My Summer

Monsoon brewing, Taos, New Mexico

Hello, everyone,

Darcy, Pat, and I are fresh off our vacation to Taos. Sure, we had fun, but we worked as well—on CLON-X. We’re making good progress and can’t wait to send it out for the first round of professional edits. Woof woof!

I love Taos—the chilly mornings and nights, and the stormy monsoons that cool the warm afternoons. I also dig the unique smells—sage, piñon, chamisa, and the dusty earth tamed after a good rain. The plaintive cries of the wandering bands of coyotes hot on the hunt, the occasional jackrabbit that scurries across my path during an early-morning walk, and the noisy crows perched on the parapets of our house—all keep me entertained. On our patio, hordes of hummingbirds swarm our feeders, but I’ve grown used to their zooming hums as they buzz back and forth, and their constant, pleasant chirps, so they no longer hold my attention. What I enjoy the most is the silence, broken infrequently by some distant human or canine.

I also had fun taking day trips from Taos. On one, I saw my first pronghorn. He was pretty cool. I thought he was a statue until he turned tail and ran. No way could I keep up with him, so I didn’t try. We also visited El Bosque Garlic Farm in Dixon. I wasn’t the least bit interested in produce, but the owner, Stan, had two heelers and we hung out for a half hour until we were off to La Chiripada Winery. And I always look forward to dining on the patio at Bent Street Cafe for breakfast and Medley for dinner. Again, I got plenty of attention.

The only downside to our Taos visits? Slow or no Internet, which also has its pluses. Our house is located in Taos County and is surrounded by mountains, with the nearest cell tower well out of range. We’ve tried several alternatives, but all have failed, or the download speeds have been incredibly slow, which is why we’ve been off the social radar for a few weeks.

In the past, we’ve worked around this obstacle. A few years back, our favorite hangout for Wi-Fi was the Wired? Cyber Cafe. A bit of a drive from home, but worth the visit for Internet and good food and drinks in a pleasant environment. We would always try to show up early to beat the crowds drawn to the popular coffeehouse set in a former convent. If we arrived late and the masses had already beat us there, we’d experience a wait downloading our emails or conducting any online business for our LLC such as scheduling or reviewing blog posts. Forget any frivolous social media dabbling—keeping in contact for sheer fun. But never mind—sometimes you need to disconnect from your devices and reconnect with nature and see people face-to-face. While in Taos, we usually spend our mornings hiking, our afternoons taking a siesta, and our nights socializing—in person. Unfortunately, Wired? is permanently closed.

These days, we hang out at Koko (Koko Coffee/Deli/Carry-Out). They have a small collection of brightly colored tables and chairs on the walkway outside their establishment. I’m comfortable there in the morning hours, and the comings and goings of their patrons entertain me. As I keep hearing, giant schnauzers are not a common sight, so I get a lot of attention and I love it.

Perfect ending to a perfect day

During our last visit to Taos and Santa Fe, we learned to seize the moment, as in use free Wi-Fi whenever we could find it, but we refrained from using unsecured networks for anything vulnerable to a hack. Yesterday, we ate lunch on the Santa Fe Plaza and availed ourselves of free Wi-Fi, unburdening our mail outbox. I think they call this multitasking. Lunch over and emails sent, we went sightseeing, took a walk up Canyon Road, and ended with a stroll along the Santa Fe River before piling back into our SUV for the return drive to Taos. Ironically, our fastest download speed in Taos was while sitting in our SUV outside Kit Carson Electric Cooperative, Inc. Kit Carson also offers Internet service, and Pat was checking on the availability of fiber optics in our area of the county. Hopefully, Kit Carson can locate a fiber hub close to our property.

Now that we are back in Texas, we’re ready to launch our new blog post series. Next week: we go Down Under, back to New Zealand, to revisit some South Island haunts and to see the North Island for the first time.

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Why I Created Bullet

Bullet and Pat

In Gadgets, I intended to portray my antagonist Paco as a pet abuser, a mean person whom the reader would come to hate. But soon two problems arose. One, I found it difficult, if not downright impossible, to write these abuse scenes, especially every time I looked at Shotz, who spent most of her days planted at my feet or staring at me as I typed away on my keyboard. I couldn’t imagine harming her in the slightest way. Two, I began to read Gadgets at the DFW Writers Workshop, and a resounding majority of the members echoed my sentiments. “Surely, you aren’t going to kill the dog?” they asked. No, no intentions whatsoever of killing the dog. By Chapter 10, the unanimous comment was: “You are going to keep the dog in the entire series, aren’t you?” No, I’d had no intentions of doing so. But the more I dwelled on these comments, the more I realized that keeping Bullet in the series made good sense, so I went back to Chapter 1 and made Paco the antithesis of most villains: a man who loved his dog and would do anything for his canine companion. This change steered the plot in an entirely different direction, and for the better, in my opinion.

 Writing any series certainly presents its own set of challenges, but here’s one specific to mine. I  started writing seriously in 1985 (Blind Revenge), intending to fulfill a promise I had made to myself at age eight—that one day I would write a mystery. After dozens of rejections, I set Blind Revenge aside and in 1987 started writing Genocide, in which I first included Darcy McClain. At the time, I did not own a dog and had no intentions of adding a canine sidekick to the series, so Genocide was written without even a mention of a dog.

Midway through Gadgets, I decided my villain needed a canine companion, so I created Bullet and modeled him after my fearless girl, Shotz. By Brainwash, Darcy had inherited Bullet and I had the challenge of working him into Genocide, a story not meant to include a dog. I vacillated for months about adding Bullet to the book, but after persistent urging from my editor Caroline, and in allegiance to my readers, I caved and added him to the plot, and going forward he will play a greater role in future Darcy McClain and Bullet thrillers.


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My First Road Trip


Welcome back. I hope you enjoy reading about my first road trip with my new parents. It has been a little over a year since I’ve been in my forever home, and everything is going great. I love my new parents even though they tend to gush over me sometimes.

In August, we left the Texas heat behind and I went on my first road trip. When my parents loaded me into my 4Runner, I expected to go to the park, maybe Starbuck’s, or lunch at an outdoor café, but something was different about this trip. They had spent a day packing my SUV, and that seemed odd. The last long drive I had been on was when Grandma Jane rescued me in Madisonville, Texas, and drove me to her home. I thought she planned to keep me, but four days later she put me in her SUV and drove me to my forever home.

Are we there yet?

Back to the road trip. I was getting worried when we rode for a really long time and it didn’t look like they planned to stop anywhere. Then I saw a sign for a town called Decatur. I had never been in this part of Texas and I felt a bit nervous, especially after they pulled into a rest stop. But my dad patted me on the head and my mom filled my water bowl, while I hopped out to sniff the freshly mowed grass and to leave a few scents of my own.

A short time later, I jumped back into the hatch of my 4Runner, and off we went to continue our journey—and a very long one it would be. I dozed as mile after mile of grasslands, cotton fields, and milo flitted past the windows. Along the way, we took a few more potty breaks, and every time they put me back in my 4Runner and we kept going. By now, I had come to the conclusion that they didn’t plan to leave me anywhere, so I was feeling pretty good when we filled our gas tank at Clines Corners and Mom sped up on US-285 toward Santa Fe.

Mom loves this stretch of highway, and I could see why. I sat up to take in the view—a sea of green dotted with cholla cacti, and on the horizon the landscape butted to an orange mesa, the flattop scraping a turquoise sky. No wonder Mom surrounds herself with coral-colored and teal-colored stuff. Must remind her of New Mexico. “It has been a wet winter,” said my dad, which was why the trees were so green.

Just beyond the subdivision of El Dorado, Mom jetted up the on-ramp to I-25, and we motored up the freeway to the St. Francis Drive exit. We cruised through Santa Fe, blew by the Opera House, and began our ascent toward Española, headed north on NM-68. Leaving Velarde, we entered a narrow canyon with a two-lane road—the mountains to our right and the fast-moving waters of the Rio Grande River to our left. “Good snows and rains this year,” said my dad.

“Horseshoe coming up,” Mom alerted us as we climbed and climbed, then dropped into a wide U-shaped canyon and almost immediately crested the rise for a breathtaking view of the Taos Plateau and the Rio Grande Gorge. I stuck my nose to the open window and sniffed the dry air. I wanted to hang my entire head out the window, but they wouldn’t let me. Ten minutes later, road weary and hungry for dinner, Mom parked in the garage and the unpacking began. But they fed me first.

Dusk fell, and soon darkness enveloped the house. In the distance, I heard a strange yelping. “Coyotes,” said Dad. But I was too tired to care, more interested in curling up on the sofa, and wondering what tomorrow would bring. More adventures, I hoped.

I was a big hit in Taos on my first visit. Almost every day, Mom and Dad took me to the plaza to walk around or to the local park. People of all ages stopped to pet or hug me, and I socialized with other dogs. I even ate at restaurants with Mom and Dad. Everyone commented on how well behaved I was, so I guess they were happy to have me there. They always gave me fresh water and treats. And when we showed up for a table at our favorite eatery, they made sure we had a big one, giving me plenty of room to stretch out without anyone stepping over me.I sure am looking forward to my next Taos visit.

Next time I post, and I’m not sure when that will be, I’ll write about my second road trip. But for now, we plan to take a break from posting and will be back soon with a new series starting with Pat’s Canadian rail-train trip. Sounds like fun, so watch for updates on her website and on Facebook and Twitter.



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