Horses In The Forest

My work-in-progress, Night Of The Puma, is a romance novel with somewhat of a gothic feel that is set in the wilderness. It’s about a cougar (a really, really big cat) that stalks a stable full of horses that’s located in a forest. When we owned a wilderness resort we had horses because our youngest daughter wanted a horse (We somehow ended up with more than one. Go figure.) So when I sat down to write this romance (that has the gothic feel I often experience in the woods), I knew I had at least a rudimentary knowledge of horses but I found myself surprised at how much I actually learned during those years.

One of my clearest horse-type memories was of a winter’s day when I was alone. I glanced out the kitchen window and saw something moving in the corral. It looked like a dog but upon closer inspection I recognized it as a coyote. And it was stalking the foal in one corner of the corral, unseen by the mother in another corner. I panicked and ran outside, climbed through the gate because I was afraid to take the time to open it, and chased the coyote away.

I’ll never know if that incident was the inspiration for Night Of The Puma, but I’m glad that was the only time I ever saw a coyote near the horses. And, though we knew there were timber wolves in the area, during the years we lived there I only saw one pair and that was a good two miles from the resort.
And years before the existence of cougars was confirmed in Minnesota, hunters shot one crossing the lake ice one winter. It, too, could have stalked the horses though none ever did.

So I have mixed feelings about cougars and timber wolves. As a lover of the wilderness and all of it’s citizens, I do not wish to see any wildlife species go extinct. But I’m not sure how I’d feel if either a wolf or a cougar came near when I had horses in my care. So I ended up transferring to my heroine in Night Of The Puma those same mixed feelings in this wilderness romance novel.

Real-Life Characters I’ve Known

One of the best things about writing Confession stories is that the author is always anonymous. That means I can write about real people. People I know who are interesting. It occasionally creates a problem, like the time a complimentary copy of a magazine with my story in it arrived in the mail when we happened to have company. You guessed it… company was the person in the story.

I tried and failed to hide the magazine so everyone who was visiting at the time (several people) read my story. I wanted to hide in a corner until everyone left. But that proved to be unnecessary because no one recognized the character in my story as being one of my visitors. Incredible! How could they not recognize her or at least the situation she was in? But they didn’t.

So maybe we all each see people differently?

Ever heard a conversation about someone you knew and, until the name was mentioned, you didn’t know who it was because you never thought of that person in that way? Same thing, I think. What do you think?

Night of The Puma

Well, it’s official. I mentioned my next e-pubbed story, Night Of The Puma, on this blog so I guess I’d better get it edited and online.
For those of you out there who purchase e-books, I’d appreciate some feedback. My first story, ‘2012 The Eye Of The Universe,’ was given away for free, a marketing ploy. I did get a few hundred downloads but don’t know if they were by people who actually wanted to see how it ended or because friends are really, really nice people. Anyway, all those of you out there who read e-books, what do you think? Is it appropriate to charge 99 cents for my new novella? Or should I stick with the free download for a while yet?
This new novella was intended to be titled ‘Night Of The Cougar’ until I happened to type ‘cougar’ into a search engine and was rewarded with pictures of older women dating younger guys. Cougar as a large cat was way down the list. So I decided I’d better change the name of my novella. In Mexico and the Southwestern US, cougars are called pumas, so I went with that. Now, though, I maybe should change one of my characters to being from either Mexico or the Southwest in order to justify calling a cougar a puma. It’ll take a while to make the changes but not too long.
When we lived in the real wilderness, miles of forest on all sides, we used to hear a bird that we could never locate. We always wondered what it was. One day, while visiting a home show, as we walked in the door we heard that bird call and figured someone must have it in a cage in their booth, so we went to see what bird it was. Yes, it was in a cage, but a very large cage, because it was a cougar. The shiver that went down my spine upon the realization that a cougar may have been stalking us is something I hope never to feel again. And I was suddenly glad our dogs always chose to walk with us in the woods.
Anyway, I hope you read Night Of The Puma and enjoy it. It’s a wilderness gothic, one of my favorite kind to write.

How Do Today’s Competent Women Fit Into Gothic Novels?

A heroine in distress is a staple in a Gothic romance novel. She’s part of the tried and true formula for gothic novels in which said heroine finds herself in a remote, totally isolated location in a life-threatening situation from which only the hero can save her. Problem is, female that she is, she’d love to faint away now and then and let the hero do his manly thing because she just loves being pampered. Think day-spa and nail polish. But our heroine happens to be an expert in karate and several other martial arts and can shoot the wings off a flea, so she’s perfectly capable of saving herself and, after all those classes and with all those black belts hanging on her wall, she prefers to do so.

So what’s our modern day gothic heroine to do? How can she be rescued and pampered by a hero while saving the day herself? It’s a difficult situation and the competence of heroines in general just might have contributed to today’s slight decline in the popularity of the gothic genre. How on earth can an author let said heroine be her gutsy self while at the same time having the hero resuce her?

The answer is surprisingly simple. By crating a danger so huge that no one character, male or female, could possibly save the day without the help of the other. By putting them in a situation where they must work together and while saving themselves, letting the attraction they already feel for each other turn into love.

That’s how it’s done. Or at least, that’s how I do it. It’s a slam dunk, it’s a love story, and it’s a gothic romance for today’s readers, complete with a wilderness setting to die for.

Florence Witkop

P.S. If this sounds like the kind of gothic romance you’d like to read, my wilderness gothic romance, Night Of The Puma, will be offered at Smashwords, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other outlets for e-books as soon as I can figure out hnow to get it uploaded. FYI, Puma’s are really, really big cats and very dangerous.

Finding Really Great Stories On-Line

Writing for confession magazines is a dream writing job. You write a story, send it in, most of the time you get a contract back in the mail, then they publish the story and you eventually get a check. Since the writer’s name isn’t on the story, there’s no need for publicity, no book (magazine) signings, nothing except writing. Like I said, a writer’s dream job and I’ve been doing it for years.

Of course, there are rules and any story that doesn’t adhere strictly to them is tossed aside without a second glance. The story must be told in first person, meaning it must be written as if the main character is telling it to someone. The word ‘I’ is used a lot which I like because it means the story digs down deep into feelings, thoughts, everything that makes the reader cares what happens. And isn’t that what fiction is supposed to be about? The story should be realistic, something that could happen to someone even if it hasn’t happened to the writer, and the writer should realize, when writing scenes that involve sex or gore that not all readers are adults.

All these are things I’m comfortable with and I’d probably have spent my entire writing life writing for the confession market, except… there’s touble in the publishing industry these days.

Not just the confession market and not just magazines. Every kind of print publishing that exists is falling on hard times. Book publishers are going bankrupt, magazines are falling by the wayside and the confession market is shrinking. It’s pretty much down to two magazines now and those two were struggling until a new owner came along. I hope he does well, but the turmoil in the publishing industry has taught me to be cautious.

So what’s a confession writer to do? Why, publish electronically, that’s what. And there are some things about the e-publishing that make it better, sort of, than the confession market. For one thing, any subject is okay so I can now publish all those science fiction and fantasy stories that have been noodling around in my brain practically forever.

Of course, I have to do all the marketing myself. Which means I have to actually learn how to market. Recently, I did a foray into Facebook, a venue I have ignored in the past except to learn what family members are up to… and I almost got kicked off for ‘friending’ too many people on my personal page when I thought I was on my professional page.


And since I’ve decided to be my own publisher, I also have to learn how to format my work for each electronic publisher, which is kind of like making a cake with the recipe changing constantly. But, hey, I haven’t been kicked off any publisher’s list.


Anyway, the point of this post is that if you like reading stories told in a deeply personal way by one of the characters, keep an eye on the e-publishing market because I’m not the only confession writer who has added self-publishing to selling to magazines. They are out there and they are good reads.

So to everyone who reads this…. happy reading!