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.

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.