Nov 20

A Day Off


Yesterday I turned 62. Ended up taking the day off from writing, though that wasn’t intentional. Hubby and I had breakfast at a cute little place in Graeagle, then took a drive around Lakes Basin. Instead of fall leaves, we found naked trees (of the deciduous type), snow, and water. Lots of water. In the trees, on the road. Made for quite an adventure. Got home feeling more relaxed than I’ve felt in quite a while.



Whether in life or in writing, encountering the unexpected often yields rewards that are equally unexpected. I often have only an idea, a concept, sometimes simply a title when beginning a story. As the story progresses, it often feels like I’m slogging through snow or water or mud, getting nowhere. When I look back at what’s been written, I see that isn’t so. What felt like slogging was merely an adventure of the unexpected kind.





That type of “slogging/adventure” invariably leads to discoveries that, more than likely, wouldn’t have been made if I’d kept to a prescribed path, eyes straight ahead.

That’s what’s happened with my newest series — the first novel turned out to be the second novel. Definitely not expected, but the story arc, characters, and author are now happier with that discovery! Forward Ho!

Nov 06

Time to Rock and Roll!

We’ve been reading Mark Twain Himself by Milton Meltzer, an enjoyable and enlightening read. I didn’t know that Clemens held out for royalties (5%) instead of selling all rights to Innocents Abroad! Smart man, though he had his ups and downs. As his daughter Susy put it: “He has the mind of an author exactly, some of the simplest things he can’t understand.”

I often feel like the simplest things slip by me, especially when I’m deep into story writing. Things like washing the same dish three times while sussing out a scene or putting a knife in the fridge — because that’s that silverware drawer, right? A little over a week ago, I was privileged to listen to Kevin Anderson talk about how he dictates his novels and stories while hiking. I’m really tempted to give that a try — with a border collie to herd me away from the cliffs and watch for snakes!

Fall is here with Winter (yep, that’s a capital W) looming. Putting the final touches on Abby Crumb: Night of the Golden Pea and its companion novels! I’m really excited about this series–it’s been fun to write and a definite learning experience. The third in the series is more than halfway done (concept cover pictured on left-a work in progress, too!). Time to rock and roll!

Now, where did I put that chainsaw??

Jun 20

Happy Summer!

Abby Crumb is almost here and summer is at hand! Stay tuned for more news. Meanwhile, here are a few images from our Father’s Day adventure!

The ravages of winter!

Sierra “lake” with swallows!


Apr 10


This weekend’s spring weather. Another anomaly? It isn’t that unusual for the mountains to get snow in April (though we are generally below snow level at 5,000′). What is unusual is the combination of rain, snow, and wind coming on top of soil that was already saturated from the winter’s precipitation. We had more trees downed (dozens) in this storm than any storm we’ve experienced in this location for the past 20 years.

Life often mimics nature. Small “storms” set the scene. The size of the storms and the frequency increases until the “perfect storm” hits, a storm that flattens everything it contacts. Then comes the clean-up.

Over the past year, my family has been surviving what has felt like a perfect storm. Most of the clean-up has been done. Now I’m moving forward, especially with writing. Stay tuned for news about upcoming publications!


Mar 23

Spring cleaning!

Since technology keeps rolling forward while I feel like I’m sliding backward, I’ve enlisted some help (thanks Brandon!) to get my website/social media sites, etc. upgraded. This post is basically a test. Hopefully, it will show up in the places it’s supposed to!

Mar 13

Full Moon Rising

It seems as though the past seven or eight months has passed in a blur. I’ve been writing and submitting, had some acceptances, finally finished and indie published It Ain’t No Bull (an ongoing project for wayyy too long) all while dealing with the passing of my father and a totally crazy winter. Winter has taken a breath, giving me a chance to step back and take a look at where things are in the Swanns’ writing/publishing arena.

Up to now, wrestling words onto the page has competed with wrestling with first mud, then snow and more snow and more snow, then rain and more mud. Our exterior landscape has changed and will take some work (once things get dried out) to get back to “normal.” The welcome appearance of Spring, whether it’s fleeting or here to stay, is accompanied by singing birds, green grass, and mosquitoes the size of helicopters (they must have formed a flotilla and ridden in on one of the recent atmospheric rivers).

Between mosquitoes and an inflamed hamstring, I’m “forced” to put butt in chair and fingers on keyboard (*grin*), resulting in more words on page. Upcoming novels include Abby Crumb: Night of the Golden Pea and  The Thirteenth Alchemist: a Myrtle Creek novel. I’ll be posting more on both in the coming weeks. I also have short stories appearing in Fiction River anthologies as well as several bundles this year. Definitely plenty to keep me busy!

Stay tuned for exciting end-of-the-month news as well as updates on survival on the “frontier”!




Aug 15

Time – A Contemplation

In some ways, it’s hard to begold-lake-8-14-16lieve almost a year has gone by since Jim was training for Ironman Lake Tahoe. In other ways, it’s hard to believe it’s only been a year since he was training. Yesterday, he went back in the water for the first time since the event last September and did amazingly well. It was a beautiful morning, water calm and reflective. I had a chance to relax just a tad as I paddled along behind him on my board, kayak-style. At one point, the sun reflected off the water into the massive pines, willows, and birch along the shore, creating a show of light and motion both beautiful and hypnotizing. All too soon, a breeze picked up, shattering the reflection with tiny wind ruffles.

And the day moved on.

Time has an odd way of playing mind games–of the glass half-full, half-empty type. Many of us long for the time to do something, then when that time comes, find ways to procrastinate, then wonder where all the time has gone.

My father is 91 and we don’t know how much longer we’ll have him around. He isn’t doing well and I think he knows it, but you can’t convince him to take care of himself. He knows what’s best, even in his current state. He seems to exist in a place where time is fluid, slipping back in his own history, then sliding forward into the present. We never know what he’s going to talk about next–when he talks.

As a writer, I try to put myself in my father’s place. How does it feel to experience what he’s going through? How aware is he of the “real” world? How much time is spent in his past with friends only he knows? As a daughter, I find myself on an emotional roller coaster, working to support my sister, caregiver for both Mom and Dad, help Jim’s business where needed, and keep my own career on track. Emotions tend to act like a sinkhole as far as Time is concerned. One minute, there’s an abundance of time to complete a project. Then something happens–can be as simple as thinking about the past–and the next thing I know, all that Time has vanished.

Yes, this happens even when life isn’t on an emotional roller coaster. As the minutes, days, years tick by I find myself wanting to slow Time, to somehow anchor it tight so it doesn’t completely disappear. As I watch my father, that desire, no matter how unreasonable, intensifies. As the man who was once my anchor loses his hold on reality and gently slips away, I find myself wondering how long until I do the same?


Aug 02

Tending the Garden

greenhouse-jungle I always dread being gone for too long when the greenhouse is going full bore. I never know what I’ll come back to. It only takes a few days before the growth reaches the point where maintenance requires more hours than I can give.

This time I was gone for five days. Just before leaving, Brandon and I gave the greenhouse a “crew cut,” with the hope that the pruning/trimming would prevent a total jungleclipse (where the plants grow so rapidly, intertwining to the point that finding any fruit/produce is a huge challenge). Of course, the place didn’t even look like it had been trimmed by the time I got back. But the gems hidden in the foliage were well-worth searching for.

I’m finding the same thing with the current novel I’m working on (Abby Crumb and the Night of the Golden Pea). If I leave it alone for more than a day, the story mysteriously grows (in my mind, of course) so when I get back to it, I’m presented with a tangle of characters and plot and description demanding to come forth onto the page. By the time I get it all down, I’m exhausted and not sure what has actually blossomed. But then I start finding the gems and with a little trimming and pruning and transplanting the story bursts forth in full color, ripe and ready to pick! Abby Crumb has taken longer to reach full growth than expected, but is rapidly approaching harvest time.

Jul 25

Balancing Act

20160724_091717[1]This is Fred. Charlie’s cousin. Charlie appeared in last week’s post, but was too busy to pose this week, so Fred stepped in.

Working in the greenhouse this past weekend gave me time to reflect on writing (surprise, surprise :). Growing a garden, whether outside or in a greenhouse environment is like any other creative process. You prepare the ground (get an idea, commit “research”), plant the seeds (posterior in chair–write!), wait for a bit as the seeds sprout (wonder whether or not what you’ve written is good), eliminate the weeds and nurture the new growth (edit/redraft/first reader), harvest the bounty (turn story/novel loose on the world!).

And along the way there are those who will hinder–aka aphids, spider mites, ground squirrels (critics, especially those inner critics)–and those who will help (praying mantis, lady bugs (true fans).

Being successful involves letting the helpful be helpful and determining a way to lessen the impact of the hinderers.

I used to freak out at the first sign that something harmful was in the greenhouse. Happened again just a few weeks ago, when we found the spider mites spinning their nasty little webs. Tiny critters, yes, but they can cause massive destruction. Time to race down to the nursery and load up on ladybugs, order praying mantis cocoons…

Then I started seeing ladybugs and praying mantis — Nature balancing the good with the bad.

This next few months will see more of my writing “come to light.”


Visions of the Apocalypse, a Fiction River anthology containing my short story, “The Story That Has To Be Written,” released this past Friday! It is an honor to be in this terrific anthology, edited by the inimitable John Helfers, with fantastic authors like Anthea Sharp, Paul Eckhart, Travis Heerman, and many others! I think this is one of the most difficult stories I’ve ever written and am so pleased that John liked it enough to include in this awesome anthology!











The bundle my short story, “The Girl With the Candy Cane Legs” just appeared in has acquired a second life! Fantasy in the City is still available as a bundle on Amazon, B&, and Kobo, and will be the featured special in the upcoming Kobo special even running Aug. 1 – 5! If you haven’t gotten a copy of this awesome bundle, hop on over to your favorite ebook retailer and pick up a copy now!










Keep an eye out for my new Abby Crumb novel! Abby Crumb and the Night of the Golden Pea is a steampunky, Weird West story filled with wacky characters who find themselves on an adventure that could only happen to Abby Crumb!

Abby will be followed by the first Myrtle Creek novel (co-written with son, Brandon)– The Thirteenth Alchemist. Myrtle made his first appearance in Fiction River’s Alchemy & Steam, published last year.

Both novels have been slowly growing over the past several years and are finally ready to see the light of day! Bringing them to life has been a real balancing act — balancing the “it ain’t no good” inner critic with the “this is great” inner fan. So many times the inner critic has come close to winning. I have finally gathered positive comments from outside sources to help get through those questioning times.

Gardening and writing — both take time, effort, and, sometimes, a little blood. Both definitely worthwhile!




Jul 19

No Coincidences

greenhouse companionNo such thing as coincidence. Recent experience put the lie to that statement (an experience that has nothing to do with the critter to the left :).

Mechanicals and I tend to live in awe of each other. I look at something mechanical and think, “Awesome!”  The mechanical looks at me and thinks, “Awe, here we go again.”

If there’s a button that shouldn’t be pushed, I’ll somehow manage to push it. Sometimes it seems that all I do is touch a mechanical and something will go wrong — screens go blank, phones magically factory-reset themselves … whatever can go wrong, will go wrong. I’ve come to expect it and — apparently — anticipate my own culpability.

Case in point — a few days ago, I plugged in the coffeepot and started working. I’d barely gotten started on a writing project, when Blam! my monitor went black.

What the heck had I done now? Mind racing through all the nasty possibilities — virus, bad hard drive, etc ad nauseum — I called for my live-in tech. Brandon’s already up and checking out things (which should have been a flag) and hubby Jim mumbles something from downstairs. Meanwhile, I’m freaking out, trying to remember when I did my last backup (no, I’m not a perfect backup artist 🙂 and Brandon’s going, “It’s okay, you didn’t do anything wrong.”

What do you mean it’s okay? Of course, I did something…whatever that thing might be. My computer…

At this point, I should probably point out that our electrical system is not like most other people’s. We live off the grid and use solar as our primary source of power. Which means we have to be careful how much we plug it at the same time. Turns out that Jim had turned on the laser printer at the same time the coffeepot was trying to heat up water and blew the circuit breaker.

So, amazingly enough, I really had nothing to do with the blank monitor.

Coincidences really do happen.

I was tearing out weeds in the greenhouse when I came across this little fella (or little miss – not sure how to tell the difference). We’ve worked for years to get beneficials established and I’d thought it was an impossible task. We’d bring in praying mantis cocoons and bags of ladybugs and next thing I knew, the bugs were headed outside any way they could get there. We’re just seeing signs of aphids and spider mites. Time to pick up more ladybugs — and then I find this lovely praying mantis (who really does not appreciate my watering habits :). Also found ladybugs in the same area — the weeds. Now I just have to figure out how to entice them into the greenery the aphids and spider mites seem to love!

Definitely a surprise to find beneficials in the greenhouse — definitely not a coincidence!


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