Summer Teen Reading Party - Penny Estelle #STRP

It's time to kick off the Summer Teen Reading Party here on my blog! Lots of YA and Middle Grades authors have gotten together for the month of May in one big massive blog hop to promote our books, the YA/MG genre, as well as reading as a worthwhile activity for teens and tweens! Today I'm happy to welcome Middle Grades author Penny Estelle to my blog!

By the way, I'm over at Penny's blog hanging out. Click here to check out the conversation over there!

Welcome Penny!

Hey, Amy, thank you so much for letting me visit with you on your blog.  I thought I would talk about my reality trip down the road to retirement.  It was quite an eye-opener!

My husband and I were looking forward to our retirement.  We envisioned a ranch someplace cooler than our hometown of Phoenix, Arizona. 

Our list of requirements was short:  cooler than the desert, water availability, and some flat land on which to build.  Three years later we found a fifty-four acre parcel in Mohave County in Arizona.  The Big Sandy Aquifer would provide plenty of ground water, and living in the foothills of the Hualapai Mountains, the temperature would be cooler than Phoenix.

The downsides were few, but one was huge for a city girl.  It would cost over $100,000 to run electricity to our property.  A girl does need to blow dry her hair!  My husband, Jim, explained we would put in solar and use a generator.  What?  Solar? Generator? 

We had eight years before our dream of retirement would come true.  Jim had a seasonal job, which allowed him the freedom to come up in the winters and start building our dream home. 

First, we drilled a well and had our septic system installed.  I learned about perk tests, leach fields, and how to witch for ground water!  Next, Jim faced the challenge of designing our home. This would be the source of many disagreements, some of which included:  how the home should be laid out, and how big my bathroom, closet, and bedroom should be.  Jim is an all function kind of guy and he refers to me as all form or FOO FOO.  Eventually we came up with a 1500 sq. ft. adobe style home of block construction. It’s a one bedroom, two baths, kitchen, and large living room area.

Jim is a mechanic by trade and his expertise is electrical systems.  He also had some engineering courses in college, but has never worked in that field.  When he told me his plan was to build this entire house by himself, I was a little skeptical, to say the least.  I wanted to be supportive, but my “Are you nuts?” shattered some of my resolve.  This could be a very costly mistake!  Jim was secure in the fact he could do it and assured me there would be no problems and that it would be fun.  So, I shut my eyes and said a silent prayer and the fun began. 

For eight years, Jim would work on our retirement home and every weekend I drove up from Phoenix.  We had an eighteen ft. trailer that Jim lived in during those winter months.  While Jim lived here alone, he learned to respect the ruggedness of this land and the dangers of the outdoor.

He gathered wood and built a campfire in the evenings to cook his dinner.  He was completely in love with our place.  At night, in our trailer, the coyotes would howl and Jim would smile and say, “The coyotes are playing tonight!” and I would rush to make sure our door was locked.  Secretly, at the time, I was glad I only had to stay one night and then back to the city. 

Coming back on weekends I can tell you, it was always a thrill to see the progress on our home.  Our walls would be higher and, a door or window would be framed.  True to his word, Jim finished the structure of the house.  Thanks to some friends’ knowledge and help, our trusses and roof were put into place.  Jim moved indoors with a camp stove and a small gas fridge from the trailer.

Plumbing, wiring, insulation, and framing the rooms would be our next step.  One weekend I came up and Jim had drawn lines on the cement floor showing where all the rooms, closets and appliances would be placed.  Let the arguments begin!  I tried to be reasonable, “This is not big enough, that cannot go there, and the size of this closet is a joke!”  Finally, to get a few concessions, I had to go with the, “If you want me to live here…”   Compromises were made and redrawn lines and notes were final, until they needed to be changed again, and again! 

All was well when Big Bertha became a member of our family.  She is a Chinese diesel generator.  I love Big Bertha as she will run any and all of my everyday needs, such as blow dryers, curling irons, and evaporative coolers.

The final job was setting up an “off the grid” electric system that produced enough energy to make me, I mean us, happy.  At this point, our system is complete with a 900 watt solar panel, a 2500 watt inverter, a load controller and two air-x, 400 watt windmills, enough for 24/7 power. 

We retired in June of 2009, and are living here full time.  We have a 1500 gallon water tank that we fill about once a week.  We bought three chickens and I have learned there is a world of difference between grocery store eggs and eggs right out of the coop. 

Even with my black thumb, I have grown carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, broccoli, and spinach.  I have learned the hard way that any garden I expect to bear fruit must be built like Fort Knox.  Mice, rabbits and packrats are in abundance here.  In the fall I am hoping to buy a couple pigs and maybe a cow or two.

There are endless projects here and so many things to do and learn.  We have neighbors that will be life long friends.  There are miles of dirt roads to be explored and I look forward to checking out every one.

            So in closing, I am not quite at Hillbilly status yet, though my children would disagree…but I’m working on it!


            We have been retired for three years now and that was when I started writing for the second time – my first attempt was thirty years ago when I wrote a historical novel (some 300 pages) I finished it and put it my closet, where it still lives to this day.  I write for MG/tween kids.  I really enjoy this age.  I can use lots of humor and sarcasm with this group.
            Hike Up Devil’s Mountain was my first story and when I found out Solstice Publishing actually was interested in picking up my story, I was thrilled beyond words.  It is a story of three boys who get in a world of trouble after they sneak into an abandoned house that is to be demolished the very next day.  Their only hope of making things right lives on top of Devil’s Mountain.  The question is, will they survive the hike?

            A Float Down the Canal is about 7th grader Pam Simpson.  She has the worst day ever when she has to cancel her plans to go to the mall with her friends, because her mom is called into work.  The second bomb is dropped when her cousin, whom she doesn’t even like, is also being dropped of for Pam to entertain.  But – her worst day ever changes to one she will never forget, and it all starts with a float down the canal!

            Sometime in May, my story, Billy Cooper’s Awesome Nightmare is coming out.  I was very excited MuseItUp picked up this story.  Billy is informed on a Friday afternoon that an oral report will be due Monday.  It will be on a subject or event that he draws from a box.  Billy doesn’t even know whom his subject is that he has drawn, but figures he will do a quick computer search and then skate by on this assignment.  All that changes when he comes face to face with his 14-century subject!

I can always be found @ www.pennystales.com or www.pennyestelle.blogspot.com or my twitter address is @pennystales.  I would love it if you would stop by anytime!

Thanks for visiting, Penny! One lucky commenter will win a PDF copy of one of Penny's stories, so be sure to comment and spread the word!


  1. I love YA books, I often steal books of my daughters shelf and read them LOL

  2. Wow Penny, what a road to retirement! Your (and your hubby's) hard work sure paid off - you seem so happy and relaxed! Your book sounds really good! A perfect book to add to anyone's summer reading list!!! Jan Fischer Wade www.veiledvirtues.com

  3. Oh, Penny!!! I'm not a gardener, but just think! Even in power outages, between the solar and Big Bertha you'll never get stuck for a long time without power!! I'm not retired, but we do live in the middle of 50 acres in the middle of the woods in central Georgia, and I can't imagine living in a big city. (Other than Savannah, maybe, visited there this weekend and I think I might could manage the Historic District. If I had $800,000.00 to buy a house!) Great post, thoroughly enjoyed it!

  4. Thanks for coming by to visit and comment! And if you get the chance, spread the word so others can find their way here and read about Penny's adventures!

    Thanks Penny for coming over and hanging out!