I write romantic suspense and warm, family relationship type novels, often with a touch of humor. Many of my books have featured animals as key players--dogs, cats, llamas, cockatiels, horses...even our son's pet albino corn snake, Sssssid, who appeared in my first Superromance back in 1999.

Animals have been a big part of my life since I was a child. How about you? I hope you'll become a "blog follower" here (see the right-hand column for a place to click) and will come back often. So...let's talk about our pets!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


I love cats. I am not happy if I don't have one in my house.
I love it when one of my cats comes and lies on my lap
when I'm trying to write.

I got my first cat when I was 10. I have only been
without a cat for the years I was in college and as an adult,
for two brief spells before a major move. The cats of my
adult life have been Professor (the smartest cat I've ever
had), Sheba (a sweet little black cat), and Shadow
(the Siamese mix who was the pet of my children's

After Shadow passed away, I waited till we moved
to Wisconsin before looking for another pet. The week
before our first Thanksgiving in our home in the
northwoods, my dh and I visited the local animal shelter
and picked out two strays. I chose a dainty golden tabby and
named her Sadie (my sweet little lady) and my dh chose a
large marmalade cat that he named V-8. Not after the
juice, but for V-8's mighty purr. We also lovingly call
him our Cadillac cat. He's definitely a full-sized
luxury car.

My dh and I were happy with our two adopted
cats and didn't think we'd see any more. However, when
our daughter came to live with us, she brought her
cat, Tricksey. I always make it clear that Tricksey is a
boy and his real name is Trickster. My daughter doesn't agree
but I don't want my little grand-kitty to be confused about what he is.

So we were up to three cats, something I hadn't done since
I babysat a cat for my sister long ago. Then my mil passed
away. We had promised her that we would take her cat if he
needed a home. So in August, Mootzie, a large male
golden tabby, came home with us. Mutza is Slovenian
for cat so all my mil's cats were Mootzie from the time she
was a little girl. (Her parents had immigrated from Slovenia
right before WWI).

Poor Mootzie had a shock coming. I don't think he had seen
another cat since he left his littler 10 years ago. And here were three.

Predictably Sadie was miffed. She is half the size of the
other cats but rules the roost. She hissed and
attacked Mootzie. So he began to hide. I was worried
he might not eat or drink enough, but self-preservation
has won out.

Mootzie is getting braver and braver. But the breakthrough
was a little catnip. I don't think Mootzie had ever "indulged"
before. I chuckled and watched him even try to start a
play-fight with V-8. And yesterday, he even touched noses
over a bowl of food with Tricksey.

So Sadie still isn't happy about our newcomer, but Mootzie
has become a member of the family. And we love to see him
starting to schmooze with the other cats. It really makes me
smile. Cats are such a joy in our everyday life. We're glad
to have our four. Without them, our home would be no fun.

Right now I'm writing the first book in my new Love Inspired
Romance, A Shelter of Hope, and I've written in a pair of
golden retrievers, Roxie and Dottie. Roxie is namesake for
Roxanne Rustand of course, a dear friend. Shelter of Hope
will be out next fall.

My next release is Her Patchwork Family, a Love Inspired
Historical romance in December. The story doesn't boast
any furry friends, but a woman who is setting up a home
for stray children, orphaned by the Civil War. Hope you'll
take a look at it at your local Walmart.

Thanks for having me as a guest, Roxanne!

Friday, October 9, 2009

This is a creatures blog, but...

I know...the promise is that this blog is devoted to creatures, great and small. But I just couldn't help myself, here...and there is a llama photo! I got back from a long weekend in northern Wisconsin on Monday, and just had to share some of my photos with you. Every fall, Pat Burkett Roby, a food writer/photographer friend and I leave our husbands at home and head for Wisconsin to see our mutual friend, inspirational author Lyn Cote, and her family.

Lyn and her husband are the best hosts...and their home on a lake is so lovely. What a glorious place it is this time of year--with endless numbers of beautiful lakes reflecting trees just starting to blaze with fall color, and no perfume could rival the crisp scent of pine in the air. This year we had lots of drizzly rain, but the dampness just seemed to make the colors more vivid. it was so gorgeous!

And I loved coming across a pasture of llamas. One of them came up to the fence and hummed to us. Did you know that llamas hum to each other? It sounded a bit like a gentle, reassuring chorus going on in the herd.

But as breath-taking as all of the scenery is, sharing a weekend with writer friends is always the best part of all. By day we take jaunts all over the area, or go out on their boat with Lyn's husband at the wheel. The evenings are a bit like a pajama party, as we sit and brainstorm plots, talk about writing, and simply enjoy the fellowship of fellow writers. And Lyn is one of the best--I can't think of a person who is more generous with her time, more thoughtful, or more willing to help. She is a blessing in my life!

Life is so busy, with careers, and family, and all of the many commitments in our lives...but how about you--are you ever able to get away for a weekend retreat with your friends, fellow writers or readers, or other groups for camaraderie? Or even for just an afternoon? I hope so! If so, have you found it helpful? What kinds of benefits did you reap? And what sorts of things do you do to make it a more valuable time for renewal?

For those of you reading this on Facebook, there are lots of blog posts to read here at the "All Creatures Great and Small Blog" at http://roxannerustand.blogspot.com. I'd love to have you visit me there!

Wishing you a wonderful fall season,

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Verne Upmier was the man to see about horses in Eastern Iowa for seventy years, and his roots certainly went deep in Iowa soil. His farm was homesteaded by his great-grandfather William, a farmer and spinning wheel craftsman, who was one of the first white settlers in the area and who built his home along the busy route of a four-horse stagecoach line.

Transportation, mail delivery and the government's ability to process information had definite limitations in those days. When William applied for a homestead abstract in 1838, the paperwork went by horse to Philadelphia, which was the nation's capital at that time, and the final documents didn't get back to William until 1843. The farm has remained in the Upmier family since then, and Verne, his father, and grandfather were all born in the house that is still in use to this day.

The land has seen many changes through the years. Verne recalls that during the 1930s, a well-broke horse was worth $35, pasture board was $10 per month, and owners were charged $20 a month for a box stall. Draft horses and mules remained a valuable commodity on the smaller farms until the mid-1940s, when the use of tractors became universal.

Still, the well-prepared farmer often kept a harnessed team tethered nearby, ready to pull his new-fangled tractor out of the mud during spring plowing.

Verne chuckles as he describes one of his first tractors. "It was a new 1941 9N Ford, and it came with a blade, scoop, and a plow. It cost me $841, and when it had its first overhaul in 1982, the charge was $1,150!"

Modernization eliminated a lot of the potential excitement that could occur when a farmer had to rely on horses and mules. "Before the mechanical corn picker was invented, we used a pair of mules to pull a high-sided wagon through the fields," he remembers. "We would have to walk down the rows, pick the corn by hand, and toss it up into the wagon."

This laborious task involved minimal risk of equipment failure, though it now and then the mule power failed.

"We had to cross a creek to reach one of our fields," Verne says. "The team would stop in the middle of the creek to drink, and then go on. One year, we had a pair of mules that must have held a business conference before going to work for the day. We got to the middle of the creek, they stopped for a drink, and then they both went on strike. My dad and I tried everything, but they wouldn't budge. Finally, we had to wade into the water to un-harness them, lead them out, and hitch up another team to take the wagon up onto the bank. We then re-harnessed those mules and they worked just fine for the rest of the day."

The obstinate team must have been satisfied with the results of their mid-stream strike, because the next day they balked in the same spot. Verne's dad decided that he'd put up with the pig-headed mules long enough. He got his Model T truck, the one with the famed "Ruxall Rear End" that could gear down to one mile per hour, and drove back to the creek with a couple lengths of log chain. The mules hadn't moved an inch, so he snapped a neck chain on each one, hooked the chains to the truck, and drove off at a snail's pace. He didn't look back, he just kept going.

"Well, those mules weren't going to give up, either. Their necks stretched and stretched and stretched--until they must have decided that the issue wasn't worth dying over, because they came on out of the water at a good clip. They apparently learned their lesson too well, though, because afterwards, that team always rushed through the creek, and wouldn't even consider stopping for a drink."

"And," Verne adds with a smile, "they had the last laugh. Because after that, we had to haul water out to the fields for them, every single day."