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Monday, November 30, 2015

the end of November

It's tough but someone has to do it....

Sunday, November 29, 2015

seasons changing

With our time in Tucson winding down, I am feeling the usual panic. I didn't do half of what I had wanted. The writing proves to be more demanding, and it does not take a holiday. The current work involves the final edit for the fourth Oregon historical, which will be out December 21st, the last of the Stevens family but not the last Oregon historical. An idea for a fifth is roiling around in my head. I can't start it yet though as that edit awaits and then I have a commitment to a seventh Arizona historical due out February 5th. When I first decided that's what I'd do, it seemed a long way off. Amazing how fast time goes by.
We have arranged for someone to clean the Tucson home when it goes into its alternate identity as a vacation rental. It seems like a very good agency, and I hope it will work well for the house. We liked the lady who runs it and she

seemed very competent when we discussed what had to be done on her visit here. Our neighbors, who can no longer do the cleaning for health reasons, will be keeping an eye on it and act as onsite property managers. That should help. 

So with a lot of work done here, not a lot of play time, but at least it has been doing what is needed, I am trying to psych myself up for the drive north in two weeks or less. 

We made a decision not to take the trailer clear back to Oregon and will be leaving it in Northern California lot. We found one that seems would have the trailer protected, had a reasonable cost, and save us the extra gasoline, not to mention concern about road conditions for who knows what would be the case in the Siskiyous. We've gone across them when the roads were bare pavement. We've been snowed in. We've seen delays for travel if you don't have 4-wheel drive. We do. 

There are other advantages in leaving the trailer-- come April, we will come back for it, lambing will be over, and we can head back to Lava Beds NM for another week and then maybe some time on Klamath Lake. Pulling it back to the farm, when we can't use it again until better weather, didn't make sense. 

Below, a taste of Tucson from this trip :)


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