Author Life Month

I participated in the #authorlifemonth hashtag again over on Instagram. Here is my month in review. Here is a link to my last year’s author life month.

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I’ll be doing #authorlifemonth again. It’s so much fun to connect with other authors and see behind the scenes. Last year I kept apologizing and wondered if I was bugging people about my daily author life, but the response was nice and I met some really great people.
So anyway, you’ve been warned…

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Day 1 of #authorlifemonth – my books.
My first book, Broken Smiles, was published in 2014. Eight Birds for Christmas was published a few months later as a companion and ebook to my first.
The Christmas ebook bombed. Another publisher wanted to pick it up and rebrand it if I would change the season and some characters. So basically rewrite it.
But I was contractually obligated to the first publisher and besides, there were just so many other books to write and paintings to paint.

A few months ago my third book, The Christmas Bike, was released. It did better than expected.
So having book babies are like real babies. They each come with their own personalities, demands, and temper tantrums.

And I gain weight with every one!

#thechristmasbike #brokensmilesnovel #nohashtagforthebookthatbombed

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Day 2 #authorlifemonth – author photo.
Here ya go. One of the only times I’ve had my hair and makeup all done up.

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Day 3 #authorlifemonth – fan art.

I don’t have much fan art outside of what my husband and kids have done for me.

That would be a great honor–to have someone be inspired by your book, enough to make fan art.

But I do make paintings and sketches of my characters, settings, and details. And maybe I’ll post some tonight.

This tree is a large 3′ painting I did over pages from my pre-edited book. I soaked the pages in coffee grounds, then gessoed them to this canvas, and painted.

Trees are an enormous part of my life, books, and art. I named my daughter after a tree. My thoughts always wander to the forests.
I entered this painting into an art show a while back and had to come up with a description of this work. So here is my submission called “Full Circle.”

— – * Trees become pages. Pages become books. Books plant seeds of learning and escapism, which bloom for others to enjoy.

Yet in every stage of fruition comes a cultivation, a cutting away, a hope for something greater.

The pages beneath this white tree are from a book I wrote. Riddled with unedited, imperfect words, I covered up this growth spurt with angst and wood stain.

Years I poured into this novel which eventually saw the printing press. But what to do with proof of my fertilization of talent, the wayward branches, or the pruning sheers of critique? Were these unedited pages destined for the landfill?

“Turn your flaws into art,” my tree rings of doubt said to me. “Be proud of your mistakes.” And so my roots stretched, my branches reached to the sky, and the brave seed within me grew.

Gesso and paint blends with words and paper. Two artistic expressions that give me joy and fulfillment–all starting with a seed.

I ask you, what seeds are hidden deep within? Are you brave enough to plant them, to fertilize them, to share your blemished story with others?

Beneath every painting is a story. Beneath every story is a person. Beneath every person is a well of unrealized seeds, waiting to be planted.
#creativelifehappylife

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Day 4 #authorlifemonth – my work in progress…
Uh, there hasn’t been much writing going on because of our #taracottaharvesthouse remodel.
We were without a kitchen for many months as we made these floors, set new cabinets, hung shiplap, knocked down a wall, built another wall, moved every appliance, refurbished lights, and the list goes on and on.
You can look though my hashtag (taracottaharvesthouse) if #homerenovation interests you.
It’s not completely finished, but almost. Soon we will be installing floor to ceiling long subway tile around all those windows! I love all the natural light and that’s probably the main reason why I saw so much potential in this kitchen.
Soon I’ll have time to write more books!!

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Day 5 #authorlifemonth – Where I write.
My create room is under construction, but here is a view from my bed, where words often come.
I write everywhere and can slip away in my mind for many hours while the kids play at Boondocks, or swim at the pool, or while I wait at the car shop.
But my favorite place to write is in the mountains.

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#authorlifemonth – An Awesome Author Moment (aka the humble brag) But whatever, we’ve got to take our good times as they come 🙂

So look past this amazing wooden bowl (I collect wooden bowls–because I hoard awesome things) and look at some of the thank you cards.
I received so many texts, emails, messages, and cards for #thechristmasbike. I’m so glad people liked it!
So my awesome moment is when one lady ordered 20 autographed copies to give out as Christmas gifts and then she GAVE ME A TIP because she said she liked the book so much.
I’ve never heard of an author getting a tip before! It was really cool. I just want to thank all of you who take the time to tell people you enjoyed what they create. It really makes their day-week-month-year.
I’ll probably always remember that stranger who did that to me, as well as all the other nice notes. They keep me going when doubt creeps in.

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The tips of the mountains were glowing tonight. No filter and I think the coloring is beautiful.

It reminds me of a “killed darling” (cut scenes) for #authorlifemonth. It’s kinda embarrassing, but in one of my first books I named a band “Frosted Peaks”–in reference to when the mountains look like this. Anyway, I cut the entire band and all of the characters from the band out of the story. For good reason too, because that name is funny and horrible! #themountainsarecalling #utahisrad #beautahful

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Dedication page on #authorlifemonth – just in time for Valentines Day. ❤️
Of course my first book would be dedicated to my sweetheart. He’s always been such a support and strength to me. Love you Matt.

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My dream retreat for #authorlifemonth:

Give me a cabin cloaked beneath arched trees.
Where storms rumble the windows and shadows reach for me.
Blizzards and rainstorms don’t bother me at all.
I like settings that are broody and moody in the Winter and Fall.

The sunshine is fine for the happy and satisfied.
But I like the dark where imagination is mystified.

So give me the tempests to tame, inside this writer’s brain.
#taracottapoetry
#themountainsarecalling

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#authorlifemonth – critique partners. I’ve had some pretty amazeballs critique partners and friends to talk writing with over the years. This is only a few of my groups.
Currently I meet weekly (yes, weekly!) with the bottom right group, we are missing half of us in the photo. It’s like stepping into a boxing ring every week. It’s humbling, sometimes hurts, but so very helpful. I’ve laughed harder with them then just about anyone, because we like to twist our words.
Writing can be a lonely job. It’s important to find people to talk strictly writing with, because most people’s eyes glaze over when the actual craft of writing is involved.
#critiquegroup #authorlife

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Pilot & Index Peaks in Montana! Research day on #authorlifemonth – (Long post ahead, but I don’t know how else to do it justice)

Oh this wild place! I’ve been going up to Yellowstone since I was a baby, as my Dad was raised near there.
Destiny would bring me to my dear friend @tempesternst and her sister @juliacookecity in High School, whose family has property in #cookecity.
Together we moved horses through Yellowstone, camped alone in secluded places–where we thought we’d get eaten by bears, oil painted outside, and rock climbed. Emily truly is my adventure and artist sister.
Anyway, in college us wild women moved up to Montana and these stunning mountains were in our backyard. So naturally this would later become the backdrop for my work in progress. The love for this setting, and ones like it, has altered my blood and it is easy to escape to them in my mind. But I felt drawn to physically return while writing my fantasy book.
So Matt and I took the kids up there a couple years ago. It became even more alive as I believed my imagined creatures and story might possibly be true. 🙂 While doing research on these mountains, I found that the crumbled mountain-Index Peak (that looks like a witch’s profile) is believed to have been taller than Pilot Peak. These peaks used to be landmarks for miners and trappers. At first the collapsed mountain was named Dog Turd Peak, then Finger Peak, then Index Finger Peak, until finally Index Peak.

I’ve watched the first bone chilling rock climbing ascent up Pilot Peak (in 1932) without ropes! Still quite a feat today with ropes and gear.

Anyway, I LOVE research, especially about plants, mythology, and wild places. I truly think it’s my favorite part of writing.
#beartoothhighway #absarokamountains #themountainsarecalling

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Bucket list for #authorlifemonth.
I’ve never told anyone this book bucket list and don’t plan to until it happens. So I’m going to be very vague, but this place comes to mind every day. Like a mantra.

I used to stare at this swirl of rocks while my feet dangled 200 feet in the air over a cliff. (Sorry mom)
This is where I began writing, while the other high schoolers were in my math and science class. (I don’t approve of ditching school, daughter.) My writing career will have come full circle, like the circle in these rocks, when this bucket list happens.

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Non-author photo for #authorlifemonth–along with a favorite quote… “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks. Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” #johnmuir

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Maybe this could be a challenge overcome on #authorlifemonth because redoing this bathroom took forever! Why is it that the smallest spaces take the loooongest to #renovate? Almost there though. I cut and hung all of this shiplap, spaced them out with nickels, then painted it. You can check out other photos of the amazing #patternedtiles on the floor at #taracottaharvesthouse.

The last few projects in this bathroom are: do something about that brass light and then make a #driftwoodmirror with wood I’ve collected. Oh, then make hanging shelves, and hang artwork, and plants, and find cute towels, and make homemade bath soap, and maybe a corner shelf and… Well, it never ends…
And I hate bathroom selfies, so that’s why I’m trying to hide 🙂
#bathroomrenovation #subwaytile #shiplap

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Bookish gift for #authorlifemonth.
Look at the history of this book! It was handed down to me. I find it fascinating.
Tokology-A Book for Every Woman.
I’ve posted about the book before. Click on this hashtag #tarastokology to read the story of this amazing book.
I love #antiquebooks!

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Here’s my last entry for #authorlifemonth. It seems fitting that it should end with an acknowledgement exclamation point‼️
The truth is, I write my acknowledgement pages as I’m writing my book. They get put in my note sections and they evolve. I often refer back to them while writing because books really do take an army of support to get written. My latest book would have remained an unpublished short if not for the encouragement from the people on this page.

So my work in progress that I’ve been writing and revising for years and years already has an acknowledgement page. Even just a few weeks ago I’ve added a couple people to the growing list of supporters.
And I thank each and every one of you who has ever shown interest or support in my writing obsession. 😘

  • Thanks for stopping by!

-Tara

Heat Ratings in Romance… should it be like the ratings in Rock Climbing??

I have been thinking about the different levels of heat in Romance novels lately.

There have been times that people told me I needed to add more heat into my novel Broken Smiles. There have also been times that critique partners told me I need to tone down the steam. Where is the balance? I decided to delve in and discover all of the levels of romance and what certain target audiences expect. This is mainly for my reference, and I am glad to share and hope that it will help some of you.

As I was thinking about what rating system I wanted to compare this to, I thought about rock climbing. I love rock climbing and had many friends growing up who were hard core climbers.

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(photos of me, Tara, in Rock Canyon and Mystery Canyon)                                       

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As romance novels become more and more mainstream, there needs to be a definite rating system. I don’t mean to throw the climbing community under the bus by referring to them, but the rating system they use is genius.

By going into detail and explaining each romance category in terms of 1-15a,b,c,d, the guessing game of heat level would be out in the open. There wouldn’t need to be a board of directors or big debates on what should go where when it comes to levels of sizzling heat in romance. We could simply look at it through the eyes of a child. And so that is what I have done…

*No Romance at all would be comparable to the rock climbing ratings of Class 1 to Class 4. These rock climbing ratings begins with:

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Class 1 – Walking on an established trail

Children’s books, picture books

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Class 2 – Hiking up a steep incline

Early Reader, Middle grade reader

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Class 3 – Climbing up a steep hillside

Upper middle grade or Young Adult. Platonic interest between boy and girl.

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Class 4 – bouldering or following a ledge. Sometimes a rope will be used for help.

Young Adult mild swearing or love interest. Internal emotions, but no follow through.

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***The tricky bit is when we get to Class 5 in climbing. This is when ropes are used and technical rock climbing begins. Past Class 5, the climbs begin to become subdivided into categories.***

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Class 5.0-5.4- climbing up a ramp or steep incline with good holds.

Super Sweet Romance – An innocent look, an internal feeling by one or more of the characters. No swearing.

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Class 5.5-5.7 – steeper, more vertical. Still good holds and easily protected.

Sweet Romance – Maybe a brief touch or a steamy look. A walk around a garden alone (in historical fiction) Realistic sexual tension.

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Class 5.8 – Vertical climbing on small holds

Mild Romance – Hand holding, a quick hug. Internal thoughts and feelings of love or lust.

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Class 5.9 – Rocks might be slightly overhung, or smaller hand holds. With practice, beginner climbers can climb with confidence

Clean Romance – A brief kiss. A warm hug. More internal thoughts and feelings described in detail.

***Get clipped in, because it starts to get more intense!***

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(My good friend Emily Ernst “rockin'” American Fork Canyon.

She told me this was about a 5.11a – I don’t believe her 🙂 )

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Class 5.10 – This is where it becomes more intense. A beginner rock climber does not feel comfortable in this range unless they go often or have natural talent. The classifications break down even more into a,b,c,d.

Spicy Romance – a) A more intense kiss, closed bedroom scenes, b) maybe some swearing. c) If lovers do make love, it is implied and not graphically depicted. Much is left to the readers imagination. d) The focus is still on the emotions rather than the body parts.

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Class 5.11 a,b,c,d – Steep and difficult routes with powerful and technical moves. Above average skill.

Steamy Romance –  a) Open door bedroom scenes, some nudity. b) We get heated feelings from the characters, but not in graphic detail. c) Maybe one or two mild love scenes in the novel and they tend to be longer scenes. d) Infidelity.

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Class 5.12 a,b,c,d – Overhanging climbs. Requires delicate footwork on thin holds or long climbs requiring a great deal of balance. Expert level.

Hot Romance – a) Nudity and intimacy in detail. Authors start to use funny words to describe the intimate parts. b) Internal thought and dialogue are meant to make you feel that you are the one experiencing the sensations. c) The focus throughout the book are sexual feelings and desires. d) More description, but nothing wild or kinky.

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Class 5.13 a,b,c,d – Very difficult climbs. Elite athletes.

Erotica – a) Hard core. b) Explicit language and bedroom scenes. There probably isn’t much of a story line at this point. c) The focus is mainly on sex. It probably takes a very gifted author to have a storyline beyond sex. But this is a Billion dollar industry, so there is a demand. I don’t think people read this genre for literary purposes!

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Class 5.14 a,b,c,d – These climbs are among the hardest in the world and very few can even attempt them.

Graphic Erotica, a) Extremely explicit scenes and language. b) BDSM, c) rape, all explained in full detail with all of the feelings described. May include what others consider kinky. This is unlike rock climbing in that this genre is becoming mainstream. It is front and center in grocery stores and gas stations. Movies are being made.

***Often I have seen personally where girls have gone from reading Class 5.0-5.4 to Class 5.14 with no preparation or maturity in between. Imagine the years, the hours, and the training a climber dedicates to this level of skill. You can’t stick a beginner on an over hanging ledge and say “climb.” Nor should you. They would fall, they could die. Why then, is there no rating system to prepare or caution early readers?***

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Class 5.15 – Very few people can climb on this level. I think Spiderman skills are needed.

Beyond Romance and Erotica- Think of the worst or most graphic thing you can think of, combine them all, and this would be there.

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(My awesome sister Traci Stewart rock climbing on Moon Hill in China.

Climbs range from a 5.10b-5.14a)

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In Rock Climbing, when new harder climbs are found, a new number is made. It is impossible to imagine someone being able to find and climb a 5.16. Just as it is impossible to imagine what will be acceptable and written in the literary world. This rating system leaves it open to both. Incomprehensible, but possible.

The thing I have found is that romance in novels can be very subjective. Everyone has different lines they will or will not cross. I have found this as I have been exposed to the romance writing community. There is a definite line that I will not cross in my writing and what I feel comfortable reading. The frustrating part comes when you don’t know what to expect when you pick up a book and then you invest in a story line and it takes you to a place you are frustrated or become uncomfortable with. Much in the same way that a cliff face might look climbable from below, but once you get half way up, you realize you are stuck.

Rock Climbers, I love you! You are genius (and hot!) May us romance writers use or borrow or steal your rating system??

Thanks for “hanging” with me and happy writing –

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Tara

Broken Smiles coming September 23rd!

I feel like I did when I was six months pregnant and people would ask “when are you due, you look huge, when’s the baby coming?”

Well, I finally have a “due date” for my novel Broken Smiles – September 23rd 2014!

Six months pregnant, that’s where I’m at in my book publishing… only three months left! I need to have this fetus of a book gestate a bit more. I need to feed it, nourish it, care for it, and yes, keep it all to myself for just a little longer. This book has grown inside of me. It has made me nauseous, sick, and yet elated.

This novel used to be only a concept. It has grown, matured and I’ve even taken it to be put under a microscope or ultrasound for inspection. I have been pregnant with it for years. So it’s about time it breaks free!

Am I ready? No… yes… I don’t know. Are we ever truly ready for parenthood? Gah! The responsibilities. The doubt. The fear. The unknown.

This is a novel of my heart. I have written many other novels and short stories since Broken Smiles. But this was my first. I love all of my “babies” but there is something about the first of anything.

I hope you celebrate with me on it’s birthday, come mid-September!

Tara