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I'm most recently a writer.  In the six plus decades of my life, I've been a wife, mother, grandmother, Jill of all trades though mistress of but a few, and most of the time pretty content with my lot.  As a much younger person, I believed I was called to write, but life and living distracted me for most of those decades.  An unwilling transplant from the South,  twenty years ago I unintentionally landed in the geographical center of the US.  Writing came about in part due to the unwillingness, I expect.  When caring for family, gardening, and renovating a century-old house failed to provide sufficient creative outlets, I turned to the one thing I always intended to do.  Eight titles later, I'm grateful I found myself while Lost in the Plains!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Work in Progress?

Yes!  Shannon's Daughter is earning its stripes as a work in progress.  The work is slow, but progressing.  At times the writing feels like trudging uphill battling a strong headwind, but still it progresses.  The plot has thickened and I'm pretty sure my hair has thinned (not quite tearing it out yet, but definitely running my hands through it regularly, punctuated by groans of frustration.)  The word count goes up and down as I add and delete, then add again.  I've stopped handing off chapters to my "team" because the changes are too many to make sense of at this point.  Am I ready to cry "Uncle!"  No!  But I am ready to admit this one is a completely different experience from any I've had before.  Maybe my characters are slower to show themselves, or maybe I'm still grappling with those self-imposed comfort zones; but for whatever reasons, this one is a new kind of challenge.  I'm committed to giving it as much time and effort as it needs to become the best it can be.  I'm determined to let it evolve into the book it's meant to be.  And I've given myself permission to have brief periods of discouragement and anxiety, followed, of course, by rolling my sleeves higher and digging right back in.  If I didn't believe in this story, if I didn't think it has something important to say, I might give myself permission to admit defeat at some point.  But I do, and I won't!

A welcome ray of sunshine beamed on the scene a few days ago when the cover arrived.  Now by "arrived," you must understand the process by which "we" design the covers for my books.  My son, Chris, is my designer, but we work together in order to avoid too many wasted hours of his time doing what I told him to do, only to have me decide it needs changing.  I basically stand over his shoulder while he works, suggesting, rejecting, suggesting again, and so on until I see on his computer screen the cover I want to see on my book.  He's tolerant if not precisely patient, I'm admittedly obsessive, and we make a good team if the end results are any indication.

So here it is--the image which will represent Shannon's Daughter when it goes to publication.  I think its simple elegance says much of what I'm trying to say in the story about Peg Shannon as seen through the eyes of the man who loves her.  I'd love to hear what it says to you!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Safe Passage

Memorial Day had never been more to me than the weekend closest to the end of the school year, a time to pause and remember the sacrifice of those who have fought in too many wars, and a chance to let my husband do most of the cooking since he's the grill expert.  Since I've worked at the hotel job, it's also become the weekend we see the same faces each year as they return to this little town to decorate the cemetery (you have to see the size of our cemetery to appreciate how many this could include) and enjoy time with their families.

That was until six years ago, when on May 27, also Memorial Day that year, my mother made her graceful exit from this life's stage.  Now this weekend is truly a time to memorialize the woman whose journey I shared, whose life influenced and shaped my own, and whose passing confirmed for me that death is simply part of living, to be accepted, even embraced, as another step in our travels with our loved ones and our Creator. 

It would not be overstating to say that my mother's life was tragic in many ways.  In my lifetime, I watched her struggle with a grief that would not be comforted, make choices that would deny her the life she deserved, and finally succumb to years of poor health and physical suffering.  As a beautiful young woman, she loved and lost on a grand scale and the scars never seemed to completely heal.  She was often sad, but never bitter.  Her faith was strong enough to keep her going but never seemed to quite lift her from her sorrow.  Through it all, I was not so much her child as her closest friend and confidante, a relationship I sometimes resented but will never regret.  Living her life as well as my own made me understand better the price of lingering in the past, the danger of refusing to take risks and the beauty of unconditional love. 

My mother's life was rooted in tradition.  As a member of one of those old Virginia families whose land had originally been bestowed by an English king and whose wealth had long since been replaced by genteel poverty, she taught me to respect those who had gone before, despite their flaws, and to treasure my heritage.  I fully expected that when she was laid to rest, it would be in the cemetery behind the little village church I attended as a child, beside several generations of her family.  Instead, my mother asked to have her ashes scattered in the one place I now understand she was truly happy, where she had shared the first months of her marriage to my father.  While their marriage ended in the devastation of his death by his own hand, I knew this request meant that after fifty years the grief had finally been comforted and she was at peace with having loved him despite the loss. 

I prayed to be led to the perfect place to fulfill her request.  That bright summer's day, I steered the car along a winding mountain road assuring my husband, who thankfully shared the task with me, that I would know the spot when I came to it.  I had no doubt when I pulled off onto the shoulder that I had arrived at my mother's final resting place.   

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Seven Days of FREE

Frankly, May's sales have been pretty sad.  My hope is that everyone is outdoors enjoying their gardens, watching the kids and grandkids playing, and cleaning off the grill in preparation for that Memorial Day cookout.  If I'm any indication, once the weather improves, there's way too much catching up to be done outside.  Reading can wait for a rainy day. 

Anyway, that's my hope.  With that in mind, I've decided to see how many books I can give away before the month is out--that's right, GIVE AWAY.  So here goes.

To begin at the beginning with Hearts Unfold-Book I in the Miracle at Valley Rise Series, you can download a copy through the end of the month of May for just .99.  Not quite a give-away, but that's reduced from $2.99, so not a bad deal.

May 21-22--Entreat Me Not-Book II is FREE for Kindle.  Yes, FREE! 
Entreat Me Not is all about the twists and turns on the road to happily ever after.  True love is never about smooth sailing, is it?

May 23-24--Heart of My Own Heart-Book III is FREE for Kindle.
 Now you can read all about the happily ever after, along with the turmoil and growing pains of that first year of married bliss. 

Last but far from least, over the holiday weekend, May 25-27, Offered for Love--Book IV will also be FREE!  The newest release in the series, this book chronicles a year of promising beginnings and poignant farewells.  You won't want to miss it!

So there you have it.   Have a wonderful holiday weekend, stay safe, and run over to Amazon to download a little summer reading for those rainy days!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Merry Month of May?

April may be the cruelest month, at least according to T.S. Eliot, but May has always been pretty crazy as far as I'm concerned.  This year will be no different, if the first half is any indication.  As a result, my blog posts have been hard to squeeze in. 

So far, I've talked a little about my identity crisis in "I'm a Writer?" and how difficult this time of year is for me in "Grief Revisited."  I tried to detail what you can do to help your favorite Indie Authors in "Join the Revolution" and the challenges of writing a semi-steamy love story in "Tricky Words and Tantalizing Phrases-II."  Oh, and I'm running a special on Hearts Unfold for the rest of the month of May.  Not quite up to my usual goal of three posts a week, but then this is May.

I may have left out a few details like the busy weekend we spent in Bartlesville, OK with John's concert and my minor shopping spree.  Oh, and did I mention that three days into the following  week I was run down by the bus known as ecoli and thought (hoped) for about twelve hours I was going to die?  I've also been training new clerks during my shifts at the hotel, which pretty much cuts out any writing time there. 

Then there's the house to clean, at least a little, the flower beds to work, the dog to walk and my fellows to feed.  Since the ecoli thing, I'm trying to pay closer attention to what we eat--more home cooking and less take-out.  Seasonal allergies are also giving me fits, and all those antihistamines don't make for a real clear or creative head.  And so on and so forth!

Excuses?  Sort of.  But I'm starting to think that in the coming months, I may ease back on posts, focus my writing time on "Shannon's Daughter" with the hope of publishing in the fall, and enjoy my family and my flowers.  Here in Kansas, really nice weather is brief, wedged between too cold and too hot, so any day I can get outside is a gift.  I'm working more hours at the hotel now, so my time is further stretched.  Time to prioritize and get the important stuff in the right place.

Don't worry.  I'll get in here to the blog at least a couple times a week, if only to let you know how things are going.  I've discovered blogging is a good quick writing fix and I enjoy knowing at least a faithful few are checking in to see what I've posted.  I'm thinking you're busy too planning all the rejuvenating things we do in the summer months.  So let's agree to enjoy ourselves, check in with each other every now and then, and get back together for a good heart-to-heart in the fall, okay?  Meanwhile, I'd love to hear how you plan to "spend your summer vacation!"

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Special Offer!

Now through May 31st
is just $.99 for your Kindle!*
The love story described by readers as "beautiful, inspiring and heartwarming", Hearts Unfold is the first in the four-part Miracle at Valley Rise Series.

*Don't have a Kindle?  Amazon offers a free Kindle app for virtually every type of electronic device.  Just take the link above and look to the lower right, below the "Click Here to Buy" box, for more information. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Tricky Words and Tantilizing Phrases--Part II

Work on Shannon's Daughter is progressing, although I confess it is slow at times.  I'm doing that ridiculous one step forward, two steps back dance with this one.  Or at least one step forward, a half-step back.  This story, which I want to tell as accurately and entertainingly as I possibly can, is being a real challenge--or pain in the backside, depending on the mood I'm in at the end of my writing day.

I've been doing quite a bit of research.  I've downloaded a number of romance novels on my Kindle and spent quite a bit of time all steamed up with this or that hunky "hero," not to mention the absurdly perfect with one tiny quirk "heroines" of these books.  I have a renewed respect for writers who can throw open the door and follow their characters through scenes which repeatedly make me blush--and I'm a sixty-plus year old woman who's been married three times and enjoyed my share of those scenes.  It's trying to write them that has me all hot and bothered at the moment.

I think I'm making progress.  While keeping at least one foot in my comfort zone, I've managed to take Peg and Kendall where their story dictates they must go.  I can't quite throw open that door, but I can describe a love scene in the kind of language I'm most at ease with.  I think I'm going for the poetically suggestive, rather than the graphically descriptive here.  However, more and more I find myself slipping in some of those tricky words and tantalizing phrases without feeling I've crossed the line. 

I love Peg and Kendall together.  And I want my readers to feel the same about them.  Theirs is not the typical romance, and I would hate to let their sexual interludes overshadow what is really a very complex relationship.  So if I go slowly, it's because I want to do them justice, not just let their passion carry the story along.  At the same time, I don't want to downplay their passion, because it is such a large part of their relationship.  See, one step forward, a half-step back!  There are times when I've been heard moaning over my laptop "Oh, just write the @%#& book, Karen!" to which my wise and supportive husband/editor replies, "Well, yes!"

In the end, if the end ever comes and this book makes it to publication, the readers will be the judges.  No book is for everyone; just read a few of the reviews on Amazon and Goodreads to be assured of that!  What some may find offensive others will find disappointingly tame.  My job is to tell the story, using the words that do that best.  Since I'm convinced characters are not so much developed as discovered--witness those who refuse to conform to my ideals and instead force me to conform to theirs (see the archived post "What a Character!" for more on that) I'll just have to let them lead the way.  And right now, Peg Shannon and Kendall Gregg are taking me to places I've never been as a writer.  It's exciting, exasperating, and I hope in the end, a journey my readers will be glad I survived.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Join the Revolution!

Here's the thing.  You've taken a chance on an unknown author by purchasing their work or even downloading it for free.  Believe me, they are grateful for that.  But there's so much more you can do as a part of this exciting revolution in the publishing industry.  More than ever before, the connection between writer and reader has become a partnership.  Their work comes directly to you, without the benefit of agent, publisher or publicist.  That you found it at all among the huge number of titles available is something close to miraculous to the author.  That you enjoy it is the ultimate goal in their writing life. They've done their job.  Here's where your contribution begins.

Make some noise!
  While we bear the primary responsibility for promoting our books, without your voices, we're often whispering into the darkness.  Tell your friends, share your books, suggest an Indie work to your book club.  Don't just close up your ereader and forget that book you enjoyed.  Your recommendation matters, to the author and to future readers.

Numbers count! 
"Friend" an author on Facebook.  "Like" their fan page.  "Share" their posts.  Follow their blog.  Numbers speak louder than words in many cases.  They speak of quality and popularity, and encourage others to join the crowd.

Write a review and leave a rating wherever possible, please!
Most purchase points like Amazon and Smashwords make it easy to leave a review in a matter of minutes.  Goodreads has a simple rating system which only takes a few seconds.  Not only does your opinion count, but this is another place where numbers matter.  Reviews and ratings are necessary for authors to promote on Internet sites like Kindleboards and ENT, which require certain numbers even for purchased ads.  Keep in mind that a review is not intended so much for the author as for potential readers, who will take your word with regard to the content and quality of a book.  It doesn't need to be a five-star review, it just needs to be honest and fair.

Join the conversation!
When I first published on Kindle, I wasn't setting out to sell books.  What I wanted most was to start a conversation, to generate a discussion with those who read my work.  Admittedly, I had no idea how to go about that, and after a little over a year, I'm still learning.  To date, the greatest rewards that have come from this venture have been the messages and emails I've received.  From that first email, thanking me for writing "such a beautiful book" to the moving message just yesterday from a lady in New Zealand, every word from a reader is a gift I will cherish forever.  I get chills when I open a new message and I've shed more than a few grateful tears over my computer. 

I'm sure every writer loves those moments when they connect with their audience, but for the Indie, that connection is essential to survival.  Why keep writing if no one is reading?  Selling a book may be a momentary thrill, but the subsequent silence is terrifying.  Perhaps not everyone is comfortable reaching out to a stranger, but if they have touched you, taught you or made you laugh, are they really strangers anymore? 

Somewhere in most Indie publications, you'll find a way to contact the author via FB, email, websites or blogs.  Believe me, the few minutes you take to join the conversation will be well spent. 

On FB--"Friend" me at https://www.facebook.com/authorkaren.welch and please "like" my page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Karen-Welch/535693969790765?ref=hl.

Email me at welchkaren@yahoo.com.  I love to get emails and I'll be sure to write back!

And of course, please comment on any post here on the blog.  I look forward to hearing from you!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Grief Revisited

I wrote this several years ago. It is once again spring and once again the same thoughts and feelings are prompted by the season. In hopes this may touch someone who needs to read these words, to know they are not alone in struggling with this particular type of loss, I am posting it again.

I admit that while spring is in many ways my favorite time of year, I'm especially fragile when the world is turning green and the sun is circling higher in the sky.  Anniversary reactions are at the same time predictable and uncontrollable, catching us at unexpected moments and bearing down with fresh grief over losses which we like to believe were dealt with long ago.  Apparently, grief knows no time constraints and the heart is capable of reliving the worst blows with agonizing clarity.  Or so it has been for me much of my life.

In May of 1957, my father, a beautiful, gifted and brilliant young man of thirty with what might have been a lifetime of creative endeavor ahead of him, ended his life, forever changing the color of the world for those he left behind.  Every year since, no matter my age or situation, when winter begins to give over to spring, my spirit is revisited by that tragedy. 

For many of those years, I've tried to tell myself the time for grieving has long since passed.  I may be able to convince my conscious mind of that fact, but my heart has yet to comply.  Something as simple as the sight of budding tree branches, or the scent of a warm breeze can trigger the need to shed a few tears and acknowledge the sorrow, no matter how much time has taught me about moving on.  I've learned it's best to give in and allow myself to grieve yet again.  Comfort always follows, and for another year I am the survivor I worked so hard to become. 

Much has been written and discussed about the unique position of children who survive a parental suicide.  Anger, guilt and a lack of closure have been acknowledged as our legacy.  Many of us have endured our own battles with depression and even attempted to end our own lives, whether driven by our genetic heritage or by our history.  Regardless of how much has been resolved in countless therapy sessions and support groups, I believe most of us continue  to seek some way to lovingly remember without also reliving the years of suffering set in motion by that one fateful act. The search may be endless, a circle forever leading back to unanswered questions and or to answers that can never provide the comfort we long for. After over fifty years, I remain hopeful of one day telling the story of my father's life without prefacing the conversation with the story of his death. 

My anniversary is almost past.  In a another week or so, the weight on my spirit will lift, I'll breathe the spring air more easily and find joy in planting my garden.  As I do every year, I will tuck away the memories, accepting them once again as part of a past I can not change.  I have no doubt that as has happened so many times, in the next twelve months I'll meet others sharing this journey, and we will talk about our losses and our survival.  And just as surely, for a few days next spring, grief will once again come wafting on the first warm breeze, a reminder not only of what I lost, but of what I have survived. 

Friday, May 3, 2013

"I'm a Writer?"

Last night I was training a new co-worker, a young woman who I'm sure considers me an Old Lady, older most likely than her mother even.  I'm always reticent in this situation to talk about myself very much and risk the glazed stare that reminds me I'm practically obsolete in the eyes of  her generation. 

So we did some training, we got to know each other a little bit, and then during the inevitable lull in the evening (this is a hotel front desk, where there are lots of lulls, wedged in between spurts of hectic check-ins and back-to-back phone calls) I pulled out my laptop to check in on my other career.  I weighed the wisdom of disclosure.  I can't think of anything more facetious than declaring to a perfect stranger, "Oh, and by the way, I'm a writer."  So I checked my FB pages and my sales reports, and peeped at my WiP just to be sure it's still there, and I said nothing.

This is something I've had real trouble with from the beginning--calling myself a writer, or even admitting that I was sitting at the computer for hours at a time.  I remember in the very beginning, when I was sure the flow of words would dry up just as it had so often before, I didn't even tell my family what I was doing.  I tried to pretend they wouldn't notice or think it was strange that I had disappeared yet again.  One night my son came in very late to find me typing away, and he gave me one of those looks, the one that said he knew I was up to something crazy again and he was almost afraid to ask what.  But he did ask, "Mom, are you writing?"  My answer was a kind of guilty giggle followed by "I think so." 

Eventually, both my husband and son were "in" on the secret, but I still kept silent with everyone else.  It was months before I told my closest friends, and then I made sure to let them know I never meant for what I was doing to go any further than my computer.  Honestly, I didn't know quite how to describe what I was doing.  I wasn't writing a book, I was just pouring words into a file, but as the months passed, it became clear those words were telling a story which my husband insisted someone else needed to read. Even when I approached the two friends he selected as most likely to give me an honest opinion, I could barely choke out the words "my book,"  much less say I had "written" such a thing. 

It's gotten easier.  I can now talk about myself as a writer without stammering.  I can get really excited talking about the experience of writing and even more so about my readers.  I can actually say, "I'm now working on my sixth title" without blushing.  I'm keenly aware that proclaiming myself a writer doesn't make me one, that only a reader finding enjoyment in what I've written will prove that fact. Still, being able to tell someone about my new life as a writer is a lot more fun than I ever expected it to be.  I hope I never get over having to pinch myself every time I say "I'm a writer," but I'm thankful to have reached the point where I almost believe it myself.