Home in the Hill Country
Hello, Readers and Friends—
The circle of the year has turned again, and we’ve entered another holiday season. Bill and I (and Molly too, of course) always enjoy spending a few early-winter weeks at our cabin in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of north-central New Mexico, where I can get my “snow fix” for the year. When the Ponderosa pines are covered with snow, they are picture-postcard pretty. Here, you can see the eastern slope of the Sangre de Cristo mountains in the background.
The valley below our cabin is part of the historic 5,000-acre Pendaries Ranch, established by Jean Pendaries, a Frenchman from Gascony, who came to New Mexico in the 1870s. You may have (virtually) visited this area via the television series Longmire, some of which was filmed in nearby Las Vegas NM and in the surrounding hills. By the time you read this, though, we’ll probably be back home in Texas. We love it here, but it’s hard to stay away from home for very long.
From our Hill Country Homestead: This year, fall and winter have come as a great relief. We had one of the longest, hottest summers on record in the Texas Hill Country. Autumn didn’t really arrive until November, when the temperatures finally dropped into the 60s and the cypress trees turned a gorgeous burnt-copper color. We planted five of these as young trees along Pecan Creek in 1988 and have grown a half-dozen more from their seeds. Their massive roots and “knees” have created several dams along the creek, and their clear pools are home to turtles, crawdads, and small, silvery fish.
If the cypress trees were grand this year, the pecans, not so much. Through the summer, it looked like Bill’s dozen-plus trees would produce a heavy crop, but the squirrels and crows had different ideas. They are possessively territorial where their pecans are concerned. (Never mind that Bill grafted those trees and faithfully waters and tends them, with no help from the critters) And the nuts themselves weren’t as good as usual. It takes just the right combination of rain/temperature to produce nice, fat, tasty pecans. So even though things looked great in August, by the end of October we were lucky to get enough for a couple of pecan pies.
From the writing desk: You may have read the recently-published series of novellas that feature Ruby Wilcox. I enjoyed that format so much that I’ve been working on another similar project: a series of three novellas featuring Jessica Nelson, intrepid crime reporter for the Pecan Springs Enterprise. (There’s lots more to that little town than just China’s and Ruby’s shops and the university.) I’m not quite finished yet, but hope to share it with you in March, 2020. Look for DeadLINES, Fault LINES, and FireLINES, available in both digital and print (not sure about audio), from Amazon.
For you Dahlias fans: I’ve been given to understand that the garden club has another adventure they would like me to document. Their title for this one is The Darling Dahlias and the Voodoo Lily. I don’t know much about it yet, but from some of the conversations, I gather that it will highlight a visit to Darling by noted author-playwright Zora Neale Hurston, when Miss Hurston was gathering more material for her collection of African-American folklore. I’m eager to see what the ladies come up with–hope you are, too!
And some news for audiophiles: the first three books in the Robin Paige series will be coming out in audio in January, February, and March. That’s the series of Victorian/Edwardian mysteries, set in England, that Bill and I wrote together (1994-2006). If the first three do well, there will be more.
One other Big New Happy Thing. Last year, my longtime webmistress found romance with an old friend, married, and moved to Portugal. (Isn’t that a lovely story? Renews my faith in true love.) My new web guru (Mark Wiard) and I have built the website where you’re reading this eletter, and I’m looking forward to working with him to make it even better. Check out the navigation bar at the top of the page, where you’ll find all the books, plus resources, newsletters, and my blogs.
And from the craft corner: If you follow my Lifescapes blog, you know that (besides writing and gardening), I’m passionate about needlework. The current work-in-progress is a large cross stitch project called “Winter.” From the photo, you can see where I am, with another couple of months’ work yet to be done. The fabric is 16-ct Aida; I’ve made the grid of red nylon thread, to help me keep my place in this large pattern. It pulls out easily as I go. And yes, I do use a magnifying lamp–couldn’t work without it!
When the project is finished, it will look like this:
So this is our Christmas card to you and yours this year, from Bill and me. It comes with our thanks for being readers and friends–and with our very best wishes for a wonderful holiday season and a happy and productive 2020.