Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Tis the season

Christmas has changed a lot for me through the years as I suspect it has for us all as we get into old age. We were a child and then we had our own homes and our own child. Then the child was gone and how we celebrate the holidays changes again-- more for some than others, of course.

A few years ago I wrote a Christmas novella about a family living on a ranch and a woman's desire to heal old emotional wounds by bringing to the ranch some estranged members of her husband's family.

While Christmas can be emotionally wonderful for some, for others, it's a reminder of all that has not been right in their lives. My novella delves into some of that and of course, at the heart of this family gathering is the ranch and Montana. 

For the season, until 1/1/16, A Montana Christmas will be on sale for 99¢. It's not as much romance as some of my books and is more a slice of life. Since it follows a novel, From Here to There, with the same characters, you might even call it an extended epilogue as it deals with healing. 

In addition to preparing for Christmas, there is a Solstice celebration using ancient Celtic traditions, which have been brought forth by many today as it is the time when we bring back the light.


Wednesday, November 18, 2015


Between editing or new writing projects, I am kind of floating along. We are still trying to get certain things for this house, making it ready for the snow birds who arrive in January when we are back in Oregon for lambing by February. The house seems to mostly rent in the spring and I am not sure of the reasons for that. We don't take renters through the summer as it costs too much for a/c, and summer renters in Tucson expect discounts. Where we'd get less renters; still have to keep the wireless and cable going in between, it's better to shut it off and reopen its listing for October (on the years we don't go down to do work on it).

This year, we've made certain improvements which maybe renters won't care about but might matter to some. Because nothing major went wrong this time, we have the freedom to play a bit with upgrades. We are still debating whether to change what is an indoor utility closet to an instant need hot water heater (from the gas one) and buy stackable washer and dryer. 

When we bought the house it had a dryer in an outdoor storage room and the washer in an inside, hall utility closet. Mostly I have used the clothesline that is under the back patio cover because I enjoy hanging out a wash. We cannot expect renters to feel the same. To add to it, the dryer is more a problem since we will have to use, for the first time, an agency that cleans these homes and makes them ready between renters. I am guessing they would prefer both to be inside. The water heater though became a question that went beyond its cost to longevity. The contractor who cleaned the chimney here (it has a wood-burning fireplace) said he'd bought them for his string of rentals, and they failed in a year and a half. With a rental, that's not good news. Temporary roadblock.

The most recent improvement came due to a failure of the recliner we had bought used when we first got this home. We got down here to find the lever on the side was missing. The neighbor, who has been doing the home cleaning and maintains the swimming pool, said it disintegrated with the last renter. He suggested a thrift shop out of town which he said is fantastic for bargains.

Tuesday, we headed out to Catalina and the Golden Goose Thrift Shop. The parking lot was surprisingly full with people leaving already with sacks and big smiles. It gets much of what it sells from nearby wealthy communities. It has great antiques as well as things you'd never see elsewhere. It is all volunteer labor, donations, and what money they make goes to two Arizona charities.  

When we walked through the doors, we headed for their furniture and saw what we wanted immediately. It was not easy resisting all the art, dishes, funky items but we were on a mission. The chair was at a price we could afford and a style that I had admired but hadn't imagined affording. Within an hour of leaving our house here, we had the chair loaded and headed back home. We were lucky we go there early as they said they had two that morning. We bought the last one. It fits with our eclectic house :).

Doesn't it look cozy, just waiting for a reader to settle back and get lost in a book.

 The second photo shows my workspace here in Tucson. It's one corner of the livingroom which seems to be a good place for my writing in both houses. The closet alongside serves as a coat closet, has a bookshelf for the modem and other equipment for keeping the home going.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

the setting matters

This has been my week to edit-- Ack!!! I put off such jobs to give time between edits when the words might appear fresher. This one is for a book that will be out December 21, 2015. It might seem like no hurry, but I have two beta readers right now. 

A beta reader is not quite an editor but someone who does read a manuscript before it's out to find errors. I found both of mine by their emails to me after books were out where they had caught the kinds of things that I missed. Some readers have that knack, and since they were especially kind to tell me privately, I decided to use beta readers this year. My first was for the second Oregon historical.

The fourth Oregon historical is set in the John Day country and involves some places I have loved being but never lived. I have though spend weeks in the region, slept there, walked the trails, and feel I know it as well as you can when you haven't lived somewhere. Anyone who reads my books knows that the setting, the place, nature, are very much integral to the stories. They are to my own life and of course, would be to anything I write.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Why Arizona

Perhaps I have told the story before of what my desert home offers to me. What it has given me went beyond my expectations-- and my expectations were high.

For fifty years, the Arizona Sonoran Desert has been one of the homes of my heart. Much as I love Oregon, and oh, I do, I had long dreamed of owning a home on the desert; then one year the dream came true. After living in the house only a few days it told my husband and me its name—Casa Espiritu. It is a home to inspire creativity and spiritual connection to self and the other. As with dreams, it is not somewhere I constantly live, but for now, it is waiting when the time is right. 

In my little spirit home, I have seen dreams come true, written books, created art, loved, wept, experienced being. From it, I have watched javelina, coyotes, bunnies, birds, bobcats, and most especially the families of quail. I have seen the lightning flash and felt the house rocked by thunder. I have watched the moon rise over Pusch Ridge and seen the sun go down behind the Tucson Mountains. 

From it, I have gone out to find interesting trails, desert pools, creeks, petroglyphs. I've watched the desert bloom, seen it snow. The house and how we found it might be magic, even though it’s a very plain house, except it doesn’t feel plain when I fall asleep to the noisy calls of two owls from the ironwood trees right outside the bedroom window. 

Its proximity to the natural desert, its denizens, and the historical remnants of many cultures has inspired the writing of six Arizona historicals and one contemporary romance. The books are all love stories to the American Southwest as much as of the couples who populate the books' pages. I’ve set many of my stories in Tucson, in the ranch lands near the border, or up in Central Arizona, but my characters had not lived on the desert itself

For my sixth, my hero does live out there. The descriptions of what he experiences, as well as my heroine’s coming to learn about it, provide the setting for many of the events in the book. Writing about a region, which I love so much, the tall saguaros, the prickly ironwood, the hidden waterholes, the mountains, the canyons, was a joy. 

As I write my books, I fall a little in love with every hero. If I don’t, the story is going nowhere; but I will say the hero of Lands of Fire was particularly endearing. In 1902, Jesse Taggert has grown up being regarded as slow-witted or by even crueler terms. He retreated from people into the desert where he spends his time working with animals. His life is about to be upturned. First comes an old reprobate; then a woman. They both see more in him than he does himself.

This book, while a love story, is about how we often find, when willing to look, that our limitations are also our strengths.  

For those of you who want to write a novel and have yet to find your muse, I suggest you start with a place to set your story and characters, a place that means much to you. I have a quote I have long loved and wrote in the front of my journal. 
"Where we choose to be-- we have the power to determine our lives. We cannot reel time backward or forward, but we can take ourselves to the place that defines our being."        Sena Jeter Naslund
Here is another, which my daughter claimed for herself but I do also.
"I hope I have found myself, my work, my happiness - under the light of western stars."     Zane Grey
To me, place matters very much, in my work and my life. So long as mine is under western stars, I can be happy. Yours might be the coast or a city but wherever it is, it's where a story will most easily come to you and you will find you have something to say-- always easier when you start with the land.

[The Arizona romances follow family and friends through a tumultuous time in history (the contemporary, set many years later, is the same family). Each stands alone with no cliffhangers. The historicals begin in 1883 with Arizona Sunset, advance to Tucson Moon, Arizona Dawn, Rose's Gift, Echoes from the Past until they reach Lands of Fire set in 1902. Its eBook will be on sale at $2.99 until 11/12/15. Its sell sites can be found at Romances with an Edge.]

Wednesday, November 04, 2015


Small joys 
don't need
showy displays

Saturday, October 31, 2015


Disclaimer: At this point in my life, I do not celebrate holidays as such. I have nothing against celebrating them, but maybe I did it for so much of my life that now I'm holidayed out. They are an excellent excuse for getting together with family and friends and that's about the sum total of my interest in them. Maybe someday I'll get back into the holiday mood.

moon photos from our Tucson home looking toward the mountain
Samhain (pronounced sow-in), October 31st, is the Celtic festival of the dead, and it explains many Halloween traditions. Because it is right before All Saints Day and at the time of the Mexican Day of the Dead, its rituals have been mixed with Christianity and paganism (as are many of our holiday traditions). I've read examples of how some put up altars to their dead family and friends-- not as a seance or to bring them back but to appreciate who they were and how they still love them. Such an altar can be created with photographs as well as objects connected to them. 

For those with a supernatural, paranormal interest, this is a time where supposedly the living and dead are closest together, where the barrier between them is thinnest. Anyone interested in connecting with someone on the other side, this might be the night for it. 

In a simpler, more nature oriented way, it is regarded as the end of the harvest and the beginning of winter. I get the pumpkins, with the end of the harvest, but how did black cats get associated with Halloween? From what I can tell, it does not go back to the Celtic festival, but may relate to when witches were regarded as evil, and some believed they could shape-shift into black cats. Hence a black cat might be a witch, I guess. 

 our two black cats on the bed in the trailer on our way down

Some, of course, regard those beauties as bad luck. Personally, having had many black cats through the years, I regard them as good luck. The sloe-eyed one is Raven and the more masculine appearing one is Blackie.

I actually wrote about Samhain in my fourth Oregon historical, the one due out December 21st. The hero had a Scottish ancestry and grew up in the South where often there have been interesting mixtures of cultural traditions. It seems sad to me that so many of our holidays have reverted to commercial interests, and their spiritual origins have been lost.

The following is a snippet from that book, Love Waits. Keep in mind, this is  before the final edit; so might change a bit. It doesn't matter who the characters are as it's about a tradition that has been long forgotten-- most places.

   Belle headed back down the hall and looked in on Rand before she went to the children’s rooms. The girls were already whispering and so she opened the door without knocking. Jessica seemed enamored of whatever Laura was telling her. She looked up at Belle. “Samhain,” she said. “That’s what it is next week. Did you know that?”

   “No, I did not. What does it mean?”

   “It’s when we play games and bob for apples, and something Uncle Jed called Puicini. It’s kind of fortune telling. Do you think that’s bad?”

   Belle smiled. “Not at all. How do you play it?”

   “You are blindfolded and then there are four saucers in front of you. They are moved around. The one you choose is what your next year will be full of.”

   “And the saucers are each?

   “Earth, water, beans, and money. I guess we all want money as not sure what the others would mean.” Laura grinned. “Uncle Jed said they do this from where he came. It’s a nighttime game. He said sometimes even with fireworks. I haven’t yet gotten to do it but they said we will.”

   “It sounds like great fun especially the bobbing for apples.”

   “It might be pagan.” Laura’s face took on a worried expression.

   “It doesn’t sound like that,” Belle said as she helped Jessica out of her nightgown and into a dress. “It sounds like it is nature oriented. Working the earth and it yielding all you wanted, would be like a garden. The water would be maybe a trip.” She smiled as she considered other options. “Or enough rain to keep the land good. Beans would be food, and of course, we know what money is, don’t we.”

   “He said they sometimes decorate for it too. It’s also about the ones who... went before us. Kind of, I think.”

   “Then even better.”

   “Except, he said sometimes there are ghost stories,” Laura said. “That might be scary.”
Ghosts might be scary, or then again, it might just be what is. This could be a night to think about that... 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Lands of Fire

Because, our Tucson house is a mix of being used by us and vacation renters in the winter and spring, getting here always involves making it ready for the first to arrive after we leave. Whether we will be continuing the vacation rentals is uncertain for assorted reasons. We are doing some serious thinking about whether we can afford to keep it if we don't rent it and yet renting it has increased complications. By the time we leave, we should know.

One of the big things with which we had to deal was the swimming pool. We considered having it removed when we saw the water had turned green, and the experts said it would take draining, scouring, and then refilling. Nothing cheap. The problem is neither is removing it, and it would cost us value if we did that on the off chance we wanted to sell it in the near future. So we have to pay for all that water, but not much you can do about any of it. The photo alongside is after the pool guys scoured it. It is nine feet deep at the farthest end. It had a diving board which we removed. Currently we are filling it... yes, it's costly but we alerted the Oro Valley water company so we won't also have a fine for overuse of water. They do understand this problem. Some pieces I read said these pools should be drained every 3 to 5 years... uh oh.
As an upgrade, we decided to buy a 55" HD TV. We had been thinking the entertainment center made that impossible except now there are metal bracket hangers and... The box where the TV used to set is turned into a shadow box for one of my sculptures and also would be a spot to showcase cut flowers.

Of course, we have had to test out the set so we can write instructions for the renters... I like it so much and am now thinking of a 60" for the Oregon house. They have come down in price as constantly they are bringing out some new, fancier version that is more money while last year's models are less than the first color TV we ever bought-- years and years and years ago.

Anyway we are here, enjoying the desert as it's particularly lush this year due to rains that lasted (and are still lasting) longer than usual. Wildflowers are  blooming. 

Because I have a new historical romance coming out November 5, Lands of Fire, it's particularly nice to be here now as a reminder of all I and my characters love about the Sonoran Desert. This book has the most, of any of my books, about what the desert means to those who live close to it.

For those who have no clue what that means, here are some photos of what we have been enjoying as we go for desert walks. Right now I am slowly reconditioning myself to walking farther. I am soooooooo out of condition. There is nowhere I'd rather be doing the walking as the desert feels so alive right now-- especially where the streams are full of water that much of the year, they don't have.

I will be writing more about the next book. I have something on my Rain Trueax blog that illustrates the timeline I use for these books. When you write books over a period of years, it's helpful to write down the characters' birth dates and places.