3/19/2016

Erm...Yes, I'm still alive.

I've been busy.

(Shuffles feet, looks down.)

Seriously, though, I have been working. I've finished the fourth Patty O'Donnell book, which is now in the hands of my publisher, and I've been doing a lot of research for the next one. No idea when book 4 will be published, yet. That one's set in Arizona. Book 5 will be set in Ireland.

There have been reading breaks in there. The next post should include more about what I've been reading for pleasure.

'til next time~~~

5/28/2015

Patty O'Donnell country

When I decide to post, I guess I post a lot.

Remember, click on a picture if you want to see a bigger image.

Patty O'Donnell, my series character, grew up on a ranch in the east central part of Arizona. The area is north of the towns of Springerville and Eagar, sister communities that lie at a point where the highway heads up into the White Mountains. Patty's family heads into Springerville when they want something they can't get in North Fork, the fictional town they call home.


Springerville city limits. We noticed that towns in this part seem to incorporate a lot of area where no one is actually living.



Springerville is in the Round Valley, a nice green area where Basque shepherds watched their flocks in the second half of the 1800s. If I'm remembering correctly, they get a lot of runoff from the mountains.

North of the Round Valley is a vast area called the Springerville Volcanic Field.






This is an area of wide pastures



and volcanic domes,



 and it's difficult to get a feel for the scale of the place from photographs. Trust me when I say it's awe-inspiring. For a sense of perspective, though, here's this...





If you click on it and look at a bigger version, you can see how tiny the road gets, and how big the dome ahead is, farther beyond it. We saw some domes with dark scars on them. Apparently some people mine them for cinders.



There are just over 400 domes in the Springerville Volcanic Field. Yes, someone actually counted them.

Some pastures have areas that look as if a vast herd of cattle all decided to take a dump in the same place.





These are, in fact, basalt outcroppings. On some ranches, these are fenced off, and on others they aren't. One wonders what this does to cows' hooves.





Scientists used to believe that the Springerville Volcanic Field was millions of years old, and that the volcanoes were extinct. More recently, they understand that the field ranges from 300,000 to 800,000 years old, and that there's a reasonable chance that it might erupt again. The youngest parts support grassland and a few shrubs.



 The older parts support grass, more shrubs, and some trees.


 The ranch Patty's family runs is on both types of land.

This area's elevation is in the 6,000-7,000 foot range, and has a climate that is milder than you might expect for Arizona, with summer highs averaging in the 80s, and lows averaging in the 50s. They can get snow in the winter. It is quite arid during the dry seasons. It had not been long in the monsoon season when we were there, so things hadn't greened up much.

I'm switching the comments back on, but if all I get is spam, they'll go back on moderation. Just don't have time to clean the comments out on a daily basis.

Fun in Arizona part 2

So, on with the vacation...

In checking through the guidebooks, we noticed that Fort Apache was not far from where we were staying. Naturally, it was a spot my husband was interested in visiting, so off we went.

There are a number of old buildings from the old fort, along with a Visitor's Center and Museum, and a school for the local tribes.



This was an original building, the Adjutant's Office, which is now a post office.


This is the school. There are also boys and girls dorms, the home lived in by an early commanding officer, the remains of the barracks, and a number of other buildings, many of which were later additions. Of course, by this time, the fort no longer has its protective walls. An interesting visit.

After the 4th, the campground cleared out pretty quickly, and for the rest of our time there, there were probably at most 10 sites that were in use. Of course, part of the time, the lower camping loop was out of use because of a big water leak in the line. Only a few stalwarts in RVs stayed there, due to the fact that they had to haul in water if they wanted it.






There was a walking trail near the lake that we went on one morning, before it got too hot. Nice views of Lake Lymon.





We also had some other campers in our site. It was fun watching them at work.






Sunrise came early, and was beautiful.





One thing that we noticed a couple of times when we came back from playing tourist elsewhere was that some of our tent stakes were up out of the ground. We weren't sure what was going on with that, if some of the other campers' kids were doing it for fun, or what. We ended up staking those lines down by tying the cords around some big rocks.

On our last afternoon there, we'd decided to spend time at the campsite to get a little rest before traveling home the next day. It was unusually hot even for there, and we eventually retreated to the tent to try to nap. It was monsoon season, and there were clouds building up around us, promising to bring the temperatures down to a more reasonable level. (Monsoon simply means 'seasonal'. It doesn't specifically denote to torrential rains they get in India and elsewhere.) The rain finally started, a light sprinkle, then a little heavier. And a bit heavier. And then the straight-line winds hit. With us inside the tent. I'm not sure how long they lasted, but I'm really, really glad that we'd staked out the tent on the side the winds were coming from with really big rocks. Otherwise, we and everything in the tent would have gone rolling off down the hill and across the campground, ending up no telling where. The wind was so strong that it was blowing rain up under the tent fly into the tent, and through the gap where the zipper pull met the other zipper pull on the back window. After that, we knew how the tent stakes had gotten pulled up before.

Our last night there, a bunch of people showed up in the campsite across the one-way road from our site. Some arrived early to set up, others arrived later in the afternoon. The campground rules were that there was supposed to be quiet time past 10 pm and before 7 am. These people chose to ignore that, and were extremely loud until nearly midnight. They also chose to ignore the fact that there were young children in nearby sites and loaded their very loud speech with a lot of curse words. The next morning, when their next nearest neighbors were packing up to leave, which happened somewhere between 5:30 and 6:30, that family and their kids made a lot of noise, slamming and banging things as they packed all their stuff back into their RV. We were already up and packing ourselves, and felt like applauding them.

On the trip to and from Arizona, we noticed a lot of these.



You might have to click to get a bigger image on that one. There were miles and miles of these, many thousand individual wind turbines, in Texas, and some in Oklahoma. I've seen one or two locally, but never on this scale. I guess that's what a wind farm is.

In my next post, I'll tell you something about the area where Patty's family lives.

Fun in Arizona

Or, Adventures in Middle-aged Camping, 2014 edition.

Click on any picture and you'll get a bigger version.

This is what many people think of when they hear the name Arizona.



This is also Arizona.


And this.


And this.





Those lightish trails running down the mountain are ski runs. No snow since it was in July, but in the mountains they do get snow.


And this is proof that it actually rains in Arizona.




So, what were we doing in Arizona last summer? Basically, it was a research trip. My main character, Patty, grew up on a ranch in an area near the real-world towns of Springerville/Eagar, and I'd long had in mind how the place should look, but thought it would be nice to go see what it felt like and sounded like, and yes, what it looked like. (I was, in fact, completely wrong about how it looked. Glad we went.)

We arrived on July 4th at Lymon Lake State Park and quickly set up our tent. We were proud of how easy it had been to set the tent up and stake it down...until the winds came up, yanked up the stakes, and threatened to send our tent tumbling across the crowded campground. After a quick scout around, we determined the best spot to set up was on an awkward slope to one side of the picnic shelter in our site. With the wind blowing, we had to clear the ground of large rocks and stake down the ground cloth for under the tent before we could stake the tent down again. This meant one of us had to fight the wind to keep the tent from blowing away while the other fought the wind to keep the ground cloth from taking flight while it was being staked down. One of the rangers came by and showed us how to tie off to big rocks to anchor the tent, which we hadn't done because we hadn't known it was allowable. This comes up again later. It took us an hour or better, fighting the wind, to get the tent set up where it would be for the next week.



Pretty much every site in the campground was taken that night, so it was pretty noisy with people getting drunk and celebrating, though we didn't have to contend with noisy fireworks because of a burn ban. It was not the most comfortable night. With the slope of the ground, I had to be careful how I moved on my air mattress because it wanted to tip me off. My husband's mattress was on a slightly more level place, apparently.





Springerville Visitors Center and Museums.


Over the next few days, we visited Springerville repeatedly for meals and a brief driving tour. A couple of our favorite places were:



Booga Red's had the best Mexican food in town, in our opinion. Tried a number of places, but liked that one best.



Visited Java Blues for a few meals, and for pie breaks. Really liked it.



Also drove up to the Petrified Forest/Painted Desert national park. If you've never been there, you should go if you're ever in Arizona. Photos don't do the colors justice.



Made our way down to Phoenix for a night. If there's a Hard Rock Cafe in driving distance, my husband will want to go there. Also got to have dinner with Cathy of Kittling: Books and her husband Denis. We had a really wonderful time visiting with them. Denis grew up in England and had a lot of interesting stories to tell, and the two of them together have had a few adventures exploring their adopted home state.



Spotted these along the way to Phoenix. Not sure what they are, but they added some nice color to otherwise sunbaked land.

To be continued in next post...

5/03/2015

Recent Reads Continued

On with the job...

Death at the Door by Carolyn G. Hart

Part of the Death on Demand series.

The Prime Minister's Secret Agent by Susan Elia MacNeal

#4 of the Maggie Hope series set in WWII, I believe.

Tabula Rasa by Ruth Downie

Gaius Petreius Ruso series #6. This is such a fun series. Really like her writing voice.

James R. Benn:

Billy Boyle WWII series:

A Blind Goddess
The Rest Is Silence

Raging Heat by "Richard Castle"

Ngaio Marsh:

Inspector Roderick Alleyn series:

Enter a Murderer
Death in Ecstasy
Vintage Murder
Artists in Crime
Death in a White Tie
Overture to Death
Death at the Bar
Death and the Dancing Footman
Color Scheme
Died in the Wool
Final Curtain
Swing, Brother, Swing
Night at the Vulcan
Scales of Justice
Singing in the Shrouds

Dorothy L. Sayers:

Lord Peter Wimsey series:

Clouds of Witness
Unnatural Death
Lord Peter Views the Body
The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club
Strong Poison
The Five Red Herrings
Have His Carcase
Murder Must Advertise
The Nine Tailors
Gaudy Night
Hangman's Holiday
Busman's Honeymoon (to the point where the ghosts show up)

The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey

Thea Phipps:

Charades With a Lunatic
The Doll in the Wall
Strange Caper

Bella Wildeve series. Rereads on the first two, third is new. Fun, enjoyable stories.

Dick Francis's Damage by Felix Francis

Continues to handle the franchise well...

Dreaming Spies by Laurie R. King

The most recent Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes book, set primarily in Japan this time.

P. G. Wodehouse:

My Man Jeeves
Thank You, Jeeves
Right Ho, Jeeves
The Inimitable Jeeves

Jill Paton Walsh:

Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane:

Thrones, Dominations
A Presumption of Death
The Attenbury Emeralds
The Late Scholar

Walsh picks up where Sayers left off, beginning with her notes for future adventures of the pair. The first two are set 1) shortly after the pair's marriage and honeymoon abroad, and 2) during WWII. The last two are set later in their lives, with Peter being in his sixties and the reluctant Duke of Denver. The last has a very recent copywrite, so there may be more of these coming.

Wouldn't it be Deadly by D. E. Ireland

Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins. Yes, that Doolittle and Higgins. Started it a while back, wasn't in the mood, came back and finished it later. Eliza has spunk and street smarts. Higgins is his usual arrogant self, except when he isn't. You find out why he's not married.

What I still have on my Nook to read:

Brat Farrar by Josephine Tey

And by Ngaio Marsh:

False Scent
Hand in Glove
Dead Water
Killer Dolphin

Don't know when I'll get to these, as I'm writing now and don't read a lot while I'm working.

Next post will probably be about our vacation last year...

5/02/2015

A long overdue list of Recent Reads

Had to go back and look at the last time I'd posted one of these to see where I left off. There is a year's worth of them, so these may end up being divided...

The Whole Enchilada by Diane Mott Davidson

Difficult after a year, but I seem to remember enjoying this. Goldie was not quite in the TSTL category here, which made it much better.

The Norfolk Mystery: A County Guides Mystery by Ian Sansom

First in a series. Enjoyed it. It's been a year, so I suppose I should start looking for the next one.

Michael Pearce:

A Dead Man in Malta
A Dead Man in Naples

Two more Sandor Seymour books.

Agatha Christie:

Dead Man's Folly
The Big Four
Hercule Poirot--The Complete Short Stories (haven't actually finished this)
Curtain: Poirot's Last Case
Crooked House
Death on the Nile
A Murder is Announced
Murder on the Orient Express
Nemesis
Peril at End House
A Caribbean Mystery
At Bertram's Hotel
Elephants Can Remember
The Mirror Crack'd From Side to Side
The ABC Murders
And Then There Were None

Rhys Bowen:

Masked Ball at Broxley (short story)
Naughty in Nice
The Twelve Clues of Christmas
Queen of Hearts

More Royal Spyness adventures.

Mary Daheim:

Gone With The Win (from her Bed-and-Breakfast series)

Okay. Didn't enjoy it as much as her Alpine Advocate series.

From her Alpine Advocate Series:

The Alpine Advocate
The Alpine Betrayal
The Alpine Christmas
The Alpine Decoy
The Alpine Fury
The Alpine Gamble
The Alpine Hero
The Alpine Icon
The Alpine Journey
The Alpine Kindred
The Alpine Legacy
The Alpine Menace
The Alpine Nemesis
The Alpine Obituary
The Alpine Pursuit
The Alpine Quilt
The Alpine Recluse
The Alpine Scandal
The Alpine Traitor
The Alpine Uproar
The Alpine Vengeance
The Alpine Winter
The Alpine Xanadu
The Alpine Yeoman
The Alpine Zen

Long haul for Emma Lord and the Sheriff. Finally ended well for them.

Joan Hess:

Claire Malloy series:

Murder as a Second Language
Pride v. Prejudice

The two latest in this long-running series.

Maggody series:

Malice in Maggody

Carola Dunn:

Daisy Dalrymple series:

Death at Wentwater Court
The Winter Garden
Requiem for a Mezzo
Murder on the Flying Scotsman
Damsel in Distress
Dead in the Water
Styx and Stones
To Davy Jones Below
Rattle His Bones
The Case of the Murdered Muckraker
Die Laughing
A Mourning Wedding
Fall of a Philanderer
Gunpowder Plot
The Bloody Tower
Black Ship
Sheer Folly
Gone West
Anthem for Doomed Youth
Heirs of the Body

Newest one is out very soon, if not already.

Cornish Mystery series:

Manna from Hades
A Colorful Death
Valley of the Shadow

Interesting series with old-lady sleuth, her police officer niece, and a local artist who I hope becomes the niece's love interest. Set in the 60s or 70s, so women police officers were still a new thing.

Barbara Ross:

Clammed Up
Boiled Over

Series set in Maine, if I remember correctly. First two books. I'm planning to get the next one, which is out now.

Charles Todd:

Bess Crawford series:

The Maharani's Pearls (short story)
An Unwilling Accomplice

I really enjoy Bess Crawford. Smart and brave.

Inspector Ian Rutledge series:

A Fine Summer's Day

This one was set just before WWI, his last case before joining the army and having his life changed forever.


I will have to finish these in another post.  Whew!

11/27/2014

Carl Griffis--April 28, 1940-October 31, 2014

I put this post off for a while--not an easy one to make. Carl Griffis was my father.

Back in March, Dad was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. It was at stage 2b, which his doctors viewed as early enough to be treatable, so they went at it with chemo and radiation, and successfully killed the tumor. (Esophageal cancer is caused by acid reflux apparently. Dad wasn't a smoker, so it wasn't that type of cancer.) The tumor had narrowed his esophagus, which made it difficult to swallow, and the treatment made the area in his esophagus extremely irritated, so he was being fed through a tube into his small intestine.

The next step in treatment was surgery on July 14th to remove the damaged part of the esophagus. What was expected to be the removal of just a portion of the esophagus turned out to be the removal of most of it, as the damage was greater than the doctors had thought. His stomach was stretched to take the place of the missing esophagus. The biggest problem with that was the removal of the valve that keeps stomach contents from going back up.

The hoped-for nominal two week recovery never materialized. Setback after setback cropped up, and two further surgeries were required, one to insert a tracheostomy tube to protect his lungs when bile reflux from his stomach entered his lungs and gave him a persistant case of pneumonia, and the other to correct a twist in his intestine that was suspected of keeping his stomach from emptying properly. The extended use of the tube feeding left him malnourished, as it was only intended to be a temporary thing. He did not thrive. Three and a half months after his surgery, he passed away.

I don't celebrate Halloween anyway, but his dying on the 31st would have killed the holiday atmosphere of the day if I did.

There was a memorial for him November 18th at Engineering Hall on the University of Arkansas campus, where Dad taught for more than 40 years. Quite a number of colleagues and former students showed up, and a bunch got up to talk about him. It's nice to know that he was truly loved by so many people. My sister, who shared caregiving duties with me and alternated days with me taking Mom to the hospital to visit Dad, had put together a slideshow using family photos. The hardest image to look at was the last, which was taken the week before he died. He was smiling and waving at the camera, but we knew what had come before, and what came shortly afterward.

I'm glad he is no longer in pain.

He will be missed, by a whole lot of people.

4/09/2014

And we have audio!

Rio Star has just been released as an audio book.

In an email conversation I had with the narrator, she mentioned that it must be very strange to hear an alien voice inhabiting the world the writer created. It's been very interesting hearing the voices she's given my characters, and the many different accents she had to use. I never really gave much thought to the number of nationalities that show up in Rio Star. My only quibble is that I wish someone had asked me about the pronunciation of Patty's husband's name, which is Irish Gaelic and doesn't sound the way it's spelled. (It also explains why I managed to have two characters with the same first name without realizing it, because they are pronounced so differently.)

Otherwise, the narrator, Kathy Bell Denton, did a fantastic job, and it was a real blast hearing my characters speak and Patty's thoughts given voice. As a writer, you never really know how your work is to others until you hear it read out loud, because it strips away what you think is there and shows you what really is there. I quite enjoyed it, but then, I'm biased, lol!

Rio Star is available as an audiobook from Audible.com, Amazon.com, and iTunes, supposedly.

Speaking of Patty, she's been whispering in my ear lately, so maybe there's still hope for more from her.

Some recent reads:

To finish off the Hornblower run--

C. S. Forester:

Admiral Hornblower in the West Indies--This is a series of short stories following Hornblower's adventures commanding the West Indies fleet, trying to control pirates, smuggling, and renegade French soldiers.

Robert Goldsborough:

The last two of his Nero Wolfe books:

Silver Spire
The Missing Chapter

Michael Pearce:

The Mamur Zapt series:

The Camel of Destruction
The Snake-Catcher's Daughter
The Mingrelian Conspiracy
The Fig Tree Murder
The Last Cut
Death of an Effendi
The Bride Box--This one is new, available only as an ebook from what I could see.

The Sandor Seymour Mysteries:--A second series by Michael Pearce, featuring Scotland Yard detective Sandor Seymour. Set, as with the Mamur Zapt books, in the years just prior to WWI.

A Dead Man in Trieste
A Dead Man in Istanbul
A Dead Man in Athens
A Dead Man in Tangier
A Dead Man in Barcelona

Agatha Christie:

After the Funeral--Poirot

I did finally finish The Jamaican Affair of 1805 (see previous post), at a point when I was between batches of books. My opinion is unchanged.

More later~~

3/02/2014

Getting the year off to an ice start...



How to make a white car blend into its background...

This has been an ice winter. (And no, that's not a typo.)

I imagine a good 2/3s of the US is sick of winter by now. I know we were sick of it all the way back in December. We're getting thunder sleet just now, preceded by freezing rain and to be followed by snow. Predicted low tonight of 4. Ugh. Good reading weather, though.

There is an interesting psychological thing that happens locally when icy stuff is expected. Freezing stuff usually stays on the ground a couple of days once it's fallen--usually the temperature is warm enough to melt it off quickly, though the last snowfall we had was on the ground for a week and a half. Not what you would think of as highly dangerous circumstances. But the few days before the storm often sees people in panic mode, buying enough food to survive a month of isolation in their homes. I'm very glad I don't work at a grocery store.

There appears to be some movement on the audiobook front. (Did I mention that Mundania bought a small recording company and is putting its books out in audiobook format? I can't remember.) We'll see how it goes.

Speaking of books, here's some recent reads:

Robert Goldsborough:

More Nero Wolfe~~

Murder in the Ball Park
Death on Deadline
The Bloodied Ivy
Fade to Black

C.S. Forester:

Mr. Midshipman Hornblower
Lieutenant Hornblower
Hornblower and the Hotspur
Hornblower and the Atropos
Hornblower During the Crisis
Beat to Quarters
Ship of the Line
Flying Colors
Commodore Hornblower
The Hornblower Addendum --Five Hornblower short stories

Michael Robertson:

Moriarty Returns a Letter --Latest in the Baker Street Letters series, and the first of these I've read.

Michael Pearce:

A Cold Touch of Ice --Part of the Mamur Zapt series. Good stuff.

John Mahon:

The Jamaican Affair of 1805 --I have to emphasize that I bought this out of curiousity. CS Forester died partway through writing Hornblower During the Crisis, so the story was unfinished. This book a) was written and published with the approval of CS Forester's sons to finish the story, and b) has a very fan-fictionish feel to it. There are many ways that Hornblower does not act and think like Hornblower in this, at least to my mind. There was an attempt to turn Hornblower's common dandelion-like wife Maria into a rose, and it was almost as if an effort was made to teach Hornblower lessons in humility. I stopped reading this at a certain point, and am uncertain if I will finish it. There is a second story out there that purports to finish Hornblower During the Crisis, but I'm already gun-shy about it and don't know if I'll risk the money on it.

Dean King:

A Sea of Words --This is a lexicon of words and terms used in Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series that may be unfamiliar to modern readers, as they are often sea terms used in the 1800's, along with definitions of sails and rigging and stuff. Very interesting. A slow read, though. Nice in small doses. I have not finished this yet, but am working on it a bit at a time.

Current Read:

Lord Hornblower

If you haven't read the Hornblower series, you'll notice that the book that Forester didn't finish is in the middle of the series. That's because Forester actually began writing the series with Beat to Quarters, and eventually circled back to write the early career of Hornblower. It makes for a bit of a jolt when you start at the chronological beginning of Hornblower's career as a Midshipman and move forward until you reach Beat to Quarters. It can feel as if two different people were writing the series, since those first-written books are fuller of detail than the latter-written books.

Enough of this for now. I hope winter ends soon, and that you're not under a blanket of snow at this moment. Brrr.