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Saturday, December 31, 2016

December 31

 from Tucson 2014
 It is hard to believe it is the end of another year. Yeah, I understand a calendar is an artificial device, but it does give a place to stop and think about where I have been. It's a time to evaluate what is going to soon be 'last' year.
When I start a year, I rarely have a firm plan on what I will find in the days ahead. I usually have a few general goals, but I like to stay flexible, open to what comes along, and to changing my mind about ideas that didn't work so well. 2016 had surprises for me, some things I hoped to do and did not. 2017 is a new opportunity.

Sometimes a person can get to feeling stuck in a rut except we actually are not repeating where we have been. Life is a cycle, not a circle. So, like a river, we might be returning to the same place with the same cliffs and similar looking rapids, but the river is not the same. The water that had been there has gone on to the ocean, maybe to return as rain or snow. The river is always new.

Humans have often come up with ways to describe what they see of life and the cycle we are living or know others have lived.

For me, this is a good time to read a special book, watch an inspiring film, and look at quotes by others for ideas that might prove inspiring in terms of what we can do to make the year ahead all we want it to be.
"For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice.”
— T.S. Eliot

“This is the new year the new you. You can pass through another year, coasting on cruise control. Or you can step out of your comfort zone, trying things you have never done before, & make 2012 as the year that you elevate from where you are & soar high. Make it happen!”
-- Pablo

“What do you need in the New Year? You need a dream; your dream needs an action; and your action needs right thinking! Without right thinking, you can have only unrealised dreams!”
-- Mehmet Murat ildan

"You must not ever stop being whimsical. And you must not, ever, give anyone else the responsibility for your life.”
-- Mary Oliver
Of course, Mary Oliver has the greatest quote of all for living a life.
"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
When it's over, I want to say: all my life I was a bride married to amazement. I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
"Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it."

-- Mary Oliver
Happy New Year! 
I hope the coming year will be a great one for you.

Friday, December 30, 2016

December 30

This might seem a kind of dark meme and quote, but it's not. It's about our looking beyond the obvious to the possible and not fearing the dark. Penetrating through fear and grief can be the beginning of a new life. Some life situations are more limiting than others, but it's being willing to look beyond to see if there is another way, that's when we can change it all.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

December 29

dragonfly on our pasture one summer
And yet another tragedy, for 2016, with Debbie Reynolds dying a day after her daughter. Tragic to say the least. Is there a logic to such events? From my own life and the things I have seen, I don't think we can look for logic. It just is what it is.

A dragonfly is a symbol of one aspect of life. From the time it is hatched from an egg, the dragonfly spends most of its life underwater as a nymph. This stage, depending on the type, can last up to five years. At a certain time, the dragonfly stops feeding, makes its way to the surface, as it adapts to breathing air. From then, it is on a path to begin the process of changing from a water insect to a flying one.  From that time, it will live a few months-- generally speaking.

Humans are, of course, not simple for how we live, but life is a cycle for us also. It all seems one way, and then it changes. Sometimes we have no more clue than that dragonfly why is is happening. Instinct opens us to what we are feeling. When we go through difficult times, as this year has been for many, we have to take deep breaths and look for the next stage. It's out there. 

For those who follow astrology, I got the following in my email, regarding this new moon and how it can be used. More here: Lynda Hill's Sabian Symbols.

This new moon is an opportunity to release, reflect and reconstruct our intentions before the New Year and think about what we need to do to stay positive.
  • This new Moon is exactly conjunct a retrograding Mercury, so, we might find our minds working overtime yet it's an ideal time to catch our breath. It can be exhausting, but there are rewards in taking one step at a time, covering old ground (as well as new), and, tying up loose ends before heading into 2017.
  • Letting go of the past is a big theme of this period as the Moon's south node has both Mars and Neptune conjuncting it, drawing us back into the past and making it imperative that we sort things out that hold us in emotions, thoughts, or situations that no longer serve us. 
  • Although Mercury is retrograde, it, and this new Moon, are forming good aspects to the nodes and, in the days following the new Moon, this aspect gets stronger, giving us the ability to form more positive outcomes, to improve our relationships and see where we can head in the right direction. 
  • Another, even more potent and positive aspect going on is the Uranus/Jupiter opposition, which is being supported by trines and sextiles from Saturn. Uranus, Jupiter and Saturn are asking (and, in some cases, pushing) us to let go and move towards positive possibilities. There is energy here for the new, and, with concentrated effort, we can make great strides with their energies at our back.
  • Chiron, as always, is asking us to examine The Stories That We Tell Ourselves. Chiron and Saturn are exactly square  with Chiron on Pisces 22: A Prophet Bringing Down The New Law From The Mountain, and, Saturn on Sagittarius 22: A Chinese Laundry. This can bring up the need to see where we may feel like a hamster in a wheel, and, how hard we work for seemingly little rewards. Having said that, we have a prime opportunity to heal a lot of the 'wounds' that have built up over perhaps even lifetimes. Time to let go of old grudges, old wounds, old stories. Time to lay down some new 'laws' in our lives. What will and what won't you accept as we go into this new year? 
  • Venus and Lilith have the last say: They are exactly square with Venus on Aquarius 25: A Butterfly With The Right Wing More Perfectly Formed and Lilith on Scorpio 25: An X-Ray Photograph Helps With The Diagnosis. It seems Lilith wants us to go deep and to not take things at surface value. We can be attached but dispassionate, be welcoming and yet discerning... We also have that type of warning through the agency of Mercury on The Veiled Prophet degree (which is also the Karmic Condition of this new Moon). So look deeply... 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016


As 2016, rolled closer to an end, it seemed I heard more and more saying-- this has been a terrible year. Besides the election, which didn't suit everyone for its outcome, we lost many talented artists in music and acting. I wasn't going to put a meme here about grief and then Carrie Fisher died way before her time. :(

There is a time to grieve. And 2016 has given much opportunity to practice that-- unwillingly. Grief can serve a purpose, but it's one we willingly don't seek out. Once it's here though, we might as well make of it what we can. Let's hope 2017 will be better. I always assume the new year will. It's a good way to start out at least-- and why not think positive!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

December 27

This interior would do nicely. I have some of the furniture. I've dreamed of a mountain cabin for many years. I guess I have tried to capture what I had as a child when I grew up at the end of a gravel road-- behind us the Cascade Mountains-- maybe Big Foot's territory.

Monday, December 26, 2016

December 26

I would like a home in the mountains. This one would do fine; although, it's larger than what I had previously imagined :). That would give more space for company. See how I justify such things..

 Of course, there is a complication. I have an existing home. Nothing comes without cost. Am I willing to pay the price?

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas Day

Christmas is a time for tradition but also of dreams. There are those fantasies we always thought someday. They live still but maybe only in our hearts and thoughts. While it is a religious event for one major, world religion, it is also celebrated by many others both as a secular and an emotional time of beauty and imagination.

This image and quote are from Stencil where they offer thousands of images and quotes for their members. I sorted through for some that I felt stimulated imagination and dreams. For the coming week, each day, there will be one of these intended to encourage imagining what the new year might bring. 

Much of what happens in our lives, we set in motion. Not saying, of course, everything, but a lot of it. Set our minds to what we want and who knows what might come. We have to be careful that we don't do that in reverse too-- by concentrating too much on what we do not want.

None of the quotes are mine, but they are ones I like as part of setting in motion what might change directions into more of what someone wants. The week ahead can be a time of stirring up magic-- if we set it to be so. 

2017 will be a whole new beginning, yes, on the calendar but for our lives if we will it.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

'tis the season

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Boxing Day, or whatever else you might celebrate this week.

I don't think there is one right way to celebrate this special holiday season, unless you have religious requirements, which change less than societal ones. If it feels good to have big family dinners, and it's still possible, then great. If that time is past, head for a mountain cabin for a few days in the snow-- or the beach where the waves strike a relaxing sound. 

If you don't have the time or money for going somewhere, make your home special with a candle or two, seasonal music, or a Christmas movie. White Christmas is on Netflix and it's always a go-to for me at this time of the year just for the music if nothing else.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Winter Solstice

from Stencil
We are finally here-- Winter Solstice. From the fall equinox, the days get shorter and shorter. The sun is lower on the horizon. With the growing darkness, many of us, in the Northern Hemisphere, begin to count down the time until we will get to the shortest day, and everything will go the other direction. 

Some celebrate the end of a calendar year, which is an artificial device to help humans manage time. The real change comes with the Solstice. For awhile, it won't seem much different; but bit by bit the light increases.

To celebrate the Solstice is a very natural event and goes back into even prehistory. Some of the prehistoric ruins in the US have places that let the shamans determine the exact moment the Solstice arrives, based on the sun coming through a rock hole and hitting a precise spot. For an agrarian, hunting, and gathering population, this is important information.

from Stencil
Fire is an important part of a Winter Solstice celebration as a way to bring back the light. Besides parties there are other possible ways to [celebrate]. A Yule log has many traditions connected to it. Some keep a piece of it for the next Winter Solstice. Others put some of the ashes under their bed as protection (hopefully after the heat has totally gone from them).

We can spend this time to think of something new, something we want, a change in how we think, a new friend. The Solstice is an ending but also a beginning. We could spend some time thinking of what we've done. Now what comes next? The fire can help us do that if we write down these things and then put them in the fire. Concentrate on what comes next.

We've never had a Solstice party, but we might light some extra candles. Since we have frequent fires in the fireplace at this time of the year, it's not special. We have yet to start a bonfire outside-- although that might not be a bad idea since we have much to burn in the debris from the year and in a pile that has been too wet to burn. With our recent snowfall and extreme cold (for us), it might just be possible. 

farm creek
So winter is officially here-- even though it's felt like it for the last weeks. For some, with the less light, it's  a tough time, but more light is coming. And winter can be a time to do less (if it wasn't for Christmas expectations) and enjoy a quiet time.
 "Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for a home." — Edith Sitwell
We all need down times and winter gives us a good excuse to take them... unless lambs are soon to come and livestock needs to be fed... other than.

our farm in Decenber

Saturday, December 17, 2016

the Scrooge version

 Image from Stencil because we don't do a tree these days

My goal for Saturday's blog was something positive especially about the holiday season because this is a difficult time for many. It's not been an easy one for me either. The dark season never is. 

The idea of something positive went out the window when I got a disappointment regarding my books. The newest one, Sonoran Christmas, hasn't had many sales, but it had gotten two nice reviews. Going to its Amazon site, I found both had been deleted. I have heard of this happening, but it kind of amazed me in this situation. It's hard to say why the Amazon decided they were not valid, but I wrote them and asked if they had an answer. I got back a reply that they were looking into it. One good thing about Amazon, they have always replied when I've written. I might not always, of course, get the answer I want, but it's nice to be heard.

Although both reviewers have reviewed my books previously, are fans, we are not personal friends in real time. Although I like both on Facebook, I have never met either. They have no financial stake in the book's success. I had gifted one of the books to one of the reviewers (which is not unusual for writers) but the other was a purchase. I might not know the reason, but I can guess Amazon's source for deciding to delete them was my Facebook author page, where I shared their reviews. At least, because of that, I do have the reviews to put here. 
 'Sigh....The Taggert men are back again, namely Jeremiah Taggert! Jeremiah, living life day to day, always looking over his shoulder for his past to catch up with him. As a former outlaw, with little hope for a brighter future, he kept pretty much to himself. Little did he know how his life was going to change, when he meets the lovely, Frederica. Traveling from Boston by train, to the small dusty town to try to find her daughter, Frederica wondered if she was doing the right thing traveling by herself. Especially after meeting a man by the name of Taggert, a name she recognized from reading dime novels featuring an outlaw by the same name.
 I loved this story of two people, lonely, leading entirely different lives. Both thinking life and romance has past them by only to find out, just maybe, no matter your age or circumstances, you can have that HEA if you open your heart to the possibilities.
This is a sweet romance that I especially enjoyed, because of the ages of the heroine and hero. A romance with added suspense, that kept the story flowing from beginning to the end.

This being book 8 in the Arizona Historicals, I was able to catch up with a few other favorite characters from past books. Although this novella will stand on its own, the books before it are very entertaining and fun, loaded with romance, surprises and suspense. I recommend each one. No sexual content in this one.'

'Frederica Windsor gets off the train in Tucson, Arizona, sees the dusty weather instead of the snow in the east that December brings, looks confused and along comes Jeremiah Taggert who offers a buggy ride to her hotel. Questions in her mind: Is he an outlaw? Is it safe? Does she dare take a risk? And, the story begins. The fact is, right about this time in the first chapter of the book, you start to smile. It is a “feel-good” storyline where you get to know the people in the area; you see how the characters of former books are doing; you meet up with a couple new friends and you feel right at home with former outlaws. Can a 60-year-old widow from the east make a hard headed 65-year-old man feel things he thought gone long ago? There is mystery of a missing daughter, adventure, family at Christmas and romance. It is a stand-alone book and can be read by anyone. I loved it!'
The reason I discovered this removal was I needed the book's link for one of my book blogs-- [Rainy Day Romances], a site where I post a few images and words to depict what the books are about. If you are a writer, it's wise to have a permanent site for your books, as it cannot be deleted by someone else (I think). It also stays there for future readers to find-- unlike this blog which is constantly changing. I have three of them if I count the book trailer site. [Romances with an Edge and Rainy Day Trailers].

This week, one other 'funny' thing happened regarding promoting books... Funny meaning ironic. I have had alongside here links from Amazon, which take readers to a book for blurb, excerpt and possible purchase. This week, eight or ten of the links turned into general, blinking links back to Amazon. 

So looking into why this might happen. First possibility is internet glitches. Those are the unexplainable things that happen and never is it possible to figure out the why. Another possibility is that in the small print of using the option, it says they reserve the right, at any time, to redirect the link. Because blinking was kind of annoying to me, I deleted those and put up a button alongside that takes readers to one site where all the books lurk along with links to learn more and possibly buy them.

As I have learned in the years since I began bringing my books out as an indie writer-- there are ups and downs to it. IF a writer can't handle that, better not be an indie writer... 

Merry Christmas-- the Scrooge version ;) 

Thursday, December 15, 2016

putting music and words to images

As an extra blog for this week and for fun, this is the book trailer I just created for the recent novella, Sonoran Christmas. I do these for most of the books, although I haven't yet for the last novella, Red Hawk Christmas. I had it in my mind that maybe I'd do a trailer for it that was more about the series, Women Starting Over. That hasn't come together; so temporarily a video is on hold.

Until I began bringing out my own books, I had no idea that they had book trailers. I learned some basics from one of the forums at Amazons and got into the idea of taking images that worked for the stories, a few words and putting it to music. 

You can't use just any music as it has to be where you have the license from the owner of the copyright. There are places that offer clips for free, but I like JewelBeat who have reasonable costs, and put out a variety of melodies to suit different genres. This one is from one of their albums with a western feel. They cut the clips into various lengths, which is perfect for a book trailer which should not be too long. 

This is the latest video for Book 8 in the Arizona historical series where the Taggert family patriarch, reprobate though he's been, meets up with the woman, who just might be the one to tame him.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

seasonal thoughts

 At Facebook, there are always posts about whether it should be Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays. Saying Merry Christmas is supposedly making an important politically correct statement-- opposed to someone who says Happy Holidays who, of course, also thinks they have made an important, politically correct statement. Is it any wonder our culture is so confused?

Christmas is both a religious, secular and pagan celebration. Its time of the year is as an alternative to other religions (something the Catholic Church regularly did) with their celebrations at the same time, like Saturnalia. For some, this is their most important family/friends/church time of the year; for others it's a heartbreaking reminder of what they don't have. Because of the expectations for this celebration, there is a lot of pressure.

This year, because partly of how upsetting the recent Presidential election has been for many Americans, the season of joy and good will for all is even harder to get a handle on. The extreme resentment of the side that just lost the Presidency will make January not the new start that is often thought happens when a year is turned over.

As one of the seasonal things I do this month, related to the new year and not the coming holidays, I ordered our new calendars with one arty, one fly fishing, and one philosophical. I very much enjoyed my Simplicity calendar for 2016 and look forward to the next year's version-- Simplicity 2017. 

For many years, I'd take this time to put together goal statements. In 2000, I created an ideal day for what I wanted my life to be. I have to say that ideal day still works for me, but only in the dream sense. I don't live it. As for all those goal statements, I usually wouldn't look at them during the year but would when it came to year's end. Mostly I'd tweak them and use them again. I don't think in terms of an ideal day anymore nor do I make goal statements. I think of where I am, what I am doing, what I want to do, but none of it's that ideal day or the dream cabin. I think somewhere along the way I lost the idea of ideal and settled for good enough...

The cabin, which I digitally painted above, was part of that ideal day with it being in a snowy woods, a small ranch but not on a main road and closer to wilderness. Frankly, that's more unrealistic now at 73 than it was at 57. After 2001, a lot of things changed, and we are still seeing the ramifications of that today in our world and the world beyond us. Simplicity is ever harder to attain. Maybe it's the new goal for many of us-- keep it simple, stupid... of course, the word stupid also very politically incorrect.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

things change

There have been years where I went all out on Christmas decorating with a tree, greens, candles, angels, Wise Men, Christmas and Santa villages, nativity scenes, etc. I'd start right after Thanksgiving and take it all down New Year's Day. I enjoyed doing it, but it was a lot of work. 

I am fond of Christmas villages. Set into cotton, they look like places I'd love to spend Christmas. At night, with the lights off and their lights on, it became a kind of mystical world. 

There were several problems with doing the villages. Where they would go had to be cleared out. Finding safe places where the removed items could be put for a month got more difficult. I could probably improve that if I cleaned out our hall closet, but the thought of that makes me feel stressed; so...

The last time I put out the villages was 2011. The years after that became a time to head for Arizona and get the Tucson house ready for renters. Sometimes we'd be back for Christmas with family, and sometimes spend it there. I never decorated Casa Espiritu, what we call our Tucson home, as it just did not seem worth it given we'd have to have it all taken down before we left. 

When the snowbirds headed south, we'd be heading north for lambing and heavier hay feeding. It's not that we didn't like the idea of being in the Southwest for Christmas, but we have family up here, who weren't interested in traveling so far at a time when schools and other activities were at their height.

So this year, we are here for the holidays, which is complicating getting the Tucson house ready for its seasonal renters; but with the outside/inside cat adoption still not proceeding smoothly, there was just no choice. We can't leave them, and the four aren't yet ready to travel as a family. This meant I actually did decorate our farm home for the holidays. 

Much as I used to love doing a Christmas tree using old family ornaments as well as special ones I'd collected, we are allergic to the fir or whatever conifer we tried. We consistently got sick from it. Although I've seen lovely artificial trees, we haven't yet felt inspired to buy one-- where would we put it? A few years ago, I did though get inspired to buy artificial greens (again due to allergies) for the fireplace mantle and around the house. 

This year, I decorated with those greens, pine cones I have collected through the years, angels, and tiny birds. The house looks festive, ready for Winter Solstice and Christmas. Many of the decorations went over top of what was already there.

I enjoyed the years of decorating everywhere, just as I enjoyed the years having big family dinners here, but change is part of life. Like other cycles in life, this is good too.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Sonoran Christmas

This week-end was time to write the blurb for Sonoran Christmas. Blurb writing is its own special challenge. The wrong words will cause readers to not bother reading the sample. The right words tell the reader what they can expect and include warnings on any difficult issues. There are subjects that some will always avoid, and a good blurb alerts the reader if such things are in the book.

The cover is often another challenge with a new book. The wrong cover will have the reader never looking further-- and that includes me. In this one, because the hero and heroine are older (he's 65 and she's 60) finding models was out of the question. Sometimes I come across those in their late 30s or early 40s but even that's not the norm-- and especially not in period costuming.

Then, there is the fact is I know how virile and handsome men can be at 65 (think Sam Elliot and frankly, Ranch Boss still at 73), and I'd rather my readers use their own experiences than trying to find one face to nail down him or how lovely a 60 year-old woman can be. 

While I considered ways around people on the cover, I came across the perfect image to give a touch of the magical to the desert in winter.

Here's the blurb for Sonoran Christmas:


1905-- Frederica Windsor steps off the train in Tucson, Arizona and into a world, unlike any she’d known—where the Old West has yet to be tamed. She has come to find why her daughter mysteriously left Boston. She does not expect she is about to launch herself into an adventure with a man who seems to have come from the pages of one of the dime novels she’s been reading.

Jeremiah Taggert finds this Bostonian lady temptingly beautiful but has no intention of taking it further. He had lived a reckless, outlaw life before recognizing that world was gone forever, and those who denied it were going to be strung up, shot or in a prison cell. With his three sons settled in Tucson, he wants to be close enough to help in their lives, as a way to make up for the years he’d not been much of a father.

Together Jeremiah and Frederica are about to find something they felt had passed them by. The problem will be surviving an enemy with a long reach. Leaving Tucson and heading south toward the border and the Circle O ranch, the flavor and beauty of the desert become part of their story as it takes them to a family Christmas, with danger on its way.

At 29,000 words, Sonoran Christmas brings back some characters from-- Arizona Sunset; Tucson Moon; Arizona Dawn; Rose’s Gift; Echoes from the Past; Lands of Fire; and Bound for the Hills. The novella has no sex, but there is gun violence.


As with my other novellas, it is 99¢ until 2017, when it will change. I don't see much difference in sales for offering my books cheaper. And Amazon makes it unappealing as they take 70% of prices under $2.99. If a cheaper price led to more sales, I might see it differently, but it doesn't, at least for my books. Red Hawk Christmas was out at that price and got its only sales from the newsletter response-- since then, even with good reviews, it has had few. 

Marketing is a mysterious part of publishing and often leaves me scratching my head. I want to though share what I experience as a way to help writers who may just be starting out. Of course, their experience might be totally different. So much is subjective-- without the firm rules many of us might like. Art just ain't that way ;)

Check it out:

I don't know if we'll put it at other sell sites but maybe in January as having a sale can get complicated for making them all match up.