common theme among them is strong women who have a strong sense of honor and duty. And the last commonality, at least one character in each of the works is based on one of my ancestresses’.

The premise of Ambush Luck reflects a new twist on the traditional gunslinger tale. Married and happy in her life as wife and mother, Helen Rawlings thought she had put her past as a fast gun behind her. Her peaceful life ends when a gang kills one of her adopted sons, and tries to eliminate the only witness – her other son, Josh. Helen risks everything to once again become the notorious Hell Lost, gunslinger and defender of the righteous, and confronts those threatening her family. If she survives, she would be faced with the biggest crisis of all, rejecting the lure of the adventure of the high mountain trails to let her past disappear once again.

Although out of print, limited copies of Dreamspell Goddess are still available at Amazon

~ till next time, Celebrate Mother’s Day by forming a memory. And to all the mothers/ aunts/ grandmothers, sisters, and great-grandmothers, have a great day. Helen

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Be Still My Editor

Welcome to another week of the Marketing for Romance Writers 2018 challenge. Each week we’re supposed to write a thoughtful post on the given topic. Hope you’ll stop by each Friday for our thoughts on life, writing, and our books.  Today’s topic relates to our writing craft–What is the Worst Writing Advice You’ve Received?

I could use the advice to go with publishers A, B, and C as the worst advice. That qualifies because they closed down either shortly before a contract was issued or a book released.

Instead I’ve chosen the commonly accepted maxim to “still the inner editor.” We’re told when writing not to correct typos or rearrange text. Just to dump our words as a steady stream of consciousness.

Now, authors have as many ways to create as there are books. I’m a plotter. My outlines are done more at the keyboard than paper and pen unless a computer is not available. The translation of scene notes, full scenes and dialog is usually done with paper and pen. That first draft is messy. The inner editor will number sentences and paragraphs to reflect a better order when the actual typing is done.

As writers we’re told not to even correct spelling as we type. For me, that aspect of turning off the inner editor doesn’t make sense. It takes less time to hit the backspace key once or twice to correct a typo or re-spell a word than to come back with a mouse, highlight the text, then still do the correction. Of course, if correcting while you type disrupts your train of thought that is a different story.

Another reason why I don’t silence my inner editor when I’m writing is that it reduces the risk of a typo or some stupid grammar thing slipping through the crack during the editorial phase. With less things to catch in a clean draft, there is less potential for the error to make it into the final manuscript.

 ~till next time, Helen. 

They’re Not Me

This week the challenge asks a question every writer will have to field sooner or later. “How much of you are in your writing?”

In some ways, every author leaves a little of themselves on the page. It might be an unconscious leakage of a childhood memory appearing in the hero’s past or places we’ve been that became settings in our books. 

Another interpretation of the prompt relates to me as my characters. Am I my characters? Nope! I haven’t traveled in outer space or hunted treasures like Indiana Jones. Only in my imagination did I ride the desert with the Rat Patrol, fly missions with the bombers of the 918th on 12 O’Clock High or join the black sheep of VMF-214 in their Corsairs in the Pacific Theater (Baa Baa Black Sheep.)

Then there was the me that helped Illya Kuryakin and Napoleon Solo save the world. I won’t admit which of the hunky Men From U.N.C.L.E. was my favorite. Now you can see why adventure and action must be in my stories. There are areas where I admit to writing myself into my books–and that is an attitude. All my heroes and heroines have a strong belief in duty and honor. To quote Detective Vincent Hardy in Striking Distance, “Loyalty above all else… except honor.”

Conflicts between loyalties appears in Windmaster Legacy when Lord Dal must decide between saving his mother, his wife, or to honor his role as archmage and save magic for all future generations.

Some authors create characters that are mirror images of themselves. Either as they are in real life or who they want to be. Except for Lady Ellspeth, captain of Sea Falcon, and myself both having silver hair, my characters and I don’t share any physical characteristics. While Ellspeth loves the crustaceans found in her native seas of Nerelan, and I love Gulf shrimp, I firmly state — I’m not my characters.

For more on the Windmaster Novels, click on the covers. The home page for the 2018 #MFRWauthor 52-week are at

~till next time, Helen

Contests and Crickets

When I saw the topic list for 2018, I knew from the start that I wouldn’t complete all 52 posts. There were just some that were either too personal or not relevant. At first I thought this week would be one. The temptation to rant would be too much. However, I decided to write a few words. If you’ve followed my blogs, especially the challenge posts, you’ll note that I tend towards darker thoughts.

First, I’d like to say I’m not a contest person. Maybe it’s my Scotch blood but I never had an interest in gambling. Spending hundreds (or thousands) of dollars on contest entries to me was just throwing money away. Now you could say that you are paying for exposure, or the possibility of having an award sticker on your website. That idea never held much water for me, just as I wouldn’t give away novel after novel for the privilege of exposure.

I admit that I experimented with contests as a method of promotion. It didn’t matter if it was a cover war, a reader’s contest, consideration for a publication contract, or for actual money. The result was the same.

It didn’t matter if I was with a publisher where the authors swore to assist each or the entry was as an independent author struggling against the tide. 

It didn’t matter how hard I promoted or begged for votes. The results were the same — the sound of crickets. 

Now I choose to believe that the non-existent votes were not the result of poor design or poor writing. More than one author has expressed the feeling that many contests are popularity contests. A point to note, never in my life was I the popular girl. Never the lead cheerleader standing in front of the crowds, I was the one who did the grunt work to make the event happen.

Will I ever enter another contest? Maybe. Will I ever expect to win? That answer is for me to know and you to guess. If you want to join the 2018 MFRWauthor 52-week challenge, the other topics are at

~till next time, Helen

The Worst Gift – Piracy

Often on social media sites you will see a post or a tweet from an author offering a free copy of their book in exchange for a review. Or you may see a graphic of a box decorated with a bow and the caption, “The greatest gift a reader can give — a review.” Or  the variant, “Support A Local Author – Leave a Review.”

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Pixabay Image, used under Creative Commons License

What you don’t hear about as often is the worst gift you can give an author, “Piracy.” Print books are being offered on pirate torrent sites in multiple digital formats. Sometimes without the author even selling a single copy.

Imagine your anger/resentment/despair when you’ve found out that for every book you sell, 10,000 are downloaded for free — stolen from you. Adding insult to injury is when someone asks you for a copy of book 2,3 or 4 in a series. “I enjoyed book 1 so much but don’t want to pay for the rest. Won’t you send them to me for free? Not to review, just to read and then pass on. I have a site I upload books to.”

A digital ebook is NOT for passing on like a hard copies. It needs to be treated like software and like that other digital product is subject to copyright protection and infringement enforcement.

Now nothing is going to stop the pirates when they play the shell game with their names. Those who can make a difference are those who repeatedly upload a copy  of a book as soon as a copyright violation request takes one down. People who download a book for free from known, or obvious pirate sites, aren’t stealing from big corporations who can afford it. Then could literally be taking away the food an author needs to live on.

As to what started this rant, an article by a reviewer about reviewers selling advanced reader copies. I hope you’ll read, Reviewers selling ARC’s.

The next time rather than downloading a “free ebook pdf,” I hope you’ll consider borrowing the paperback from the library,  or for digital versions, get it from Overdrive via your local library or one of the legitimate lending libraries.

An even better option would be to consider buying the book. An author will thank you.

~till next time, Helen

I can’t write anymore

It’s Friday. Time for the next post in the challenge. Many of the prompts in the 52 posts in 52 weeks challenge dare the participating authors to reveal something personal about themselves. This week I am supposed to reveal what I would do if I couldn’t be a writer. That topic has been on my mind a lot recently. Several authors I know quite writing last year or at the start of this one. Among the reasons they give are the ways sales sites discriminate, the gaming of their systems, constant algorithm changes that reduce your opportunities, and the top two reasons given are the small return on ebooks and pirates stealing more than we make.

So what would be the follow-on career of choice. At first I pulled out a couple of old dreams — starship officer, interstellar explorer, or time traveler. Even with today’s technology, none of those are feasible. So I’ll go in another direction.
Read the rest of the post here. Thanks for stopping by. ~till next time Helen