Monday, April 29, 2013

Novel Research is Great Fun

My current work in progress is set in the ranching area around Chino Valley, Arizona. Chino proper is eight miles south of where we have our little family farm, Tortuga Flats. My hubby and I hopped on the motorcycle and explored the golden grasslands and juniper tree habitat where my hero, Mason Meadowlark, ranches. Kind of nice to be so close to my novel's setting for research. I thought I'd share our motorcycle tour with you.

Once we broke the confines of Chino Valley, we took Williamson Valley Road until the pavement ended. I'll be out of town and off line when this post goes live. If you want to comment, I'll be sure to see your comment but a few days late. Hope you enjoy the tour!

(1) Leaving Chino Valley
(2) The wide open spaces

(3) Large homes dot the prairie

(4) Foliage grows heavier
(5) Now we enter ranching territory

(6) More ranching

(7) And more ranching

(8) Land changes

(9) Ranching gives way to farming
(10) Pavement  ends
(11) Choices where the pavement ends           

The guy I sit behind!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Seeds Are in the Dirt! Tortuga Update.

This is not quite half the garden.
2012 On the plains in Northern Arizona, two families joined forces and began the trials and tribulations of building a small family farm with nothing in the bank but love.

It's getting clo...ose! The irrigation drip lines are going down. Most of the main garden is finished. The potato and squash rows won't go in until we actually plant. Three rows of seeds are planted - carrots, spinach, radishes and - oh gosh, I've forgotten. Everyone is in bed as I write so I can't wake up the hard working farmer to confirm what seeds he planted.

It really is exciting to see the changes between this season and our first season last year. Lots of lessons were learned. My guess is there will be more.

The babies are out of the house - baby veggies. They've been moved into the green house. Unfortunately, the temps started dropping at night after we moved them out. A few have frost bite but I don't think we'll lose them.
Now, and until it warms up at night, they are moved into the garage when the sun goes down. It's a pain because we have quite a few trays and they're getting big. A week or so more and we should be clear to leave them in the greenhouse.

Another new trick this year is planting marigolds in with some of the crops. Marigolds are a natural deterrent for unwanted bugs. And an added benefit is they attract butterflies.

Update on the Tumbleweed Wars. This picture is of a couple of the blackberry rows. Can't see any blackberry bushes? They're totally choked with tumbleweeds. After last weeks big burn, this week was even bigger. We burned four piles as big as the one pile last week. I really hate tumbleweeds. Getting them out of stickery blackberry bushes is really fun. In the process, I took a large blackberry thorn in my ring finger. Since it pierced my glove, it was hard to get out. My finger swelled so badly, I couldn't get my ring off. And it hurt!

Lastly, I'm happy to report my baby trees are adding more leaves.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Brutal Winds Bring Attack of the Tumbleweeds

2012 On the plains in Northern Arizona, two families joined forces and began the trials and tribulations of building a small family farm with nothing in the bank but love.

Burn tumbleweeds burn!
I wish I could capture the wind in a photograph to share. Even the dust blowing doesn't tell the story of how brutal it's been. Lance was sure the greenhouse was going to get uprooted and blown away. He and Frank grabbed everything they could think of to add extra weight to hold the frame in place. We had two days of really high velocity wind and when it was all over, Lance came up with a reinforcement idea that works. We've had two more days of awful wind and all is well. There are still a few finishing touches for the greenhouse before it's in use.

As tall as Frank.
We're in the middle of the Tumbleweed Wars. This will go on for at least another month. We no sooner get them all gathered up and burned when the wind comes up and our fences are lined with the scourge again. They look so messy to me. I hate them. And they're stickery.

Apple blossoms
If you've read my blogs from the beginning, you'll know that in our first spring last year I took suckers coming from the bottom of our fruit trees and ended up with fifteen new trees. From what I read, a fifty percent survival rate is common. At the end of summer, I was well above that and pretty dang happy. I didn't know that over the winter they were food for rabbits. Last year, I
Look close - it lives!

never saw a rabbit on our property. I suppose they'd moved out when the place was empty for so long. But they rediscovered us. I thought I might lose most of them. Not so! I started watering them and only a couple are lost to the damage. I think I'll get the fifty per cent survival rate. Although, as I type, we're due for a freeze tonight so not sure what that will do. We're more concerned for our big trees. Could be sad tomorrow.

Straps are now on the greenhouse.

Exhaust fans are in place.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Evil Makes My Job Fun...Uh-Oh!


I'm experiencing a new thrill in my writing - the evil antagonist. Everything I've written up to now has had an antagonist, but not like my new crew. Antagonists help create conflict which every story needs. The conflict helps keep those pages turning. But my antagonists have been lacking in true evil. Some aren't even close to mean or truly bad. They create conflict but not out of any purposeful malice.

For instance, in Sleeping with the Lights On, my redheaded Amazon sized stalker is a sexy female. She is daunting for Sandra, and she is certainly a schemer but not the chill provoker like a thoroughly nasty villain. She does wreck havoc and she has a gun...okay, better stop in case you haven't read the book yet.

A drug loving, female manipulator in the form of a famous rock star was the antagonist in Tattoos, Leather and Studs. He does present a problem for Rachael but her life is never in jeopardy.

The Morning After is ripe with misunderstandings creating conflict. antagonist, just a fun read about love at first sight.

A Rita Hayworth look-a-like and a hormone ridden high school senior are the antagonists in Honey On White Bread. Separately, they create obstacles and general chaos for Claire and Benjamin, but the danger is that of the heart and the happily ever after.

In my soon to be published short, Amanda in the Summer, the antagonist is a friend, a much loved friend. Kind of makes you want to cry. I won't say anymore about that!

So now that I've ventured into truly evil antagonist territory, I'm learning what I've been missing. I'm not sure what it says about me, but I love getting into these guys' heads. My series has a working title of Love and Murder so we aren't talking cozy mystery.

My first bad guy is intelligent but warped. Love has warped him. Oh sure! He thinks so. And to what length will he go for his love? I'm not sure his love would agree with his methods and ideas. He's an older gentleman so the trick is keeping him intelligent but demented. This is like exercise for a writer. Felt ever so good to stretch my ability and learn something for my efforts.

Number two evil doer is not so smart. He's fowl mouthed and down right creepy. I have to admit, I'm enjoying him even more than smart bad guy. His reasoning is exceptionally skewed. The challenge with this young man is presenting is cockeyed reasoning in such a way that the reader buys it, believes it and keeps turning those pages.

In the third book of the series, a woman has intruded into the story to be probably the worst evil in the series. Think Nazi, think no conscience. I'm rubbing my hands together in anticipation already. Bwahahahaha!

I'd love to hear what type your favorite bad guy or lady is. Intelligent? Obnoxious creep? Vamp?

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Thursday, April 11, 2013

Forget the Blonde Hair - I Am Indian!

 2012 On the plains in Northern Arizona, two families joined forces and began the trials and tribulations of building a small family farm with nothing in the bank but love.

Have you ever had a doctor ask why are you here with emphasis on the you? Every doctor I've seen at the Indian Medical Center has been anything but Native American, and they didn't give a hoot the mixture of my blood. I had an appointment with my first doctor that was actually Native American, and she didn't make me feel all warm and fuzzy. In her defense, once we got past my explaining why I had the right to be there, she was quite thorough. Maybe I read her wrong. I thank my great grand parents every time I need to see a doctor. I don't know what I'd do without the care I am entitled to at IMC. Certainly this primary care doctor will show her friendly side next time. Or maybe I'll find a way to bond?

Potato Rows
The potato rows are ready. We are a potato family, both Idaho's and sweet. Actually, I think the sweets have it in this household, 6-4. The dogs get sweet potatoes in their daily meals but Frank won't touch them. Potatoes freeze and can well. Our crop last year was less than hoped for thanks to a late freeze and blister bugs. This year, the plants will go in the ground a little later, and we know when to be on blister bug alert. Should be a good potato year.

The drip system arrived and Lance got the major lines run. We'll run
Drip System
the row lines as we plant. We have high hopes for this system. If we aren't flooding in between the rows we shouldn't have near the weed problem we had last year. The water will be more direct on the crop. Yea! I really hate weeds.

Drip System Line
I managed to clear half the tree wells in the orchard on Wednesday. Wild grass had claimed a lot of territory since the warmer weather moved in. I had less trouble with weeds than grass. The fruit trees are popping earlier than last year. Scares me. We could have a couple of more freezes before June. There isn't much we can do so we've had to adopt the attitude that we're lucky to get whatever fruit we get each year.

The people who lived here before us must not have ever flushed the hot water heater. For the third time in a year, our bottom heating element went
Frank and Lance work on rows

out. We finally got a technician that would talk long enough to tell us why. Well water is great but there is sediment that will collect at the bottom of a hot water heater. If you flush the unit a few times a year, you wash that out. If not, it becomes so clogged it fries the heating element. Frank tried to get out as much as he could but it's pretty solid. We'll see how long this one lasts but it's inevitable. I'm seeing dollar signs.

Tulips have bloomed

Flowers from our Austrian friends, Harte and Uli are coming up.
Flowers are blooming. Days are getting warmer. Tumble weeds are getting burned weekly. Won't be long before we have gorgeous sunsets over green fields of vegetables!

Monday, April 8, 2013


There are a few authors that actually like promotion, but most of us would rather get our hair styled by Donald Trump’s barber. Well, maybe not, but the point is we’re writers not promoters, and it’s so hard to figure out the what, when and where of promoting our books. Try to find stats on what works and what doesn’t work. Nada.

So take heart in that because you can do whatever feels comfortable and what works for you. No wrong or right. Here’s my list of the top ten do’s and don’t’s of promotion. Not necessarily in order of importance.

  • Don’t try to do it all. Pick and choose because if you try to join every loop, every social site, print every form of promo – guess what – not only will you never write your next book, you’ll go broke both financially and mentally.
  •  Do join Facebook. This is my personal social media favorite. Some authors prefer Twitter. Some do both.
  • Do blog. You don’t have to have your own blog. Find some blogs to guest on a couple of times a month. The best ones are not all in-your-face promo, but they invite readers to enjoy the banter or subjects of interest.
  • Do/Don’t be active on loops. Okay, I’m on the fence here. I belong to several loops and all I do a great deal of monitoring. I’ll occasionally comment and I like to support other authors when they ask. But if I spent my time commenting on all of them, my next book would not get written. So I monitor, have them on digest and I learn so much.
  • Do network. Join RWA, your local RWA or any of the other groups for writers. I know there are mystery groups and children’s lit groups. These groups keep you in the know and will offer more info on promotion and learning your craft.
  • Do be part of a critique group. I don’t believe I’d ever have gotten published without my critique partners input. This isn’t really marketing but then again, it’s a form of networking.
  • Don’t quiet your mother when she wants to tell everyone including the grocery store checkout lady that you’re an author. My mom has sold a good number of books for me. I did have to stop her when she found out Barnes & Noble by her house didn’t carry my book – she was going to buy some and put them on the shelf herself. My point is, encourage friends and family to talk you up.
  • Do have some bookmarks or post cards/business cards. If you haven’t published yet, have business cards anyway. Don’t get carried away – just a few. And get them from others in the business. Networking can never start too soon and these contacts may come in handy when you’re ready to publish. If you’ve published, get those bookmarks or post cards out there. I’m not a fan of spending money on any other kind of promo items. But this one is useful and sought after by readers.
  • Do have a professional looking web site, even before you’re published. If you have the time and no money, do it yourself. I’ve seen many good ones that authors have designed themselves. First study what’s out there so you know what works.
  • Do write your next book and the next and the next. The more you have published, the more you sell. One book is the best promo for the next one.
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Thursday, April 4, 2013

Look What Happened While I Was Gone!

2012 On the plains in Northern Arizona, two families joined forces and began the trials and tribulations of building a small family farm with nothing in the bank but love.

While we were in Laughlin, NV enjoying spring in the desert, things were happening on Tortilla Flats.

Tiller is kaput! It will cost more to fix than buy a new used one. Apparently, it had damage when we got it but no one saw that. Luckily we don’t need another until next year. Yea!

Greenhouse construction
Greenhouse is nearly done. The door has to be finished and the exhaust fans installed. Can’t wait to see it operational.

The plants on the tables in the house are getting big – at least I can see them now. In a few weeks they’ll go out to the greenhouse.

The first tulips opened. Always a good sign. I just wish they would last longer.

We have a couple of fig trees – we think. A neighbor told us that’s what they are. Last year they didn’t bloom and in fact were barely hanging on
Fig blooming
for dear life after the neglect they’d had from the house being empty for a year. This year we have flowers starting! Hopefully they aren’t blooming too early. 

Which is what the pear trees could
Bartlett Pear tree
be doing. Last year we didn’t have any pears or peaches because they bloomed in April. We had a freeze in May. It isn’t unusual for a mid May freeze here. Our plum tree last year had ONE plum. This year it already bloomed and died because of cold nights. So sad.

That’s a quick update. I’m off to the doctor at the Indian Hospital in Phoenix. My knee continues to give me problems and I better find out what’s wrong before I have to spend a lot of time stooping and bending to weed.

Baby Ambrosia Pear
P.S. Sadi is really growing leaps and bounds. I sold a Rosette to The Wild Rose Press. Satisfactory news all way round. And if I don't respond to your comments right away, I'm on the road headed back from Phoenix.

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Loudest Yell Gets a Story First

Today, I'm thinking about secondary characters - the supporting cast. What usually happens to me when I'm writing is that I form attachments to the people who populate the world of my primary characters. They have entire lives that my readers know nothing about. But I do. I'm wondering if when you read a book do the secondary characters ever interest you to the point you wish the author would tell their stories?

The only problem when this happens to me is that I might not have time to get into their story right away. I've decided (just today - you're the first to know) that I'm going to start making time. I might have other stories in my head that I need to tell, but I also owe it to my supporting cast members to not ignore them too long. Or at the very least, I will put them on my "To Be Written" list.

My partial TBW list to date:
Paulie - Remember Claire's best friend in Honey On White Bread, my1945 historical romance? Paulie was flighty, hard to please and had a huge crush on the guy that had a huge crush on Claire. All it got her was the loss of her virginity and a slap in the face with the knowledge she was nothing more than a stand-in for Claire. There is something brewing with the return of her father that left the family years ago, and there's a guy who worships the ground she walks on. Paulie has her flaws so I'm not too sure about telling her story - even though she's demanding I unleash her on paper.

Ruth - Ruth had a bit part in Honey On White Bread as the wise older sister of Paulie and Benjamin. She had short, bleached hair and smoked unfiltered cigarettes. Ahead of her time, she believed women could work at whatever they wanted and deserved equal pay. She was a waitress but intended on owning a restaurant some day. Sassy lady. Her story should be fun to write.

Phoebe - She's the best friend of the heroine, Lacy Dahl, in The Art of Love and Murder. This is kind of unfair to mention since this is an unpublished book and I've already started writing Phoebe's story, Southwest of Love and Murder. Phoebe murdered her first husband - on paper - but now he's actually been murdered, exactly as she wrote it. She's an artsy, free spirited writer and she's falling for an uptight, playboy rancher named Mason. There's lightening between them while they deal with a murderer.

Penny - Or The Black Fairy, as Lacy named her because of her goth attire. Penny is a very minor character in The Art of Love and Murder. Penny mans the front desk of the haunted hotel where Lacy stays in Flagstaff. We don't know a lot about Penny except she's likeable. She has told me about a man who comes to stay at the hotel who is down on his luck, a drifter. There's a mystery our little goth fairy gets deep into.

Dirk and Margie - I have to include both because I'm not sure who will take the lead. These are older characters, even for me to write about. I like older characters with all their history and experience. Dirk made a brief appearance in The Art of Love and Murder and has a bigger role in Southwest of Love and Murder. He's the father of Mason and Lacy's husband, Chance. He's a rough, tough ranch owner who has a sweet spot for Margie, who is a petite, spitfire of a rancher. They're in their early sixties, long time friends but ready for some romance - if they can avoid the dangers they face.

There are more but you get the picture. Lots of characters vying for attention in my head. I wonder who will yell the loudest once I have the two books I'm working on right now finished?

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