Call to Action and Mini-Vent

April 16, 2014

Anyone who follows here or knows me knows how fond I am of AAR—All About Romance. I know it’s a site that reviews books, and when Sing My Name was first out no one there said, “Okay, let’s do Ellen O’Connell a big favor and review one of her books.” The book got reviewed in the usual course of what they usually do.

However, right at that time I was getting a lot of flack from the anti-indie crowd over things I didn’t do, and the fact is there’s no way to defend against that kind of thing. At one point I seriously considered giving up writing. So that DIK review was a tremendous and timely morale booster. I’ve heard it’s the first time they ever reviewed an indie book, and if that’s true, it just makes it better. I never submitted the book for review or asked them to review it (I did submit a request for Dancing and also one for Bad Man, although they haven’t reviewed Bad Man to date).

I also have good feelings because a lot of the AAR posters in their forums say nice things about my books, and the ones who don’t like them have the grace to be civil about it.

So… all that said. AAR is now doing a mini-poll to update their list of readers’ favorite “Frontier/Western Romances.” My initial reaction was how cool, wouldn’t it be great if one of my books made such a list.

Stop. Please read on. I am not about to suggest anyone hie to the site and vote for my books.

What I am about to do is vent a little. The list has not been updated since 2007, and this is the list of “Favorite Frontier/Western Romance” from 2007:

1. The Touch of Fire, Linda Howard
2. Only His, Elizabeth Lowell
3. Ride the Fire, Pamela Clare
4. Annie’s Song, Catherine Anderson
5. A Breath of Snow and Ashes, Diana Gabaldon
6. Prince Charming, Julie Garwood
7. Dream Fever, Katherine Sutcliffe
8. The Outsider, Penelope Williamson
9. Drums of Autumn, Diana Gabaldon
10. Texas Destiny, Lorraine Heath

Okay, I’ll confess right now I’m in that small minority of readers of the world who didn’t like Outlander. If I ever saw Jamie as heroic, and I don’t think I did, the description of red fuzz on his butt finished me off. I stopped reading not long after the beating. After that I skimmed a bit toward the end figuring to see how it ended and be done with it and hit right on a torture scene that absolutely gave me the creeps and that’s only with reading enough of it to get an appalled idea of what was going on. Talk about over my personal line for violence. (That’s not a review, folks. I didn’t read enough to review it. What I did read was long enough ago I may not be remembering clearly—maybe that red fuzz was on his thighs.)

It’s my understanding that Gabaldon herself does not consider her books romances. In the AAR comments on the 2007 poll, they say: “Technically Gabaldon’s book was neither a Frontier/Western Historical nor a Romance….” Okay, so why is it there? If a bunch of readers voted for a Regency on that “Western” list would the Regency get a place?

So where is Maggie Osborne? Where is LaVyrle Spencer? Where are others who wrote classic Westerns? Either not there at all or pushed down out of the Top Ten by books that are kinda sorta.

Maybe no one else in the world would look at that 2007 list and get as cranky as I did, but the fact is I did. And it’s now been several days since I first saw it, I’ve mulled it over, and I’m still cranky about it.

So this post is to urge you all to go vote. Surely readers who actually like Westerns can come up with ten real Westerns, and if enough people who do like real Westerns vote, the 2014 list will include nothing but.


P.S. I have not read Katherine Sutcliffe’s Dream Fever, which is mentioned as being set in New Zealand, but I don’t think just a non-U.S. setting keeps a book from qualifying as “Frontier.” If Quigley Down Under (Australia) were a book instead of a movie, it would in my opinion be one of the best Westerns ever. Then again, who knows, maybe that’s Tom Selleck-itis. One of my own favorites is Candice Proctor’s Whispers of Heaven (Tasmania) although the fact it’s hideously overpriced and not available for Kindle cools my enthusiasm somewhat although I know it’s the publisher, not the author that’s to blame (I had to get it from the library).


Does time bring changes?

March 28, 2014

A little while ago, I read a thread in a forum discussing violence in romance. I’m not linking to it here, since it mentioned Eyes specifically, and that discussion isn’t the sole inspiration for this post. Not only that, I’m not rebutting what was said but agreeing with it. I’ve thought about it before, and my ideas on the subject have been cumulative. Other forum threads and reviews and individual emails have mentioned the violence in all my books one way or the other. Eyes probably provokes the most discussion, but then it’s sold more copies than any of the others so more people have read it.

Needless to say, the violence in my books isn’t too much for me, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a point at which violence does become too much for me, and I agree with the person who speculated that age has something to do with it, that as we grow older we become less tolerant of mayhem. It’s certainly true for me.

I read a lot of mysteries and thrillers, and a while back simply cut out any story that features a serial killer in the way so many do. I don’t care if Kellerman’s Alex Delaware or Connelly’s Harry Bosch is after a serial killer, but I’m not reading those books that feature scenes in the killer’s POV. My tolerance for the good guy coming upon the violence and going after the bad guy is fairly high. My tolerance for being in the head of some pervert who’s busy slicing and dicing victims is non-existent. I don’t care if his mommy was mean to him. I don’t care if he was abused by an army of other perverts. I don’t want to see the world through his eyes. I don’t think I ever enjoyed those kind of scenes, but they didn’t always bother me so much. I used to read quite a few of those types of books. So is the change in attitude age, or is it been there done that and too darn often?

Another forum thread I saw recently talks about boredom with the books that reader usually reads. I have that too, and it’s one of the reasons I can’t stick to romance or for that matter to mystery, thriller or suspense. Surely in that case it is the been there done that syndrome.

We all draw the line on these things in different places, but is it a moving target for each of us? I think it is for me. For instance, I know I’m far more sensitive to any hint of coercion in romantic relationships than I used to be. Those of you who have followed my publishing adventures since the beginning know how my opinion of rape romances brought the wrath of the romance police down on my head, but as time has passed I’ve gotten worse. The experienced rake luring the dumb bunny virgin? Icky. The guy who sets out to ruin a girl so she’s in the position of having to marry him? Yuck. I want balance in relationships, but I also worry that leaves me with a much narrower type of relationship to write about. It sure leaves me with a narrower selection of romances to read.

~ Ellen





Ironing the Pigs

February 21, 2014

Well, it’s finally happened to me. A few days ago I received an email from a cousin I lost track of many years ago. The way this cousin found me, and an email address for me, is by finding and reading Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold. His first romance, and he liked it! (I’ll never get over being surprised when men like my romances.) We’ve been emailing back and forth for several days, catching up and reminiscing.

I think I’ve mentioned here before that my mother was Canadian. Our family vacations throughout my childhood were trips to Canada to visit relatives, and while we took side trips to other relatives, our main destination was a farm in Ontario. The memories my Cousin Peter and I share are primarily of those summers on the farm. Although we both grew up in New Jersey, he is two years older, we lived in different towns, and went to different schools, so we didn’t really see a lot of each other except for those vacations and holidays.

One of the memories I mentioned to him is of “ironing the pigs.” He doesn’t remember that one, which means it happened after he reached an age where he stopped coming with us every summer, and I wrote out a description for him. That made me think that maybe those of you who read here and who must have some affection for farm and ranch life to like my books would also enjoy the story.

To give you some background. The farm was one of the family kinds, and the family earned a living with a little of everything and anything that brought in some income. They milked probably about 20 cows, raised chickens for meat and eggs, had both sheep and pigs. They put up so much hay every year to feed their own stock through hard Canadian winters it filled a huge barn to the rafters. They also raised oats, wheat, and corn, and their garden must have covered at least half an acre, maybe more.

Their barn was one of those that looked ancient from the outside, weathered, no paint, and was built into a hill, all but windowless and very dark on the inside.

My cousins, Laura and Jim, ran the farm. That summer my grandmother, my mother, my sister and I were all visiting, and so were Laura’s brother Clare and his wife, Katherine. To appreciate the story you need to know that Katherine was not an appreciator of the outdoor life. She was from the south originally and considered Canada too cold, even in mid-summer. Except for this one, every memory I have of her is indoors, clutching a sweater around her shoulders.

That particular summer our visit coincided with a litter of pigs needing to be given an iron supplement. For some reason watching this appealed to all of us, even Katherine, and we all followed Jim and Laura out to the barn.

One of the challenges of ironing a bunch of piglets is, of course, keeping the ones that have received the iron separate from the ones that haven’t. So Jim and Laura dragged out a big iron pot, very big. Like the big boilers you see at picnics where corn is boiled for clubs or big events. The procedure was that Jim would go in the pen with the sow and her litter (remember this is an old, dark barn), catch a piglet, and hand it over the pen wall to Laura. Laura would then put a dose of the iron powder in the piglet’s mouth and put the piglet in the boiler.

Katherine and my mother volunteered to keep the lid down on the boiler to keep the piglets in. So we began. Have you ever seen piglets? These were all pink, and cute beyond description. Have you ever seen a mature sow? Not so cute and her back had to be hip high on Jim, who wasn’t a big man. Piglets, when chased around the pen, caught, and lifted, squeal. A lot. Loudly. A sow whose piglets are being chased makes grunting roaring noises that will convince  anyone not in the know she’s about to kill someone.

So the piglets squealed, and the sow roared, and Jim and Laura assured all of us non-pig visitors that the sow wasn’t going to kill him, although we had trouble believing it. Piglet after piglet went into the boiler, and all of a sudden there were enough of them that when they all pushed up on the lid, Katherine and my mother couldn’t hold it down. So Katherine sat on it.

Only a few more piglets, and they could still push the lid up, even with Katherine sitting on it, and at that point Katherine started squealing louder than the piglets. Maybe you had to be there and see this non-outdoorsy southern lady sitting on the boiler lid, little pink snouts pushing up all around the edges lifting her into the air as they squealed and she squealed. We all laughed so hard we could hardly stand, but in the end we did manage to keep all the piglets in the boiler until the last one was ironed. Jim was right, for all the noise, the sow didn’t kill him, and in the end she got her piglets back, at least for a few more weeks.

And in my family over the years we regularly used “ironing the pigs” as a reference point for just how funny a particular event was.


This is one of the few photos I have of Peter and me or for that matter any of us in Canada. I have no idea who took it or how I got it. My guess is I’m about 7 here and Peter 9.


Reviews and More AAR

January 24, 2014

When I sent the link to Luke’s Eyes, I thought (and probably mentioned here) there would be no way for anyone to really review. Wrong. Someone started a page for the novella over at Goodreads, so if any of you want to do a real review, you can do it there. If you decide to do that, say you hated it, say you loved it, say you were indifferent, but please by all that’s holy, don’t say “too short.” :-)

In the meantime, I have been remiss. AAR sent me another email asking me to help spread the word about their Annual Romance Reader Poll for Favorite Books in 2013. I’ve been thinking I’d do that soon and all of a sudden it’s almost too late. The poll closes at midnight January 26th, so if you’d like to do that, you need to do it a whole lot more swiftly than I posted this information. Last time, if you remember, their poll was for favorite romances of all time. This one is specifically for your favorite released in 2013.

Their current blog post has AAR reviewers talking about their favorites of the year. Into the Light got a runner up mention from one reviewer. So yay!

Their blog post previous to that made me sit up and realize I should pay more attention to the opening and closing of their Special Title lists. That post references their lists for American Indians, Animals, and Time Travel. Time Travel is out of my realm, of course, and some kind person or persons nominated Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold and Dancing on Coals for the American Indian list. However, Early from Beautiful Bad Man isn’t one of the pitifully few listed on their Amazing Animals list under American Historical/Frontier Romances, and I think he should be, so I need to stay awake and notice the next time that list is open for nominations.

This is the second time recently I’ve seen Eyes mentioned somewhere as a Native American or Indian romance, and I do understand why and after thinking about it agree with the categorization. However, I must admit I never thought of it that way when writing it or since. Yes, Cord was subject to racist attitudes and violence from others, but his mother died before he knew her, his father’s family raised him, and he didn’t have any background in his native heritage. To me Native American Romances are stories like Dancing on Coals. But I also never thought any of the problems in the Bennett family had anything to do with racism, and some reviews show me that others perceive that. Sometimes it still amazes me, but I do see that when each of us read the same book, each of us reads a different book.


3… 2… 1… Happy New Year!

December 31, 2013

I just finished sending the notice that everyone who subscribed to the mailing list should get with the download link for Luke’s Eyes. If you think you subscribed to the list, and you don’t get it, let me know.

My own email program is convinced my notification is spam and gave me dire warnings, although it didn’t segregate the email. But if you don’t see the notification, probably the first thing to do is check your spam folder.

Also, I had several notifications this week of people subscribing to the blog, and I didn’t always see a comparable notification of a subscription to the mailing list. So that’s another possible problem.

Rosheen – Boy, are you quick on the trigger. You’re welcome.

Happy New Year, everyone.


Merry Christmas… and a Heads Up

December 24, 2013

Edited to add: Patricia asked if subscribing to the blog is enough. No, the mailing list is separate. If you look to the right of this post, you’ll see the very first block at the top of the column says, NEW RELEASE NOTIFICATION, and if you read further, you’ll see it mentions getting short stories when they’re written. You need to click there to subscribe to the list.

Merry Christmas, everyone. I hope your holidays are everything you could wish for.

I also hoped to be able to give everyone on my mailing list a Christmas present about now, but as it turns out, it’s going to be more of a New Year’s present.

The fact is by late summer and fall it was obvious that my 2013 goal of getting more than one book out this year was a big bust. So I decided to go ahead and develop one of the ideas I had for a short.

You may remember that the many reviews of Rachel’s Eyes saying “too short” really pushed my buttons. Not that I don’t believe anyone or many ones aren’t entitled to think it is too short. My problem is that it’s labeled in the title “a Short Story,” and the blurb starts out with that and then gives word and page count. So if 6,000 words is “too short” for someone, my feeling is for Heaven’s sake why bother with it in the first place?

After that I vowed never to publish anything short again but to save them until I had enough for a novel-length collection, and in the meantime to make the shorts available as I wrote them to those who signed up for my mailing list.

I’m pleased to say that while I didn’t get more than one book written this year, I did get that one book (Into the Light) and one novella written. Ta da! Yes, not a short story, but a a novella, probably still too short for some, but if you’re one of those, you’re going to ignore it, right?


Luke’s Eyes is another story based on the characters of Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold, this time Cord’s nephew, Luke Bennett. Cord and Anne also make considerably more than cameo appearances.

If you would like to be able to download the story, you must be subscribed to the mailing list. As I said above, it is my intention to publish this story as part of a collection in the future. It may take a year or even two before they’re all ready. This year at least one standalone romance is on the schedule. However, as I get to them, my plan for the shorts is (keeping in mind that Eyes started in fall of 1885 and ended in February 1886):

Rachel’s Eyes – winter 1889-90
Luke’s Eyes – February 1891
Robert’s Eyes (Anne’s brother Rob) – summer 1891
Eyes of Stone (Anne and Cord’s next encounter with the couple who owned the horse Cord raced in Eyes) – summer or fall of 1893
Pete’s Eyes (Cord’s other nephew) – spring 1894

So this is my fair warning. If you’d like to be able to download Luke’s Eyes, you need to be signed up for the mailing list.

~ Ellen

Happy Surprises

November 23, 2013

I meant to do this post yesterday but something diverted me. So a new comment on the last post beat me to the news. (Thanks, Anonymous.)

For those of you who followed up on the AAR Top 100 list I talked about in my last posts, you saw that sadly once again LaVyrle Spencer’s Morning Glory was the sole Americana representative in the Top 100. However, if you follow AAR blog posts, you saw a few days later a post showing what happened if they manipulated their votes in various ways. One of those ways was to compile the list by authors instead of by individual books. Needless to say, when a Lisa Kleypas or Mary Balogh then only gets one mention as an author instead of half a dozen for individual books, others with fewer votes suddenly show up.

And, sitting at #68 on that alternative “Top 100 Authors” list, ta da, drumroll please, is me! Last, the hard-working AAR volunteers went a step further and compiled a list of the next 100 books. Happily, there are a whole lot more Americana books in that second hundred, including several of my own favorites. And, ta da, ta da, two or more drumrolls, notice #126. Yes, there it is. Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold. I confess what most amazes me are the names both right above and below. What distinguished company. I am, well, amazed.

Considering the number of books they say all received one vote, I know it took quite a few votes to achieve such amazing results. Thanks to each and every one of you who took the time to submit a ballot and to include Eyes or one of my other books on it.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.



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