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The Secret Language of Women is a Gold Medal winner in the IPPY Independent Publishers 2016 Book Awards
The Secret Language of Women was a finalist in the Foreword Reviews 2015 Indie-Fab Book Awards!
Lemon Blossoms, Book #2 of the Wayfarer Trilogy is a FINALIST in the Foreward Reviews Book Contest
In America, Book #3 of the Wayfarer Trilogy is a FINALIST in Chanteicleer Media’s Chatelaine Book Awards
~~~ A huge thanks to everyone!
How I Wrote a Cowboy Character
Here’s a little bit of what I learned about how to write a cowboy character while writing my newest novel, The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley.
It was super important for the character to live in my mind—I practically inhabited his skin as a real person while narrating the cowboy’s story. The first thing I did was choose his name: Cayo Bradley, Cayo short for Coyote, an unusual name, a memorable one that will stick in readers’ brains.
Many authors write a list of characteristics about their characters—I’ve never done this—I simply imagine him, and for Cayo, I had to imagine him in different stages of his life: as a boy before he was captured, as a youth growing up with the Jicarilla Apache, and as a man returning to the white man’s world. I did this by following him around to see what he was doing. I related his backstory, and tried to make this part of his life as interesting as his “present–day aura.” I made sure that his goals and desires were attainable, even if they’re not completely reached in the novel, they were always at the forefront.
Writing about his background, upbringing, or whatever he was doing at the moment, I needed to know why he was the way he was, and it helped me to know his psyche—the workings of his brain intimately. I made my cowboy a flawed individual. Cayo Bradley commits a heinous crime that stays with him for the rest of his life. He seeks forgiveness for the guilt he carries throughout the entire novel and seeking redemption, almost secures it by the end of the novel.
I found that there was no need to describe all of his physical appearance, so I didn’t, instead I did depict a few impressionable details for the reader—his high cheek bones and rugged, sun-tanned good looks. He has a swagger, looks great in long-legged jeans, and has a strong build.
I researched all the things I had to know about being a cowboy in the years that I presented him as a living, breathing individual. I investigated the following: horses, guns, rifles, knives, roping, branding wattling, herding cattle, cowboy songs of the past, making arrows, wanted posters, food, the Jicarilla Apache Nation—their history and the geographical area of New Mexico where they were situated in during the 1850’s-to 1870’s.
Although at times, my cowboy appears tough, I gave him a loving soul. I bestowed on him a past hurtful love story from which he is reborn despite being left scarred and damaged. He then becomes a man who, although bereft by a failed union, searches for and finds love. This love is painful, but in a completely different way than his first love.
There are many traits that in my mind a cowboy should possess: a loyal heart to his true love is among the top ones. He should be trustworthy, and not afraid to take action. He should demonstrate manners, such as helping a lady out of a ditch when her carriage goes off the road. A cowboy should show kindness to his elders—and he does this with his adopted grandmother and his mentor, the old wise, blind man, Gray Wolf.
I made Cayo a hard worker on the ranch, one who loves animals, especially horses. I have a scene where he is very tender toward a little calf. He has intimate relationships with horses and speaks to them in a most gentle voice.
A cowboy should be brave and honorable, and to this end, I have several scenes devoted to showing Cayo’s bravery. One is a scene where he kills a rattlesnake that entered his adopted grandmother’s tipi. Another scene is where he displays great courage, sacrificing his horse to save his captor during a buffalo hunt when he is with the Jicarilla Apaches. He takes care of his women, even if it means avenging their murder.
Most of the cowboy traits I gave Cayo are hard to find in the modern world, and that’s probably the main reason why it was such a wonderful experience writing these qualities. In my mind, the cowboy hero is the embodiment of the ideal male, not without imperfections, but with courage to surmount them, and he’s never too big a man to say he’s sorry.
So here’s my latest new book news: I finished the third draft of my new historical fiction and set it here in the good old US of A in the late 1800s.
I was fortunate to spend a few days in Santa Fe in June and visit the library, some local bookshops, the History Museum, the Indian Arts and Cultrual Museum and the Wheelwright Museum, where I met a wonderful docent who was very accessible, and answered my many questions and gave me some valuable handouts.
I had given the manuscript the once over lighthly with a quick read and some corrections and sent it to two beta readers. When I got the mss back I went through it again with more of their corrections–mostly of the clarification type and some typos and misspellings. So let’s consider this a thrid draft.
The manuscript is currently out with three more readers. When I receive their critiques back in August , I will begin work again on a new revision. In the meantime I am doing continued research and reading.
Then I will read through once more and work to stregthen individual scenes and dialogue, and concnetrate on plot and story development. Then I’ll slug through another draft. I think perhaps then it will be ready to submit.
It’s great to be back, pounding the keys and working on what I love. I hope to have a close-to-final draft by the end of this summer, so that I can revise it all over again!
This past winter and spring found us in Cuba, Brazil, the Amazon River, and Poland. This fall we hope to be heading to Cabo San Lucas, and Japan, with Heaven’s blessings.
Of late, in between reading and writing, I’ve been having fun on TWITTER. Keep that under your hat.
I am blessed at having had John Dufresne for my advisor and mentor since I attended FIU’s Creative Writing Program and earned my degree in 2001 with a collection of short stories, now published as The Other Side of the Gates.
I couldn’t be more proud or thrilled than to say that John has again endorsed my new novel In America , Book #3 of the Wayfarer Trilogy.
This novel took me a year to write as I was under contract for it with Turner Publishing. I consider it a great personal feat of accomplishment as I could never believe an author could take ONLY one year to actually write and revise and publish a novel.
Thanks to all those lovely souls above me and thanks to the wonderful friends who read and critiqued the manuscript for me, especially two members of my writing group: Marni Graff and Melissa Westemeier. My beta readers were: Mona Birch, Rosalie Muskat and the best rain-dancer in all of Florida, Jane Brownley!
As always, I extend gratitude and blessings to John and all those who read the book in part or in whole.
Here is John Dufresn’es blurb for In America:
I’ve just read Nina Romano’s heartfelt third installment in the lavish Wayfarer Trilogy, a hefty, eager, and absorbing novel, In America, and I can’t get the marvelous Scimenti family out of my head. Romano loves her characters and makes us love them, too. I even loved Al Lentz and he’s as shifty as a ten-speed clutch. Here is a story about the past that haunts us and love that redeems us, a story of an Italian-American family in Brooklyn during the Depression that is full of honesty, charm, grace, and good humor.
~~~John Dufresne, Louisiana Power and Light, Deep in the Shade of Paradise, Love Warps the Mind a Little, No Regrets, Coyote, and I Don’t Like Where This Is Going