Book Releases

Barely Breathing (A Colorado High Country Novel) — Look for the first book in my new Colorado High Country series on May 10! This new contemporary series is set in the small mountain community of Scarlet Springs and focuses on the lives and adventures of members of an alpine search and rescue team. It will be available in print and ebook, with audiobook coming sometime this fall.

Soul Deep out in audiobook! — Jack West, widower, rancher and former Army Ranger, gets his own love story in this special I-Team novella, which was picked by readers at Grave Tells as the Best Contemporary Romance of 2015. It will be out in audiobook any day now.

Seduction Game is out in paperback, (I-Team #7) — Holly and Nick’s story is out in all formats — ebook, audiobook, and paperback. Look for it in Wal-Mart, the Kroger chain of stores, Barnes & Noble, and your local bookseller.

Dead By Midnight: An I-Team Christmas is out! — The grand finale of the I-Team series finds all the couples you love brought together when terrorists attack holiday festivities at a historica hotel in downtown Denver. It’s bad news for the terrorists. They have no clue what they’ve done when they take Marc Hunter and his friends hostage. Featuring cameos by the men of New York Times bestselling author Kaylea Cross’s Hostage Rescue Team series. Available in ebook and paperback.

About Me

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I grew up in Colorado at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, then lived in Denmark and traveled throughout Europe before coming back to Colorado. I have two adult sons, whom I cherish. I started my writing career as a columnist and investigative reporter and eventually became the first woman editor of two different papers. Along the way, my team and I won numerous state and several national awards, including the National Journalism Award for Public Service. In 2011, I was awarded the Keeper of the Flame Lifetime Achievement Award for Journalism. Now I write historical romance and contemporary romantic suspense.


Seductive Musings

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Remember the urban farm?

Hey, everyone!

Thanks so much to those of you who helped make the launch of Falling Hard a success. One reader suggested I buy stock in a tissue company, given how many of you talked in your reviews about being moved to tears by the story. I cried when I wrote it, so we’re even.

If you were in a cave at the end of February and missed the book’s release, it’s available on Amazon for Kindle and in paperback. It’s also available at Smashwords (all ebook formats), IndieBound (paperback), Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes.

If you haven’t tried my new contemporary (NOT romantic suspense) series yet, Barely Breathing, the first book in the series, is only 99 cents.

And now for something completely different.

Before cancer, there was spinal surgery. But before spinal surgery, there was the urban farm. Who remembers my blog posts about planting and harvesting — all those green beans and homegrown broccoli and arugula?

There was a time not that long ago — back in the days of Project: Happiness and Man-Titty Monday on this blog — when we grew most of our own veggies. That was taken away from me when spinal surgery in my neck left me unable to bend over for long. Elevated beds were obviously the answer, but there was no time or money or energy for that after my breast cancer diagnosis.

I am now a survivor of two years and three months, and life is moving forward. Spring is more or less here in Colorado. And the urban homesteading bug has bitten again.

I've always been a believer in self-sufficiency. Gardening is in my blood. My great-grandparents were farmers. My grandparents on both sides of the family grew most of their own food. I had my first experience gardening at about the age of 2-1/2. I attemped to help my Grandpa plant onion sets then, to the delight of all the adults, told them, “This is hard work,” and walked away.

Yes, I still hear about this, and I’m 53.

Given the state of our nation and the state of this world, it’s not a bad idea for all of us to plant our own version of a Victory Garden and do what we can to rein in our expenses and increase our self-reliance. My gut as someone whose ancestors came to the Americas in 1610 tells me we’re headed for rougher times. This brings out my inner pioneer and makes me want to prepare. A big part of me wants dive into urban farming with a backyard orchard, elevated veggie and strawberry beds, raspberry, blueberry and blackberry bushes, grapes, along with chickens for eggs and bees for honey.

But another part of me thinks I should leave the house to my younger son and take off for Scandinavia, where my sister and most of my friends live. Both are my dream — an almost self-sufficient urban farm and living in Copenhagen with my friends or Stockholm with my sister (or both). Sadly, they’re not really compatible. Benjamin would not appreciate it if I left him with a ton of garden work, four chickens, two hives of bees, and two cats.

Yeah, so I have to work that out, don’t I? If I hold off on chickens and bees, however, I might be able to do both, living seasonally in Scandinavia.

In the meantime, we took the first step toward relaunching our urban farm. A couple of weekends ago, we worked in record heat for March (80 degrees! In Colorado!) to cover a big section of our back lawn with weed cloth and transplant seven established rose bushes into a portion of that new garden. This past weekend, we took delivery of 14 cubic yards of mulch — SO much mulch — and spent pretty much all of Saturday hauling it into the backyard and dumping it on the new beds. The weedcloth and mulch together will kill the lawn beneath.

The next step is planting berry bushes and trees. Regardless of any other decisions, we want more trees so that we can help expand the urban forest and do our part to sequester carbon emissions. (Yes, we believe what science tells us about climate change.) And so the debate is ongoing.

Which trees do we plant?

I’ve spent far too much time — dozens of hours — researching the kinds of fruit trees that do well in Colorado, with our unique combination of extreme heat and extreme cold, arid climate and clay, alkaline soils. There are a lot of options, and trying to fit them into the back yard is the real trick. I’m considering espalier and columnar apple trees that won’t take up much space, as well as dwarf and semi-dwarf varieties of other fruit trees.

We planted a bigtooth maple in our backyard last fall. Native to Colorado, their leaves turn brilliant orange and red in the fall. So that much is settled.

Right now, we’re looking at planting a peach tree (Reliance), an American plum, Bartlett and Red Bartlett pear trees, an espalier or columnar apple tree, and a sweet cherry tree. Sweet cherries and peaches are tough to grow here because of our tendency to follow warm early spring days with weeks of frost and late-spring snow. The trees bud and bloom — and then the blooms freeze and die. But I know people who have peach trees and get good harvests most of the time.

(The new beds are much bigger than they appear in the photo above. They’re more than six feet deep and as wide as our house.)

We’re also committed to blackberry bushes, raspberries, and a blueberry bush because, damn it, I  love blueberries. (In fact, when my younger son was little, he called me Pamela Blueberry.)

The trick is setting it up so that the trees are planted where they’ll thrive and where they won’t be crowded.

If you’ve never heard of espalier trees, google it. They’re trained to grow flat against a fence. The cool thing about an espalier apple tree is that it often combines more than one variety of apple in the same tree, so no pollinator is needed. If a pollinator is needed (as with most apple and pear trees), then you must have two trees. We can’t manage that.

We’d also like to fit a desert willow (so pretty), some kind of evergreen, and a serviceberry tree into the landscape somehow, along with additional flowers because we both love flowers. We have concluded that we need an extra backyard to plant all this stuff. Probably true. But we’ve only got the one. Still, I think we can pull it off.

The south side of our house where our old veggie garden sits fallow is big enough to accommodate some trees, though it’s so warm that it might make the more tender trees bloom too early. Our front garden might have room for a desert willow or evergreen. We just need to get out there and walk it out.

On my agenda for this spring, too, is learning to can — something I’ve never done — and learning to dry fruits and veggies. The point of growing an abundance of food is to set some of it aside. All I know how to do at this point is eat it.

All of this, plus I’m starting a new book. I’ve got a sloppy sort-of outline for Chaska’s story — or rather the first chapter of it. That’s all I really have when I start, so I guess I’m ready.

I hope to have his story to you on/around Mother’s Day, with another Colorado High Country novel for late summer. After that, we’ll see where the Muse takes me.

Yes, I do plan to give Joaquin (I-Team) his own story. Yes, I plan to write more historicals — and sooner than you might think. We’ll have to see how the next few months unfold before I can be more specific.

In the meantime, happy reading!


librarypat said...

Enjoyed the post. I helped my grandmother and my aunt garden. My job was weeding and I never really minded it. It is a quiet time to just be by yourself and either contemplate the universe or clear your mind. I still enjoy weeding but my bad back and knees make it a bit more of a challenge.

We have had a garden everywhere we lived except California. The house we rented there had a pool in the back yard and room for nothing else. Our best garden was in Colorado Springs. It was always so lush and productive. The whims of Colorado weather can be a bit cruel. Our second year, the garden was gorgeous. Most plants were at least knee high and we were just a few days from picking the first veggies. A typical Front Range storm blew in one afternoon and we got marble sized hail. My husband and I stood there and watched our beautiful garden become a 3 inch pile of mush in less than a minute. It was the worst hail storm we had while living there, but still not as bad as the golf ball sized hail they got in the southern part of the Springs that same day. That is where most of the car dealerships were located back then and every car they had on the lots suffered extensive damage.
I taught myself to can with some good books and advice from my grandmother and aunt. We have a dehydrator and it works nicely for many things, even jerky. We have put things up canning, freezing, and drying. I have made sauerkraut, which I will NEVER do again. The crock was in our dining room (the only place I had in base housing) and when the fermentation was working, it smelled like an outhouse. I have made wine, jellies, jams, catsup, and mustards. All great fun to try. Oddly, now that the kids are grown and have their own families, I don't seem to have the time to do as much.

We looked at espalier fruit trees, but don't have the walls to put them on. We tried fruit trees, but finally gave up. The bugs and birds were just too much to fight. We did raspberries, but they took over and the wild blackberries moved in amongst them. My husband's pride and joy is the asparagus bed. It is 25 ft by 30 ft and he keeps planting a few more plants every year. We have planted the purple variety and it is really good. My husband built 4 raised beds a couple of years ago. They are mostly for the root crops. We now live in NE Tennessee and the soil is red clay and terrible to garden in. We have mixed in maybe 40 bales of peat moss, lime, compost, aged manure, and sand over 20 years and it hasn't made much of a difference.

Things grow fast here, but for us that is a disadvantage. The growing season may be shorter in New York and Colorado, but the slower growth gives the vegetables and fruit more flavor. The hot weather also leads to more bug problems and the weeds are crazy. I can never seem to get my flower beds cleaned out. We plant broccoli and related vegetables in the Spring and Fall and rip the plants up over the summer. The bugs are so bad it isn't worth it. We usually rip up the beans at least once and replant. The fuzzy larvae of the bean beetle demolish the plants.

That is more than you ever wanted to know about our gardening and preserving, I am sure. I am curious about the historical you are planning. Will you be revisiting colonial New York and the Rangers, or shifting elsewhere? Whatever it is, I am sure it will be good. Take good care of yourself and enjoy your gardens. I hope Mother Nature cooperates for you.

librarypat said...

Good heavens, I had no idea my comment was so long. Sorry.

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