Sunday, December 4, 2011

YOU want MY heroine to do WHAT???

Have you ever considered writing with a partner?

Before I wrote BORDER HEAT, I was one-half of a writing partnership which authored six short, contemporary, romances, four of which found publishers. Which means, I have a bit of experience in that arena, so I'm going to let you in on some of the fun -- and frustrations -- of writing with a partner.

First, if you're going to write with a partner, always remember that the goal is to produce the best book possible -- and to do it with the least amount of bloodshed the two of you can manage.

Did our partnership result in blood? you ask. Nope, but like any partnership (dare I mention the "m" word and say it was almost like a marriage) there were both pluses and minuses. My partner was a speed demon writer, while I agonized (and it takes a bunch of time for me to agonize) over every word. The pluses of that, she forced me to write a little faster (just to keep up) but I forced her to dig deeper -- for the exact word or action and/or reaction.

Two other aspects of our partnership:  (1) She disliked losing valuable writing time to research.  Me? Research gave me a reason to ask lots of questions and investigate subjects I might otherwise never have reason to visit. (2) She looked at life through a window unclouded by my additional twenty years of battling the good -- never-gonna-win -- battles. (3) She'd never traveled out of California, but I'd traveled to fifty of our fifty-one states, including Hawaii and Alaska -- i.e. first-hand knowledge of interesting settings for our stories.

So, would I consider co-writing again?  Yes, but only if I were certain our personalities could co-exist without damage to either, and that we would be equal partners in the endeavor.

Would I recommend writing with a partner to other writers?  Yes, but choose wisely. Remember what I said about that "m" word. And realize, going in, that you are giving up a certain amount of control over the final product.

Bottom line: I'm happy to report that although we no longer write together, we are still friends.

--Ramona Butler  author of Border Heat

The Writers Vineyard


Saturday, October 8, 2011

Follow Your Heart

Follow Your Heart
This week the world lost a creative genius, Steve Jobs.

To tell the truth, I didn’t know a lot about the man or his role in today’s electronic world . . . until I happened across a speech he’d given to a Stanford University graduating class.

No, he didn’t attend Stanford. In fact, in what I’ve learned was his trademark, unassuming manner, he told the seniors that addressing them was the closest he’d ever gotten to graduating from college. Steve Jobs was a college drop-out.

Without the slightest trace of regret, he indicated it had been an economic decision. But that it turned out to be one of the smartest things he’d ever done. Why? Because it “freed” him to “drop in” on other, non-required classes--as he searched for what he wanted to do with his life.

He followed his heart. And look how that turned out.
Think Apple. Think personal computers. Think iPhone, iPad, iPod, iMac, and iTunes.

Jobs, in that aforementioned speech, said that during his self-described “drop-in” period he slept on the floor of a friend’s dorm room, collected cans and bottles for money to buy food, and walked seven miles across town every Sunday for a hot meal.

Today, in memory, the media is calling Jobs a “visionary.” But he would probably dispute that label since he said that it’s impossible to look into the future and “connect the dots.” That it is only when a person looks back that he or she can see how the dots connect.

Think computer mouse and computer animation. Think electronic ink. Think electronic books….

Thank you, Steve Jobs, for following your heart.

by Ramona Butler
(Think Border Heat, now available in electronic format from

Friday, September 9, 2011

Camels, Ostriches, and Water Buffalo...Oh my!

Camels, Ostriches, and Water Buffalo….Oh my!

   One would think that with summer drawing to a close and the kids back in school, life would quickly return to dull and boring, with long stretches of nothing to do. But that’s not true if you live in northern Nevada (the Reno/Carson City/Virginia City area), where September weekends offer some favorite events.

   As a California transplant, I had heard that the annual Virginia City Camel Races were among the area’s most entertaining offerings, but I had no idea what to expect when I embarked on a research trip to VC. One thing I certainly hadn’t expected, was to see ostriches and water buffalo being ridden in some of the races.
Now, low-slung, short-legged water buffalo aren’t exactly built for racing. Their speed leans more toward lumbering -- but not on cue. They pretty much march to their own drummer - and come to purposeful stops whenever the mood strikes them.

   Long-legged ostriches appear more-likely mounts, but somebody must have forgotten to advise them of the fact, because they look like hysterical, ungainly divas as they high step around the race course with feathers flapping.

   Oh, and don’t forget the camels, which history tells us, were actually imported to the Comstock Lode during the glory days of gold mining. But you won’t see any these days except at events like the eagerly anticipated camel race -- which turned out to be a side-splitting farce. The best comedy writers couldn't pen a funnier script.

   So if you need a good laugh, run, don’t walk, to Virginia City for this year’s event, September 9 - 11, 2011. That’s right, they began today, but there are still two days worth of belly laughs waiting for you.

   Oh, and the title of that book I was researching is SAGEBRUSH CINDERELLA, available in the Kindle ebookstore at Amazon.COM.  And, yes, the camel races play a part in this lighthearted romance.  Enjoy!


Sunday, July 17, 2011



            Last weekend marked the second anniversary of my mother’s death, a woman who was reputed to be such an imp in her youth that she caused her father to lose all his hair.  Saturday, however, I was thinking more of how she tried to help him overcome his baldness, my favorite bit of family folklore.
            Like all good tales, it should begin, “Once upon a time,” so please indulge me.       Once upon a time, I remember my grandfather showing me an old snapshot of a dashing young man who sported an abundance of dark hair.  To my amazement, he claimed that was himself, “Back in my courting’ days,” he said with a bemused grin.
            Seeing that photograph of him in his prime, I could easily imagine his dismay at the loss of those luxurious locks.
            “I had nothing to do with it,” my mother protested.  “It was purely coincidental.”
            But I’ve been told that, about the time my mother entered her teens, a family friend suggested Grandad paint his head with tincture of iodine, vowing that scientists had discovered the red-orange liquid, normally used for tending childhood scrapes, was a hair restorer.
            Could it be true?  Grandad wanted to believe it.  So after much deliberation -- and mindful that iodine leaves a stubborn stain -- he asked his youngest child, my mother, to apply “just a small spot” of iodine on the top of his bald head.
            Mother, the mischievous, was quick to oblige.  And for the next few days, her father kept their experiment hidden beneath his ever-present hat, an article he wore year-round as protection against the Arkansas sun.
            Then, the weekend brought its traditional round of Saturday night baths.  And on Sunday morning, the whole family trooped off to church, where the hat, of course, had to come off.  With quiet dignity, mother’s parents took their customary seats is the very front pew.  My mother, meanwhile, joined the other young people seated in the last row of the sanctuary.
            Services started.  All eyes swung to the front and Grandad tilted his head back for a better view of the raised pulpit.
            Snickers and giggles erupted behind him, drowning out the preacher’s earnest words
            “Sh-h-h!”  Grandad shushed loudly, turning to glare at the tittering youths.
            My mother insisted that she and the rest of the youthful contingent tried to display the proper reverence.
            “But when everyone focused their attention to the front,” she exclaimed in mock horror, “there on the top of my father‘s bald head, undimmed by Saturday night‘s conscientious scrubbing, was my masterpiece.  A heart pierced by an arrow!”
            As I remember Mother’s laughter, I think about what a disappointment I must have been, a child who was always so serious, she told everyone I was twelve years old when I was born.
            I hope I’ve redeemed myself, however, with what my editor refers to as the “sly humor” in my recently released novella, BORDER HEAT.
            Hey, Mom, look at me now.
                                                                      --Ramona Butler  


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Tom, Dick, or What’s Her Name

Names intrigue me, primarily because of their built-in baggage.

For example, although Hannibal may have been something of a heroic figure in history, I can almost guarantee that after seeing Silence of the Lambs you won’t ever think of the name, Hannibal, in the same way.

So, what about the name Rhett?  I’ve never actually met anyone with that name, but if I should, I am predisposed to think he’s a rogue.  Why?  Because of that terrific character in Gone With The Wind, of course.

Two very different names and very different reactions.

Which illustrates why the names we attach to characters are so very important.  Without our even realizing it, the names of those people with whom we associate bad experiences influence how we feel about characters with those names.

It works just the same with good experiences, which can create warm, fuzzy feelings when we hear certain names.  For instance, my name is Ramona, a feminine variation of Raymond, my father‘s name.  So it should come as no surprise that I love my name.

Long before I began creating people--excuse me, creating characters--I became a collector of names.  Not necessarily the unusual ones, but those which seem to resonate inside me, many of which are simply family names.  Such as:  Michael (my son’s name), Shannon (a granddaughter), Kira and Mackenzie (distance cousins)

Do you find yourself reacting to names in the same way?  Sometimes choosing names of characters in a similar manner?

When I wrote BORDER HEAT (released earlier this month--Wheeee!!), I named my heroine Caroline, and every time I worked on the manuscript I heard Neil Diamond singing “Sweet Caroline” in my head.

Aha, another naming resource, music.  Let’s see, there‘s Georgia…Linda…Leroy Brown…

Hmmm, maybe our books should come with soundtracks.  What do you think?  Am I on to something?

--Ramona Butler

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Location, Location, Location

Did the title of this blog have you scratching your head, wondering how a real estate ad got onto The Writers Vineyard blog site?

Well, I am trying to sell you some real estate.  More specifically, trying to sell you on the idea that an interesting piece of real estate (location) can be a real boost to your book.

In fact, I believe location should be an early consideration when planning your story.  Why?  Because location affects character.  People who thrive in small towns or wide open spaces, more often than not, don't do well in the hurry-hurry atmosphere of big cities.  And vice versa.  So, pay attention to the type of character you place in any location.  Otherwise, you could -- unintentionally -- end up with a fish-out-of-water story.  Of course, if that's the kind of story you have in mind...

Another thing about location is that readers have certain expectations about locations.  They expect your southern farm-boy character's dialogue to be somewhat slower, whereas your big city, hard-driving executive's dialogue should be more clipped.

But I digress.

Most of my own  stories have been inspired by a location.  In many instances, the setting/location is almost a story character. At other times, locations actually dictate the story.

Such is the case with my soon-to-be-released novella, Border Heat, much of which takes place in tiny, primitive Divisadero, Mexico, one of the stops on the famed Copper Canyon Railway.  This railroad line connects the interior city of Chihuahua with the coastal city of  Los Mochis, traveling through a portion of the famed Copper Canyon -- Barrancas del Cobre -- home of the Tarahumara Indians.

The train trip itself was an adventure, traversing 86 tunnels, 36 major bridges, and a major engineering feat in which the railroad circles back over itself, making a complete 360 degree loop.  Until the recent difficulties with Mexican drug cartels, the trip was a popular tour offering by US travel agencies.

My husband and I love to travel and the Border Heat story began to percolate in my mind as soon as I saw the vast, magnificent Copper Canyon.

Some of our other travels have taken us to Fiji, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Croatia, Puerto Rico, and 49 of our 50 states.  Which means I still have lots of stories to tell.  So I hope you'll follow along on some of my other adventures.  And I hope you'll take a peek at Border Heat when it's released in June.


Sunday, February 27, 2011

Ramona's Introduction Blog--Ramblings about Life and Love, and......

  Should I confess to you...this is my first time?
  No, I'm sure it will become obvious soon enough that this is my very first blog.  So here are the facts: I was born in a tiny Arkansas town during the previous century.  (You didn't expect me to tell you the year, did you?)  My southern roots weren't deep enough to hold me though and I soon found myself moving around the country, until I finally landed in the high desert of western Nevada, where I have a terrific view of the impressive Sierra Nevada and only a short drive to fantabulous Lake Tahoe.
  It wasn't until I discovered the forever vistas of the Southwest that I found the inspiration to chase my lifelong dream--to write.  And here I am now, on the verge of becoming a published author in my own right. (More about life as half of a writing team in a later blog)
  At the tender age of ten, I was astonished to learn that a letter I'd written to a Memphis newspaper about a pitifully ugly comic strip character had been published in Letters to the Editor.
  And so the seeds were sown.  From that day on, I was certain that I was fated to be a writer.
  Have I impressed anyone yet?  Probably not.  And certainly not a certain teacher in the one-room schoolhouse in Datil, New Mexico (a mere wide spot in the road), where I spent most of one school year as teacher's helper, because I was the only student in the 8th grade.
  Still, the dream lived on.  And as an adult, I spent too much time producing personal opinion columns and restaurant reviews--all without earning a cent.  Heck, I even had to buy my own meals at those restaurants. (One of which was truly terrible.)
  Yet I finally achieved my goal of getting paid for my writing with a very short poem that appeared in True Love magazine.
Hooray, I was on my way!     NOT!
I became a stringer for a weekly newspaper, had a short story published in a small-format magazine, and sold a travel article which covered the front page of the Dallas Morning News’ Sunday travel section.  Wheee!
With the publication of that short story in Sunshine magazine, I felt as though writing fiction was a decadent dessert after years of a “no-sugar, no-salt, no-fat” diet.
So, can you imagine how excited I am to learn that Champagne Books will release my action packed, romantic adventure, Border Heat, in June, 2011?
Pinch me, please, I’m still dreaming!

Thanks for visiting and please come back next month to learn what inspired Border Heat.

                      --Ramona Butler