#1 NYT bestselling author Linda Lael Miller
On the Home Stretch

In approximately one week, I will have finished the initial draft of “North of Eden”.  It was been a long pull–the word count is 120,000 words–difficult at times, thrilling at other times.  As you know from recent blogs, I fell in love with the characters–they are all real to me, and of course I hope they will be real to you, and memorable.  According to my recent conversation with my amazing editor, Kathy Sagan, at Mira Books, the novel will go on sale in May of 2018, which means it will be released on the last Tuesday in April.  Finishing a book is always a wonderful feeling, but, as you may imagine, it is also bittersweet.  It means saying good-bye to characters I  have come to cherish as friends–Caroline, Bridger, Rogan, Enoch, Jubie, a little dog called Sweet Girl–and that is hard, even though several will appear in the next book in the trilogy, “South of Glory”.  Of course, I always feel this way when I finish any book–for me, it’s rather like raising children and then seeing them go off to college.  I will suffer from Empty Nest Syndrome for a while, but, fortunately, a new book awaits–“The Wager”, a contemporary Western romance.  That one will be released in paperback; “North of Eden” is a hardcover.  My lovely publishers, Harlequin/HQN and Mira, agree with me that alternating between the two kinds of books will be a way to (hopefully) please my readers, and it’s excellent from a creative standpoint.  I know, as a card-carrying Gemini, that I will enjoy switching back and forth between modern and historical stories.  

Because I love to learn, and to be reminded of what I’ve already learned, but maybe forgotten, I just re-listened to Stephen King’s marvelous book, “On Writing”.  I have never actually met Mr. King, though I had the good fortune to catch a glimpse of him from a distance once, at a Book Expo America, in New York.  He is well known in the industry for his generous attitudes toward less successful writers (and, let’s face it, that adds up to just about everybody), and while most of his books are too gritty for me, I have tremendous respect for him.   His novel, “Cujo”, was hard (okay, impossible) to put down, and even though the end made me cry, I have never forgotten that book, even though I read it years ago.  My brother ranks King’s “The Stand” as the best book he’s ever read, which is saying something, since he’s a big reader, like I am.  After “On Writing”, however, I might try more of his stories–though I will still avoid “Misery”, because, frankly, that book is every writer’s worst nightmare.  :)

To continue my rambles, I had my hair cut yesterday, but–brace yourself–not colored.  I’m going to go gray, partly because I hate messing with bleaches and dyes and partly (mainly) because I think it’s more authentic.  I’m finally brave enough to be myself, I guess.  Since Jeremy used to do my hair, right here on the Triple L, I was a little spoiled, but now that he and Wendy have moved to San Diego, where they are very happy, by the way, and I’ve been doing little else besides writing “North of Eden”, my roots got away from me.  From now on, my cousin Danny’s wife, Misty, will be doing the doing the honors.  And guess what?  Turns out I got the silver-hair gene, like my Aunt Donna.  So, I’m going to be kind of streaky for a while, but soon enough, since my hair grows so fast you can practically hear it, like corn in August, I will be through the two-tone phase.  Stay tuned.

And now, back to work.  You see, I have a book to finish.

 

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Before we get into the day of hearts and flowers, I’ll announce this week’s winners.  (What?  It’s not Monday?)  Congratulations to: Joann Quijada and Shelley Anderson.  If you didn’t win, keep trying–comment and you’re entered.  As always, the winners will be chosen at random, notified and announced here next Monday.  Unless it happens on Tuesday.  :)

I’m in love, my friends–with Bridger Winslow and Rogan McBride, the dual heroes of “North of Eden”!  Okay, yes, they’re fictional, but is that bad???  Unlike their flesh-and-blood counterparts, they never leave the toilet seat up, say things like, “What’s for dinner?” or “Are you putting on weight?” or “My mother is on her way over.  Is the guest room ready?”  :)  All that, and they’re smart, sexy and handsome, too.

Wonderful as Bridger and Rogan are, they don’t quite qualify as Valentines.  My wonderful rescue pups, Tule and Mowgli, and their cat brother, Wiki, hold that title.  They love me madly, no matter what and, you guessed it, they never leave the toilet seat up.  :)  They do make it pretty plain that they’d ask what’s for dinner if they could talk, but that’s it.  My dear friend, Gayle Mackie, brought them to me last year, on the day before Valentine’s, and they’ve owned me ever since.  Before they stepped out of their crates and checked the place out a little, they’d never met, but you wouldn’t know it, watching them now.  They’re best buddies, close as brothers, constantly together, playing tag and a game I call, “Wild Wolves on the Steppes of Russia”, where they pretend to be ferocious.  As for the kitty, Wiki, well, he’s so sweet and so loving–I adore him.  He is the biggest cuddle-bug, and he’s finally joining Tule and Mowg and me on the bed most nights; Button was very territorial and, though he probably would have let Wiki have a spot–anywhere but my chest, which was Button’s alone–the Wik Man was pretty shy.  Like the pupperinos, he’s a rescue, and such a pretty boy, a gray tabby with a skim of silver to his coat.  There’s a crook at the very tip of his tail–someone apparently shut the door before the whole cat was through.  He has a small head and a large tummy, and suffers from a kidney condition, which we treat with three or four IVs a week, and he tolerates this, because he is very much a gentleman.  

I’ve been listening to music on and off all day, which probably doesn’t seem all that unusual to most of you, but here’s a little secret about me.  Sometimes, I can’t listen to music for months at a time, or even years, not because I don’t absolutely love it, because I do.  The problem is, some songs touch me so deeply that I can’t bear it.  After my friends, Johnny Cash and his lovely wife, June Carter Cash passed away, I couldn’t listen to any of their albums, and it was a full year before I actually saw the movie, “Walk the Line.”  Which, of course, was wonderful.  Both actors were spot on, but Reese Witherspoon was June.  I mean, that performance was AMAZING!  The film wasn’t released until after both June and John had died, and that’s a pity, because they would have enjoyed it so much.

In any case, I’m back to listening to something besides audiobooks.  Yesterday, I downloaded Reba McEntire’s new album, “Sing It Now: Songs of Faith”, and it’s great–I especially love a number called “God and My Girlfriends”, which really tells the story.  If you have a good man in your life, you’re very fortunate, and if you don’t, well, that’s fine, too–you’re in good company.  Where would I be without God and my girlfriends?  I shudder to think.  Man or no man, God and girlfriends stick around, through good times and bad.  You know who you are: the Debbies, Mary Ann, Jean, Annie, Cindy, Peggy, Sandy.  (If I left somebody out, I’m sorry.  Next time, lunch is on me.)  And God?  Thank You.

Oh, yes, music has a very powerful affect on this ole cowgirl.  If I need inspiration to write a western, all I have to do is put on Willie and Merle’s “Pancho and Lefty” or “The Cowboy in the Continental Suit”, by Marty Robbins, or anything by John, or Emmilou Harris, or (be still my heart) Neil Diamond.  If I’m down, a rousing chorus of “Oh, Happy Day!” has me out of my funk in no time.  (I love Gospel!) I’ve been known to break into “Rise and Shine”, first thing, when I’m on the road doing book things.  (My niece/assistant, Super-Jen, usually travels with me, and she’s not a morning person, which means she claps her hands over her ears and groans, or throws pillows.)  Funny thing.   Debbie Macomber and I travel together, too, and if I launched into a lively spiritual at the crack of dawn, she’d sing along!

Once, I went to a show with my dear friends, Bill and Renae, to hear Bobby Valle (not Frankie, Bobby) sing.  He sounds just like his brother, and I had a grand old time, because, in case I haven’t told you, I love, love, love, the Four Seasons.  I couldn’t sit still, for tapping my feet and mouthing the words.  Bobby spotted me (I would  have been pretty hard to miss), and shared the microphone.  For the next few minutes, he tried to stump me, singing part of a song, then stopping in the middle of a lyric and tilting the mic my way.  And you know what?  I not only sang (badly) every line, but I put the doo-wahs in the right places, too.  (I don’t limit myself to the lead, I do all the backup, too.)  I made up for my lack of musical talent with enthusiasm, I can tell you.  I could probably do the same with a lot of other singers from that time period–Buddy Holly, Elvis, the Beatles and the early stuff by the Stones.  Plus, Connie Francis, the Bobbys, Rydell and Vinton, and a bunch of others.  Frank Sinatra, Carole King, the Supremes and about 40 other Motowners, the incomparable Streisand….

I’m dating myself, but I don’t care.  Furthermore, I could go on and on with this, but I’ll spare you that.  (Just be grateful you don’t have to hear me sing!)

I guess I’ve been pulling on your ear long enough for today, rambling on and digressing all over the place, as I tend to do, but I’ve got one more thing to say.  Reading over this blog, it came to me that I have a LOT of Valentines in my life–including each and every one of you.  And that makes me one very lucky woman.

The Pony Express carried almost 35,000 pieces of mail over more than 650,000 miles during those nineteen months and lost only one mail sack.

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