Never a Dull Moment

All my life, I’ve lived rural. The one thing about living rural, you have animals and chores to deal with every day. Those are never boring. This morning as I maneuvered the wheelbarrow into the corral with the calves hay, one tried to push it with his head, another was trying to eat the hay, one was licking my arm with his scratchy tongue and the fourth one ran circles around us, bucking and kicking.

A couple of calves and George

Then the horses needed fed. That required two wheelbarrow loads of grass hay in the run where they stay during the day and a forkful for George in the corner so the horses didn’t bother him.

Water troughs were filled and I wandered to the shop to check to make sure the cats had water and food.

Momma kitty and her 2 sons- Cautious and Curious

Once the animals were taken care of, there were flowers in pots to be watered and my raised vegetable beds to check.

We have started building a small pasture for the calves. Once it’s done, I’ll no longer have to take them hay but they will still get grain twice a day.

After the chores are finished, I come in the house, do household chores, and then sit down at my computer and write until noon.

I fix lunch for hubby, give myself a break until one, then get back on the computer unless hubby needs my help with something.

Then there is dinner and the evening chores. And in between I like to ride my horse, walk the hills and take pictures, and sew.

Jan and Patty

I don’t know how anyone can be bored, ever!

Photos to Covers

I find the best feature on my cell phone is the camera. I usually have the phone with me every time I step outside or go on trips.

That means I always have a camera. I enjoy taking photographs of nature. A billowy cloud can have so many colors and textures in it that I want a photo. The blue of the sky can capture my attention. The way the grass is leaning in the wind. Dust swirling or hiding the hill across the valley. A lizard, snake, horse, cat, bird.

Taken at the Oregon Coast

I can find many things to photograph. Buildings, rocks, hills, fence posts. If I see something unique, I want to capture it.

When I go places to research settings for my books, I take a ton of pictures hoping one will work for a cover of the book. When I am researching, I also take along the camera featured at the beginning of the post. Using the photo I pick, my cover designer then places the added elements the story needs.

Waterfall in Maui

I used a photo I took while in Kauai, Hawaii for the cover of Abstract Casualty. We, my cover designer and I, are currently working on the cover for Capricious Demise. I’ve scanned through all my photos and have found a couple that might work and have given her some ideas of some that can be purchased.

My photo with bird added

On the Gabriel Hawke novel covers, we add the animal that is in the title of the book. And maybe take liberty of adding a trail sign that wasn’t in the photo but adds to the “story” the cover tells. This was Murder of Ravens. The cover for Mouse Trail Ends the cover designer took a photo of mouse prints in the dirt and added a backpack and mouse. Rattlesnake Brother is produced from two photos I purchased. The steps of a courthouse and a rattlesnake. My jet boat trip on the Snake River doing research for Chattering Blue Jay gave me many photos to choose from. Once I decided which one, my cover designer add a blue jay to the photo in a realistic way. And Fox Goes Hunting, the cover photo is a photo I took while in Iceland. It is of the Krysuvik boiling pools. I purchased a photo of an Arctic Fox that my cover designer inserted in the photo.

Sometimes finding the right cover art can be as much work as writing the book. Don’t be me started on coming up with a good title!

June Adventure

After visiting my dad on Father’s Day at the Senior Living Center in Wallowa County, (where my Gabriel Hawke Novels are set) I headed to the setting of the next Hawke book.

While riding with a State Police Trooper also working Fish and Wildlife when I had the Hawke novels in their conceptual stage, the trooper pointed out a site that had been deemed an accidental death, but he thought otherwise. After he explained the whole thing to me and I saw the spot, I agreed with him.

Griz Flat Camp area

Ever since that ride-along, I’ve known that would be the scene of one of the murders that Hawke would help solve.

So, on the sunny June Sunday, I made a 93 mile loop to get photos of the area and acquaint myself with the roads and area.

The drive from Enterprise, Oregon in the NE corner of the state is pretty just about any time of year, but this time of year… the greens, the wildflowers, the fields, it is a visual delight!

Flora, Oregon

From Enterprise, I went north and turned west onto the Flora Highway. Flora is a small community that was a town at one time. The remnants of businesses, the school, and houses can be seen among the buildings still in use.

After Flora, I traveled through farm land and started down the steep winding Redmond grade to reach the Grande Ronde River. I crossed the river and continued into Troy, OR. The small community has houses, a motel, store and other conveniences for fishermen and rafters. Troy is set at at the crook of the Grande Ronde and Wenaha Rivers.

A photo from Griz Flat road toward Troy.

After taking photos of the campground where the murder will take place, I headed back on another route that followed the Grand Ronde River for several miles. I took a photo of a group rafting. The colorful rafts caught my eye.

Rafts on the Grand Ronde River

Along the way I had to stop and wait for cattle to move off the road. I thought it was a funny coincidence that when I came upon the cattle with white and black faces a song by Sia, the singer who wears a white and black wig, was playing on my radio. That’s why I took the photos of the cattle. LOL

It was a great day. I captured the photos I needed for the book cover and saw what I needed to see to write the book. Now to sit down and make my suspect chart and start pushing around ideas for a title. On the way home I toyed with Fire Ant Bites- but I’m not completely sold on it. I’ll have to play some more with ideas.

The drive was 90% gravel roads, which didn’t matter, I’m used to driving those. I went slow and enjoyed the tall green grass, the wheat and hay fields and even some cattle on the road.

My Birthday Month is Here!

It’s hard to believe that nearly half a year has gone by and most of it has been CRAZY! It’s June and that means it is my birthday month!

I was excited to have book 5 in my Gabriel Hawke Novels, Fox Goes Hunting, the book inspired by my birthday trip last June to Iceland, released this month. It came out on June 1st. Has had some great reviews, ones that made my day when I read them. I also received replies to my newsletter saying how much the readers enjoyed my stories to help them through these difficult times. Those made me choke up!

Then on June 1st I received an email from the Selfie Book Awards- this is a contest for self-published books. Murder of Ravens is in the top 5 finalists for that contest. I’ll find out later in the month who wins. The books were read by librarians and people from the book publishing industry. The reason I placed my book in this contest was the prize- $4000 worth of promotion.

I don’t have anything exciting planned for the rest of the month other than get the next Shandra Higheagle book finished and off to Critique Partners. Then I’m thinking about working on a novella in the Tumbling Creek Ranch series. Just to “clean my writing brain” from one mystery character to the next before I write the next Hawke book. We’ll see. It will depend on if the premise of the next Hawke book starts invading my thoughts more than writing the contemporary western romance.

I’m anxious for the weather to make up its mind if its going to be cold and rainy or hot and melting. LOL

Enjoy the beginning of June. Get out get some sunshine, check out the pretty flowers, and drink in the air. And if you can hike in the woods, go for it.

Sunday Drives

Since moving to SE Oregon, hubby and I tend to do more Sunday drives than before. Usually our Sunday drives are because it’s a holiday and we want to get away.

Mother’s Day happened to fall two days before our anniversary this year. Hubby asked me what I wanted to do for our anniversary. I said I wanted to travel a road I hadn’t been on before.

So Mother’s Day on Sunday, we packed up a picnic lunch, water for the dogs, loaded the dogs in the pickup and headed south.

Looking back the way we’d come.

Hubby had discovered a road that runs through BLM (Bureau of Land Management) which is public land from the end of the road that passes our property all the way through some hills and tail end of Steens Mountain to the road to Fields, Oregon.

We traveled that 25 miles in three and a half hours. The road was rough in places, but dry. Except where a creek crossed the road in one spot.

The first stop was to check out a canyon and bushes that were growing along it. There were cattle and Mikey decided to roll in a cow pie. We had to use up some of the wipes we had with us to clean him up in order to stand him being in the pickup.

The road continued up at a gradual climb. The juniper trees became thicker and thicker and a small creek ran alongside the road. We stopped at two springs just feet from the road to look. Hubby is fascinated by springs and wants to try and get one started on our hill where there seems to be more moisture in the ground.

Winding through the thick trees I noticed many of the trees, bigger junipers than I’ve seen before, were growing right out of what appeared to be solid rock. The hills on both sides of the road were solid rock and rock slides. Any vegetation had to find water in the cracks and crevices to survive.

One side of the rocky peaks we drove between.

Emerging from the trees there was a fair-sized meadow which we skirted and found green grass and a creek. Backtracking we went the other direction and came out along what had once been a huge lake. It was now dry with patches of grass and weeds growing in it. You could see that when the snow melted around the rim the water settled in the basin. The dirt was cracked. I couldn’t believe how large it was and that it was so high in elevation. Was it a volcanic crater at one time? How did it become a lake here, at the top of the hills?

the big dried up lake in front of us.

From the lake we headed to the top of a road that traveled down, down, down. Before heading down, we stopped and had our picnic lunch. The sun was warm, the bees were enjoying the lupines, and the dogs lay in shade of the pickup.

Harlie and Mikey .

Starting down, the sides of the road and up and down the hill were covered in wildflowers. Various yellows and first white, then yellow, and finally purple lupine. Hubby said he could smell them. I think my nose was stuffed up from the junipers…

Lupines

At the bottom we came out on the Fields road and headed to Hwy 78 and home.

Hubby laughed at me because several times as we drove toward home I said, “Best day ever!” Which it was a great day. But I remember saying the same thing when he took me up on the Steens Mountain to see the wildflowers one spring and then I believe I said it when we traveled up on the Steens for the fall colors, and when we saw some wild horses on one of our drives.

Yes, I have Best Day Ever, quite often! Do you like Sunday drives?

Double Anniversary Month!

Happy May everyone! This month has been very good to me in the past. I married my hubby and I published my first book in May. Both have been the best blessings in my life!

My hubby has always been good about not knocking me following my dream of being a writer. He encouraged me to take writing classes when the kids started school and later to pursue writing for the local papers. He paid for a lot of my paper, ink, and postage when I started out writing novels and submitting to publishers and agents. Knowing he wanted me to fulfill my dream has helped me to push harder to prove to him, he wasn’t wrong in giving the time, money, and space to write.

The other reason May is an anniversary month, I published my first book with Wild Rose Press in May of 2006. It was Marshal in Petticoats, a historical western romance. I went on to publish 9 more books with them before I took the Indie Author plunge and started publishing my books myself. I’m glad I did.

Because I went Indie, I can put any of my books on sale whenever I want. And to celebrate my anniversary month, I have 3 steamy contemporary western romance novellas in a ebook boxset for $0.99 all month long!

Love at Tumbling Creek Ranch

Three steamy contemporary western novellas set on a Dude Ranch in Montana following members of the Wallis family as they find love.

8 Seconds to Love

The bull rider brought into Jared McIntyre’s ER is the girl he couldn’t get out of his head the last fifteen years. During his tour in Iraq, he lost another thrill-seeking woman, and he isn’t about to let this one destroy her life.

Love Me Anyway

Melanie Trask ran away from an abusive husband and found a job at a dude ranch with a wonderful caring cowboy, Brett Wallis. When they can no longer deny their feelings, Brett offers to help her divorce her husband. But she has one more secret she hasn’t revealed…

The Wrong Cowboy to Love

Ruby Cutter allows her cousin, the bride, to give her a makeover for the upcoming wedding because she wants to catch the attention of her high school crush. But while she’s infatuated with one man, she may be falling for another… 

https://books2read.com/u/mv5w8X

Tink, she’s been a good dog.

Tink’s favorite spot

I’ve been going on walks every day. Sometimes I walk the hills on our property and sometimes I walk around the alfalfa fields. There was a time when I wouldn’t dream of going for a walk or riding my horse without my little shadow, Tink.

Lately, I let her walk with me to feed the horses and then put her back in the house while I tackle the hills or even any easy walk around the fields. At 14 1/2 she’s started to have issues. I feel sorry for her because she wants to go, but like this morning, I gave in when she howled because I put her in the house and was heading out to walk. I was just doing an easy walk so I gave in and let her come. She stopped at the halfway point and waited for me to come back.

Usually, I don’t like leaving her sitting like that. She is only a few bites for a coyote and an eagle could swoop down and pick her up, but hubby was harrowing the field and Harlie our big dog was running all over the place a like a lunatic so I felt nothing would venture down off the hill to get her.

When I came back to her, she started trotting ahead of me. Then she and Harlie became sidetracked by something that smelled good and wandered about four feet into the field. I kept on walking figuring they would both catch up to me. Harlie came running by. I looked back to see if Tink was coming. She sat with her back to me watching for me from the opposite direction. She’d lost track of where I was.

I’ve noticed this about her lately. When she barks to be let in the house, I open the door and she’s staring at the wall or a window, not the door. She has gone deaf and I fear she is now going blind, not to mention losing some of her other faculties.

She has always been an athletic dog. She is half Chihuahua and half Miniature Pinscher. She jumped up on beds, furniture, and just loved jumping up and down beside me when we’d go for walks. She loved climbing the hills, following me when I rode my horse, and chasing after balls.

These days, she acts as if her joints are stiff, if you pick her up just wrong she cries out, and yet, she wants to go on walks, gets excited if I get a horse out, and is the first to get us up in the morning.

We have five dog beds scattered around the house so she can lay in whatever room I’m in. She’s never been a snuggler, but I do miss her laying beside me on the couch or in my chair. She can no longer jump up on the furniture and doesn’t like to be picked up. So we watch her sleeping on a dog bed and remember the good times.

When I received her as a puppy and she fit in my hand, I had hoped she’d be around for at least 20 years. But the last couple of years, as she has gone downhill at avalanche speed, I fear she may not be around that long.

We have two other dogs. One is a mid-sized mutt and the other is a large border collie/boxer cross. Tink is the matriarch of the group. If they are on a bed she wants, she just walks up to the bed and they pop up and move. Both could do her major harm if they wanted to, but instead they let her do what she wants.

This is not only a musing of how my dog has aged, but a comment on how things change and we must adapt and change with them.

Happy April 1st!

Most people like to pull pranks on April Fool’s Day, but I have some great things going on today and they are all for readers!

First, I have partnered with other western historical romance authors to do a $0.99 ebook special today. You can click this link and it will take you to a page with all the ebooks on sale today for $0.99.

My $0.99 book is Davis: Letters of Fate.

Widowed with two small children and a ranch to run, Mariella Swanson knows she needs help, but isn’t sure her heart, or neighbors, will accept her marrying a stranger. When the greenhorn shows up, smoking a pipe and wearing a derby hat, she can’t help but wonder if agreeing to this marriage may prove to be her biggest mistake.

When Davis Weston receives a letter from his sister asking him to marry a friend, he scoffs at the idea. However, losing his wife and son has left him a lonely man, and the whispers from others that he didn’t do enough to save his family has gone on long enough. His arrival in Oregon may be worse—these neighbors are doing more than whispering. Guns and horses aren’t his forte. He’s willing to learn, but is he willing to love again?

Special Buy Link

The second fun thing happening today is an April Fool’s Party over at the Pioneer Hearts Facebook page. There is 12 hours of fun with the PH authors. I am scheduled 12:10 EST or in my case 9:10 PST. We are all talking about writing historical westerns and giving away gift certificates, books, and swag. Come on by and chat with the authors. It will be a good way to take your mind off of what is happening in the world for a while.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/pioneerhearts

I hope you join us for the fun and distraction.

Aloha! Abstract Casualty is Available!

Book 14 in the Shandra Higheagle Mystery series is now available. This book is set in Kaua’i Hawaii. I wrote it after my trip to the island last October.

I had a lot of fun when I was at Kaua’i looking for a way to set a book on the island. After I discovered an art show in Lihue that was known for bringing jurors from off the islands, I knew how to get my character to the island.

Then it was lots of what if’s and how about this? And I came up with a story idea.

I’m excited to say that one of my reviewers said this, “…a tricky intricate plot.” That one comment made me happy dance. That is what I try with all of my mystery books. To make the story complex, yet make sense. I want to the reader to be as clueless to the end as my character.

Here is the blurb, cover, and buy link that will take you to the ebook vendor of your choice.

Abstract Casualty

Book 14 in the Shandra Higheagle Mystery series

Hawaiian adventure, Deceit, Murder

Shandra Higheagle is asked to juror an art exhibition on the island of Kauai, Hawaii.

After an altercation at the exhibition, the chairwoman of the event, Shandra’s friend, arrives home with torn clothes, scratches, and stating she tried to save an angry artist who fell over a cliff. Shandra and Ryan begin piecing together information to figure out if the friend did try to save the artist or helped him over the edge.

During the investigation, Shandra comes across a person who reminds her of an unhealthy time in her past. Knowing this man and the one from her past, she is determined to find his connection to the dead artist.  When her grandmother doesn’t come to her in dreams, Shandra wonders if her past is blinding her from the truth.

https://books2read.com/u/4XXLke

How Fickle is Spring?

Everyone on social media was heralding the beginning of Spring. It’s here! It’s here! they exclaimed.

And I believed it was here. Hubby and I made a 3 hour trip on Friday to get our taxes done. Along they way there was a fresh sprinkling of snow on the ridges and mountains in the distance, but it’s still March. The higher elevations could still get some snow.

We had a beautiful weekend. Family visited. I rode my horse and grandchildren rode horses. We enjoyed the sun and the fun time outdoors.

Monday morning came. And there was snow. And wind. And a peek of sunshine. The snow melted. That’s typical for this time of year in the high desert.

Sunrise on a stormy morning.

Tuesday started with an inch of snow. Huge, fluffy flakes fell from the sky as I fed the horses and filled water troughs.

Jan eating under a lean-to.

Since I had to wait for the troughs to fill, I walked around enjoying the quiet of the falling snow, the large fluffy flakes, and taking photos. I love when the weather is like this. Not too cold, just enough to let you know it’s the perfect temperature for make my favorite fluffy flakes of snow.

This morning, we woke to an inch of snow and beautiful blue skies and sunshine! It is barely above freezing but with the sun and the rising temperature the snow will be gone soon and maybe, just maybe it will look like spring by this afternoon. You never know!

This is a photo of Jammer, an old mare and George our lovable donkey. They prefer being on the hill where they can scrounge for the new tender grass popping up and be spoiled with their daily hay.

We’ll see what the rest of the week brings. I’m hoping for some more nice days to ride my horse. But hubby says we are in for more snow and nasty weather until April 1st. Time will tell!

I hope everyone is staying healthy and following the guidelines for staying that way. Hug your loved ones, read books, watch movies and television, and stay safe.