After a snowy holiday season with family and friends in the Pacific Northwest and buttoning up the boat for the winter, Michael and I are now in sunny Tucson for the winter and spring.

What will we do while we’re here?

Not COVID dependent: hiking, bicycling, creating art, expanding our desert garden, exploring Arizona’s varied geography by car and foot

COVID dependent: seeing friends, swimming, volunteering with migrant families, thrift hunting, going to farmer’s markets and restaurants, attending various outdoor festivals, including Tucson Festival of Books in March

Speaking of COVID, we still adhere to strict COVID protocol and encourage you to do so, as well.

(Photo  “Bringers of Rain,” by Prescott, AZ artist Bill Cramer; you can find his work at:

Publishing News:

New Manuscript

Hardland is off to She Writes Press! The big ramp up to publication is now underway, with a September 13, 2022 publication date. First up, proofread, and then interior design. Watch for the cover reveal here this spring and month-by-month updates.

Hardland Synopsis

Arizona Territory, 1899. Ruby Fortune faces an untenable choice: murder her abusive husband or continue to live with bruises that never heal. One bullet is all it takes. Once known as “Girl Wonder” on the Wild West circuit, Ruby is now a single mother of four boys in her hometown of Jericho, an end-of-the-world mining town north of Tucson. Here, Ruby opens a roadside inn to make ends meet. Drifters, grifters, con men, and prostitutes plow through the hotel’s doors, and their escapades pepper the local newspaper like buckshot.

An affair with an African American miner puts Ruby’s life and livelihood at risk, but she can’t let him go. Not until a trio of disparate characters: her dead husband’s sister, a vindictive shopkeeper, and the local mine owner she once swindled, threaten to ruin her does Ruby face the consequences of her choices. With grit and resolve, she does what she needs to in order to provide for herself and her sons.

Set against the breathtaking beauty of Arizona’s Sonoran Desert and bursting with Wild West imagery, history, suspense, and adventure, Hardland serves up a tough, fast-talking, shoot-from-the-hip heroine who goes to every length to survive and carve out a life for herself and her sons in one of the toughest places in the American West.

Next Project:

Soon, I’ll be starting my fourth novel, based in Nebraska in the 1930s. I’m very excited to get going on it, based on a short story I wrote at Wheaton College in 1978. More in upcoming newsletters.

Gift Basket Winner:

Donna Shaw of Ohio is the winner of the coffee, tea, and hot chocolate gift basket from last month’s newsletter. Congratulations, Donna, and thanks to all who entered.

Four Truths and One Lie:

Can you guess which one is the untruth? If you guess correctly, you’ll win a $10 Starbucks gift card!

  1. I’ve visited 43 U.S. states.
  2. In high school, I played JV field hockey.
  3. My maternal grandmother, Elizabeth Murphy Mulligan, was born in Scotland.
  4. I’ve seen John Denver, Billy Joel, The Who, ZZ Top, Pink Floyd, Leo Kottke, and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young in concert.
  5. During COVID, I binge-watched 17 TV crime series.

Leave me your guess here!

Top Picks of 2021:

The following are some top titles from reader friends around the country. Thank you, Randy Carter, Jane Blume, Jen McCabe, Brian Smith, Yuki Caldwell, and Anna Quinn for sharing.

  • Interior Chinatown, by Charles Yu
  • Recollections of My Non-Existence, by Rebecca Solnit
  • Long Upon the Land, by Margaret Maron
  • Ravenna, Capital of Empire and Crucible of Europe, by Judith Herrin
  • The Book of Form and Emptiness, by Ruth Ozeki
  • Circe, by Madeline Miller

And my top read of 2021. . .

After reading more than 100 titles in 2021, my top read is Hamnet, by Maggie O’Farrell.


Wishing you all the best in 2022. Join me in a “kindness revolution” this year, offering random and intentional acts of kindness to family, friends, neighbors, and strangers. And don’t forget yourself.

Until next month, Happy Reading!