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Wednesday, December 30, 2015


This is always my week to think what I want in the year to come. Some decisions have to be made soon. If we continue to offer, as a vacation rental, our Tucson house in 2017, our renewal of VRBO has to be the middle of January. We are unsure we do want that. Should we sell it? That's possible, but we love that house. I like it being smaller than this one and do love the desert right outside its windows. 

BUT, it's a long way from our kids and grandkids. BUT, the first of those grandkids will be launched in a year and a half as she heads off to college. Where will they settle in their adult years? Questions with no answers as they are too far in the future. The immediate decision of paying to continue advertising Casa Espiritu is, however, at hand. It's a lot of money to pay if we decide not to do it later in '16.

In terms of trips for 2016, we want to go back to Lava Beds National Monument in Northern California and spend longer, maybe get into some of the caves. We'd like more time to camp there with family or friends. Some time there to just veg. I really liked that area. 

We loved the nearby Tule Lake Wildlife Refuge but its continued existence is threatened by farmers who need more irrigation water. Is this a cause we should be involved in or do we know enough? To see these birds enjoying this beautiful spot is definitely a delight and should be possible at least through '16.

One of the western romance writers has a June event planned for Silver City, Idaho. We are thinking we might pull our trailer to that one (or near it as not sure we could get the trailer all the way up to it). It'd be fun to meet other writers and get to know more about that ghost town that is a touristy kind of place in a backwoods way (no electricity). 

Then, there is Yellowstone or if not that far over, at least Missoula, Dillon, and Bannack. :)

In terms of my work, during this break, I've read a few romances but not in my same genre. I mostly avoid reading books that are anything like what I write. I don't want to be influenced or lose a plot idea I wanted when I read someone else already used it. There are only so many plots out there (some say Shakespeare used them all). That is true no matter what genre someone writes when you take it to the bones of the plot. I believe what separates stories from each other are the characters and their interactions.

My next book out will be set in 1905-06 and the next Taggert brother. I am trying to get a handle on his community. If you have read my books, you know community and family are big parts of them. His relationships once he pulled away from the family have been hard to get a handle on as he became a bit of a drifter. Perhaps community will come through the heroine-- or his family coming after him. 

Driving back from Arizona, I talked over plot ideas with Ranch Boss; so I know the gist of where that story is going for plot. What I don't know are its secondary characters, which make themselves felt once the writing begins-- which will be in January. 

Definitely I also want to write more contemporary books. I only did historical last year, and I am feeling the need for something in my own time period. I like writing both; so 2016, I think I'll mix it up. Most likely with shorter books than the recent ones.

The end of December is for me-- a time of evaluating my physical life (need to lose weight and exercise more), what I want next, and whether I am on a path that works for those goals. I like this time of the year with the expectations of Christmas behind (lovely or disappointing either way), for simple rituals like selecting next year's calendars (mine above the desk is called Simplify), and a quiet time to consider my world. Is it the one I want it to be or are changes needed?  

The December 25th full moon

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Where we've been

Ranch Boss, our two cats, and I left our Oregon farm for Tucson on October 9. We were traveling in an older Silverado truck and pulling a 26' vacation trailer. Tucson is 1400 miles from our home up here which makes it a long drive. Flying makes it harder to take the cats and requires renting a car when we are there. If we only stay a week, flying works; otherwise, driving is pretty much required and we've tried it various routes as well as ways. The last two trips down, we've taken the trailer, and it works better in some ways but has its concerns as weather can make pulling it dicey. We drove down through Nevada keeping our driving days short for our benefit and the cats.

When we get to our Tucson house, I always think we have so much time to enjoy but there are always jobs to be done and in the end, a month and a half hardly seemed long enough. 

The work did get done, as well as some good research time, many useful photographs, a lot of editing with two books due out during those weeks, and some hiking-- but not nearly as much of that as I had expected. I thought I'd lose weight while there-- instead I think we both gained due to eating out more and in my own case hours at my desk with editing.

When it came time to head back north, we knew, based on road conditions, it had to be through California. Our departure would be determined by weather reports. We were aiming for 12/10 but that became impractical when California was hit by high winds, and the Siskiyous were requiring chains. So we waited. 

On the 15th of December, we had thought we'd get right out and on the road. Instead it took so long to get the trailer and truck loaded, not to mention some last minute cleaning (the majority would be done by the housekeeping service we are trying for the first time), that we camped that night at Catalina State Park. That is a great spot for RVs or tents for those who have never camped there. Peaceful, quiet site.

Then we were on the road for the next six nights with the trailer. One thing travel like this reminds a person is how much our country depends on trucking. Those trucks run round the clock, and there are a LOT of them. I have this feeling that the country needs to get some better ideas on how we operate as this much trucking cannot be environmentally or economically wise in the long run. We're kind of spoiled as a people. Fresh produce is expected year round. The latest gadget must be ours the day it's out. I think we need to reevaluate our expectations and desires. This much trucking cannot be good for the environment. It certainly makes for crowded freeways.

We had planned the RV parks where we'd stay and by necessity, they were near highways, which meant noisy all night. We stayed in Bouse, Daggett, Coalinga, Santa Nella, and Red Bluff where we again got the trailer ready to be stored at a lot south of Redding. We drove then to Medford, took a night in a motel, which both horrified and fascinated the cats. Raven had never seen that kind of traffic with lights driving past the window. Our time there was brief but nice to see our daughter and grandkids (I better add, we didn't see our son-in-law because I ended up not feeling well, and he was working late. It would have been nice to see him too).

On the drive home, we got a call from our son. He'd come out to the farm to turn on the heat, only to see water pouring out of the utility room door. To make a long story short, the hot water heater had sprung a leak, pouring water over the floors of the utility room, kitchen, part of the hall and dining room. He got it stopped and sopped up what he could. When we got home, we built a fire in the wood stove and Ranch Boss fixed the hot water heater the next day. We got our first hot showers Christmas morning.

Currently Oregon is wet, cold and definitely not the desert. This is though typical weather for the season. Looks like our water table is back to normal after a drier than usual summer.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas

 I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season in whatever ways work for your life. This can be a tough time of the year but with the Winter Solstice behind us, every day is going to be a bit brighter.

This is not my home, as due to travel, we didn't decorate this year. Through the Internet, I've seen my friends' decorations. I also have a few images I bought, which especially appealed to me, for possible book covers or trailers.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Warrior woman

Love Waits was my first book where my heroine was a warrior. I've written books where my heroines had to step up to bat and do what they were not trained to do. I've written them where they saved the hero. I had never written one about a woman who chose and trained to be a warrior, but that's what the heroine of Love Waits is. As a bit of an adventuress, she found her purpose in working for the Pinkertons from the midst of the Civil War and then after it.

 Belle at Shearars Bridge in Oregon

There weren't a lot of women employed by the Pinkertons. They were not put in the position of being bounty hunters or in situations that would endanger them, but they did go undercover and investigate situations where a man would find it difficult to get close. Anytime you are investigating those who are doing wrong, danger has to be a possibility.

Belle Stevens Morgan was, even from early on, a brave young  woman who left home earlier than many women in her time period. She was taught woods craft by her father and then stepfather, building on those skills as a woman. She liked being independent and enjoyed taking some risks. Like many men, she felt the adrenaline rush of challenging herself. She had paid an emotional price for that in terms of staying away from her family and not having a family of her own. 

When she returns to Oregon, she is there for an assignment but she finds so much more. What comes next will require her to seriously consider her future goals. Maybe it's time for a change.

Eastern Oregon is a wonderful place to spend time and even in the midst of an Indian war, Belle finds its beauty has a strange draw for her, unlike anywhere she's previously been. Places are like that in how they can touch our souls and draw us to them. 

For Belle, it's more than the place. It's also a man and two children. It is her family. It's understanding that she can find excitement many ways, especially in a family that encourages a woman to be all she can be. Belle will find what speaks to her soul  and then must be brave enough to claim it.

The beginning is always today.      Mary Wollstonecraft.

That is true for us all. Nothing that has been before has to stop us from moving forward-- unless we let it.

I planned this book to come out with the Winter Solstice. From then on every day is just a tiny bit lighter. In the beginning, that will seem barely visible, but it grows until it takes over the sky. The Winter Solstice is when we say we are over the hump. It seemed a good day for a book to be delivered. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

moving ahead

Use your imagination not to scare yourself to death but to inspire yourself 
to life.          Adele Brookman

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes 
but in having new eyes.                    Marcel Proust

This is so the season to think about who we are, what are we doing that fits our goals, and what comes next. For me, as a writer, I am thinking of the stories I will want to bring out in 2016. Several are running around in my head. One firmly and the others possibilities. A lot of writing happens before fingers hit keyboards or pens paper.

Soon, it'll be the shortest day of the year and from then on, it's brighter each day. We can think that way about our own lives-- no matter what the outward circumstances might be. It is a choice.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Blue Mountains Christmas

When I came into a Facebook group last Saturday, December 5th, a project was being proposed. Kirsten Osbourne, a successful author as well as someone good at putting together projects, said she wanted to do an anthology of short stories, all under 4000 words with a Christmas theme. They did not have to be romances. The stories did have to be in her hands by the end of the week-end. So two days to write something. She intended to donate anything she earned from it to a Texas charity that is good at getting assistance to those in need and where she had personally donated time.The idea quickly caught on that any profits would totally go to the charity.

My history of writing short stories is brief. The first one, Connie's Gift, went into an anthology called Rawhide 'n Roses. It came through someone suggesting it and my thinking-- hey, I've never done that before. My second short story was called Curlie's Lesson for a friend's summer project. Although I've written some novellas, no more short stories. I liked the idea of being involved in one about Christmas, especially with all its profits going to a good cause.
To start, I needed a setting. For those of you not in Oregon, you may not know that Oregon has a beautiful mountain range called the [Blue Mountains]. It is a land of tall pine forests, creeks, rivers, ghost towns, ranching, and mineral deposits. I've been there, camping and driving through, many times. It is beautiful country and now has large tracts preserved as wilderness. It is a place where for awhile a surprising number of people lived, as mining communities would grow up overnight and often disappear just about as fast. In this blog, I wrote about one of our trips through it in 2007-- [Mountain Islands]. If I was to set this story in Oregon, this was the perfect place. I also decided early on I didn't want it to be a romance but about family, sharing, and healing

There are three characters (not counting animals), with two from the fourth Oregon historical, Love Waits. That novel has a number of children as secondary characters with two pretty significant. If you write a series, following a family, where characters marry, have babies, those babies grow up, people age, and some die, it's a lot like our lives for how it goes. Since the fourth Oregon historical romance was set in 1867, that has left a lot of western life for the next generation to explore

Blue Mountains Christmas is set in 1880 in a small cabin near a fictional mining town. Although there are some great ghost towns (or nearly ghost towns) still in the Blues, I went for fictional, since there was no time for researching what the others would've been like in 1880. 

That Saturday, I wrote almost 4000 words (easy to go over) as a stand-alone story. It doesn't require reading Love Waits; and even though there might be a future book involving these characters, there might not be. After editing it multiple times, I submitted the story the next morning. Along with over twenty other authors, from several genres, Blue Mountains Christmas is in 

For anyone who has Kindles Unlimited, it's also available to borrow there.

To have the challenge of writing a short story, to spend a Saturday again in the Blue Mountains, when I am a long way from there, and then to be part of a project intended to help others-- this was a win/win for me. If you like short stories, give this one a try and at the same time be contributing to a worthy charity. If you click on its link, you will find more about the charity.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Arizona history and today

This has been a crazy week. We are winding down our time in Tucson, but when we leave this house depends on weather elsewhere. Our original plans were changed by California going through predicted rains and winds. Not good for pulling a trailer. So now it'll be leaving here early next week. 

So many things have come up at the last that it's made this a mix of getting the next book out, reading the papers (ugh), fixing up the last of the needed items for this house, and packing what has to go back to Oregon. The lady who has arranged to do our cleaning has not been communicating with us, which is another concern. The drawbacks of a vacation rental.

wildlife cam in our Tucson backyard

It's always ironic to me how we start off with a month and a half here, which seems like a lot of time. Then comes the last week and so many things I wanted to do don't get done. We did make it to the Arizona Historical Museum, which was on my list

Then we drove down to Barrio Viejo. This is a district of Tucson that is right near downtown. The shrine El Tiradito is there, as well as where [Elysian Grove and Carrilo Gardens] had been a center of Tucson life in the period where I wrote many of my historic romances.  

Barrio Viejo has been preserved as of historic importance as the only way to prevent Tucson from putting new buildings right over top of it. It took community effort to have what is there today-- a place of beauty, interest, and history.

We were actually in shock when we got there this week, as a few years ago this district was filled with derelict buildings that suggested, broken doors, scorpions and cockroaches more than a desirable location to live. The ones living there then probably did so due to low rents. There are still dwellings waiting to be reclaimed but the dominant feeling is of gentrification in a way that is determined to keep the feel of the original dwellings-- but with interiors modernized for today. Of course, those residents from our last visit have probably been forced out as the new prices would dictate even rents beyond what they would likely afford. 

Stopping to talk to those doing some of the men working on one restoration, while I was photographing one of the shrines, Ranch Boss learned that the dwelling was being restored by a private party that cared, something about professors and Tucson history. They gave him this link to show the work and spirit that has gone into making this home again one that would be a delight in which to live-- [House Made of Mud].

What was particularly appreciated by me was how many of the homes and small parks had information regarding their history. Without a doubt, it'd be a nice place to live with its convenience to downtown especially for young working couples or singles. It has the feel of art combined with history. I often think how living right downtown would be wonderful-- but I also love living back of beyond.

I can definitely see setting a contemporary romance with the hero owning one of these. Oh yeah, he's a lawyer investigating... or she's a lawyer investigating him...

For now that has to be put on a backburner as I have an Oregon historical (Love Waits) due out the 21st (in pre-order now).    

Monday, December 07, 2015

song of the wolf

I made this a few years ago by combining an image I'd purchased from CanStock and our own farm when it was snowing. Google added the falling snow. To me, the image symbolizes so much in terms of nature and beauty. I like looking at it.

Oregon has recently delisted the wolf because their numbers have supposedly increased enough. With the arrival of the first wolf, the environmentalists and those who raise livestock or live close to wolf habitats have been at odds. One man was charged for killing a wolf when he turned himself in after claiming he had thought it was a coyote. Another was not charged as the wolf was trying to get his pet. Packs have been killed after they killed cattle in northeastern Oregon. Wolves do not kill quickly and they can leave behind hamstrung animals that they might as well have killed. In Oregon, there will be lawsuits before the whole thing is settled whether it should be protected or whether it cannot live close to humans. 

The only thing I can say about the imbroglio is one of my most memorable moments was one early morning on a ridge in Yellowstone. We were watching part of the pack across the valley. Then we heard the song of the wolf from the hills behind them. The ones below threw their heads up and answered. There is nothing quite as beautiful as the sounds of the wolves like that. 

In nature, wolves provide a balance that is not quite covered by the bear, cougar or coyote. Raising livestock myself, I have mixed emotions about their arrival in Oregon. I mean what's a cow to them-- just a slow moving elk. Still, to hear them in nature...

Saturday, December 05, 2015


This is a tough time to write a post for this blog. I want to be positive. A lot out there is negative. I am currently doing what will be the final edit for my fourth Oregon historical. Eastern Oregon was in the midst of a deadly Indian war; there were outlaws hitting the stage routes; Chinese were being mistreated by whites; diseases had little treatment possible; and yet people had to live their lives as best they could.

Born in 1943, while WWII was still raging, I grew up in a relatively interesting time for positive thinking. When WWII ended, people thought they had fought the last big war. Then came the Cold War where two countries, very capable of nuking each other were off and on right on the edge of doing just that. We had the Korean War, the Vietnam War, miscellaneous skirmishes, and the country was on edge over social issues where there was no agreement what should be done.

Because I had a family where politics was discussed, I grew up as informed as is possible, given how facts can be twisted to suit agendas. I voted and voted again. Often I wasn't pleased with the choices, but I always picked one. Likewise my husband and I taught our children the same responsibility.

Except did our votes change anything? In some ways they did. I mean those who voted for GW Bush have to know that if Gore had won that election, the one that Florida and its hanging chads and double voting decided by the Supreme Court and no investigation of the fraud, we would not have gone to war in Iraq. This was a war that the right wanted but didn't pay for and hence led to a deficit that was made worse by tax cuts that were not funded. No, that election made a difference unlike what Nader claimed, justifying his running when he had no chance and made Gore's less likely. 

Anyway, I am trying to think positive here. It's difficult in a time where we've had one mass murder after another. Where people spread hate more than love. But I write romances, and they do believe in good winning out. I have to believe that is true-- in the long run.

This is the cover for the new book-- out December 21st. It takes the family from arriving in Oregon, to building homes, making lives, having babies, to one last sister falling in love in a turbulent time. 

You know life has always had turbulent times. They don't last.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

The Ornament by P.A. Estelle

Need some help getting in the holiday mood or do you just love Christmas stories? Check out this book by Arizona writer, Penny Estelle. Links to more about the author are below the snippet.

Twelve years ago Jim Rustle packed up and left his home in Idaho and hasn’t looked back.  He gets quite an awakening when Lisa Parker, whom he hadn’t seen in all those years, breaks into a business meeting and uses some colorful adjectives to tell him just what she thinks of him. 

Sparks fly between the two when he decides to follow Lisa home and sees what has happened in his absence.  Is the anger stemming from the present, or from the past?

It’s Christmas time.  Can an ornament from years past help heal betrayals that have festered for years?

A black cowboy hat sat low on her head, shadowing her face.  Light brown straight hair with white blonde streaks throughout swayed almost to her waist.

The sign, Wagner, INC, was in large block letters above a double door that was opened. The receptionist at the desk, Dani according to the name plate, was on the phone, taking a message.  Her hair was black and cut in a perfect short bob. Dani looked up to see the woman standing in front of her.  She sat back in her chair, staring at the visitor, and finished the call with “I’ll have Jim call you as soon as he is done with his meeting, John.”  The receptionist’s eyes never left the face of the woman standing in front of her.

Dani took her time hanging up the phone and finishing writing the message.  “May I help you?”

“Jim Rustle,” was all the woman said.

The corner of Dani’s mouth rose.  “I’m afraid he is in a meeting and will be busy most of the afternoon.  I can take your name and ask him to call.”

The woman was looking behind Dani at the closed door that said James Rustle on it.  “No need.” She walked past Dani and headed to the door.

“Wait!  You can’t go in there!”  The composed Dani was anything but.

The woman threw the door open. The office had a large desk made of rich cherry wood. Opposite it stood two small padded chairs of deep brown leather.  On the other side of the room stood a small conference table with blue prints spread out all over it.

The woman, once again, saw none of it.  Her eyes were trained on the man sitting behind the desk.  For a split second, the words caught in her throat.  She hadn’t seen Jim Rustle for twelve years.  His dark brown hair was clipped short.  His smoky gray eyes were as hypnotic as she remembered.  He wore a pair of navy suit trousers, a navy vest, and a white long sleeved shirt, with the top two buttons undone.  The suit jacket was draped over his chair.  The man was more handsome than when he walked out of her life, if that was possible.

“Jim, I’m sorry but this…this woman just went right by me when I told her you were busy and couldn’t be disturbed.”  Dani was clearly distraught.

Before he had a chance to answer, the woman walked to the desk and leaned her hands on it.  “You selfish, arrogant, self-absorbed, SOB.  Are you so important you can’t find time, yet again, to spend Christmas with the one person in this world that thinks the sun rises and sets in you, no matter how many times you have chosen to put everything and everybody else above her?  Not to mention the woman who raised you and made it possible for you to go to college so you could sit in this office and be the overblown ass that you have become?”

Fire was shooting out of her hazel eyes and her chest was heaving with anger.  The two men that were sitting in the meeting and Dani, standing at the door, were watching with their mouths hanging open.  They had never seen someone talk to their boss like that and walk away without limping.

Something flickered in his eyes – anger, guilt, or maybe appreciation in what he was seeing.  “Men,” he said, never taking his eyes off the woman, “we’ll finish this meeting later.  Dani –“

“Don’t bother. I know how important your time is.”  Sarcasm dripped with every word. She turned to leave.

“Lisa,” he said stopping her.  “I see you still aren’t married.”

Lisa closed her eyes as if praying for restraint.  Her words didn’t have the disdain in them when she said, tiredly, “Annie doesn’t have much time, Jim.  Give her a break.”

* * * *

Thanks so much for taking a look at my new Christmas story, The Ornament. 

I write for all ages, from the early reader to adults.  My books range from pictures books for the little ones, to fantasy, time-travel adventures for ages 9 to 13. I also write adult stories, including a family drama and contemporary, paranormal and historical westerns romances, under P. A. Estelle.

I was a school secretary for 21 years.  My husband and I moved to our retirement home in Kingman, AZ, on very rural 54 acres, living on solar and wind only. 

More about my books can be found in the following links: