Category Archives: cat care

Collaboration Between Writer Friends

In 2016 we wrote together, did speaking engagements, and supported one another through the loss of a beloved pet.

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New York Times best-selling author Debra Holland and I spoke on a panel in July 2016 at the Romance Writers of America National Conference. The topic was writing for Amazon’s Kindle Worlds. About 100 attendees asked questions about the financial and marketing side of writers developing stories in a famous author’s fictional “world.” In the case of Debra’s Montana Sky Kindle World, authors may have their own characters interact with Debra’s already created and established characters, they may link their World books to other series the authors have created via traditional or independent (self) publishing, and they may spin off new series within Debra’s Montana Sky towns, Sweetwater Springs and Morgan’s Crossing. Other World creators have their own rules for participation. Amazon must approve World books before they are released.

In my case, as many of you know, I began a new series on a ranch  I created in the mining camp of Morgan’s Crossing. Rye’s Reprieve, set in 1886, features a doctor with a secret and a veterinarian who has come west with her sisters to make the family-owned Harper Ranch flourish. It was my first historical novel and rose in Amazon rankings to #7 in Historical Romance in August. The next in the series, due to release by Amazon December 15, 2016, features a suffragette being tracked by a federal agent and a miner with secret gift and a mysterious past–Rebel Love Song.

Debra and I will do a second panel discussion on Kindle Worlds, with other authors, at the March 24-26, 2017 California Dreamin’ Writers Conference at the Embassy Suites in Brea, CA.

On October 13 we spoke to Professor Karen Felts’ class on Sexuality and Gender at Orange Coast College and fielded questions about romance writing, the writer’s journey, publishing, and the link between imagination and life-experience in writing fiction.

These collaborations emerge from 15 years of working together.  Debra came to me in the late 90’s because she wanted to augment her work counseling stars in Hollywood; she wanted to become a published fiction writer.

I was already teaching writers through classes I developed at UCI Extension, and I was mentoring a women’s writers group on Fridays in my home. I took Debra on as a client.

After a series of one-on-one consults focused on the basics of scene and story design and character development, Debra joined the Friday group. Wild Montana Sky was the result of a prolonged association with this critique group; the book went on to win national awards and Debra spent the next ten years trying to be traditionally published. It was a disappointing ten years.

However, when she self-published Wild Montana Sky on Amazon for Kindle, over the next 11 months the book sold nearly 100,000 copies. Suddenly the big houses who had rejected her were calling to ask her to choose them to publish her Montana Sky series. She turned them down and went with Amazon, publishing several sweet historical novels in the series, self-publishing spin-off novels, collaborating with a sister romance author on a series, and releasing fantasy novels as well as a text on grief and grieving and a chapter in an anthology on self-publishing. For all her titles, visit her Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/Debra-Holland/e/B004XXKZH8

I remain Debra’s developmental editor, making suggestions on the flow of the narrative in her fiction, on the consistency of characters, on logic, on dates and weather and opening hooks and all the myriad complexity that makes a successful piece of fiction.

In 2015, to help keep each other motivated (because writing is very hard, lonely, draining work even if exciting at times), Debra and I began to write together at my dining room table. We continue to do so. She just completed An Irish Blessing, book 2 of The O’Donnell Sisters Trilogy, related to the Montana Sky novellas. It releases this month. I have been working on book 2 of the Harper Ranch series, Rebel Love Song.

The collaboration goes beyond writing, though.

lou-n-tux-9-18-16-jLast month I had to put down my 18-year-old kitty pal, Tuxedo, who was approaching kidney failure, and Debra, as both friend and a doctor of psychology, was just the right kind of support: loving, expressing condolences, backing off on the writing regimen while I grieved, and checking on me. I was grateful–as I was for all the wonderful notes I received on Facebook from my followers.

I won’t go into details, but I was able to support Debra through a house-move and a personal challenge or two.

When I was ill this summer and unable to write, Debra graciously released me from a pending Montana Sky release date and kept in touch on a friend level.

That’s what we do as friends: encourage, support, guide. Communicate, even on the tough issues. Defend. And above all, create. We create both a friendship and our own rich life,  like close sisters.

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Rye’s Reprieve, featuring a doctor with a secret in 1886 Montana

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After many years as a best-selling contemporary author, developmental editor, and writing instructor, it’s a great pleasure to announce the release of my first historical novel. I hope you will enjoy the Wild West adventure storyline and find a moment to post a review on Amazon. Rye’s Reprieve falls into the category of “sweet” or G-rated historical romance. Following the synopsis of the novel, you will find how the book came to be, a map of the fictional town, and, finally, acknowledgements and research notes.

About Rye’s Reprieve (The Harper Sisters Book 1), a Montana Sky Kindle World release:

In 1886, gifted surgeon Rye Rawlins is trapped by a tragic secret so painful that he denies his profession and buries himself in a gold mine in Montana Territory. But saving people is second nature, whether it’s doctoring a man mauled by a mountain lion or battling a wolf to save a child.

Veterinarian and horse rancher Missouri Harper suffers through the worst winter in Montana history to provide for three beautiful sisters and an ailing aunt. Dangerous storms, privation, and wild predators make survival precarious.

Rye comes to Missouri’s aid, putting his life in danger and Missouri in his debt. As they fall in love, his secret and her promise to remain a spinster to protect the land for her family force them to look within to discover the cost of love.

How the story came into being:

The fictional town where the novel is set, Morgan’s Crossing, was first conceived by New York Times best-selling author and close friend Debra Holland. As her developmental  editor, familiar with her settings and characters, bringing her town and three of her characters from Mail-Order Brides of the West: Prudence into being in my book was fun. During the writing of Rye’s Reprieve, we sat at my dining table working on our separate projects, and I alternated between writing my novel and editing a novel and a novella she was releasing. Other authors writing in Debra’s Kindle World can be discovered here.

Map of Morgan’s Crossing

Map

Acknowledgements & Historical Research Notes

I would like to thank my close friend and colleague Debra Holland for inspiration, for making this novel better by her suggestions, and for the opportunity to write a book set in the world she established through her best-selling Montana Sky series. The setting for my novel, Morgan’s Crossing, Montana Territory, was first invented by Debra. Since writing is a lonely endeavor, of particular pleasure is that we spent many hours at my dining table writing together and encouraging one another on our separate projects. For more on her book titles and background visit her Amazon Author Page at: http://www.amazon.com/Debra-Holland/e/B004XXKZH8.

Thanks also go to the wonderful authors who wrote books in this Kindle World series. We shared historical research, encouragement, and character exchanges so readers could enjoy seeing their favorite characters in other books. To learn about the authors who launched books in Debra’s Kindle World series along with Rye’s Reprieve, go to: http://debraholland.com

I must thank my copy editor, Adeli Brito of FourEyesEdit.com, my formatter, Amy Atwell of Author E.M.S., both of whom came through for me at the eleventh hour, and my cover artist, Erin Dameron-Hill of EDH Graphics.

In addition, thanks go to Dr. Janis Thereault for help with the scene in which Albert is injured; Christine Ford, Integrated Resource Program Manager of the Grant-Khor’s Ranch in Southwest Montana, now a national park; Brian Geiger, PhD, MILS, Director, CBSR, University of California, Riverside; Lori Cassidy and John Dale of Orange Coast College Library; Erin Eldermire of Vet Library Reference, Cornell University; and Randy Thompson, Senior Archivist, The National Archives at Riverside, California.

Finally, I would like to thank my cheerleaders: my daughter Stacee Nelson, my sister Grace MacMillan, my sister-in-law Anna Marg Rear, my nephew and niece Ken and Debbie Rear and niece Shannon Rear, my current students, my former students now published—Alexis Lusonne Montgomery. Frances Amati, and  Janis Thereault—and my dear friend Carl Baggett, Jr.

The lyrics from “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear” that open this novel are attributed in several sources to the Rev. Edmund Hamilton Sears (1810-1876).

The snap fasteners you see on the clothing of the cover model were apparently not in common use for American clothing in 1886 but were patented approximately that year by a German inventor. Other sources suggest the snap was used in stage clothing for quick changes.

“Thou art in Rome” is a quote by Samuel Rogers (1763-1855) that appears in the skating party chapter.

The origins of lyrics from “Blow the Man Down,” an English sea shanty, are obscure. The title may refer to the act of knocking a man down. “Contemporary publications and the memories of individuals, in later publications, put the existence of this shanty by the 1860s. The Syracuse Daily Courier, July 1867, quoted a lyric from the song, which was said to be used for hauling halyards on a steamship bound from New York to Glasgow.” More can be read at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blow_the_Man_Down.

The most helpful sources for weather conditions and the ravages of the worst winter in Montana history, 1886-1887, can be found at: http://www.nps.gov/grko/learn/historyculture/winter.htm; for a vivid depiction at: http://theweatherforums.com/archive/index.php?/topic/21388-the-winter-of-1886-87-in-montana/; and at: http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/record-cold-and-snow-decimates-cattle-herds.

For sources on the American land grants of the 1880s—most of which conflict as to acreage—which nonetheless are interesting reading, go to: http://history.nd.gov/lincoln/land8.html; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desert_Land_Act; and to pour through the various codes of the Desert Land Act of 1877, which modified the Homestead Act to allow more land to homesteaders in the west, go to Cornell Law and with great patience consult their archives. Here is a start to your investigation: https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/43/1303

A non-traditional medical technique for lowering heart rate by massage is found here: http://www.wikihow.com/Slow-Your-Heart-Rate-Down

For early veterinarian practices, see Vets in 1880s: http://www.commercevillagevet.com/historic-hospitals-veterinarians-share-stories-of-three-practices/. Although I’ve owned horses, I needed to reacquaint myself with the parts of a horse and used this site: http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/identifying-horse-parts-and-markings.html

A truly excellent source for lists of items pioneers often brought with them in wagons crossing the territories is here: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/frontierhouse/frontierlife/essay2.html

I took Rye’s middle name from a Civil War hero and claimed the man as his uncle:

John Aaron Rawlins (February 13, 1831 – September 6, 1869) was an officer in the Union Army during the American Civil War. A confidant of Ulysses S. Grant, Rawlins served on Grant’s staff throughout the war, rising to the rank of brevet major general, and was Grant’s chief defender against allegations of insobriety. After the war, he was appointed Secretary of War when Grant was elected President of the United States, but died of advanced tuberculosis five months into his term. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Aaron_Rawlins.

Books I consulted from my library are listed here by title and author and are available currently online:
Days on the Road: Crossing the Plains in 1865, the diary of Sarah Raymond Herndon
Bright Star in the Big Sky by Mary Barmeyer O’Brien
Doc Susie: The True Story of a Country Physician in the Colorado Rockies by Virginia Cornell
Pioneer Doctor: The Story of a Woman’s Work by Mari Grana
Doctors of the Old West by Robert F. Karolevitz
Medicine: A History of Healing, Ancient Traditions to Modern Practice, consulting editor Roy Porter (lent to me by Colleen Fliedner, a member of my plot group)

If you would like further information, contact me through my website: www.LouellaNelson.com

There’s Something Healthy about Cats

Edited from an online post by Kit Sudol. See her awesome blog posts at http://www.upworthy.com/kit-sudol

So … cats are basically magic. And this can be proven. With science.

visual about cats

This visual appears with Ms. Sudol’s post. Graphics by Gemma Busquets.

FACT: Cats can help you live longer.

But science says that in studies about pet owners versus non-pet owners, folks who owned cats had significantly fewer stress symptoms. Dog owners were #2 in low stress. And in last place? People without any pets.

And here’s the kicker: Owning a pet (cats and dogs) in general reduced stress-related blood pressure more than medication designed specifically to do that (aka ACE inhibitors).

Now, having way lower stress because of an adorable little fuzzball in your life is actually a really big deal health-wise because…

FACT: Cats can reduce the likelihood of having a heart attack! By 40%!

The University of Minnesota found that owning a cat might actually be good for your heart, and not just in an, “Oh my gosh, I am just so overwhelmed with love for this animal!” kind of heart stuff way.

In their study, they found that folks who did not own a cat were 40% more likely to have a heart attack and had a 30% higher chance of dying from heart disease than cat owners did. Which is just like … what?!

So, why is this? Well, researchers at the University of Minnesota said this:

“If we assume that cat ownership is directly responsible for the benefits, then the most logical explanation may be that cat ownership may relieve stress and anxiety and subsequently reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.”

See? Less stress, less anxiety = fewer heart and blood pressure issues. Also, probably more tripping over cat toys at two in the morning, but I couldn’t find anything about that in the study. Oops.

From http://www.upworthy.com/here-are-a-few-brilliant-ways-cats-are-secretly-helping-their-owners-live-healthier-lives?g=2&c=reccon1

Thanks for the heads up on this article, Debra Holland.

To pay them back…

Give your kitties fresh water every morning, quality food morning and night–food with no corn or other fillers and no “meat by-products” or “chicken by-products”–and lots of hugs and kisses and playtime every day. If they look lethargic, try to hide, or seem grumpy when you try to feed or pet them, they may not be feeling well. If this continues for hours, take them to the vet for a quick check. You may save their life, just as they are saving yours.

cat eating

Tuxedo likes to eat solo.

cats eating

Some like to eat together and others like their own bowl.

My cats get 8 drops of colloidal silver suspension in their morning water; this keeps their immune system boosted and seems to prevent fleas (See earlier blog on this topic). I also give them pro-biotic powder from the pet food store to help prevent digestive issues that crop up from eating commercial cat foods for years and years.

They get supervised visits outdoors in a protected yard, where they can bird-watch, eat grass,  and roll in the catnip.

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Tuxedo cozies up to the catnip.