Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Taking Hold

The support emails that have been coming in since yesterday's blog have really helped.
Regarding smoking again, my brother Jerry said, "Remember, failure isn't failure unless you don't plan on trying again." Isn't that great?
My sister Sally and her intrepid husband Jim are on their way up from Salem for a New Years visit. I can hardly tell you how much that means to me right now.
As you all know, I miss my dad. But I know what he'd say to me right now, because he said it during so many other difficult times.
"Take hold, Sis."
That's what I'm going to do. Take hold, do whatever I can right now.
Yesterday, because I felt so blue, I made myself write 20 things that are good about this situation. (Being snowed in, with more storms on the way, and being depressed.) You know what? I DID come up with 20. In fact, I could have done even more.
There are always things to be grateful for. It just takes a little more work when you feel the way I'm feeling now.
As for the List of 20, that's a technique Debbie Macomber and I gleaned from a long-ago Brian Tracy seminar. We've both used it to great effect--especially to come up with story ideas. I've written about it before, I'm sure, but just in case you haven't heard about it and it would come in handy, here's how it goes:
Whatever the problem, goal, etc., you get some paper and a pen or pencil and ask yourself, What are 20 things I could do about this...?
Then you just write. There's only one rule, and that's no judging. Anything goes. The first few answers will probably be ridiculous, and that's okay. Keep going. You'll get to the good stuff if you just keep writing.
That's my truth for today. I still feel pretty rocky, but I'm determined to Take Hold.

Monday, December 29, 2008

I Promised...

That I would tell you the truth.

I'm smoking again.

As the song says, "Life ain't easy for a boy named Sue." And it's not easy for the rest of us, either.

Without making excuses, I can only say that due to a series of personal disappointments--all of them relatively small, interestingly enough-- and this endless snow, I need a way to ease stress.

I'll try again, when I feel better, but right now, I need to smoke.

As you've no doubt guessed, I'm suffering from depression. I'm getting help. It's a hard thing to admit, because I'm a tough ole cowgirl, and a proud one, too. But I'm hurtin' for certain, and right now, that's my truth. Even though I've never met the vast majority of you, I feel that we're friends, and I want to be honest with you. After all, some of you are probably struggling with the same things, and if you need help, please don't be too proud to ask for it.

I miss my dad something fierce. It's been two years, come June, but not a day goes by that I don't wish I could see him again. I know he'd tell me to 'tough up', but he'd put his strong arms around me, too.

I'm trying, Dad.

So that's how it is, on this ridiculously snowy morning. Maybe tomorrow, my truth will be better.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

Here's wishing each and every one of you the merriest, safest, most wonderful Christmas possible.


Monday, December 22, 2008

The Weather Outside is Frightful...

But it's also beautiful.

The other morning, I was writing away in my journal, here at the kitchen table, and caught a flurry of movement at the edge of my vision. Lo and behold, four of my horses dashed by, through the 18-inch snowfall, and they were a breathtaking sight. I was awhile appreciating that, however, because they weren't supposed to be on the loose! Turned out, while Larry the Canadian Wrangler was moving the tractor either in or out of the pasture, they made a break for it. The snow was so deep, they couldn't have gone far, but I was a little panicked nonetheless. I hurried into jeans, sweatshirt, boots and heavy coat, but by the time I'd waded through knee-deep snow, Larry had already rounded them up. They were pretty proud of themselves, and I think the Great Escape did them some good.

Everybody's been on extra snow duty around here, especially Larry. He's been plowing, shoveling and snow-blowing practically 24/7. Bless his heart, he's been a real trooper!

Wendy and Jeremy may still make it up here for Christmas. There's another doozy of a storm on its way--due Christmas Eve, according to the weather reports. Much as I'd love to see them, I don't want them taking any risks.

Amid all the discouraging images of semi-trucks off the road, travelers stranded in airports for days, and all the rest, there are the heroes and heroines of ordinary life, shoveling out their neighbors' driveway, stopping to help a motorist in trouble, picking up groceries and medicine for the elderly and the disabled. Difficult circumstances bring out the best in so many people, don't they?

As for my plans, I THINK I can get out to do a little Christmas shopping today. And I mean to work on my book, too. One of the furnaces isn't working, so I might need to wait around for the repairman. He was here over the weekend, believe it or not, but didn't have the part he needed. It's pretty cold, except upstairs, where I still have heat. Not that I'm complaining--I'm glad to have power. This is life in the country!

I truly hope that wherever you are, you and family and your pets are warm, with a kettle of soup simmering on the stove and plenty of light. If loved ones are traveling to join you--or vice versa--may all be kept safe on the journey.

All this reminds me of another pair of stranded travelers, long, long ago. They couldn't get a hotel room, either, and bedding down on the floor of a crowded airport would certainly have been an improvement over dirty straw...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Christmas Letter

I know a lot of people make jokes about the Christmas letters they receive, tucked inside a cheerful card, but I happen to love them. I like to read the story of that family's year--the graduations, the trips, the accomplishments, the moves. The best ones include pictures--little girls in tutus, boys in baseball uniforms, the whole family smiling broadly at the Grand Canyon or in Disneyland.

I always intend--long about September/October--to get started on just such a chronicle to send out to all the friends and family I seldom, if ever see, because we all have such busy lives. But there are always forty-three million things to do--and they all need to be done now. For the past several years, the LLM Christmas letter just hasn't happened.

This blog-letter will, I hope, express my love and gratitude to all of you.

2008 was a wonderful year, but challenging in many ways. There was a great deal of construction, and while I'm glad to have the new barn, fenced pasture, and a house for Mary Ann and Larry to live in, the whole thing took a toll.

There was a lot of travel, too. I did a 2 week tour promoting "The Rustler", in addition to attending BEA and RWA and flying up to Toronto for a planning meeting with my wonderful publishers. My sister Sally and I went to London and Paris together, and we had a wonderful time. I also took a tour of Civil War battlefields with my cousin, Doris and then enjoyed a few days of Southern hospitality with more of my "Rebel" cousins, Jim and Gladys Lael. Sally and I are planning another trip this year, to Prague. I've always wanted to visit that city.

The dogs, cats and horses are all still with us, though getting older (aren't we all?) but my old Buckaroo seems to be winding down. It's going to be a real hard thing, letting him go.

There's a big Christmas tree in the living room, and although we've just had a record snow-storm--there hasn't been one like it since 1950--and we were snowed in for 2 days--blessings abound. The power stayed on. There's plenty of food. I'm still hoping daughter Wendy and future son-in-law, Jeremy, will make it here in time for a family Christmas, but there is more snow falling as I write this, and we may get as many as nine inches. Although I'd love to see them, of course, I surely don't want them traveling on dangerous roads.

I have so much to be grateful for, and I certainly count all of you--friends I've met and friends I haven't, family members--among my many blessings.

May your Christmas be joyous, and your New Year the best one ever.

With love

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Snowed In!

We've had something like 12 inches of snow in the last 24 hours!
Last night, when I let Sadie out into the yard, she looked like that dog burrowing through the snow in the video that's been circulating on the internet. It is literally three inches over Bernice's head. Thank heaven the horses have their barn--they may have to stay in today.
The TV news people are advising everyone to stay home--hey, no problem. I'm not going anywhere. :) It's at times like this that I'm REALLY grateful to work at home.
So, the Christmas tree is lighted, the fireplace is going, and I'm planning to spend the day in Stillwater Springs, Montana--the setting of my current book.
Wherever you live, I hope you'll stay warm and stay safe.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Computer Wars

Okay, so this technology stuff has pretty much got me whupped. :) But once in a while, along the way, I win a small victory against one of these darn things.

I've probably mentioned how much I love my iPod, and how I use it every day. Well, somehow, during the Great Switcheroo, when I replaced my writing computer with a brand new one--and therefore got myself into the Old Dog Learning New Tricks mess--1)my whole iTunes library headed for the dump and 2)I thought my iPod was fried. Yikes! Turns out, iTunes doesn't store a person's library of music and books, etc., out there in Cyberspace, like Audible and the Teaching Company do.

Fortunately, my iPod was okay. It was also the sole repository of my pretty gigantic collection of music (mostly country) and books (mostly history). So yesterday, being home alone and therefore liable to act on just about any kind of crazy idea, I decided it must be possible to transfer the contents of the iPod onto another computer somehow. (Dangerous thinking. If it hadn't worked, my books and music would have been GONE.)

I did a websearch, downloaded a program, took a deep breath, and plugged in the iPod. (Last time I did that, the little 'Do Not Disconnect' sign came on and didn't go away until the battery ran down and the thing had been recharged. When I switched it on and the contents were still there, there was some Glory-Hallelujah shoutin' around here, I'll tell you!)

You've probably already figured this out, but it WORKED! It took hours--but it worked!

Lately, I'm surprised when something works. :) Murphy's Law has been in full swing.

I wrote a full chapter yesterday, in my pajamas.

I might do the same thing today, who knows? (I'm alone again and unsupervised. :))

As for the crazy stuff? I reckon it will keep on happening--I believe they call it 'life'.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Cold, cold, cold!

On days like this, I wonder why I ever left Arizona. There is cold and there is COLD.

As I mentioned a few days ago, the waterers out in the barn are not working because they're frozen. A plumber is coming today.

And now the furnace doesn't seem to be working. It's 56 degrees in this kitchen.

On the positive side, I'm still not smoking. In fact, I don't even think about it most of the time.

My 8 new bookshelves will arrive today, to be set up in the office. A major step toward my #1 goal for 2009, which is to eliminate clutter and Get Organized.

Today, though, I'm frazzled. I'm having another Murphy's Law kind of day.

I know from experience, though, that this too shall pass.

Soon, I hope.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Murphy's Law

It's in full swing around here--Murphy's Law, I mean.
I'm trying to write a book.
I'm trying to do this on new computers, with Vista and Word 2007.
This old dog is having a hard time learning new tricks!

But you didn't log on to this blog to hear me complain. :)

Maybe I can do better tomorrow.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Safe, Sound and Snowy!

I almost ended up spending last night in Seattle, as the Spokane airport was experiencing both fog AND snow. By the grace of God, I got back to the old hometown, and there was Tom, my friend and usual driver, waiting with a smile and an SUV. (And some muscle to lift the bags I brought back home from Vegas. Let's just say I did a little shopping. :)

Sadie and Bernice threw the usual welcome home party, and they've been sticking to my heels ever since I came through the door. The cats haven't decided whether or not to forgive me for being away so long. :) I haven't been to the barn yet, but I understand the horses are having a Snow Day and staying inside, where it's snug.

While I was away, my wonderful crew, Mary Ann, Larry the Canadian Wrangler, and Jenni decorated the house for Christmas! It was pure joy to come home to a tree shining with lights and ornaments, and there were other touches, too.

Since it's Saturday, I won't keep you long. Just wanted to make sure you knew I got home all right, after more than a week of fun at the Big Rodeo.

Stay toasty.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Barn Goddess Heads Home

Today's the day. I'm going home--and even though I love Vegas (all right, I don't exactly love it, because you never know what time of day it is and things are pretty crazy, I DO love the rodeo)--I'm ready. I always enjoy all the good, salt-of-the-earth people who come to watch and to participate every year. Western folks are friendly, and always have a 'howdy' to spare and I never come away without a bunch of new friends.

I went to the Justin Crisis Luncheon yesterday--socially, that's the highpoint of rodeo week. Harlequin provided a table for me and 11 guests, and of course every seat was full. My only regret is that it was so loud, what with some 1500 people in attendance, that I couldn't chat with all of my guests. Not without yelling, anyhow. :)

Every table was graced with a lovely flower arrangement (and that's a LOT of tables, my friends), courtesy, once again, of my Harlequin family. Diana Wong, from the marketing department, flew in to help Nancy Berland make sure everything went as it should. (No small job, since Murphy's Law is probably more operational at a rodeo than anywhere else. :)) I so enjoyed getting to know Diana, and seeing phone pictures of her adorable new puppy, Finnigan. (Don't you love it? Finnigan Wong?)

There are lots of drawings for prizes at the luncheon--great stuff donated by all sorts of western companies who exhibit at Cowboy Christmas. And I actually WON something! (I'm lucky on slot machines, but raffles? Forget it.) I got a fabulous red coat AND a beautiful coffee table book about dude ranches!! The best part was going up to claim the prizes from my funny friend, Flint Rasmussen, host of the well-known radio show, Out of the Barrel. (Flint is a former rodeo clown--my old daddy always said that was the most dangerous job in the arena, and I agree. Even on this trip, I saw the clowns save a cowboy's bacon at least twice.)

I can't possibly thank everyone who should be thanked--not on today's blog, anyhow. But I want to extend a very special thank you to Rich Vincent of the Professional Rodeo Cowboy's Association (PRCA around rodeo folks.) He's a wonderful guy, and last year took me on a tour behind the chutes over at the Thomas and Mack arena. I couldn't make it again this year, but Diana is going, courtesy of Rich. Thanks, Rich. There will be some books in the mail for you.

Well, look at the time. I've still got to get my suitcase to shut on all those great things I bought over at Cowboy Christmas. Soon as I pull onto the Triple L, I'll head for the barn to see the hay-burners, then on to the house, where Sadie and Bernice will throw me a welcome-home party to remember.

Talk to you on Monday.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Cowboy Town/Tough Enough to Wear Pink

Cowboy Town is a state of mind, not a place. It's wherever old-fashioned manners are practiced--opening and holding doors, saying "Yes, Ma'am", tipping a hat, giving a hearty handshake and looking the other person straight in the eye when you do it. It's having your word, as the old saying goes, be your bond.

I was on the Flint Rasmussen show yesterday, over at Cowboy Christmas, and just like last year, it was a kick. Fellow guests were country singer Susie Dobbs, Amy Wilson, Miss Rodeo America, 2008, and a handsome bronc buster named Kelly Timberman. Afterward, I signed books at the Montana Silversmiths booth there at the trade show, and lots of people complimented me on the show. As I said then, Flint is a pro. He makes it easy for the rest of us to look good.

I went to the rodeo again last night, with Diana Wong, of Harlequin, who flew all the way from Toronto to attend. We got to sit in one of the 'suites', thanks to Steve Miller, who makes so many fabulous things possible. Diana had never been to a rodeo, and here she was at the National Finals. :)

It was a special night for another reason. It was Tough Enough to Wear Pink night, meaning all the cowboys wore pink shirts, supporting the fight against breast cancer, and lots of folks in the audience sported pink, too--including me. Over $200,000 was raised through the dedicated efforts of a lot of good people.

And I guess I'd better go. Today is the Justin Crisis Luncheon.

I'll tell you all about it.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Vegas Daze

This ole cowgirl is getting a little punchy! I'm used to keeping pretty early hours, on both ends of the day. Now, I have to have a wake-up call so I don't sleep until noon!

Yesterday was a full day. Having already hit CowboyChristmas, over at the LV Convention Center, I decided to scope out Cowboy Marketplace and another show at the Sands--the name escapes me. I love looking at the work of all those fabulously talented artisans. Always find something different.

I was back at the hotel by 1pm, in order to have lunch with my long (loooong) time friend, Robyn Carr. (Virgin River series.) Robyn brought daughter Jamie along, and granddaughter, Layla. We talked a mile a minute, catching up. Later, my buddy Steve Miller, whose sculptures you see on the site as prizes, joined us, along with two friends of his. And then, later still, Nancy Berland and her sister, Carol, showed up, too.

Carol and Nancy and I almost immediately headed for the Strip in their rental car. (No, we didn't gamble. We went to Fashion Show Mall. :) ) I'd found these fantastic jeans--Not Your Daughter's Jeans, they're called, at Dillard's, on a previous visit, and I wanted to stock up. :)

Back at the hotel, we had a late dinner with Mary Ann Miller, who is a fourth-generation World Champion roper. (And gorgeous, to boot.)

I'm on Flint Rasmussen's radio show today, so when I got back to the room after dinner and a lot of visiting, I curled my hair before finally tumbling into my bunk, practically with my boots still on.

After all, a girl has to look good on the radio.


Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Still in Vegas--I think

I wrote yesterday morning, here in my room, then took a welcome break and made a run over to the Las Vegas Convention Center, to take in one of several Cowboy Christmas type shows. Given my usual shopping M.O. at this event, I behaved myself pretty well--one spectacular western jacket, several pieces of modestly priced handmade jewelry, a wonderful purse with 'spirit horses' painted on the flap, and a few Christmas gifts. Upon returning to the hotel, I spruced up a little and met a new friend, Maxine, for dinner. Maxine runs a store called Buy the Book, in Ft. Mohave, Arizona, and she and her husband drove over two hours to get here. We had a great time and a great meal and I signed some books.

Around nine p.m., I got back to the room and fired up this computer. The first chapter of a new book is always a challenge for me, especially when I can't print it out and read the hard-copy, and I have yet to figure out how to spell-check on the latest unnecessary, pain in the backside version of Word, which is imposed on anyone who purchases a new computer, whether they want it or not. (Like Vista.) Hello, Microsoft? This ole dog doesn't like having to learn new tricks when the old ones worked just fine, thank you very much.

Don't get me started. I call this the New Coke Phenomenon. "If it works, let's change it."

Darn, I'm grumpy. I sent in the chapter. Now I need to get out of this room for a while. :)

Monday, December 08, 2008

Today's Report from Vegas

I'm still a little hoarse from all that cheering last night at the rodeo, but now that I've had my coffee, and a room-service breakfast is on its way, I'm rarin' to go.

No goin' anywhere, though, until I finish the chapter I promised my editor.

Once the pages are written, I think I'll cab it over to Cowboy Christmas, one of several big trade shows affliated with the rodeo, and see what the well-dressed cowgirl is wearing this year. :) After that, I'm meeting with a bookseller to talk about setting up a signing at her store next time I'm in town.

I'll be on Flint Rasmussen's show December 10, live from Cowboy Christmas, so be sure to listen in if you can. Flint is a real kick (I had an absolute ball on his show last year) and a mainstay in the rodeo community. He does a lot of charity work and will be the MC at the Justin Crisis Luncheon on the 11th. These folks raise a LOT of money every year for cowboys who've been hurt or taken sick, and it's cause that is very dear to my heart. I'm honored to participate--my wonderful publisher (Harlequin, of course!) is providing all the centerpieces this year, and a book for everyone who attends. Is that cool, or what?

Don't you worry. I'll tell you all about all of it, right here on this blog. (But it might be later than usual, because this is a wild town where folks stay up late and I'm not worth a hoot until I've had my coffee!)

Breakfast is here.

More tomorrow.

Found in Las Vegas

Tonight, I'm back in touch with my Inner Cowgirl. :)
Thanks to my good buddy, Steve Miller, of Montana Silversmiths, I was able to attend the rodeo. It was exciting, as rodeos generally are. Brooks and Dunn sang the opening song, "Cowboy Town", and the arena rocked!
December 7, many of you will remember, is Pearl Harbor Day. Well, the NFR planners had a real surprise in store tonight--Lee Greenwood came out of nowhere and sang "God Bless the USA". We had all been given flags on the way in--now we knew why! We all stood--thousands of us--and belted out the song right along with Lee, and that was one of the truly great experiences of my life, but it got even better. Representatives of the Armed Forces marched out into the spotlights, and the cheers of appreciation and gratitude rained down. I'm telling you, my eyes were wet, and my heart was swollen with pride. And STILL it got better!!! Because two veterans of Pearl Harbor joined the celebration--survivors. All the while, scenes of the destruction of December 7, 1941 played on the big screens suspended above the arena.
And there, amidst the smoke and the wreckage, was Old Glory, flying proud.
Still free, after all these years.
I wanted to share this moment with you--I wish each and every one of you could have been there, too.
It was beyond fabulous.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Lost in Las Vegas

Well, I'm sitting on the plane flying down here on the 4th, and I get to thinking, why am I making two trips? That's crazy.
So, when I get to the hotel, those folks are kind enough to change my reservations. I'm good right through to the 12th.
I went and did Les Kincaid's 'Wines and Vines' radio show the same night I flew in, and I had a wonderful time. It's not every radio interview, as I told Les, that provides wine and dinner during the actual show. I learned a lot and met some very interesting people.
But as my travel-addled head begins to clear, I remember--yikes! I promised my beloved editor an important piece of writing by the 9th--next Tuesday--and I don't have my computer along, since I only planned to stay one day. So here I am in the business center at the hotel, and I've already done two pages of the chapter.
Trouble is, I don't have the outline, either, so I don't remember some of the minor characters names. As we speak, Mary Ann is searching the house, so she can fax me the info. And the business center closes at 4 pm.
Still crazy, it seems.
But I'll get this chapter done if it kills me.
And it might.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

No Moss

There's sure no moss growing under this cowgirl's boot-soles.

I'm off to Las Vegas in the morning, as I've mentioned, and I'll be on Les Kincaid's show, for the CRN Radio Network. I did some checking, and if you're so inclined, you can catch the show live on CRNI.net, Thursday, Dec. 4, airing from 7-8 pm Pacific Time.

This first jaunt is such a quick one that I'm not sure I'll get to scope out Cowboy Christmas, the big western trade show that is a highlight of the rodeo for me. I'll surely play a few slot machines, though and do my best to catch my busy friends, Steve and Terry Miller, for a howdy, if not a glass of wine.

In the beginning I planned to just stay in Vegas the whole time, from the 4th through the 12th, but it got to seeming like a long old stretch away from home and critters--and the new book I'm trying to start--so I made some changes.

I've received a number of encouraging emails about hanging in there with the not smoking, and I'm happy to tell you, I've got five smoke-free weeks under my belt. Thank you for rooting for me that way--it means a lot.

Buck is still holding his own. I ordered him an extra-thick blanket, though, to keep those old bones as snug and warm as possible. It's sunny here in Spokane today, but cold, and bound to get colder. A true Buckaroo, the old man of the barn wants to be out with the rest of the band, as much as possible. Boss Lady's standing orders: What Buck wants, Buck gets.

I'll blog tomorrow if I possibly can. Might have those weird little symbols in it, though, because I'll be using my Mac. Dern this technological stuff--can't live with it, can't function in the real world without it.

Hold steady. It's a windy trail, partly up hill. But we're going to make it, because we're pardners.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Modern Yarbros

It would seem from your response that you're up for some Rowdy-Wyatt-Gideon descendents. I might even throw in some descended from Ethan and Levi, the handsome but deadly identical twins who didn't get books of their own because they were truly bad men.

We'll see. :)

I'm gearing up for the first of two runs to Las Vegas to take part in this year's National Finals Rodeo celebrations. I was going for one long haul, but dern it, I've got books to write, and I'm way behind. (Don't worry, I'll catch up!)

Things are crazy around here, which is good, because that's normal. :)

More tomorrow. I hope.

Stick with me. This is rocky ground we're riding over, but there's fine country ahead.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Randy and me

Seems like I'm a little less crazy every day--thank heaven. The words of one of my favorite Randy Travis songs keep running through my head--Trying' to explain while I'm insane's the hardest thing I've ever tried to do....

Randy kept me company all weekend, blaring out of my iPod while I painted a badly-needed bookshelf for the alcove off the kitchen, where I do my journaling, devotions, etc.

Speaking of things that make me crazy, I thought I blew out my iPod last Wednesday night--that little "Do Not Disconnect" symbol came up and wouldn't go away. I was half-wild over that one, because I need my music. Finally, I had no choice but to just let the thing alone--and since I'm a fiddler by nature, that was tough--until the battery ran down. When I plugged the iPod in again, holding my breath, all my music and Civil War research books were there! Hallelujah!! Double hallelujah!

Yes, my iTunes library is still on my old computer. Which is over at Mary Ann's. I bought an external hard-drive to download all the info so I won't get another scare like that one. Yeesh. I guess I should have paid attention to that little prompt saying I ought to think about backing up my iTunes libary. Unlike Audible.com and the Teaching Company, my other two favorites, iTunes apparently doesn't store. Between those people and Paypal--don't get me started--this ole cowgirl has been tearing out her hair.

I read the editted version of next summer's Stone Creek western yesterday--"The Bridegroom"--and I loved it. I keep thinking, this just CAN'T be the last Stone Creek western. I was fresh out of characters--or so I thought. I'm writing about the modern-day O'Ballivans, after all--Olivia is the heroine of "Stone Creek Christmas", which is in the stores right now. Then it came to me. Ta-dah! What about some modern-day YARBROS?? Descendents of Rowdy and Wyatt and Gideon?

Would you like to read about some 21st century Yarbro men?

If so, send an email and let me know.

Now, I've got some writing to do. Cue Randy!

Friday, November 28, 2008


We got a skiff of snow yesterday, as a little Thanksgiving present. :)
I roasted a turkey yesterday, but never got around to doing the trimmings. Oh, well. It was just the kind of quiet day I wanted.
And I think I've turned a corner with the heebie-jeebies I was telling you about--the ones from not smoking. YEE-HAW! What a relief THAT is--there were times when I really thought I was going crazy! (All the more reason NEVER to let that habit get hold of me again.)
Every year I say I won't go out to the stores the day after Thanksgiving, BUT (and there's always a 'but'!) I think my fridge is dying. I've known I needed a new one for a while, but with everything going on, I kept putting it off. Think I'd better bite the bullet though.
I got some extra good news yesterday--my daughter, Wendy, and future husband, Jeremy, are 99 percent certain they can be here for Christmas!!! AND Jeremy's mom and stepfather may come, too. I'm jazzed! I could really do with a family Christmas.
Buck is still hanging in there, God bless his sturdy horse heart.
Sadie and Bernice are curled up on their downstairs dog-beds.
And man, that turkey smells good.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Notes

It's a quiet Thanksgiving here on the Triple L, and that, believe me, is a good thing. I could use some quiet, and so could the ranch crew. 2008 has been wonderful, but superhectic, with all the building and the renovating, the writing and traveling. Not that I'm complaining--but I could use a few dull, ordinary, noneventful months, and that's for sure.

I stopped smoking on October 28. That first week was easy, with the Chantix and all, and I wanted to shout it from the house-tops. This is the way, gang! If you're addicted to the noxious weed, as I was (and to a great degree AM), here's the path to freedom. (When I'm onto something good, I like to share it.)

The second week, the blues set in, and I mean big-time. So much for easy. I had to go off the meds, per my doctor--if you're taking Chantix, and you get to feeling depressed, or worse, you've got to cut out the pills right now, no ifs, ands or buts. The third week--the fourth--still hard.

Am I going to give up? NO WAY. I'll tough it out--that's the McKettrick (and Lael) way. My mind--and like most writers I spend too much time in my head and thus have a very powerful imagination, for good AND ill--rants and rages. It wants to smoke. That, it lies, will solve everything. But my poor, faithful body cannot speak, and of course, the body takes the brunt of any addictive substance. This time, my mind can rave all it wants. (Although I sometimes, in exasperation, tell it to shut the heck up!) This time, I'm looking after my body. Period.

It's a lot things, this process, but easy ain't one of them.

Still, I'm coping. I read more. I paint more. I listen to more music. I certainly PRAY more. I have my dogs and kitties and horses--and even the indoor animals are breathing better, bless their hearts. My home is warm and clean and there's a turkey in the fridge, waiting to be roasted. Trust me, I know how much I have to be grateful for, and I'm celebrating that.

The withdrawals, I figure, are like a case of the flu. Eventually, it will pass.

As I write this, I have a big canvas in the still-messy studio, slathered with gesso and slowly (SLOWLY) drying. (Did I ever mention that impatience is yet another of my many besetting sins?) I'm planning a mixed media piece, and I'll keep you updated on the progress--it might take weeks, or just days. If "Bless the Beasts" turns out as I envision it (or even close) I plan to put it up for auction of eBay or Etsy. If it sells, I will give the money to my friends at Spokanimal, a local shelter. They're doing good work over there, God bless them. Saving as many lost or disgarded animals as they can.

And I'm also trying to remember that I don't like what smoking did to me, and I don't just mean the smell, or the harm to my lungs and heart, or any of that. It made me weak, a prisoner to a stupid habit. I gotta tell you, that goes against the Lael grain. We're proud and we're stubborn, we Laels, and once we make up our minds about something, that's pretty much it. I will not be controlled like that.

You read it here first. :) And having you know will help me to stick to my guns.

So, yes, I'm thankful--today and every day. Also a little frenzied at times. And gesso-smeared. :) (I even had to cut some glue out of my hair the other day!)

I wish I could have word-painted a more Norman Rockwell-esque kind of blog today. Something with glowing faces gathered around a bountiful table and a big golden turkey on a platter. But the truth is, I'm in transition, and I think a lot of you can identify. Only the changes are different--the feelings are the same.

These are tough times. But we're tough people, aren't we?

So whatever your struggle is, I'm with you. You can get through it. You WILL get through it, because you always do, in the long run, don't you? Because deep down, where it counts, you're tough. (That's partly why you like the McKettricks, the O'Ballivans, the Yarbros and, very soon, the Creeds.)

And so, my friends, I say Happy Thanksgiving, one and all. From the bottom of my struggling, stressed-out but determined heart. Wherever you are, whatever you're celebrating, whatever you're trying to get through, may you be blessed. May you be strengthened. May you be thankful, as I am, not only for the obvious blessings, but the ones that are on their way to you right now.

Before I close for today, there's one more "thing" I'm grateful for.

All of you, out there riding the same trail. There might be some miles between us, but when we meet up in the pages of a book, or on this blog, or anywhere else, its like gathering around the same campfire to swap yarns and remind each other, even silently, that it's all about having sidekicks and showing up to do our part.

That's all we can do. But it's more than enough.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


This year's Thanksgiving celebration will be a quiet one, here on the Triple L. I'm roasting a small turkey, but there won't be a big sit-down gathering--everybody, including me, is just too tuckered out for that. There has been so much activity on this place over the last year--two separate construction projects, and now changing the downstairs area into an office and studio--all good stuff, to be sure. You'd better believe I'm thankful, but I'm also ready for things to calm down, as my mother used to say, "to a dull roar."

So I'm planning to sit by the fire a lot, and make a long gratitude list. Maybe I'll watch a movie or two--I love the old ones, from the 30s and 40s. In Northport we got 4 channels--ABC, NBC, CBS + the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Company). There were a lot of fishing shows on, it seemed to me, and things like Wild Kingdom. (I'm still trying to get over some of the images I saw on that show.)

It was a long wait until Sunday night, when Bonanza would be on. But once in a while, with the holidays approaching, I'd turn on the TV set and tumble right into something wonderful--like the June Alison/Peter Lawford version of Little Women. Or Spencer Tracy/Katherine Hepburn in absolutely anything. Or Cary Grant, an angel disguised as a bishop's assistant, with snow flakes gathering on the shoulders of his long overcoat...or Bing Crosby wearing a priest's collar and singing as only he could sing...

Call me old fashioned. Or just plain old.

They don't make movies like that anymore.

Monday, November 24, 2008

On the Upswing

I attended a mixed-media workshop at Spokane Art Supply this weekend, and it was really good for me. Great fun, and a good distraction from ongoing withdrawal symptoms. (Don't worry, I'm NOT going to smoke, if only because I don't want to have to go through the quitting process again. :)) I learned a lot, not only from our great instructor, Mary Jo McGraw, but from other people in the class, too. Nothing like a lot of theraputic painting-slopping and gluing to cheer a person up.

Bernice gets her stitches out today, and won't be a conehead anymore. That is going to be a relief to her and to me. The poor little mite has been a good sport, right along.

Buck is holding his own. So far, so good.

I was pretty bummed about my favorite TV show, "Ghost Whisperer", but it looks like they might pull that storyline out of the soup after all. :)

My new book, "A Stone Creek Christmas", will be in stores tomorrow. It's a fun story--the heroine is Olivia O'Ballivan, Brad's sister. (Brad was the hero of "The McKettrick Way".) Both Brad and Olivia are descendents of Sam and Maddie O'Ballivan, from "The Man from Stone Creek." Anyway, Olivia talks to animals--and they talk back. This particular book has a very special place in my heart--lots of great Christmasey stuff going on. "A Stone Creek Christmas" is a Silhouette Special Edition, and it has a terrific cover.

I'm loving the covers I've been getting. Wait until you see the Creed covers (The Montana Creeds, Feb., March and April!") And then there's "The Bridegroom"--Brad Pitt, eat your heart out. I may be prejudiced, but I think Harlequin/HQN has the best art department in the business!

See you tomorrow....

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Good Morning!

At least, it's still morning here in Spokane--I realize a lot of you are about ready to sit down to lunch. :)

It's a sunny day, and after several weeks of almost continual rain, I'm glad and grateful. I plan to take a brisk walk around my pasture after I finish here, and just enjoy breathing. As you reformed smokers and non-smokers will know, breathing clean, delicious AIR is a true pleasure. It lifts my spirits and my energy level, and certainly reminds me why I quit, and why I want to STAY quit.

I'm told it snowed in Toronto after I left. I thought about staying an extra day to shop and unwind, but I'm glad I didn't--for many reasons. I want to dive into writing my new book, and of course to be nearby in case Buck takes a turn for the worse. Right now, he's doing okay, but it's a day-to-day, even hour-to-hour thing.

Bernice only has a few more days before she can get her stitches out and stop being a conehead. She'll take her last anti-biotic tonight, and the swelling in her little face has gone down. Poor baby. With all that hair, it's sometimes hard to spot a problem, but Mary Ann, aka Old Eagle Eye, caught it right away. Sadie is perking along, her normal overweight beagle self, and the cats, Cha Cha and Jitterbug, are both healthy as ever.

Since giving up smoking, I've rediscovered books and music. Writing all day, and therefore looking at words, I'd developed a habit of listening to books on my iPod, just to rest my eyes. Now, I'm back to actual reading, because I need to be more occupied, and it's great. Recently, I've enjoyed John Grogan's (he of "Marley and Me" fame) "The Longest Trip Home", though it did make me cry, and numerous novels I probably would have missed otherwise.

Don't ask me what I think of TV these days! There hasn't been anything good on since HBO ran "John Adams". I liked "Ghost Whisperer", until the plot took a recent totally depressing twist and spoiled it for me. (OK, you didn't ask, but I told you anyway. :)

Make it a good day. I'll be back tomorrow, but heaven knows when I'll be coherent again.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Buck is Still Kickin'!

I just got home from Toronto, and as we drove in, I was thrilled to see Buck out there in the pasture with all the other horses, happily munching hay. Still, there's no room for denial here--he's old--at least 26--and in a tearful visit before I left for Canada on Monday morning, I told him not to stay here on my account if he needs to go. The vet says he's shutting down, and so does my friend, Karen, who is an experienced animal communicator. So I'm doing my very best not to Hold On, the way we do when we love somebody.

It was a rough day--traveling all day, after getting up VERY early, etc.--and I thought to myself that if quitting smoking is this hard, I'm not sure I can do it. I'd promised my daughter I'd call if the cravings got too bad, though, and since I was rushing from one plane to another, that didn't seem feasible. I took a long nap after I got home, and then indulged in my second favorite remedy, a hot bath. Lo and behold, no nicotine patch! No WONDER I wanted a smoke all day--my patch was floating around in my sweater sleeve the entire time! I'm sure one glad cowgirl--thank heaven I didn't light up! (For those of you who want to quit, I'm off the Chantix--I got the blues--but the nicotine patch is working for me.)

I'm planning to zap Buck with some concentrated Reiki--I've seen it work miracles with other pets--but at the same time, I'm determined to let go if that's what needs to happen. Keep the old Buckaroo in your thoughts and prayers, please. He's one faithful old horse, and I love him with all my heart. That's the second part of the sacred contract--the first part is, I'll be there. You have a home. You're mine and I'm not giving you up. The second is, when the time comes, I'll let you go with my blessing. Because bottomline, this is about what's best for the Buckaroo, not my grief over losing him.

Just the same, keep this cowgirl in your prayers, if you will. Ask God to make me strong enough to do the right thing--for Buck.

And thanks for being there, and for all your kind emails and notes. You'll never know how much it means to me!

Friday, November 14, 2008


I have been so stressed out lately. I need to get over it, already! Right now, my goal is to write a coherent blog. :)

On Tuesday, I will have been a nonsmoker for three full weeks. I haven't exactly suffered the kind of withdrawals I feared, and thank heaven I don't feel the need to pig out, so I haven't gained any weight, either. Still, I'm wound pretty tightly. Feeling overwhelmed, etc. I'll feel better soon--I keep telling myself that. :)

One thing is for sure. I won't be going back to the habit. I like breathing more easily, and I'm following my own advice. I'm always telling new writers that if you want to do something well, you have to be willing to do it badly for a while. With smoking, I'm willing to endure some rough days in order to have a longer, healthier life. And I still have a lot to do! Stories to tell, animals to look after, pictures to paint.

Is this blog coherent? I still can't tell. :)

Oh, well. I'll keep showing up if you will.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Brief Flurries of Sunshine

The morning was sunny--thank heaven. The clouds are rolling back in, though. I keep telling myself we need the water, but the constant gray skies get me down.

Buck is still hanging in there--up and around, and eating well. All your prayers are helping for sure! Bernice, the Yorkie, sprouted an abcessed tooth and is spending the day at our veterinarian's office. I'll sure be glad to go and pick her up this afternoon, poor baby. Sadie is at loose ends, wondering where her sidekick is.

I apologize for the gaps in the blog--just life happening while I'm making other plans, as John Lennon used to say. I'll be traveling to Toronto on Monday, and will blog from the hotel if I can. Home again on Wednesday evening.

We're making some progress on the new office and new computer. Those folks at Microsoft--as soon as I learn one of their programs, they get a new one. I've been scouring a lot of "Dummies" books lately. :)

Still not smoking. I'm not going back, either. It's not that I'm noble. I just don't want to go through it again....

Monday, November 10, 2008

Sacred Contracts

I have sacred contracts with all my animals, dogs, cats and horses. Once an animal becomes a part of this family, they STAY a part of it, come what may.

Years ago, when I bought my horse, Buck, I knew he was already pretty old, and he'd had a hard life, as a working ranch horse. There were many signs that he'd been abused, and when he came to live with me, I promised him he could be a pet from then on. He was officially retired, and entitled, to my way of thinking, to live the high life. Since then, Buck has been the grand old man of the barn. He gets his feed pan first, among other little perks.

Now, he's showing signs that age is catching up with him. He's slowing down, and he's arthritic. Still, he's up and around, and he's eating, wandering around the pasture with the other members of my little band. I guess what I'm getting at here is that the time is coming, maybe sooner rather than later, when I will have to honor another part of my soul-agreement with my old Buckaroo, and that's the hardest one of all.

Letting go.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

At Last!

I am writing this blog in my new office, at my new desk. And now that the cat has moved out of my way, I can actually see the monitor! :)

The room is painted in lovely shades of green, and the floor is a nice, subtly patterned vinyl. Easy to clean up, but not so slippery that Sadie will hurt herself. She's quite the portly beagle these days. It will be a while before everything is in its place, but I am just so happy and grateful to be able to write here, and not on my laptop at the kitchen table. (I'm pretty sure that's how I ended up seeing my chiropractor three times a week.)

The studio is coming along, too. Still lots of stuff in boxes, but progress is being made. I have to keep reminding myself of that old 12 step slogan: progress, not perfection.

Not that I have to worry about perfection. :)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Eight Days of Breathing Free

I'm still slogging along, and for those of you out there cheering me on in my non-smoking campaign, thank you. I can feel the positive energy you're sending my way.

Actually, I'm surprised at how easy it has been. No heavy duty withdrawal symptoms. No pigging out because I'm nervous. It's a miracle, frankly, and I am one grateful cowgirl.

Still in transition here on the Triple L. Transition is always a challenge, but good things come out of it, at least in my experience, if I just ride it out. I'm still using a laptop, which is not my favorite thing. This particular model, the ToughBook, touted for being sturdy, is also cumbersome, heavy, and I have to push extra hard on the keys. I bought it thinking it would be great for travel. (Maybe if I were 6-foot-6, a body builder, and destined for the wilds of some jungle where every once in a while, a gorilla might grab it and pound it against the nearest tree a couple of times. :)) My MacAir is much lighter and much easier to use, although I need to figure out why it puts those odd little symbols into the blog.

So, pushing up my sleeves and moving ahead.

It's all we can do, gang. Show up and put one foot in front of the other.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


I'm trying not to let the weather set my mood today. :) It's gray and gloomy and very wet as I look out my window over the draw. (I'm on my laptop, as my regular set up down in the new office is not up and running just yet.)

Today I have a full week of non-smoking behind me, and I'm not going backward, no matter what the weather does or how the election turns out. :)

Did you vote?

I'm going to do some work today, and then I think I'll play in my studio for a couple of hours. That always settles my heart and mind. I went to my art class last night--I just love it. I'm still pretty bad, but what the heck? It's so much fun, I'm meeting new people, and I'm learning so much.

Okay, I feel better about the drizzle. After all, my beloved trees, grass and animals need the water.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Missing Blogger Found!

Alive and well in Spokane, Washington!

It's as if Mercury has been in consant retrograde--traveling, writing, searching wildly for my ballot, having new photos taken. On and on. I'm waiting for things to settle down to a dull roar, but so far, it hasn't happened.

As I've mentioned, I'm moving my writing from my bedroom to my beautiful new office/studio space down on the bottom floor, and that means my main computer is disconnected and I'm using a laptop. It's going to be great to sleep in a quiet, restful room instead of Command Central!

My back is giving me some problems, but it's nothing serious. It does slow me down a little, though, and that's why I got behind on my blog.

The good news is: I quit smoking a week ago tomorrow--using Chantix and a lot of positive self-talk. So far, thank heaven, I have not had any serious withdrawal symptoms at all, and I haven't been pigging out, either. In fact, I've lost a pound or two since I started! I'm not on any special diet--just trying to use common sense.

The blog is a little jumbled, as is my busy but happy life at the moment. Bear with me. :)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Art Class

I attended my second art class last night, and enjoyed it immensely. (The teacher pinned up our efforts from the previous week and you know what? Mine wasn't all that bad. :)

As I mentioned yesterday, "A McKettrick Christmas" will be in stores today. I'm going out to the book store to see it, but also to buy a magazine I've been waiting for. It's called "Where Women Create", and features artists in various disciplines and their studios. My own studio is still a jumble, full of boxes, but I'm looking for ideas.

My #1 goal for 2009--and I'm starting early--is to GET ORGANIZED. I am forever looking for something--a book, a particular tool or paint, you get the drift. What good are excellent art supplies if you can never FIND the darn things???

I'm off to Lincoln, Nebraska tomorrow, to appear at the Grand Opening of a new Hy-Vee store. (It's already open. :)) I'll be there around 3 on the afternoon of the 30th, so if you're in that neck of the woods, come by and say howdy. I'll be signing copies of "A McKettrick Christmas" and there's going to be a drawing for a gift basket of stuff meant to make a cowgirl happy.

Now. Where is that airline ticket?

:) Just kidding.

Monday, October 27, 2008

A McKettrick Christmas

Tomorrow, my newest book, "A McKettrick Christmas", will be in stores. For those of you who've been asking for more stories about the early McKettrick women, here you go.

Lizzie, Holt's daughter, is all grown up and on her way home to Indian Rock and the Triple M, having spent several years going to school in San Francisco. She's counting on a down-home, family Christmas, and she's eager to introduce the man she thinks she wants to marry to her legendary grandfather, Angus McKettrick, and the rest of the outfit. After the holidays, she'll be teaching at Indian Rock's one-room schoolhouse, and she's excited about that, too.

Of course, the attractive, taciturn Dr. Morgan Shane, who happens to be aboard the same train, might just complicate things. He's headed for Indian Rock, too, to set up a medical practice there. And he's a darned good man to have around in a crisis, as Lizzie soon discovers.

Christmas plays by its own rules, though, just like love. And it's magical.

Well, friend, the coffee's on. There's a stall for your horse out in the barn, and a place set for you at the long table in the ranch-house kitchen. Come join us for a McKettrick Christmas.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


Did you ever have one of THOSE days???

Yesterday was one for me--Mercury Retrograde, in overdrive. Murphy's Law, run amok.

You get the point. If it could go wrong, it DID go wrong.

But, as always, there were good things, too. Friends who jumped in to help (thanks, Chris and Larry, the Canadian Wrangler!), and a good buddy, Cindy Leuty-Jones, come to take pictures for my website and the back of my books. Cindy and I go way back, and she's an easy guest, not to mention a gifted photographer.

Still, in my prayer journal this morning, I asked for an easier day today. :)

Today, we'll do as many pictures as we can. And when we're finished, we'll probably make some ATCs. Cindy is quite talented at that, too. My goal? Get the work done so we can Goof Off!

It's still very early--I went to bed early last night, you see, and naturally WOKE UP early. Time for a breakfast burrito. :)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

If It's Tuesday...

This must be Spokane!

Honestly, I have been so ridiculously busy lately, I meet myself coming and going.

I attended my first art class last night--at least the first one I've taken in recent years--and I really enjoyed it. I certainly have a long way to go--we drew corn cobs and mine is disembodied from the stalk :)--but that's okay. I'm there to learn. Since I'm an overachiever by nature, it's both a struggle and a relief to let go of the desire to excel and simply draw.

Even in one go, I gained some insights. Art, according to my teacher, is really about learning to see. As I drove home, I was amazed to realize that the lines and shapes of things I passed were fairly jumping out at me. And that was in the dark!

I'm really onto something here. In fact, I can hardly wait until next week.

In the meantime, there is lots to do. I'm polishing "The Bridegroom" right now, and on Monday I'll be starting a brand new story, "The Christmas Bride." This year's Christmas stories are "A McKettrick Christmas", in stores on October 27, and "A Stone Creek Christmas", a Silhouette Special Edition, will be part of the December lineup. In fact, if you belong to Harlequin's book club, you probably already have it.

Since Christmas is my favorite holiday, I love writing stories set during the Holy Season. I'm still a little girl at heart, when the snow falls and the sleigh bells begin to jingle...

Monday, October 20, 2008

Who Would You Be...

Without your story?  (By story, I mean the things you've always told yourself, ABOUT yourself.  For instance, "I'm fat", "I'm smart", "I'm this, that, or the other thing...")

This is a question I'm asking myself today.  It was prompted partly by my journal, and partly by a random newsletter received by email.  (Divine intervention?) "Who Would You Be Without Your Story?" is, I believe, the title of a book by a very wise woman named Byron Katie.

We creative types are especially good at telling ourselves stories.  I'm a past-master at it, because I've been spinning yarns, on paper and in my head, since I was a very small child.  It's a necessary part of my work, telling stories.  It's what I do, and I love it.  The trouble is, I often forget to shut off the storymaking machine in my head when I leave the computer.

I tell myself a variety of things.  Many of them are good.  A lot of them, however, could use some improvement.  :)  And it's only logical to wonder how many of these tales are actually TRUE?

When I make a mistake, I tend to berate myself for it, because one of my many besetting sins is perfectionism.  I'll bet a lot of you can identify.  If I'm not careful, I might tell myself something like, "You're an idiot."

Is that true?  (Depends on who you ask.  :)  Just kidding.)  I'm gloriously imperfect, being a card-carrying human being, but I'm definitely NOT an idiot.  

Stories.  They become our operating system, like Vista in a PC, and guide our thoughts, attitudes and, inevitably, our actions.  I don't know about you, but I'm going to take a much closer look at the things I'm telling myself.

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.  

Friday, October 17, 2008

Horses and Radio Interviews

That's how my day started today. Before dawn, I was up and around, writing in my journals, dressed in yesterday's Wranglers and wearing barn boots. I'd put the horses in early yesterday, since it looked like rain, so I knew they'd be hungry. I started out there once, in the dark, and thought, "This is ridiculous. They're still asleep!" and went back, much to the joy of Sadie and Bernice, who probably thought I'd gone on another road tour. (If Bernice, the Yorkie, had her way, I'd be a hermit. Sadie-beagle is a little more philosophical.)

As soon as there was any light at all, though, this barn goddess was on her way. You see, I'm task-oriented, and a little obsessive, and I wanted those horses taken care of before my phone-in radio interview at 8 o'clock straight up. Now I've completed both, so I ought to be able to mellow down a little. (Jury's still out on that one, ladies and gentlemen.)

I'll be at Barnes and Noble in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho tomorrow (Saturday, 10 am) to sign "The Rustler" and swap howdies with anybody who shows up. I'll also have some ATCs along--not one trade on the road, except with my future son-in-law, Jeremy, but I'm not one to give up.

Hope to see you there, or somewhere down the road.

Make it a good day.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Home Again

And were Sadie and Bernice ever happy! I know they thought I was dead, and had resigned themselves to being Jenni and Mary Ann's dogs. Jitty-kitty is happy, too--Cha Cha is still annoyed by my audacity for leaving in the first place. She'll eventually forgive me.

Around this place, you've got to hit the ground runnin'! The Canadian Wrangler is a little under the weather, so guess who's feeding the horses? I'll just put on my Wranglers and my barn boots and get it done.

Coming home always means a long to-do list, but it's still too early to get started on most of it. The horses will appreciate being at the top, right up there with this blog.

For somebody who was on the road for two weeks, I'm feeling remarkably chipper. Plan to do some revisions on Gideon's book, "The Bridegroom", today, among other things. (MANY other things.)

I had such a lovely time meeting all of you. Thanks for showing up. One woman drove 55 miles in a rain-storm--gotta feel good about that.

And now I'd better get into those Wranglers and get this ranch rollin'.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Trail Leads Homeward

The only thing better than a good road trip is going home again.  I've been on the road since September 30, and while I've had a fabulous time out here, meeting readers and promoting "The Rustler", I'm definitely read to get back to the ranch.  Two little dogs will be mighty surprised to see that I'm still among the living.  :)

I've had a great time in every city--even though it has rained both days I was in Omaha.  The people have been so friendly, as they have been all along the way.  There were stressful moments, those are inevitable, but the Lord sent an angel, in the form of an especially kind person, every time I needed one.  This blessing serves as a reminder---often, we are called upon to BE that angel.  To go just a little out of our way, offer a smile and a caring word.  As a recipient of that sort of kindness, I can tell you that it makes all the difference to a weary and frazzled wayfarer.  Tage, a young bellman in Salt Lake City, should have had wings sprouting from his uniform.  He'll probably never see this, but his warm smile and willingness to help made all the difference to this traveler.

Well, I've got a plane to catch, so I'd better get presentable.  Good Lord willin' and the creek don't rise, as we say down home, I'll be blogging from my personal computer tomorrow morning.  

Home.  That's a mighty fine word.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Power of the Blog

Another great signing last night, at a Barnes and Noble here in Omaha.  I'm here to tell you, my readers are the greatest!  
As for the power of a blog--you'll recall that I wrote about the pleasures of Vicks vapor rub yesterday.  :)  Well, as the signing was about to begin, a warm-eyed woman named Terry came up to me and handed me a box with a jar of Vicks inside!  She said, "Sandi asked me to give you this." 
My good friend, Sandi Howlett, who lives all the way out in Arizona, reads this blog.  She contacted Terry, her good friend, and voila!  Vicks!  I was delighted, of course, as well as moved and amused.  Terry and I had a good chuckle, and when I shared the story later, everyone else enjoyed it, too.  This kind of funny and very thoughtful thing is typical of Sandi.  Thanks, Girlfriend.  I needed that Vicks!  
It rained all day yesterday, but that didn't stop me from heading down to the Old Market section of Omaha in the morning, where I found a great store called Overland Trading Company and took a serious chunk out of my bank account.  Older and wiser than I was at the beginning of this two-week tour, I had my purchases sent home.  (And here I swore I was through shopping!)  I also bought the usual t-shirt and a few other things--among them a button to pin on my coat.  It reads:   Well-behaved women rarely make history.
I'm a friendly ole cowgirl, that's for sure.  But well-behaved?  No.
Will I make history?  Probably nothing future generations will study in school.  But in my own small way, I intend to leave a legacy, make the world a slightly better place than it was before I came moseying along this trail.
I'll be in Lincoln tonight, at Lee's, and the shindig starts at 7:30.  (Sandi: I left all my diamonds at home.  Mind sending one of your friends down with a few?  :))
I hope to see more of my Nebraska sidekicks there--and don't worry about being well-behaved.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Happy Birthday Amanda Peterson!

It's my good friend Amanda's birthday today!  Best wishes from a hotel room in Omaha, Nebraska, Amanda-girl!

Yesterday, in transit from Salt Lake City, I had another road adventure.  My water bottle came open in my purse--on the plane--and soaked everything--including my iPhone.  Now at home, getting me on a cell phone is even harder than getting me on a landline (have I mentioned that I hate telephones?), but on the road, that little sucker is vital.  It seems to be working now, except the volume won't go up and this ole cowgirl can't hear it unless it's glued to the side of my head.

I was a little under the weather when I left Salt Lake City, but I'm happy to say I'm feeling lots better now.  I was sure glad to get to this lovely hotel last night, order room service and take a nice, hot bath.  I watched some bull-riding on TV, read and just generally relaxed.  (Nothing like watching a cowboy ride a bad bull to cheer me up.)  Still, I might pick up a jar of Vicks today, while I'm out, in case I need some down-home, mama-inspired comfort.  When we Lael kids were little, and came down with something, Mom would slather us with Vicks.  To this day, I feel better if that smell is filling my nose.

I'll be signing "The Rustler" tonight at Barnes and Noble, 3333 Oakview Drive, here in Omaha.  Seven o'clock sharp.  Hope you'll stop by if you're in this neck of the woods.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

On My Way

In a couple of hours, I'll be leaving Salt Lake City, a beautiful town full of friendly people, for Omaha.  This morning, I woke up to a skiff of snow, and I hear it's cold up home in Spokane, too. It would seem we're skipping fall altogether!

My friend and associate Leslee Borger joined me in SLC, and it was sure good to see her.  I've been on the road nearly two weeks, and it was great to see a familiar face.  (I got spoiled in Oklahoma City, with Carol Smith taking such good care of me.)  Leslee left early this morning.

I shipped more stuff home yesterday--suitcase and all.  Down to one (big) suitcase, and that will make traveling a little easier.  Now, if I can just stay out of that wonderful store at the SLC airport--I've been there lots of times, in transit to somewhere else, but this was my first visit to the actual city.  I wanted to go to the Mormon Temple, but it just didn't happen.  This ole cowgirl has only so much energy, and I don't mind admitting I'm starting to run down just a little.  Fortunately, when I arrive in Omaha, I can go straight to the hotel and relax.  I have a radio interview tomorrow morning, but it's the kind you call in for, and then I'll be stopping by a number of stores to sign copies of "The Rustler" on hand.  In the evening, I have a book signing.  If you live in the Omaha-Lincoln area, I surely hope you'll stop by to say howdy.

More later--provided I can get online.  That's been an iffy kind of thing on this trip.  :)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Sugar House

What a terrific group of readers I met last night at the Barnes and Noble in the Sugar House section of Salt Lake City!  I had way too much fun chatting with you all--and it's lovely to get to know you in person.  My thanks to all of you for turning out and asking great questions, and of course for buying books.  :)  Writing is an isolated business and when I get a chance to jaw with my reader friends, I'm in hog heaven.  Special thanks to Lydia, who planned the event, and to the B&N staff in general.  This is a beautiful store, so if you're in Salt Lake City, you might want to check it out.

I'm taking a tour of the Mormon Temple today, with my good friend and publicist Leslee Borger, and crack author-escort, Jim Durham.  As some of you know, the Temple is world famous, not only for its beauty and its Tabernacle Choir (I plan to hook myself up with some Christmas CDs), but for its Geneology department.  Now, I'm pretty clear on the Laels and the Bleeckers from whom I am descended (they're stuck with me), but it occurs to me that this might be a great source of surnames for future characters.  As mentioned, I'm already planning to write some Oklahoma Cowboys!  (They might be Creeds or McKettricks, but they might also be a new family entirely.)  The name of a character is vitally important to me--get the right one, and they spring to life.  Get the wrong one, and I can't get a yarn spinning for anything.

I'll be heading out to Omaha tomorrow.  That's the last stop on my tour.  I've loved this tour, but I'll love being back home, too.  I sure do miss my ani-mules.  :)  And I happen to know Sadie and Bernice, the dogs, are planning a welcome home party with lots of tail wagging and dog kisses.  I'll be heading straight to the barn for a look at Skye, too, who is on the mend as I write this.  Thank you for your prayers and good thoughts--they worked.

If I missed your city, not to worry.  I'm hitting several more when the Creed books come out, in February, March and April.  Sister Sally and I are heading for Prague in March, for one of our vacations.  I'm not sure which cities I'll be in, but you can be sure it will be posted on this site as soon as it's definite.

Be blessed.  We're all riding for the same outfit, and I think mighty highly of all of you.

(If I have to go to the Geek Squad, I'll get rid of these odd little symbols.  Bear with me.  My computer at home doesn't do that.)

Friday, October 10, 2008

I'm in Salt Lake City

I'm on TV in a couple of hours, so I should be spiffing myself up.  However, I wanted to write this blog and my morning pages first, so I'm sitting at my laptop.  (I need to find an Apple store because this thing keeps shutting down for no apparent reason.)

My good friend Leslee Borger is coming in today.  What a pleasure it will be to spend time with her.  We'll be talking about Harlequin's plans for publishing and promoting the Creed books, my new trilogy  (February, March and April) and just generally having a good time.  Leslee is a hoot, and a cowgirl-after-my-own-heart.  

I just left Oklahoma, and I've got to tell you, I was so impressed with that place and it's history, not to mention the friendly down-home people, that I'm planning on setting some books there.  Maybe I'll come up with a new family, but I think the Oklahoma Creeds has a certain ring to it.  :)  Carol Smith from Nancy Berland's office (they do personal PR for me) schlepped me all over town--we went to the Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, Hobby Lobby, and Coldwater Creek!  As you can see, there was some goofing off mixed in there with the research!  We also had lunch at Toby Keith's restaurant, and that was definitely a cowgirl's kind of joint.

Time to write those Morning Pages.  Thanks for buy "The Rustler" in such numbers, ladies and gentlemen.  I've had a peek at the cover for Gideon's story, "The Bridegroom", and all I've got to say about that is YUMMO.

Back tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Busy Day Ahead

I have a really busy day ahead--lots of TV and radio, and a signing tonight.  

So far, not one ATC trader has turned up along the way, though.  (Except for my future son-in-law, Jeremy, who brought 3 fabulous cards to swap when I was in LA!)  I'll have cards along tonight at the autographing at the Quail Springs Barnes and Noble, 7 PM.  If you're in the OK City area, I sure hope you'll show up and say howdy.

"The Rustler" sure seems to be getting a good reception out there, though.  And I appreciate that more than I can express.

We had a sick horse at home, and I'm happy to report that Skye is doing much better as I write this.  They had to put styrofoam padding on her forefeet and add about 8 inches of shavings to her stall, to keep the pressure down.  Thank heaven for my Canadian Wrangler and the other ranch hands :) and a good vet and farrier.  They take good care of my babies.  I was praying like crazy but tried not to worry, because energy is a factor and I didn't want to send anything but healing light.

The ole clock is ticking, so I guess I'd better get myself spiffed up and ready to ride.  I'm visiting the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum tomorrow, and I can already tell it's a place I will want to come back to on a separate research trip.  The ideas are always brewing in this cowgirl's head.  :)

Make it a good day.  I certainly intend to.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008


Where the wind comes right behind the rain!

No rain, alas, but I'm kind of into that song.

And I'm really happy to be online again, and able to update you on my doings.

I've got TV shows tomorrow, and a wonderful steak dinner to look forward to tonight.  (I also need to do laundry.  :)  Alas, the real world....)

My friends from Nancy Berland Public Relations greeted me with smiles, a basket full of goodies (including a cookie shaped like the state of Oklahoma) and a bottle of wine.  I broke into that wine as soon as I was settled in my room.  :)  (Traveling is stressful.  :))

I'll be hitting the hay early tonight, that's for sure.  But my energy is holding up pretty well, all things considered.  

More later.

Leaving LA

Heading for Oklahoma City!  I'm excited--I've never been to OK, City--and I always love going to a new place.

In LA, I got to spend a lot of time with daughter, Wendy, and Jeremy, her future husband.  Last night we had seafood at the BEST place--it's called the Galley and it's in Santa Monica.  The place sparkles with colored Christmas lights and serves such good clams that I remembered them from previous visit and back we went.  Excellent food, even better company.

Wendy and I hit five bookstores yesterday, and I did stock signings.  It was great fun to meet so many booksellers--a stand-out was Blanche at the BookStar Barnes and Noble in Studio City. Hey, Blanche!  The store is housed in an old theater, complete with marquee--great place, great people.

Since I never know what the wireless situation is going to be in the next hotel, I can't exactly promise another blog when I hit OK, City, but I'll do my cowgirl darnedest.


Monday, October 06, 2008

At LAST!!!!

I'm back!  I've had the hardest time a) getting online and b) getting to this blog!!  In Vegas, my last stop, I finally schlepped the computer to the Apple Store in Fashion Show Mall and had a 'genius' appointment--with a genius named Randy.  :)  He showed me how to get online, and I schlepped back to the Venetian Hotel, only to find that my part of the building wasn't set up for wireless!  Then, today, I had to get up at 3:15 am for a satellite media tour.  So this is the first real opportunity I've had to get back to the blog.

I had a wonderful time in Henderson, Nevada, doing a chat with Robyn Carr at the Paseo Verde Public Library--hope I got the name right!--and meeting a whole crowd of my readers!  Special thanks to Robyn, Arlene, Tom, Michelle, Trudy and Steven.  All I can say is, I'd love to come back and do that whole gig all over again, it was such a kick.

I'm in LA today and will be going on to Oklahoma City tomorrow.  After that, Salt Lake City and Omaha.

My horse Skye has been sick--things always happen when I'm away from home--but the Canadian Wrangler and the rest of the Triple L crew did a great job of getting the vet out there and the treatment started pronto!  (Thanks, guys.)

This morning, I got up at 3:15 AM (yes, you read that right) to do a satellite media tour, which basically means sitting in a studio and doing a series of live and taped interviews with TV stations all over the country.  This is always fun.  My daughter, Wendy, is here with me and that's even better.

I know this is jumbled.  I wanted to catch you up a little, and I will be back on the blog tomorrow.  Barring more technical difficulties, of course, and I'm sorry about those little symbols in the text.  Who KNOWS what's causing that!


Tuesday, September 30, 2008

On My Way

I'm off on my Rustler Tour today--first stop, Portland, Oregon.

Since I'm running around doing last minute stuff, I will keep this short.

The sun is just peeking over the eastern hills as I write this, and Bernice, the Yorkie, who always seems to know when I'm going somewhere, has been sticking to me like gum on a shoe. If she had her way, I'd be a hermit! :) Knowing all the critters will be taken care of by the 'ranch hands', Jenni, Larry and Mary Ann, I can concentrate on business (and fun) without worrying.

I still have to get my suitcases downstairs and find my laptop--I think somebody hid it. :) We seem to have gremlins around here.

Hope I'll be seeing you somewhere along the way, Pardners.

Monday, September 29, 2008

It's a Wrap

Today, and it seems like a wholesale miracle, I will finish "The Bridegroom". I'm of two minds about this, as I explained yesterday. Naturally, I get very deeply involved in my books, and my characters are Real People to me. So while I have a tremendous sense of accomplishment, I'm also a little blue.

I leave on my Rustler tour tomorrow, and that is REALLY going to be fun. I love meeting my readers, doing interviews, traveling from one city to another. (There's a bit of the gypsy in me.) At least, I love it For A While--when it's time to come home, I'm always more than ready. The dogs will throw a big party in my honor when I return--lots of barking, wiggling, cuddles and kisses. The cats will say, nonverbally of course, "Oh, you again." And wait until it's dark before they snuggle up against me, no longer able to hide the scandalous fact that they're glad I'm home. :)

In the meantime, it's back to Stone Creek.

If you love this book half as much as I do, we're golden.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Good-byes and Hellos

I will soon be finished with "The Bridegroom", and I must confess, that makes me a little blue. I just hate saying good-bye to characters I've grown to love and admire; after all, Lydia and Gideon and I have been through thick and thin together.

Sure, there will be the revision period. There will be several more swipes through the manuscript as the publishing process gets underway, in fact. But, dern it, it won't be quite the same. Sending in a book produces a sort of 'empty nest syndrome' in me--it's as if I've raised a crop of boisterous, beloved children, and now they're going out into the world to make it on their own.

The space around the computer is always a little quiet after they go.

But, then, I'll be starting a NEW story right after my tour--"The Christmas Bride", a gift hardcover targeted for the holiday season of 2009. It's a great story--the hero is Lincoln Creed, ancestor of Logan, Dylan and Tyler---

OK, I can do this. :) I can let Gideon and Lydia go, because Lincoln and Juliana are already waiting in the wings, eager to tell their story. After that, it will be Ashley and Jack, a modern Stone Creek story to be published as a Silhouette Special Edition called "Ashley's Christmas." And after THAT---the Texas McKettricks!

Thanks for listening. :)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Shrinking Mary Lincoln and Other Experiments of a Mad Scientist

I shrunk Mary Todd Lincoln this morning--on shrink plastic, of course. I'm working on a Lincoln series of ATCs, for my personal collection. Next comes the Lincoln dog--one of many but the only one I know about--and he had the imaginative name of Fido. (All the vogue in the 1860s). And heck, at least it wasn't Rover. (I guess this rambling is where the 'mad' part comes in. :))

You might hear the word 'experiment' a lot from me, in coming days. Writing my Morning Pages (God bless you, Julia Cameron) is really stimulating some valuable new insights--for instance, if I approach something new as an experiment, instead of taking my usual make-or-break, do-or-die approach, I discover an amazing freedom in the effort. It becomes an adventure, not a chore, and if it's a bust--oh, well. I've learned something, haven't I?

An example of this is my current crop of ATCs, the ones I'm making to bring on the road. I painted a beautiful blue background on 12 cards, and then carefully cut out 12 oval shaped pictures of Baby Me on my dad's horse, Peanuts. Lookin' good! Then I glued those ovals onto the cards and--miracle of miracles, given my extreme case of Firefly Syndrome--actually left them alone overnight so the glue could dry! This morning, I sprayed them with a light coat of my very favorite glaze, a product called Triple Thick. (Michael's, in the glue section.) And guess what? The paint seeped through, and ruined the pictures. Now, normally, this would really chapped my hide--alas, I am only too easily frustrated by things like this--but today, with my new mind-set in operation, I said to myself, "Bummer. Next time, I'll glaze the cards before I put the pictures on." Not a major victory--UNLESS you happen to be someone who knows me. :)

Update: yesterday, I was concerned that I might not get my chapter written, what with an important meeting to go to, in the middle of the day. Well, I DID get it done--I had 10 pages down before I even dressed to go out to lunch. I even got my walk in! And I had the whole thing wrapped by 5:30.


And I'm attributing most of this progress to writing Morning Pages.

Have you tried it yet? :)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Walking in My World

One of the benefits of my new walking regime--yesterday, I did TWO stints of three laps around the pasture--is the ideas it prompts. I don't take my iPod along, just a water bottle and an open mind. I want to be present, in my body, during these walks, and not off somewhere in the Civil War or the Revolution. :) On the first lap, I noticed my beautiful Japanese maple trees--their leaves are turning, and they are the most beautiful rusty crimson. I got to thinking, as I walked, about pressing some, and using them on ATCs. (I relate a LOT of things to ATCs. :)) So I picked 12 extra-pretty ones when I'd completed the rounds, and now they're tucked neatly between two boards, carefully protected by parchment paper, being pressed. I think that takes a long time, so I've decided not to fiddle with them (my besetting sin, or one of them anyway, is fiddling with things before they're: ready, dry, etc.) until after I get home from touring to promote "The Rustler". Even then, they might not be ready, but checking them out will be one of the small, ordinary pleasures that add so much joy to life.

I have a meeting today, and that will make writing Chapter 15 a little more challenging. I fretted (and fiddled) over this for a while, then decided enough was enough--I WILL write that chapter, no matter what.

This book is basically writing itself, and as I've said on previous blogs, I just love it. I feel a little guilty for picking on poor Gideon :), but darn, it's so much fun. And I can't leave the whole job to Lydia, now can I???

I hope there will be time for a walk--it's going to rain but that won't stop me--and an hour or two to work on the ATCs I'm making especially to take on the tour, in hopes of trading with some of you.

Have you seen the Creed video? If you click on the link in my letter on the main page, you'll see My Boys. Warning: they are SERIOUSLY hunky cowboys. My favorite kind of man!

See you tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Incredible Shrinking Woman

Yes, I'm still losing weight--very slowly. Perhaps a pound every few weeks. I'm actually happy with my current weight, but need to firm up (hence the laps around the pasture) and since I plan to quit smoking soon, I want a little "wiggle room" in case of added pounds. :)

The title of this blog, however, is a reference to the fun I continue to have with shrink plastic. Currently, I'm transferring photographs onto the stuff, shrinking them, and making ATC series (es?). It took a while to master this--you have to lighten the photograph first, and if you want to retain the wonderful, translucent quality, put white paper on the back. The theme of the project underway is my trip to Santa Fe last June, with my dear friends, Cindy, Annie and Althea.

Next on the day's schedule is three laps around the pasture, and after that, Chapter 14 of "The Bridegroom". I know I've said this before, but I LOVE THIS BOOK. It's a marriage-of-convenience story, and Gideon (poor sexy darling) is doing his best to be honorable and leave virginal Lydia intact for her "real" husband. Lydia is equally determined to seduce him. Which makes the book incredibly fun to write! (And, I hope, fun to read.) You'll get that opportunity in August of 2009, in budget-friendly paperback.

I'd better go. I've got to make things a lot more uncomfortable for Gideon :) and, besides, I have things to shrink. (Like my butt, and more photographs.)

Are any of you making an ATC to swap with me at a book signing? I certainly hope so. I'm making a special edition of cards, with Baby Me on a horse, just for this trip. Any takers?

Make it a good day--and that starts with a good attitude.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Quite a Weekend

In fact, I'm still catching up with myself! (That's why this blog is late getting posted.)

I mostly wrote this weekend, completing chapters 11 and 12 of "The Bridegroom", and I had a great time doing it, too. Sometimes, I wrote in the morning--sometimes in the evening--and sometimes very late, with the dogs snoring on the bed behind me. :)

Soon, I won't be writing in my bedroom anymore--hallelujah--but in my spiffy new office downstairs. While I'm on tour for "The Rustler", and if the flooring gods are favorably inclined, the space will be painted and a new vinyl floor laid. (Yes. Vinyl. I have DOGS. And, often, horse manure on my shoes. :))

I did a few artist trading cards, and received my first batch of trades in Saturday's mail. (I keep them in a special notebook, and have one for my own cards, too.) What a kick it is to see other people's work--so clever and innovative! I'm bringing some of my own cards on the road with me, and if you're planning to attend a book-signing or other event, bring along a card of your own, and we'll swap. (While supplies last.) The only ATC rule is that they have to be 2 1/2 by 3 1/2. (And this goes without saying, with a fine bunch of folks like you, but I'm going to say it anyway: no porn, no politics, and no hate.) Be sure to sign and date your card, and don't be intimidated. I'm not nearly as good at art as I am at writing. :)

Let's trade!

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Friday Slows

I seem to have a case of go-slow this morning, which is why I'm so late getting to this blog. Took my time with the journaling today, and did three laps around the pasture, to get the old circulation going. And now I'm ready to write Chapter 10 of "The Bridegroom".

I am so loving this book. I wish I could have you right here, reading over my shoulder, in fact.

Writing is a magical process for me. Of course, as with every book, I had a general idea of what would happen when I started this new story, but a lot of what happens comes as a real surprise, too. I positively love watching the characters grow and change, love getting to know them. I find the secondary characters fascinating; it's wonderful when they step right up and show me who they are, remind me that, like Gideon and Lydia, they have full lives, too. They have secrets and fears and qualities that set them apart from every other human being on earth, just as you and I do.

I'll be working this weekend--I want to finish the book before I leave on tour at the end of the month, if I can--but maybe 'working' isn't the proper word, because this is so much fun.

I'll "see" you on Monday. In the meantime, be kind to yourself.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

In Times Like These....

It is a good thing to be an avid student of American history.

The term "Miracle at Philadelphia" is not an exaggeration. Rarely, in the entire recorded history of the world, has there ever been such a gathering of intellect and vision--Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and the rest of that brilliant, argumentative crew--in one place, at one very crucial time. These brave men had to meet in secret to hammer out the groundwork for our system of government, for Franklin's assertion that if they all didn't hang together, they would surely hang seperately, was absolutely true.

Still darker days were ahead--the odds against Washington's undersupplied, undertrained, mostly ignorant army were astronomical. There was never enough of anything--food, blankets, boots, weaponry, ammunition. And yet, under the unwavering guidance of General Washington, they persisted. They put one foot in front of the other. Victory, against the greatest and best-supplied army in the world was virtually impossible. Cannons were brought from Ticonderoga, through the Berkshire mountains, in the depths of winter--by a jovial, overweight bookseller named Henry Knox. That was impossible, too, but it happened.

Surviving the winter at Valley Forge. Again, impossible.

Let's leap ahead about 87 years, to the Civil War. The country was literally broken in two. Mending it? Impossible. And yet here we are.

Ditto, the Great Depression, the first and second world wars, and September 11, 2001.

And yet, here we are.

Our nation seems so troubled. Some of us feel almost hopeless, facing such challenges. But we are NOT hopeless. We have come through so many other trials--much worse than what we're experiencing now.

My point? Don't panic. Support your candidate--whichever one that is--generations of good people have sacrificed their lives to assure you that privilege. Believe in what we stand for--something so far above our mistakes, it's almost celestial.

And remember, please--none of this is new. America, may God bless her and the hope she represents to every nation on earth, has ALWAYS been full of lively disagreement--right from that precious beginning in Philadelphia.

We are at liberty to disagree with each other, and fiercely.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Morning Pages

Many of you, especially the aspiring writers, are probably familiar with Julia Cameron's wonderful book, "The Artist's Way". If you're not, and you are engaged in ANY kind of creative endeavor--and when you think about it, EVERY life well lived calls for creativity--you should pick up a copy.

One of Cameron's time-honored methods for stimulating the flow of words (or paintings, or any other worthwhile thing) is an exercise she calls Morning Pages. You simply hand-write three pages of stuff--stream of consciousness, no judging, whatever is on your mind. (Some people do their pages on a computer. It's generally agreed that this is less effective than putting pen to paper, but, hey, whatever works.) It is, like all journaling, a great way to get things out of your head and onto paper, where you can see them and get some perspective. Believe me, I speak from experience here--solutions present themselves, nebulous thoughts solidify, and mysteries are solved.

I wrote Morning Pages for YEARS--and then, for some reason I can't immediately call to mind, I stopped. Bad idea! Recently, after picking up another of Cameron's books, "Walking in This World" on CD, to listen to in the truck while I was running errands, I was re-inspired. I bought a regular, 8 1/2 by 11 spiral notebook and started writing my Pages again. Now, I wouldn't give up this exercise for anything--it helps me so much.

Writers, you see, tend to spend a lot of time in their heads. It's a great place to be--most of the time--I mean, my particular head is full of Creeds and McKettricks and Yarbros and O'Ballivans--and historical figures, too, like Abraham Lincoln, Robert E. Lee, and George Washington. It would be hard to find better company. Still, there are a lot of interesting people and things on the OUTSIDE, too. :) And I don't want to miss them. Morning Pages helped me see that I need to touch down in my body a lot more often--and so did feeding horses for two weeks while the Canadian Wrangler was away.

As you might guess from the above title, Cameron also recommends walking to stimulate creativity. That struck me as a good idea--so I started adding WALK to my to-do list. This morning, setting out for a few laps around the pasture, I saw that the horses were all gathered at the fence, wanting their breakfast. The Canadian Wrangler is back, and I figured he'd be along soon, so I took a lap. When I came back around, still no CW. So I decided to fill the feed pans and put out the hay--God knows, the Wrangler has enough to do around here anyhow. I fed some horses. I was in my body, not my head, a cowgirl in blue jeans and dirty shoes, doing what a cowgirl does. And it felt so good.

Walking, it turns out, does stimulate ideas. I can hardly wait to get back to Stone Creek and join up with Gideon and Lydia and the rest of the crew. (Given what they were doing when I last saw them, leaving the room was the only polite response. :))

At the end of the day, I plan on taking another couple of turns around the pasture. And if the CW is busy elsewhere, I might just feed the horses again. Because I can. Because I'm blessed to HAVE horses, and legs that will carry me, and arms strong enough to fill a wheelbarrow with hay and spread it around on my own little patch of ground.

I'm discovering some things about myself--I need to be outside more. Outside of my head AND outside of my house. I need to walk and be around horses and pine trees and all the rest of it. I need to spend more time under a blue sky--or a rainy one--or a snowy one.

Would I have come to this conclusion without Morning Pages? Maybe. Then again, maybe not.

I'm not taking the chance.

Tomorrow morning, early, after taking the dogs out and then bringing them in again, and then letting them out again---well, you get the picture--I'll be sitting down, opening my notebook, and writing my pages. It's exciting to think what I might come up with next! Sometimes, it's just ordinary stuff--what I need to pick up at Walmart, some petty annoyance, things like that--and that's okay, too. Remember, when it comes to Morning Pages, there is only one rule: write three full pages, in longhand if possible. They're for your eyes only, so say whatever you want to. Unlike fancy bound journals, it's easy to tear them up and toss them out if that's what you want to do. If I remember correctly, Cameron does not recommend going back and rereading them, and I rarely did that before. Don't do it now, either. Things that come to mind and need remembering go on my to-do list, or into another journal. This happens a lot, too--I get snatches of dialogue, plot twists, and lots of things I want to do artistically. (Heck, I have an ART journal, too. It's a sketchbook, and I am forever scribbling, sketching, and gluing in images that strike my fancy for some reason.)

Maybe you'd like to try some Morning Pages yourself. You don't have to become a journaling-junkie, like me. :) Give it a week. I think you'll be surprised by the insights you'll have. Things that have always seemed impossible begin to see possible after all. If you're stuck, this is your best shot at getting UNstuck.

And now--off to Stone Creek.

Make it a good day. I'll be right here tomorrow, and I hope you will be, too.

See you then.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Canadian Wrangler is Back!

I expected to be a little relieved not to have to go out to the barn first thing this morning to greet the horses, fill their pans with their sweet-feed supplement, and make sure the shy members of the band--April and Traveler--got something to eat. Instead, I'm feeling a little blue. So I'll go out later, after I've done some pages, and say howdy--maybe brush one or more of the critters, too. Gotta have me some of that horse-magic, every day. :)

I'm going full-speed on "The Bridegroom", the fourth Stone Creek novel, Gideon and Lydia's story. (You may remember our hero and heroine from Book 3, "A Wanted Man"--they were kids then. Now, they're all grown up. And it's really fun checking in with Wyatt and Sarah ("The Rustler"), too. I'm sure Sam and Maddie ("The Man from Stone Creek") will put in an appearance soon, as well. I guess you could call this a Stone Creek Reunion! While Gideon and Lydia are dealing with some very serious issues, I'm loving every minute I spend with them.

I am a lucky woman, getting paid to do this. :)

I've got some art projects going, too, as always. I'm finally getting the hang of using shrink plastic--the inkjet kind. I made twelve copies of my favorite photo of Dad, his horse Peanuts, and me (I was 2, so Dad would have been 28), and shrunk them down in the oven this morning, between journal entries. The batch came out well, and I'll be putting them on ATCs as a tribute edition to my favorite cowboy of all time. I sure do miss my daddy, and there's something very healing in doing these pieces. Most ATC editions are 9 cards--I usually make 12. These will go to family members, most likely, but if they turn out well, I'm going to offer #1 as part of a monthly prize drawing on the website. Stay tuned.

It's ridiculously late (for me), and I'm still in my pajamas. Someone is here to do computer stuff. Better get saddled up for another day's ride, before the herd scatters.

Make it a good day.

Monday, September 15, 2008

1 Horse, 1 Woman, 1 Rodeo

With the Canadian Wrangler up north on vacation (he gets back tonight), I've been feeding horses twice a day and, as I've said, it's been ever so good for me. Nothing like horse-energy, and getting hay in your hair, (and let's not even talk about what's on my shoes) to get you back in touch with the real world.

Saturday morning, I got a reminder of why it's important to shut the barn door. :) You guessed it--there was an escape. April, my gentlest horse, a sweet little Arabian mare, trotted right under that roll-up door, past the tractor, along the breezeway, through the tack room and right out the door made for humans! I was in hot pursuit the whole time, but my pleas fell on deaf ears. April was on the lam!

She wouldn't have gone far--about mid-way down the fence line, she stopped to graze and lord it over the other horses, who were plenty annoyed that she was out and they weren't. Since she's low "man" on the totem pole, as far as my little band is concerned, it was kind of nice to see her with the upper hand for once. I went back for a halter and lead rope, but she was having none of that. When all else fails, a pan of sweet feed will work. I went back for that, and she suckered for the oldest trick in the book. While she was munching, I slipped the halter over her head, let her eat a little more, and then led her back to the gate.

Well, the other horses were all clustered there--reminded me a little of reporters after some exciting thing happens--if they'd had microphones, they'd have been sticking them in her face. "What was it LIKE out there?" "Why did you fall for the old sweet-feed gambit?" (As if they wouldn't.) Etc.

In short, every time I tried to lead her through that gate--tricky, since I didn't want a mass break for the open country and that was a real possibility--she spooked. Hence, our own little rodeo. Finally, the rest of the band got bored and went off to eat the hay I'd put out for them earlier. Thank heaven.

I finally got April through the gate, slipped the halter off, and patted her on the neck.

"Good girl," I said. "You showed 'em a thing or two, didn't you?"