One thing I really enjoy about travel is unexpected surprises. On my recent research trip to Montana I made one such discovery.

I found the Ross Creek Cedars. I had no idea Montana had such stunning beauties.

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Some of these trees are 500 years old.

The protected area is about 100 acres but the trail is a mile long and even accessible for wheelchairs. That was a nice surprise too.

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I am always in awe of such tree—mendous size. (Pun intended for my punny family)

The road to the area twists and turns and twists, and turns some more but it is well worth the drive. And thankfully we did not meet any approaching cars when the road was too narrow for two vehicles.

The scenery was also stunning.

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This is a good reminder to me as a writer. I think readers like surprises in stories. I know I’ll never be able to write the kind of beautiful surprise the Ross Creek cedars were for me but I will work to give as many surprises in my story as I can.

Do you like surprises? What are some of your favorite ones?

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This week I sent in the proposal for the last book in the Cowboys of Eden Valley series. I hate to say goodbye to those I’ve spent so much time with but it’s time to move on.

And I’m excited about the new series I’m working on.

It’s about three cowboys. Here’s the blurb I used to sell the idea to my editor.

Three half breed men as bold as their Indian forbearers, as uncompromising as the Montana mountains. Their mother was a Lakota Indian, Seena. Injured and fleeing the battle of the Little Big Horn, she is unable to continue. Big Sam Harding rescues her, nurses her back to health and strength and marries her. They produce three sons.

I’ve enjoyed researching for this series. My research has involved lots of reading and of course, provided an excuse to driving around Montana, taking pictures and visiting museums.

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Here is where the Harding ranch will be placed. Isn’t it a beautiful setting?


This might be the house they live in.

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The three cowboys will likely be called Tanner, Johnny and Levi.


Although they each deal with their heritage in a different way, they are seeking freedom from their inner struggles so they can get on with their lives. Can love heal this trio?

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I don’t know how long a person must write and publish books before that person feels like a real writer. (That person being me!)

But there are a few things that help me believe it. One is research. Traveling through an area, making notes in a little notebook, taking pictures, going to museums all make me think what I am doing is authentic.

A trip to Montana this summer contained all the above and more.

The Libby, Montana museum:

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It’s a beautiful building with displays both inside and out. A big thank you to the volunteers who marked everything with dates and a description.

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But the best part of the research trip might have been the few hours I spent in the Libby library.

There was a very extensive local and state history section. I delved in and had a great time.

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I spread myself out and skimmed a dozen or more books. I the ‘good’ old days I would have been forced to either take notes or photocopy the pages that interested me. But thanks to technology, I simply used my camera to take pictures and capture the information I needed. It sure did make things fast. When I got home, I printed out the pages and created a hard copy of all the research. Here’s a sample of the books I enjoyed.

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These are some of the things that make me feel like a real writer. Of course, there’s seeing the new covers, getting the edits back, having a box of books delivered to my door and best of all, brainstorming with my writing friend, Carolyne Aarsen.

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There is something supremely satisfying about working really hard and then seeing the payoffs. For instance, in the garden.

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Take these sunflowers. I dug seedlings out from the front of the house and transplanted them to the garden—in the futile hope the birds would leave my berries alone.

The flowers did really well and I’m sure the birds will enjoy them…just as they enjoyed my berries.


Then there’s the apples. I don’t have to do much work before the harvest. Just a little pruning.

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But then there’s picking, peeling, slicing, etc. Thankfully we have a hand-cranked machine that does all that. And I have a client who volunteered to crank the machine. I put 30 gallon-sized bags in the freezer to share with my family.

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Tomatoes, on the other hand, require a lot more care throughout the season. Then there’s the worry about frost. So I picked most of them and brought them inside. Delicious for fresh eating for several months.

Yup, sometimes the work is worth the effort. I felt the same way about my writing this week when I got a sneak peek of the cover for Big Sky Homecoming—the third book in the Bell sister’s trilogy under the flash of Montana Weddings. I can’t share the cover yet but it is beautiful. Makes it all worthwhile.

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The perks of summer.

Sunflowers and goldfinch enjoying the sunflowers. My favorite flower. I grow lots of them outside my office window (seen behind the flowers) and leave them there for the winter so I can enjoy birds feeding there…so long as I can keep the moose from stealing the flowers during the winter.

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I  have enjoyed my roses all summer long. I have no idea what kind of bush this is. I grabbed it one year at the end-of-the-season sale and it has thrived and rewarded me with stunning clusters of flowers.sunflowers and roses 001

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I know many would wonder that I enjoy a good storm but I do. It was beautiful. Look at the contrasts. You can’t see the hail that feel like snow but it felt like I was in a snowglobe.

I love the many, many perks of summer. These are but a few of them. I also love the perks of writing. I work hard on a story, planning, plotting, writing, rewriting and editing. Two of the best perks are seeing a lovely cover produced by the art department at HQ and the other is getting a box of books delivered to my doorstep.

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What are some of your favorite perks of the season? I know there must be hundreds of them.

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I’ve been busy with August. You know the stuff—garden, company, going places, the lake, summer camps for the grandchildren, family gatherings, the garden.

But good stuff is happening at the same time. So here’s the news.

1. I received my 25th book pin. Isn’t it lovely? I think so.

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2. I got two boxes of books within the same week. How cool is that?

The first is the beginning of a new 3-book series of three girls found on the prairie and adopted and it’s set in Montana.

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I love seeing the delivery man stop in front of my house and hand me a box of books. I love opening the flaps and looking at my latest release.




The second book is a re-release of my second Love Inspired Historical in large print with a slightly different cover.

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I think the new cover is great. My hubbie and client think the large print is great so we’re all happy.

In the meantime, I am working on the final book of the Eden Valley series. Look for three more books late in 2015 in that series.

One other August bit of news. My granddaughter got a new puppy for her birthday and has named him August in honor of her birthday month. Smile

august puppy

So how has your August been so far?

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It’s been a busy summer as it always is. Last weekend, a family reunion where are my siblings got together. Two have passed and we missed them.

Kids here, kids there, kids in raspberry patch.

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Kids at the waterslide.

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Kids at the playground.

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And a new kitty–Peanut–who is fun even when he’s sleeping.

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How’s your summer going?

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Geologists have a saying–rocks remember. Neil Armstrong 

I couldn’t help wonder what rocks remember, what stories they could tell, sorrows they feel as I passed two specific rocky places on my research trip.

First, the Okotoks Erratic.

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Plunked in the middle of prairie, where and how and why is this rock there? It has a very mysterious feel to it. I can understand why the Blackfoot people considered it of spiritual significance.

And then there is this valley of rocks caused by the Frank Slide.

montana research trip July 038 In 1903 at 4:10 am, 90 million tons of rocks slid down Turtle Mountain and in 100 seconds buried the eastern side of Frank, killing and permanently burying 70 people.

The rocks along the highway go on for about 4 miles. Huge rocks.

montana trip 033 A horrible tragedy. The power of nature is overwhelming.

But then man adds his touch to the world.

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Just for fun, here is a site for enjoying rocks.

Anyone out there have any rock stories to share?

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I like it when I can see first hand the places I plan to write about. So this past week, I headed south to research the mountains of north-western Montana with a special regard to the gold rushes that took place there in 1867 and 1876.

The trip was most enjoyable. Forest fire smoke gave the mountains a smoky haze.

montana research trip July 031 Seeing the fading layers of blue-gray makes me long to be able to paint what I feel. Words are far too inadequate.

Seeing the cattle on the green hills made me feel like I had stepped right into the life of one of my cowboy heroes. Can you picture yourself on horseback, your cowboy hat pushed back as you admire your herd? I can.

montana research trip July 032 We took the scenic route south of the border along the Koocanusa Lake which meant that for 52 miles we followed a snake-shaped road down the mountain. Yes, the scenery was nice. I guess. I had to keep my eyes on the road. But I stopped to take this picture.

montana trip 038 The Koocanusa bridge across the Koocanusa lake formed by the Libby dam across the Kootenai river. The lake is very long–about 90 miles–crossing the International border into BC. By the way, the lake was named in a contest. It combines the first three letters of Kootenai, Canada and USA.

More of the lake. (I stopped twice on my way down the twisty road)

montana research trip July 044  We arrived in Libby, Montana and stayed in the Venture Inn Motel (great place to stay).

My room: Yup, that’s a recliner chair. Nice. And the desk was great for working on.

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Libby has something like 70 statues of eagles. Most of them done by the same man. This one could be seen from my motel room.

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It was good to see the area. And equally good to get home. I’ll share more of my trip next time.

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It’s fun when I find something that fits into one of my stories or gives me an idea for another.

I had such a moment this week.

Often the little girls in my stories have a doll someone has made them week so when I found fabric dolls in a gift store, I was enamored. They were so unique. Here, have a look for yourself.

gift store sylvan lake 007 gift store sylvan lake 006 gift store sylvan lake 005 Did you notice the sign beside the one doll. lol. The partial sign on the first doll reads Bad mistakes often make good stories.

There were bumble bee dolls too. Cute, but not the same nostalgic feel.

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I’m off to do research in Montana this week and hope I can find some special moments like these dolls provided.

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