Category Archives: General

It’s All Fun and Games . . . Until It Isn’t.

I hate sounding like a Negative Nellie but the last few months have gone by at an alarming rate and I’m not sure I have much to show for it. We’re settling into our new home a bit slower than I anticipated. Being a creature of instant gratification does not bode well when certain projects take months to complete or when I can’t even instigate a start date until next year. I’m learning patience . . . and can’t say I find the virtue terribly endearing.

Even though we live at a higher elevation and enjoy cooler temperatures than metro areas like Tucson and Phoenix, it was still hot this summer. My courtyard is concrete surrounded by an adobe wall. No matter how much I watered, my plants suffered from the heat which sometimes reached 115 degrees or more during mid-day. I needed a plan to alter the reflective, heat-absorbing design before next summer and I think I have a solution. We’re installing a large pergola with water misters to lower the temperature. I’m re-landscaping the border flower beds with succulents and adding garden totems for color, relocating the rose bushes and forsythia to the back of the house where I plan to create a little oasis in the middle of the landscaping rock and trees surrounding our property.

I discovered no matter how much time I invested in pulling weeds from the roots, they continued to invade our property at an alarming rate. After enduring snide remarks and laughter from my neighbors because I refused to use Round-Up or any toxic weed killer, I finally succumbed to the urge and sprayed the outer perimeters. Before moving here, I thought tumbleweeds were quaint and picturesque, a lovely symbol of the old west. They are now my enemy and I am waging war. Plus, the darned things have stickers that embed their gnarly little thorns in my fingers even through leather gloves.

I erected a multi-unit bird feeder pole outside my office window. It was lovely watching the little guys hop around from feeding station to the feeding station. But then the doves invaded. They kicked, shoved, bullied their way through the seed, tossing it to the ground with an irreverence that was beyond annoying. I tried to compromise with a ground feeder but they preferred to chase away my little lovelies, bobbing their heads with an attitude that clearly said, “We’re not sharing.” If there is such a thing as dove “tagging” on feeders, I’m sure these pillagers marked their territory. I kept a loaded water gun at my desk and delighted in squirting the feathered marauders through an open screened window. My day soon changed from writing and doing business to plotting battle lines and plans of attack. Realizing I was taking things way too personally, especially after watching Bill Murray pursue a gopher in the movie, Caddyshack and recognizing a disturbing similarity to my own actions, I resigned to moving the bird feeder to another area. I’m now more productive. Calmer. Happier. But still pissed off at those damn doves!

I took a couple of breaks from the bird droppings and constant weed pulling to attend two incredible writer’s conferences – one of which was MurderCon, presented by Writer’s Police Academy in conjunction with Sirchie Institute. It was all about homicide but included so much more. I filled an entire spiral with notes. Wow!!! Truly an amazing experience. I also attended one of the best “small” conferences in the area – Sister’s in Crime Desert Sleuth chapter’s Write Now conference in Scottsdale. Great speakers, great information, great location. Another wow!

As I mentioned earlier, I’m short on patience – so I took a seasonal job working at an Amazon fulfillment center. It’s a good opportunity. Pays well. Will fund my projects and more. But I hurt in places I didn’t know I had muscles. This work is not for the faint of heart or old people. I’m hanging in but only by a thread. It’s little consolation to know I’ve outlasted much younger people in my hire “class” when I can barely straighten up to full standing height after a 10-hour shift. I truly hope I make it through these next two months but I’m not placing any bets. It’s almost time to hit the hiking trails . . . but I may not have the time or energy.

In the midst of this turmoil, hubs and I found a happy place creating and selling Thunder Gourds, and offering organic CBD at a few local farmer’s markets. Our favorite is Tombstone. Such a fun town and our fellow vendors are great. There’s always a nice blend of locals and tourists, and the cowboys in period dress are interesting eye candy.

In the midst of this turmoil, hubs and I found a happy place making and selling Thunder Gourds, and offering organic CBD at a few local farmer’s markets. Our favorite is Tombstone. Such a fun town and our fellow vendors are great. There’s always a nice blend of locals and tourists, and the cowboys in period dress are interesting eye candy. 🙂

So that’s all the news from here. How did you spend YOUR summer vacation?

I’m A Duck

It’s true . . . I’m a duck. Most people think I glide through life with barely a ripple but what’s happening beneath that glass-like surface is a fury of paddling feet. And that’s definitely been the case since January 1st. I claimed 2019 as MY year of reinvention months ago and I’ll be darned if I let my prediction fall short. I started the new year with a bang and refuse to let up.

I renewed my membership with Sisters in Crime, national and the Tucson chapter. I’ve applied for and was AWARDED an educational scholarship from national to help defray cost of attending Writer’s Police Academy’s first ever MurderCon held at the renowned SIRCHIE facility for forensic and crime scene investigation in Raleigh, NC. But that’s not all. I’m signing books again this year at the prestigious event, Tucson Festival of Books. You can find me on Saturday, March 2nd at the Sisters in Crime booth from 1:30-3:30 pm. I’ve also developed three new seminars and have gotten some good “bites” for presentations in 2019. More news to follow on that one but if you could use a fun, user friendly hour to learn or refresh skills on these topics, let me know. I’m still offering my crowd pleaser – Gold, Ghosts and Gravel Roads – a delightful journey through some of the more curious places I’ve traveled as an RVer. It’s especially fun for those who enjoy paranormal pursuits or treasure hunting.

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I’ve saved the most exciting news for last. After a 2 year hiatus from publishing . . . I’m back! March 1st will see the release Book 2 in my humorous DEAD MEN cozy sleuth series, featuring southern caterer/psychic sleuth Daisy O’Connor. In DEAD MEN CAN’T DANCE, Daisy finds herself knee deep in trouble with both the county sheriff and Deputy Chief of Tribal Police, John Greyhawk. Her penchant for little white lies, disregard of the law, and bloodhound approach to crime solving are a sure recipe for trouble when a murder victim asks for help. As Daisy sticks her nose into police business, the ghost issues a warning, “another will die”. The only question is, will it be Daisy or someone else?

Summer will see the release of a new genre for me. Temporarily named THE DEAD DO NOT LIE, this dark thriller follows the emotional and mental collapse of a disaster inspector who witnesses too much corruption and fraud. I’ve created a realistic view of post disaster chaos, gleaned from my many years as a contract disaster inspector. While the story is purely fictional based on a “what if” moment of inspiration, the elements of strife and grief are real. I think it will be a good read. I hope you feel the same.

Summer also brings a much needed break in my professional life. I’ve hired the most amazing personal assistant to help with social media, book tours, and keeping me organized. She’s a school teacher so you KNOW she can multi-task! And just in time because we are buying a house. It’s located in an obscure part of southern Arizona but close enough to Tucson and Phoenix for those big city getaways and writer’s groups. We’ll still travel off and on but our “stuff” will be planted in one place. I’m excited . . . and nervous. My gypsy spirit is crying, “No, no!” but my old bones are saying, “Maybe it won’t be so bad.” We’ll downsize from the fiver to a small travel trailer more suitable for dry camping and the back road excursions I so enjoy. In the meantime, expect a lot of remodeling photos throughout the year!

That’s it, folks! I’ll keep you posted on new happenings as they happen.

Story Molecules – Guest Blog by Ellen Behrens of Ellenbooks

Deb has a great way of finding the hidden stories in the places she visits and the people she sees, don’t you think? Writers get asked a lot where we get our ideas and we usually tell them, “Everywhere!” But how do we get to the point where we can see those hints of stories?

I can’t speak for Deb – she has her own way of finding threads of stories in the places she visits and people she meets, and her stories and novels are great evidence of this.

In my case, I give a lot of credit to my mother, who raised four kids (she had three kids three years old and younger at one point) and was forever inventing ways to keep us entertained, especially in the confines of our four-door car on very long road trips.

“Look at that house! Who do you think would live in a house like that?” she’d ask, and we’d quit squabbling long enough to swing our heads in the direction she was pointing to see what the house looked like. Sitting in a grocery store parking lot, waiting for Dad to run in for a few groceries on the way home, she’d say, “Which car do you think that woman will go to?” And we’d pick out the vehicle we thought matched her – and usually we were all wrong. People, of course, surprise us all the time.

Pretty soon, everything started to be a question: “Why in the world would anyone want to be out in weather like this?” Mom would say, hand on hip, looking out the big front window into blowing snow. We’d swarm to stare with her at the hunched man, head bowed against the brutal, sub-zero temperatures. Hmmm… What would drive someone out into the drifting piles of frigid white? Was he out of bread? Would the store even be open? What would he do if he got all the way there and it was closed? Our brains turned the possibilities over. We traded theories, my mother long vanished back to the peace and quiet that reigned once again in our small house.

My imagination is in overdrive these days. Living and traveling full-time in our RV, I’m bombarded every day by this sort of stimuli: how do people make a living in this tiny town where every business is boarded up? Why is there a two-track trail leading into that stretch of prairie? What does that sign “No NPS Allowed” mean?

That sign had a lot of meaning behind it, it turns out. That detail, plus a few others, swirled around in my head. I started writing. Then re-writing. Eventually I had a story, then a book I titled Pea Body, after the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, in the Outer Banks.

Pretty soon its main characters, Walt and Betty Rollin, full-time RVers, reappeared in Yuma Baby, the second in the Rollin RV Mystery Series, another story born from images and details gathered during my nomadic life.

Superstition Victim, set in a Lost Dutchman State Park in Arizona (though never named in the novel), is in progress, plunging Walt and Betty into yet another who-dunnit.

Ideas? They’re out there, floating around in numbers as uncountable as molecules of air. What have you seen today? What did it make you think of? Will you write about it?

Many thanks, Deb, for letting me share a bit of what goes on when some of those story molecules hit me!

Ellen Behrens is a novelist, short story author, and nonfiction writer. Her Rollin RV Mystery series has given her the reputation as “RVers’ favorite writer.” Her books are available in print and e-book format for all major e- reader devices. Behrens’ first novel, “None But the Dead and Dying,” came out in 1996 from Baskerville Publishers. Former Fiction Editor for Mid-American Review, she received an Ohio Arts Council Individual Artist Fellowship in 1993. Find out more about her books at ellenbooks.com, or drop her a note at ellenbehr@aol.com if you’d to be part of her inner circle and receive personal alerts about upcoming publications and events.

 

Another Curve Ball . . .DUCK!

I don’t know why I expect plans to go as scheduled. It hasn’t happened in so long. Sometimes I feel like I’m playing Ping Pong with life and there’s so much English on the ball, I can’t possibly return the serve. Yet I lunge and give it my best shot.

Our plans to explore Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Colorado this summer shifted dramatically when the hubmeister experienced a severe set-back due to high winds, blowing dust and pollen in New Mexico. After an overnight stay in the hospital, he’s been released to his primary care physician in Tucson for a follow-up. And since we don’t want to drive south for a month then take off again, we decided to make the best of it by hanging out in the SonoranDesert’s higher elevations.

So the upside . . . and there’s always an upside to every disastrous event . . .is that instead of searching out new  adventure I now have time to write (you’ve heard these promises before, sigh), work on my gourd art and attempt some creative flair with a box of driftwood I’ve gathered from earlier excursions. Oh yeah . . . and paint some more rocks. No long hikes until fall since I don’t care to encounter slithery creatures lurking on those hot desert trails

As for writing, hopefully you’ve enjoyed my ongoing short story series spawned by my print published anthology, Road Tales. I’m almost done with an eBook version, Road Lore and MORE, which will incorporate the short story collection as well as even MORE myth, lore and back road oddities. The second Dead Men novel is close to sending off to beta readers. I anticipate a release date of June 15th. Even more exciting – my pet project is about to come to life! . . . The Claim Adjuster is an intriguing thriller unlike anything I’ve written. Prepare for a fall release. 

Until next time, I’m positing some photos of my latest escapades. Look for new short stories scheduled during the summer months.

Painted Desert

Hiked a LOT! This is Sabino Canyon, 7 Falls Trail

Sedona – sigh. Hiked a few trails. Must return!

Walks with my buddy. He is getting too old for hiking but still likes to catch a few sniffs on the shorter trails.

Hid some of my painted rocks

Pottery shards at Homolovi State Park. They were everywhere!!! And no . . . I did not take any home but it sure was tempting.

Beautiful Usery Park near Mesa, AZ. LOVE it! And the trails.

Homolovi Ruins

Petrified Forest

Mexican Food and Margaritas!

Gourd craft – decanter for box wine. Oh, yeah 🙂 Want to sell these on Etsy.

Dinosaurs, oh MY!

Standing on the corner . . .

San Felipe Church in Old Town Albuquerque. Built in 1706. Amazing!

View from the balcony of the iconic Painted Desert Inn – now a museum.

 

Interview at Ellenbooks

There’s an elite group . . . and I don’t say that lightly . . . of authors who manage to balance life on the road with writing. I was honored when Ellen Behrens, an outstanding author and fellow RVer, asked to interview me for her blog. Please click the link below and stop by to say “howdy”. While you’re there, check out Ellen’s delightful series, Rollin’ RV Mystery series!

Fellow RV Novelists: Deb Sanders

2017 Was A Disaster

I’m back from a year of working hard on many projects. Unfortunately, none of them were writing related. I intend to make up for that this year.

We started 2017 with a bang by heading to California to visit my husband’s cousins whom he hasn’t seen in fifty-plus years. I’ve been working on his genealogy so it was rewarding to finally meet long lost relatives and learn more about his childhood. He was raised by guardians. The history of his biological parents was always a shadow I could never quite grasp but at least I made progress. There’s still a long ways to go.

The trip to California was not without issues. Our rig got stuck TWICE in sand and once in mud after a torrential rainstorm. RVing is not all sunshine and lazy days. Enough said.

After a great reunion with the hubmeister’s family and a quick day trip to Yosemite, we headed to Ruby’s Inn at Bryce Canyon to work as “workampers” for the summer season. Another interesting experience. We met wonderful people, learned a lot, enjoyed our incredibly beautiful surroundings, and nursed me back to health after an abscessed tooth needed extraction by an oral surgeon. Since our jobs were almost full time, I had little time to write or to visit the many outstanding parks in southern Utah.

I was uprooted to work as a post-disaster housing inspector in Texas and Florida

Just as the season was coming to a close, I received my deployment notice to report to Houston as soon as possible. I’m an “on-call” Fema contractor who performs housing inspections in the aftermath of natural disasters, in this case Hurricane Harvey. Of course, Irma was right behind. And then Maria. It was a very long deployment – almost three months of working seven days a week for 12-14 hours a day in both Texas and Florida. There was absolutely NO time for writing, plotting or anything besides work and sleep.

I flew home before Thanksgiving. Hubs had moved our RV from Bryce Canyon to Tucson so it was great to share the holiday with him and my fur babies in my favorite state. After a couple of weeks catching up on sleep and de-stressing, I decided to re-visit a thriller I started at the beginning of the year. It simply wasn’t coming together the way I wanted and after a lot of soul searching, I realized it needed a complete re-write. I like it much better now.

December was filled with visits from friends which included road trips, cook outs, movie nights, etc. My writing once again got pushed to the back burner.

Now it’s January – a whole new year lies ahead! I am focused and determined to complete four projects in 2018. One is the second book to my Dead Men series – Dead Men Can’t Dance. It’s nearly complete so I’m anxious to finish it, get past the edits and send it to my beta readers. The next project is a spin-off of Road Tales called Road Lore and More. It will include all the tales from the original book plus a few more. I will also incorporate many of the short stories  I’ve written based on those myths and legends (check out my short story link here). Since Road Tales is only available in print, I intend to release Road Lore and More as an ebook. It won’t feature the photos that appear in the print version but will have some new tales of strange places as well as all those wicked, fun short stories . . . and more!

The next two projects are already plotted and started. Both are dark, psychological thrillers. I may write those under a pen name since they are so different from anything else I’ve produced.

Well, that’s my new year goals. Ambitious? Yes, because I have a lot of catching up to do. Thanks for staying with me while this site was “dark”. I promise to be more active on my blog and Facebook page in the future.

I’ve also started a blend of Keto and low carb diet in an effort to lose the extra pounds I gained eating junk food while on deployment. If you have a good recipe that is Keto or low carb friendly, please share it.