The Saga of the Struggle


It all started last Wednesday when the pipes in the house froze. Well, it started before that if you count (AND I DO) the days of sub-zero temps when the hydrant at the barn (plus the creeks) froze and I had to carry buckets (and buckets) of water to the barnyard from the house for the animals. You ever carry water for cows? It’s a lot of buckets. Cows can slurp down a five-gallon bucket without blinking. This area hasn’t seen those kind of temperatures, without a break, in years. It’s not normal here. I thought things couldn’t get worse, but then there was Wednesday.

Ross was still here, so at least I had help that day. We got buckets (and buckets) from my neighbor Andy’s house for the animals, and also borrowed a heater from Andy. I used the heater (from outside) to blow air into the opening to the crawl space under the house. Eventually, this actually thawed at least the cold water line to the house. Everyone was so excited!

And then water started pouring out from a pipe in the cellar. I had to turn off the water main at the farm. The next day, my neighbor Jim came over and fixed that pipe. We could turn the water main back on! We were all excited.

And then water started gushing up out of the hole where the main is located. My water main on the farm had frozen and broken. I called the water company. Miraculously, they actually got out here the same day (by then it was Friday) and repaired it. Turned the main back on. There was a new, different leak in the cellar.

Next day, my neighbor Jim came over and fixed the other leak. I asked him why pipes running to the house were in the cellar at all. He explained that it was fairly common around here to run pipes to a house through a cellar house or pump house, that in the old days, people were leery of having the pipes coming in to the house directly into the house. I don’t completely understand that, but apparently it’s not unusual. This whole setup with the pipes was here when I got here. Over the past couple of years, I’ve made a lot of improvements to the plumbing, and the majority of the plumbing lines are new, but I haven’t changed all of it. It is a massive job to completely re-do plumbing on an old place like this with a vast array of mysterious plumbing lines. There are some pipes in the cellar that I don’t even understand where they go, but slowly as each old one that’s left breaks, I do find out where it goes. (Side benefit, if you can call it that.)

So, with that leak fixed, we turned the main back on. Exciting!

And then I realized I had no hot water in the house. The hot water was still partially frozen.

Aside–at this point, still scared of my icy driveway, I got my neighbor Andy to come over and take my car to the bottom of the driveway. Ross was gone, so I had no way out if I couldn’t get my car parked at the bottom. I went to the feed store, came back, parked at the bottom again, and a few hours later, discovered my car in the middle of the road. Luckily, there’s not a lot of traffic on my road. My car slid out, in Park, on its own, into the middle of the road. That’s how icy my driveway was.

Aside aside–I went out one more time that day, to a real estate office, where I signed the papers that finalized the sale of Stringtown Rising. For a variety of reasons, this deal that came in last fall took several months to be finalized. Stringtown Rising now belongs to a couple from England. I always said it would take someone from out-of-state to be crazy enough, and not know enough about West Virginia winters, to buy that place. Well, it took more than someone from out-of-state. It took someone from OUT OF THE COUNTRY. Good luck to them….. A lot of time has passed and I was way past being sad about it. I was just glad it was over.

I also stopped at the store and bought a heater that I’ll be using in the cellar for freezing nights to hopefully put a stop to the issues in there.

BACK TO THE WATER. Jim came back over to finish re-hooking the dishwasher up in the studio so I could turn the valves to the studio back on and at least get a hot shower over there. He did that, told me to wait for the glue to dry, then turn the water back on. Exciting! I was so ready for a hot shower. I sent Jim away with a big pan of sour cream enchiladas and a coconut-oatmeal rum pie to thank him for all his efforts.

And then when I turned the valves to run water back into the studio lines, I discovered yet another break in those lines and had to shut the valves off again. This was Saturday night.

By this time, I’d been carrying water for a week by the bucketful for cows, had had water shut off in the house much of the last few days, and hadn’t seen hot water in several days. I was worn out, exhausted, stressed out, and I just went to bed and cried.

When I woke up Sunday morning, I had hot water running in the house. Finally. The barnyard hydrant was unfrozen and the creeks were thawed. I was happy. And exhausted. And I took a shower, ran some water in the barnyard without lifting a bucket, told the animals to have at it, went back to bed and spent most of the day in bed, just watching TV and being glad I didn’t have to carry buckets.

After a month of water problems, furnace problems, car problems, and weather problems with more water problems, I was plumb wore out from the never-ending struggle to just survive. (Which happened to involve a lot of physical labor and stress.)

Today, we just have rain. School is closed again–for flooding, I assume. But no snow here so far this morning. And nothing is frozen. And there’s no ice on my driveway.

I’m calling it good.

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New Project!


As the story goes (and I’m sure it’s true), one of my writer heroes, Nora Roberts, started her writing career one day when she was snowed in, bored, and desperate for something to do. And because I have SO MUCH in common with Nora– Really! I do!

See this post here for the crazy run-down on my obsession with Nora. (Note that the post linked is from 2009 and the giveaway at the end of the post is no longer available.)

Anyway, back to me. Or maybe that was about me, too. Okay, it’s always about me. Never mind.

Back to WRITING. And being snowbound, ice-bound, trapped, and going crazy. Yeah, that’s been me this past week. And between carrying buckets of water to the barn yard because all the outside faucets are frozen, I went a little stir crazy stuck in the house. I started doing something I haven’t done in YEARS.

I started writing fiction again. Some of you know that in a previous life in an alternate universe, I had 26 romance novels published. I gave up romance writing to create and write Chickens in the Road. Then I wrote a memoir, which was published this past October. (Have you read it yet? Find out more about my memoir here.)

But this past week, I felt the sudden urge to write again what I haven’t in years. Fiction. And to do what my old romance writer friends have been urging me to do for the past couple of years–make it available myself, via digital format. The writing world has changed drastically since I was last writing fiction. Many (and well-known) authors are leaving traditional publishers these days and publishing digital directly to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. I’ve been cutting out the “middleman” (publishers) for years writing here on my website, so this idea appeals to me. As an experienced writer, I know I can provide a quality product–at a lower cost–directly to readers. I’ve always been one to take risks in publishing, and pursue new adventures, and this is one for me. I just needed the right idea. I woke up at 4 a.m. one morning last week suddenly possessed with that right idea, got up, and started writing.
I’m planning a series of novella-length books. Before I get to the description, let me state clearly–these are NOT children’s stories. These novellas are intended for adults (and mature teens). NOT children. What I’m writing is a sexy cozy mystery series. Here is the blurb for the first one, which I’m writing now.

A “Maia Saves the Day!” Mystery

Intrepid farm girl Zoey Granger is just trying to carve out an independent life as a writer and photographer, but murder seems to follow her just as closely as her little pet goat, Maia. Not to mention a handful of ex-boyfriends. And when one of them starts receiving death threats, Zoey can’t help but get involved. Someone’s out to get cattleman J.T. Martin, but it will take Zoey—-and the tutu-wearing goat who always finds the clue—-to uncover the secret truth and bring order back to Sugarberry, West Virginia.

That’s right. These are sexy cozy mysteries with, of course, human characters, but the heroine’s sidekick is her crime-solving, tutu-wearing pet goat–who always finds the clue! What a blast is that? I have had more fun writing this than anything I’ve written in a long time.

In case you’ve forgotten what Maia looks like in her tutu:
MURDER AT THE BARN DANCE, the first in the series, will be available for download within a few weeks. I’ll post here (of course!) when it’s on Amazon etc. I will be making it available for a budget price, and I hope you will have as much fun reading these stories as I’m having writing them. I’ll follow up with a new “Maia Saves the Day!” story every couple of months.

Meanwhile, I’m also looking into getting rights reverted on many of my previously published romances that are no longer available so that I can also put them up on Amazon and other outlets for download. This includes a number of romantic comedies, romantic suspenses, as well as my medieval trilogy. These are books that haven’t been available for YEARS in any format. (All of my Silhouette novels are currently available digitally. The books I’ll be making available are my other ones from other publishers.)

P.S. While the “Maia Saves the Day!” series is based loosely on what I know, these stories are NOT memoirs. They are fiction. Okay, Maia is real.
But that’s all!

(I wish that photo was current–it’s not. We are covered up in snow and ice here.)

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The Slanted Little House

"It was a cold wintry day when I brought my children to live in rural West Virginia. The farmhouse was one hundred years old, there was already snow on the ground, and the heat was sparse-—as was the insulation. The floors weren’t even, either. My then-twelve-year-old son walked in the door and said, “You’ve brought us to this slanted little house to die." Keep reading our story....

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