The Liminal Places

Sitting in my writing hut, I raptly listen to splatters of rain on the cabin roof. It is curious to me (as I mull the continuing exigencies of our chosen rural lifestyle) that since my last post, it has not rained, not one drop. This was over a month ago. The ground gapes in wide cracks; the grass has turned brown for the most part, and we fear for our water well’s unknown capacity. The driller assured us it was a “good well,” being artesian, but aquifers can and do run dry. The gift of water—like those of health and peace—demands a deep period of grateful contemplation and attention. Eyes wide open.

Normally not a desert, our northwestern edge of the Black Hills usually remains greenish through the fall months. Even past an early snowfall, our gardens and trees have generally continued to flourish. Not so the more sensitive species, like basil and the leaves of squash however. . . But while my husband attends the gardens’ needs, I dutifully perform my watering tasks and keep to schedule: the orchard trees, the fruiting bushes, the herbs. We notice the diminished size of several varieties of vegetables this summer—tomatoes, eggplant and ears of corn—but they taste particularly sweet, as though having struck a bargain in lieu of weight.

The apples may or may not have time to fill out, and this would be disappointing, as more hang from the branches than in previous years. Fingers crossed, I continue to water. “Doesn’t matter; carry on,” I hear from my observer. Remember The Observer? The one you may have read about in Psychology 101? I just completed a further review of a work-in-progress, examining our lifestyle choices, paired with memoir, and in it I make brief mention of this observing psychological construct. Such is the thirteen-year-old me who has the advantage and distinction (now) of having watched my so-called growing-up. Not quite having reached the cusp of crone-dom, having earned “elder” status (if ever I do), this in-between state I occupy at present seems to complement my thirteen-year-old self: not a child, nor yet a young woman. Thirteen was—is, a between place, a liminal age. Like mine today, at sixty-eight. One of my own constructs, Things happen in the liminal places.

How this pertains to an intermittent rain interrupting a drought is suspect, yet I seek the parallel. (Why else has the notion occurred to me?) Fractals and patterns erupt continually during these strange days. . . Anyhow, as the rain fell yesterday (and into this day) I opened windows to its strains and heard the barrel filling from the roof gutter run-off. I heard it as laughter—all that gurgling and splashing, a spectacular giggling symphony to joy. Definitely an ode.

My observer, I have decided, wants to play with me, employing the skills I’ve managed to learn, through love of writing and playing music, in order to do this: Just. Play. This morning I read in my news feed that nostalgia is actually good for us—that reviewing one’s difficult, and/or wistful parts leads to a more fulfilling life. The rain falls, to arrive like the bright visit of a thirteen-year-old self, come to visit, bringing forgotten joy.

The Smell of Rain

St. John’s Wort and Motherwort in bloom.

Our yellow Lab behaved strangely most of yesterday, acting mopey and dull. We thought he merely missed the stimulation—and overflowing love—of our grandchildren during their first visit in twenty-one months (due to the pandemic). Maybe. But, when the heavy rain began, he shot up, clamored to go outside where he ran about like a fool, then he came back in and resumed his happy-go-lucky Lab nature. Thank the gods of weather.

Whether pre-storm air contains mass quantities of positive ions, (some say these can trigger migraine, and I can attest), flipping to the better (for us) negative ions during the downpour—or not—it certainly appears that way. I welcome any source of healthful well-being I can snatch, from the dizzying merry-go-round we’ve been riding: up and down, up and down, round and round we go. . .

I plead guilty of taking another hiatus from posting, and (forgive the excuse) attribute this neglect to psychological response after having been on guard all these many months (years). Some of us shine during a crisis, then fall apart afterwards. That would be me. Not good. After a period of sweet-talking myself and refocusing my intentions, I believe I’m nearing the “good red road,” a phrase entwined with living in harmony on the Earth and by our better angels, to mix spiritual metaphors. Emerson’s “Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of our own minds,” comes to mind.

Several tribes of Native Americans inhabit Wyoming and borderlands, including Northern Arapaho, Eastern Shoshone; Northern Cheyenne and Crow in Montana, just north of here; Lakota and Dakota to the east. This is a gross generalization, as of course many folks have left the reservations. In yet another instance of recognizing (do we really have to say this?) lives that matter, may we cease to ignore or dismiss the myriad cultural gifts our First Nation neighbors have made to our collective civilization, in obvious appeal. Would that “civil” were better represented today. I love how Potawatomi Citizen and author Robin Wall Kimmerer ignites conversation about indigenous people’s methods of scientific inquiry and practice; of late, their wisdom about fire and how to manage controlled burns is pertinent. Her recent book, Braiding Sweetgrass, burns with such wisdom—knowledge paired with experience, eons of it.

So, it finally rained yesterday evening and during the night, a real gully-washer, and a refreshing topic neighbors can discuss, at last, as my husband just did with the honey-wagon man (who cleans out septic systems—a necessary chore every few years here on the croft). The rain gauge registered .9 inches, nearly an inch. Outstanding! June is normally our wet month, but not so this year. The land suffered six weeks with no rainfall, save short spritzes here and there. I did water the orchard trees, one by one, as usual, and all around the house for fear of fire danger. This moisture, thankfully, may offset some of the drought effects. I’d forgotten how sweet the air smells after a long, hard rain. Ahhhh.


Negative ions or not, the Lab’s response may prove the more righteous one and demonstrates the greater gratitude.

Silence Gives Consent

I never set out to write a novel touching on racism—but the story found its author, its time and its place, as it were. Wyoming, where I live, is ninety percent Caucasian, eight percent Hispanic or Latino, and three percent of what is listed as “other,” in galling assertion, signifying Blacks and indigenous peoples, or “First Nations,” as our neighbor Canada prefers. White supremacy—two words I cringe to pair—rears its shameless head in my story, but so too, the remedial antidotes of friendship, courage, moral indignation, and finally, love. These qualities, among others, have imbued the Black Hills region with a particular sacredness to many peoples, including the Lakota, Cheyenne, Omaha, Arapaho, Kiowa and Kiowa-Apache. We who dwell here today may soak up sacrament through a sort of osmosis, despite the occasionally alkaline water, the bland color of a toad’s belly. Peely wally, say the Scots, refers to a pale skin color, and actually means, to appear sickly, but I digress.

In 2015, at sixty-two, I set out on my literary journey, hero or not. The entire previous year I had sat out—reading, resting, and consuming words, “like tiny tranquilizers,” as creative Julia Cameron once warned. Having had a collection of short essays published in 2006, I wanted to write the story that had percolated for years. During my so-called sabbatical, I studied the way tales are woven together, the warp and woof of the myriad possible decisions and choices. To do my level best would be my aim and I blocked out mornings for writing. Determination is a powerful thing. Within a year, after revisions and cutting 16,000 words, I completed The Riven Country of Senga Munro with welcomed assistance from my editor. “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it,” Goethe said.

Two more novels in the Riven Country series followed: Starwallow and The Simpler. After querying and much deliberation, I chose to publish on KDP Amazon, taking the recommendation of two friends, given that I am nearing seventy. Mostly pleased with my decision (a wider audience and readership would be a fine thing), I never expected the cataclysm of events that have since upended our lives. Travel restrictions and health precautions squelched travel to see loved ones, and normal book release activities, like book tours, readings, and signings were postponed. I carried on with my efforts, however, and I am glad I did so. “Write your book—it will change your life,” is not a facile suggestion, at least it doesn’t have to be. I might substitute “save” for “change.”

The work of writing and its attendant tasks have eased long absences from my family and friends. It has delivered a quiet sense of joy and agency—if solely personal—and indeed my life has been enriched for the dogged doing of it. Forgive the overwrought reference, but it’s as if I made a pact with my soul. (Nay, I did.) Set mostly in the Black Hills region, and at times featuring Paris, Denmark, Italy, and Ireland, the series centers around Senga Munro, a middle-aged wounded healer who is nudged by the universe after the tragic loss of her young daughter.

The second protagonist, Gabe Belizaire, confronts racism for being “other.” Senga is also other, for seeing what others can’t, in the series’ thread of magic realism. The notion to include a former bull rider/Tulane-educated M.A. from southwest Louisiana, who simply wants to write while working on a Wyoming ranch, might not have raised eyebrows (at least in this part of the country), but Gabe’s skin color is rare in Wyoming. I describe an incident at a regional rodeo (unnamed, as it could have occurred anywhere, sadly), which leads to Gabe’s acquaintance of an irascible old ranch couple and their neighbor Senga. To set the matter straight, similar incidents as Gabe endured have been reported in first-hand accounts. From one of these I took my cue, but no spoilers from me.

Fast-forward to the summer of 2020. I could not have known that late spring and summer would erupt in protest marches following the brutal killing of George Floyd in Minnesota at the hands of a policeman. “Black Lives Matter,” coined in 2013 after the Trayvon Martin killing, becomes a rallying cry tacitly including all races. The holographic principle declares, “The whole is inherent in the part.” That we are all one race is a given. No room for blind men trying to identify an elephant here. The BLM phrase could be interpreted with more subtlety, nuance, delicacy and truth by detractors. But what is understood is left out. Black Lives actually do Matter. The oft-used rebuttal, “All Lives Matter” weakens the argument of those who utter the retort. I hear it as sarcasm. It dismisses those who insist on simply being seen, acknowledged, and understood.

Since the inception of these United States, ever the hope and aspiration of our founders, people of color and destitute immigrants of all races have often been poorly received in this country. In blinding understatement. We fall short of our ideals—morally, democratically, and ethically. That there is always room for improvement must be accepted, moment to moment. If I sound painfully obvious, I mean to state an obvious fact. My literary series casts a wide net, but addressing respect and regard between people answered the questions my soul posed as I wrote. Daniel J. Levitin suggests in Successful Aging: A Neuroscientist Explores the Power and Potential of Our Lives that creative writing lends itself well to the aging brain. Late in life I set myself a challenge, and as the old poet wrote, it has made all the difference.

The much greater and more significant national challenge awaits.

The Bibliophile File

After reading and rereading the last several pages of A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles, I realized I harbor (apologies; it’s the only word) a list of “most favored books and authors,” as many do, and I wanted to give art and artist their own cove, as it were. A website might constitute one’s geography in a sense (among other ologies), and as such, I am inaugurating a link to these beloveds—in case you’re stranded in a moment of ennui and would welcome a diversion. Naturally, I hope you’ll consider mine, but that’s much beside the point. Note that I have omitted pre-twentieth century writers, and many from that century whose contributions have already been well established.

The fiction bookcase is off-stage to the left. No doubt, doing fiction stuff.

Someone once entreated me, “After falling in love with a certain book, just go ahead and read everything the author has written, as soon as possible!” She went on to warn that the sentiment, or “window,” if you will, would be available for only a short time. The fascination might well melt—like a dream sequence.

Be it fiction or nonfiction, I have practiced this exhortation somewhat, though with Dickens, or a couple of the Russians, it would mean I’d be tethered to them alone for a very long while, and there are just so many extraordinary writers out there. Here are a few, in alphabetical order (occasionally paired with a particular volume or series.) As the shy, or, the more indignant (never!) candidates reveal themselves to me, I will amend my list. This is not a complete listing, nor could ever be. An observation: I believe we are in an age of poetry at present, and I’ve only just begun to crack that magic cupboard, beginning with 2021’s Inauguration poet, Amanda Gorman. I’ll require another list.

Speaking of poetry . . . the reviews by Linda Spears (Film and Television Production Sound Recorder), of my latest novels, Starwallow and The Simpler. Her thoughts are short, witty, and (may it be) enticing. I beg your indulgence:

Starwallow and The Simpler~reviewed on March 21, 2021 on Amazon and GoodReads:

“Scenes of intimacy that are fluent and dense. Lives are lived between the momentous, as lives must be. This book takes the ordinary and turns it mystical. The setting is the mild, wild west. In this second book in a trilogy, characters are further illuminated. They are lit. And each authentic character continues to inspire. It’s a story of foundational connections that may be broken but never vanish.”

The Simpler~

“An astounding ending to a remarkable trilogy. . . [begins Spears, though work in the fourth is in progress] Okay [she continues] . . . how often do you read a book that has an ending that is utterly unforeseen? Ready to have your mind twisted? The writing is haunting, lush and soul-piercing.”

My deep gratitude to the sound recorder, whose auscultation (regarding the impression a book has made in her heart) are so beautifully rendered into words. Something of the sort, if not so fine-tuned and trained, leaves a pulse in my heart for the following:

Diane Ackerman

Ray Bradbury

Marion Zimmer Bradley—The Mists of Avalon

Chris Cleave—Everyone Brave is Forgiven

Amanda Coplin—The Orchardist

Anthony Doerr—All the Light We Cannot See

Louise Erdrich

Diana Gabaldon—The Outlander Series

Elizabeth Gilbert—The Signature of All Things

N.K. Jemisin—The Fifth Season

Robin Wall Kemmerer—Braiding Sweetgrass

Barbara Kingsolver

Madeleine L’Engle

John O’ Donahue—Eternal Echoes, Exploring Our Yearning to Belong

Louise Penny

Rosamunde Pilcher—The Shell Seekers

Richard Powers—The Overstory

Wallace Stegner

Mary Stewart

Amor Towles—The Gentleman in Moscow

Julie Yip-Williams—The Unwinding of the Miracle: A Memoir of Life, Death, and Everything That Comes After

“Addictive and immersive, this series is a must-read…”

Heady words regarding one’s efforts, but I’ll take it. The Prairie Book Review has distilled the series well, always a difficult task for an author. “What are your books about?” often leaves me tongue-tied. So, here is a summary of the first three books.

Carrier combines love and intrigue with magical realism to build a stunning literary series set in rural Wyoming, Italy, Paris, and Ireland. In the debut installment, Senga is struggling to realize her true purpose in life as accidental death of her only daughter, nine-year-old Emily, weighs heavy on her mind. The second installment in the series sees Senga gradually coming to terms with her grief as Sebastian, a brilliant Danish artist, comes into her life. In the third installment, Senga finds herself following a magical realism thread that takes her to Ireland. She must weigh her own ability that makes her see what others cannot see. Carrier devotes considerable attention to developing her characters, especially Senga who is greatly affected by the tragic events of her past. The passages exploring Senga’s mental state, particularly after she loses her daughter to the tragic accident are haunting and raw. She balances the increasingly entangled lives of Senga and her friends, including the endearing Stricklands, Sebastian, Joe, Gabe, and Francesca with skill and precision. Carrier elegantly weaves the old legend into the main storyline, and High Wolf’s ancient story is as fascinating as Senga’s ongoing tale. Though it takes time to settle into Senga’s intricate world in the first installment, Carrier’s assured, lyrical prose expertly guides the reader throughout. The second and third installments read like a breeze, and new readers will have no trouble following Senga’s story. The plot unravels at a tantalizingly leisured pace, and Carrier’s immersive prose keep the pages turning. The characters’ complex relationships with one another are brilliantly portrayed, and the exquisitely detailed world and expert plotting are an added bonus. Along the way, Carrier explores deeper questions of love, life, regret, grief, racism, and the human cost of obsession and control. Intrigue, passion and madness, and hints of magical realism with tiny magical moments will keep readers spellbound from start to finish. With its Intricate worldbuilding, heartrending emotions, and expert characterization, this imaginatively told tale is sure to impress both the lovers of women’s fiction and literary fiction. Readers will eagerly await Carrier’s next.

~The Prairies Book Review


The notion of choosing a word a year to study, exercise, and mull occurred to me especially this January, when upheaval and a sense of foreboding might have buried me in depression. Vigilance as refuge. Vigilance as resilience. Vigilance as agency. “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty” has been repeated by several luminaries, including Thomas Jefferson, but in researching the phrase, I find no first mention. Maybe it appeared in our consciousness full blown like Athena, the goddess of wisdom, from the head of her father, Zeus. As a natural law and obvious fact, granted, it is invoked by disparate groups in their collective marches toward respective ideas of freedom.

Enter my word for the year. The quality of vigilance begs for watchfulness, attention, awareness, and mindfulness. By choosing it, I hope to set my intention firmly enough that my internal “observer” will allow me to rest more fully and in peace when I need to. At least one burden has been removed, but another remains (the virus), and while it is easier to haul two buckets of water, one in each hand, internally, I seek a working balance.

Decomposing the spectrum of Vigilance begins at the root. I see the vi as having to do with sight, with vision. The ritual of vigil has long informed our mythical side. From days of yore, as means to concentrate the mind of a soldier before battle, it came to be conflated with “wake,” related to vigil, inasmuch as remaining with a loved one until burial. And to make sure the deceased did not awaken. The wake evolved to often include a rowdy send-off, either in place of, or before the more solemn funeral.

The first exercise in making a year-long study of this word is in writing this piece. Invoking a word and imbuing it with meaning casts a spell of intent. Naming a thing settles the mind. Accepting a charge (in the old sense of the word) settles emotion. Practicing vigilance might entail myriad actions, as well as non-action, i.e., a daily period of meditation, to learn to listen with the ear of the heart. (If I harp on this one, it is because I require the constant drumbeat of its message—no inference to you, dear reader.)

Having published three novels over the last thirteen months, I might be tempted to confuse due diligence with vigilance, but they are not the same thing. Assiduous effort has forestalled the possibility of an existential break, as it were, and I am grateful for the work, and the support of loved ones. Vigilance becomes a discipline when followed with love, an internal message of love from my head to my heart.

The Simpler of The Riven Country Series and the author at home.


THE SIMPLER is now available for purchase online, including Barnes and Noble (the paperback) and Amazon, (pb and e-book), and soon from me—when I receive my shipment toward the end of the month. If you would like an inscribed copy, contact me. Of course, your local book store can place an order, or ask your library to order one. In January, I’ll make copies available locally in Spearfish, Sundance, and Hulett. For now, I’m laying low during the pandemic, but hope to do readings by late summer.

Back cover matter

Writing and publishing three novels in six years (among other events) has tested perseverance and intestinal fortitude, but I found the formatting mechanics strangely calming—for the most part. There were the lost files, the mixed-up files, the initial disorganization and usual frustrations, but practice, practice, practice led me out of the thorny woods, that and my husband Jeff’s patience. Dear friend and artist, Candace Christofferson, worked up the mermaid image, beautifully, at my request. You see, my late father-in-law, John B., once carved from wood an intriguing piece, of a mermaid, and Candace’s model. Those familiar with the series will recognize the significance. Readers of the first novel may note the backbone reference. Meanwhile, I am waiting for the first editorial review to be posted—fingers crossed.

I hope you continue Senga’s journey with me, and if you are inclined, please leave a review. Below is the e-book cover version and information. I remain thankful beyond measure for this work at this time, and especially for you readers. May you and yours stay well and pass a warm Yuletide. Don’t forget to watch for Jupiter and Saturn’s alignment in the south around December 21, a true heavenly event. May Peace, Love, and Joy prevail~

  • Paperback: 301 pages—also available as an e-book 
  • ISBN-10: 1734043725
  • ISBN-13: 978-1734043723
  • Publisher: Braeburn Croft (December 2, 2020)
  • Dimensions: 6 x 0.76 x 9 inches
  • Language: English

Lending Grace to Chaos

Amid much angst, nail-biting and throwing off better dietary angels, I took a few weeks away from my writing work (save perfunctory tasks) and sorely feel the hiatus. A blog post may connect some dots of insight. I miss heading down to the little cabin, lighting the Little Buddy propane heater, to return when it’s cozy. I miss the sense of joy and peace I derive within the four pine walls. I miss the ineffable Flow, the Zone, the trance of being so caught up in telling my tale that all sense of time and concern evaporates. I miss my characters (along with proper flesh and blood varieties). I say (glibly) that the writing saves my life, borrowing the sentiment from fellow Wyomingite Craig Johnson of Longmire fame. I don’t wish to appear “precious” about it, but there you are.

Orchard after Harvest

Enough pep talk. Does it sound false? Will truth indeed set us free, and will it arrive soon enough? Especially for the child refugees in detention. Of all the damnable obscenities perpetrated by this sitting head of state, to me, this is the worst. . . An October 21, 2020 New York Times story cites the deported parents of 545 incarcerated children have not been located. An ominous thundercloud hangs overhead.

A maelstrom of discouragement, sadness, loneliness, disappointment and fury swirls in my head. A synesthesia. I draw no facile comparison, but how long before we’ll be able to enjoy our grandchildren and children once again? I complain too much, given those who have lost loved ones, jobs and homes to the virus, to fires, to misfortune. Those in nursing homes are especially vulnerable to both the virus, and the confusion surrounding it. A matter of degree, I suspect. Everyone dreads their critical breaking point, where “I just can’t take it anymore!” burgeons from the subconscious. A good cry can relieve our emotions, if not our circumstances.

Autumn Evening Sky

One night this week, about 2:30 in the morning, I permitted, even coaxed, a bubble of repressed emotion to rise in my gorge and I allowed the tears to flow. Dear Reader, it helped. Weep, cry, stamp your feet, pitch a fit–as Mom used to call it–and then weep some more. I’ll let you know if and when I am tempted to break dishes. (Not yet! not yet!)

A medieval “alternative fact” perches on my shoulder like an abused bat: the tempter-demon introduced in Catholic grade school, the “angel-on-my-right, devil-on-my-left” concept. No mention of metaphor. No psychological analogies. No elementary treatise on maladaptive behaviors or coping mechanisms. Plain old fear tactic 101. A version is employed by mothers the world over to frighten children away from a rushing riverside. La Llorona is a mother who has lost her children. She haunts shores, looking for those who might “do.” The clear light of day generally disperses any and all such notions, but the analogy begs a look.

Consider the end of the film, Saving Private Ryan (spoiler alert), when Tom Hank’s dying character tells the boy, “Earn this,” meaning, the deaths of those answering the call to help find the soldier. Earn it: Live a gracious life. Loosely based on a family’s loss of three brothers during WWII, a fourth brother, Fritz Niland, was plucked from combat by the Army’s “sole survivor” policy. Fictionalizing an incident, as novelists may, affords an opportunity to relate over-arching truths and poignancy.  Poetic Justice. It remains the bedrock attraction of literature, and a means to teach and to form conscience and consciousness. Great tales do this (whether we realize it or not). We stand at the Earn this! moment of the 21st century. The deaths of over 220,000 Americans, and over a million Earthlings worldwide, require our due diligence, and, our unmitigated attention. . .

Some of us self-medicate against the existential affronts bombarding our conscience and sensibilities. Others find satisfaction in working on creative pursuits. Some double-down on child-raising-and-educating efforts. Others live on social media networks. Some throw their heart and soul into improving the lives of those others, by serving and protecting in various capacities. Finally, many let go of their precious lives. “Enough, and Adios.” We owe a debt of gratitude far beyond a capacity to fill it, and this informs, and confirms, our humanity. Our reach must exceed our grasp, as they say.

With this post, I declare my independence from most social network sites, owing to the amount of time and energy related to their use and influence. Fundamentally a matter of physics, the personal cost is too dear. I understand it is precisely our fragile agency that is at stake. Each of us is a “product,” whose attention is to be mined and cultivated, according to producers and writers of The Social Dilemma documentary. (See Netflix.) My Gmail and WordPress accounts will have to suffice as tools to communicate online about my books. Must needs, as the Brits say. I was simply never that extroverted, but I am fine (if you wonder).  Carry on, we must, despite the obstacles. Do what brings you joy, I hear. Figure it out. Meanwhile. . . breathe deeply and, “Look for silver linings!” as friend Gundel counsels.

Ahh, silver linings. . . I looked up the idiom. I read John Milton likely coined the phrase in the 1600s with his quote, “Was I deceived or did a sable cloud turn forth her silver lining on the night?” Further meaning: bright side: Wikipedia calls this “a metaphor for optimism . . . a negative occurrence may have a positive aspect to it.” I imagine a sleek sable on her back, offering her long belly to be scratched, with Eric Idle’s “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” playing in the background.

Our daughter will occasionally speak of grace with a surprising candor and capacity for sense perception. She exudes a quality of the word, depending on one’s definition. Here I’m thinking of its roots in gratitude. Before sleep, a gracious and useful exercise would have us identify “three nice or encouraging things” that happened to us that day. Grace of gratitude naturally follows, and the exercise prompts inklings of further serendipities. Seek and ye shall find. Merci to French author Raphaelle Giordano for her novel about seeking happiness, Your Second Life Begins When You Realize You Have Only One. Pithy title.

Our better angels beseech us.


Below, please find a short excerpt from Starwallow, Book II of my Riven Country Series. The second novel involves travel to Italy from Wyoming, and the journeys back home to oneself. Each character makes their own precious way. The formatting here is a WordPress default. It’ll do.

From Chapter 2, Seagulls and Jambalaya

Rufus pulled on his good Pendleton wool shirt, a past Christmas gift from one of his daughters, then his wool vest. Still barefoot, he stepped into the warm kitchen. It smelled like fried sausage.

Gabe was seated in his usual place.

Gabe Belizaire, thirty-nine and recently retired (he claimed) as a bull rider, was born and raised in Louisiana on a ranch. An MFA from Tulane, he’d given up a teaching position to concentrate on writing. He’d just submitted a collection of short stories. But he still wanted, what he called, a “day job,” so he continued to work for the Stricklands, who now considered him family.

In 2006, one of his rides was ignored by the arena clown and pick-up men in a case of abject discrimination. The bull mauled him in a horrifying spectacle. Rufus remembered the bright red blood drenching the yellow shirt of the Louisiana man, whose skin gleamed as black as a no-moon night.

And what color was that bull? A brindle, maybe, Rufus recollected.

The Stricklands had invited Gabe to recover at their ranch, offered in the guise of a job, and the man accepted their hospitality.

After he had been treated for his injuries at the rodeo, Caroline and Senga continued his care. Senga Munro, their nearest neighbor, provided salves, tinctures, compresses and an ear.

Gabe explained he’d traveled to the Black Hills in search of his sister, who’d disappeared after Katrina’s destruction in New Orleans. A truck driver contacted his parents to say he’d driven the girls—Allie and her friend—to western South Dakota, where they had waiting jobs at a guest ranch in the Wyoming Black Hills.

“Mornin’, patron,” said Gabe. “How’s the hip? Or should I just shut up?” he grinned after Rufus threw him a look.

“Mornin’, Gabe. And how’s the recently engaged man?” He smirked. Distractions were gifts from God. Maybe they are God. He lowered himself gingerly onto the chair, placing the cane on the back. “Caro?” he held up his socks.

“Doin’ well, boss, doin’ well,” and Gabe picked up his mug of coffee.

“Be there in a sec, hon,” Caroline said, as she moved the skillet off the heat and covered the eggs with the lid. She stepped over to Rufus, knelt down and pulled on each sock. Then she reached for the slippers he kept beside the stove. “There,” and she looked up at him.

Caroline was heavier than she liked to be, and rising to her feet took some effort.

“Thank you, wife,” he said, meaning it, then to Gabe, “You’ll like it, being married; they’re handy to have around. Like pliers, you know?” He winked at her.


If you’re in the area, The Good Earth Health Food Store on Main, in Spearfish, South Dakota, is hosting a Reading/Signing for me, on Saturday, September 19, 2020, from 2:30-4:00. This accompanies the town’s Art/Wine/Food Truck Fall Celebration; also, fellow Wyomingite Jalan Crossland, and Lacey Nelson, play from 2:00 until 6:00 at the Spearfish Corn Maze. How fun is that?? You can bet I’ll be skedaddling to the corn after the book event. 

A Note of Thanks

With gratitude, I am thrilled to announce the award of a developmental grant from the Wyoming Arts Council, through the National Endowment for the Arts and the Wyoming Legislature. Such welcome support for the artistic community, especially in these dire times, cannot be overstated. It speaks to an understanding and recognition of humanity’s bedrock need to create something out of nothing, be it a novel, a song, a work of art, or any creative pursuit—which, in truth, encompasses any and all endeavors, if intention allows. The wondrous State of Wyoming has a soft spot for those of us who would tell our stories—and by extension, those of our storied landscapes—through our fancies and efforts. My thanks to all concerned.

This particular grant, like another I received, will go toward editing costs. It’s difficult, if nigh impossible, to edit oneself. This has been my experience, notwithstanding the numerous drafts, part of the creative process, and about which myriad books are written. I won’t go on about it.

As an indie author and my own publisher, I find the book business side both fascinating and tedious. The action of formatting a manuscript for paperback or e-book publication is both satisfying and nerve-wracking. I just completed preparing the third book of the Riven Country series, Earthbound, and am awaiting another scintillating cover image from friend Candace Christofferson. A late November release is The Plan. To have published three books in a year and a half may seem obsessive, but given the uncertain era we live in, I thought it best to “cast [my] bread upon the waters,” and see what returns. Which begs the question, “Why put oneself through it all?”

The simple answer: the work gives my life—for the present—meaning, purpose and perspective. Being separated from our children and grandchildren is a theme I’ve explored before, but today, with the virus constraints, the onus is on everyone to protect one another. As of this writing, on August 26, 2020, +180,000 persons have died in the United States, due to Covid-19. Despite the national crisis, Wyoming continues to attend to the Arts on behalf of her low population.

Ultimately, the Arts may serve to make sense of it all.

Signing copies for an upcoming author event at Devils Tower KOA over Labor Day Weekend, in the shadow of our nation’s first national monument. Drop by if you’re in the area. We’ll be outdoors, among the Hot Air Balloons. Can’t miss it!