Crafting Obsessions

We use crafting nowadays for leisure and a way of managing stress in our lives. In the old west, it was much more practical. Take, for instance, knitting. When  you lived a two-day ride from town, by necessity, you created your own warm garments for winter. I’ll bet socks probably took main stage, but hand-knitted scarves, sweaters, mittens and hats were often found under the Christmas tree as well.

I used to cross-stitch, I’ve quilted, and occasionally sew my own clothes.

This is a cross stitch I did back in the ’80s

But for the past several years, it’s been knitting. The problem is, I feel like if I can do it, it’s too easy. So I end up mired in impossible projects that I barely make it through in a year. But when I’m done, I have a work of art! I mostly choose Fair Isle projects, for the amazing colorwork. Here’s a few examples of things I’ve made:

Since none of those did me in (though it was sometimes a near thing), I’m venturing into new territory; designing my own.

I took a pattern:

And am adding a motif on the back –

I used this to get a color palette

I’m only about six inches in, and it is HARD! I’ll try to remember to post when it’s done, but don’t hold your breath, it’ll probably take me a year to finish! Wish me luck.

How about you? Are you crafty? What is your obsession?

It’s Game Day – with Laura Drake!

John Wayne is featured in my living room at least once a day, because my husband is a HUGE fan! I don’t watch (I have to write!) but I know many of these from sheer repetition (I have to eat sometime, right?)

All you have to do is guess the movie the quote came from to win one of my Western romances, set in the world of professional bull riding. I’ll send one each to two people who get them all right (or comes the closest) NO GOOGLING!

I’ll give you a hint:  There’s only one quote from each movie.

READY?

  1.  ‘Monsewer, words are what men live by
  2. ‘Somebody outa belt you in the mouth…but I won’t, I won’t, the hell I won’t
  3. Fill your hands you son-of-a-bitch
  4. Slap some bacon on a biscuit and let’s go! We’re burnin’ daylight!
  5. I’m a dying man, scared of the dark.
  6. “You can call me Father, you can call me Jacob, you can call me Jake. You can call me a dirty son-of-a-bitch, but if you EVER call me Daddy again, I’ll finish this fight.”
  7.  “Baby sister, I was born game, and I mean to go out that way. That shows you know more about the Lord and His Good Book than you know about men. I was proud to tell my deputy’s wife that I shot his killers.”
  8. “I guess you can’t break out of prison and into society in the same week.”
  9. “Next time you shoot somebody, don’t go near ’em till you’re sure they’re dead’’
  10. They’re famous – but they’re just a little bit dead. They were hung.

Good luck!

Okay, these are the prizes in the offing!

Left with only nightmares and an ugly physical scar, Aubrey Madison is on the road looking for a new life with more freedom. On a whim she answers an ad for a groom on a Colorado ranch. The job gives her plenty of hard work and a quiet place to heal – and it also introduces her to hot, old-school rancher Max Jameson. Max has been raising cattle and breaking horses for all his life, just like his father did before him. Now he’s faced with the fact that those skills are not enough to keep the land in the family. Bree has an idea to save the ranch, but can she risk getting attached to the land and the cowboy who comes with it?

Army medic Katya Smith is unable to get past the experience of losing a fellow soldier. She can’t go back to her unit until she can keep from melting down, so she takes a job as a medic for the pro bull riding circuit in an effort to recover her mojo. She doesn’t expect to become attached to the sport or the riders, especially the king rider of them all, Cam Cahill. Cam is a two-time world champion, but those years have taken a toll. It is time to retire, but he can’t imagine himself off the circuit. Katya does wonderful things for his body, but he is not certain he is ready for the things she does for his heart. She has made it plain this is a temp job, but if he could get her to stay, he can see a whole new future.

Discovering the West – on Two Wheels

One of the things you may not know about me – I ride motorcycles. It’s my husband’s second love (after flying), and I learned to adore it, riding behind him for more than 100,000 miles. 

Then I learned to ride. I’ve had 5 now, and I’ve ridden probably 200,000 miles on my own. All our vacations used to be taken on motorcycles, and I’ve been from Mexico to Canada, California to Florida and most places in-between, on two wheels.

 

You may have seen them-articles about “Why I ride a Motorcycle”.  This is a subject that fascinates me. Maybe because no one ever seems able to explain it well. I thought for a while that it was because the answer couldn’t be expressed in words – that the emotion couldn’t be conveyed to someone who had never done it.  But that’s not it either.  I have another theory; that the answer is so multi-faceted that it can’t be described in a few sentences.  Yes, the experience is individual but there are points of commonality. 

In a car I never would have experienced:

  • The awesome vistas of Wyoming, where the land is so open and rolling, that from the top of a hill, you can see how the glaciers carved the land, and how time has softened its harsh effects.
  • In the badlands of Utah, the delicate multicolored striations in the crumbling ledges made me wish I knew how to dye cloth to be able to recreate it on fabric.
  • The vast open sky of the Four Corners area, with the dramatic red stone monoliths seeming to rise out of the ground in the distance.
  • The never-ending green covered prairie of Canada, with the wheat rippling in great waves in the wind.
  • Small towns in the middle of nowhere, shutting down the main highway that runs through town for a Fourth of July parade complete with tractors pulling hay wagons festooned with bunting and carrying the local beauty contest winners.
  • Real country stores with wooden floors and pot-bellied stoves surrounded by rocking chairs – not to be trendy, but because the old-timers sit there.
  • The howling aloneness of the Canadian Rockies, where the mountains stretch seemingly forever.

True, I could have traveled to all these places in a car. But on the bike, I didn’t go looking for them.  In a car we generally tend to ‘Go Somewhere’, you have a destination in mind, say a National Park.  You drive there, experience it, and drive home.  On a bike, I like to have a destination too, but the destination is not the reason for the trip. We “happened upon” most of the above places on our way to somewhere else.

Another part of my theory is that experiencing life from the seat of a motorcycle is more real and indelible than a car experience.  Follow me on this one, it’s kind of weird.  I believe we’ve been so indoctrinated by our “socialization” to be able live so closely together, that we lose the sensitivity to really experience life to the fullest.  The physical and mental rigors of riding a motorcycle scour that protective layer off, and allow the details of life to sink in to the pores of our consciousness. 

Think about it.  Imagine watching a rain storm from inside a house, and then imagine experiencing it on a motorcycle; black clouds ahead, and the straight road is leading right into them.  Before you get there, there is a temperature drop, the wind buffets you, you smell the rain in the air, but more than that, you feel the storm inside of you…it almost feels like a small electrical current humming inside your body.  An experience like this is naturally going to remain with you longer than watching rain come down outside a window. 

Food tastes best, outdoors, right?  I think life is sweetest when you’ve been on the bike long enough that your “normal life” has receded to the background, and you are truly living in the moment, happening upon the next treasured memory.

How  about you? Ever ridden a motorcycle?

Cover Reveal!

You may recall a while back, I wrote a post about Historic Route 66. I was researching it for what I call my, ‘Grandma Road-Trip Story’. A Women’s Fiction, set in the west. Well, I finished, and it’s becoming a real book!

I just got this beautiful cover from my publisher the other day!

 

Here’s the blurb:

Jacqueline Oliver is an indie perfumer, trying to bury her ravaged childhood by shoveling ground under her own feet. Then she gets a call she dreads—the hippie grandmother she bitterly resents was apprehended when police busted a charlatan shaman’s sweat lodge. Others scattered, but Nellie was slowed by her walker, and the fact that she was wearing nothing but a few Mardi-Gras beads. Jacqueline is her only kin, so like it or not, she’s responsible.

Despite being late developing next year’s scent, she drops everything to travel to Arizona and pick up her free-range grandma. But the Universe conspires to set them on a Route 66 road trip together. What Jacqueline discovers out there could not only heal the scars of her childhood but open her to a brighter future.

And on my vacation fly fishing in Colorado, I did a clip of me reading the first pages:

I wish I could tell you it was available for sale, but it isn’t yet (dang it!). But know that when it is, you’ll hear me shouting it from the rooftops!

Fort Worth Stockyards

I wrote a blog here a while back about things to do around Dallas. One of those were the Fort worth Stockyards. Well, I can’t very well recommend somewhere I’ve never been, right? The grandkids were visiting from Panama (and getting vaccinated-dual citizens!), so we went on a day trip.

Wow, there’s something there for everyone!

First recommendation – go in early spring or fall – it gets hot there! Second, go early. We got there early enough to snag a shady parking spot, and started wandering.

Tons of shopping! Everything from tourist-trap stuff to really top end boots and attire. These guys were outside one shop, and I was tempted to take one home – instead, settled for the perfect coaster for my desk!

Then we sat on a bench beside the brick of Exchange Avenue, and waited for the cowboys to drive a herd of longhorns past! (happens daily at 11:30 & 4:00) I don’t know if you’ve ever been close to a longhorn, but they are HUGE!

They also had one saddled and standing in the shade that you could get on and grab a photo, but none of us were tempted.

We wandered, and every fifty feet or so there are stars in the sidewalk, like in Hollywood, but they’re for cowboys (and women) that helped settle the west, Western actors, even the cattle trails had one.

After a delicious lunch at Shake Shack (Didn’t know there was one in Texas!), we set off again.

Next stop, Cowtown Coliseum. They have rodeos there every Friday and Saturday night, and the kids would have loved to have seen one, but there just wasn’t time, this trip. But it’s open to the public every day, and there are still things to see there, including Sancho of the curly horns.

It’s also home to the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame – I had a blast finding all the bullriders I’ve followed for years, including the King of the Cowboys, Ty Murray. But it wasn’t only just cowboys – rodeo stock (bucking horses and bulls) are represented too!

Next stop, The John Wayne Museum. It was closed, but we went in the gift shop, and I couldn’t believe it! There was Trigger and Bullet! For you youngsters, that was Roy Rogers’ horse and Dog, from his TV show. I’d seen them at the Roy Rogers Museum in Victorville, Ca, decades before, and it was like seeing slightly macabre old friends!

 

 

 

On the way out, I couldn’t resist – I had to get on the bucking machine. Mind you, it was NOT moving. Trust me, getting up on that thing was hard enough – a sure sign I’m too old for it, but I had to get a photo!

All in all, a great, fun day – I highly recommend it! You can learn more of the details of what to do there, here.

If you make it there, send me a photo of YOU on the bucking bull!

Other Obsessions: Fishing!

I don’t know why I love it. I grew up in the suburbs. My mother’s idea of camping was a 4-star hotel, and my dad bought a weber to grill, and used it ONCE in my lifetime.

But there was a creek across the street from us, and I’d buy hooks at the dime store. And one memorable day, I even caught a catfish on a safety pin and a hot dog.

It wasn’t until I was grown and on my own that I fished again.

My husband and I belonged to a motorcycle club, and there was a weekend at the Kern river near Bakersfield, California, every year. We stayed at a hotel on the river. My girlfriend Pam and I were sitting on the patio with the water rushing under us, when she asked me if I liked to fish. We went across the street to a gas station and rented fishing poles, and she even caught a 5 inch trout. Then she asked me what I thought about fly fishing.

Our husbands bought us fly rods, reels, and fly fishing lessons for Christmas, and that was the beginning of my addiction.

One of the trips we made every year was to Kennedy Meadows, a remote area, high in the mountains. A river runs through it (sorry, couldn’t resist) and another friend, Chris came fishing with Pam and I. We had a blast, and returned for several summers. The die was cast. The Kennedy Meadows Hookers were born.

One of the early years

The three of us have taken a fly fishing trip somewhere, almost every year since. Yellowstone, Mammoth, Ca, Oregon, we’ve been all over, and had a blast, every time. Fishing with them is great, but the nights are even better – like high school sleepovers with your best friends – only with WINE!

We’ve got tons of stories – like the year I broke my leg (just a hairline fracture) and I insisted I wasn’t missing Jacuzzi time, so they wheeled me down on a luggage cart (wine was involved, but it was medicinal)….to the year I REALLY broke my leg on the last day of the trip, and the Sherriff’s dept had to send a boat to rescue me.

 

 

 

 

 

To THIS year, when I caught the biggest trout of my life! Had to be 10 lbs, around 28″. After the photo op, I let her go.

We’ve aged over the years, and we aren’t intrepid hikers anymore, but we still go, every year (except last year, danged Covid!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2021 Hookers

So how about you? Do you like fishing? Have you ever been?

The Difference Between Romance & Women’s Fiction

I’ve been thinking about this lately, because I’ve written a women’s fiction that is with an editor now (cross your fingers for me!).

I’m very familiar with the subject, because my first book, The Sweet Spot, I wrote as Women’s Fiction. Half the editors who read it thought it was romance, half, WF. It finally sold to a romance line, so I had to make some changes.

The difference is mainly in the focus. In a romance, the focus is on the relationship, and ends in a ‘happily ever after’. In WF, the focus is on the woman’s journey and emotional growth. It may or may not have romance, or even a happy ending.

I learned that in Romance:

  1. The bad-boy hero can’t be TOO bad. In my debut novel, the couple had lost their son in an accident, and it tore them apart – they divorced. To deal with the pain, my heroine developed a Valium habit. The hero’s drug was young and blonde. In my original version, he was still with the blonde when the book opened. I had to change that; my editor told me that if the readers met the bimbo, the hero would be irredeemable, no matter what he did down the line.
  2. I had to soften the heroine as well – she could be damaged and flawed, but she couldn’t be seen as cold, or uncaring.
  3. Because I wrote the book as a WF, most of the scenes involved the heroine’s point of view. I had to add a couple of scenes with the hero’s, and even though they weren’t together in the same scene in the first third of the book, I had to add thoughts each had of the other, showing how they were changing.
  4. Sexual tension. It’s not critical that the couple make love but there still needs to be escalating sexual tension as the book advances. Inspirational romances do a brilliant job of this.
  5. I had to be more careful with graphic scenes (not talking sex, here). My hero raised bulls for the bull riding circuit. In one scene, the heroine helped a cow with a breech birth. My editor had me reduce the level of gore, blood, etc.  I also had to be careful how I covered breeding details like selling semen (can I say that here?)
  6. And, of course, there must be a HEA (happily-ever-after.) That was no problem, because I originally planned for my couple to end up together!

In my Women’s Fiction:

  1. There is a romantic interest, but it’s a small part. The guy is mostly there to show her issues with commitment. I leave it open-ended as to whether they end up together.
  2. The focus is on a grandmother and her granddaughter who, due to the past, doesn’t like or respect the family matriarch. 
  3. So it’s about the main character’s growth. When she learns her grandmother’s past, and her secrets, she not only accepts her grandmother – she learns more about herself, and what was holding her back.

So tell me – do you read Women’s Fiction? Romance? Which do you prefer, and why?

I’m giving away a copy of The Sweet Spot to two commenters!

Family Stories

We write them, we read them, but also, they are our own history – they’re part of who we are.

I have two examples:

First, mine. My grandfather was an itinerant preacher on the plains of Saskatchewan, Canada. They lived in a tent (not many trees on the plains). He’d be home long enough to get his wife pregnant, then go off on his donkey, preaching again. After the first few babies were born (she was alone), she told him she was going to a city, with or without him.

9 of the 11 children. My dad is the youngest

So they moved to Saskatoon. The kids kept coming, and at one point, the house caught on fire. Once my grandmother got all the kids out, she went back for her husband’s sewing machine (he was a tailor as well as a preacher) and threw it out the window before getting out herself.

This isn’t the one that burned.

I come from hardy stock!

My second story is my husband’s. His maternal great-grandmother was 11, her sister 9, when her mother died back east. Her father put them on a train heading west, and told them there would be someone to meet them in Texas, and he’d follow as soon as he wrapped up business.

The girls got off the train in Midland, Texas. No one to meet them. A few good people traded off taking them in until the 11 year old could get work and take care of her sister.

She never knew what happened to her father.

Two months after she died, they got a phone call from someone back east, claiming to be kin. Turned out, the father shipped the girls off on a train to get rid of them. He was marrying another woman, who didn’t want his kids.

5 generation photo. His great-grandmother is bottom left.

Can you imagine? I’m glad she passed without knowing that.

Okay, your turn – give me your family story in the comments!