Home in the Hill Country
Hello, Readers and Friends—
The world is clamoring for our attention in an even more persistent chorus than usual. In this era of Covid-19, we’re told to cancel nonessential gatherings, shelter in place, and wash our hands. We worry about family members and friends–especially our elders and those who are working in health care or trying to figure out how to manage the kids when their schools are closed or how to get home from a trip abroad. We’re concerned about impacts on the economy, the community, our 401Ks. If you feel like you’re being battered by a Cat 5 hurricane, it’s no wonder. Hurricane Covid-19, we could call it.
But when I go outdoors here at our Hill Country homestead, that clamor seems far away. And while I’m as civic-minded as the next person and I try to keep keep informed, I’m very grateful for the quiet peace the landscape offers, whether I’m out for a walk or enjoying it through a window. That’s the real world. It goes on out there, and goes on offering a respite.
The homestead. It was a warm winter in our little Hill Country world, and the spring buds have already blessed the woods with their green haze. The daffodils–golden splashes of sunshine–began appearing beside the garden and along the paths in late January; they’ll be with us for another few weeks. The anemones are tiny stars, lighting the grass with their luminescent rays. The redbud trees bloom into clouds of purple-pink glory along the edge of the meadow. And the bluebonnets are making their annual fashion statement, all blue and all beautiful.
I’m not the only one celebrating spring. A pair of wrens have set up housekeeping in the tin-can nest outside my window. I heard a mockingbird this morning, spilling his cascade of borrowed music from the very top of an oak tree. And the first hummingbirds are arriving, eager to tank up on their favorite hummingbird hooch after a long flight from Mexico and points south. Bill brought in the feeders from the garden shed, bought a couple of extra bags of sugar, and we’ve started to serve the crowd (no limits on the size of their gatherings).
The writing desk. My tricky back is keeping me out of the veggie garden this year (the less said about that the better–maybe it’ll go away). But I’m glad to report that it hasn’t kept me from the writing desk. Last fall, I published The Crystal Cave trilogy, a series of three linked novellas featuring Ruby Wilcox. I enjoyed the format so much that I wrote three more linked novellas featuring Jessica Nelson, crime reporter for the Pecan Springs Enterprise. I’ve just finished reviewing the copyedited manuscript of Deadlines, Fault Lines, and Firelines, Jessica’s stories–and yes, China and Ruby appear in them, as well. The books will be available in late April and early May–in digital (ebook) first, then print. Audio may come later, along with a hardcover omnibus edition (all three novellas in one volume) for libraries.
Also in May, your library will be able to get the omnibus edition of The Crystal Cave Trilogy. Please let your librarian know!
If you’re a Dahlias fan, here’s some news for you. I’m about four chapters into the garden club’s next adventure, The Darling Dahlias and the Voodoo Lily. It’s 1935, and everybody in Darling is excited about the new local radio station, as well as other, less beneficent goings-on. The Dahlias and I are expecting to publish their book in an ebook format in September, and in print before the end of the year.
And news for audiophiles, too: the first three books in the Robin Paige series are now available! That’s the series of Victorian/Edwardian mysteries, set in England, that Bill and I wrote together (1994-2006). The narrator, Helen Johns, is a Canadian and manages the British accents with aplomb. Even if you’ve already read these books, you’ll enjoy the multi-dimensional drama she brings to the stories.
And China? Yes, there will be another China Bayles. She’s still thinking about the title and the signature herb. When she tells me what she’s decided, you’ll be the first to know, I promise.
In the meantime, wash those hands. Stay away from crowds. And spend as much time as you can outdoors, where nature is our friend and ever-present refuge. It may take a while, but we will get through this.
All my very best to each of you,