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