From Angel to Badger

One thing is for certain, life always keeps you on your toes and humbles you.

On the last day of the 2021, I walked out of my house dressed in snow pants, a sweatshirt and my coat and snow boots ready to take on the bright snowy day. After feeding the horses, steers, and cats, I decided it wasn’t too cold to go on a walk.

After walking past the house and the area the dogs run around making lots of tracks, the landscape before me was white, unmarred, and beautiful. I stood there for a few minutes taking it all in and decided I wanted to make a snow angel.

I found the perfect spot with just enough slope I could get up hopefully without destroying what I’d made. I sat down, laid back on the snow and waved my arms and legs feeling giddy. It had been a while since I’d even made a snow angel. The day had just felt perfect for letting my joy loose.

When it felt like I’d waved more than enough, I sat up, pushed down with one hand and managed to get out with out mangling the design too much. See photo below.

My snow angel

Humming to myself, watching Harlie, our dog running joyously up and down the side of the ridge, I continued on my walk. My usual path is a dirt road alongside our hay field. On days when I feel crunched for time, I walk down to the end of the field, about 3/4 of a mile, and back. That was my plan this day.

The road isn’t flat, it wanders up and down small inclines and even tilts toward the field. As I was walking the white untouched snow covered road, I was also staring off at the ridge where a hawk sat watching me. I stepped and my foot continued downward. I caught my balance and looked down at a badger hole that I’d stepped in.

You would think when a badger hole is 8-10 inches in diameter that the snow would go into the hole and therefore make an indention in the snow. But it doesn’t. the snow is level over the holes and you can’t see them when they are covered with the white stuff.

I commented on I should mark the hole with something and continued on my walk. Once again staring up at the ridge and the bird that was soaring around. At this point, the road was at a slant. I looked up, noticing something moving on the ridge and put my foot down. This time my foot fell into a badger hole. My whole lower leg went into the hole and I fell forward.

Lucky for me, I have solid and not brittle bones. I pushed myself up and had to work my foot around to get it out of the hole. Once I had it out, I stood and decided I’d have bruises and few pulled muscles in the morning but nothing worse. However, I made another vow to mark the hole with a stick.

I finished my walk and sent this photo to my hubby.

The badger hole that I went in up to my knee.

Luckily, this was an old hole and I didn’t have a badger gnawing off my foot while I was trying to get it out. If it had been a fresh hole, I would have seen dirt around the hole and wouldn’t have walked right over the top of it.

As I said in the beginning, life keeps you on your toes and humbles you. I went from the top of the world, playing in the snow to wallowing around in the snow to get my foot dislodged from a badger hole. And that is rural life!

Continuing my writing voyage

I’ve just finished book 2 in the Spotted Pony Casino Mystery series, House Edge. While I had a premise for the book, I still needed to figure out a way to work the title into the story. After all, I’d decided from the onset of this series that the titles would all be gambling terms. Which makes coming up with story ideas a bit more complex, than coming up with the story and then the title.

The premise of this book was set around the controversy of breaching dams in Idaho to help the native fish reproduce. A summit is held at my fictional casino and one of the main speakers is murdered. The title House Edge has many ways it could be played in this book. And as usual the way I had planned to play it out ended up not being the way I did it.

Which is normal for my thought process. I make a suspect chart when I start a story. I have the idea of how a person is murdered and then I plan out who I think is the murderer. But over the course of writing the story and adding in twists, the real killer ends up being someone other than the person I started with. So the murderer is usually a surprise to me as well.

The fun part is when I go back through to add in the clues to point to that person, I discover I had already sub-consciously added them.

While I usually make each story, even in a series, a standalone book, I have an altercation in this book that plays over into the next book. It just felt right to set it up as a scene in this book. I don’t usually do that, but it felt right to do it this time.

Do you like it when a series starts something even if it seem insignificant in the book at the time and in another book you’re like, “Oh yeah, I remember when that happened?”

Here is the blurb for House Edge:

Book 2

Spotted Pony Casino Mystery

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

The suspects are many as it appears the victim was playing both sides of the controversial environmental issue. His actions caused a domestic dispute between the victim and his spouse, drawing a crowd of spectators on the casino floor.

Could someone have used the scene to set the wife up? Or is the wife the killer?

Slack Week between Holidays

Daughter and son-in-law packing their Christmas tree we cut down.

This week between Christmas and the new year gives time to stop and reflect and look forward. While the days seem to be lost during this time, I think it’s because we give ourselves permission to think about so much that happened over the year and think about what is to come in the new year.

Reminiscing with family and friends over the holidays is a fun way to look back and remember good times. There is sometimes sadness mixed in with the good, thinking of people who are no longer here, but there is always the brightness of knowing we have another year to look forward to.

Christmas in SE Oregon was white and cold. I loved it! There is nothing like a white Christmas to make the day feel even more festive. The week following is cold. It makes taking care of the animals a little more difficult. Water troughs freeze, the animals are cold and need extra food.

After the chores are finished, it is comfy to sit at my computer with a heater under my desk or in front of my sewing machine while I work on quilts. There is always something to do inside, if the weather outside isn’t pleasant.

I have a hard time understanding people who say they are bored. As a kid I might have uttered it a time or two but as an adult, there is never time to be bored. I can always find something to do. In fact, I never have enough time to do everything I want to do.

What do you do during this week between Christmas and New Years? Do you work, take a vacation? Maybe just spend your time when you aren’t working watching movies or working on a hobby?

The Best Part of This Season

Me in the forest-my happy place

I’m probably not the only person who can’t wait to get their Christmas tree up and decorated. For me it’s not just the tree with lights, sparkly bulbs, and tinsel, it’s the whole process of finding the right tree.

Earlier this week I went with my daughter and her family to get our Christmas trees. My hubby doesn’t like to go, but will if I insist. This time he happened to be out of town, so I hopped in with my daughter and her kids and away we went!

About 2 hours from where we live is the Malheur National Forest. There was 6 inches of snow at the Idlewild campground. The kids were ecstatic! These Alaskan grown kids love their snow! They hopped out of the van and started suiting up in snow pants, boots, coats, and gloves. Then they tied sleds to the back of the pickup.

We headed off on a forest service road toward King Mountain pulling two sleds and three kids. The first part of the road had mostly pines. We were looking for fir trees. At the same Y in the road as we’d stopped the year before, we pulled over and the kids started playing in the snow, building forts and snowmen, while the grownups and the littlest child headed out through the trees looking for the prefect Christmas trees.

Hiking through the forest looking for Christmas trees.

I found my tree first. Or at least I thought it was the tree I wanted. We cut it down, put the permit on, and hauled it back to the pickup. We checked on the kids, who were having a wonderful time and headed a different direction looking for a tree for my daughter.

We marked an X in the snow by one tree along the road and kept looking. We found a small grove of about a dozen trees. My son-in-law and I liked one but my daughter thought the one by the road was better. We hiked back to that one and she said, no, the others were better. So we hiked back to the small grove and she cut down the one we all liked that was there.

It was nice having helpers to get my tree.

When we returned to the truck, the kids were busy rolling large balls of snow and making snowmen. My daughter and son-in-law joined in helping one of the younger siblings make a big snowman. Once everyone agreed they were hungry and ready to head home, we tied down the trees, and set out the sleds so four of the kids could ride the sleds back down to where we’d parked the van.

Snowman in the works.
Enjoying my tree.

Back home, I hauled my tree into the house and realized it was going to take up too much room. After toppling it once, drilling holes and putting in limbs where there were bare spots, I decided to cut the bottom 3 feet off the tree to make it fit where I wanted in the first place. The limbs I cut off went to my daughter to make wreaths and boughs for decorating her house.

With my tree chopped down to a size I could decorate by myself, I enjoyed putting on the lights, ornaments, and tinsel. It isn’t a perfect tree, but it makes me smile when I look at it.

I hope you all have a special event you do each year that makes you happy!

A Joke Turns into a Book

The one question writers get the most is: “How do you come up with your ideas?” My latest release has a funny story behind how I came up with the plot for Churlish Badger.

When my husband and I moved to SE Oregon 8 years ago, he decided we needed a backhoe. Before long I knew how to run it and helped out with putting poles in the ground for both the shop and the hay barn. Because rattlesnakes are prevalent here, he also gave me a pistol to carry when I walk to use if a rattlesnake appears aggressive. He taught me how to use the pistol and I’ve become a pretty good shot.

The first time he was telling a friend about teaching me to use the backhoe and the pistol, the friend, said, “If you come up missing I’ll know what happened.” Which started my husband telling everyone if he goes missing, it’s because he taught me to shoot and run the backhoe.

This joke has been mentioned off and on over the last 8 years. And finally, I decided to use it for a plot in a book. Though the murdered victim doesn’t get shot. It was fun to use a family joke as the basis for Churlish Badger.

An abandoned vehicle…

A missing man…

Oregon State Trooper Gabriel Hawke discovers an abandoned vehicle at a trailhead while checking hunters.

The owner of the vehicle never arrived at his destination. As Hawke follows leads, he learns the man was in the process of selling his farm over the objections of his wife who said he would only sell over her dead body.

Continuing to dig for clues, Hawke turns up two bodies buried on the farm. Who killed the two and why keeps Hawke circling for answers, backing the killer into a corner.

Buy link:

This will be available in print soon.

Back in the Groove

At least I hope so! I’m trying to get back on top of my writing and keeping my with my blog, and everything else writing related.

Covid didn’t take away my time or creativity, it is having a teenager in the house again and attending all the activities that go with a teenager in sports and her last year of school. When I offered to take in our oldest granddaughter a year ago, after 20 years of no kids in the house, I had forgotten how much time and energy they require.

As I said, this is her senior year, and hopefully, after a year of getting back in the swing of things, I can get my writing back on track.

After taking an online workshop on book covers, I worked with my cover designer to rework the Spotted Pony Casino Mystery books. I went from this:

To this:

Trying to add more suspense/mystery, intrigue to the covers. And I feel keeping them clean and simple also helps the reader let their own imagination work more.

Besides we working the covers, I’ve been doing the final read through of Churlish Badger. Book 8 in the Gabriel Hawke Mystery series. This book will be available in ebook on December 1st. I’m excited for the ideas I have for the two books following this one. They will get Hawke back out in the wilderness tracking. One will be set in the Wallowa Mountains in a snow storm and the other will be set in the Montana Wilderness.

I have started gathering information on tracking in the snow and what pitfalls he’ll have to over come while not only tracking a person they believe is a killer but also keeping his significant other safe. I’m feeling the suspense of it already and haven’t even begun writing it!

Before I can write it, I have to finish up House Edge, which has an incident in it that will be the murder mystery in Double Down. Again, I am excited to begin writing that one, but it won’t happen until after I write Hawke’s book 9.

This is what keeps me writing and enjoying the whole process. I get excited about the plot or concept of a book and that keeps me pushing through each one to get on to writing the next one. I will continue to write until I no longer am excited about writing the next book.

Best Laid Plans

Sunday mornings are usually spent hiking on the hills and ridge on our property. I enjoy communing with nature and think about the past week and what I need to work on in the coming week. Today, I had finished my morning chores- feeding horses and shop cats, watered my outdoor potted plants- I headed up the hill behind the house and when I reached the top. I looked out to take a photo and…

The 2 to the right are escapees.

Of the 50+ cows that are being pastured on our hay field, 2 had crossed the fence at a low spot I had told my hubby about three days ago. To which he replied, “They’ll be fine.”

Backtrack several hours. Hubby left at 5:30 this morning to take a load of hay to a buyer three hours away. And he planned to spend the night with his mom because he has a dentist appointment in that area tomorrow.

As I stared at the 2 cows in the wrong field, the other cows were piling up at the spot where I’m sure the first two went through. I texted hubby. 2 cows are out. His response. Close all the gates.

I hopped in the Suzuki Samurai we call Sami and headed out to close gates. These are gates that lead from the field they 2 cows were onto the county road. As I headed to close the last one, I spotted the neighbor in his side-by-side with his dog, herding the 2 cows down the fence line to the gate into the field they’d fled. Hubby had called him to help. By the time I reached him, he had the cows in and the gate closed, with the whole herd pushing at the gate wanting out. We chatted a few minutes about how hubby and the person who’s cows they were, both knew about the low fence and had done nothing.

He headed home and I headed to the corral to grab an extra panel to tie up in the hole in the fence. I was able to slip it through the roll bars on Sami to haul it out to the spot. And using the ever present baling twine, I tied it up and hope it will keep the cattle in until they are removed this coming Friday.

It was not the leisurely morning I had anticipated with hubby gone. And as I told him. This morning is a firm reminder of why we not longer raise cattle. They always get out when hubby is gone!

At One of my Favorite Places

I’m spending a week at Rockaway Beach to get a book planned out. Not so much to work on the book but to enjoy the beach. 😉

I like the lines the water made from the different directions it flowed.

It is one of my favorite places to come. I enjoy the sound of the ocean, the power of the water, and the brine in the air.

I always take photos of the jellyfish. The ones I saw this trip had bright colored insides.

My first full day here was gorgeous with sunshine, warm weather, and activities all over the town and beach.

There was a show of kites flying at the center of town beach. The synchronized kite flyers were also there practicing. I have a video of that but I can’t figure out how to get it from my phone to here.

Today, my second day started out rainy and foggy, but is turning into a beautiful evening. There were kites being flown today as well.

I love the Oregon coast and my bi-annual trips here to write and soak up the ambiance.

Meet Brenda Whiteside

My husband is my consistent beta reader for all of my books. When he read my newest release, one of his comments, “I didn’t know you knew so much about architecture,” made me smile. Research, my dear. I believe a good fiction story has to have the details to make it real for the reader.

The MacKenzie Chronicles stories require me to research a wide variety of subjects, and, luckily, I have a connection to each one. That could be why I haven’t minded researching for this series. This part of writing used to be one of my least favorite tasks, but the subject matter for The MacKenzie Chronicles is right up my alley.

Pulling a few of the file folder names from my Research File: clairsentience, Jerome, AZ, auras, 1960s slang, hippies, 1920s architecture, flora and fauna, Jerome climate, 1970s, sun/moon, present day jewel prices.

I was born and raised in Arizona and have been in and out of the state all my life. My favorite area of the state is from central to north. We live in the high desert, and we’re only thirty minutes away from the pines of the Mogollon Rim, which mean snow in the winter. I’m inspired by this part of Arizona. The MacKenzie Chronicles is set in present-day Joshua, Arizona, an 1800s mining town, turned ghost town, turned hippie haven, and now a tourist town, hanging on the side of Spirit Mountain. The past always plays a part in the present.

Joshua, Arizona

My inspiration for Joshua and the stories of the MacKenzie family is a real-life Arizona destination, Jerome. Once dubbed “The Wickedest Town in the West,” the history is rich with tales of mining, brothels, and ghosts from another century. Add to that history the hippie settlers of the 1960s and 1970s who revitalized the crumbling town into an art mecca. The streets are stacked on the side of the mountain. There’s a jail still intact that literally slid down the mountain decades ago. Wine, food, ruins, and adventure await the tourist. The town looks much the same as it did in the early part of the twentieth century. If you get to Arizona, you really must visit Jerome.

Mystery on Spirit Mountain is book two in The MacKenzie Chronicles. You can preorder the book right now so it will be delivered to your eReader on September 15.

The past never sleeps.

The truth never dies.

Only Harlan MacKenzie can sense the troubled history of the Big Purple House. When he’s hired to restore the historical mansion, he doesn’t foresee the secrets—secrets that entangle his family in deceit and murder.

Phaedra is selling the house that has been in her family for decades. As her friends-to-lovers relationship with Harlan escalates, she puts her values on the line and chances losing him.

After a stranger comes to town, weaving her web of deception, hell-bent on correcting an old grievance connected to the house, dark revelations of the past implode the present. Harlan and Phaedra are thrown on a dangerous path, not only risking love but possibly their lives.

BUY LINK: https://www.amazon.com/Mystery-Spirit-Mountain-MacKenzie-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B09CP3BXVG/

And while you wait, I invite you to read the first book in the series, Secrets of The Ravine:

The lies can haunt.

The truth can kill.

When a ringer for her long-dead love walks into her life the same day skeletal remains are unearthed, Magpie MacKenzie can’t ignore the universe’s warning…solve the mystery or become the next victim.

After Lawyer Zack Peartree visits purportedly haunted Joshua, Arizona, he’s instantly drawn to the free-wheeling shopkeeper. His attraction thrusts him into a dangerous present embroiled in her past.

Using clues from her father’s life and Zack’s déjà vu moments, the couple plunge into a treacherous race to save love and avoid a murderous fate.

https://www.amazon.com/Secrets-Ravine-MacKenzie-Chronicles-Book-ebook/dp/B08GPRFJBT/

Brenda Whiteside is the author of suspenseful, action-adventure stories with a touch of romance. Mostly. She and her husband are gypsies at heart having lived in six states and two countries. For now, they’ve settled in Central Arizona, but won’t discount the possibility of another move in their future. They share their home with a rescue dog named Amigo. While FDW is fishing, Brenda writes.

Visit Brenda at https://www.brendawhiteside.com

Or on FaceBook: https://www.facebook.com/BrendaWhitesideAuthor

Sign up for my email newsletter: https://us3.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=4804e039587723cfe02e83f2c&id=5e4b22a4ac

Twitter: https://twitter.com/brendawhitesid2

Freezeout Trip

The latest Gabriel Hawke book I’m writing starts at Freezeout Trailhead in the Hells Canyon Wilderness on the Oregon side of the Snake River. An abandoned vehicle is found there by my character State Trooper Gabriel Hawke.

one side of the Imnaha store

While most of this series is set in Wallowa County where I grew up, I didn’t travel around the county as much as my brothers did. I tended to stay home and read, while they were out fishing, hunting, hiking, skiing, and other out door activities.

When I start a book, I look at the maps of the area, and use google earth to discover how or where I want the murder to happen. Then I use the maps, google earth, and hiking books to help me get a feel for the terrain. But it never fails, I always need to make a trip to the area to see it for myself.

That’s what my husband and I did a few weeks ago. We drove to Imnaha. It had been a long time since I’d been to the store and area. We went inside, visited a bit with the owner and I took a couple photos. Then we took the upper Imnaha road to Freezeout Trailhead.

Imnaha River

I was so good we made the trip. The area at the trailhead didn’t look a think like what I’d envisioned from the photos and google earth. It wasn’t as flat nor as large as I’d thought. When I returned home, I had to change up some scenes to accommodate the location and size.

loading ramp at the trailhead

Traveling up the road, alongside the river, we saw some nice farms and wildlife. Some of the farm ground would have been thrilling to try and farm back in the day they used horses. I would have been a bit leery of using modern equipment on some of the side hill fields.

Doe and fawns cooling their feet in the river.

We stopped at a Hells Canyon viewpoint, but it was so smoky from fires all over the Pacific Northwest that we didn’t see much.

Hells Canyon overlook

We could see how families would have lived off the land and enjoyed the solitary life at the bottom of the canyon along the Imnaha River. Since we were headed back to SE Oregon, we continued on up the river and on over to Halfway, Oregon. It had been years since we’d been to this town. Neither one of us remembered it being as populated. We remembered only a couple of buildings. Unless we had mistook another small town for Halfway. We’re still puzzling that. We are excited to go back there again and check it out more.

From Halfway we headed to Baker City and then on home. It was an 850+ mile round trip that weekend, but it was worth it for me to see the area I was writing about.

I love research trips!