EASTER IS A TIME OF RENEWAL AND GRATITUDE
Easter is my favorite holiday. I love everything about it—the pastel colors, Easter decorations, spring flowers, Easter service at church where I sing my favorite hymns, the family get-together, the Easter egg hunts I plan for weeks, and Easter candy, especially chocolate rabbits and those birds’ eggs with malted milk in the inside, then a layer of chocolate, then a speckled covering.
This year there’s a forecast for rain in Southern California. How can it rain on Easter? It never rains on Easter. Or, at least not in my lifetime so far. But I’m determined not to let rain dampen my holiday.
I’ve been gathering a pile of tiny gifts that I can stuff inside plastic eggs. My two eldest nieces (who at 17 and 14 tower over me) are going to supervise the Easter Egg hunt rather than participate in it. But the 11 year-old can still participate. The girls have always been easy to shop for. I put coins, packages of nuts, some candy, hair bands, barrettes, and lip-gloss in their eggs. Now we have a two-year-old boy, and I’m at a bit of a loss with what to buy for him. He’s too young for coins, and we don’t want to over do the candy, and he’s not ready for nuts. But as I write this, I realized that I can’t go wrong with Matchbox size cars. Problem solved.
Not being the domestic type, I’m not in charge of Easter dinner—my cousin is. But I will make an awesome green salad, and the rest of the family will contribute.
This will be the first Easter following the loss of my cousin’s daughter, Tanya. So at times, there will be an undercurrent of sadness that someone beloved is no longer with us. Tanya’s loss is also a reminder to cherish your loved ones and celebrate having them in your life, for you never know when someone will pass on.
Regardless of whether you celebrate the spiritual aspects of Easter, I hope you take time to celebrate spring. The holiday comes after a season of winter’s darkness, giving hope for sunshine and renewal. I’ll be taking time during the day to feel grateful for my blessings, to savor the feeling of family, to feel connected to my faith.
Feeling gratitude can change your brain in positive ways. If you think about it, no matter what your struggles are, you can find things to feel grateful for. And if you’re still having difficulty coming up with something, I’ll help you out.
Yesterday, I had to research if they had toilet paper in 1886. (The answer is yes.) But did you know what people used before toilet paper? Newspaper, pages from the almanac or catalogues if they were lucky. But before that, or if you didn’t have disposable paper, corncobs were a common wipe in the west. Yep, outhouses and corncobs. So if nothing else, on Easter count your blessings for indoor toilets and toilet paper!
I wish you feelings of renewal, gratitude, hope, joy, and a multitude of blessings on Easter.
DEVELOPING THE WORLD OF SWEETWATER SPRINGS, MONTANA, MY WAY
For the ten long years I wrote for publication without ever selling a book to New York publishers, I spent a lot of time honing my craft—learning to write fiction. I attended workshops and classes, read articles and books on writing and getting published, listened to authors talk about their experiences, and was part of a critique group.
From this, I had a pretty good idea of what editors at publishing houses wanted. I also knew in many respects, I wasn’t writing what they were looking for. I wrote old-fashioned romance instead of spicy, sexual stories. I wrote historical Westerns, not contemporary Westerns. And I wrote fantasy romance that didn’t have vampires, elves, shape-shifters, demons, or zombies. Needless to say, my books (despite the efforts of two agents and multiple contest finals or wins) didn’t sell.
Then the self-publishing wave hit, and I self-published Wild Montana Sky and Starry Montana Sky. Within a month the books started selling well, and I self-published Sower of Dreams and Reaper of Dreams. Positive reviews poured in, with some readers sharing what they liked about the books.
Around 2004, I’d begun writing Stormy Montana Sky, then set it aside when my fiction didn’t sell, so I could focus on writing nonfiction. With the success of The Montana Sky Series, I wanted to finish Stormy. While writing the book, I was working on a scene and detailing the description of nature. At one point, my inner critic—the New York editor on my shoulder—said. “You’re using too much scene-setting. You’re slowing the pace of the story.” I stopped, read what I’d written and didn’t want to cut any of it. With a flash of realization I told that mental New York editor, “My readers LIKE my scene setting. I have lots of reviews telling me so.” I pushed that editor off my shoulder, and proceed to write the book MY way.
Today, while writing Trudy’s Story, the next Montana Sky Series novella, I had a similar experience. I was writing a scene, and the inner editor said, “What’s the purpose of this scene? I don’t think it’s necessary. You’re slowing the pacing of the story.”
Again I had to stop and think about what I was doing. Hmmm. My internal editor was probably right. I was slowing the pacing. But my next question was…. "What do my readers want?"
In review after review, readers mention they love the recurring characters—the sense that they feel at home in Sweetwater Springs. One of the purposes of that particular scene is to showcase a secondary character, Mary Norton, the minister’s wife, and develop her more.
In thinking about this scene, I realized I’m building the larger community and the ties between stories. Because this story takes place in 1886, six years BEFORE Wild Montana Sky, I’m missing many of the characters who will be in later books because they don’t yet live in Sweetwater Springs. (But you do get a chance to meet Nick Sanders, hero of WMS at age 18.) Therefore, it’s more important to showcase the familiar characters who do live in Sweetwater Springs in both time periods such as Reverend and Mrs. Norton or Dr. and Mrs. Cameron.
Ultimately, I’ll make the decision about the scene at a later point, probably next week when the first draft of Trudy’s Story is finished, and I see how the novella reads. Maybe I’ll need to add other material. Maybe I’ll decide to take it out. But for now it stays.
In May, look for:
MAIL-ORDER BRIDES OF THE WEST: TRUDY’S STORY
A Montana Sky Series Novella
By Debra Holland
In Tandem With
MAIL-ORDER BRIDES OF THE WEST: EVIE’S STORY
A McCutcheon Family Series Novella
By Caroline Fyffe
COME JOIN THE AUTHORS OF THE INDIE VOICE
Ten self-published authors (including me) have joined together to form The Indie Voice, a website to support self-published authors and provide reviews of self-published books, which we have personally read and loved. These books are not submitted to our group. They are chosen by each author for their own enjoyment. When we find a book we love, we’re passing on the news. Join up for our newsletter and be entered to win a prize worth $1000.00!
To celebrate our launch later next month, eight of our members, including me, have donated a full-length novel to a box set collection, which we're offering at a HUGE discount for only 99 cents!!!!
This price is only good during the pre-order period and for the first few days after the release on March 31.
If you bought these books separately you would spend $33.92.
Pre-order your copy now!
Apple (when it goes live)
Barnes & Noble (available on March 31)
(If you have an iPad, you can download a Kindle app and buy books from Amazon.)