Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Wednesday in Wyoming -- May 24, 2017

Today's post is going to be longer than normal, because I want to show you three Horned Lark chicks from hatching to fledgling.

Did you know that Horned Larks build their nests on the ground? That would seem to make them susceptible to being trampled by cattle or humans, but somehow they survive.
As you can see, their camouflage is excellent. If it weren't for the bright orange throat of a hungry chick demanding food, you might not even notice the nest, particularly since the egg looks very much like a rock.

At this point, the nest doesn't appear too crowded, but that's because all the chicks haven't yet hatched.

Here's the second chick, just hatched. If you look closely, you can see the eldest chick with its head next to the unhatched egg and its yellow down quite visible.

What are these two siblings doing? My guess is that they're waiting for the third egg to hatch. Note that their beaks are open, probably in search of food.

At last! Three chicks and -- yes! -- three open beaks.

The nest is getting crowded now, but the triplets aren't ready to leave. Did you notice that you can see darker feathers beginning to emerge under the yellow down? I'm amazed that their beaks are closed.

Here they are, beginning to look more like birds than chicks and almost ready to leave the nest. Good thing, since the nest is now very crowded.

Once they leave the nest, I see them perched on fence posts and hear their song, and then the cycle begins again.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Wednesday in Wyoming -- May 17, 2017

I was fascinated when this bird appeared, since I'd never seen one with such a pronounced chest patch.  It turns out that it's a Northern Flicker, part of the woodpecker family.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Wednesday in Wyoming -- May 10, 2017

What are this pair of hawks doing?  Dining!  At first the younger one appeared content to watch its parent, but soon the lure of fresh meat took over.
As you can see, there was a bit of a struggle.  You can guess who won.

The next morning, the youngster returned to the same site, as if expecting food to have been delivered there.  It wasn't.

I believe these are Swainson's hawks, which are common here, but I'm not 100% certain.  Can you confirm that?

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Wednesday in Wyoming -- May 3, 2017

This month I'm going to feature some of the birds that have visited (or even taken up residence) in my yard.

Do you recognize this one?  It spent a lot of time on the birdbath, then hopped to the ground and stayed there for the better part of an hour one morning, which gave me plenty of time to pull out my trusty Audubon Field Guide and identify it.

This is -- drum roll, please -- an American Kestrel, a member of the falcon family.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Wednesday in Wyoming - April 26, 2017

Our last sculptures of the month are located on the capitol complex in Cheyenne and feature a cowboy and a steer -- both important parts of Wyoming past and present.

As you may have guessed, one of the reasons I included this picture is to show you just how beautiful spring can be here. Winter is long, but spring is glorious!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Wednesday in Wyoming - April 19, 2017

Perspective is everything. From this angle, you could believe you were experiencing the same thing the early pioneers did, exploring a land with few settlers.

The reality is, this statue is located at the National Historic Trails Center in Casper, with buildings, a parking lot, and a fire hydrant close at hand.

Which one do you prefer? I vote for the first one.

If you'd like to visit the museum -- which I highly recommend -- here's the link for more information.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Wednesday in Wyoming - April 12, 2017

Continuing our exploration of art in Wyoming, I'd like to introduce you to Lander Lil, Wyoming's answer to Punxsutawney Phil. Yes, she's a prairie dog rather than a groundhog, and yes, she's a statue rather than a live animal, but that doesn't stop her from predicting whether or not winter will last past Groundhog Day.

Does the snow give you an idea of what Lil normally predicts?

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Wednesday in Wyoming - April 5, 2017

This month we're going to focus on outdoor art in Wyoming.

If you've been to western Wyoming, you know that elk, also known as wapiti, are common, so it's no surprise that the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson would have this statue -- or is it a series of statues? -- named Wapiti Trail near its entrance.

But this is only the beginning. In addition to a variety of exhibits, the museum also has a sculpture tour.

For more information, click here. There's even a virtual tour.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Releases, Reviews, and Relief

If you're wondering what happened to Wednesday in Wyoming this month, I took a break while I was involved in heavy-duty promotion for A Stolen Heart. The month that a book releases is extra busy and this time it simply did not leave any time for my usual Wednesday posts.  But -- don't worry -- they're returning next week.

Like most authors, I wait anxiously for the first reviews of the book. So much hinges on them, and there's no way to predict which reviewers will like a book and which will pan it. Fortunately, A Stolen Heart has received some excellent reviews, which was a big relief to this Nervous Nelly author.

Publishers Weekly is one of the most influential reviewers, and they receive far more books than they actually review. That makes simply being reviewed an honor, and when the review is as positive as this one ... let's just say that celebrations are in order.

Librarians rely on a number of sources when making decisions about which books to purchase for their patrons. Booklist is one of those sources, so once again, it was a relief and a pleasure to see what they said.

Do you like books that arouse many emotions -- both laughter and tears? I do, which is why I was pleased by this review from Compass Book Ratings.

And if you want a book to sweep you away, which is certainly something I look for in a book, you'll understand why I smiled when I read this review from The Parkersburg News and Sentinel.

I've saved this one for last, because it made me laugh. Do you like chocolate? I do, which is one of the reasons I created a heroine who becomes a candy maker. I had fun researching nineteenth century candy making, but I didn't expect my descriptions to make my editors and this reviewer hungry.

A word of warning: you might want to have a box of chocolates at your side while you read A Stolen Heart.

If you read the book, I hope you'll consider leaving a review of your own on the various online book sites. Those reviews are incredibly powerful, since they help other readers know whether or not to spend their time and money on a book.

And, of course, I hope you'll return next week when Wednesday in Wyoming resumes.

Monday, March 13, 2017

The 5 Ws of A Stolen Heart

Journalists are taught that every article needs to include the five Ws -- who, what, where, when, and why. We novelists follow the same advice, although it usually takes us longer to answer those questions. In my case it takes a lot longer.

Instead of simply counting the minutes until the official release of A Stolen Heart tomorrow, I thought I'd show you how those questions relate to the story. And, yes, there's another reason for this blog: Revell gave me some wonderful graphics to share with you.

Who? That's shorthand for "who's involved?" As you can see from the family tree, there are multiple generations of people living in Cimarron Creek. Not all of them are still alive when A Stolen Heart begins, and not all play major roles, but the family tree shows you who's related to whom.

I found the family tree invaluable when I was writing the book and hope it'll add to your enjoyment of the story.

What?  Again, this is shorthand, in this case for "what happened?" The answer to that is much more complex than the "who?" question, so let's start with the beginning.

Schoolteacher Lydia Crawford arrives in Cimarron Creek expecting to hear the sound of wedding bells, only to discover that her fiance has disappeared, leaving behind a wife. A pregnant wife.

Travis Whitfield has his hands full dealing with a missing man, a rash of thefts, and an ornery father. He doesn't have time to think about love and marriage. But sometimes love comes when it's least expected.

Where?  The answer to this one is simple: Cimarron Creek, a seemingly idyllic town in the Texas Hill Country. In case you wondered what it looks like, there's a map in the book itself and a fancier version here.

When? This is another question with a simple answer. The story takes place in 1880.

Why? And now we come to the heart of the story. Why did the people in Cimarron Creek do what they did? Why are some of them hiding deep secrets? I can't answer that without giving away the story, and you know I won't do that. Instead, I hope I've intrigued you enough that you'll read A Stolen Heart and uncover all the missing pieces to the puzzle for yourself.

Here's a link to more information as well as buying links.

If you do read the book, I'd love to hear what you think. You can find my email address on my web site. I'd also appreciate an honest review at the major online retailers.

Happy reading!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Counting the Days

As the subject line says, I'm counting the days -- seven -- until A Stolen Heart releases. This is always an exciting time for me, knowing that soon my book will be in the hands of the most important people -- readers. It's also a bit of an anxious time as I wait for your reactions.

Believe it or not, there's a lot of waiting involved in writing. Once the manuscript has gone through the editing process, the next step is to send it to well-known authors for possible endorsement.

I was so fortunate that New York Times bestselling author Jane Kirkpatrick enjoyed the story enough to say this:

And Margaret Brownley, another bestselling author, offered this praise:

The next step is to send the manuscript to major review sites.  One of the most influential is Publishers Weekly. Since they receive far more books than they can review, simply being reviewed is an honor. As you might imagine, receiving a favorable review like this one is cause for celebration.

Romance readers often turn to RT BookReviews for recommendations, so I always wait eagerly to see what their reviewers have to say about my books. I smiled when I read this, since both of my editors had said the same thing about A Stolen Heart, namely that it made them hungry.

Now I'm waiting for you, my readers, to tell me what you think. Will you love Lydia and Travis's story? Will you be intrigued by the secrets in Cimarron Creek?  I hope so.

If you'd like to read more about the book before it releases, here's a link to my web site. It includes a sneak peek at the first chapter as well as discussion group questions, in case your book club would like to feature it.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Wednesday in Wyoming - February 22, 2017

What's a cottontail supposed to do after a particularly heavy snowfall? This one spent a lot of time resting in what I called the caldera next to a juniper. But eventually he decided to venture out.

Why? Food, of course!
Judging from the quantity he ate, he must have enjoyed the dwarf iris.

One thing you may have noticed is that while the snow was deep next to the juniper, it's hardly visible here. You can thank the famous Wyoming winds for that.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Wednesday in Wyoming - February 15, 2017

Winter in Wyoming lasts well beyond the official end of winter on March 20. In fact, March and April tend to be our snowiest months, at least in Cheyenne.

The spring bulbs don't seem to have gotten that memo, though, so they start blooming in mid-February. Unfortunately, sometimes they have to deal with snow weighing down their blossoms. Fortunately, they often recover.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Wednesday in Wyoming - February 8, 2017

One of my favorite parts of winter in Wyoming is seeing how the local rabbits (both cottontails and jackrabbits) deal with it. This jackrabbit spent days hunkered down under this particular shrub.

The good news is, the shrub is only a few feet from my office window. The bad news is I spent far too much time looking at him rather than working on my manuscript. Such a fun distraction!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Wednesday in Wyoming - February 1, 2017

When you think of Wyoming in the winter, you probably envision the Tetons and literally feet of snow. While that's often the case there, other parts of the state have considerably less snow, including my hometown, Cheyenne.

In Cheyenne, snow is often accompanied by our famously strong winds, making it what I call sideways snow. That rarely sticks to trees, but occasionally we have perfect conditions to create a scene like this. It doesn't last long, but it's definitely beautiful.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Wednesday in Wyoming -- January 25, 2017

It's not only the capitol itself that's being renovated. The Herschler building, which houses other state offices and is north of the capitol on the same campus, is having also extensive work done.

How much will all this cost, and when will it be done?  The answers are (1) around $300 million dollars and (2) in time for the 2019 legislative session, so we have another two years before the buildings will be open.  

If you'd like more information about the project, there's a web site devoted to it.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Behind the Cover for A Stolen Heart

Do you ever wonder how book covers are designed? Ever since my first book was published, I've been fascinated by the process, which is why I've written about it several times. I'll include links to those earlier blogs at the end of this post, but for right now, let's focus on A Stolen Heart. It's one of my favorite covers and one that gets almost universal rave reviews when people see it. So, what was involved in creating it?

Authors are taught to show rather than simply tell, and in this case, that means pictures. Many thanks go to Art Director Patti Brinks and graphic designer Dan Thornberg of Design Source Creative Services, who were kind enough to share a number of behind-the-scenes pictures with me so that I could show you the story.

Although some publishers use stock art for their covers, Revell prefers to custom design their historical fiction books.  While it's a more expensive approach, it also means that the covers reflect the book. Don't you hate it when the cover shows a blonde, but the book describes her as a brunette? That doesn't happen at Revell.

The Model
One of the first steps is to choose a model. As part of the cover art process, the author is given a questionnaire which asks her to describe her heroine, not just in terms of her physical appearance, but also her mood. Using that, the design team reviews portfolios to find a model who has those characteristics.

I'm delighted with the choice of Laura W. to portray Lydia.

Costume Selection
Next comes the costume, which is oh, so critical for historical novels. As part of the questionnaire, I noted that Lydia wore fancy pinafores to work at the candy store. That led Patti Brinks to a search for just the right apron.

In the original version of the manuscript, Lydia wore gray dresses under the aprons. While that may have been historically accurate, Patti pointed out that more color would be better for the cover. I agreed and, in fact, liked the blouse she chose so well that you'll find a description of it in the book. It was a special blouse, and Lydia wore it on a special day.

The Photo Shoot
Once the model is chosen and her clothing selected, it's time for the photo shoot. As you can see from the outtakes, the photographer experimented with various positions and expressions.

Are you surprised by the white background? We'll talk about that next.

Each one of these has its own appeal, but I prefer the pose Dan and Patti chose.

The Background
As you saw above, the photo shoot was done in front of a plain white background, and you've probably guessed that the background was added later. That's true, but there's more to the story than that.

The first step was to purchase an image with the basic design.

If you compare this to the final cover, you'll see many similarities, but also many differences. In addition to the color of the building, the background is different. That's because Dan Thornberg used the photo below to substitute hills for the second row of buildings.

He also made a number of other changes to create this final background. How many can you find?
One of the first things I noticed was that the flowers on the right side are different from the hollyhocks in the original art. The ground in front of the store is also different. And then ... I'll let you search for the other differences.

The First Cover
Before the cover is finalized and presented to the sales staff for their approval, the design is sent to the author for her comments.
My first reaction was that I loved it. As I said before, I think it's one of the best covers I've had, but there was one problem. Can you find the difference between this and the final version?

You're right. The problem was that the store name says "tionery." It's true that Lydia's store is a confectionery, but its name is "Cimarron Sweets." I knew readers would be as bothered by that discrepancy as I was, so I asked for it to be changed. Fortunately, that was an easy modification.

The Back Cover
With the front cover completed, it was time to write the back cover copy and design the back cover. Like every aspect of the manuscript-to-finished-book process, it was a team effort. One person was responsible for obtaining the endorsements; another wrote the back cover copy; still others were involved in the actual design of the back cover. But at last, everything was finished and ready to be sent to the printer.
I'm thrilled with the final product and hope you find it as beautiful as I do.

You can find more information about A Stolen Heart, including an excerpt, on my web page.  And if you'd like to order a copy, here are some buying links:
Barnes & Noble
Christian Book Distributors

Other Cover Art Blogs
As I promised at the beginning of this rather long blog, here are links to previous posts I've done about cover art.

Summer of Promise
Waiting for Spring 

I hope you enjoyed learning more about the process of creating a book cover. I can't wait to see what Revell has in store for the next one in the series.

Wednesday in Wyoming -- January 18, 2017

The project managers wanted to make sure there was no question about what is happening to the state capitol, and so they posted signs on the chain link fence that surrounds the construction site.  This section states the obvious -- that the capitol is closed -- and also directs visitors to the temporary locations of the various state offices.

Rather than have a boring, utilitarian fence around the capitol, the project team embellished the fence in front of the building with pictures of the capitol's past as well as key sites from around Wyoming.  Of course, nothing can completely disguise the piles of dirt and the heavy equipment.  They're all necessary parts of progress.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Wednesday in Wyoming -- January 11, 2017

Remember last week's picture of scaffolding on the capitol?  While the scaffolding remained in place, the Wyoming weather dictated protection for the building while the renovations were underway. That's why it's now wrapped in what looks like Tyvek.

Have you seen buildings wrapped like this?  It's fairly common here in Wyoming when brick is being installed during the winter, but -- because of the magnitude of the project -- this wrapping will remain for longer than normal.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Wednesday in Wyoming -- January 4, 2017

Happy New Year!

This was the sight that greeted visitors to Cheyenne last January -- scaffolding on the west side of the state capitol.  While it may not look too extensive, it was only the first step in a multi-year, multi-million dollar renovation of the state capitol.

I hope you'll come back next week (and, for that matter, for all the Wednesdays in January) to see the progress of the restoration.