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.

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?