Hired as the town’s school teacher, Maria O’Donnell and her sister Abigail arrive in the Colorado Territory in 1875, only to find the uncle they were to stay with has been murdered.
Rancher Tye Ashmore is content with life until he meets quiet and beautiful Maria. He falls in love at first sight, but her reluctance to jeopardize her teaching position by accepting his marriage proposal only makes him more determined to make her part of his life.
When their lives are threatened by gunshots and a gunnysack of dangerous wildlife, Tye believes he is the target of an unknown enemy. Not until Maria receives written threats urging her to leave does she realize she might be the target instead of the handsome rancher.
With the help of Tye, Abigail, and a wily Indian called Two Bears, Maria works to uncover her uncle’s killer and put aside her fears. But will she discover happiness and true love under Colorado’s starry skies?
Someone said not to sweat the small stuff. But as a writer, I think we have an obligation to sweat the small stuff. I believe all the little things we do—from editing a chapter for the fifteenth time to standing at the kitchen sink and thinking to ourselves that a conversation we’ve already created won’t work for a particular character—is part of our desire to strive for excellence and perfection in our work. We owe it to our audience.
Everyone is aware the ease of self-publishing has caused an explosion of poorly written fiction being dumped into the marketplace. We’ve all downloaded a digital book to our Kindle, Nook, phone, or tablet that was filled with bad grammar, misspellings, incorrect punctuation, and was horrendously embarrassing and painful to read. And we’ve all hit the “remove from device” link and sent these books to a junkyard in cyberspace far, far away.
But recently, I’ve been amazed with the amount of poorly written copy coming from not only fiction writers, but also writers in newspapers and magazines and (oh, my) writers on the internet. Put aside the fact that they are not checking facts, more and more people are just content to spit out their opinion or construct lazy gibberish on websites and in comment boxes with little regard to how they are shredding the English language.
“So what?” you ask. “Everyone makes mistakes, right?”
Do you want your accountant to make a mistake by a few decimal points or a few hundred dollars? How about if your doctor wrote (heaven forbid) a prescription for the wrong drug—or maybe the right drug, but the wrong dosage? Or what if your lawyer sent out a letter on your behalf filled with spelling errors? Even better yet, your plumber decided the joint he connected and sealed in one of your drain pipes is just good enough. Would you be pleased with any of these behaviors?
I believe writers have the same obligation as any other worker in any other occupation. It’s time we take the time to strive for excellence as we string words together for our readers. It’s time we take the time to find the correct word, use a thesaurus and dictionary, double check punctuation, remove wordy dialogue, rewrite poorly constructed descriptions, remove anything that doesn’t propel the plot forward, and enlist the help of beta readers and good editors. My list could go on and on, but you get the idea.
James Michener said, “I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter.” And that’s the secret of good writing. So, I am going to sweat the small stuff. I’m going to take the time to do the best job I can even if it I have to write and rewrite, and rewrite again and again—even if it takes longer than I planned or hoped.
Now tell me, what bugs you as a writer reading the written word in print or digital?
“And a sorry hide yours is, Tye Ashmore. You are getting careless. You leave woman with hair the color of mink all alone. You lose horse, rifle, donuts, and water. And you do not take dog with you.”
“If you keep insulting me, Two Bears, I’m going to take my rifle and wrap it around your greasy neck. Why didn’t you bring my horse?”
“Why didn’t you?” Two Bears asked. His mouth was tight and grim. “If I had moved the horse, anyone watching would know to follow me back to you or your woman.”
Tye nodded. “I figured the same. I decided we’d walk down to get it when it gets dark.”
Maria rose and stepped between them. She was weary, and she wanted to get home, take a bath, and soak her skinned arm and injured knee. “Why can’t we just start now?”
“Your woman is not happy.” Two Bears grunted. “An angry squaw can make sunny days seem like rainy ones.”
Maria glared at him. “I am not his woman,” she snapped. “I am not a piece of property. Stop saying that!”
Two Bears jumped back, away from her. “If you say so.” He looked at Tye with wide eyes. “Hair like a mink. Temper like a badger.”
Judy Ann Davis writes both historical and contemporary romantic suspense as well as short stories. She began her career in writing as a copy and continuity writer for radio and television and has worked for education and industry. Many of her short stories have appeared in various literary and small magazines, and anthologies, and have received numerous awards.
UNDER STARRY SKIES is her stand-alone sequel to RED FOX WOMAN. She also has a contemporary romance, KEY TO LOVE, as well as a collection of short stories, UP ON THE ROOF AND OTHER STORIES in both print and digital.
She is a member of Pennwriters, Inc. and Romance Writers of America.