It Is What’s Up Front #MFRWAuthor

Real Estate agents talk about curb appeal and how important it is to have an attractive front entrance. Which hasn’t always been the case here, in fact several friends wondered if they needed a machete to approach through the front overgrowth. I’m sure it comes as no surprise that I can’t find any pictures of this area. Except one from last Hallowe’en, with a giant black spide…well you probably remember!

One of the problems with dressing up the front is the seriously poor quality of the soil in front of the walkway. It took, sadly, ten years for me to think waaay outside the box, and use the EarthBoxes I had in the back. Although most everyone else manages amazing success with vegetables in these clever planters, they don’t do much for me. However, with annuals…those flowers that can be found inexpensively pretty much anywhere…hmmm.

I needed quick results since people were going to be driving up the private lane, and I really wanted something to show off. Soooo. I continued the concept of found materials, dragging pieces of carpet, and cut sections of railroad ties around to the front (gotta love those hand trucks) to help boost the EarthBoxes.


Earthboxes on RR ties on carpet. Ready for planting.


Yellow and cream…looks pretty good

I hauled a wood bench out of the house, where it had been covered in ‘stuff’ for ten years. And, yeah, it needs to be outside.


Add A Guardian


And a bench…come sit a spell

THANKS for being a part of this journey. More pictures coming soon. Stick around, you’ll be learning about a new book, from a new Black Opal author!


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I Did Promise You a Garden #MFRWAuthor

I have visitors coming next week; I should be cleaning house. I’m finally in revision mode; I should be working on A Question of Trust.

Instead, I have been indulging in my garden. Or maybe gardens. I’ve wanted the front to look welcoming instead of abandoned, and I’ve been working on the back garden for a while. Searching for what will grow, what will overwinter. And how to make it all look posh on a very limited budget, with a goal of as much ‘found’ material as possible.


In May 2012, posts in, initial fence attached. Gate installed


Later that year, snow fencing up for a wind/snow break, bottom put in to hold soil


This soil, and here are my first hollyhocks, ummm 2015?


Classing it up with some rock

More ‘found’ material, limestone and other rock, left over from a project at my boss’s (pounded out to lay a foundation) I only choose rock I can carry myself, and I carry only one or two pieces at a time. LOTS of steps and lots of aerobic exercise.

Hmmm, I’m not finding actual garden pictures. I’ll take some more to share. Plus what I did out front, which is very exciting. Why am I writing about this little garden project? Because it didn’t happen overnight. It’s taken five years so far to get to this point. And with the exception of sinking the posts, and building the initial wall I’ve done it all myself. Little steps, a bit more every year. Kinda like writing…one word, one page at a time.

And a bit of sky to share with you.


Just a couple nights ago, maybe July 28? Stormy skies


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To Prologue…Or Not to Prologue #MFRWAuthor

That really is a question!

Before we go any further, this is ‘just’ a writing blog. Nothing about the dogs, no recipes, nothing about gardening, no sunset…okay maybe some sunset pictures. Mainly I’m going to muse about writing. Although, yeah, I do have some interesting garden developments.

You’ve been forewarned

I have used a prologue one time. It worked for that particular book. I worked on that

My launch party.  Black Opal wine and my book on Amazon!!

Private launch party: the Internet and some Black Opal Wine!

sucker for HOURS, with more input than anything I’d ever written. That prologue was intended to set up the two main characters, who would meet years later. Well, here, check it out:

Summer 2000:

It was a storybook wedding. The elite of the world’s beautiful people crowded the groom’s yacht, cruising off the south French coast. The groom’s austere face was only slightly lined, the gray at his temples adding a distinguished air. His still trim body was clothed by the establishment which had enjoyed the patronage of every male in his family since his great-grandfather. Although he conversed urbanely with his guests, his possessive gaze never left his bride.
Framed in the lens of the ever-clicking camera, the bride had the lithe slenderness seen only in the very young and healthy. Delicate curves hinted at the woman she would one day become. Her short dark hair was gamine cut by the stylist who had created the look. Her make-up had been applied by the hands of the genius whose company had taken three generations of women from beautiful to gorgeous. Her lavish bouquet was of rare miniature white orchids, picked deep in the rain forests of South America and flown in for this ceremony. The lace for her veil had been created by devout hands in a convent which had produced lacework of this gossamer perfection for centuries.
The veil was secured by a pearl crown once belonging to a medieval princess. It framed a delicate, serious face dominated by enormous, hazy green eyes and a lush, slightly trembling mouth, and billowed down to hand made, four inch spike heels. By tradition the

Bethany's first husband treated her like a possession.  Photo from

Bethany’s first husband treated her like a possession

full length veil attested to the purity of the bride, leaving no doubt in the mind of anyone attending that day that this was, indeed, a virgin bride. The diaphanous covering enhanced her bridal outfit, personally designed by the hand of the dresser of royalty. Brilliant fire opals had been meticulously applied to the hand sewn, French cut white bikini.

The fire opals were a suggestion of friend who was a college librarian and an inveterate reader. I’d originally chosen seed pearls which she insisted were far too mundane. I’m sure she was right! This is from Teach Me To Forget, a non-hyphenated Romance. No Suspense, no Fantasy. Just male-female meeting, realizing they have a fairly difficult history, and choosing to move forward together.

In this instance the prologue worked, and was balanced by a description at the end of another, entirely different, wedding. You might want to check it out, I had a blast writing it (and later slicing out pages of driving in San Francisco!)

There’s a sequel…isn’t there always…set in New Mexico. Actually mostly written. Which I’ll get to work on after this most recent Stormhaven story.

So what were we talking about? Oh, yeah, prologues. In the case of TMTF, the prologue worked, introducing two people who would meet again later. There is, of course, a wedding at the end of the book that is not nearly so sophisticated.

In A Question of Trust, which I’m editing, I started with a prologue, and had a blast writing the first chapter. Unfortunately this chapter was all about the characters from the first two Stormhaven books. Not good if I want to write about new and different people. Cut that chapter, and move on. I might share it…anyone interested?

So I’m asking readers, before I get on with edits: Prologue? No Prologue? What works best for you?

Okay, I guess I can share sunsets. Tonight’s were particularly nice:


July 26, 2017. Yes, it really is that beautiful here

Next, I’ll get back to gardening. I have guests coming from a long long way and I really want the place to look good!



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Catching Up…Catching On #MFRWAuthor

Wow, it’s been…far too long since I blogged. And to be honest that last blog was kind of a cheat, but I loved the content.

So much has happened…where to start? Do I talk about the annual trek to the Saluki


set up at Purina

National in Missouri? How I was trying to give the dogs more air in the back of the motor home. If I could just…open…this…window a little bit more. It stuck on something and ended up in safety glass chunks all over the pavement.


Oops. Well at least we had a lot of air for the rest of the trip!


Hmmm I look a bit…travelworn here

We made, of course, there and back again. A rough trip for sure, but always worth it to see friends.



While driving I contemplated what to write in my next blog. Should I talk about song choices for competition? WHO would think it’s right for a TWELVE YEAR OLD to sing about a party girl who wants to stay drunk all night, and swing from chandeliers? Yes a powerful song and no I don’t think children need to sing about teensy spiders. But…really folks?


Rant over? Maybe for now. The days marched on from June (Saluki National) into July which started with people spending money on noise making incendiary devices to irritate those of us who prefer to celebrate our country by…I dunno…reading the Constitution?

I could share the unexpected passing of one of my youngsters. In just a few far too short days He went from feeling okay to time to visit the doctor

Moochie nose March 2014

Silly Moochie

Fucking cancer.


Let’s leave with something marginally more positive

While at the Saluki National we managed a quick photo of those members of the litter all together.

That’s Moochie to the far left. Then Drama Queen, Bouddicca, Fired Dragon, and Faerie Queene with some of those beloved friends I don’t see often enough. Obviously this was after I cleaned up!


And since this is July 21, I’ll share one more special photo….it is our anniversary, after all.Tom Stoner's Family Pictures 050

There, caught up and time to move on.

Hug your pets, take time to talk to your family and friends. Be well.


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12 Things I See Happy People Do (that unhappy people do not)

Wise words in a world of stress and misery. Let’s be happy

Rev. Shane L. Bishop

I have been thinking a lot about happiness of late, partially because so many people seem unhappy.  I think that was my first epiphany upon entering the world of Social Media; people are unhappy and there are a lot of them.  Now don’t get me wrong, we all know some people who wouldn’t be happy, were they not unhappy but I am not talking about them.  We will just let them be.  I am also not thinking theologically here (i.e. juxtaposing happiness and joy), today I am going to err on the practical and pragmatic side of things.  With that being said, let’s get going.

I think most people want to be happy; they are just not quite sure how to get there from their present location.  Many people honestly believe that happiness is a lucky bounce; a sunny disposition or favorable circumstances but I disagree.  Happiness is a choice…

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My Contract With My Dogs #MFRWAuthor

I’m a writer. You’d think my blog would be about…well…writing. It is, sometimes, but life has a way of interfering when we least expect it. This blog tends to be about gardens and cooking and…dogs. Not that I’m not writing, or editing, or reading (research ya know) but sometimes these take a back seat. And sometimes life has a way of reminding me about what really matters

Earlier this week I helped a friend whose back was hurting get her older dog to the veterinarian for that last, sad trip. Because this is what we who love our dogs do, no matter the breed or origin of the dog. As we chatted about our years in dogs I realized once again what hold our dogs have on our hearts and souls.

These forty plus (eeep almost forty-five) years Salukis have shared my life have helped me develop promises to my dogs:

  • Whether you are born into my hands, placed in my arms by your breeder, or picked up in a gutter, this is your forever home. The only way this will change is if one day you look up to find your special person.
  • If you do not excel at the purpose I’d hoped you could accomplish, we will find something else for you to do to keep your mind and body in good health. If that 016means sleeping on cushions and chasing butterflies, so be it. You will never be discarded because you did not measure up.
  • My ego will never supersede your health and safety, or your happiness. On occasion I might push you, push us all, to be more and better…only as long as we can both be happy.
  • My job is to protect you from any danger, be it a rough trainer, bad dog food, or a human who does not think you have value (this had a strong influence on dating!) Your job is to be happy and healthy.
  • 014

    The Amazing Two Headed Saluki

    Competition: Points, Ribbons, Titles…these are all ephemeral, and occupy such a small part of our lives. Time spent together matters far more. Although, yeah, it’s fun to win, it’s more fun to kick back and enjoy each other and our friends.

  • At the end, when your body has betrayed you, I will let you go with tears and love. It will be my last and most precious gift to you.





My friends who have devoted their lives to dogs will understand this. Those who do not see the purpose in this sort of agreement with an animal…I’m so sorry for you.





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National Purebred Dog Day #MFRWAuthor

Yeah I know, this was earlier in the month. May 1 to be exact. But for some of us every day is purebred dog day. Every. Single. Day. We wake up thinking about what we’re going to do with our dogs and fall into bed hours later snuggled up to those dogs. Which isn’t much different from the way most people feel about their dogs. So what makes purebred dogs so special.

Other than — when you choose to own a dog of a specific breed, you’ll know in advance how they will look and act, at least within a reasonable range. If you’re looking at, say, Collies, you won’t be expecting a drop ear or a close coat such as you’d find with a Spaniel.

But there’s more.

This weekend hundreds of dogs descend upon Albuquerque with their people. Dogs in all shapes and sizes and levels of energy. If you ask any of the people ‘why’…why THIS dog why THIS breed, they will all tell you ‘because.’ Because this breed is obviously the most perfect breed ever developed. Because it’s the perfect size, the perfect shape, and fits perfectly under their chin when hugged.

From the start my heart was drawn to the long legged grace of the Sighthound, in particular the Saluki. In 1972 a black and tan boy joined my life and the breed has been a part of me ever since. Seven generations later, in 2009, these nine precious babies occurred.IMG_7578

They quickly grew into these wiggly squiggly beasties:


And a few years later, we had:


six of the nine plus mom and dad. Photo Warren Cook

And you’ve already met some of them throughout the years. Heck most of them. Salukis have helped grow my chosen family and have supported me throughout my life. Which is in no way over yet!!!

2015-05-02 agility 0448

Heading into our future…photo Shiri Hoshen


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Sharing the Rest of the Story

Some of you know I started Agility with my Salukis a few years ago. So much needed to

2015-05-02 agility 0431

Ideally we would both be headed the same direction

be learned, improved, changed before we could come close to success. I needed to work on my own fitness so I could run with them as well as learning skills I never thought I’d need. Fire Dragon was my ‘test dog’, my ‘first pancake,’ showing signs of brilliance but also frustration when I failed to guide him correctly.

I continued working with his siblings, with varied success. All of them enjoyed the Mom


Biddy and Tom

and Me time. Not all of them showed his brilliance, nor his joie de vivre (in place of, perhaps, doing what I asked?) Biddy, sweet little Biddy, with her unrelenting attachment to my late husband as well as her desire to please, came last to the training, thereby not suffering as much from my efforts. Her very first trial she stood in front of the first jump, frozen in shock. I quietly led her out of the ring, and worked with her more. Last month she surprised us all (including the judge) by managing to make most of the jumps, and resist the impulse to race around in a near panic. Last week, we tried another set of Agility trials. After every trial we are sent the results, which come like this:

Valencia Valley Kennel Club
Los Lunas, New Mexico

Printed below you will find your classes, scores, standard course times, and course times.
REGISTERED NAME CH Sacre Tyana Faerie Queene
Date Class Division JH Yards SCT Score Time Qual Place YPS
4/7/2017 JWW NOV P 20 96 39.00 0 0 Not Qualified 0
4/8/2017 JWW NOV P 20 94 39.00 0 0 Not Qualified 0
4/9/2017 JWW NOV P 20 95 39.00 0 53.28 Not Qualified 1.783

To translate: Date, Class Entered (Jumpers with Weaves),  Division for that class (Novice Preferred) Jump Height (20″ – she measures 23.5″) Yards in the Course, then the standard course time, our course time, our score, and if we qualified. Plus the yards she ran per second. Obviously we did not qualify. In fact we didn’t really finish the course until the very last day.

Looking at this readout one would think we were failures. Except each day she ran with more confidence. Her temperament keeps her attention on me, so it’s up to me to make the directions as clear as possible. Thanks to multiple hours of instruction with different trainers in different locations, I’m getting better at that.

The rest of the story? Doranna Durgin (you know, writer extraordinaire as well as dog trainer to envy?!) saved us a spot where she set up with her Beagle boys, so Biddy could rest among friends. Said friends also shared wisdom when asked. On that third day, Doranna called to remind me classes were different and I need to be there NOW.

Fortunately this trial location is not too far from my home. I arrived with hair unbrushed, shoes untied, to see the last dog run. Too late. Sigh. I went over to apologize to the secretary for being late. She looked up at me, down at my dog, smiled then called out

“Judge, the SALUKI is here.”

Said judge whirled around, then turned back to the ring crew, busy taking down the jumps. “Set them back up, twenty inches.” He turned back to me “Do you want to walk the course?”

Not wanting to hold things up any longer than I already had I shook my head then rushed to the set up where I’d left her Agility leash. Neither of us had time to be nervous, in fact I only stopped to tie my shoes before we went in, where that little girl ran with me from beginning to end, to the cheers of everyone who’d been watching us fumble all weekend.

Not Qualified. But winning all the same.


Another ending to another day in New Mexico


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With a LOT of Help From My Friends #MFRWAuthor

Related image

Yeah that about sums it up.

Remember when I was whining about NOT. Not being able to write 50,000 words or walk 10,000 steps? That was the January 7 blog The message I was trying to convey was I can’t do that in one gulp. But I can do it in small sips. With help.

Since January 19, I have only missed minimum 10,000 steps one time. A lot of those steps were around and around and around the house. I try very hard to hit minimum 8,000 before it’s too dark to use the yard or the road but that just does not always happen. If possible I add in steps to any shopping trip.


Oops getting dark. Gotta get one more circuit of the yard.

Even so, some days it’s sundown, or it’s raining and I’m only at 5,000. Well, I tell myself, missing step count one day is not the end of the world. Self reminds me of slippery slopes. So I set out on the journey of twenty five steps around the room. Because I have Fitbit friends, and if I let myself get away with fewer steps they will get ahead of me.

Can’t have that, right?

Obviously walking in circles is freaking BORING. Music helps. Music always helps. I might not be able to walk half an hour solid but I can walk for one song, right? Three to four minutes gets me minimum 500 steps. Then 500 more. I tell myself I can take a break after the current song, or maybe the one right after. And I keep walking.

I’ve exposed myself to a plethora of singing competitions, and reintroduced singers I’ve always admired. Neil Diamond and Barbra Streisand have strong voices that support my steps. Karen Carpenter’s clear sweet voice soothes as I huff and puff along but ABBA’s styling slows me down. Go figure.  Sometimes I’ll do a song marathon…do you know how many people have taken on Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah?

Step. Step. Step. Once I’m to 7,000 the rest isn’t quite as difficult, and after I’ve hit 8,000…well not finishing seems like such a waste.

No, it doesn’t make sense but shhhhh I’m getting in those steps!

And the writing, you ask? Or what about the Agility? I’ll take what I can get, with the absolute


Biddy, watching for the next jump

knowledge that I CAN do it, I CAN apply my current self to get things done.

Heck if I can get those steps done I can do pretty much anything.

Step by Step. Page by Page. Jump by Jump in Agility

What do YOU do to fool yourself into getting things done?


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Let’s WELCOME Kathleen Kaska #BlackOpalBooks

Our guest today is Kathleen Kaska, another Black Opal Books author, with a bit of a mystery from the potential dark side of dog racing…what can happen when people allow greed to overcome their responsibility for the animals under their protection.

Take it away, Kathleen

EXCERPT : Run Dog Run

She’d been foolish and gone off alone, now she might have to pay the ultimate price…front cover5

The rocks along the bottom of the creek bed seemed to disappear. Kate felt the ropy, gnarl of tree roots instead.

The cedar break. She was approaching the road and soon the water would pass through the culvert. She knew that she would not make it through the narrow tunnel alive. Her lungs screamed for air. With one final attempt, she grabbed hold of a long cedar root growing along the side of the creek bank and hung on. Miraculously, it held. She wedged her foot under the tangled growth and anchored herself against the current. Inching her way upward, she thrust her head above water and gulped for air. But debris in the current slapped her in the face, and leaves and twigs filled her mouth, choking her. Dizziness overcame her ability to think—exhaustion prevented her from pulling herself higher.

She must not give in. Fighting unconsciousness, Kate inched her way up a little farther, and at last was able to take a clear breath. Her right arm hung loosely by her side, the back of the shaft had broken off in the tumble through the current, but the arrow was lodged in her arm. Numb from cold water and exhaustion, she lay on the bank as the water swept over her, and then, as quickly as it had arrived, the flow subsided and the current slowed. If she could hang on a few moments longer, survival looked promising. As thoughts of hope entered her mind, Kate feared that her pursuer might not have given up the chase. Perfect, Kate Caraway, just perfect. You screwed up again, she chided herself as the lights went out.

Short Synopsis:

After five years in Africa, researching the decline of elephant populations, Kate Caraway’s project comes to a screeching halt when she shoots a poacher and is forced to leave the country. Animal rights activist Kate Caraway travels to a friend’s ranch in Texas for a much-needed rest. But before she has a chance to unpack, her friend’s daughter pleads for Kate’s assistance. The young woman has become entangled in the ugly world of greyhound abuse and believes Kate is the only one with the experience and tenacity to expose the crime and find out who is responsible. On the case for only a few hours, Kate discovers a body, complicating the investigation by adding murder to the puzzle. Now, she’s in a race against time to fine the killer before she becomes the next victim.

Animal rights activist Kate Caraway travels to Texas for a much-needed rest. But before she has a chance to unpack, her friend’s daughter pleads for Kate’s assistance. She has become entangled in the ugly world of greyhound abuse. On the case for only a few hours, Kate discovers a body, complicating the investigation by adding murder to the puzzle. Now, she’s in a race against time to find the killer before she becomes the next victim.

Bio:161118_003Kathleen Kaska is a writer of mysteries, nonfiction, travel articles, and stage plays. When she is not writing, she spends much of her time with her husband traveling the back roads and byways around the country, looking for new venues for her mysteries and bird watching along the Texas coast and beyond. It was her passion for birds that led to the publication The Man Who Saved the Whooping Crane: The Robert Porter Allen Story (University Press of Florida). Kathleen Kaska is the author of the Classic Triviography Mystery Series, which includes The Alfred Hitchcock Triviography and Quiz Book, The Sherlock Holmes Triviography and Quiz Book, and The Agatha Christie Triviography and Quiz Book. Kathleen also writes the award-winning Sydney Lockhart mystery series set in the 1950s. Her first two mysteries, Murder at the Arlington and Murder at the Luther, were selected as bonus-books for the Pulpwood Queen Book Group, the largest book group in the country. Her latest Sydney Lockhart mystery, set in Austin, Texas, is Murder at the Driskill.

Run Dog Run Kathleen’s her first mystery in the new Kate Caraway animal rights series.

Books are available through Black Opal Books, Kathleen’s website, and Amazon.


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