J.J. Rusz's Blog

March 17, 2019

When murder's not the only mystery . . .

The first draft of The South Rim Trail: A Big Bend Country Mystery 2 is complete. As the sequel to The Window Trail, favorite characters return, including Clayton Shoot, Claire Harp, Billy Lamb, Fiona Tusk, and Sam Vogt. They all face new challenges and choices. New people in their lives as well.

The action this time moves from Big Bend's South Rim to the River Road to the Old Maverick Road, with stops in Alpine, Fort Davis, Terlingua, and Study Butte. The weather is perfect too—it's October and the moon is just past full. Great time to be in Far West Texas.

I anticipate months of revision and editing, with a goal of publication on Amazon by July 2019. At more than 90,000 words, the draft is longer than I like. But revision for me is always a matter of tightening language and focusing action.

Like the first book in the series, the new one is full of unexpected connections between the characters and choices they make. But I'll talk more about that in subsequent posts.
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Published on March 17, 2019 13:14 Tags: big-bend, window-trail

January 4, 2019

No kidding!

My dogs ate my book outline.

To keep its complicated plot on track, I created a full outline and calendar for what will be the second novel in my Big Bend Mystery series, The South Rim Trail. Printed out, that file ran about twenty single-spaced pages. And it worked. As I began the draft, I knew exactly what every character in the book would be doing (and sometimes even saying) from beginning to end.

Halfway through the first draft, I left the outline on a table when a friend and I decided to eat out. When we returned, the pages lay scattered in hundreds of fragments on the kitchen floor. My almost-grown schnauzer pups had climbed the table, found my precious document, and proudly shredded it.

Okay, I thought, I'll just print a new copy. Opened my BBM2 calendar program. Empty. Checked the Cloud. Same file. Also empty. Out came the Scotch tape.

And for many, many hours, my good friend and I worked to restore the original document, bit by frustrating bit. Dispiriting work at first, but we soon got the hang of matching words and fragment contours, and other textual markers. A challenge became a game, and then, eventually, a (mostly) recovered outline. The tiniest fragment we found contained just one word: and.

I'll be more careful in the future. But I now know exactly to whom I'll dedicate this second book. No, it won't be the schnauzers. Look for The South Rim Trail: A Big Bend Country Mystery 2 in fall 2019—maybe earlier.

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Published on January 04, 2019 10:33

December 10, 2018

Giveaway ends

I'm grateful to the 1000+ Goodreads members who participated in my recent Goodreads Giveaway of The Window Trail: A Big Bend Country Mystery. I know I'm looking forward to reviewing a giveaway I won recently: (The Sojourners by T.L. Hughes.

As a former teacher of writing, I was constantly assessing academic writing. But reviewing a novel is a different process. And encountering reviews of one's own creative work is illuminating and surprising. I appreciate when readers take the time to respond to the characters and landscapes I've created or simply describe the feelings a book evokes.
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Published on December 10, 2018 20:08

November 23, 2018


I'm participating in a Goodreads Giveaway for the first time, offering Kindle copies of The Window Trail: A Big Bend Country Mystery. The process itself is fascinating. I was worried I might not get many requests, but the first 100 came in quickly. Now I'm hoping to top 1000 by the end of the promotion. That would mean a great many people looking at the cover and book description and thinking, maybe, this is a book I want to read.
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Published on November 23, 2018 18:14

August 10, 2018

First time novelist

Watching the Amazon reviews coming in for my first novel The Window Trail was a remarkable experience. While I expected comments about plot or characters, my readers focused on how well the book captured the atmosphere of Far West Texas. I was careful not to overdo descriptive passages. But readers seem to appreciate scenic details when the setting is as evocative as Big Bend National Park.
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Published on August 10, 2018 14:13