On the Road to Prescott

Moving Truck 1January 16, 2013: the moving truck pulls away from Mount Vernon, WA with all our worldly possessions (most of them anyway!) and we pack what we need for two and a half months interim living before we actually move into our new home in Chino Valley, AZ.

We spend a couple of days in town to tie up loose ends and say good-bye to friends, then on Saturday the 19th we take off in the early morning fog, which lasted until North Bend. We saw sun for awhile but then were back in heavy fog through Pendleton, OR, a disappointment because I really would like to have seen the famous rodeo town a little better.

foggy driveThis was my view for 1,400 miles (the back end of a U-haul trailer).

Just as I was laughing at the “Scenic Viewpoint” signs as we climbed Deadman Pass over the Blue Mountains south of Pendleton on I-84, we suddenly broke out into the sun! Yippee! I felt a huge weight lifted and what a gorgeous view!

mts PendletonThe summit is at 4,193 feet

We stopped to rest for the night in Boise, ID, finding a frosty 1 degree temperature! We’re not used to that any more! I wondered what I had done with my longjohns!

After leaving Idaho, we continued south on Highway 93, the infamous road that stretches from Canada through Montana where we used to live, nearly to Mexico (it’s southern terminus is at Wickenburg AZ). Many Montanans used to sport bumper stickers reading “I drive Highway 93; Pray for Me!”

Snowy NV

More snow in Nevada, but as we descend from White Horse Pass (elevation 6,031 feet), the temps get warmer. Much of this countryside reminds me of eastern Montana, where I grew up (minus the mountains).

White River Narrows NV

Going through the White River Narrows–beautiful and fascinating rock formation and petroglyphs. White River Narrows is located approximately 150 miles north of Las Vegas and 90 miles south of Ely Nevada.  It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

H Jailhouse Ely NVWe spent the next night in Ely, NV and ate at a restaurant called The Jailhouse. Each table was in its own “cell” and the menu items were all named appropriately “Robbers Ribs” and the like.

After leaving Hwy93, we were once again on the Interstate, I-15 which took us to Las Vegas. We stopped there long enough to grab a burger on the run and gas up our vehicles. We were in a hurry to get to our new home! Due to the load in the pickup and the U-haul trailer, my husband was not able to travel as fast as we normally would, especially going uphill. I was following along in my little blue Chevy, with my cat sedated by my side.

Day 1 AZ Lavender sunset

Our first Arizona sunset the evening of Jan. 21 as we approach closer to Prescott.

Published in: on January 28, 2013 at 1:59 am  Comments (2)  
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A New Adventure for Heidi M. Thomas

Well, folks, today was the last time I will enter my house in Mount Vernon Washington. A bittersweet day, but my husband and I are embarking on a new life adventure by moving to the Prescott AZ area. My DH retired at the end of 2012 and we’ve been talking about moving somewhere with more sunshine (although it’s been crisp and cold and sunny here the last several days!)

moving 2.

Yesterday all our earthly possessions were loaded onto this truck and we are spending a couple extra days, saying good-bye to all our friends. Mount Vernon has been good for us and we will miss many things about it–most of all our friends, our church, the lush green. But we are looking forward to new friends, sunshine, good health and retirement.

And we’re all still connected via this wonderful thing called the Internet! “On the Road Again!”

Au revoir, Auf Weidersehen, till we meet again!

Published in: on January 18, 2013 at 6:22 am  Comments (2)  
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YA Author Tackles Prohibition Mystery for Her First Novel

CoverMy guest this week is Erin S. Gray, author of Moonshine Murder, a young adult novella.

Synopsis: It’s 1925. The small cabin deep in the San Juan Mountains is the only home seventeen-year-old Lenora Giovanni has ever known. But when her father dies from tainted moonshine, leaving her alone, she is forced into a life of danger.

Lenora is determined to find whoever sold the poison to her father–a determination that leads her into working as an undercover agent in the town of Durango, Colorado. She meets Rusty, a young moonshiner who guides her through the world of bootlegging.

As Lenora gets to know this intriguing young man, three things become clear: Her father was entangled in a scheme of deception. Rusty is keeping secrets–secrets about her past. And she is falling irrationally and unconditionally in love with him.

Faced with betrayal, Lenora is tempted to protect Rusty and preserve her father’s memory, rather than bust the illegal moonshine business that destroyed her family. How will she choose: with her head or her heart?

This is your debut novel. Tell us about how the idea and the story came about.

I first met my main character, Lenora, on a backpacking trip deep in the San Juan Mountains. As I sat watching the sunset, light reflected on a small cabin across the canyon. I dreamed of a girl surviving in harsh conditions. What would her world be like? Over the years, I became more acquainted with this character, Lenora, until I felt she was alive and breathing. Almost a decade later, I made the trip to the cabin that started Lenora’s journey. A well hidden treasure, it still stands today. Between my imagination and the research I conducted, the story fell into place.

How long did it take you to research, write and get it published?

I started writing Moonshine Murder in 2003 and finished the first draft in the fall of 2004. I was teaching full-time and wrote after work and on the weekends. I added more historical details during later drafts, and spent a large portion of time researching. Then I began submitting to publishers in the spring of 2006 after the birth of my first son. I received eight rejections from publishers, and would consider their advice and if warranted, change my manuscript, then submit again. My acceptance for publication came in the spring of 2012.

What made you decide to write a mystery?

The story evolved into a mystery from the research I had done. I became fascinated with all the secrets I uncovered about Prohibition in the Durango, Colorado area. As my characters developed, I knew that a mystery was the best mode for my story.

Can you tell us what is unique about your book?

There is very little written history about Prohibition in Colorado, and even less for young adults. My book captures the culture of mining immigrant communities as well as explores some of the “dirtier” secrets of Prohibition in a book appropriate for young readers.

What other writing have you done before this?

I wrote a complete manuscript about a decade prior to Moonshine Murder, which explored the Irish immigrants during The Great Potato Famine. I never pursued a publisher for this piece, but received encouragement from the English Department at Colorado State University to continue writing. I’ve also written a handful of short fiction pieces, and some poetry.

What was the very first book you remember reading and loving? What makes that book so special?

Down the Long Hill by Louis L’Amour. My dad would read this novel over and over to me, at my insistence. I fell in love with historical fiction, particularly western historical fiction at the impressionable age of eight. I was collecting my own L’Amour novels shortly after that, and could not put them down.


What other books or authors have influenced your writing?

Without a doubt, Louis L’Amour has been a large influence in my writing. I met his wife once, after he had passed away, who told me that persistence was the key to his success. I was in high school at the time and decided I could do this writing thing then, because I’m stubborn!

Other influential authors are Janette Oke, Lori Wick, in the Historical Christian Romance category. Classic Christian writer, Grace Livingston Hill has been a recent and most loved discovery. I can’t discount some of the current young adult writers out there like Suzanne Collins for writing about difficult situations

You are a mother of two, a part-time bookkeeper, President of Women Writing the West, and a writer. What is your writing routine, and how doerin you unwind from all of this?

I work outside of the home a couple days of the week. I have a home office in the basement (I call it the studio – much less depressing) so when it comes to writing, I write when my oldest son is at school and the baby is napping. When nap time is over, I answer WWW emails and market Moonshine Murder while playing with the baby. I “unwind” on my treadmill, although here I’m working too. Believe it or not, I use this time to catch up on my reading – done much easier with a Kindle then back when I used to use “chip clip” to hold the book open! Evenings are family time, though.

Where can we purchase your book and get more information about you?

Moonshine Murder can be obtained at my website at http://www.erinsgray.com, http://www.trebleheartbooks.com, Baker and Taylor Books, or at www.Amazon.com, . I have developed a complete teaching guide for Moonshine Murder as a free download on my website. Teacher copies are FREE, so if you know a teacher who may want to teach Moonshine Murder, please send them to my website.


Erin S. Gray writes historical fiction for adults and young adults. She backpacks through the very mountains about which she writes and was inspired to begin her novel, Moonshine Murder, after stumbling across an abandoned cabin during a trek deep in the San Juan Mountains.

Erin is the 2013 president of Women Writing the West, and an active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. A graduate of Colorado State University with a degree in English, she lives in southwest Colorado with her husband and two young sons. For more information about the author, visit her website.


Published in: on January 11, 2013 at 6:03 am  Comments (5)  
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Writing ‘Raising Wrecker’, a Labor of Love

Summer Wood is my guest this week. Summer is the author of Raising Wrecker, a contemporary novel that won a WILLA Literary Award this year, and writes about how this book came about.

by Summer Wood

summerAs a reader and a writer, I love stories that challenge my ordinary perception. As a mother, on the other hand, I find I’m perfectly okay with the status quo.  I don’t need surprise or revelation in that job description. I like it when things go smoothly.  I don’t like to have my feathers ruffled.

Except, of course (Mothers? Can you confirm this for me?) – they never do go completely smoothly, do they?

Raising Wrecker came about because of an unexpected bump in my personal motherhood curve.  And even though my writing rarely follows the contours of my life, the experience of being a foster parent was so emotionally acute that I turned to fiction to see my way through to a clearer understanding.

We entered the experience innocently enough. We had trained to become emergency foster care parents, thinking that if a local kid needed someplace to stay briefly while the family was in trouble, we could harbor him or her for a weekend or so.  With our three sons and their friends, our place was overrun with kids, anyway.  The screen door kept slamming as one neighbor child or another came or went.  What was one more for a couple of days?

One, maybe; but the first call we got was for four small brothers who needed a family to stay with.  Their parents were both battling drug problems, in trouble with the law, and the authorities had removed the kids upon confirmation of neglect.  Sally, the social worker, said that if we couldn’t take these boys – aged 4, 3, 2, and not-quite-1 – they’d be split up and sent to different homes.

You want us to take them for the weekend?

Indefinitely, she said, and coughed politely into her hand.

We thought hard. We consulted our sons. And then we said yes, and for nearly two winter months, these small boys – who came to us with pneumonia, an amazing roster of aberrant behaviors, a black trash bag of shorts, t-shirts, and ill-fitting sneakers, and the most cherubic little faces – lived in our home and rapidly took up residence in our hearts.

It’s a long story, the saga of their journey back and forth, into and out of their parents’ custody. We became friends of the family, kind of informal kin to the boys. We were on hand to help when a fifth child was born with medical complications. We rooted for the parents, celebrated with them, wept with them, and when, at last, the whole house of cards came tumbling down, we felt our hearts break for them as their parental rights were terminated and the boys were adopted out to separate families.

wrecker1I didn’t write this novel in conscious response to having fostered those children.  As any novel will, it grew out of a rank stew of personal experience, literary experiment, political inquiry, and meandering imagination – with a good dose of love, whimsy, fear, humor, and warped psychological obsession thrown in.  This imaginary child, Wrecker, arrived in a public

playground one June afternoon in 1965, and I wanted to know what would happen to him.  I wanted to know his mother, and how she lost him, and who would come to love and raise him, and what kind of man he would turn out to be.

Writing his mothers into being – both the one who gave him his start, and the one into whose arms he fell – meant coming to terms with the power of parents. It meant coming up hard against the truth that no parent, not one of us, is perfect. It meant facing head-on the fact that the mistakes we make can have grave consequences. It meant learning forgiveness as a kind of survival strategy.

I’ve come to believe that it is a radical expression of love to parent any child.  And that there’s no right way to do it.  It can only be done by trial and error, and error, and error, and trying again. And, yes; there will be unexpected bumps. There will be ruffled feathers.

And writing Wrecker himself? Writing Wrecker into being was a way for me to believe again in the possibilities open to children. I needed to reconnect with the hope that led us to step forward and say:  yes.  With whatever we can offer, for as long as we can, we’ll welcome these children into our lives.

It was an honor to have the chance to know those boys and their parents.  And the best way I knew to pay back that honor was to bring this other boy, Wrecker, into the world, and let him muscle his way, with grace and love and a good share of noise, into his future.


Published in: on January 4, 2013 at 6:01 am  Comments (3)  
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