I know I haven’t been around much lately, but I have a really good excuse. I’ve been busy moving. I recently sold my home in Tucson, Arizona, (as The Beatles once sing about someone leaving their home in Tucson, Arizona), and I’m now living in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
I’m a native Arizonan and have lived in Arizona for much of my life. I was born and raised in Phoenix, which is why many of my stories are set in Phoenix. I moved to Tucson twelve years ago. Tucson was much like Phoenix was when I was growing up, although Tucson had more of an arts community. Unfortunately, in recent years Tucson has been changing, and not for the better. By the end of 2019 I knew the time was quickly coming for me to look for a new place to live. So, long story short, I came to Las Cruces because I have friends here; a fellow novel writer named David Lee Summers and his family. I’ve known David and his family for nearly a decade, and it’s better to relocate to where you know someone.
They say art imitates life, but it this case it was the other way around. In my latest contemporary romance novel, The Scandal, my lead character, Lauren, moves to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. I describe her new home as being out in the country, with a mini kitchen in her backyard, and she’d found the home online. So here I am, a year or so later, and my real estate agent in Las Cruces sends me a link to a home that, while in town, backs up to a big arroyo, (a dry wash), with a large open space, making it appear as if it were out in the country. It also has a mini kitchen in the backyard. So, what else can I say, other than like Lauren, I really love my new home.
I’m almost finished unpacking, and once I’m settled I’ll start working on my next book. More later.
I first visited Steamboat Springs in the 1990s. Famous for its ski resort, ranching is still a vital part of the area. So, when I wrote my first contemporary romance novel, The Reunion, I decided to locate the fictitious St. Eligius Ranch about twenty miles from Steamboat Springs. St. Eligius Ranch is a former cattle ranch turned horse sanctuary. It’s also the home of Laura Palmer, ex-wife of leading man Ian Palmer. A number of key scenes in The Reunion take place at St. Eligius Ranch, including the story’s final climax. Later on, when I wrote The Journey, I also set a number of scenes at St. Eligius Ranch.
I revisited Steamboat Springs in the summer of 2014, this time to research the area for future novels. I also brought my camera with me, and, as luck would have it, I found something that kinda sorta matches the description of St. Eligius Ranch. Of course I kept a respectful distance and took the photo from the side of road, but you can clearly see a two-story house, as described in the book, along with what appears to be a fifth-wheel trailer parked nearby, as was also described in The Reunion. Maybe life really does imitate art.
By the way, photography, like writing, is one of my life’s passions, and I do art photography under the name Gayle Martin. If you would like to see more of my work please visit my website at gaylemartinphotography.com/.
In the meantime, please enjoy this scene from The Reunion, as Gillian, the leading lady, visits St. Eligius for the first time.
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Laura took Gillian to one of the small corrals outside the barn and pointed out a black mare with a white blaze down her face and three white socks.
“We call her Miss Mollie,” said Laura. “She’s got a lot of stamina, but she’ll respect her rider, as long as you know what you’re doing, and it sounds like you do.”
Jeremy came up behind them. “Miss Mollie? Good choice.”
Laura pointed to a large bay gelding in the next corral. “We call him Pretty Boy. He’s Jeremy’s favorite.”
Before long the horses were saddled, and they mounted up. Will stayed behind, saying he had work to do. Laura rode a young buckskin gelding she called Fred.
“He’s Miss Mollie’s son,” she said. “He was a young foal at her side when we adopted them two years ago. I think he’ll turn out to be a fine horse, but he still has some rough edges to work out.”
Laura led them away from the barn and onto a narrow trail leading through a lush meadow. Gillian couldn’t get over the sheer beauty of it. The aspen and cottonwood trees were turning gold.
“When I first came here, I was an ex-housewife who didn’t know one end of a horse from the other,” said Laura. “I was originally hired as a bookkeeper for Will’s veterinary practice. Next thing I knew, I was writing grants, planning fund-raisers, and doing everything else I could think of to keep money flowing in the door for the foundation to help care for these animals. Back then I was living in the cottage, that’s what we call the fifth-wheel trailer, and I soon became friends with Will. He taught me, and both of my boys, how to ride. He also taught me how to help take care of the horses. Along the way I’ve been kicked, bitten, and occasionally stepped on, but I’ve learned to cope with it. Horses are easy. Two sons aren’t.”
“Thanks, Mom,” said Jeremy.
“Anytime,” she said with a knowing grin. “Some of the ones we get are simply neglected or have owners who, for whatever reason, are no longer able to care for them. Those are the easy cases, and we can usually get them to new owners right away. Others arrive abandoned, injured or starving. They need some TLC, and we’re often pretty successful with them as well. We also get the occasional hard-luck cases. They’re the ones who have suffered some serious abuse, and it never ceases to amaze me just how cruel some human beings can be. They usually need complete rehabilitation, but we’re not always successful. There’ve also been a few that we’ve had to put down as soon as they arrived. Those are the ones that really break your heart.”
They continued across the meadow and began working their way toward the ridge as Laura went on with her story. “This ranch used to be called The Flying M, and it’s been in Will’s family for over a century. When Will’s father inherited it from his great-uncle, it was still a working cattle ranch. Will’s dad was also a veterinarian. He started up the veterinary clinic, and he started taking in injured and abandoned horses. By the time Will finished veterinary school, they decided to stop raising cattle and add a horse sanctuary to the clinic. They sold about half the acreage, and the name, to the big dude ranch resort next door. Will renamed the place St. Eligius. He’s the patron saint of horses and those who work with them. That pretty much sums it up. The foundation survives mostly on grant money and donor support. We also do a number of fundraisers throughout the year. One is coming up soon. It’s the haunted hayride we do every year with the Flying M. It’s the last Saturday in October and we always have a lot of fun while we’re at it. We have volunteers of all ages who come and participate, and the boys always come to help out as well.”
To read other samples from The Reunion, please click on the link below.
Along with Hollywood, my next contemporary romance novel, The Scandal, is also set in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. I lived in Denver in the late 1990s, and Colorado truly is a beautiful state. Sometimes I wish I hadn’t left. However, circumstances were such at the time that I had no choice. Must be why I’ve used Colorado as a location in three of my other contemporary romance novels. The Reunion is set in Denver and Steamboat Springs. The Journey takes place in multiple locations, including Denver and Steamboat Springs, while The Letter is set in Denver.
Like Telluride and Durango, Steamboat Springs is an old ranching and mining town that’s become a popular tourist destination. It’s about a four hour drive from Denver, which makes it the perfect literary location as it’s easy for my characters to travel back and forth from Denver to Steamboat Springs. It also has a cool sounding name. No doubt I’ll use Colorado as a location in future contemporary romance novels. It’s a way for me to go back and visit one of the most beautiful and scenic places in the country.
When I’m not busy writing books I enjoy photography and traveling. I got my first camera when I was nine, and I loved photography ever since. And now, with new digital technology, I’m now getting into video. I learned a lot from my good friend, Rob Resetar, who created my amazing book trailers.
Did you know that there are some wonderful wineries in southern Arizona? I didn’t know about them until after I moved to Tucson. They’re located near the Mexican border in a beautiful part of the state. From time to time I’ll pack a lunch and spend a day there. I also used this part of Arizona as a locations in my novel, The Betrayal.
Here is a video montage I produced about our local wine country. You can see why it became the inspiration for McPherson Vineyards, the fictitious winery in The Betrayal.