Excerpt from what is still “The Journal” at the moment

July 17, 2016

I hope no one is giving up. The end is nigh as they say. I’m almost done with revisions and ready to start proofreading (ugh), although I confess my few searches for images for a cover haven’t yielded anything vaguely encouraging.

So I thought I’d post an excerpt now, just in case anyone finds it encouraging.

Jamie paid for his purchases and pushed out through the door, jerking to a halt on the walk at the sight of the empty street. He had left the Franklin parked right there, Caro in the passenger’s seat.

Heart pounding, stomach sinking, Jamie cursed under his breath. When he caught up with her, he’d make her the sorriest automobile thief who ever lived.

If he caught up with her. How long had he been inside? How the hell had she started the Franklin on her own? Had she just been lucky, or did she know to retard the spark and how to use the crank safely? Could she have figured it out from watching him yesterday and this morning, or was Cousin Percy stupid enough to give a woman lessons on how to start an automobile? If so, Percy ought to be shot.

A horse and rider appeared at one end of town, the horse far too calm to have been passed recently by an automobile thief fleeing justice. In the other direction, the road stretched empty for at least a mile before disappearing over a hill.

“Looking for your wife?”

Jamie whirled to see a skinny old fellow with both front teeth missing grinning at him from the doorway of the next building.

“She’s not….” He thought better of the denial. “Yes, I am.”

“She asked me where a person could get a bath here in town. I never figured she was asking for herself, a lady and all, so I told her the barber shop, and darned if she didn’t crank that thing up and drive off before I could tell her a lady couldn’t bathe there. I always thought that handle thing went in the front, but she shoved it in the side and yanked on it like man, got the thing going and drove right off.”

Now was not the time to be telling a bystander about the unique features of the Franklin’s engine. “Did you see where she went?” Jamie asked, suppressing an urge to grab the fellow by the collar and shake answers out of him faster.

“Well, she slowed down in front of the barber’s, but I guess she realized it wouldn’t do because she kept going around the end of the road.”

“Around the end of the road?”

“Yep, went right around behind the Adams place and disappeared. You know there ought to be a law against those things. Some of them came roaring through here yesterday….”

Jamie threw thanks over his shoulder and didn’t wait to hear about what ought to be the law or what had happened yesterday. At the far end of town, a red and white striped pole marked the barber’s shop. He headed there with long, angry strides.

The barber and two customers stood staring at a closed door at the side of the shop in a tableau of outrage. Their heads swiveled to Jamie as he shoved in through the front door and out through the back without pausing.

The Franklin sat parked mere feet from the back door, dark green paint gleaming in the morning sun, engine off and quiet. Jamie dropped his box of groceries on the seat and leaned against the side, dragging in one deep breath after another to calm himself. He was still going to wring her neck.

Fingers plucked at his sleeve. “You have to come get her out of there,” the barber said. “I’ve already lost most of my morning customers. I can’t have a female in my shop.”

Jamie glared.

“A lady, I mean. She a beautiful lady, your missus, but I can’t have her taking a bath in there. You can see that, can’t you?”

Yes, he could see that. Jamie followed the barber back inside. The two men still staring at the door as if hypnotized came out of their trance when Jamie shoved between them and the door. They mumbled how they’d be back later and raced each other out of the shop.

“See?” the barber said, pointing at the retreating backs. “See? Mornings are when I do most of my business, and I’m losing them all.”

Jamie tried the door. Locked, thank God. “Caro, this is a barbershop, men only. Come out of there.”

“I’m already in the tub. I’d be done by now, but I had to scrub it out. I can’t believe what pigs you men are.” She all but sang the words. Splashing sounds followed.

Jamie ground his teeth. Neck wringing was too good for her. “If you don’t come out of there right now, I’m going to drive off and leave you.”

The barber gasped.

“No, you won’t. You’re not in a hurry, remember? In fact you have time for a shave while you’re waiting and then you can use this nice clean tub after me.”

More splashing sounds, humming. Jamie fought his returning sense of humor, lost the battle, and laughed.

“How about a shave, then,” he said to the barber. “You can calculate how much business you really lost, and I’ll pay.”

The promise to pay mollified the man somewhat, but he was still indignant. “She just marched in here, wouldn’t take no for an answer, and locked herself in. You really need to control your wife better.”

Jamie sat in the barber’s chair and leaned back, still chuckling. “You’re right, you are. I need to work on that.”

Probably no one would be surprised to find out I’m in love with Jamie at the moment.


Progress Report

June 26, 2016

I thought those of you hanging in there would like a progress report. The Journal is finished and is out to beta readers now. After that, of course, there will be revisions and the tedious stuff like proofreading, but the end is nigh as they say. I am going to do a paper version of this and it should be about 150-160 pages formatted like the other books (48,000 words).

Tonight I worked on a blurb, and after about a hundred false starts finally have something that strikes me as halfway decent. As you know, the blurb is supposed to make you want to read it, so if it doesn’t have that effect on you, it isn’t working. Let me know.

If anyone had warned Caroline Tindell she would come face to face with Jamie Lenahan at the start of the 1905 Great Plains Automobile Race, she would have stayed home. “I loved him with all my nineteen-year-old heart,” she admits, but that was six years ago, before the shallow, coldhearted rogue broke that heart.

Jamie expects the Great Plains Race to be day after day of bad roads, dust, and difficulty. Miss Caroline Tindell should not be the biggest difficulty, but there she is, marooned at the side of the road after an automobile wreck.

What should a man haunted by the memory of a girl who didn’t love him enough do? What should a woman who never got over loving a man who didn’t return that love do?

Caroline and Jamie have a thousand miles to find out.

Now onward to a cover.

~ Ellen

Hello, again

June 1, 2016

Well, I’ve been MIA again for a long while, haven’t I?

What inspired me to post today is an email from Regan Walker. She is featuring Dancing on Coals on her blog today, and her review is really exceptionally nice. Check it out:


Regan also reports she is getting 14,000 visits to her blog site a month now, which is fantastic. Also don’t forget Regan writes romance herself – Georgian, Regency and Medieval – so you may want to check those out too.

As to my news, such as it is, the good is I have been writing, working on the Jamie Lenahan/Caroline Tindell story. The bad news is, of course, that I’ve been doing it slowly, very slowly.

At least until recently when I seem to actually be in gear, which one can hope means I’m over the blahs. There is, of course, always the chance that I just have close-to-the-end-hurry-and-get-it done-itis. That’s not to say the story will be out next week or anything. Even after I’m done, there’s more research to this one than I realized when I started, and I’ve just skipped over and left it for the end in some places. Also, beta reads, editing, proofing, but I’m finally close.

The plan, you may remember, was to write a novella to send to the mailing list and publish Luke’s Eyes. Alas, as usual I’ve screwed up my own plans. I have at least 3 scenes left to write, and this “novella” is venturing into short novel territory. I think I’ve set out here before how writers and publishers divide things by word count:

Short Story – 1,000 – 7,500 words
Novellette – 7,500 – 20,000 words
Novella – 20,000 – 40,000 words
Novel – 40,000 -110,000

Of course hardly anyone has ever heard of a novellette, and what most writers do is ignore the category and add it to short story. So anything up to 20,000 words is labeled short story (except for some indies, who happily label their 10,000 word stories as novels, but that’s ignorance or perhaps deliberate ignorance on behalf of aggressive marketing).

There’s also a lot of debate over where it’s reasonable to start calling something a novel. I think that 40,000 is low. Some change that to 50,000, and I’d put it more like 60,000. Anyway, this new story of mine has just crossed the 40,000 mark, and I plan to keep calling it a novella.

For those of you that only want to hear about pages, this novella is going to end up at about half the page count of Beautiful Bad Man and Into the Light, so it would be 140-150 pages.

I don’t have a title yet. The first one that occurred to me was Race With A Rogue, which made me laugh because it sounds like a Regency. Right now I’m torn between The Truce and The Journal, both of which are apropos.

I don’t have a blurb yet, but the basic premise is that Jamie Lenahan and his brother-in-law Nolan Burke, who you may remember started the Hubbell Automobile Company in Into the Light, have agreed to drive a 1,000-mile automobile race for a wealthy collector. When Nolan falls ill the day before they are to leave, Jamie sets out alone. To his surprise and hers, who does he see at the start but Miss Caroline Tindell, the girl her family sent to Europe to end her affair with him some years before. Also the girl he lied to his best friend about and said he was never serious and knew she wasn’t either.

So most of the story is the race, but it ends up in Hubbell, Kansas, where the Van Cleves and Suttons pop up again for a scene or two.

Check out Regan’s blog, why don’t you?



Lesson Learned—Names

November 27, 2015

One thing I’m learning in writing sequels and follow-ons to previous works is that I wasn’t careful enough with names. The lesson stings because from the time I started, my method of dealing with names was carefully thought out—and supposed to keep me out of name trouble. As a reader there are three name problems that bother me:

First, I have trouble with character names that are very similar. For instance, when there are secondary characters with names like Benton and Benteen, I end up not even trying to remember which is which and thoroughly annoyed at the author. It helps if the characters are opposite sex, but that doesn’t change my belief John and Joan should never appear in the same story unless one is just a walk on.

Second, if Chauncy Wilson is referred to as Chauncy from the time he’s introduced and then all of a sudden there’s a reference to Wilson, I often have trouble figuring out who the heck Wilson is. In Regencies where a character is referred to by his first name, family name, title, and sometimes even something else it can be even worse.

Third, names I can’t pronounce are a constant little sore spot all through a book. In spite of the fact I settle on my own pronunciation, knowing I’ve made it up and am undoubtedly wrong bothers me. I’m sure I did that to readers myself in Dancing on Coals, but I couldn’t figure a way around it other than giving Apaches Anglicized names they never had.

All in all I felt pretty proud of myself for doing better than many writers with names. I even make one chart with letters of the alphabet for first names and another for last names and do my best to make sure at least my primary characters don’t have names that even start with the same letter.

Then I started doing outlines for some of these follow-up stories and was surprised and not very happy at what I found. The novella I’m working on features Jamie Lenahan and Caroline Tindell from Into the Light. If I ever come up with a story from Without Words, Caroline Sterling will be the heroine. If you asked me if Caroline is one of my favorite female names, I’d say no because it isn’t. So how did that happen? The next novel will be Jaime Rodriguez from Sing My Name—you know, a character with a name that looks a lot like Jamie as in Lenahan, even if the Spanish pronunciation isn’t that similar.

So live and learn. I probably should have some kind of list of all the names I’ve ever used, but going back now to develop one holds no appeal. I no longer feel smug about noticing Louis L’Amour’s tendency to slap some form of Angela (Ange, Angie) on his female characters. After all, I’d never be that careless with names. Ha.

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving and is lucky enough to have Friday off and enjoy a super long weekend.


P.S. No, I didn’t “win” NaNoWriMo, but it did inspire me to do some writing, so that’s a personal win.

Confession, Changes, and…a Ghost

November 1, 2015

Confession. Like most people, I really hate admitting I’ve gotten myself into a sorry mess, but it’s high time to confess here that I have. This has been a rough year for me for reasons I’m not going to go into except for one at the end of this post. Suffice it to say that every time I even thought about writing anything, much less anything romantic, my mind veered off in another direction as if greased.

Strangely, that attitude didn’t affect story ideas. All my life I’ve daydreamed stories as a way of self-entertainment, or maybe escapism, which would explain why it didn’t stop this year. Eventually my mind started hopping like a flea from one idea to another and at that point, I outlined some of them.

For me, however, the hard part of writing is the first draft, and I had the very opposite of an urge to actually settle down and write any of those stories I outlined.

So—I’m not going to have a new book this year. I had to admit that to myself some months ago, but a tiny stirring of the urge to write has finally come to life, and in the interest of getting something done this year, I started on one of my follow-on novella ideas. This one is the story of Jamie Lenahan and Caroline Tindell from Into the Light.

This is an embarrassing admission in another way because I once told a reader who emailed me, that, no, I’d never write a story for Jamie. Those of you who have gone back and forth with me since we started on the thread in the Amazon Romance forum back in 2010 probably already know my successful prediction rate is 0.

If I say a book will be done in June, it’s probably not going to be done until at least September. If I say I won’t write that, odds are, yes, sooner or later I will. I remember telling readers I saw no more stories in the Eyes characters. Now, in addition to Rachel’s Eyes and Luke’s Eyes, I have outlines for 3 more. I remember telling someone I considered Robert Wells irredeemable, and I’d never write his story, but his story is now one of those 3.

If you’re thinking you’ll never believe a word I say about writing, that’s probably smart of you. I really do try not to make predictions because I know my own pathetic record. It’s like a sense of direction—I simply don’t have one and can get lost in my own backyard.

My last confession is that I still have a bit of hop-around-itis going on. So here I am working on the romance novella, and I also signed up for NaNoWriMo. That stands for National Novel Writing Month (I think), and you sign up and commit to writing 50,000 words in a month. Hoping to bring out my dormant competitive streak, I signed up and committed to writing 50,000 words in November—of Rottweiler Railroad. Wish me luck. I’m going to need it.

With that warning, on to Changes. One of my many failed predictions or stances or whatever you want to call it is that I’d never publish anything short again and would save shorter works to put out in a collection. Everyone on my mailing list received a download link for the novella Luke’s Eyes when it was first finished, and I’ve continued sending the link to new subscribers. My intention was that when I had something new I’d switch and send that instead and keep LE for a collection of Eyes follow-ons.

For several reasons I’ve changed my mind. Once this new novella is finished, I’m going to switch the mailing list to it and publish Luke’s Eyes. And from now on I’m not going to ever leave one story going to the mailing list for so long before publishing it. If you are now smiling to yourself and thinking, hmm, that’s a prediction, and I bet she never does it, well, we’ll see. Sooner or later I have to break my losing streak.

Finally, my ghost. She lurks in my heart, in my head, in my house. In eleven and a half years there was never one day I didn’t think, I am so lucky to have this dog.

8-week head

Eight weeks old, the puppy I flew to Michigan for. When I got home, I told a friend, “I am besotted with this puppy.”



Two years old. About this time I started referring to her as The Most Beautiful Rottweiler in the World. I was joking, of course—at least I wanted anyone who heard me to think so.

With cart

Five years old, first High in Test carting performance. I never got over the awe that she would do such things for me.


My ghost.

Wildhaven’s Schara Gambit

August 14, 2003—April 23, 2015


July 11, 2015

First, I know those of you who follow here aren’t interested in how things work from the publishing side—except as it affects you as a reader. Recent changes in Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program do affect readers, though, if only in an indirect way.

You see, the original KU program paid an author the same for a 10-page short story as for a 400-page novel. And the payment was high—very high—for the short story and low—very low—for the full length novel. Needless to say the system encouraged authors to put short stories into the program and discouraged them from putting in novels.

Some authors turned to writing shorts specifically to take advantage of the program. Unfortunately some scammed the program, scraping bits of articles here and there on the web and putting them up as shorts, and some broke novels into segments, called them serials, and put them up in parts.

Enter KU2. Amazon is now going to pay on borrows based on pages read. Yes, they have the technology to tell how much of a borrowed KU book is read. No one yet knows how much the per-page-read payment will be, but no matter how much it is, obviously a short story will pay a lot less than a novel. Amid howls of unhappiness and what one KBoards’ member, to my delight, called “speculation outrage,” it’s pretty clear the intention is to encourage novel writers to put their work into the program. A lot of indies pulled their novels out last year when they realized how badly a borrow paid compared to a sale.

With Rachel’s Eyes, of course, I was one of those who made out on a short story. The payment to me on a borrow was close to 4 times what I made on a sale. Now, if the KBoards’ math wizards are close to correct about the per-page-read payment, the story will earn half as much on a borrow as on a sale.

For Without Words, which has been in KU since its inception, I had every intention of leaving it in the program in spite of the low payment for borrows because I had a strong impression that most readers who borrowed it were different from those who usually buy my books. One of the things I like about KU as a subscriber myself is the ability to try new authors without ever getting stung when a book with a good sample turns to something I don’t want to finish about 2 pages after I bought it.

Sing My Name, which I put in KU to see how one of the older books would do, was working out very differently. Sing obviously was losing sales to borrows because the total of sales and borrows for its first month was about what I would have expected from sales alone before.

So before KU2 was announced, my plan was to yank Sing out of KU as soon as the required 90-day commitment ended and not put any of the other older books in the program. If my impression of where Without Words’ borrows were coming from ever changed, I planned to yank it too.

KU2 changes everything. A book has to be read 100% to pay maximum borrow, the author only gets paid the first time a page is read, and I’ve seen figures that say most books only average maybe 60% pages read overall. Don’t believe such a low average? Consider what someone like me who will abandon a book anywhere from the first page to the next-to-last page does to the average.

Even so, with the prices on my books, unless those KBoards’ math wizards are very wrong in their estimates of what the per-page-read payment on borrows will be, there will be little reason to distinguish between payment for a borrow or a sale on my novels.

So all this is a long-winded way to say I’ve already put Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold into KU, and as soon as I’m sure they’re down from other vendors’ sites (KU requires exclusivity with Amazon), I’m putting all my other books in the program. If the per-page-read payout rate is lower than speculated and changes the economics, I’ll be backpedaling as fast as I can, but  I don’t think the risk is high. No one will know for sure until August 15th.

To those who avoid Amazon and only read on Nook or Kobo, I’m really sorry, but as I’ve said before, my sales through those venues are very low. Without Words earned more in KU in its first two months than all the other books did through non-Amazon vendors in all of 2014. I hope those who like my stories and don’t have a Kindle like them enough to put a Kindle app on their phone or tablet.

And while I’m discussing changes…. In the past I’ve vowed not to publish anything shorter than a novel again until I had enough of them accumulated for a collection. A lot of that was because of all the “too short” reviews for Rachel’s Eyes. As my cousin Peter pointed out, though, I need to change that attitude. “Too short” is a lot better in a review than “too long.”

Some of the problem, however, is also price. If the novel Eyes is 116,000 words and is $3.99, what kind of price is reasonable for a 6,000-word short story like Rachel’s Eyes? Amazon won’t let me set a price lower than $.99. The way people get those free books up there involves more manipulation than I’m willing to go through, and that’s why RE was free on my website until I put it in KU and couldn’t do that any more because of the exclusivity requirement. What kind of price is reasonable for a novella like Luke’s Eyes at 32,000 words? Amazon wants things priced between $2.99 and $9.99 and provides a considerable financial incentive to do that.

KU solves that dilemma for me. I’m going to go ahead and publish Luke’s Eyes (probably sometime next month) and put it in KU. Those who would rather own it can buy, and those who would rather borrow it through KU as part of their $10 a month subscription can do that. And those of you who received it when you joined my mailing list and found it disappeared when deleted from your Kindle because Amazon doesn’t save to the Cloud anything not purchased from them won’t have to send me sad emails.:-)


Rats and… not rats

June 21, 2015

I’ll start with the not rats, in fact the good. Regan Walker, who comments here occasionally, has a great romance blog and is today featuring Dancing on Coals. Her review is very complimentary, and she has included Dancing on her list of favorite Western Historicals in the past. As I’ve mentioned here before, Regan also writes romance, although not Westerns. She has written Regencies, a Medieval, and most recently a romance set in the pre-Regency Georgian period. Thanks, Regan.

As for the rats, Without Words missed being a finalist for the RONE award by either one vote (depending on how they handle ties) or 2. It’s no one’s fault but my own for not swinging a wider loop on getting votes, and in the future I need to make up my mind either to dive into the whole process indelicately and whole-heartedly or not bother at all, since missing by that margin made me cranky.

~ Ellen


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