We’ve Come a Long, Long Way

image by ReutersUnless you were living under a rock for the first week of February, you couldn’t have missed the news that Elon Musk and SpaceX have made history. Made it with a bit of flair, too. Seriously, who launches a $100,000 Tesla Roadster into space with a mannequin behind the wheel in a spacesuit as the test payload while playing David Bowie’s “Starman”? The mannequin is even named “Starman.”
I watched the launch in tears. Mars is suddenly attainable. Perhaps not in my lifetime, but most definitely in the lifetime of my children. Maybe by the time my grandchildren are adults, they’ll be able to purchase tickets to go to Mars for spring break. (Maybe not spring break, but perhaps for a whole new definition of a semester abroad.)
In case you couldn’t tell, the science geek in me was almost orgasmic.
Yes, there were a few failures on this launch. Starman isn’t going to Mars. Oops. Overshot that one. (Or, as I say when I get lost going to a dog show—I’m not lost. I’m taking the scenic route. He’s taking the scenic route through our galaxy.) The center core didn’t survive landing. However, watching the landing of the two side boosters (and I’ve watched it over and over) simultaneously and in perfect synchronicity… DUDE! That was just plain and simple showing off. I’m pretty sure I shouted “Show-off!” when I watched the landing live.

Sorry, I still don’t think it’s flat. 

I spent several hours of the next ten hours or so (before the battery on the Tesla Roadster died) watching the live feed of Starman orbiting the earth. We live on such a beautiful blue planet. Such a pale blue dot, a shimmering sapphire set in black velvet. I wonder, if a future generation of Martian born humans will view Mars with the same awe that we do when we see our home planet from space. Will Mars be that fiery red dot they call home?
All of this got me to thinking. (No, I’m not planning a science fiction romance.) As a western historical romance writer, when I’m writing, I put myself into the mindset of my characters. Rapid transport in the late 1800s was by railroad and when the Transcontinental Railroad was completed with the driving of the final spike at Promontory Summit, Utah, travelling at 30 MPH was considered mind-boggling. The Falcon Heavy was doing 30 MPH before it was a foot off the launch pad. It was supersonic in two minutes.

Meeting of east and west at Promontory Summit, Utah.

One hundred years after the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, plus two and a half months—we literally put a man on the moon, on July 20th, 1969.
I wonder how my fictional characters would react to this world if they were suddenly thrust into it. I’m sure it would seem like such a strange, and foreign, and even hostile place. Would they even recognize this world as theirs? After learning to travel at the terrifyingly fast speed of 30 MPH, we invented the automobile, dared to challenge the birds for the sky, split the atom, cracked the code for DNA, and dipped our collective toes into the vast ocean we call space.
Almost fifty years after that first moon landing, the tiny machines on our desks have more computing power than the rooms full of computers required to launch, safely land, and return the crew of Apollo 11. Heck, my current cell phone has more computing capability than my first laptop computer and I got my first laptop only twelve years ago.
And, by the same token, what advances will we make in the next fifty years? That is, if we can manage not to destroy ourselves in the process…


I Do NOT Need a Shower

So, I’m sitting at my desk, asking myself for what has to be the millionth time in the last couple of months what in the sam hill I was thinking when I said I would be part of a series. The authors I’m working with are fantastic writers, who can craft an amazing, emotional tale. I consider myself honored to be a part of this series, so don’t read the rest of this blog post as anything other than my own personal feelings about something I’ve seen lately in the romance world. The premise of this series is fantastic—a fictional town where most of the men haven’t returned after the American Civil War, for whatever reason. The ladies decide the only way to save their town and protect themselves is to send off for mail order grooms.

Road and sky
Road in field and stormy clouds

So far, so good. Right? Then, I read the fine print. This romance I’m writing has to be sweet, clean, and wholesome. That means I have to close the bedroom door, no swearing, and maybe a chaste kiss. SAY WHAT? Anyone who has read my other books knows I leave the bedroom door wide freakin’ open. And, if I remember rightly, I have one hero whose favorite word is “damn.” (Colt, yes, I’m looking right at you.)

Okay. It’s good. I can get past that. While the romances I write are, to quote one reviewer, “steamy”, I can leave the kettle off the stove for this one. I’ll get past it.

What I’m hung up on, and it grates against me more and more, is the connotation that because those four romances (of which I am immensely proud, BTW) leave the bedroom door open they aren’t clean or wholesome. And, this is the problem with putting certain labels on romances. Labeling romances where the bedroom door is closed and the most the main characters ever share is a kiss (whether it’s chaste or not) as clean and/or wholesome means that in this world of always needing dichotomy, my romances are dirty and unwholesome. Carried out further, the connotation is sex itself is dirty.

Before I go any further, I want to fully stress that at no time has so much as a single one of the authors in this series once made that connotation about my romances to me.

I get it that some people just don’t want to read “THAT” scene and prefer to purchase books where “THAT” scene isn’t written, and in most cases, isn’t even alluded to. I get that. It’s a great big world out there and there are plenty of readers for all kinds of romances. (It’s the only explanation I can come up with for the 50 Shades of Gray effect and the manner erotica has rocketed up in readership.) But the attempted shaming and guilt-tripping by some readers and commenters on other posts on FB of the authors who do write “steamy” and “THAT” scene makes my blood boil. If it’s not for you, guess what—you can just scroll on past that post. Honest. That’s how FB works.

The same goes for a book signing. Don’t tell me at a book signing when you ask if I include the sex scenes that you prefer not to be a voyeur in a smug, condescending tone. You asked. I gave you an honest answer. If it’s not for you, smile and move on. How hard is that?

Romance authors, if you write “sweet, clean, and wholesome”, congratulations. You will NEVER know the agony of writing “THAT” scene and struggling to write it without the whole scene reading like choreography for an X-rated film. And, while we’re at it, can we please find another label for those “wholesome” books? The trend in romance (and it’s been there for a long time and doesn’t seem to be abating any time soon) is that before the main characters end up in bed together, there has to be a commitment to one another. They might not be able to articulate yet they love one another, but the emotional commitment to one another is there. Hell…oops…Heck, the first romance I had published the hero felt guilty for taking the heroine to bed. He was committed to her, heart and soul, but circumstances were conspiring to keep him from her for the rest of his life. He actually turns her down a little later in the book when he knows beyond a shadow of a doubt he can’t stay with her because to stay will put her life in jeopardy.

So, can we please stop with the shaming and the labeling? Can we all agree that there are readers for all types of romance and all that attempted shaming does is create divides in our community? It’s a great big reader pool. And just because some of us swim in another part of the pool, the water here isn’t dirty, either.  

Good Wolf Dead Wolf


I’ve tried not to take a side in this debate, but something happened the other night that finally threw me over the edge. I follow a page on Facebook that is devoted to pictures taken in the state of Wyoming. A new member in that group got the shot of a lifetime, that of the Lamar Valley Wolf Pack starting a hunt of a herd of elk. I knew the second that photo hit cyberspace, the debate over the wolves would start all over again. Less than a minute later, more than thirty comments had been made. Three—count ‘em: THREE—comments were on what a great picture it was. The rest were comments about killing the wolves and the rebuttals. (And for inquiring minds, other to comment what a lucky shot it was and to ask why people just couldn’t comment what a good picture it was and leave it at that, I didn’t respond.)YNP wolf


I got curious about those people screaming for the blood of the wolves and started clicking the public profiles of the people who commented negatively about the apex predator in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. 85% of them don’t even live in the state of Wyoming. The other four comments came from people who have a vested interest in seeing the wolf gone. One leads guided pack trips for elk hunts. Another works for a feed company that specializes in feed to finish out cattle prior to slaughter. One more is from a ranching family—near Wheatland on the other side of the state. Anyone want to take a guess at how big Wyoming is? One of the comments made was that wolves kill for the sheer joy of killing and that the reintroduced grey wolves are bigger and more aggressive (a claim repeatedly debunked by scientists) and this person also posted a picture of elk killed by wolves all lined up in the snow. My first thought to that was “You mean wolves kill just like trophy hunters do?” and my second thought was I never would have thought wolves would line up dead elk like that.


I started digging deeper into the effect the wolf has had on Yellowstone. Biologists call what is happening in Yellowstone over the last twenty years a trophic cascade. Usually, biologists have the depressing task of documenting what happens in an environmental situation when an integral part of the ecosystem is removed. Yellowstone offers biologists a rare and unique opportunity to document the changes when an integral and apex predator is reintroduced.


When the grey wolf was reintroduced into Yellowstone’s ecosystem, there was one colony of beavers. Twenty years later, because of that trophic cascade, there are nine beaver colonies. Because the wolves put so much pressure on the elk, the elk no longer linger in the winter along streams and rivers in Yellowstone. Because the elk no longer linger and are more migratory in their grazing patterns, the stands of young willows, aspen, and cottonwoods have a chance to grow and to provide food for the beavers through the winter. Because those stands of willows, aspens, and cottonwood are stronger, thicker, more resilient, they have helped to stabilize the river and stream banks. And yet, the elk population in Yellowstone is three times greater than it was a mere twenty years ago, even with the wolves hunting them. A study done in 2010 by Idaho Fish and Game revealed that the wolves have had minimal impact on elk populations. (https://idfg.idaho.gov/old-web/docs/wolves/articleHowling.pdf) Frankly, I’d be more worried about Chronic Wasting Disease decimating the elk herds than wolf kill (http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2015/06/researchers-make-surprising-discovery-about-spread-of-chronic-wasting-disease/#.WeK7LtNSyM8) and the effects of CWD on guided elk hunts.


Because the wolves kill coyotes, there are more rodents in Yellowstone. Because there are more rodents in the park, there are more foxes. More eagles. More badgers. More hawks. More ravens. More magpies. More of every predator that feeds on small rodents.


The wolves even benefit the bears—both black and grizzly—in Yellowstone. Because of the wolves, there is a more equitable distribution of carrion throughout the winter and into the spring. When emerging from hibernation, the bears depend on wolf-killed carrion for their first few meals in the spring.


Some conservationists, such as The Greater Yellowstone Coalition, propose responsible state-level management involving an established minimum gray wolf population, monitored by federal agencies such as U.S. Fish and Wildlife; monetary aid for ranchers who lose livestock—which Wyoming already does, and generously, I might add at seven times market value (https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-plight-of-the-wests-wolves-1507302000); and regulated, fair-chase hunting (i.e., no poisoning or trapping) of wolves in numbers based on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife reports. Revenue from hunting licenses could be used to help fund state wolf management programs. This would work fine—if Wyoming could prove itself capable of managing the wolves. Unfortunately, the state that I’ve often called my adopted home state, hasn’t proved they’re up to the task, if the manner that they’ve set up wolf hunts again is any indication. Every single trophy wolf hunting location in the state borders either Yellowstone National Park or Grand Teton National Park. The rules are set up so that hunters can actually lure the wolves out of the park with bait, wolf call, and just about any other means. The moment a wolf sets one foot out of the park boundary, they can be shot. That’s not management. And when, as has happened in the previous week, more wolves are killed in those areas than has been designated, that’s criminal mismanagement. As of October 4th, three of the trophy hunting areas have been closed and in two of them, more wolves were harvested than should have been. Just writing that word “harvested” makes me nauseous.

trophy wolf hunting zones

I also think it’s the height of stupidity that ranchers are allowed by the federal government to lease (for a mere pittance) and graze livestock on national forest land—the exact same land that the wolves roam—after spending decades and millions of tax payer dollars to re-establish not only the wolf population but also the grizzly and expect these two apex predators not to prey on cattle and sheep. Albert Einstein said that doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity.


And, I have one last thought on this. If you don’t pay property taxes in the state of Wyoming (guess what, I do!), keep your comments about killing wolves in Wyoming to yourself. We have enough people here who want to kill them. We don’t need you chiming in.


I’ve tried to see both sides. I’d like to think I’m smart enough to realize that this shouldn’t be and isn’t a simple “us vs them” argument, but unfortunately, that’s what it’s become. And, the side I’m choosing is for the wolf. I want my great grandchildren to be able to see a wolf in Yellowstone. I want them to be able to hear that haunting call echoing across a dark and star-lit landscape.  We just visit Yellowstone. It’s their home. And even the ranchers who lease land adjoining Yellowstone are just visiting because those leases are only temporary.white lady killed outside of YNP boundaries






A publication date–my kingdom for that date

I so need a publication date. My fourth book is coming soon from my publisher. I have the official cover. I have the official blurb. I have the official excerpt. My editor and I have signed off on the final galley. All I need now is a publication date.

I understand that there is a process and West of Forgotten is very near the end of that process to being a published book—but there are times that I envy my writing friends who self-publish. Write the book, look it over for typos, have a few beta readers go over it, send it to a hired editor, buy a cover, put it all together and hit “publish.” Done.

In all honesty, I am NOT that brave.

I want a publisher. I like having my own editor and the great rapport Anne and I have in our working relationship. I love the cover artist I have through my publisher. Everything Deb touches turns to gold when it comes to creating a cover. Have you seen my covers? And, I like that if I have a problem once the book is published, I can shoot an e-mail to Rhonda, or RJ, or Lisa (depending on the problem) and have a resolution within a matter of a day, and sometimes, just in hours.

So, now that I’ve talked myself out of thinking about self-publishing my next book, I’m going to share the cover, the blurb, and the excerpt from West of Forgotten (coming soon from The Wild Rose Press).


Jacket blurb:

Banished from civilization to the Wyoming Territory, U.S. Marshal Harrison Taylor holds a deed to half the Lazy L. He isn’t sure why his beautiful new partner, Rachel Leonard, doesn’t trust him. He has to convince her he is nothing like the man who abused her and must earn her trust before the escalating attacks at the Lazy L turn deadly.

For six years, Rachel has worked to repair a shattered life. Caring for her son and invalid father leaves little time to keep the Lazy L profitable. She doesn’t want a business partner simply because her father gambled away half of her beloved ranch and most certainly doesn’t desire a husband. Unfortunately, she’s stuck with the former and can’t trust Harrison as the latter.

Unless she can learn to trust Harrison, everything and everyone Rachel loves will be lost.


“You are an interesting woman. Beautiful, fascinating, and so full of contradictions.” He levered back from her and lifted his hand to cradle the side of her face, the pad of his thumb feathering along the slope of her cheek. “A seemingly very strong woman and yet terrified of a kiss.”

Rachel’s mouth was dry and she couldn’t pry her tongue from the roof of her mouth. Her limbs trembled. Surely he had to hear how fiercely her heart was pounding, so loudly she heard it echoing in her ears.

His voice deepened, grew quieter until it was almost a whisper and she fought the urge to close her eyes and let the warmth in his voice wash fully over her. “A woman with a child but so frightened of intimacy.” He leaned even closer to her, his mouth almost on hers, yet not touching her except where his warm palm held her face.

In the darkness, she could just make out his features. Her hands slid up his chest and she didn’t know if it was to push him away or pull him closer. She was aware her breathing was shallow and she held her breath when he brushed the pad of his thumb against her lower lip.

“You have a mouth made for kissing, my beautiful wife, but I’m not going to kiss you. Not until you ask me. And, I promise, when that time comes, you’ll be asking me to do a whole lot more than just kiss you.”


Greetings from The Bridge

The rules here are rather strange, but like all places, there are some who view rules as set in stone and others who view those rules as much more in line with strongly worded suggestions. Supposedly, I am only allowed one time to contact my human in such a manner once I crossed the Bridge and I used that one time when I hacked Vander’s Facebook page. But, as I said, there are some here who view rules as little more than suggestions—and for that I have to thank my old feline friend, Ding. If anyone could find a loophole, it would be her. I also figured if Vander could take over HER blog for a day and write a post, it can’t possibly be that hard to do.
I have waited some time before I decided to steal HER blog and send HER a message because I know how deeply HER heart hurt when she kept the promise she made to me when I was a small puppy. The last thing I ever want to do is hurt HER. She was—no, she is my human and hurting HER is something I never want to do. I know the day I left HER and went to the Bridge she hurt so much.
I remember I woke HER up that morning because I was in horrible pain. She tried to make it better and the only thing that helped was when she laid down on the floor with me and just held me in HER arms. She held me when the doctor lady came out to help me go to the Bridge. Having HER hold me when the doctor lady helped me was so nice because I wasn’t alone. I always trusted HER and she said that the pain would be all gone.
I can’t really explain what happened next, but some of the others here said that my body died. I could still feel HER holding me, feel HER gently stroking my head, and kissing my muzzle—but—I was also looking at all of this. And, the pain was gone. She very carefully placed my body in a pretty wagon and a nice lady pulled my body away. I heard HER say to Aunt Jacque, “I can’t watch him being taken away,” and she and Aunt Jacque drove away. I tried to tell HER that I was still there, in the car.
When we got back to the house, all the dogs I knew were still there and they could see me. I could see them. I could see HER, but she didn’t seem to be able to see me even though I know she could feel me next to her. She kept telling me it was okay, that even though it hurt her, she would be okay and I could go.
I couldn’t leave HER. Only thunderstorms scared me until that day. If I stayed right next to HER, I didn’t have to walk across a large black area. There was nothing in that area. NOTHING. She was on this side of the emptiness. On the other side was a place so beautiful and bright.
Our friend Johanna sent HER a text message. HER response was that I was scared and I wouldn’t go to the Bridge. I didn’t see a Bridge, only that horrible, black emptiness. Johanna said she was sending help. And, then in that empty blackness I saw a large tri-colored smooth walking to me. And, behind him were a lot of other dogs and a cat. Some I knew: Belle; my half-sister E.B.; my friend Cara; and my best cat friend, Ding. The tri said his name was Elvis and his human, Johanna, had asked him to come walk with me across the blackness. He said when HER dogs and Ding heard I was joining them across the Bridge, they all wanted to come with him.
Another tri smooth crossed the emptiness. For a minute, he leaned against HER legs and I could feel HER happiness to sense him by HER. He said his name was Boots and he was the smooth who made HER fall in love with tri smooth boys. Boots is a very serious dog. (Vander, take note, please…) And, then I saw HER very first heart dog. I have never met royalty, but I knew beyond a doubt, this tri rough girl is the embodiment of regal and royalty. Lena looked at me and said, “You aren’t leaving HER forever. You’ve done this before. Many times in HER life. Heart dogs like us, we find ways to return, again and again.”
Lena and I started to walk into the blackness and I got very scared when I felt HER fading away. I ran back to HER. Lena walked back to me and she growled at me. “You are hurting HER. Walk with us. Cross the Bridge with us. It won’t be forever. You can come back to HER. She will always hold you in HER heart.”
And, then Ding rubbed her head against me and whispered, “I will walk right next to you. Lena will walk with you, too. And, Boots and Colt and C.J. will be with us. Just look across the emptiness and you’ll see the Bridge appear.”
There was a Bridge. I could see it, then. Elvis asked me if I was ready to cross the blackness. I wasn’t ready. I told him I wasn’t. All the dogs she ever loved just sat down or lay down around HER and Colt said they would all wait with me until I was ready.
Two more collies crossed the emptiness. That blue smooth doesn’t seem to be the sharpest knife in the drawer but he said something that made me realize I have a promise to keep to HER, too. When she became my human, I promised I would never hurt HER. I had to leave HER.
Whiskey, the other collie who came across after the others, has a very sick sense of humor. He told me not to worry about falling through the blackness. He knew of only one dog who fell through it and that dog came back as a cat. Ding didn’t appreciate the humor.
I’ve been on this side of the Bridge for a little while now. Every night, I hear HER say, “Good night, Snapey-baby. Mommy loves you. Always.” I have gone back to HER, mostly when she’s sleeping because the two times I went back when she was still awake, I heard HER say how empty the little cabin still feels. I don’t want HER to feel hurt still.
Mommy, you were the best human a dog could ever want. All the dogs you ever loved and still love are here. Beary wants to know if you still have “his rock”. I don’t know what that means, but I promised him I would ask. Ding said to tell you “Thank you.” Lena thinks you’ve waited long enough to find another spiritual companion. I’m not sure what that means, either. Boots is proud of Vander. (Someone should be, I guess.)

And, Mommy,  I love you, too.


Ghosts, book signings, and Deadwood

Wild Deadwood Reads

Where else can you take an 1880s Train Ride through the Black Hills…

1880s Train RideAttend a PRC Rodeo in Deadwood…

PRC Rodeo DeadwoodSee Mount Rushmore…

Mount RushmoreSee a Ghost (and get your fill of amazing appetizers!)


…and see more ghosts in an historic cemetery…

Bullock Hotel DeadwoodHead out on a Pub Crawl…

Deadwood Pub CrawlAnd get books signed by 50 of your Favorite Authors!

Wild Deadwood Reads Book SigningWild Deadwood Reads! Reader Registration is only $5 in advance, which allows you to sign up for all the weekend events, some of which are FREE!

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Our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/groups/1330472326972227/

…Then Come Have Fun in Deadwood this Summer!

Special Places in the Heart

8512snapeBecause of his age and the arthritis in his right front wrist, my old champion Snape (Gr.Ch. Wych’s Prince of Summer) has become a house dog. Because of his age, getting him up and down the stairs into the basement for a bath is an ordeal–for both of us. He’s no longer completely steady on his feet while navigating stairs so he relies on me to prevent a fall. Until yesterday, even though he was slow, he could still climb them without assistance. Yesterday, after he had a bath and a complete blow-out with the dryer, I had to lift his back end on each step.


That assistance brought home just how old he really is. He’s eleven and a half years old. He’s been with me since he was eight weeks old and when I first picked him out, I really didn’t want another male. I was tricked into meeting him. I’m glad I fell for the ruse perpetrated on me by his sire’s owner and the owner of his mother. As a puppy, he was a bright red and for some time, I thought like his sire, he was going to be a pure for sable. Until he started to grow his adult coat when he was about 18 months old…and then that rich, deep mahogany began to fill in. _eag2742-edit-1820183777-o

Finishing his championship took time–because he is one of those dogs that doesn’t really look a lot like other collies in the ring and the right judges had to be found for him–older judges who’ve been in the breed for decades. Every one of those judges who put him up, whether all breed or specialty judge, all had the same comment–that he has a “classic look” to him. He finished his championship with all-breed points and specialty major wins.


Snape is my pet. My highest aspiration for my collies is that when they are retired from the show ring, they become “pets.” There is life after the show ring. Most of us will never have a top stud dog. Most of us will seldom have a top ten winning dog. Most of us will never win the Nationals, but I think most of us have these dogs who hold a special place in our hearts. The day Snape finished, while I was crying tears of joy, another person in this breed was very angry. Perhaps forgetting that I was set up behind this person, this person threw a pin brush into their tack box and announced that they couldn’t believe “that f$&^ing pet won.” Whether or not I was meant to hear that comment is neither here nor there. I did hear it, and I have not forgotten it. I have since come to realize this person is no more than a bully, just as fierce in the bullying as those who bullied this person in high school. I actually pity this person. And, I’m very proud of my “f$%^ing pet.” He holds a very special place in my heart and none of the insults hurled at him will ever take away his championship, his grand championship, and most certainly never take away that place in my heart.