Monday, December 21, 2009

Friends, Followers and Fans

I would like to wish everyone a happy holiday season and extend my gratitude to all my friends, followers and fans. I’m thrilled to have so many people who like my work enough to purchase my books and check in with my blog every now and then to see what I’m up to. It’s been and exciting and busy year with two novels to promote, work, travel, family and trying to find time to write. My next story I hope to have published combines a military crisis, harrowing horseback escapes, romance and an attempt to reconcile the past in an action-packed adventure set in the rugged and stunning Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming. Please keep your fingers crossed that I’ll find the right agent or publisher for this project and I’ll keep you posted on its progress.

I hope everyone has a wonderful and prosperous 2010.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Escaping the Chill




When I booked a Caribbean Cruise more than six months ago I had no way to know I had chosen a great week to be gone. As most of the country was battered by brutal temperatures, wind and snow I enjoyed the balmy embrace of the Caribbean. I had looked forward to being warm for months, but wasn’t expecting much from our ports of call. After having lived in the South Pacific and Hawaii I have developed high expectations for islands and need more than just sand and water to pique my interest. The color of the water and amazing reef life in the Bahamas made me flash back to the Solomon Islands. The shallow, calm, bathtub-warm water teeming with colorful fish fit my snorkeling ability to a tee. I learned there’s more to Puerto Rico than rum and the fascinating colonial history and architecture, beautiful scenery and friendly people were a pleasant surprise. I especially enjoyed the Forts of San Juan National Historic Site. I had expected all Caribbean Islands to be small flat sandy specks in the sea like Grand Cayman and Grand Turk, so the jagged lush peaks of St. John shattered my preconception. The roads on St. John offered steep breath-holding curves and breathtaking views. The island wasn’t easy to access, requiring a forty-minute boat shuttle from St. Thomas, but the ride only enhanced the experience and provided a fascinating way to escape the chill. Photos: Left-Trunk Bay, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands; Right-Bahamas.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Adventures in Golf


Now don’t laugh. In the rural west, golf can be quite adventurous. Going after a lost ball on the way to the eighteenth hole in Carlsbad, New Mexico could encounter rattlesnakes that would make Indian Jones cringe and the concentration and size of rock chucks (marmots) on the Custer, South Dakota course (above) would put the run on Caddy Shack’s gopher population. Sand traps and water are just several of the hazards and are a small inconveniences to suffer for the privilege of being out in some very beautiful areas. Where else besides Hot Springs, South Dakota, are you more likely to have to wait for deer or wild turkeys to cross the green than another player?

Every course is different and offers unique challenges and that’s part of the fun. Being the marginal player that I am doesn’t dampen my enthusiasm for the sport when the activity gives me an excuse to linger in such places as Crawford, Nebraska (population 1,107), which by the way, has a great nine-hole course. So, I play on in hopes of achieving eighteen holes at par and finding the next hidden gem that makes the outing as exciting as the game.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Costa Rica


This time last year I was busy preparing for a trip to Costa Rica. The country was magnificent and made me anxious to explore more of Central America. Other than a quick trip into Belize to visit some Mayan ruins and a day at the beach on Isla Rotan in Honduras, I’ve never spent any significant time in Central America.

We flew into San Jose and stayed a couple of nights in the city before venturing out. The culture and history were fascinating, but only the beginning to what this country has to offer. We then explored the Pacific and Caribbean coasts, the Central Valley and the North. We hiked through pristine rain forests, enjoyed the Pacific coast beaches, visited coffee plantations and small villages, watched as Arenal erupted and soaked in mineral pools heated by the volcano, but the highlight had to be the time we spent at Tortuguero. Tortuguero (see picture above) is only accessible by small aircraft (though the airstrip was closed for repairs while we were there) or a lengthy boat ride. The boat ride to the rustic lodge was half the fun. Every day we toured the jungle canals by boat, which gave us the opportunity to view monkeys and birds en masse. The wildlife was amazing and the sounds made the experience even more fascinating. I’ll never forget the first time I heard a group of howler monkeys at close range. After I got over the initial fear that I had somehow landed in the middle of James Rollins’, Amazonia, I couldn’t get enough of listening to and studying the amazing animals.

So, as I watched the snow out my office window for most of the week, I contemplated my next Central American adventure. I’m leaning toward Guatemala, but I’ve heard good things about Panama. I’m sure something will come up to guide me toward a new destination and I’m sure it will be just and exciting as the last and may even end up being the setting of a new book.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Fall in Jackson Hole

My work has allowed me to spend time is some of the most beautiful places in America. Having just returned from two weeks in the Jackson Hole area, I can’t help but acknowledge how lucky I am. And, it’s no wonder that I became a writer. Nothing inspires more than watching elk move through the morning mist on a frigid fall day in Grand Teton National Park or listening to the explosive roar of lava as it enters the ocean at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Being in places where cell phone coverage is sparse and televisions are absent forces me to look at my surroundings and contemplate the tales rattling around in my head. My recent visit to Wyoming was consumed with work and spending time with family and friends, so I didn’t do a lot of writing, but as always, I’ve come home motivated to turn real life adventures into fictitious stories set in exciting and amazing locations at home and around the world.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Fall Sports and Conferences

Okay, I was a slacker in August – only one post. My excuse is sinus surgery. That’s one adventure that’s not quite over and not one I’ve embraced, but it’s time to move on to better things.

September is a time for University of Wyoming football and volleyball. As with the beginning of every season, I have great hopes for lots of wins and exciting games. Naïve? -- Probably, but what kind of fan would I be if I started out the season any other way?

Fall is also the time for one of my favorite writers’ conferences, the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Annual Colorado Gold Conference. It’s always well organized, educational, inspirational, and is attended by fantastic agents and editors. Conferences are a great way to network and learn and I highly recommend that all writers, experienced or aspiring, try it at least once. I’ve been fortunate to have had a number of books published and, as it should be, each one is better written and better received than the one before. So for me, I’ll be on the lookout for that agent who believes my work deserves to be on the New York Times best seller list and is willing to help it get there.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Summer Somewhere

Mid-August often brings on a bit of melancholy. This far north, I always consider summer over when August is over despite the notation on my calendar that autumn doesn’t officially begin this year until September 22. The weather could be mild for another two months or snow could be lurking just around the corner.

Spring and fall are nice, each have pleasant attributes that I missed when we lived in non-seasonal areas, but summer is, and always has been, my true love. In fact, I find summer to be essential to my physical and mental well-being. I take pleasure in the long days and hot temperatures. I find it to be cathartic and rejuvenating, preparing me for another long, dark, cold winter. And, garden vegetables, flowers, leafy trees and green grass simply make me happy.

So, as summer winds down my thoughts begin to drift toward exotic locales. I dream about places steeped in culture and history, but most importantly I envision a place that is very warm and green and waiting to be explored. One of the many great things about our diverse planet is that it's always summer somewhere.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Defining Adventure


According to my Merriam-Webster Dictionary, one definition of adventure is, “a remarkable and exciting experience.” This definition encompasses a broad range and can mean something different to everyone and must fit within each individual's comfort zone. I’ve noticed that as I’ve aged my comfort zone has become increasingly smaller, but the memories of adventures past will never diminish and will serve to keep me actively searching for the next thrilling escapade.

I’ve usually associated the term, “adventure,” with an amazing adrenaline-producing event experienced in an exotic and foreign land. Many times in my life this has been the case, but clearly true adventure has no geographic limits and can be found just outside ones door. When I think about all the exciting experiences I’ve had, probably the most outrageous occurred while living in the Solomon Islands. I could go on for, say, an entire book, which I did many years ago. But, for now I’ll just let my mind wander back to being tossed about in an angry South Pacific sea in a small boat, watching with fear as our canoe was pulled out of the ocean before it could be flipped by the next wave, fording rain-swollen rivers, seeing the stark terror in children’s eyes as they spied their first outsider, seeing the suffering from malaria up close, dodging a mad barracuda’s sharp teeth, snorkeling over World War II wreckage, journeying through a maze of idyllic tiny atolls aboard a rusted cargo ship and meeting people whose outlook on life has changed mine forever.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Adventures in Gardening

One of my life-long interests has been gardening. Growing up, our gardens contained everything that would grow in Wyoming’s lower elevations, and my mom usually planted enough to feed six families for at least a year, which meant a fall of canning, freezing, drying and storing vegetables. In my adult life I’ve scaled back considerably, but have found new challenges nearly everywhere I’ve lived and haven’t had grand success transferring my Wyoming gardening knowledge to new places.

Between the vog (volcanic smog) and banana slugs the size of my index finger on Hawaii’s Big Island, paradise was one of my least successful gardening adventures. Since I had a dog, poison was out, so I spent many a night with a flashlight and tweezers squeamishly picking slugs off plants, tried trapping them with beer, and experimented with a host of other natural remedies, but in the end I lost. Jackson Hole was another bust. No amount of carrying pots in and out of the house at night and covering plants with blankets can truly compensate for about a 60 day growing season. And, even that was no guarantee I realized one July as I watched the fireworks amid the aftermath of a lovely summer snow storm.

Finally-South Dakota, a locale much similar to the more temperate climes of Wyoming. True enough, but I’ve found the temperatures to be the least of my problems. The deer love plants that deer supposedly don’t touch and find most deer repellent sprays to be merely a seasoning spritz for their salad of my flowers, vegetables, fruits and shrubs. The garden, therefore, is now enclosed by a six-foot high chain-link fence. Problem solved. Wrong again, I forgot about the chipmunks, squirrels, birds and baby bunnies. FYI, baby bunnies love cauliflower and cabbage. Hopefully the rabbits will soon grow too large to fit through the chain-link, but in the meantime, my adventures in gardening continue.

Monday, July 13, 2009

In The Beginning


I’ve always enjoyed writing, but never took it seriously until circumstances turned a hobby into a passion. The first summer my husband and I worked for the National Park Service, I found myself living in an unfamiliar place in a small mouse-infested cabin with no phone or television while he was away for up to twenty-one days at a time fighting wildfires. Today, most fire assignments are only fourteen days, but I still find plenty of time to write, especially in the summer. The situation during those early years gave me ample time to explore my craft and the setting couldn’t have been more conducive to creativity. No place inspires the imagination quite like Grand Teton National Park. The scenery calms the spirit and soothes the soul, and though I no longer live in the Tetons’ shadow, the image of the majestic mountains still has the ability to draw my heart and mind back to Wyoming.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Cowboy Country

Recently I took a road trip with my mom and sister to see the Country Jam in Grand Junction, Colorado. Hearing the country music and watching all the cowboys in the crowd made me anxious to get home and finish the final re-write on the latest book I’ve been working on. The country atmosphere also made me contemplate starting another contemporary western adventure story.

I grew up around horses. My dad was a team roper and my sister and I dabbled at barrel racing, but more than rodeo, horses were just a way of life. I never had a tricycle or roller skates, but I had a pony. The pony was a source of constant entertainment as well as a way to round up the rest of the horses from the pasture at night and bring them into the corrals.

We didn’t take trips when I was young unless horses were involved. I probably didn’t appreciate my dad’s idea of a family vacation--a week-long pack trip in the Washakie Wilderness of the Shoshone National Forest. I’m sure at the time I would have rather gone to Disney Land, but looking back it was one of many experiences few could even imagine.

One of my most harrowing, “Man from Snowy River,” moments came on a cattle drive and I’ve striven in my novel to recapture that feeling of defying gravity on horseback. I want the reader to hold their breath until the end of the scene the way I did when I wrote it. In the book I also hope to share some of the most spectacular mountain scenery I’ve ever seen, and I travel a lot. Haven’t I mentioned that?

Friday, June 19, 2009

Adventure


Whether through reading, writing or experiencing first hand, I always enjoy a good adventure. I've been fortunate to have been able to travel much of the U.S. as well as many fascinating places around the world, including Thailand, Egypt, Greece and the Solomon Islands, to name a few. But, no matter how far I go, one of my favorite places has always been Mexico. Mostly I've visited Mexico as a tourist, but I had an opportunity several years ago to spend time in the country doing volunteer work. Like the U.S., Mexico is wonderfully diverse, from its people to its varied geography. I especially love visiting Mayan Ruins. To date I've been to Tulum, Coba, Ek Balam and Chichen Itza in Mexico and Xunantunich in Belize, and plan to visit as many more as I can. Needless to say, Mexico, especially Mayan ruins often find their way into my stories. Deadly Ruins is set near Coba. Nothing adds excitement to seeing a new place quite like plotting how a story could possibly unfold in a mysterious and fascinating locale. After my first visit to Coba, I knew I had to set a story amidst the ruins and subsequent visits have brought the story to life.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Welcome




Welcome to my blog. As friends and family continue to disperse across the country, I'm excited to find one more way to keep in touch. I hope to be diligent in my posts, but as we all know, summer can be a bit crazy. This spring and summer has started out especially interesting with a near simultaneous release of two of my books. Deadly Ruins is the long awaited sequel to The Lodge (2004) and The Watch is a romantic suspense that's been in the works for nearly two years now. Between the book releases, work travel, my nephews' baseball schedules and getting the garden in, I haven't had time to stop and smell the lilacs (can't have roses here in South Dakota-the deer eat them). I think I need a vacation. Oh, wait--Did I mention I'm a travel junkie? More on that later.