Welcome to A Writer’s Garden where writers who are gardeners or just love gardens will be sharing their garden and flower stories, as well as a bit about their writing.
Today’s writer/gardener guest is Suzanne J. Bratcher. Suzanne is treating us to a glimpse of her Garden Retreat.
My Garden Retreat
I discovered gardening as a retreat when I was in my mid-thirties. After a long week of teaching, I often meandered through the native plant nursery in Flagstaff, Arizona where I lived and chose from among the surprising variety of plants that thrive in that dry mountain climate. Then the real fun began: finding just the right spot to plant, digging in the dirt, and making sure my new purchase had everything to make it happy. In the summers I hung feeders to attract broad tailed and rufous hummingbirds.
Now in my early seventies, I live in central Arkansas, where the temperate climate is less challenging. I have Multiple Sclerosis, a progressive auto-immune disease, so I tire easily and rely on a cane or a walker to get around. My garden here is dramatically different from the gardens I had in Arizona, but it’s still my retreat. A dear friend, a master gardener, has filled my back deck with ferns, vines, elephant ears, jumbo varieties of philodendron, and other foliage plants I’m still learning about. She also supplied flowers in pots so something is always blooming. Red, pink, and white dianthus bloomed early in the spring, followed soon after by two varieties of clematis. Now lantana provides a splash of yellow, a miniature bush is filled with red roses, and two giant begonias are covered with pink and yellow blossoms.
To my delight, central Arkansas is a wonderland of birds. My garden retreat has become an open-air aviary. Cardinals, blue jays, chickadees, titmice, wrens, seven species of woodpeckers, along with three species of nuthatches visit my four feeders regularly. Orioles, indigo buntings, and three varieties of grosbeaks stop by as they migrate through. Goldfinches and juncos spend the winter and spring here. Ruby-throated hummingbirds and tanagers arrive for the summer. I also keep a birdbath filled with clean water for drinking and bathing.
Thanks to the temperate climate, I’m able to sit outside nine months of the year. I close my eyes and listen to the squeaky door call of blue jays, the warbling song of Carolina wrens, and the dee-dee-dee call of chickadees. In early spring I’m treated to the haunting song of the wood thrush. A recirculating fountain provides a soft background accompaniment to the variety of songs and calls.
I love relaxing and reading in my lounge chair, but my garden retreat also has an important role in my writing life. When I was working on The Silver Lode, the second book in my Jerome, Arizona mystery trilogy, I ran headlong into writer’s block. After trying freewriting, outlining, character dialog, and every other trick I could think of, I went out to my garden retreat. After getting comfortable in my lounge chair, I began praying for guidance. I wound up falling asleep, but God offers grace freely. When I woke up, I knew the answer to my dilemma. I had tagged the wrong murderer!
About the Writer/Gardener
Professor Emeritus, Northern Arizona University, Suzanne J. Bratcher now lives in the foothills of the Ouachita Mountains in central Arkansas. A lifelong gardener, she has created an open-air aviary on her back deck filled with foliage plants, a recirculating fountain, and multiple bird feeders. A reader and a quilter, she takes orders from her two rescue cats, Scamp and Mini Pearl. She writes inspirational romantic suspense and fantasy with a twist of mystery set in the majestic, mysterious Southwest.
THE SILVER LODE
By Suzanne J. Bratcher
The mountains near Jerome, Arizona, guard a secret … an unsolved mystery that intertwines a young girl’s future, an old man’s past, and the fate of a teenager’s life.
Beneath the ghost town that clings to Cleopatra Hill, a labyrinth of abandoned mine tunnels hides a vein of silver ore mixed with pure gold—a silver lode. Decades ago, the silver lode’s discovery led to murder. Will more murders follow?
Historian Paul Russell is at risk of losing his job, and the woman he loves, Marty Greenlaw. He doesn’t have time to chase legends and ghost stories. But when a student drops clues to a 70-year-old case on his desk—a case connected to the silver lode—Paul seizes the chance to work with Marty and win her back.
Marty loves Paul but feels she cannot marry him. When she learns finding the silver lode can save a dying child, guilt from her little sister’s death resurfaces. Marty agrees to delve into the mine’s history.
As Paul and Marty’s search deepens, suspicious deaths occur. When Paul’s son disappears, the case becomes personal.
Will they find the truth in time to save Paul’s son and the little girl? And before greed triggers more crime? Will they survive to build a future together?
Genre: Inspirational Romantic suspense/Mystery
Heat level: clean, sweet