I’ve been MIA for quite a while due to family difficulties. I’ve been meaning to get back to blogging, most specifically to my slang posts, but I’ve put it off. And then I was tagged by Susan Macatee to participate in a blog hop about our books. I figured this was the universe’s way of giving me an opening and since all my fellow Vic’s agreed to let me do the post here (I don’t have my own blog) I decided to grab the opportunity. I have in turn tagged some friends of mine, Cathryn Parry, Stephanie Queen, Corrina Lawson, and Barbara Wallace for December 5th. (FYI fellow Vic’s Isabel Roman, Nichole McCaffrey and Caroline Clemmons are talking about their books today too). Today, it’s about my book–hopefully in the next couple weeks I can get to being all Victorian Slangish again.
So what do I do? I answer questions apparently. I like those kind of blog posts.
What is the working title of your book?
The Wild Half, although it was originally West Wind. In the middle of writing The Wild One, I suddenly found the characters from that book meeting up with the ones from this book. Honestly, when I started The Wild One I never anticipated that happening. At any rate, The Wild One was picked up by Kensington, and when I finally felt like I was getting close enough with this book to publish it, I wanted to carry on the Wild titles. So this one has been renamed The Wild Half, which is the half of the hero and heroine’s characters that they are most attracted to.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
This is kind of hard to answer, because I started this book when I was 14, and have been working on it on and off, literally for 37 years ago. The ideas came from all over the place. I suppose the best way to answer is that I was influenced at that time by what I was reading—Rosemary Rogers, Katherine Woodiwiss, Mary Stewart, Phyllis Whitney—and the westerns my family, friends and I watched: Big Valley, Bonanza, High Chaparral, and lots of John Wayne movies. Naturally the original plot and characters have changed again and again because of my own life’s experiences, people I’ve met, books, television, movies I’ve consumed, and to a much larger extent, all the research I’ve done—on cowboys and cholera, and buried treasure and guns, slang and victim psychology. A few of the books I used (there has to have been over a hundred):
Wondrous Times on the Frontier, Dee Brown
The American West, Dee Brown
Random House Dictionary of Historical Slang, 2 volumes A-O
Reader’s Digest, the Story of the Great American West
The People’s Common Sense Medical Adviser in Plain English, R.V. Pierce, MD, 1876
What genre does your book fall under?
I would call it a Western Romance although there’s murder and mystery involved. I tried pretty hard to make it feel more like a 19th century, Victorian setting that happened to be in the old west, as opposed to a western. I feel like too often we view the old west like it was ad entity separate from the United States, and in some ways it was. It was certainly short on law and order, but for the most part the people who settled it wanted to be part of the United States and as soon as they could, they started to accumulate all the luxuries of the people back East. After all, many of them went West to seek their fortunes. Unfortunately some of the went west to “seek” other people’s fortunes, or just to create mayhem.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Can I go back in time and take a young Robert Redford? When I started writing it, he was playing in the Electric Horseman and The Sting, and we were watching Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid on television, or maybe it was a re-release in movie theaters.Barring that, I guess the actor who most suits the hero, Rick Winchester, would be Josh Holloway.
The other characters are harder. If Angie Harmon were shorter and had green eyes, I would go for her. She has the voice and dark coloring to fit Lilah, but the height is really an issue.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Man am I ever bad at summing up my books! Okay, how about two sentences?
After five years of fighting grief and guilt over his wife’s death, cowboy Rick Winchester finally finds relief in the simmering sexual attraction and intrigue surrounding Lilah Martin. But the more he learns about her, the less he knows, for Lilah is a mystery to herself, relentlessly pursued by men who want the secret locked in her mind—a secret that could make them both rich, or get them both killed.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Self-published. It’s long for most publishers to pick up—between 106 and 110k words. It costs publishers more for all the extra pages, but the story is too complicated to cut it down to the standard 90-100k words. Happily, it doesn’t make a bit of difference in cost if you publish it electronically!
I still have to finish up some polishing, then get it to a copy editor and find someone to do a book cover. I expect that means I’ve got 6-8 weeks before I get it up on Amazon. Hopefully by the end of January.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I started it when I was 14. I finished the first draft when I was in my early 30’s. Maybe 20 years? I suppose I can’t call it that, though, since I was doing a lot of other things during those years, like getting married, having kids. . . If we go from the moment I said “it’s time to finish this thing come hell or high water” to “the end” it was probably 6-9 months. Not too bad considering the first draft was 200k words and I a 2 year old and a 4 year old at the time. Those months were a blur. I heard we had 96 inches of snow that year and I know I shoveled at lot, but I was so lost in Colorado summer, 1876, that it was just kind of on the periphery of my vision.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I am very, very uncomfortable comparing my books to other books. Partly I don’t want to upset other writers, but mostly I am just too close to my characters and story to be anywhere near subjective. So I’m just going to leave this with the authors who influenced me at the time.
Who or What inspired you to write this book?
I started it when my childhood best friend decided that she wanted to write a book and it sounded like a really cool idea to me. I expect a lot of kids do that and give up after a few months, but I kept at it over the years because the characters just would not let me go, no matter how long I put it away. They had their story, it had to be written and it had to be put out there. All of my other books I want to publish, but this one is different. I’m not sure I’d call it the Book of my Heart, or my Best Book or anything other like that. All I can say is I am compelled to finish it and publish it. I can’t really explain it other than that.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
For the regular history readers of this blog, this was the book that got me into researching, starting with The Story of the Great American West, a book my parents gave me when I was 16. I don’t know where it is these days—lost among all the other research books I’ve collected over the years, I guess. I would say about 90% of the research I’ve done on the Victorian era is in this book in some way or another, either as a sort of background in my head, or straight out of a book. I even took a trip to Colorado, where I went to a library and found information about a treasure rumored to be buried in the Sangre de Cristo mountains. My husband is still a little freaked out that after a few hour’s drive to southern Colorado to see the area where I imagined the Bar M to be, we turned a corner and there it was—a fully operating cattle ranch. Not named the Bar M of course, but still. . .
As for romance readers and specifically for anybody who has read The Wild One, this book is, as I mentioned, a prequel. The Wild Half is Rick and Lilah’s story, and answers any questions you might have about conversations in the Wild One:
“You must understand she’s completely in his power,” Lilah said.
Rick answered gently, “She’s in love with him, Lilah.”
Lilah swallowed. “That might make it worse.”
“Would it? I’d think it’d be easier. Even pleasurable.”
Incredibly, tears formed in Lilah’s eyes. A melting glacier. “No,
Rick. It would not.”
Rick drew a deep breath, and reached for Lilah’s hand. “I never
meant you harm.”
She flinched. “I know that now. But then. . .”
Another breath, and he lifted an arm. “Come here.”
She rose and Rick pulled her into his lap, where the Frost Queen
curled into his arms, contrary to all convention and every thought Lee had
ever had about the woman. “I’m sorry, love,” Rick crooned softly. “I’m
And to a lesser degree Jim and Melinda’s story:
Amusement bubbled up inside Jess. “Melinda, I really don’t need
“Oh, but you do! It will take days and days.”
“Not,” Jim ground out, “if we travel light.”
“A carriage isn’t that heavy.”
“Mercy, Lee,” Jess said in a low voice, “was she always this
“I don’t know, sweetheart. Last time I was here, she was dead.”
We also learn more about Nick McGraw, whose romance with Star Montgomery, Running Wild, will come out next, hopefully about a month after The Wild Half
For anyone interested here is a short excerpt from The Wild Half—in this scene Lilah has run away from Rick, whose prying into her secrets scares her half to death. He’s caught up with her however, and is in her hotel room.
He was sitting on the bed to her left. The dresser was behind her, to the right. In order to reach the door she’d have to push past him. He’d trapped her. Her breath caught in her throat.
She felt him staring at her. “A few weeks back I met a man who was looking for you.”
She froze, as blood rushed to her head. Already breathless, she grabbed the windowpane to steady herself. Then working her features into blankness, she turned. “What did he look like? What did he want?”
His eyes were intense, penetrating. “Dark hair, medium height, thirty or so, with a mustache. He said his name was John Carpenter, from New Orleans. He claimed he was trying to help your brother find you, that you’d run off with some fella after quarrelling with your father.”
She looked to the floor, combing her memory. Thirty with a mustache? That description could match many men. But had she heard the name before? She rubbed her temple. “I don’t remember.”
The words slipped out before she could stop them—more pieces to a puzzle she wanted to hide. With a frightened thump of her heart she lifted her head. Their gazes locked. The tamped down anger she’d seen when he first entered the saloon flickered to life. “You don’t remember what? Carpenter? Your family? Or the man you ran off with? “
“It’s none of your business!” she snapped. “How many times do I have to tell you that before you leave me alone!” He was too near—to the truth, to her. The air between them suddenly felt heavy and thick. If he’d just move away. . .
“And how many times do I have to tell you it is my business,” he growled. “I’m here to help you, whether you want it or not. Get that straight.”
But why did he care so much? It didn’t make sense. Unless Carpenter had told him about the price on her head. Had they’d joined forces? Rick had had a lot of money at that card game, more than she could attribute to a 40$ a month cowhand. Betrayal. . .
Her heart shook, then rose to clog her throat. “I don’t want your help,” she said, digging in her pocket for her derringer. And I don’t have to take it.” She took a step toward the door.
He rose, blocking her exit with his large body as he grabbed her arm to prevent her from lifting her weapon. The smell of leather and dust and stale cigarette smoke wrapped around her, making breathing even harder. “Give me the gun, Lilah.”
She swallowed. “No.”
A muscle jumped in his cheek and his eyes flashed angry blue lightning. “God damn it, woman,” he ground out as he slid his hand down to her wrist. “I spent three weeks traveling through this god-forsaken country looking for you. I’ll be damned if I’m going to let you shoot me, now.” His fingers gripped her wrist so tightly her hand went numb. Her fingers loosened and he pulled the gun free with his left hand. Stepping backward, he emptied the two barrels, pocketed the bullets and then slammed it down on the dresser. “You’re taking my help.