Liz Adair’s New Novel, Cold River, a Hot Read

Liz Adair has a new book out, Cold River, a fast-paced romantic suspense novel that grabs you from the first page, and keeps you on the edge of your seat as you ride the current of this mystery. Who is trying to run her out of town and which man will win her heart?

 Liz has had six novels published, including the award-winning Counting the Cost, based on family history. She lives in the Pacific Northwest, where her latest book takes place.

Liz, you’ve set your story in the fictional town of Limestone, Washington. Tell us why you chose this locale. People like to read about exotic places and cultures that that are different from where they live. Face it, I’m never going to visit the Riviera or Paris or Budapest. But here’s a place right in my back yard that has great potential to be, if not exotic, at least different.  I based the town of Limestone on my memory of the town of Concrete as it was when I taught school there in the 1970s. That was before the proliferation of cable TV, so reception came through antennas. I think there wasn’t much of a signal that far upriver, and the leveling influence of television hadn’t yet eroded the local culture.

Your main character, Mandy, feels out of her element in this small-town atmosphere. But she finds satisfaction in teaching a woman with dyslexia how to read. How prevalent is this among adults? Have you had experience in this field?

I was a reading specialist my last few years of teaching, but that was with school-age students. I have only taught one adult to read, and I can’t say how prevalent dyslexia is among adults. I do know that the fellow I taught to read was adept at hiding his handicap and found ways to compensate. I didn’t know about the Ron Davis book The Gift of Dyslexia when I taught him. I was introduced to it by someone who uses the Davis method in teaching dyslexic students.

You talk about the “Tarheels” who live in this area. Can you explain what that refers to?  Spanning several decades during the early 1900s, many families from North Carolina migrated to the foothills of the Cascades along the Skagit River: Sedro Woolley, Concrete, Marblemount. They brought with them their music, dances, seeds and speech patterns. Traces still remain in the area, but thirty years ago, particularly upriver, the Tarheel culture was stronger, and you could still sometimes hear a slight twang in the spoken word.

You’ve used some rich colloquialisms from these natives, such as “I love you like a mule a-kickin’.” And you’ve also used words from the Lummi Indian Nation. Tell us how local slang and idiosyncrasies can enhance our writing. I think local slang and idiosyncrasies can enhance our writing if two things are operative. First, the use has to be unforced. It has to flow naturally and not be shoehorned in for window dressing. Secondly, I think it has to be presented with respect, not as a way to get a cheap laugh.

I have to tell about something that happened one time while I was teaching in Concrete.  I had been appalled to discover that few, if any, of my students knew what Camelot was, so I organized a full-court press to try to expose them to as much ‘culture’ as I could.  One day in the spring, I asked if anyone knew where to find morel mushrooms. Almost every hand went up, and a young man who, until that time, had been reticent told me in great detail where to look for morels. I realized then that these kids weren’t deprived. They were simply enriched in different areas than I was.  I was comfortable in books; they were comfortable in the woods.

Music also plays a large role in this story, both jazz and bluegrass, and music is used as an innovative way to teach mathematics. Can you elaborate on these subjects in your book?  I didn’t mean for this to happen, but in the book, music becomes a symbol of the difference in cultures between Mandy and the people of Limestone. It’s also a bellwether of Mandy’s attitude change. She plays jazz, you see, and regards it as an intelligent form of music that allows, through improvisation, for musicians to express their individuality, and she looks down on bluegrass as hillbilly music.

As far as the teaching of mathematics through music, I did a little experimentation with that when I was in the classroom. Knowing that it’s easier to memorize when things are set to music, I tried it with the times tables. I don’t know how successful it was, but that’s the wonderful thing about fiction: you can have your hero succeed where you may have failed. I felt that the brilliant thing about the program they had going in the book was that it would address auditory and kinesthetic learners’ styles of learning.

Other than the exceptional historical novel Counting the Cost, you seem to specialize in mysteries. Is that your favorite genre? It must be. With Cold River, I set out to write a romance, but I just can’t get away from a puzzle, I guess.

Are you working on a new project? Yes. I’m working on another romantic suspense, this time set in the high desert of Nevada. It’s got opal mines, off-road racing and flying cars in it.

Liz’s books are available at Village Books in Bellingham and

Also, visit her blog at and read a review of Cold River at Mary Trimble’s blog

For our readers in the Skagit Valley area, Liz will host a launch party on Dec. 8 at 7 p.m. at the Sedro Woolley Library. Door prizes will include books and homemade apple pies, and she will have copies of Cold River for sale.

Meet New Historical Author: Janet Oakley

My guest today is fellow Pacific Northwest author, Janet Oakley, and I’m delighted to feature her first published novel, Tree Soldier. Fast-paced, entertaining, and informative, this historical novel has it all: romance, rivalry, revenge, and redemption.

Synopsis: One mistake can ruin a life. One mistake can transform it.

A government forestry camp set deep in the mountainous forests of the Pacific Northwest might not seem the likely place to find redemption, but in 1936, Park Hardesty hopes for just that.

Blaming himself for the fiery accident that causes his brother’s disfigurement and results in the death of the bootlegging woman he loved, planting trees, building bridges and mentoring tough, homesick New Jersey boys brings Hardesty both penitence and the renewal of his own self-worth.

When he wins the love of Kate Alford, a local naturalist who envisions joining the Forest Service, which allows only men, he also captures the ire of a camp officer who refuses to let her go. Just when Hardesty is ready to seek his brother’s forgiveness, he is falsely accused of rape. Every aspect of his life he has tried to rebuild is put in jeopardy.

In the end, the only way he can defend himself is to tell the truth about his brother, but he risks being kicked out of the camp.

Worse, he could lose Kate’s love forever.

Janet, would you share the inspiration for this book?

My 96 year-old Mom is a native of Idaho and during the summers she often went up to her Uncle Lawrence’s ranch in Lowman just north of Boise. One summer around 1933 a Civilian Conservation Corps camp appeared about a mile away. Some 200 young men were there working on projects. Some were from New Jersey. Years later when I had to write a term paper for a history class, her stories came back.  I began to explore CCC projects around my county in Western Washington. A story of a young man from back East who is running away from a past mistake  began to form.

Is Park Hardesty modeled on a real person?

Hardesty is totally out of my imagination, except that he is from Western Pennsylvania where I grew up. I wanted him to be someone who had integrity, was a decent person, but felt guilty about being the catalyst in his brother’s tragic accident. He felt damned until he came West to work in a CCC camp.

Who do you envision would play him if a movie was made of Tree Soldier?

Now that’s question. I haven’t really thought about that. I did a quick search of the hottest actors under 25, but they’re too pretty. Hardesty is good looking, but he’s just a man of his times.

Tell us about the significance of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in Washington.

The CCC is responsible for some of the most beautiful structures, campgrounds and parks on both side of the mountains and the Pacific Northwest for that matter. The young men, working in squads of 6-9 men, also planted trees, built roads and bridges, backpacked fish into remote lakes, and did reclamation work, including dams. In Whatcom County they built the Glacier ranger station, Silver Fir and Douglas Fir Campgrounds and the Warming Hut up at Mount Baker.

The program was responsible for saving the lives of countless families for while the boys worked, $25.00 out of the $30.00 they earned when to their families. That was a lot of money back then. The CCC trained the young men in forestry and wood craft, provided after hours schooling, and taught them to work as teams. In the end they tackled some of the worst  environmental problems caused by soil erosion and over-logging. Many have said the environmental movement started with the CCCs.

Tell us about your background.

I’m the daughter of Northwesterners who grew up back East. I have a degree in American History, and after a spell at home flew out to Hawaii on a whim and met my future husband there. I got a degree in Textiles from UH and after returning to the Mainland, got certified to teach. I love teaching history hands-on to kids and l love researching and writing about history, both fiction and non-fiction. I’m published at and have memoir essays in the Cup of Comfort series, one of which was the 2006 winner in non-fiction at Surrey International Writers in BC. I’m currently researching a 19th century bark involved in coastal trading. Tree Soldier is my second novel, but the first published. My sons are grown, my husband gone almost ten years. I often say writing saved me.

When did you start writing? I started writing stories when I was in second grade. I still have my handwritten and illustrated books, Funny Bunny Climbs Mount Everest, Funny Bunny the Prince. By fifth grade, I was writing historical fiction. I loved pioneers and anything with horses back then. My research skills, however, were limited.

Have you always been a reader? Definitely. My mom read to us and I just read oodles from first grade on. We didn’t have a TV in the home until I was around 14 and I was a bit shy. Books just took me anywhere. I devoured my local Carnegie Library. Loved the Black Stallions series, Wizard of Oz, Narnia, Mary Poppins. When I went to summer camp I read from the library in the mess hall.

Where can we find copies of Tree Soldier?

Tree Solder is available at


Amazon in Kindle and book form.

And select bookstores such as Village Books. (I really want to support the indie book stores)

I’m blogging at and on Twitter at @jloakley

Tree Soldier’s at Facebook

Please join us again on Wednesday when Janet shares her insights on historical research and writing.

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