Our Tucson yard is often full of wildlife, mostly birds and lizards, but we do get the occasional bobcat wandering through the place, as well as troupes of Javalina parading outside the north wall. We call them pigs, of course they are not porcine but wild peccary that love to dance quite noisily under a full moon beneath the guestroom window. I’ve been noticing a new addition to our livestock—a very cute chipmunk that dashes about. A couple of days ago I discovered a hole under the brick fire pit at the back patio and knew that something had moved in. This morning I opened the living room slider and saw said chipmunk playing at the base of the fire pit. Ah ha, the new resident confirmed. I opened the screen. Chipmunk freaked and made frantic blind dash straight into the pool in a splashy belly flop. I dropped the rugs I was carrying and ran to get the short-handled scoop net to fish out the chipmunk, but he was struggling for his life in the middle of the pool. I sprinted to the side yard, pulled the 10-foot net pole off the wall, and back to the pool. Poor terrified chipmunk was about done when I dipped the net under him. In my excitement I flipped him out a foot or so above the cool decking. He lay stunned on his belly, legs spread wide like a flying squirrel, and completely soaked. I retreated into the house to give him some recovery space since I felt responsible for his mad dash in the first place. In a couple of minutes, chipmunk regained himself and zipped away into the side yard.
The Story . . .
Ever wondered what a teen queen would do if she were forced to leave her perfect life in Seattle for the ghost capital of Montana where her parents intend to live their dream instead of hers? Ele O’Neill lets everyone feel her pain about living in a haunted theatre without phone or wifi. But a cowboy ghost is determined she behave like a proper young lady until all hell breaks loose and Ele learns first love can be wonderfully thrilling but extremely dangerous, especially with a ghost.
My new book with The Wild Rose Press, GHOSTLY ACTS, a multiple award-winning paranormal YA romantic thriller, is available at fine retailers worldwide in eBook and paperback TODAY June 6, 2018. An audiobook edition is coming soon.
Story Behind the Story . . .
Every story I write begins in my dreams, imaginings, and often reflects some facet of my experience. The setting of my story GHOSTLY ACTS was inspired by my husband, who grew up in Montana and whose ancestor rode with the Vigilantes of Virginia City. We visited the Ghost Capitol of Montana where I researched the history of the Vigilantes and the Innocents gang. Story bones began their skeleton dance. But no one interestingly motivated emerged to tell this story.
My son was a successful AP junior in high school, on the swim and water polo teams, worked as a lifeguard and, as a working actor since he was six-years-old, active in school and community drama productions. Mid-year my husband was transferred and we moved to the new job location. My son knew no one at his new school and spent all his free time driving sixty-five miles one way back to his old school and friends. There had to be a better answer to this family problem that would keep our boy off I-5! Our son’s solution was to graduate the new high school with honors a year early and, as a seventeen-year-old, matriculate at Montana State University. A motivated storyteller had emerged . . .
One demand that my son has always had is–don’t put me in your stories. So, to find another storyteller I started the What If Speculations. I didn’t have to look far as my extended family has been blessed with a smart, athletic, kind, talented young woman with megawatt star power. I wondered if such a teen queen suddenly had to move from her kingdom to the Ghost Capitol of Montana so her parents could live their dream, and was without friends, academic stimulation, family support focus, and in her case, no tennis, how would she act? What would she do especially if there were real ghosts haunting her and her family?
Wow! Did I put Miss Electra (Ele) O’Neill through hell! I’m not sorry and I don’t believe Ele is sorry either. She stepped up with solutions–most unusual ones–to her problems many, except for one: is there any real future in loving a ghost?
It’s all fun!
In Virginia, there’s a group of beautiful old cemeteries near the Alexandria Veterans Cemetery with grave markers of honored dead that date back to the Revolutionary War, the American Civil War, and modern conflicts. This is not a sad, forgotten place. Its tree-lined paved paths between the different graveyards are often busy with walkers, runners and dog owners giving the pups a run, or saunter as the sultry weather dictates. Whenever we visit Alexandria we accompany the granddogs and their parents on a happy stroll through the cemeteries.
Today, just a week after Memorial Day and despite the subsequent torrential rain, many tombstones still were festooned with bright flowers, American flags and other red, white, and blue decorations. The most lasting decorations are the wild strawberries growing around the tombstones, a delightful organic contrast to the mylar pinwheels and balloons and silk flowers. Speaking of recent weather havoc in the cemeteries, not even the tombstones are safe as this picture shows a huge branch that the wind broke out of an ancient oak and knocked down several tombstones.
But there are other dangers lurking in the cemeteries that most wouldn’t expect. If you’re a Doctor Who fan, you know what I mean when I say DON’T BLINK when you encounter one of these, weeping or not!
It’s all fun!!!
Tomorrow is D-Day–GHOSTLY ACTS Drops Worldwide!
I took this photo of some of my novels that are on the shelf in my official office. I love this room with bookcases full of favorite books and mementos. My grandmother’s Navajo baskets and rugs are on the floor and my mother’s western art collection decorate the walls. There’s a heavy desk that I bought in 1978 and have moved a thousand times. My husband converted the closet into a printer center with paper and supplies storage. The other side of the closet holds my old tech collection–slide projector, screen, dozens of full carousel trays, my first computer, scanners, audio equip and other old techy stuff I must be saving for something. This is the library and an office because my desk and books are there, but I don’t write in that room so full of old stories and memories.
If I don’t write in the beautiful, well-equipped office, where does this writer’s magic happen? My playroom is a large, light-filled bedroom with a window seat on the front of the house overlooking the courtyard patio. This is where my particular brand of magic happens. I have all my favorite creativity jumpstarters around–my piano, sewing machine, paints and canvas, a big worktable with space for my laptop and any project, audio equipment, and trophies and tiaras that jog happy memories of creative success and make me laugh.
And no, that is not a giraffe growing out of my head. Of course, there’s a story about that. I bought a three drawer chest at a local import store and went to the outside loading dock to pick up the chest. My son and husband were stuffing a seven-foot headless wooden giraffe into the back of our SUV that they’d salvaged from the dumpster. They intended to use it for target practice. I couldn’t see shooting up that beautifully hand-painted whimsical sculpture. Even headless, it really spoke to me. After I got the piece home and cleaned up, the giraffe insisted it needed a head. I bought a giraffe puppet online, pulled it over the neck stump and tied a scarf around the “join.” Perfect! I stood my magnificent creation in the corner. Pancho the Airedale immediately nosed him up and had to be shooed away lest its long legs are covered with chomp marks.
I sat at my play table each day, writing like the wind and admiring my clever salvaged giraffe muse until I realized . . . Hey, giraffes have caramel colored spots, not black stripes or brushy black manes down their long necks. The wretched thing had lied to me, led me to believe it was something that was tall, long-necked and dined in treetops. I’d saved from a dumpster and bullets, bought a $45 giraffe puppet head for a freaking ZEBRA and created a Chimera! I may not admire my Chimera the way I used to in my ignorance, but I sure do laugh. The interesting thing is I’ll walk into my playroom and find Chimera in a different spot or turned toward the wall or even lying on his side on the floor under my play table. Today he was standing on the window seat, giraffe head peering out the tall, arched window at the Mesquite treetops and striped zebra butt–mooning me.
It’s all fun! Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmelinda
When we bought our Tucson house four years ago, the large entry courtyard was rocky dirt with a few succulents and cactus. Since the front of the house faces east to the beautiful Catalina Mountains, there was an inspiring view to reclaim. We wanted to create an inviting oasis to enjoy sunrise coffee or evening cocktails in the shade, surrounded by flowers. And we’re accomplishing that.
Now that the planters’ flowers and bushes are mature and it’s Spring, the quail are determined to move in and prepare their nests in our cool, secure courtyard. They don’t seem to care about the size of the pot. They’ll simply kick everything out they can and settle in. My sister-in-law, Susan Gunn, has shared stories of raising chickens and that after they put them to bed in the evening, she and Sherm toiled in the chicken yard filling holes. This morning I found my fairy garden thoroughly excavated, soil, cottage, and fairies ejected onto the pavers. Now it seems I’m tending a chickenyard. But instead of a shovel and rake, I use stones, larger fairies, and weighty whimsical stuff to fill the prospective quail nest foundations. I had to relocate the frog pond away from the fairy garden because the quail fished the tiny resin frogs out of the pond, only to toss them onto the pavers when they discovered fake frogs weren’t very tasty.
The only pot in the courtyard the quail haven’t yet tried to terraform and move into is a kalanchoe guarded by my pet metal javelina, Pig Iron. However, perhaps one of these mornings I’ll take my coffee to the courtyard to watch the sunrise and find Pig Iron on his side on the floor. A quail couple will explode out of the yellow pot, complaining loudly, laying a dark cloud of soil behind them, only to return after the sun sets on the back garden. And there it is—Clang! Pig Iron hits the bricks, sparking the eternal question—can a dedicated fairy garden horticulturist win against live quails’ urge to nest? Or can she reach detente with both flora and fauna, real and imagined, and declare peace in our garden? Perhaps we’re getting there, if this happy little garden is any indication . . . .
I was invited to my niece Jenna’s birthday painting party. My niece and her mother, my sister, are super achievers and take their “doing” very seriously. I, however, do not so much. I tend to fall in love with the idea of making something interesting and so experiment with these kinds of crafty, arty and music-making experiences. I learned long ago that I’m good for maybe a series of classes worth of said experience, then I move along, move along. One reason being–what the heck do I do with the end product of that experience? How many poorly crocheted bikinis (yes, I actually did one of those back in the early 70s) or sloppily knitted potholders does one need?
I love doing the painting BYOB (and snacks) events with fun people. So far I have “done” three such parties. I’d like to say that each painting I turn out is better than the last . . . but truth be told, NAH. I’m not interested in getting better at painting these studies in standardized acrylics, but I’m all about going to hang out with artistic hopefuls who like to play, drink wine and graze on really good snacks–which ARE getting better each time I go.
The Process. There is a process to this artistic creating. In fact, it’s so standardized and easy everyone’s paintings look pretty much the same. About thirty minutes into the teaching and our putting paint to canvas, I begin to feel kinda bored. I know what the end product in front of me is going to look like. That observational power isn’t born of second sight or prescient ability. I’ve simply looked at the paintings-in-progress around me. And if I continue to follow directions my picture will look like that, too.
Enter snacks and Chardonnay, yay! I wander over to the goodie table where we’ve laid out our extensive display of tastiness and indulge as I consider my artistic options concerning the Old Door in a Wall project. Full glass in hand and a plate of yummy in the other, I return to my seat to sip and snack and think. Then it hits me–my individual artistic interpretation. I paint the door dark blue, paint in lighted windows at the top and on the plate beside the door the number eleven. Tah Dah! The TARDIS and my favorite Doctor, Number 11 just landed in my painting. It’s brilliant! And as is the way with such endeavors, no one gets it. No one! Except after the class, the instructor/shop owner came round and exclaimed, “It’s a TARDIS! We’ve never had anyone do a TARDIS.” Turns out her husband is British and began to tell me all about his watching very early Doctor Who back in the 1960s. Personally, I wasn’t a fan then, not until 2005 and Doctor #10, when the show was retooled.
As you can see from my photo, my painting looks perfect in my closed-eyes perspective apres Chardonnay. But then what doesn’t?
It’s all fun!