Spring Musings

This week we are finally getting some weather that feels like spring is here. I love the long days of sunshine and blue skies. Most of this month has been cold, windy, and wet. The wet I’m all for because it brings spring flowers and puts moisture in the ground for the hay crops.

I also like spring because it brings Memorial Weekend. The reason for the weekend is to remember the men and women who gave their lives so we can live free. I always donate money for a small red memorial poppy. There is a woman who brings them around in a basket at the Sumpter Flea Market. I’ve been attending this event with fellow author, Mary Vine for over five years. We set up a tent and sell our books over the three-day weekend. It has become as much a fun weekend with a friend as it has been about selling books. The fun part is having fans come back each year to buy the latest books.

Sumpter booth

This month I’m also trying to finish the third book in the Spotted Pony Casino mysteries. It has been slow since I’ve been attending track meets to watch the granddaughter that has been living with us the past two years. If I don’t have it finished by the time I go to Sumpter, I’ll be writing in the evenings. It needs to be finished because I’m going on a week-long trip with my sister-in-law to research the next book in June.

With the sunnier weather, I plan to get out and ride my horse more. As I get older, I have become a fair-weather equestrian. LOL I enjoy riding with the grandkids and riding by myself. My horse, Jan, is a mellow fellow and he has a slow easy stride that I like. I hope to go on several long trail rides this summer. If I do, you’ll see a post about it here.

Me and Jan

Earlier in the month my hubby traded some hay for a manure spreader. We weren’t sure what he was getting as an older man we knew called him up and asked if he wanted it. When he drove up with the spreader on the trailer behind his pickup I smiled. It is the cutest thing! The size is perfect to pull behind my little purple tractor and to use in the two small fields we use or the horses and steers.

That’s the end of my musings. I hope you enjoyed this brief look into my life, both writing and personal.

My Current Writing Project & Road Trip

Right now, I’m working on the next book in my Spotted Pony Casino mystery series. Double Down, has been fun to write so far. A couple of Sundays ago, I was in the area of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation where these stories are set.

I believe in learning as much as I can about my settings. Therefore, I spent about an hour sitting in the Mission Market on the reservation and watched the people who came and went and their interactions. Studying people is one of my favorite pastimes and that day was no exception. I had a fresh, tasty salad made in the store while I people watched.

From the market I went to the tribal police station. I had hoped to get inside the building and talk to someone in law enforcement, but the building was locked. I peered in the windows as I walked around the building learning the entrances and exits and seeing the lay of the building. I have a scene in the current WIP (work in progress) where my character goes to the police station.

After the police station reconnaissance, I went to the nearby casino. While the casino in my books is fictional, I like to keep things close to real as I can. In this instance I wanted to see how real casino guards looked and did their jobs. I flitted from slot machine chair to slot machine chair watching six security guards and studying their uniforms. Then I followed a group of three who were refilling the ATM machines. That was a job I hadn’t thought the security guards would do. I would have thought that would be a job of someone from a bank. That little fact gave me an idea for another book premise. 😉

Yes, it doesn’t take much to spark my imagination. I won’t give the details away, but it would be a plausible premise.

Ignore the dirty windshield. This is Tutuilla where my character lives

I also made a side detour to the area on the reservation where my character lives. I wanted to make sure she could see some things that I had mentioned in the book.

George

Using what I already know, my main character now has a donkey as one of her pets. Since we have had two donkeys, one was Jethro (the same name as my character’s new donkey) and now with us still is George. Donkeys have so much personality, I thought it would make a great secondary animal for my main character. Her large, three-legged dog and now a donkey give her a reason to get out of the casino and go home. I will use some of George and Jethro’s antics to give a personality to my fictional Jethro.

So stay tuned for Double Down, book 3 in the Spotted Pony Casino Mysteries, hopefully releasing in August.

Fun with Fishes

At the end of March, I had two book signings which led me to Orofino, Idaho where my younger brother and his wife live. My brother works for the Dworshak Fish Hatchery.

He was on call for the weekend and asked us if we wanted to go with him on his evening rounds.  I’m always up for a visit to the large facility. There are so many interesting places a person could lurk should he or she have murder on their mind. 😉 And there are some interesting tools that would also make for an interesting murder method, but I digress…

Following my brother along, he told us what each building housed and why it was important to the whole hatchery process. You can go to this hatchery during the day and get a tour of the facilities. It is fascinating.

My brother had to check the temperature of the water in the egg hatching room. He pulled one of the trays out and I tried to get a photo of the hatching eggs.

Then we moved on and he checked the water in the tanks that held over 30,000 one-inch-long baby salmon in each tank. Moving by all of those tanks there were tanks with week-old salmon that would soon be put in the outside holding tanks to grow until they were old enough to be let loose to make their way to the ocean.

The startling thing is that my brother said only 1 percent of the hatchlings make it to the ocean because of predators. Cormorants and seagulls were already congregating along the Clearwater River in anticipation of the salmon being released in the next week or two.  And lower downriver on their journey, the seals and otters await their arrival into the ocean.

The money and knowledge that goes into hatching out so many fish seem futile when you learn that only 1 percent of them will even make it to the ocean. And then they have to make the trip back up the rivers to spawn and start the process all over again.

I guess it is nature’s way of saying, “Never give up.”

Horses, Hooves, and George

Last week we finally found a new farrier. A person who trims horse’s hooves and puts shoes on them. Ever since moving to SE Oregon I’ve had trouble keeping a farrier. They either move or stop doing it. There are a lot of horse around here that need their feet taken care of, but many of the ranchers do their own hoof care but don’t do it for anyone else.

I can understand why they would need to stop. It is hard on a person’s back. And if you get too many horses that don’t like having their feet messed with, it can even be dangerous.

Luckily, we found a young man, who will, hopefully, keep at it for a while.

My daughter, who lives down the road, brought over two horses and two ponies to get their feet trimmed. She also brought one of her older boys and the two littlest grandkids. The littlest grandchild, tried to help her mom load up, her pony, Candy.

And I had my two horses and George the donkey’s feet trimmed.

Two littles visiting George when they first arrived.

As you can see, littlest grandson thought it was warmer to lay on my gelding Jan.

The horses and Goerge all now have nicely shaped hooves.

Earlier this week, I went for one of my hikes on the hill and was happy to see a buttercup in bloom as well as yellow bells and lupine peeking through the dirt. A sure sign of spring though we had a very dry winter.

Buttercup

The other day, hubby was loading up his pickup and a trailer to take items to an equipment auction. He asked me to help him but using the backhoe to lift up tires. Here’s my view while working.

That’s the thing about living rural, there is never a dull moment! always something to do, whether it’s fixing fence, feeding animals, building something, or moving equipment. Not to mention cutting, raking, and baling hay in the summer. Or going for a walk, riding my horse, or sewing. Yep, I don’t understand people who have nothing to do…

House Edge Released

On February 18th the second book of the Spotted Pony Casino Mysteries released. This series has been fun to research and even more fun to write. Though I do need a trip to a real Native American run casino to get a little more intel on things. That will be a trip I’ll take after Mother Nature has decided winter is over.

In book two I added a new secondary character who has a past with my main character Dela Alvaro. When I first added him, it was to cause friction between two characters other than their being from two different law enforcement branches. However, as I began to flesh him out, it gave me new insight on Dela and how I could incorporate their connection into other books.

I also did something in book 2 that I haven’t done in any other book, I started an event that will be the basis of the next book. The reader doesn’t know it as they are reading the book, but it came to me and I felt I needed to go with it.

To hopefully portray Dela, a lower limb amputee, correctly, I joined an online group for lower limb amputees. They don’t normally let anyone in who isn’t an amputee, but I let them know I was only there to gather information to portray a character like them. And, thankfully, they let me in. I’ve been taking notes on how people feel and what they go through on a daily basis. I also purchased a book titled, AMPossible by Jeffrey Allen Mangus. He is an amputee and he counsels other amputees. His book is the nuts and bolts of what to expect and how you have to change some ways you do things but never say you can’t.

I know I don’t talk that much about my writing here, but when I have a new book out or found did some really cool research, you’ll read about it here.

This book is going on a virtual blog tour starting March 2nd. There are chances at the blogs it will be at to win a print copy of the book and some swag. Here is the list of places it will be:

TOUR PARTICIPANTS

March 2 – Lady Hawkeye

March 2 – #BRVL Book Review Virginia Lee Blog

March 3 – I Read What You Write 

March 3 – MJB Reviewers 

March 4 – FUONLYKNEW 

March 5 – Celticlady’s Reviews 

March 6 – Brooke Blogs 

March 7 – Literary Gold 

March 8 – Mysteries with Character 

March 9 – Books a Plenty Book Reviews 

March 10 – Nellie’s Book Nook 

March 11 – Baroness Book Trove 

March 12 – Maureen’s Musings 

March 13 – Girl with Pen 

March 14 – Sapphyria’s Book Reviews 

March 15 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book 

Zealous Environmentalists

Greedy Power Companies

…and a body

A bitter dispute over the breaching of dams in Idaho sparks emotions at a summit held at the Spotted Pony Casino. When the keynote speaker is murdered, Dela Alvaro, head of security, teams up again with FBI Special Agent Quinn Pierce.

The suspects are many since it appears the victim was playing both sides of the controversial environmental issue. Did someone take advantage of a marital dispute… witnessed by a crowd of casino spectators? Or did an angry wife murder her husband?

Book 2 in the Spotted Pony Casino Mysteries has Dela Alvaro not only trying to keep her job by discovering the killer before word spreads about the murder, but she also has to deal with FBI Special Agent Quinn Peirce butting heads with her high school sweetheart who has returned to the reservation as a tribal policeman.

Universal Buy Link: https://books2read.com/u/bWQ8X0

What Came Before

Sunday mornings when the sun is shining, I like to hike on the hills and ridges around our place. I call it my Sunday morning church. I believe in enjoying the world that God or the Creator built for us.

My hubby always meets with other farmers and ranchers for coffee or breakfast on Sunday mornings so I leisurely eat my breakfast, feed my horses and the cats and then Harlie and I take to the hills. Roaming around taking photos and studying the ground.

This time we- well Harlie- discovered an old horse’s hoof. I’m sure it had to have come from a horse that had died many years ago and the hoof either made it’s way to the top of the ground and an animal packed it off or an animal dug it up and packed it off. Either way where we found the hoof wasn’t a spot where an animal could have been easily buried. My best guess is something picked it up somewhere and dropped it where we found it.

The hoof doesn’t look as if it has been chewed on but it is definitely dried out. The outside looks like weathered wood.

The inside is smooth and gives a good look at the shape of a hoof with out the bone, muscle, and tendons.

I found this discovery interesting as you can tell by the three photos. 😉

I always find something that piques my interest when I am walking in nature. How about you? Do you keep your eyes on the trees, the plants, or the ground as you walk through the wonders that were put on this earth for us to enjoy?

Creativity Must Come Out

Making things with my hands, testing color combinations, and creating a final project have always been my way of being creative when I’m not writing. It soothes my brain in different ways to write 3000 words in a day or to piece together fabric for a quilt. Or even to take photos while out hiking.

I love the play of colors in photos and in making quilts. I like the serenity of a walk and capturing the things I see while photographing. I like capturing the colors of my grandchildren into a quilt they can have for a long time. And I sleep better and fear less by putting the words and scenes in my head into books rather than make up stories of tragedy that afflict my family members.

I came up with the idea of making a quilt for each of my grandchildren as a high school graduation gift last year. It was after I had made myself two quilts and enjoyed the process so much that I wanted to continue.

The first graduation quilt I finished was for granddaughter #2. Her favorite colors are teal, dark blue, and purple and she likes butterflies. I scoured the fabric stores looking for fabric I thought went well and reflected her colors. Then I came up with a pattern that wasn’t too intricate but would be fun to make. And this is the finished top of the quilt. Right now it is away being quilted.

The next quilt I tackled was a little more daunting for granddaughter #1. Her favorite colors are red and black and she likes skulls. Again, I came home with different reds and blacks and fabrics with skulls. When I’d decided on the fabric combinations, I then looked through quilt books to find a not too elaborate pattern and came up with this.

Now I am gathering fabric for the two oldest grandsons who will graduate next year. One likes lime green, cars, motorcycles, and hunting. The other one likes the outdoors and snow. I may do a log cabin pattern on this grandson’s quilt. It will depend on the fabric I find.

What do you like to do to be creative?

Chores are not a chore

While there are some mornings that I linger inside before donning my weather-proof pants, heavy coat, stocking cap, and boots or walking shoes, I still make sure I get out and feed the horses and cats by 8 am. It’s part maternal instinct that drives me out to take care of them and part being a farmer, living with animals to take care of my whole life.

Patty eating her grain

I know the importance of keeping animals fed and watered in the cold weather. They need the feed for fuel and the water to help them digest the food and keep them hydrated so their bodies can function in the cold weather.

Animals have been my friends longer than I’ve had people for friends. Growing up we lived rural and at a time when a child was allowed access to the phone. We were 12 miles from town. During the summer we would only make a trip to town when our grandmother who lived with us went for groceries. I’d go to the library and check out books. We didn’t see friends except on my birthday in June. Horses, dogs, pigs, cows, and sheep were my friends. I’d talk to them, talk among the herds and talk to the animals that were curious.

When my children were small I raised hogs that farrowed in time for 4-H members to purchase weaner pigs for fair projects. I enjoyed going down to the barn and cleaning out the pens and feeding them. At the time my children were in grad school. The hogs were less demanding and were always happy to see me coming. LOL My kids complained about food, clothes, not getting enough time to play or watch television. Yes, I enjoyed my unconditional love hogs!

my daughter’s piglets

I didn’t mind feeding the cattle we raised when the kids all started leaving the nest. Many times I’d climb onto the tractor and pulled the trailer piled with hay out into the pastured and stop, dump some hay off, get off the trailer, walk to the tractor, move it forward, stop, and do it all over again about ten times until the cattle were fed. This, of course, was in the winter while I was wearing insulated overalls , boots, and gloves.

It seems the animals need the most attention when the weather is at its worst!

Chores have been a way of life for me. As a child we had rabbits. The pens had to be cleaned and the rabbits fed every day. When the pile of rabbit droppings grew too large under the pens, we had to fill a wheelbarrow and take it to the garden. Sometimes it would be frozen, not fun!

I don’t mind chores and I love having animals. The wild animals that have no one to take care of them are always fascinating to me. Do you like chores? What about animals?

Research is Fun

I have to say my favorite thing about writing is the research. I’ve always been a nerd and like to learn new things. Not so much about math and science, but the world. However, there are times when I need to do a little science to learn what I want to know.

In this case, it is for book #9 in the Gabriel Hawke Novels. I’m still working on a title for it. I thought I had it and remembered I’d already used fox. It needs to be an animal that is out in the winter. One that lives in the mountains and is cunning or shy. If you have any thoughts, toss in the comments. 😉

The research I’m doing now has to do with survival in the mountains in a blizzard and my character is tracking someone who is wounded. Right now I have blood I saved from meat before I cooked it that I dripped in the snow. I’ve been watching and recording what it looks like each day so Hawke will be able to surmise how far ahead of him the person is that he is tracking.

I could barely see the red of the blood under the 1/2 inch of snow that had fallen.
This shows the blood drops after I’d swept away the 1/2 inch coating of snow on top.

I ordered books on hiking in avalanche country, and winter survival. I’ll be reading those to help me get a feel for what my characters will be dealing with. I have the basic premise of the story thought out but will soon begin writing the opening scene and jotting down events that will happen.

This book will include one or more of Hawke’s Native American ancestors who will help he and Dani Singer stay alive as they battle the elements and the person who doesn’t want to be found.

Have you ever had any experiences in the snow that you think would help my story? I’d love to hear about them.