Guest Blogger – R.L.B. Hartmann

Welcome to another Between the Lines Guest Blogger.  Occasionally, I will invite various published authors and experienced writers to share their points of view and personal thoughts on various writers’ and authors’ issues.  My point in the guest blogger is to showcase unique people and concepts that I believe writers need to experience.  Sharing together, we grow, learn, and are improved.

December’s Guest is RLB Hartmann. I first “bumped” into RLB, also known as Lucibuck, on Textnovel.com where I was introduced to her writing in a contemporary novel, Strong Coffee. She won 4th place in their competition and impressed me with her way of turning a phrase. Months later, I arrived on Twitter and RLB was one of the first with whom I “tweeted.” So we go back several years. She’s a North Carolina native, raised on stories her grandmother Mawie told her. Besides her novels, RLB has written and produced screenplays (with screen credits), sold some of her own paintings, even dressed display windows for a local computer store. She’s a past English Instructor, editor, bookseller (occasionally a poet), happily married,  loves cats and horses. One connection I had with RLB was that we liked some of the same authors: Margaret Mitchell, Daphne du Maurier, Louis L’Amour. But it was her love of historical fiction that set her writing apart from others. One day I think she’s going to write a 600 page spoof of every western movie ever made. Meet my friend, author of The Cordero Saga, Tierra del Oro, R.L.B. Hartmann.

Please add your comments after the post and feel free to ask questions! RLB will respond to everyone who posts.

A Personal Saga from Writer to Author

First I want to thank Sherry for allowing me to post in this space. We met some time ago, and I value her as a true friend.

When I was a kid, I was blessed with a household that included parents, grandmother Mawie, and various aunts and uncles who lived with us briefly before moving on to their own lives. All of them were storytellers and readers, and there were hints of writers whose avocation was nipped by circumstances.

My own journey as a writer has a murky beginning, or maybe age has muted details better forgotten. One thing was constant: do or die trying. Fortunately, the publishing world has begun a massive shift and the tremors and rumblings promise to continue for some years. It’s a long way from a manual typewriter to the Internet, as evidenced in the stacks and boxes of printed manuscripts cluttering my house. Recently I saw the term “artisanal” publishing and think it’s exactly the description to apply to what’s happening now.

Most friends and family cannot understand what drives us to persist despite everything, just to unburden ourselves of these characters that live and breathe and act in our heads, coming to fruition on the page via our fingertips and a keyboard, to reside in files (often amended) or on paper, and eventually end up in a real or electronic BOOK.

Writers, however, do comprehend the giddiness of finishing a scene that brought tears to the eyes, or elicited a “Yes!” from an exhausted soul who labored in an obscure corner until the chapter ended…in a cliffhanger. These are the things that push us onward into the night, or bring us fresh to the page in the dawn light, eager to see for ourselves “what comes next.”

Before I had an inkling of Tierra del Oro, the Cordero Saga (stories of Old Mexico in 9 consecutive novels), I wrote a number of things. By age 13, I had a backlog of bad poetry and beginnings of many stories; in high school I moved on to essays mostly in the form of rants and letters to editors; by college I was carrying around rough drafts of three novels. My hit/miss method of creating other realities followed me into serious writing, and I can still be surprised to see the significance of events that were never in anything like an outline in my novels.

Even after word processing became available to me in a primitive form, I was printing, cutting, and pasting actual bits of sheets together. File management still tends to elude me, as I’m an obsessive Keeper of Everything, research notes, inspirational articles, old rejection slips, novels with small revisions. Sometimes, however, this obsession gives me a much-needed laugh.

Recently I found a handwritten page torn from a small notebook that must date to the mid-sixties. It begins with a sentence I must have written 1000 times (no exaggeration; I thought I’d never get off the first chapter of that one, and it’s still in a drawer in its fifth incarnation), and ends at the bottom of that ragged-edge page, mid sentence. Apparently it’s the only artifact from that notebook–so I didn’t always Keep Everything.

Now that the saga is finished and available in paperback, I dream of tossing a ton of old scraps that clog boxes, shelves, and file cabinets. I long to return to painting landscapes, hone my drawing skills that have atrophied over the years, and experiment with artists’ media. I yearn to read the stacks and boxes of books that have been on my “to be read” list for years. And I will do those things. Next summer. Nevermind that I’ve been saying that for the last 5 summers.

Links abound on the Internet where you can find other tidbits about me, including the fact that I once co-edited a 2-year run of Bookmark Quarterly, an effort that showcased contributors’ bookmarks and had a handful of subscribers to whom were snail mailed the issues. We ran the sheets off on a copier at the local computer store and charged $2 for a year’s subscription (included mailing). We started with 4 pages, but when the final issue ran 17 pages we had to quit. I still have the letters and donated bookmarks that kind collectors sent us.

People keep asking me “Can I download your books?” But presently the answer is, Sorry, no. My word processor makes dandy PDFs with the help of Cute PDF, but it’s not up to the file conversion needed for most ereaders. My files have already gone through 3 conversions over the years, and I’m no longer motivated to convert them again myself. Did I mention my file-challenged brain? However, the swift changes I mentioned at the beginning of this post might make doing so easier without the expense of hiring out a monumental undertaking like the saga.

One story, one family, one continuing adventure!! That describes not only the Cordero saga, but also my journey as a writer. And there will be a literary life after the saga, for four other books are chomping at the bit to be released in the coming months.

Yours Between the Lines,
RLB Hartmann

Website: RLB Hartmann
Amazon: Author RLB Hartmann
Facebook: RLB Hartmann

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20 thoughts on “Guest Blogger – R.L.B. Hartmann

  1. Sherry says:

    Thank you to new folks who stopped by for RLB. Appreciate your interest and support. The blog is small but growing and RLB was generous enough to let us feature her. Thanks, RLB!

  2. Lucy “buck” is apt – she is a lady in every aspect and a warrior as well! One of the few people I respect – and frankly whether or not she respects me is her cup of tea. You all have a lot of enjoyment coming your way though if you read her wares…

  3. Binky says:

    RLB’s Tierra del Oro saga is both interesting and entertaining. It gives a great perspective on what life was like in Mexico in the late 19th and early 20th century, and the characters are very well depicted as well. I think it would find a much greater audience if it could get the publicity it deserves.

    • RLB Hartmann says:

      Binky, that’s heartwarming praise, and your observation is oh, so true. Maybe you could send a rocket full of handbills to explode over the countryside. : ) Though it’s said that word of mouth is the best publicity.

  4. Eddie Tallent says:

    I have had the good fortune to read all of the Cordero Saga novels–the first of these I was introduced to over thirty years ago at their initial inception stages…but that’s another story. I think that all readers of historical fiction will find the entirety of this tale captivating. There are peaks and valleys in the writing as there would be with any writer, and there is one volume in particular that I was not fond of at all. But, read in total the entire Saga is captivating and engaging and deserves attention until the end.

    While RLB seems to insist that these books are “western” in nature, I really don’t see it that way–these are books that are more historically descriptive of a place and time that really had nothing to do with any traditional type of southwestern U.S. western experience. Therefore, if targeted/marketed from a more historical genre perspective, I think there might be a wider audience appeal.

    • RLB Hartmann says:

      Hi, Eddie. Thanks for your post. It is rewarding to know that people DO make it through all 9 volumes! In paperback, even. LOL!

      The only volume I’ve ever called “western” is Forty Grains of Black Powder, Book 1. However, in the early days, when I was still starry eyed enough to believe a NY agent/editor/publishing house would take on the project, everyone “up there” who read my sample called it a “western.”

      And it’s partially true: desert, men on horseback, guns that are a continuing motif, and enough old fashioned romance to round out characters who have many facets–these are indeed the things of which the best Westerns are made. But I am thrilled that you see beyond those similarities, and realize that mine are definitely character-driven, historical novels.

  5. hi, great post! i am a “keeper” too. your work sounds interesting; i look forward to reading the tierra del oro saga.

    how did you go about doing the research for the historical components of the saga?

    • RLB Hartmann says:

      Thank you! It kept me busy for a very long time, and except for misplacing notes, I loved every minute of it. As for research, at first I did interlibrary loans of books I saw in bibliographies.

      However, being married to a seller of old books, I had many exciting opportunities to find old and out-of print books when we went on buying trips. So I have a fairly solid reference library, with photos from the era, and first hand accounts of life at that time.

      The most helpful find was Gringo Rebel, by a Swedish artilleryman who accommpanied General Obregón’s troops down the west coast of Mexico on their march to take over the Capitol in Mexico City. My characters had joined Obregón’s cavalry early on, in Sonora, and the details in I.Thord-Gray’s memoir gave me exactly what I needed at the very time I needed to see where my rebels were going and the hardships and battles they faced.

      I found that book in a bookseller’s shop in a tobacco warehouse in NC, which had been renovated into a mall. Only $5 and one of the best buys I ever made.

  6. Gem Sivad says:

    Happy Holidays to you, RLB. I’m looking forward to some vacation time so I can continue reading The Cordero Saga.

  7. “finishing a scene that brought tears to the eyes”

    Yep. I don’t know how else to measure what gives me the power to go on. And how you began is my story, too — except that I haven’t kept any of it, except a few titles POD. Lost much, and really lost nothing. The current work seems far more interesting and important than 30 or 40 years stretching behind me. LOL, I just remembered when a friend shocked me to the core, a few year ago. He calmly popped a video in and projected something I filmed in 1968. Floored me. It was good, one of my first 16mm experiments that another friend had kept and transferred to video.

    I think very highly of you, LuciBuck. Great to see to you here. Off to read the Personal Saga linked above. If no one else knows, I insist on saying it. R.L.B. Hartmann is one of the finest screenwriters I know. BRACKETTVILLE HORSES remains archived at my Zoetrope private office, as required reading for anyone who aspires to write for the screen.

    • Is Alan von Altendorf your real name? That’s an amazing name.

    • RLB Hartmann says:

      Alan, it’s a pleasure to see you here first thing in my morning. And what kind words! I’ve just recently put 3 other novels in the chute ahead of Brackettville, but one day it too will be a book. It’s the ONLY thing I’ve written that began and was completed as a script and then written as a novel.

      As for that video from 1968, isn’t it FUN when some early work surprises us with facets we didn’t notice at the time, or appreciate during the intervening years.

  8. RLB Hartmann says:

    Hi, Melonie. Mentioning the colors of horses brought to mind another quirk I’d long forgotten. For a cozy winter dish for supper, Mawie used to wash dry beans, many of which were spotted, brown, white, and black. THOSE were my “horses” even before the brooms.

    Actually, horses DO play a huge part in the saga. From the very first chapter when Ramoncito (later to become Trouble, and to father Ramón of the epic love story with Serafina) tells his Mamá that he wants a horse for his birthday, “to ride into those hills” the Cordero clan are horsemen. The second book contains a treacherous mustang hunt in the Sierra Madre, and Book 8 is named The Horse Tamers.

    Many events over the years guided me into writing what became the saga, but the desert aspect I suppose originated in watching so many “B” Western movies and tv series. The landscape was so different from my surroundings in western NC that it was inevitable I’d become enthralled by it and collect reference books that satisfied my curiosity.

    PS Thinking linearly is not one of my strong suits, either. I read Gone With the Wind in bits and pieces until I couldn’t find a bit I hadn’t read.

    Thanks for a thought-provoking post!

    • And thank you for your reply, and especially for clarifying the prominence of horses in your series. Looking at the descriptions of your books at Amazon, I wonder now where I ever got such a notion. Have a lovely week, and Happy Holidays as well.

      • RLB Hartmann says:

        You probably got the idea from a statement of mine somewhere on the net, in which I said no horses are main characters (although Del Oro comes close). This was somewhat tongue in cheek, since some years ago, I entered a non-saga novel in a competition in which a computer was the judge. Feedback indicated that the computer thought the main character’s horse was a prominent person in the story. I had to laugh–loudly. But the story came in either 3rd or 4th in that contest anyway.

      • RLB Hartmann says:

        Since you mention Amazon, I’m interested in knowing what you saw there, especially if you searched my name instead of the series title or a specific book title. I’d like to make folks aware that buying AT Amazon gives the Big A a chunk of my royalty. So if anyone wants to read any of my books, please order through the links on my website.

  9. At last! God knows this was a long wait, but well worth it. Mrs. Hartmann, you played a long so well on Twitter, never letting on that you were the honored guest of our mutual friend for the month of December.

    As a North Carolina native, what was it that attracted to you the desert south-west and its culture? I understand you rode “broom horses,” a phenomenon to which I can relate despite my lack of brooms. (All of my horses were completely ethereal, and most did not come in the standard colors.) Was there some connection in your mind with horses and their mythical presence in lower states/Mexico that drove you to write your south of the border fiction — even if the beasts play no prominent roles in your works?

    I have a lot of questions, and a disorder that doesn’t let me think linearly, so I’ll stop here for now and not greedily take up all the space, and wait for your reply. Thank you very much in advance.

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