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 NaslundHere 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 GreyTo 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.]