KILLER COVERS

What do you see in book covers? Promise of the world between them, of what a reader can expect as to theme, mood and style? Or a wall graffitii’d with a title and author name? To me a cover is like a front door. It can either be an invitation to enter, or a barrier that practically dares me to open it.

With the rise of covers shown in online vendor sites such as Amazon, we’ve noticed larger type and more contrasty colors against nondescript backgrounds. Or with simpler, cliched images (e.g., romance and Westerns). The thinking is to simplify since readers can’t discern detail let alone realistic people and places, in an image the size of a thumbnail or tarot card depending on the device displaying it. And with the barest suggestion of the characters, setting and action inside. Unless you’re familiar with the author’s work, buying such a book is a guessing game.

I don’t want to have to guess! I want to get an idea of what I’m buying. In the case of my own books, The Pepper Kane Mysteries—four to date, one one the way—I’ve been blessed with a publisher who asks if I have a cover concept. I not only have a concept, I have 200+ professionally shot photos from which to choose (thank you Jenny J Jaks Grimm), and a wonderful designer (Cheryl F. Taylor) to add filters, backgrounds and effects that suggest what’s inside the book. Perfectly. A Western show diva and her horse silhouetted against a mysterious background with symbolic details, e.g., a sky with full moon and owl (“Ghost Ranch”). Western colors such as coral, Sienna and aqua add to the ambience.

Many compliments have come our way for those covers—particularly the one for the latest, “Night Rides” (Pepper #4) with its mountain horizon, night sky and lightning bolt. But all capture well what I intended with the novels, which is a gripping, and sometimes beautiful and lighthearted, mystery set in today’s sophisticated American West, with shades of cozies and serious women’s fiction. Can we touch on tough issues like loyalty, child trafficking, and faith/race/gender prejudice? OK, but with a hopeful outcome.

Oh, yes. I worry the horse and the cowgirl hat will turn off some readers who think my books are Westerns, or horsey, or I-don’t-know-what. That with my books’ unique covers in related styles, which indicate a series, they might look a little different from “Big 5” or establishment covers. But I kind of love them for those same reasons! They ARE different, they do offer a unique entertainment and voice.

Besides. I get to immortalize not only a way of life I’ve enjoyed—horses, nature, life sleuthing and relationship building–but I also get to see my entire creative vision displayed. That’s big. And YOU get what you see. My doors don’t lie!

Write for the Brand


We’ve all heard about author “branding,” or creating an effective, identifiable writer persona that will draw readers of certain genres and  styles to our work. After all, whether out shopping for cars, tools, groceries or clothes, through experience or advertising, we expect certain things of a maker when it comes to fit, styles, craftsmanship.

It’s the same for manufacturers of fiction. Any kind of fiction, romance to mystery, family drama to literary. The author name on a book cover should raise readers’ expectations about what’s inside regarding genre fit, styles and craftsmanship. Therefore we author’s can’t be shy creating a literary persona. It is an authentic representation of who we are, what we care about, what we write.

This is not about one’s deep feelings, doubts, day to day triumphs and tragedies. Although if one “does” social media as part of the marketing plan, it can touch on such things. No. This is about a persona we create and reinforce, a detached name-brand guaranteeing a certain prose behind your name. Shrinking violets take heart. You, rather your public brand, are about writing or selling books. Maybe Ralph Lauren is the same dude who’s suggested in his company advertising with its depictions of an idyllic life sailing, attending polo matches, and living on an upscale Aspen ranch. But l’ll bet the farm he’s not telling all, and certainly is not spending sleepless nights thinking The Real Ralph (poor, shy, artsy Jewish boy from Brooklyn or wherever) will be discovered via his advertising.

When I began writing fiction for publication in 2014 or so, I sought a marketing mentor in a program offered free by Mystery Writers of America. They paired me with bestselling thriller author, Libby Fischer Hellmann. In phone interviews, she suggested I first identify and codify my author brand. That would go into a website, so readers could find and learn about my work. She had me pick a selfie or other portrait that captured what I am about—expression, favorite genre, and loved setting, etc.

Then she had me create my motto, or logo—six to ten words expressing the kind of books I write. Currently it is “New West Mysteries with Heart,” suggesting modern, cozy whodunits with a dash of romance. Writers with more than one category or genre can create a different logo or motto for each category.

Finally, this Carole T. Beers branding effort, after I’d identified what “look” and “motto,” stood for how I look, what I like to do, how I live and what I believe in, took me into social media. Free friending, free marketing, but first, gathering like-minded souls and responding to their posts. My brand was launched! Now I have 5,000 “friends” of my Facebook profile, 1,500 “likes” of my FB Carole T. Beers Author page, and opportunities daily to spread my message and reinforce my brand.

I am a friendly type, though clinically an introvert, and absolutely love doing it all. It does take time from writing. But what will my writing be, with no one drawn to read it?!

Let’s do a little exercise, to make sure you “get” this  branding thing., whether or not you’re a writer. Because every public thing an you do or say, whatever you post, drops info about you, for good or for ill. And you don’t want people confused by what you reoresent. Write down the names of three of your favorite or influential authors. Take a moment and pick out the best. Write down three qualities of personality, outlook, lifestyle or writing style you admire in these authors. That is their brand.

Now write down three to five of your own qualities of personality, outlook, lifestyle or style that you would like to be known for, or at least would not mind people knowing. Congratulations! You’ve just identified your brand. This can define and shape manuscripts. Or lives!

I had an idea about my brand long before I was published: New West Mysteries with Heart. I love the West old and new, books and art dealing with it, people navigating it, as well as horses, dogs and growing things. I love a mystery, risk, adventure. And celebrate our connections, gnarly or mutually gratifying. Energy and humor are musts. My website and posts reflect this. Unbranded livestock can be stolen or get lost in the herd. It simplifies my writing life, brings it into sharp focus.

For me, there’s no room for doubt. A brand tells readers what they need to know. What they might reasonably and reliably expect when they borrow or buy a book with my name of its cover. I write, therefore I brand. And I’ve branded myself so I can write even better. And be discovered, read, and relied on. Consistency and standing in your truth is a powerful thing.

 

Starting Fresh (But Not!)

Fresh starts require fresh thinking. And sometimes, no thinking. Let me explain. I’ve just sent “Night Rides,” Pepper Kane Mystery #4, off to the publisher, A-Argus, the small press in North Carolina that printed my three previous books. Quick acceptance, editing, forrmatting and turnaround. Now I have time and ideas on my hands—boy, do I have ideas—before proof copies come back for line editing and final author checks.

What better way to spend this time bonanaza than getting the jump on writing Book #5, where Pepper opens her long dreamed-of guest ranch—really a bed, barn and breakfast that offers a Western ranch experience as well side trips to other Rogue Valley recreational and cultural sites. Problem is, this book already exists, kinda. But in super rough-draft forrm, it representing the first run at the series. Written almost ten years ago!

There actually are three or four different beginnings to this book, originally called “The Hay Hook Murders.” The two main characters, best friends Tulip and Pepper, are reversed in look and name. There’s a whole different boyfriend. And some elements of the murder weapon seem wrong, not to mention that two whole chapters in the middle are missing. Entirely. So something happened between saving the digital draft, and printing out all 300 pages.

I’ve started re-reading the version(s) I have, which I can salvage as a kind of detailed outline. There is that. But now I’ve found so many versions of the beginning, and directions to go in, that I’ve become a bit confused. OK, a lot confused. Maybe I need to chuck the whole thing and start from square one.

But wait. There are some really good scenes, dialog, and useful people, in that draft. I realize it’s an advantage ro have options, to have a bunch of set characters with their own agendas, some already roughed-in scenes, and a general idea what’s going to happen. There’s gold in that there manuscript, albeit covered in grit and sitting at the bottom of the river. Time to pan for grains and nuggets, maybe even get out the old suction dredge.

I’m writing new. Just setting out, setting up camp, keeping to me vision for the book, but letting my subconscious that already knows the important bits, bring me along. This is the fresh-thinking and no-thinking part. Fresh, in terms of new wording and scene-setting. But completely new in terms of how and where the story goes. In terms of what I discover as I write forward into new yet oddly familiar territory.

That makes me excited. That makes this book #5 seem like an entirely new adventure. And if it feels that way to me, think how much more so it will feel that way to a reader. Tally ho, I say. Onward, the wagons. Northwest discoveries await.

Get real!

:

My author friend Tisha Martin’s smashing 5-star Amazon review of “Saddle Tramps” praises how I portray my characters, including horses—their  traits and trappings—convincingly.

It is the most lighthearted of my books, where I tested my author’s voice and outlook, explored what role horses would play—I don’t want to be thought only a “horse-book” author, though it paid off for Walter Farley—and uploaded onto the page some dark thoughts, goofy observations and sometimes off-center opinions I’ve developed over the years. I refined these, wove them even more tightly into the story in “Over the Edge”and “Ghost Ranch,” Pepper Kane Mysteries #2 and #3.

Formal Western horse shows are an abiding interest of mine, my area of expertise. Few authors I know of have understood or taken them on. There are some books on cutting, reining and roping. And Carly Kade does portray a trainer specializing in the “arena” Western pleasure, but not in an in-depth detailed way. Perhaps for fear of boring readers. My writer’s critique group keeps me keeping it interesting. Detailing what the rider thinks and feels doing the event, what they’re aiming for, maintains pacing and excitement. Particularly if the horse is a bit bronc-y!

Regarding another tack I take (pun intended), I think relationships, whether human or cross-species, absolutely must be FELT by an author as she writes. Actions, reactions and interactions that appear accurate make a book come alive for a reader. The personality and give-take between my amateur-sleuth and her horse—a thinking, feeling being with instincts that’ve helped it survive for millennia—come from my own experience. I really feel these things in my mind’s eye as I write.

Finally, to answer many an interviewer’s burning question, Pepper and Sonny’s opposite personalities and elusive but electrifying relationship reflects a long-ago love affair of mine that (in the dreamworld) persists to this day! And Pepper, herself, is a lot like me. Former reporter, dancer, cogitator, kidder, nature girl with sometimes expensive tastes. Hello?

Writing all this into a book, and a mystery, at that, while peppering it with believable humor, is daunting. Hell. All writing is scary. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

I think the key to any author’s success lies in fearlessly tapping into one’s true times and personality, warts and all. In fact a few warts, laid bare and shown honestly, can make one’s writing stand out. Hopefully in a good way. In other words, instances/essences of a writer’s actual life “goods” AND “bads,” dreams and disappointments edited and channeled into a book, make her word tapestry unique, fully engage people, and take them on that winning ride. It does help if one is able to walk in another’s boots and live as an empath on some level.

Takeaway? Feel the horse, the mother, the friend, the killer. Put yourself in the alley, onstage or in the arena. Analyze your feelings and thoughts at what’s happening around and to you, ask questions, what you imagine will happe or HAS happened, no matter how seemingly insignificant. Then record it. All of it. You can edit and refine later.

That’s how a writer sucks me into a book and makes me live inside it. That’s what I do when I craft my own books. They become code and a metaphor for real life, past/present, real or imagined. Setting it down lights a way, brings answers. And prepares me for more daring literary exploration. 

Yes, books can do that!

Writing Rogue!

Writing Rogue!

Whew! “Ghost Ranch,” my third Pepper Kane Mystery, has burst from the starting gate and is gathering steam on the backstretch with not one, but TWO giveaways on Amazon.com (one Kindle, one for Paperback). To enter the Kindle giveaway, click https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/98715a51ef93057f.  To enter the Paperback contest click https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/dab5b0b86f77a20d. Or visit Amazon.com and search under “book giveaways.”

If you already have a copy of this fast, provocative novel featuring my spirited amateur sleuth, horsewoman and ex-reporter, enter anyway. If you win, give your prize to a friend or a favorite charity. May I suggest a cause that fights bullying or prejudice—strong themes in this book? Perhaps one that supports American Indian youth. Such as Seattle Clearsky Native Youth Council. These books are suitable for ages 15 and up.

Ghost Ranch by Carole Beers

With “Ghost Ranch” on its way and earning great reviews, notably by authors whose work I admire, I’ve turned my attention to my next book. Its working title? “Night Rides,” fourth in the series. I am setting this one in Seattle AND in Oregon’s Rogue Valley. Southern Oregon happens to be where I live now. Where I graduated from high school (Go Cavemen!) when dinosaurs roamed the Earth. Hey. I knew T. Rex personally!

Much as I love the Rogue Valley, the Puget Sound region is where I spent 40 years. After earning an editorial journalism degree at University of Washington, and selling stories to romance magazines and horse periodicals, I wrote for The Seattle Times for 32 years. And King County Journal. So I know and love this area. Bosky forests, steep hills, gleaming waters, energized people, and air scented with saltwater and (yes!) coffee. “Essence of horse” is optional.

With the new book I get to “live in” the best of both worlds. Don’t worry, I’ll figure out how to have the main crime committed at the horse show near Seattle, and how to transport the whole mob including the killer to Southern Oregon, Pepper Kane’s stomping grounds.

You readers have been very helpful in giving me the confidence to go ahead with this unique split approach to setting: Comments on my Carole T. Beers, Author page on Facebook included a lot of thumbs up. Using a venue other than Rogue Valley will freshen things, say some. Give the series added pizazz. Besides. The first two books in my series, “Saddle Tramps” and “Over the Edge,” started in the Rogue Valley and traveled to horse shows in California and Texas for their thrilling conclusion!

RUNNING THE BULLS

The Oregon sky arcs grey and wide over Red Horse and me as we leave the barn for a relaxing ride at Saddle Mountain Cattle Company. Cold, wet weather has kept us in the covered arena. We need to expand our horizons. But where to go? Down by the whispering Applegate River, to wade ankle-deep into that flashing water? Across the grasslands to where 80 Black Angus cows hang out below the ranch-house? Or to a field by the trees where three bulls graze?

I point my pony past the long arms of the Rainbird sprinklers. Put the sprinkler line between us and the bulls, who seem unconcerned with our presence. They’re 200 feet away. We’ve ridden near them before. No cows in sight, nothing to ruffle their calm. We start jogging large circles. Then small circles, figure eights, serpentines. Move to lope circles, each way. I like to revisit our horse-show moves, not let the training slide. It makes me feel we could compete again if we chose.

A crow flaps by overhead. A dog yelps somewhere on that forest ridge above the pastures. But not an anxious yelp, a bored, lazy one. Is that an eagle’s scree I hear?

Hoofbeats pound softly on cropped grass. I finger the reins to adjust speed and body angles. I rock and sway gracefully. A wonderful ride! Bliss. Like when a novel-writing session goes well. 

Until it doesn’t. The bull start to stir. Suddenly the largest one, a heavy-shouldered beast, lowers his head, strides toward the middle sized bull and rams his face into that of the other who pushes back. They stand locked forehead to forehead. They circle around joined heads that are capped by bony ridges minus horns. Around and around they go, the smallest bull watching.

The oldest bull pushes his opponent backward again and again, their hind ends tracing a larger circle. Then the smaller bull peels off, walks away. But the big bull follows, increasing his pace while the third bull trails these two.

Slowly the group arcs around. They are headed our way! Unnerved, unsure what that they will do, whether they are targeting me, I turn Red Horse toward the barn and start walking there. Safety is a good quarter-mile away. Don’t want to run; that may excite them more.

But they definitely are coming my way. Still targeting each other, or focused on me? I take no chances. I urge Red Horse into a jog. I look back over my shoulder. Still the black bulls come. I halt and turn to have a good look.  They’re coming even faster!  Who knows their intent? My heart races, my mouth goes dry. We trot forward faster.

We reach the barn doors a few dozen feet ahead of the running bulls. I pile off, lead Red Horse inside, and drag shut the heavy door as the bulls stampede by, headed to the cows by the house in the south.

Big exhale. Tragedy averted. But I’m shaken. It’s probable I wasn’t in danger at all. The bulls may have been focused only on themselves. But, better safe than sorry, yes? Corrective action taken in a timely fashion, ahead of the disaster, saves the day.

Note to self: If you THINK you’re in trouble, you probably are. Or at least headed for it. Therefore — as with a rogue, runaway novel in progress — take immediate action. Do not tarry, or be lulled or distracted by pretty scenes and phrases By past success.

Change course. Set your sights on a reachable, reasonable goal and head there. With dispatch. Go. Ride on, write on!

SHOW TIME!

The double closet doors stand open, hangers displaying a variety of appealing colors, textures and styles of footwear, shirts and cardigans. The bureau drawers are open, too, showing pants of many colors. Which will be chosen for the upcoming author event for which I am the main attraction? I must choose soon. It’s nearing show time.

I’ve already rehearsed bits of my spiel in the mirror. Gone through what I will say, what feelings I will project for the hordes of adoring fans (if only!) that will attend to my every word and gesture. Why do I get the feeling that this bookish outing in which I surely will be judged, is eerily like competing in a horse show? Like riding in the spotlight, trying to stand out from the herd of other contenders, trying to look happily competent and sure of winning while my gizzards flip like a landed trout?

I’ve already flailed away at the mirror. Fluffed recalcitrant locks. Blushed my cheeks. Filled in eyebrows, eyelashes and eyelids with a dizzying array of crayons and potions. Applied with a discerning hand, of course. At my age (72) I don’t want to resemble a lavishly tended grave!

This outfit is tried and discarded. Then that one — “too dressy,” “too warm,” “too tight” (I’m cutting back on Cheezits tomorrow). I choose one, appropriately feminine and Western. Yes, that’s the look I want today. Then I hold out a book. I say a few words about it, trying to look as if I think this is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Cubed hay?

The Honda is packed and ready to hit the road. Books, posters, bookmarks, pens, goodies and guest book. And finally, so am I. Ready. Maybe. I’m sure I must have forgotten something. But I cannot for the love of Mike remember what. I can barely remember my own name, let alone salient points I want to mention about my “New West Mysteries with Heart.”

On the road again, driving to the bookstore (or library, reading group, literary festival), it feels as if I am warming up. I again practice saying my main points, running through the coming gig mentally, visualizing perfection. That, too, is what I did those wonderful years showing my horses in various events — Western pleasure, horsemanship, trail, hunt seat and showmanship. A confident calm settles over me. I really am ready.

The bookstore looms ahead. The “arena” where the magic happens. I park, bring my gear inside, set up at the table, adjust the microphone. Listeners trickle in. A tingle riffles through me. I review my points. A hint of stage fright — just enough to put me on point, with all my prep set to peak at the right time. Breathe, breathe. Cue energy. Do it like you did at home. Only better.

“Hello, it’s great to see you here today,” I begin, making eye contact with the two or twenty that have set aside part of their day to see me and hear about my books. “I hope you’re ready for a good ride — or, read — with my amateur cowgirl-sleuth in the modern West.” Or words to that effect. Keep it natural, make it easy for “judges” to like you and your books. Win that class!

I loved showing horses. A bit of a wreck beforehand, a bit overwhelmed by all the elements that went into preparing for those few minutes on the spotlight. Obsessed with this or that detail of outfit or presentation. Afraid of bombing, of going over like a dead horse.

But you know? Once underway with people watching, judging, responding, I come out a winner no matter how many judges like me, how many ask great questions, how many listeners buy my books. Really. It all depends on how you define winning. And believe me, I have a very broad definition of it!

READING COWS

Pardon me, but do you read cows? You heard right. Or, herd right. I am mesmerized watching them, in pasture. I feel at peace, and become lost — and found — in their world. It’s almost like watching the ocean. Or reading an absorbing book.

What’s your favorite breed or genre? For me, it’s big, blocky, ink-black Angus, though I love all breeds. But sometimes I like frisky ones or those determined to return to their herd after being cut out by dogs and horsemen. Again, I am reminded that cows, calves, steers, and heifers are in odd but important ways, a bit like books. And that’s no bull. You learn things, feel things, see through different eyes, reading both.

I gravitate toward the beef breeds — big, languid calves and adults who know their place on the land and with their peers. Like all cattle, they regard the world and its mysteries with large, curious eyes. They play and react rightly to needs, threats or attractions. Perhaps seek food or their calf. Reassure a herdmate, drive off interlopers, find shelter together. And often they just hunker down and chew things over.

So, too, with unpretentious yet powerful books. I like a book that’s confident of its place, nature and purpose — which may or may not, in time, include obscurity. For example, plain-speaking books that nonetheless move with a certain grace and at an appropriate pace. They can race occasionally. They can buck, twist, veer from their herd. Or merely ramble here and there, searching out a hidden tidbit.

The main thing, whether they be books or cows, is that they must show they know what they’re about. They must give a reader every opportunity to read and evaluate that. No apologies, just laying it out there with their own voice, their own unforced style. Just saying “moo!”

Let me offer examples of what I mean. “To Kill a Mockingbird,” for one. It is told truthfully yet simply from an educated Southern family’s viewpoint as life unfolds, halts, runs, turns and hesitates at the threshold of catastrophe. Even tips over into that, as we read, spellbound. Unable to look away, though the book moves along with no more exertion than necessary.

Other examples of books behaving naturally and honestly, true to type yet with their own brands, quirks and earmarks, are works by: Joan Didion, Craig Johnson, Catherine Ryan Hyde, Robert B. Parker, John Steinbeck, Molly Gloss, Ernest Hemingway, Will Rogers, and (insert your favorite) here.

Now watching friskier or prettier critters — like reading relentlessly zippier books — can be quite a delight. Even addicting. Let’s change it up, put pep in our perusals. Let’s grab this new Janet Evanovitch or that Lee Child. Venture into that mid-list author who’s charging strong!

But as a general practice, day in, day out, I am most at ease with books that are more like cows: Tomes that have natural lingo, reasonable pace and occasional bright, scary or funny situations, rather than the noisy, showy faster-moving ones. Life is cabaret enough, war-zone enough, Saturday-night-fever enough. I don’t shrink from such places or people. I seek truth with entertainment, after all. So I welcome the occasional thriller, chiller or romance all tarted up with hypercharged language and constantly shifting scenes.

I just don’t seek them as my main fare. For that, and for heartfillng peace and long-haul sustenance, I need my cows!

HOT OFF THE PRESS

I am “Over the Edge” with excitement today. The second book in my Pepper Kane mystery series, warmed by the hands of early readers, has at last hit online sites and select bookstore shelves. It’s about time. The conception was rip-roaring fun, as conceptions often are *blush*. The ten-month gestation, not so much — although there were many high points in the creation that really rocked.

The book began life as a novella. A short, sweet sumpin’ designed to bridge the gap between “Saddle Tramps,” the first Pepper Kane contemporary-cowgirl mystery, and its sequel flickering on the far horizon. I wrote a draft of this “shortie.” Had my amateur sleuth in present tense (both meanings) riding to the edge of Oregon’s Table Rock, where she rushed to stop another rider from falling off a cliff.  Seemed a good idea at the time. Didn’t it? What part of “no” didn’t I understand? Something did feel off. And my writers critique group howled with dissatisfaction. Back to the writing board.

Then my mentor Stella Cameron, a NYT and USA Today bestselling author, advised I write a full-length “Saddle Tramps” sequel book IMMEDIATELY. Which in writer’s lingo means six to eight months after the first. At most, a year. Or readers will forget you, she said, and move on.  Stella writes her brilliant English village mysteries in six months! Many bestselling authors write that fast.

Thus began the book that became the “Over the Edge” you see today. Incorporating parts of the rough novella, I crafted a more complicated plot with a larger, more diverse cast of characters, and then hauled them all off to Texas for a world-championship horse show.

Of course the book took WAY longer than I thought to write, revise and pull together. And buckets more blood, sweat and tears. For me AND my editor. Don’t they always? Even the cover gave me a few fits.

But now it’s out. At last.  I can breathe. And best of all? I really love this little bugger. If you can call 340 pages “little.” If you call weighing over a pound, “Little.” I am proud as punch. Can punch be proud?

Here. Have a cigar. Oh, and a pretty balloon. Many of you cheered and supported me in creating this novel. So thank you for that. Here. Hold the baby. Give it a good long look. I hope you love it as much as I do.

Then, when done, will you kindly leave a review on Amazon and Goodreads? Thanks, everyone. We’re all in this together — a family for the books!

 

 

 

Love not Lost

Last week while walking past the skinny window by the front door, I finally saw a flat, familiar-looking little brown package on the porch. Joy, relief and gratitude whooshed in. After eight months of writing my new novel — of living, dreaming, commiserating and rejoicing with its characters through every conceivable crisis and complication, the moment was here. My baby was crowning. The proof book awaited only a final edit and a nod to the publisher to fly out to the world of bestsellerdom. (If only!)

But as I stepped out to fetch the parcel and rip it open, the joy suddenly drained from me. Shock and anxiety rushed in. Holding the book in my hands, now icy and hesitant, I stared at that cover I adored weeks ago. Doubt fingered my spine. The cover of “Over the Edge” looks glossy and eye-catching, I thought. But is it too like that of “Saddle Tramps,” a previous book? Will it confuse readers? The back cover looked good. But it but didn’t particularly grab me in that emotion-wracked moment. There were typos. Where was the author blurb I’d managed to snag?

My overall reaction at seeing that proof book of “Over the Edge” — the second title in the Pepper Kane mystery series — was akin to what I’d felt years ago encountering a lost lover. Whether lost deliberately or by chance made little difference. The main thing was, that person meant a great deal to me, wove himself into my life, and then went away, taking a piece of my heart.

I never got that piece back. I still miss it — and them, in a way. The attraction remains. But then, so does the pain. Enough so that I’d be stupid to go there again.

The nice thing was – and I took comfort in that — I didn’t have to open the proof book, get into heavy editing and light revising, that very moment. It would be there when I was ready. I might have looked at a page or two, the Acknowledgments and Meet the Author. Just to make sure they read all right. They did! I could exhale, at least, about that.

In that moment of hesitation, I had a small epiphany. Hey. I could give the proof book to a writing friend who did line-edits on “Saddle Tramps.” A fine author in her own right (write?) and a retired professor, she could have at it first. Maybe by the time she finished, I’d be ready to face it again.

It’s been nearly a week now since that proof book hit the porch. Since it practically dared me to immerse myself in it. It’s time for me to take a breath, prepare to revisit my pain. Who knows? Maybe I can also rejoice in the good parts, in the happy times. My friend is done with it. She liked how nicely I reworked the book since she read it in-progress. It’s changed, she assures me. For the best.

Finally taking possession of it again, safe on the couch with comfort dogs all around, I gingerly opened “Over the Edge.” I started reading, notepad in hand, ruler on page, inching steadily down while I started my own proofreading. I settled in, beverage at hand, read some more. Odd, how I became increasingly comfortable. I saw both good and sketchy points with a wiser, more objective eye. Read almost as if this were written by another. One with no claim on me, no matter how tentative. One with no stake.

Hey, I thought. I can do this. I realized that, like lost lovers meeting again, we can each have our separate lives, run into each other occasionally, yet still have a connection. And, surprisingly? I was good with it. AM good. What’s even better? It’s good.