Monday, December 31, 2007

My Kind of New Year's Eve

The quiet kind!

Tonight, I'll be dressed for a party--in pajamas. Guests include my dogs and cats. Refreshments: one cup of eggnog.

For me, New Year's is a reflective time. I like to think about goals for the coming year, and consider all the blessings and challenges of the one just past.

2007 was the year I became one of those people who say, "When Dad died..." Frankly, I'm still getting used to a world with no Skip Lael in it--never going to happen, probably. Dad was 81, though, and he'd lived his life to the fullest. His death was a natural passage, hard for all of us to bear, but not a tragedy. And sometimes, especially when I'm with the horses, or admiring the cherished saddle my 'little' brother, Jerry, tracked down and gave me for Christmas, I know Dad's near.

On another front--my career--2007 was a marvel. I hit places on the bestseller lists that I'd only dreamed about before. My publisher is excellent, and my readers--well, you're the most loyal crew, and I'm so grateful.

2007 saw the building of my barn, and the staff house next door is well under way. The horses came home--that was a very big thing for me. They were safe and well taken care of in the stable where they stayed--around here, we called it boarding school--but I missed them sorely. My heart catches when I look out and see them in the snowy pasture, so beautiful and majestic.

And there were mundane goals, too. I'd gotten behind with the doctor and dentist, and made up my mind to take better care of myself. I achieved that.

What are my goals for 2008? Well, first and foremost, I want to pour even more of my heart and soul into my books. I want them to be my gift to you.

I want to lose some weight and quit smoking.

I want to go back to the big rodeo in December.

Most of all, I want to remember to be grateful for all my blessings, known and unknown. We often think of our known blessings--but what about all the times God stepped in, in His mysterious way, and prevented something we had no clue was about to happen?

I enter 2008 as a grateful woman, and an inspired one. I know a lot of you are carrying tremendous burdens, like Shirley and Jim Morse, and facing them bravely. I may never get the chance to tell you in person, but I can say it here. I admire you. To me, you're the real heros and heroines.

Sunday, December 30, 2007


I don't normally blog on Sundays, as most of you know. Today, though, I received an email from a reader named Shirley. She's thirty, and her husband, Jim, is dying of brain cancer. I was struck to the heart by her bravery--she said she likes to read my blog because it reminds her that life goes on, and the joy lies in ordinary blessings. What courage!

This blog is for you, Shirley, and your Jim. You inspire me, and I wanted to share that inspiration with the rest of our group.

We're walking with you, sweetheart. Every last one of us.

May God hold you both in the warm palm of His mighty hand.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Still MORE snow

I guess the charm of all this snow could wear off--sometime. :)

For now, it seems magical, maybe because I'm one of those lucky people who don't commute by automobile. Just a hike to the barn, that's all I need to worry about at present.

I was keying in some changes to my October paperback romance, "The Rustler", this morning, and the fuel guy had the unmitigated gall--at least in Sadie's opinion it was gall--to pull in and refill the tank. She barked and barked, in her snug bed in front of the living room fireplace, alerting the entire household to imminent propane delivery. Silly dog. Unlike Yorkie Bernice, who will fling her small body at any intrusion, yapping her fool head off, Sadie prefers to simply sit tight and bay.

Anybody who says animals don't have distinct personalities isn't spending much time with furry folks. :)

Buck, my beloved old horse, is a staid kind of guy, laid back unless trouble comes.

Coco is the leader of the band, and she makes sure every other horse in the stable knows it.

Skye, aka the spotted horse, is beautiful--and vain about her looks.

April is shy and sweet.

Traveler, though gentle, is also stubborn.

ChaCha, my long-haired kitty, is regal and quite officious, willing to show affection only when there are no human witnesses around. :)

And Jitterbug, her sister, is a blabbermouth. Talk, talk and more talk, that's her M.O.

All these critters have one thing in common, beyond four legs apiece and fur.

They are deeply, permanently and completely--LOVED.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Badge, the Goat, and the Coffee Cup

My good friend, Debbie Macomber, gave me a terrific gift this year--a U.S. Marshal's badge. (My dad was a town marshal--very different from the U.S. variety) I thought it was a very good replica, but I should have known better. When I emailed Deb to thank her for this thoughtful present, an acknowledgement of how much I love and miss my dad, she replied that it was authentic.

Daughter Wendy and her fiance, Jeremy, donated a goat in my name. I love gifts like that--I really DO have mostly everything, and it's nice to know someone in need got something that will make their lives easier. Apparently, a goat produces a gallon of milk per day, and this family will be able to make cheese to sell at the market.

Niece/assistant Jenni presented me with another winner--a John Wayne coffee cup. It's sitting here on my desk now. There's a picture of Duke on the outside, and inside is my favorite quote from him. "Courage is being scared to death--but saddling up anyway." Ain't that the truth? Only a damn fool is never scared--it's how you deal with the fear that matters.

I got another late start this morning--went to the casino last night, and I'm up a thousand dollars--so I'd better get off this blog, push up my sleeves, and get some work done. As my dad always said, "We're burnin' daylight!"

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Snow, snow...

And more snow!

The draw is beautiful, and the flakes are coming down fast and furious. Larry is feeding the horses this morning, but I'll be slogging out to the barn later in the day. Horse care is hard work sometimes, but it's a chance to be with them, and enjoy their very special energy, so I love it.

Today, I'll be back to work on "Logan's Return", and reading through the manuscript of my October mass market western romance, "The Rustler."

In the meantime, the first Mojo Sheepshanks book, "Deadly Gamble", hits the stores today. It was out before, in trade paperback, but now it's regular paperback. If you haven't met Mojo, you're in for laughter, adventure and LOTS of romance. The second Mojo book, "Deadly Deceptions", hits the stores at the end of February--and it will be a regular paperback original, too. "The Rustler" will be as well.

In England and Canada, today is Boxing Day. I think that's a nice custom. Plus, it's a day to recover from Christmas. :) As I understand it, the tradition began with the moneyed classes boxing up their clothes and toys to make room for the new stuff and pass the pleasure on to the less fortunate.

Isn't that a lovely idea?

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Gift

What do you get for the woman who quite literally has everything? That's a dilemma my friends and family face every year, I think, and may I say, they always do a remarkable job anyhow.

This year, I really felt that I'd had all the Christmas anybody could ask for, at the NFR in Las Vegas. My brother, Jerry, and cousin, Steve, along with his wife, Deb, had such a good time there, thanks mostly to the generosity of Steve Miller. Seeing them so happy, and enjoying the experience so much, meant more to me than anything that would fit under a tree. I truly believed that.

And then, yesterday, Jerry arrived here, with Mom, his wife Anna, and their three magnificent children, Jerome, Chyanne and Sydney. They were all being very mysterious--I was to stay in the kitchen, no matter what. No looking from side to side, even. The kids were sworn to silence. I wondered, what on earth?

When Jerry finally came into the kitchen, after much ado at the front door and in the living room, and put an arm around my shoulders, I still had no clue. With Jerry still supporting me--and it was a darn good thing, as it turned out--I stepped into the living room and there, by the tree, was my dad's old saddle. I couldn't believe it! I have many pictures of it, on Dad's beloved horse, Peanuts. Dad and I used to ride together, even when I was little--I have pictures of myself as a two-year-old, sitting up there like I was Annie Oakley. His name--Skip Lael--is etched into the leather.

Well, I just burst into tears. As I've already said, I could not believe my own eyes. I knew it had to be that same saddle, and yet--how could it be? It seemed like a miracle!

Jerry tracked that saddle down, recovered it, and even built a sturdy stand for it. It's hard to say which I treasure more--the love and effort it took to do what he did--or the saddle itself, and the memories it brings back.

Talk about your magical Christmases!

I'm going to stop writing now--wish you a very Merry Christmas and all blessings of the sacred season--and head on downstairs to admire that saddle in the glow of the tree lights. Maybe I'll even forgive Jerry for burying my transistor radio in the backyard when he was ten. :)

Thank you doesn't seem like enough, Jerry. The gift goes way beyond the saddle itself.

And I guess I've gotten along pretty well without that radio. :)

Monday, December 24, 2007

'Twas the Night Before Christmas....

Well, the day before, anyhow. :)

As I write this, the sun has yet to rise, and my mind is turning toward horse-feeding. The tree is decorated, and there are wrapped presents tucked beneath it--and a few UNwrapped ones, as well, from me to me--a tooled leather make-up bag, stars and stripes boots, and two fantastic purses--3 out of 4 Montana Silversmith designs, by chance. I never got my cards set out, never mind writing my Christmas letter. There was just too much going on--or that's the excuse I make to myself, alas. Around now, a lot of my sentences seem to begin with, "NEXT year, I will...."

Shop earlier.
Decorate earlier.
Get my Christmas letter written and my cards mailed out.

I think I said the same things LAST year. Why does Christmas always sneak up on me? After all, it's on the calendar, clearly marked as December 25. What IS my problem? :)

Christmas will come anyway, of course. Thank heavens. For all the trees and the presents and the parties and the foo-fal-ah, Christmas is an event of the heart. Christmas is the quiet knowledge that God loved us enough to come down here, in Person, and show us how to live. Love Him, love each other. It all boils down to that. Why do we get so caught up in crossing all the t's and dotting all the i's? In the process, we forget the important part, keeping track of all the ways we fall short and all the ways others do. We're so busy trying to follow rules, most of which we've invented ourselves, that we never Get It. We become Puritans, living in mortal fear that somebody, somewhere, is having a good time. Heaven forbid! This is Serious Business, living on Planet Earth.

Isn't it?

Or is it a journey, a day trip, one we could mostly enjoy if we just relaxed a little and stopped trying to muscle God aside so we could run the show ourselves. (You don't have to look past the 6 O'Clock news to see how THAT'S working out for us.)

Christmas--and every other day of the year--is about Grace. It's about Love. It's about Trust--believing that God knows what He's doing, however things may appear from down here in the thick of the ant-hill.

He knows. He loves. He forgives. He is the Granter of second--and thousanth--chances.

That's Christmas enough for this cowgirl.

Have a blessed one. And try to lighten up a little, will you? :)

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Tough Enough to Wear Pink

It's Saturday, but here I am. I wanted to tell you about 'pink' night at the National Finals Rodeo. Practically every competitor wore a pink shirt--and one man, the head of Wrangler, actually dyed his mustache pink! One cowboy wore pink chaps (this is pronounced 'shaps', by the way). Why all the pink? Because of breast cancer awareness.

Thus the slogan, "Tough Enough to Wear Pink". Nobody, my friends, is tougher than a bull or bronc rider. But there they were, wearing cotton-candy colors. It did my heart good to see that kind of caring and support for such an important cause.

And some people wonder why I love cowboys.

Go figure.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Behind the Chutes

A real highpoint for me, as an animal lover, was the behind-the-scenes tour I received, conducted by Cindy, who is in charge of protecting animals at the NFR and many other rodeos, and Dr. Doug Corey, a veterinarian with a lot of rodeo experience. The two of them work together to make sure horses, bulls, calves, etc. are treated well.

The broncs were all big and sturdy, and exuding health. The same could be said of the bulls--one of them took a dislike to me as I passed, lowered his head, and started pawing the ground. Cindy said brightly, "Just keep walking." Sure, there was a fence, but that guy didn't look like he'd have any trouble charging right through it. :) Maybe he knew my daddy was a bull-rider, back in the day! Interestingly, the broncs are lead-trained, which makes sense because there has to be some way to get them in and out of the horse trailer.

There is a wide-spread myth that animals are cruelly prodded to make them buck. This is NOT TRUE. Rodeo stockmen breed horses that love to buck to OTHER horses that love to buck. I've been around livestock a lot in my life, and I can tell you, these animals are probably in better health than I am.

Calf-roping troubles a lot of people, so I'd like to say a word or two about that as well. I asked Dr. Corey if it hurt them. He reminded me that calves are sturdy--this is not like roping a dog or a human being. They get right up as soon as they're been roped and tied, unharmed. Also, they are calves for a very short time, obviously. Precautions are taken, just the same. Dr. Corey told me that sometimes you'll see a calf carried out of the arena on a stretcher, but this usually doesn't mean they're hurt. It's meant to forestall any problems they might have later. For every calf roped in a rodeo, there are a thousand out there on the range--this is the only way to catch them. (They don't come when you call them.:)) Why catch them in the first place? Because they need shots and a thousand other things done.

Rodeo grew, of course, out of the way cowboys worked on the range back in the old days. It's a controversial subject, and there's no way of getting around that. It is also a way of keeping history alive. To me, it is simply not the same as the barbaric dog and cock-fighting, in which animals are pitted against each other to fight to the death. That IS against the law, and it ought to be. The broncs and bulls and especially the roping and barrel-racing horses are athletes--you don't need to watch them long to see how proud they are of their performance.

In any case, my intent is not to sway you one way or the other, but just to tell you how I see it.

One night during the rodeo, the announcer said the bull about to be released from the chute was a veteran, and this would be his last ride. He'd never been ridden to the buzzer (eight seconds), even one time, in all his career. In this case, the crowd was rooting for the bull--he had a perfect record, after all. (Bulls and broncs are alotted to riders by a lottery process. That's why cowboys talk about the bull or bronc they "drew".) Well, he held his own. Sent that cowboy sailing in about three seconds. Perfect record, 100 percent. There's an inate respect between animal and rider. (Anybody who DOESN'T respect a ton of horns and hot blood is a damn fool.)

Suffice it to say, cowboys and cowgirls are the LAST people who would stand by and tolerate cruelty to an animal--or any other living creature. Over and over, I was struck by their kindness, their generosity, their honor, and their love of the sport.

To change the subject, it's almost Christmas. I'm not ready, but then, I never am. Christmas comes anyhow, thank heavens. I'll be out there shopping today, along with all the other last-minute Lewies.

Be blessed--I'll be back on Monday, if not sooner. There's one more thing I want to tell you about. :)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

My Glamorous Life

This morning, before the sun was up, I was out feeding my horses--in my pajamas. This is a pretty fancy set-up--10 acre pasture fenced Kentucky style, with white rail fences, big main house and brand new barn. But there ain't nothin' glamorous about hauling hay. And you know what? I love it, though I admit I could do without the stall shoveling!

I promised to tell you about the two luncheons at the NFR--the first one I attended was The Heart of the West Awards, meant to honor those for-real cowboys and cowgirls, some celebrities, some champions, and many regular folks, who support the Western Wishes program. ( WW is like Make a Wish, except it's western--they send seriously ill children to rodeos, etc., where they get to hang out with their favorite cowboys, like Ty Murray, and singers like Reba McIntyre. It's a terrific cause. There wasn't a dry eye in the place as we watched film clips of children in cowboy hats and wheelchairs, meeting their heros and heroines.

The second big charity event was the Justin Crisis Luncheon, sponsored by the folks who make Justin boots. It should be noted that the Michael Gaughn family, owners of the South Point Hotel, donate not only the huge space required for this glam affair, but the food, too. All the profits go to help injured or ill rodeo cowboys and cowgirls. The Wrangler people, and a lot of others, helped out, too. There was a fashion show and lots--like over 200--of drawing prizes. Next year, I'll not only attend these wonderful luncheons, but participate.

Tomorrow, we'll talk about my behind-the-scenes tour at the Thomas and Mack Arena, where the rodeo is held. Since I'm concerned about the welfare of animals in all situations, this was a highpoint for me.

Are you ready for Christmas? I'm not, but, hey. It's all good. After I'd seen those kids who were granted Western Wishes, I had to say, as the Horse Whisperer, Monty Roberts did, at the same event, I don't have any problems. Never had, never will.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Rodeo Report 2

The 10th was a very big day. I met Steve Miller, my gracious host, for breakfast, and he brought along two female rodeo champions, Mary Ann and Kim. Mary Ann is a fourth generation buckle winner in the roping event, and Kim has been world champion--catch your breath--EIGHT TIMES. These two women opened up a whole new vista for me--professional women's rodeo. It doesn't get near the play in the press--and I think that's a shame. I intend to see the championships next year, and don't be surprised if a few rodeo gals turn up as heroines in my books.

After breakfast, we all went over to Cowboy Christmas, where I was a guest on the Flint Rasmussen Show. Flint is a former rodeo clown--talk about dangerous work--and one of the most engaging talk show hosts I've ever met. We had a load of fun up there on that stage, and was it ever fun to share the Tonight-Show style setup with Stran, a handsome and good-hearted rodeo champ, singer Tracy Byrd, and an up and coming young singer named Luke Bryan. This cowgirl had WAY too much fun, and the view, of course, was superlative. :)

My wonderful publisher, Harlequin, sent copies of the McKettrick books, and after the show, we gave them away, signed, at the Montana Silversmiths booth. That drew quite a crowd--I so enjoyed talking to veteran readers of my books and a whole new bunch as well.

I'm skipping around a little here, but I'll get it all in, I promise. Tomorrow, I'll tell you about the Justine Crisis Luncheon--an event to raise money for cowboys who are hurt or sick--and the equally wonderful Western Wishes foundation. Western folks do a lot of good work--there's a great deal of truth in the image of cowboys and cowgirls pushing up their sleeves and wading in to help in times of trouble.

Gotta go feed the horses. I'm sure they're listening for the truck to drive up.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Rodeo Report 1

I promised a report on the rodeo, and this cowgirl delivers on a promise--though it may take some time! On top of horse work--man, do they look beautiful out there in that snowy pasture--and starting the new book, "The Montana Creeds: Logan's Return", I'm getting to this blog later every day, it seems.

Jenni and I arrived in Las Vegas late the night of the 7th, caught a cab, and checked into the marvelous South Point Hotel, which is the center of all things rodeo. Fantastic place! It has it's own arena, with accommodations for 1400 horses, a bowling alley, a bingo hall, and a multi-screen movie house. No gambling that night--we were too tired from all the familiar hassles of traveling.

On December 8, I finally got together with the wonderful Steve Miller, of Montana Silversmiths, who made all this possible. (Steve is my ex-husband's first cousin--I knew him slightly, years ago, but we hadn't crossed paths in a long, long time.) In addition to his organizational genius, Steve is an accomplished sculptor. There's a full-page ad for his work in this month's issue of "Cowboys and Indians", the one with Trisha Yearwood on the cover. Steve's wife, Terry, is one of the loveliest women I've ever met.

I made my first visit to Cowboy Christmas, the big rodeo-associated gift show, that day and bought myself a pile of jeans. I visited a few of my favorite booths, too, but didn't spend as much this year as last. Guess I'm getting more conservative as I get older. NOT. :)

Judy Wagner, also of MSS, called to say she'd left something for me at the bell desk. Well, when I got there, I was bowled over! Here was the most fantastic western purse, just crammed with blue jewelry boxes!! Stunning stuff, all from the Montana Silversmiths collection.

There's more. A lot more. Tune in tomorrow!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Back from the Barn

Another morning feeding horses, which is why I'm late starting this blog. We have a little snow, and more coming on.

It's nice in the barn--if you don't mind the smell. When the horses hear the truck drive up, they know Room Service has arrived and start nickering and carrying on. I head on in and flip the lights on. "Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Breakfast is served."

Each horse gets a scoop of Equine Senior, a supplement to make sure their bones stay strong, etc., and then I start lobbing grass-hay into feeders. When they've had an hour or so to eat--right about now--I'll go back out and turn them loose for the day. Mucking out stalls is harder--LOTS harder--but I have Mary Ann to help me and, frankly, since my job is so sedentary, it's good for me to do some physical work.

I'm starting book one of the Montana Creeds series this morning--"Logan's Return". If you read "The McKettrick Way", you know who Logan is. :) If you haven't, I won't spoil it for you by telling.

I've been hearing a lot lately about the things Santa can't say. "Ho, ho, ho," for instance. What a wheelbarrow load THAT is. Ho-ho-ho is an old-fashioned way of denoting laughter--not a slur on the honor of womanhood. And then there's "Merry Christmas". None of us are supposed to say that, either, apparently. My feelings on that are not exactly politically correct. Freedom of religion is a right in this country--unless you're a Christian. Now don't go getting me wrong; I have infinite respect for other people and their right to worship as they please. I just want the same courtesy in return. And don't even get me started on taking "In God We Trust" off the money.

Before I get myself in so deep I need a shovel, let me just say, "Ho, ho, ho, and Merry CHRISTmas!"

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Back from the Rodeo

Well, my Canadian wrangler, Mary Ann's husband, Larry, is bunged up, so I'm back in the barn goddess business. This morning, bright and early, with the land blanketed in pristine snow, I headed for the barn to feed the crew--Coco, Skye, Buck, Banjo, Traveler and April. When they'd had time to munch their morning hay and a scoop each of Equine Senior, I went back and let them out to roam the 10 acre pasture. (Traveler came shooting out of that door like a bullet--best to stand back. :)) Later on, I'll be mucking out stalls and refeeding and all, with some help from Mary Ann, who is my first cousin as well as my housekeeper and right-hand woman, and that's hard work. Still, if you're gonna have horses, you've got to be able to do all the work yourself, even if you're lucky enough to have some good ranch hands around.

I've got so much to tell you about the National Finals Rodeo that it will take several days to cover it all, probably. Steve Miller and the crew from Montana Silversmiths ( did so much to make it an exciting experience, that I hardly know where to start. For now, suffice it to say, they treated me like a reining rodeo queen--and several members of my family, too. Thank you just doesn't seem like enough to cover all these people did!

When I arrived, Judy Wagner, of MSS, called to say there was something waiting for me at the guest services desk. I went down to investigate :) and there was this beautiful western handbag, completely STUFFED with fabulous MSS jewelry! I'm telling you, this was one happy cowgirl!!

But since it's Sunday, and I have horses to look after, I'll save stories for the coming days.

It was fun in Vegas, but it's even better to be home.

Stay tuned for the highlights!

Friday, December 07, 2007

Yeehaw! Let's Rodeo!

I'm off to Las Vegas this afternoon--much restored after a few badly needed days at home.

I've learned some lessons about pacing myself--learned them the hard way, as Laels are wont to do--and one of them was that I can't carry my mammoth laptop without a serious energy drain. So here's Plan A about blogging from Vegas: use the business center. Plan B is simply to write in my journal, as I do every day, and then catch you up on all the excitement when I get back home.

I return the sixteenth, and I'll hit the ground running, between last-minute Christmas doings and all, but I'm really chomping at the bit to get started on Logan Creed's book, first in the new contemporary western trilogy, to be published in early 2009. Did I tell you the Creeds are distant (kissin') cousins to the McKettricks? Wait till I tell you all about these wild Montana cowboys!

Vegas ought to be quite an inspiration, with all those cowboys walking around in their goin'-to-the-rodeo Wranglers, pressed white shirts, and Sunday best hats. For some reason, when a cowboy dresses up, he likes to wear a white shirt, and if it's real important, there might just be a crease ironed into those jeans.

Speaking of bits, we don't use them on the Triple L. Bitless bridles, all the way.

Right now, I'd better get off this blog and switch out my New York suitcases for my Las Vegas suitcases.

I'll be thinking about you. If no blogs show up, you can count on one the morning of December 17.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Cousin Steve

My "cousin", Steve Wiley, and his wife Debi, are off to Las Vegas for the rodeo finals today--they spent the night and just left to catch their plane. Steve is a rodeo fanatic, so it's a sure thing he'll have a great time. I get in on Friday night, and I'm sure looking forward to hearing about their adventures in the meantime. My brother, Jerry, gets in on the 9th.
Now, I put the word cousin in quotation marks above because Steve and I aren't really blood relations. But we grew up together, a whole flock of us, riding horses on the Wiley ranch outside of Northport and we think of each other as related, period. The Laels and the Wileys go back four generations, counting the current one. It was Steve's grandmother, Florence Wiley, who told me all those wonderful stories about the wild west--the day the Dalton brothers tried to rob the bank in Coffeyville, Kansas, the time Jesse James bedded down in the family barn. Gramma was an angel, with sparkling, warm brown eyes and a tender heart. No matter how many people showed up at the ranch table, she managed to feed them all supper. Since money wasn't plentiful, I often wonder how she did that.
Gramma's own parents had a very romantic story. Her father fought in the Civil War, Union side, and his best friend went with him. The friend died in battle, and made Gramma's father promise to take care of his wife and child if he got home safe. Great-Grampa Heritage did get home, and he married the young widow, raised her child as his own, and together, they built a family. The old rifle he carried into battle is still in the family.
Hmmmm. There could be a story in that....

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Change of Plan

I bet you're out there wondering, where's that blog for the first day in New York?

Well, I can't blog from New York, because....I'm still in Spokane. Did you ever have one of those trips where everything went wrong from the very first and somehow you just knew it wasn't going to happen? I had a day like that yesterday. I got up at three a.m., rushed around the house grabbing things I hadn't packed because I was working on "A Stone Creek Christmas" until around 7:30 pm the night before. Still, I managed to get as far as the airport, with my niece/assistant Jenni, only to find that the first leg of our flight had been cancelled--and the second was in considerable doubt, due to weather conditions across the country (and flight crews who must have slept in.)

To make a long story short, we all decided to take another run at this whole thing in the New Year. My publishers, editor and agent were all wonderfully understanding---sometimes a cowgirl just hits the wall.

I'm still going to the rodeo, leaving on Friday afternoon. I'll blog from Las Vegas. In the meantime, we'll just chat here every morning.

Okay with you?