Sunday, December 14, 2014

Magic Trees of Sedona

The Magic Trees of Sedona

     Something magical happens in Sedona every December.  Well since it’s Sedona, let’s say something more magical happens in December.  Along Highway 179, between Bell Rock and the Town of Sedona, Christmas trees appear along the road.  They just appear.  One day they’re not there and the next morning they are.  Not ordinary Christmas trees, these are heavy with thick tinsel garlands and bright round balls.  Each tree is different but they all seem to be decorated in the same style, as if there were a plan.  This year among the reds and greens, silvers and golds, and purples and blues, there are many covered with red, white, and blue garlands and ornaments. 

          Since the trees appear on Coconino National Forest land where federal regulations require visitors to stay on the trails, decorating trees isn’t allowed.  It is rumored that families sneak along the road late at night with boxes of decorations, but that rumor is harder to believe than magic.

          Wherever these magic trees come from, they disappear as mysteriously as they appear.  On New Year’s Day there are no trees.  If you look carefully you might find a few shards of a red or silver ornament or a bit of glittery purple tinsel, but the trees are gone.  The red rocks and the green trees are still there and still magnificent, but they seem a little drab for a few days.                               


I wrote this in 2001. Since then the trees don't appear. The nature-loving people of Sedona have stopped decorating forest trees for fear birds will be attracted to the glittering decorations, eat, and die. So let's keep our trees indoors or with animal friendly decorations.

To see photos of the not so-magic tree in Old Town Albuquerque
see my 2014 post. 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Wassail Gingerkuchen Excerpt from "Released"

The Wassail Gingerkuchen

“May I escort you, Mistress?” He led her into the Reading Room alight with glowing candles and whispered, “Don’t they look real? The only bad news is the man you hired to play St. Nicholas came down with the flu.
“What will I do?” Alarmed, Liberty fumbled in the brocade pouch at her waist for her cell phone. “We can’t do this without St. Nicholas.”
“You will have your St. Nicholas, madam.” Gregory stepped close to her side and smiled down at her. “I have experience.” He gently placed her arm on his. His St. Nicholas outfit was no rented Santa costume. The smooth velvet of his red jacket caressed her bare arm. The ruffled shirt, tight black pants, and high black boots complemented his masculine form perfectly. 
Before Liberty could speak, Lily announced, “Wassail time.”
Aldwyn, in a dinner jacket, entered carrying a steaming silver punch bowl, followed by Emma and Rebecca holding platters piled high with spicy, fragrant gingerkuchen.
Liberty whispered to Gregory, “Is it safe for you here?”
“Perfectly safe. This is a magic night.”
Outside the window, a flash of lights illuminated the huge outdoor tree and they heard the loud “Ah” as the people of Shipsfeather gasped in pleasure.
The strains of “Greensleeves” floated from the Local History Room. Liberty didn’t remember hiring a quartet.

Within moments the library doors were thrown open and guests paraded in. Gregory served wassail and Liberty passed out warm gingerkuchen, greeting smiling Shipsfeather residents and their visitors. Many of Liberty’s regular library patrons passed by. Gregory embraced members of old Shipsfeather families. An elderly gentleman called him. Chronus and a woman with a British accent curtsied and addressed him as Sir Gregory. Replying to foreign visitors in their own languages, Gregory was the perfect host. He looked handsome, courtly, and comfortable in ruffled shirt and velvet jacket and each guest lit up at his attention. 

And the Recipe

St. Nicholas Wassail

From The Shapeshifters’ Library celebration in “Released”

4 cups apple juice or cider
2 cups cranberry juice
1 cup orange juice
1 cup pineapple juice
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 t. ground ginger
½ t. grated nutmeg
½ t. cardamom
3 sticks cinnamon
Fresh orange slices for garnish

Combine ingredients in a slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for 1 hour. Then turn to low for 2-8 hours.
(In a hurry? Heat in just to boiling in a saucepan, then pour into a slow cooker to keep warm.)
Oranges on top make a pretty addition.

What I love about this recipe is you can vary it to suit your taste in juices and spices (or what you have on hand). With our without alcohol (some revelers) add dry sherry or Madeira), a cup with fill you with warm holiday cheer.


Available from:

Amazon Print
Barnes & Noble
Read the blog post "Researching St.Nicholas Eve"
for my personal remembrances of the celebration 
And the St. Nicholas excerpt from "Released"

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

My Heroes are Dogs

Some readers love bad boy heroes. Some prefer good boys. My heroes are dogs. And I mean that in a really good way.

I’ve read wonderful books where tortured werewolf heroes draw you in with their angst. My dog-shifter heroes have all the wonderful qualities of your favorite puppy. They’re cute, loyal, and protective, and fall in love at first sight. And very smart. They’re librarians dedicated to preserve knowledge and vanquish book-burning werewolves.

In “Released” my heroine finds a beautiful dog in an abandoned library. They become friends. Then the dog talks. And then the dog turns into a gorgeous, smart guy with a charming English accent. Who wouldn’t fall for him?

In “Retrieved” a hero with male cover model looks changes into a huge English Mastiff who happens to be a brilliant astro-archaeologist. Why not brains and brawn?

Book 3 “Recovered” follows a part werewolf, (a villain in Book 1) as he shepherds his Greyhound love across country to find a buried ancient library and gains his self-respect and a place in the dog-shifter world. Don’t you love a redeemed bad boy rescued by a sweet heroine?

When readers read “Released” the first book in the Shapeshifters Library series, their favorite character besides the Old English Sheepdog hero and the librarian heroine, was Pacifico Lopez, a feisty Chihuahua shifter. He created the Zoogle internet conglomerate and earned money to keep the dog shifters in premium dog food and reference books. He was smart and in “Retrieved” Pacifico started a library services company with the smartest RFID codes ever. 

At last it was time for the smallest and smartest to have his own book. And his own romance. So, Book 4 “Reprinted” brings to the front the smallest hero. A Chihuahua with the more intelligence and daring as he courts a lovely white werewolf who defies her family to help him track down ebook pirates in the Caribbean and uncover a lost Egyptian secret.


Old Town Albuquerque Christmas Tree

What Do 135 Christmas Trees Look Like?

The weekend before Thanksgiving I went to Albuquerque for the New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards banquet. As an aside my book Heads in the Clouds did win the Romance category. But even without that thrill spending a weekend in Old Town Albuquerque at the elegant Hotel Albuquerque was a delight.

Shops, museums, art, lots of jewelry. And chilies – hanging from rafters and mixed into luscious New Mexico dishes.
While visiting the historic old San Felipe de Neri church on the Old Plaza, I noticed a tall pole with skeleton-like protrusions in the Plaza Don Luis. Left over from the Day of the Dead celebration? I didn't think so.

When a bucket truck arrived and placed a pine tree on the top, I asked the clerk at the gift shop, located in the Sister Blandina Company that once housed the Sisters of Charity, what was happening. Then I saw a flatbed truck pull up with a lot more, really a lot more, trees. And workers began inserting trees into the skeleton from the top down.
As the day progressed, so did the tree, until one hundred and thirty-five (135) trees merged into one gigantic tree.

Workers continued to decorate the the tree with lights, white snowflakes, and red bows until the glorious tree was complete!