Wandering Around the San Juan Bautista Mission

The other day I found myself having completed all the work for the first two classes in my MFA, which had somehow resulted in a massive case of writer’s block. Instead of sitting and staring at the blinking cursor, I decided to do a little work on setting. In Trial Run, Rick Keller ends up at a Family compound where Calix and Karen have set up shop, working as independent security contractors for the Family. The building they live and work out of is an old Spanish mission that was built in the late 1700s … a little too close to a Family city. Funny enough, once construction was complete, all memory of the place disappeared–records, eyewitnesses, down to the last materiel purchase order.

When I wrote the book, I mostly drew on my memories of the La Purisima Mission in Lompoc, CA. The rectangular construction around an open courtyard, the chapel, the rooms where the inhabitants lived and worked, the garden and fountains on the ground–all were hanging out in my mind’s eye.

The view of San Juan Bautista from across the street at the historic Plaza Hotel.

We’re a solid four hours from Lompoc at the moment, but there is another of the 21 Spanish missions that were established in the region that became California–San Juan Bautista. I was feeling kind of down and blah, so a field trip was in order. I drove down on a gray, rainy Tuesday to check it out.

The first thing I noticed was that the mission, unlike La Purisima, sits in the middle of a town, surrounded by a state park. For three bucks (actually, more like 20, since I bought a book at the gift shop with my entrance fee), I got to walk around the San Juan Bautista State Historic Park. The grounds include several historic buildings: a hotel, the Breen residence (survivors of the Donner Party), a stables and blacksmith shop, and another grand residence. Definitely worth the price of admission.

The mission itself was built in a giant L-shape, with the chapel at the corner. I

The outdoor hallway at San Juan Bautista Mission. From here, you can access the gift shop, chapel, or more of the property.

entered and walked down the long, outside hallway, which reminded me of the La Purisima architecture. My first stop was in the gift shop, where I picked up a couple of books (I really can’t help myself), a bracelet rosary, a Christmas present, and a candle to light in the chapel.

I also put my phone down while I was trying to juggle everything, and found a cluster of visiting schoolkids checking it out since I hadn’t locked it down. Oops.

Phone safely retrieved, I headed out the door into the inner yard of the mission. There is a garden, more elaborate than the one at La Purisima, with roses and lemon trees, and even a fountain or two. The air was cold, with a sharp chill, and it smelled sweet and wet.

Down the outdoor corridor, a large door with a wooden sign reading “Church” pointed the way.

 

The chapel was a rectangular space, with a baptismal font in a small room off the side. At the back of the church, a depiction of the Savior stood against the left side, and the Virgin Mary at the front. The floor was stone. In Trial Run, Rick stretches out on the floor of the mission’s chapel, enjoying the cool of the tile. It was a little too chilly to do that; also, there were more schoolkids running around, followed by chaperones exhibiting varying levels of enthusiasm, so I decided discretion was the better part of valor.

A view across the center/back of the chapel.

The altar was very much in a familiar style of the other missions. A series of alcoves held depictions of various saints. Unlike the La Purisima mission, San Juan Bautista holds weekly masses. According to their Web site, they have had an unbroken pastoral lineage since the mission was first consecrated. There was a definite sense of history around the place.

The view toward to the altar and its saints.

In Trial Run, Rick goes into the chapel, not knowing what he will find. The people who live and work there continue to use it as a space for meditation and worship, although not in any specific or formal way. Rick half expects to meet with the Green Man, whose manifestation has come to him in various places, but in this place of worship, he does not appear.

Chapels and churches are very familiar spaces to me, having grown up in a faith tradition. I brought my candle over to the space in front of the Virgin Mary. Feeling super self-conscious given the fact that kids were still milling around and, from their reactions, not really expecting to encounter someone worshiping, I lit the candle for my sister,

The devotional area to the Virgin Mary.

Jenn, and spent a few moments in meditation.  Afterwards, I snapped a few photos, and wandered around the garden for a bit.

By that time, I was ready for lunch. I grabbed a burger at a little diner a block down the street. While I ate, I started reading one of the books I bought, enjoying the chance to spend some more time doing introvert things.

After I paid the tab, I wandered in another circle around the grounds. By this time, most of the kids from the school trip had headed out. I got a few more pictures, but mostly just enjoyed the quiet that had descended on the place.

I took a few more notes and photos, stashing the experience away for a future story. Rick isn’t a big fan of California landscapes, but I kind of enjoy them. I find it fun to explore the history, especially on days when you almost have the place to yourself. I’m feeling a bit more energized to keep working on Winter Run, as well as a couple of other short projects whose deadlines are politely coughing over my shoulder.

In the future, I’d like to start doing more of this, finding a place once a week or so, to spend a few hours in. You never know when a place or time is going to pop up and demand a place in something you’re writing, so it would be a way to gather potential future settings in one blog. Looking forward to future mini-adventures.

A view of part of the inner garden at San Juan Bautista.

~ ~ ~

The Rick Keller Project can be found on Amazon:
Cold Run
Night Run
Vegas Run
Trial Run

Winter Run, the concluding novel to the series, is currently in progress!

Rick Keller meets Shop Small Saturday!

Good morning, and apologies for the intermittent radio silence!

There’s been quite a bit happening. I’m going to throw it out there in a blog post, and then start to slowly update the Website to reflect what’s been happening.

First — the FREE! If you’ve been interested in checking out the Rick Keller project, Cold Run is currently FREE DOLLARS on Amazon.

Next — the NEW! The latest installment in the series, Trial Run, is available for $0.99 on Amazon. This novella is the second-to-last release in the series, and sets the stage for the last book, Winter Run, which I’m currently about 12K words into and counting!

So, if you’re interested, but maybe slightly confused, here is the Rick Keller Project in order:

Cold Run (Novel, Rick Keller Project 1)
Night Run (Novelette, RKP 1.5)
Vegas Run (Novel, RKP 2)
Trial Run (Novella, RKP 2.5)
Winter Run (Novel-In-Progress, RKP 3/Final)

Phew.

In other news, I’ve got two more weeks left of my first two classes for my Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. I’ve been doing pretty well, until last week, when I spent four days in the smoky goodness of north/central California with the Army Reserve, came home, and failed to fully read the directions on an assignment I was trying to finish on way too little sleep. Hopefully, I’ll be able to work something out with my instructor, and I know that I’ll probably be able to recover from that one grade, but still, my inner nerd doesn’t like seeing those letters on my course transcript … bleagh.

I’ve got a few more interviews with writers and creators set up, and a few more on the way. After a few years of keeping a separate milwriter interview blog, and this one, I’m going to combine the two, which means I’ll probably re-post the interviews I have over there, and start with some new ones.

I also have two new series I’m plotting. One is humorous military fantasy, the other is under my romance pen name. I’ve got some fun ideas swirling around, and I think they will be fun to write (and hopefully, fun to read.)

Anyway, I need to get back to the keyboard, because this novel won’t write itself. Sadly enough. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy your Shop Small Saturday, and if you get a chance, check out the Rick Keller Project … and maybe leave a review?

Peace!

Rick Keller Runs Again!

Rick Keller–werewolf, secret agent, Cold War weapons experiment–has been running by himself long enough.

Spanking new, I tell you…

When we last left our intrepid and crotchety–mostly crotchety–hero, he was getting the heck out of Dodge City, which looks a lot like NYC in this case, and heading up to the North Country to find a new pack to run with. He intended to hang out up there, under the radar of MONIKER, the agency that he used to work for, that can’t seem to just let him live his life.

Thanks to Untold Press and cover artist Lia Rees, Rick is getting back in the game. First, we’re giving him and fellow main character, Dr. Karen Willet, a spanking new cover for Cold Run (The Rick Keller Project Book 1).

Second, we’re officially re-launching the series with a mid-April sale, so if you’re thinking about getting a copy, click the link on April 15 and grab a Kindle or paperback copy.

And finally, we aren’t just re-launching Cold Run, but we are going to be bringing you the rest of the Rick Keller Project series. To give you an idea of what’s coming up for Rick and the gang, here is a tentative schedule.

Available May 2018!

APRIL 2018 – Cold Run Re-Launch!
A secret agency reels its first supernatural agent back in from the cold. Where he likes it.
MAY 2018 – Night Run (Rick Keller Project 1.5) A short story to tide you over until…
JULY 2018 – Vegas Run
MONIKER catches back up with Rick, and an old friend calls in a debt.
AUGUST 2018 – Trial Run (Rick Keller Project 2.5) A novella to keep your appetite whetted…
OCTOBER 2018 – Winter Run wraps up the project series!
Rick finds out you can’t go home again, even if your family drags you back in silver chains.

Throughout the next few months, I’ll be offering ARCS to selected readers, sharing news about launch specifics, and sharing information about what’s happening next. If you’d like to stay in touch and not miss any updates, sign up for my mailing list, and I’ll keep you in the loop.

Happy reading!

 

Blog Tour Ahead!

Rick Keller and the rest of the team are going to be getting out and about from now until the end of the month. Check out these “Coming Soon” dates, including reviews, promos, excerpts, and even a few guest blogs from Yours Truly. Thanks!

CRbannertour

8/15

Author Sandra Love (Promo)

http://authorsandralove.blogspot.com/

 

Literature Litehouse – Fun with Books (Promo)

http://literaturelitehouse.blogspot.com/

 

8/16

Paperback Cowgirl (Review)

http://paperbackcowgirl.blogspot.com/?m=1

 

CDyess Writes (Sci/Fi Fantasy pg13 and below)

http://cdyesswrites.blogspot.com

 

8/17

Lady Amber’s Reviews

http://ambersupernaturalandya.blogspot.com/

 

8/18

Bella Harte Books (Promo)

www.bellaharte.blogspot.co.uk

 

8/19

Sweet Treat Reading Reviews (Promo & Excerpt)

http://strreviews.blogspot.com/

 

8/20

Author Jen Wylie’s Blog (Review)

http://jlwylie.wordpress.com/

 

8/21

Word to Dreams (Guest Post)

http://wordtodreams.blogspot.com

 

8/22

Out There & Stuff (Promo & Excerpt)

www.crystalsoutthere.blogspot.com

 

8/23

BookwormKaseyJo (Promo)

http://bookwormkaseyjo.wordpress.com/

 

8/24

Book Infatuation (Promo)

http://bookinfatuation29.blogspot.com/

8/25

A Book Addict’s Delight (Promo)

http://abookaddictsdelight.tumblr.com/

8/26

(Dearharts.com) UnorthodoxBlog (Guest Post)

http://dearharts.com/UnorthodoxBlog/

8/27

That Bite’s Book Talk Reviews (Promo & Excerpt)

http://www.michelle808205.blogspot.com/

8/28

Angela McPherson (Promo)

http://angelamcphersonblog.wordpress.com

 

Cold Run is live!!

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Three years ago I sat down with a character who had surfaced during one of my writing exercise sessions. A grumpy, disgruntled werewolf, Rick Keller showed up in my notes the night that the organization he used to work for came to get him.

Throughout the next year or so, this short excerpt stayed on my mind. The organization Rick used to work for gathered a name — MONIKER — and a history, namely a genesis in an unnamed office of an unnamed department of the Office of Strategic Services. Rick lost one homeland and gained another, and by the time he started to tell me his story, he had quit all vestiges of secret-agent hood and was retired out in the Vermont wilderness.

For the 2011 National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo), I began writing a novel flavored by some of the research I was doing on World War II, partisan warfare, and combating human trafficking. And today Untold Press releases that novel, Cold Run, available on Amazon and Goodreads.

We have a couple of cool events planned to help celebrate. The first is a giveaway, open from August 3 − 30, that could net you a $20 Amazon gift certificate, or free copies of Cold Run. You can check it out on the Untold Press Web site, or at a Rafflecopter giveaway.

Untold Press has also scheduled a Book Blitz for August 5-10, and a Book Tour from August 15-28. I’ll be Tweeting and Pinging, so stay tuned for more information!

Cold Runsm

 

Excerpt from Cold Run (available on Amazon and Goodreads):

“Keller.”

The man behind the weapon was a ghost, a black tactical suit concealing his form, expensive scope mounted on some sort of rifle. I howled again and lurched at him, brought down short by another surge of the change. I struggled to remain upright but found myself on my knees.

Another man appeared to the side, shining a bright, piercing strobe light at my eyes, disorienting me as I tried to turn to face the new threat, my traitorous body rendering my reactions unreliable.

I scrambled to get my feet under me, but the final throes of the change robbed the ground from me. I flailed my paws against the last remnants of my work clothes, now torn and scattered on the ground.

I heard the explosion of gases from the chamber of the first man’s rifle a split second after the bullet pierced my side. I yelped and fell sideways, trying to relieve the pressure. I rolled to all fours and lunged toward the man, intent on relieving the pain by ripping the screams from his throat.

He shot again and again as I reached him, bowling him over and aiming for the soft pieces exposed to my grip.

Instead of soft viscera beneath my teeth, the next sensation I felt came as intense pain, which slowed and disjointed my movements. I raised my head, snapping and gnarling in vain against the folds of the net suddenly enveloping me. Ignoring the second man–stupid mistake. From the burning the lines of the net raised against my hide, I could tell the wires were laced with silver filaments.

The man with the rifle scrambled away from me. I let him go, rolling on the ground, trying to escape the clutching net.

“He’s a big one.” The second man spoke the words, looking down on me from an impossible height as the pain began to outweigh the panic. I could feel the silver working against my struggling.

“He always was.” The first man hocked and spat. It smelled of Copenhagen. “It’s going to be a bitch dragging him down to the truck.”

The words made no sense. I listened, but could not understand.

“If we let you up, do you promise to be a good doggie?” The man with the rifle prodded the barrel into my side.

I growled, but it was mostly wishful thinking, the energy from the night and the change suddenly sapped by the ensilvered net. I lay on my side and simply lolled.

“Good boy.” The man kept his rifle trained at me as his partner knelt down and fiddled with the edge of the net. Grasping a loop from the edge, he pulled. The line must have been attached in some ingenious way so when he pulled on it, it contracted the net into a small, compact circle around my neck.

“Come on.” The second man jerked at my neck, holding the line as a leash. “I’m not carrying you down this hill in the dark.”

The net continued to burn against my neck as he dragged me to my feet. Head hanging, I padded after him through the snow.

Just keep swimming…

You ever have that moment where you travel from New Jersey to Georgia to go to your husband’s military ball, with a dress carefully packed away that you bought in a NY Macy’s — you get to Georgia, unpack the dress, put it on, do the hair and the shoes and the makeup, link arms with your spouse (who is rocking his dress blues), head to the ball…

…and as you’re walking up the steps and stop to chat with some other couple, what do you see but a woman walking toward you, wearing the SAME DRESS, and — even worse — rocking it harder than you? Oh yeah, totally been there, done that. This happened to me last weekend as well. It wasn’t necessarily a formal dress, but apparently fashionable, attractive, put-together women and I shop at the same place. (I was wearing Converse … she was wearing the right kind of shoes…)

I had this same experience this morning. First, I noticed an article on women veteran entrepreneurs that a LinkedIn contact posted. I checked it out and quickly realized that the writer not only cited an article I had written on the same topic for Task & Purpose, but I apparently wrote half his article for him. At least he cited and linked, but still, I had that sense of wearing the same dress to the ball.

What really topped this morning off, was not ten minutes later, as I was scrolling through my Twitter feed, I came upon something that had me shaking my head and laughing … because what else are you going to do? Remember this graphic that includes the cover of my novel, Cold Run, that is supposed to be released on Saturday?

quote3Here is a closer look…

Cold Runsm

Apparently my publisher and I aren’t the only ones who think this guy makes a pretty good werewolf. One of my Twitter followers retweeted the novel, New Beginnings, which proves, once again, that I have an unerring knack for wearing someone else’s dress to the ball.

Still, what are you going to do? I like my cover — I think that Untold Press did a great job with it. I don’t think anyone reading our two blurbs would mix up which was which (the other woman’s is paranormal romance — mine is paranormal kickass.) So, I would invite everyone to enjoy the view on both of our covers, and this Saturday, think about picking up a copy of Cold Run! Thanks. 😀

 

 

Pics from the upcoming release of Cold Run…

While I’m definitely getting excited about the August 2nd release of my novel, Cold Run, from Untold Press, any attempts to force myself to relax and enjoy the anticipation are in vain. I keep thinking that I need to research the ever elusive sources for a piece I’m trying to put together about innovation in the military, or that I need to immediately come up with an amazing crowdfunding strategy RIGHT NOW for our documentary, or heck, even finish editing a novel that I need to start querying. And soon. Because I need to write the next two or three planned novels.

So, in the spirit of relaxing and enjoying the anticipation, I would like to share some of the graphics that Untold Press has put together for the release.

First, a little glimpse into Rick’s habit of indulging his inner child…

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Next, a look over one of the geographical settings of the book, the Nürnberg Altstadt…

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And last, but not least, one of the reasons he is so darned grumpy all the time…

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If you feel so inclined or inspired, please head over to Goodreads and add Cold Run to your “Want to Read” list. Thanks!