This morning I drove down to the road to pick up my morning newspaper and the mail from yesterday. I know, I know, I should walk, but it’s a long way and generally I don’t, especially when it’s cold and foggy, as it was this morning.
As I was sitting in the car going through the mail before driving back to the house, the biggest dog fox I have ever seen in my life burst out of the long grass in the small uncut paddock just north of me, glanced at me and tore across the road to the tract of undeveloped woods—fifty acres or so of it—on the other side.
I have not seen him nor any of his family for a couple of years. I felt certain they were gone. I missed them, although I saw them seldom. Usually together.
I’m fairly certain this was the dog fox and not the vixen. I think dog foxes are generally bigger, and this guy must weigh forty pounds. Red foxes can apparently either be red or gray or occasionally black, although they are still called red foxes. This guy had a gray brush (tail) with a big white pompon on the end of it, but his body was flame-colored. Now, of course, I have to worry about his safety when he crosses the road. I wish he’d stay on my side. I wouldn’t mind his coming into my barn at night. Heaven knows I have enough field mice in my feed room to sate his entire family’s hunger.
I had been kind of hoping the foxes were still around. A couple of months ago when my friend Beverly and I were driving my big Zoe on the edge of the copse in my pasture, Zoe stopped dead, came up off her front feet, and backed up precipitously. Not a good thing when driving a four-wheel cart. A two-wheel cart backs fairly straight. Four wheels—not so much. I got her stopped, let her stand and huff a minute at what she obviously considered a safe distance from whatever she smelled, then turned her and went the other way. Later after we’d turned her out after driving, Beverly and I went hunting for the area that upset her. We found a lovely fallen tree that had created a natural den. Either the foxes and their kits were out for the day, or long gone. We never actually saw them, and the next time we drove that way, Zoe did not react, but trotted right by what we supposed had been a den.
So, spotting Brer Fox was a rare and happy event this morning. To the best of my knowledge nobody around here raises chickens or guinea hens, so poultry is not in danger from their predations. I prefer them to the coyotes, who are a danger to the pet dogs in the area. So, I will listen for their yips and worry about their road crossings and hope that they will let me enjoy seeing them in the mornings.
On another subject, my new romance, which is about skunks, is coming along. Somehow all my books seem to involve animals. Maybe that’s because I have a tendency to prefer them to human beings. Whoops! I never said that!
My newest book, The SEAL’s Return, is now available in e-book and large print paperback. It’s the fourth in the Covenant Falls series.
I thought I would take the opportunity here to tell you a little about my particular writing process. I like to create the perfect couple by creating the two people who are decidedly imperfect for each other.
When I start a book, I usually have a hero – or heroine – in mind and then visualize the polar opposite of that person. . My new book is a perfect example. I hope readers will wonder how former SEAL Jubal Pierce and ambitious Dr. Lisa Redding can ever resolve their differences.
I started with my hero (I usually do). . He had to be an ex Navy SEAL. I’ve wanted to write a story about one for years. But I never quite had the right heroine. Jubal Pierce has been a SEAL for eighteen years but during a mission gone wrong, he’s captured by group of terrorists who believe he’s a doctor and hold him prisoner to take care of their group. The experience has resulted in permanent injuries that keep him from rejoining the SEALs.
Being a SEAL is Jubal’s identity. His life. His family. His father – a rodeo rider – died when he was seven and he blamed his mother for his death and has not seen her in years. The only relationships he’s had is within the SEAL family. After his discharge, he’s rudderless and aimless until he stops for a few days to visit a friend in Covenant Falls.
Dr. Lisa Redding has worked most of her life towards being a doctor.
She is the adopted daughter of a couple who were told they could never have children, then twelve years later had first a son, then a daughter. Now she has achieved her goal: a prestigious fellowship in pediatric surgery at a prestigious Chicago hospital. But those plans are destroyed when both parents die, and she is sole guardian of her brother, Gordon, and sister, Kerry, both of whom feel she hadn’t been there for them when their mother died of cancer. Her life is turned upside down when her brother, now sixteen, is arrested as an accessory in car theft and drug possession.
She gives up the fellowship and takes a temporary job at a medical clinic in Covenant Falls to take her brother, Gordon who is on probation, away from temptation. Her siblings are decidedly unhappy and on the first night in Covenant Falls, Gordon starts a fire on the property occupied by newcomer Jubal Pierce. Wrong guy. He sees too much of himself in the kid and decides to straighten him…
Jubal is everything Lisa fears as an example for Gordon. He’s a warrior and she’s a healer who has seen too much violence in the emergency room of the hospital.
What’s more she has a fine future ahead of her after this one year in Covenant Falls, and Jubal is headed in the opposite direction. He has no idea what he wants. Although attracted to him, she’s repelled by his past and suspicious of the hold he seems to have on her brother. As for Jubal, he feels she’s doing everything wrong with her brother.
It wasn’t easy to get them together. It takes a few miracles for each of them. But then Covenant Falls is full of them.
You can read a excerpt at Amazon. Just go to Amazon/Kindle/The SEAL’s Return.
I hope you like Jubal and Lisa as much as I enjoyed creating them.
My peeps ROCK!
Thanks to EVERYONE who voted for MONTANA SECRET SANTA’s cover in the recent Houston/Bay Area RWA “Judge A Book By Its Cover” contest! This sweet, yummy cover by the very talented artist Rhian Awni took 1st Place in the People’s Choice division.
I couldn’t be happier. To celebrate, I’m giving away a fun little prize on the Love at the Chocolate Shop Facebook page. Click here to enter: LATCS. Winning name drawn Sunday.
Here’s the prize: two autographed print books, two recipe cards and a sweet little “Peace” bracelet.
Best of luck and thanks for your lovely support. Happy Friday!
PS: I got so wrapped up in the heady joy, I forgot to mention that Michelle Beattie’s gorgeous cover, In The Arms of a Pirate, took 3rd Place honors in the Judges’s Choice catergory. Way to go, Michelle and cover artist Kim Killion.
My big forsythia is blooming. So is my big baby’s breath. Tulip trees are flowering and everywhere I look jonquils are flowing over the pastures like liquid butter.
I realize it is ridiculous to hate spring. If I lived where I used to in St. Paul, first, I would still be battling blizzards and sub-zero temperatures. Second, I would not be dreading summer. We have had barely two days of real winter this year. In those two days my bathroom pipes froze and had to be replaced (expensively). Today on the twelfth of February it is raining and seventy degrees. There has not been near enough cold weather to kill the bugs from last year. That means I’ll be battling everything from fleas and red wasps to those little greenhead flies that bite like rabid Rottweilers. And we will probably top ninety-degrees sometime in early May, to be followed by a hundred plus in July, August, and yes, boys and girls, September.
Of course, we may still have an ice storm or two—enough to kill the peach blossoms—but for all intents and purposes, winter is past. And boy, do I hate summer. Several years ago my horse trainer and I flew to Maine to check out a horse (which I bought and still own) in August. The water in Casco Bay was still too cold to swim in. I needed a sweater over my polo shirt after dark. People actually ate outside in the evenings and picnicked at noon. I tried out the horse (my big 17.2. hand Sailor) without breaking any kind of sweat but the terrified kind. There was invariably a breeze coming off the water. The way summer ought to be.
And is not down here.
Of course, Maine has to contend with winter. Worse than winter is springtime/mudtime when the bears wake up ravenous to eat anything and anybody they can catch. Moose wander into people’s kitchens. Black flies swarm into eyes and mouths. But it is actually feasible to sit on the front porch in the evenings. I don’t even sit on mine at six in the morning. By the time I finish feeding the horses at eight I am dripping wet—and so are they. And with global warming, it’s getting worse. But I intend to try enjoying the short little springtime that we DO have down here. Who knows, I may actually try to grow something… Nah, let’s not go overboard.
My other news is that I have received an offer for a three book contract. Yea! Now all I have to do is write the three books. That means that no matter how hot summer is, I will probably be hunkered down beside the air conditioner. Actually, that’s where I would be in any case, but now I have the perfect excuse to stay indoors. Wish me luck and put me on your prayer lists if you have them. Thank heaven I have the world’s most supportive critique group as well as the world’s finest editor. Between them, I can’t get away with anything!
I learned this morning that my beautiful, amazing cousin, Carol Bagby Gregory, who is four years my senior and lived with my family during my high school years while she was attending South Dakota State University has been moved to an Alzheimer’s facility, presumably to live out the rest of her life.
I can’t tell you how broken-hearted I feel. Carol bubbled with life, love, energy and joy from the moment I met her. Even before she moved in with us, I remember her taking me under her wing to explore her hometown of Rapid City, South Dakota, by bus–a first for a small town girl like me.
Her college years were a revelation and transformation for me. She brought fashion, flare, perfume and girly stuff into my life. She taught me how to wear makeup. She shared her amazingly well-stocked closet freely and took me shopping to help me find my own sense of style. With her guidance, I traded in my shy, nerdy cocoon for butterfly wings and self-confidence.
One of my most vivid memories is sitting with Carol on the floor of our kitchen, a tangle of arms and legs as we peeled apart each other’s split ends. My mother looked at us and said, “You two are like a pair of monkeys picking lice off each other.” Carol and I laughed so hard we wound up rolling on the floor in tears while Mom just shook her head.
I have tears in my eyes again as I write this. I will hold this memory for as long as I can, for Carol. I will visit her in my dreams and wish her Godspeed and tell her how much she meant to me. I don’t think I did that before it was too late. #ihatealzheimers #alzheimerssucks
The new anthology of short stories by members of Malice in Memphis, our mystery writers’ group, made it to the publisher on January 31st, the deadline we were given. Boy, does that feel good. Our president, Kristi Bradley, did yeoman service in collecting and organizing. All I did was edit the stories. This collection is tangentially about the hoopla surrounding Memphis in May, the month long festival including among other things, the Beale Street Music Fest and the Barbecue cookoff. I have no idea what this one will be called, so I can’t beg, plead, or threaten to get you to buy it when it comes out. We will be available on Amazon again, so keep us in mind.
The worst thing about getting everything together and the final edits completed is that I came down with my annual January cold just when I was finishing up. Nobody wants to do anything productive with a fever, all-over aches, and the nasty stuff that comes with a cold. Some things have to be done sick or well, however. Feeding the horses every morning comes at the top of my list, followed by feeding the cats and usually feeding me. Horses have an incredible inner sense of time. I feed at eight in the morning. If I am fifteen minutes late, they whiffle at me and stamp their hooves. Or, if the weather is nice, they hang over the fence like vultures. The cats are easier going, but I suspect that’s because they always have a supply of dry kibble available. The horses have big bales of hay in the pasture, so they won’t starve either, but they still guilt me whenever possible.
My hay man showed up last Monday to bring me two round bales of hay. I had not called him, but he drives by my house every morning on his way to tend his cows and always checks the level of my hay. He is a really good guy. As a matter of fact, I have a cadre of really good guys who keep an eye on me. I have a farrier who calls me when it is time to trim the horses. I have someone who cuts my grass and looks after the plants that I would probably kill otherwise. I have someone who mows my pastures when he thinks they need it, and a handyman who lives across the street and checks on me regularly. Kind people, all of them. And then there’s my son-in-law, but he goes above and beyond. He is not generally handy, but last week he installed two new fluorescent light fixtures—one in my feed room, one in my kitchen. I can actually see to cook, and with luck I can avoid any snakes that might set up housekeeping in my feed room where they can feast on mice. I still need a new door on my feed room, but he and I decided that was a job well above either of our pay grades.
Some of my friends resent talking to their children every day. They ought to be grateful. Mine call every day to make sure I’m still in one piece. It’s simple good manners to avoid giving your kin agita. I’m grateful they give a darn.
Now I know what the expression — It is what it is — means.
Just in the midst of trying to promote The SEAL’s Return and start a new Covenant Falls book, disaster fell.
I went to my bathroom Thursday (it seems a year ago) to change clothes for a visit with an eye doctor when my bare foot sank into the carpet and water bubbled up around it. .
Another step and more more water. A few more steps and I felt as if I were wading in a kiddy pool. Several minutes later, the wetness spread, covering the entire bathroom and most of my adjoining bedroom. It had been dry an hour earlier.
I know enough to cut off the water, but the valve was stuck tight. I called my plumber who was out of town and went neighbor to neighbor trying to find someone with steadier and stronger hands. Finally found a helpful soul at home and she tried to shut the valve to no avail. I called my friendly neighborhood handyman. He was on the other side of town. Then a second neighbor arrived and managed to cut off the water in the house.
This was just the beginning. Water suddenly poured out from underneath the house down the driveway to the street. Called the water company to turn off the water from the street to the house.
Called the insurance company and, to their credit, they had plumbers out in thirty minutes. They found what they thought was THE leak in the bathroom. Tore up the carpet. to get to it. By then the water was three inches high in the bathroom and it was spreading to the hallway. They made a temporary patch and, said they would return in the morning with a jackhammer to make a permanent fix.
Just as they were leaving,, two more men appeared at the door. They took all the clothes from the closet and dumped them on my bed and, tossed the wet items in big black bags. They then pulled up all the carpet in the bathroom and half in the bedroom. Just as they left, two additional guys appeared and brought in giant blowers to dry everything out for the plumbers the next day.
Okay. my dogs and I could survive a night in the tiny guest bedroom that was also nearly filled with stuff from the bedroom. Problem was there was no water. I figured I could survive until the next morning when the plumbers would fix the leak.
The plumbers arrived the next day as promised, jackhammered a huge hole in my bathroom floor and turned the water back on. No more water bubbled up from that leak, but water rushed from under the house toward the street.
After a conference, they decided the leak in the bathroom was the result of a more major pipe leak somewhere under the house. They searched for five hours to find the main leak. No luck.
More people arrived but they were puzzled as well. The only thing they could suggest, was employing an expert who was said to be very good in locating busted pipes under houses.. There was only one problem. He was booked up until Wednesday at 1 p.m., and he apparently was the only person who had this particular talent.
Meanwhile there would be no water for the duration. The insurance company offered a hotel room, but that wouldn’t work. I have two dogs, one of which is old and sick and on steroids which means she has to go out every two or three hours. I have puppy pads all over my house just in case of an accident. I don’t think a hotel would be as understanding as her owner.. And no way would I leave her in a kennel.
I also have a lot of writing to do. I do not write well away from my work station, which is a desktop with research books and notes scattered around me.
But there would be no water. No baths. No washing of dishes or clothes. None at all for at least five more days and quite possibly longer..
A helpful plummer asked whether I had a friendly neighbor. I happen to have a very wonderful one. He suggested connecting two hoses and connecting them to the outside faucet of my house to the outside faucet of my neighbors. When both are turned on, water flows from the neighbor’s house to mine It even goes to the hot water heater. He didn’t advise drinking it, but said I could use it for every other purpose. My neighbor readily agreed. (My mind immediately went to a great scene when I want the hero and heroine together in some unique way, but I digress).. .
It worked, until the the hoses froze.
But today at noon, they thawed out. I have water again. Of sorts.
The last two days, of course, were lost, work-wise. So will much of next week, even if they do find the errant pipe. Giant blowers are still blowing in my bath and master bedroom. The guest bedroom is so full of stuff from the other two rooms that my dogs and I can barely wriggle through to the bed.
But it is what it is. Great summation.. Nothing you can do about it.
And there is one bright spot. I have a great scene building in my writer’s mental file cabinet.
I’ll keep you posted.
Contests abound, but one of my favorites is the Houston Bay Area RWA “Judge A Book By Its Cover (JABBIC). And this year MONTANA SECRET SANTA, my lovely, innovative original watercolor cover from artist Rhian Awni, made the cut.
Color me delighted!!!
Did I tell you I called my editor at the last minute in a panic when I saw the first draft and realized I’d left off an important element? “We have to put a jacket on the beagle. No jacket and I’ll get roasted by dog lovers for abusing my beagle,” I cried. Next version: the beagle has a jacket. Whew! Kerfuffle avoided.
I also love how the artist captured the longing of someone being on the outside looking in and the hopeful patience of the dogs!
I’d so appreciate your kind vote–and while you’re there, check out these other great covers from Tule Publishing. You can vote for as many as you like!
Click here to: VOTE
Have a great weekend, everyone! Happy reading!!
Join Harlequin and I as we celebrate Valentine’s Day with a #HarlequinSecretValentine giveaway! Enter for a chance to win one of three copies of His First Choice along with a secret (a book from one of my favorite authors) Valentine!! Just click above to enter! Then visit the Harlequin page on Goodreads to enter for many more #HarlequinSecretValentine offers!