My Latest Research Trip – The Appalachian Trail

I just got back from a research/writing trip to North Carolina. I’m starting a new series of romantic suspense books set in the Murphy area. This is always an exciting phase of the writing process for me–checking out new locations.

This time my research took me to the Appalachian Trail. But it couldn’t be just anywhere on the Trail. It had to be where the Nantahala River runs close enough to the Trail for my kayaking hero to come across my Trail-hiking, unconscious heroine. Studying Google Maps, I found I had two possibilities: near Highway 64, between Hayesville and Franklin, and Highway 74 at the Nantahala Outdoor Center.

We tried 64 first, since it was the easiest drive from Murphy. There, I ran into two problems. First, there was nowhere for my hero to launch. A single-lane dirt road branched off 64 to run along the Nantahala River. It was narrow and steep, with the terrain on one side dropping sharply toward the water, and the ground on the other rising sharply upward. Anywhere that there was possible access to the river was marked “No Trespassing.” As soon as we turned onto the road, my sister (who was driving so I could take pictures) kept hoping we wouldn’t meet anyone. We didn’t. Instead, three law enforcement vehicles came up behind us, lights flashing. She moved as far to the right as she could, and they managed to squeeze past us without ending up in the river. A minute later, two more overtook us, these unmarked SUVs. I said, “Follow them. I might be able to get a story out of this!” In less than thirty seconds, they were out of sight. Now sure that this area wasn’t going to work for my story, and knowing our chances of witnessing anything exciting were nil, we did a 43-point turnaround and headed back toward the highway.

And thus problem number two presented itself. We’d crossed the river just after leaving 64. Right before the bridge, I asked my sister to stop so I could get out and take pictures of the water. The Nantahala is a big river. I’ve done whitewater rafting on it more than once. Not here. This stretch is little more than a mountain stream. It was really pretty, but as you can see, there’s no way someone would be able to canoe or kayak through there.

That meant it was time to check out the other location, about an hour away by car. This one was perfect. The Appalachian Trail crosses 74 at the Nantahala Outdoor Center, which is right on the Nantahala River. A few miles upstream is a nice launch area, with another one a few miles further upstream. The next task was to check out this section of the Trail itself. Heading north from the Nantahala Outdoor Center, it’s a pretty steep climb. With lots of rocks and roots to trip us up, and steep dropoffs to the side, I kept my eyes on the Trail. At one point, we came upon a huge outcropping of rock that would make a great place to wait out a storm. I just had to climb up there and pose. Coming back down was scarier than climbing up.

We met seven serious hikers along the way, all but one headed north, planning to hike all the way to Maine. Two of them looked like they might actually make it. The rest…not so much. The last guy was really huffing and puffing. He’d just refilled his pack with supplies, which included lots of beer. He got a really good lesson in planning that day. Next time he loads up his pack with beer, it’s going to be before a nice long downhill stretch.

Hiking the Appalachian Trail has been a long-time dream of mine. I doubt that I will ever do the whole 2,200 miles, but I would love to do a decent portion of it. I haven’t found anyone willing to do it with me. Until then, I guess I’ll have to leave the real hard-core hiking to my heroine.

 

RITA called…again!

Around this time last year, I posted that Mistletoe Justice was nominated for a RITA© award. (The RITA is like the Oscars of romance writing.) Well, it happened again. I headed off to Zumba this morning, and when I came back out to the car and got my phone out of the glove box, I had a missed call from California. I knew it was announcement day, so with shaking hands, I redialed the number. Tessa Dare answered and informed me that Trust My Heart is a RITA finalist.

I have to say, the second time is as exciting as the first. As soon as I hung up from talking to Tessa, I called my husband. He answered without looking at who was calling. Once he figured out who the crazy woman was screaming into the phone, he was excited, too.

As congratulations have been pouring in throughout the day via Facebook, Twitter and email, I’ve been walking on air. The excitement hangs on for quite a while. Tomorrow, though, I’ll get my head out of the clouds and get back to writing.

The awards ceremony will be held at the Romance Writers of America Conference in July. This year it’s in Orlando, about 45 minutes from home, so I don’t even have to fly. And hubby will get to attend. It’s a pretty formal affair, which means I get to shop for another gown. Woohoo!

 

 

Review of Another Day Another Dali

I recently finished reading Another Day Another Dali, by Sandra Orchard, and have to say that I loved it! It’s the second book in the Serena Jones Mystery Series, and I enjoyed it as much as the first. I loved the humor throughout the book, and there was plenty of action and plot twists to keep me turning pages. There were touching moments, too, especially regarding Serena’s poor relationship with her grandmother.

Like A Fool and His Monet, Another Day Another Dali is full of interesting and quirky characters, many of whom are making a reappearance. Retired professor Sutton is still hitting up residents of the apartment complex where Serena lives with his “Word of the Day,” and quirky Aunt Martha is even more outrageous than she was in the first book. I love the touch of romance, too. I’m still not sure if Serena is going to end up with fellow FBI agent Tanner or building superintendent Nate. I’m leaning more toward Tanner, but think they’re both pretty swoon-worthy!

Though this is a complete story, a mystery that hasn’t been tied up yet is who killed Serena’s grandfather years ago during the theft of a valuable painting. I’m definitely looking forward to the next book in the series.

Back cover copy:

When a valuable Salvador Dali painting belonging to her grandmother’s friend is mysteriously replaced by a forgery, FBI Special Agent Serena Jones is called in to investigate. Serena hopes finding the thief will also mean finally measuring up to Nana’s expectations. But when the evidence points to members of the owner’s own household, it becomes increasingly clear that Serena won’t be winning any popularity contests.

The Dali isn’t the only painting that’s fallen prey to the forgery-replacing thief, raising the specter of a sophisticated theft ring–one with links to dirty cops, an aspiring young artist, and the unsolved murder of Serena’s grandfather.

With plenty of edge-of-your-seat moments, Another Day, Another Dali gives the plucky Serena Jones–and readers–a new high-stakes case to crack.

I hope you’ll pick up your own copy of Another Day Another Dali.

Amazon   ~    Barnes and Noble

Announcement – Blog Tour Giveaway Winner

gift-basketI’m pleased to announce the winner from my recent Trust My Heart giveaway and blog tour. Thanks to everyone who entered.

And the winner is…Deb Klein! Congratulations, Deb! My publicists from Litfuse Publicity Group will be in touch via email with details on how to claim your prize. You can also email your mailing address to info {at} litfusegroup {dot} com.

Congrats!

 

 

Blog Tour with Giveaways

Lots of people are entering my $75 Cozy Cash Giveaway. Don’t miss out on your chance to win a Murphy-themed basket of goodies with a $75 VISA gift card. To enter, click here: $75 COZY CASH GIVEAWAY.

While you’re there, I hope you’ll also follow the blog tour. To find out where I’ve been and see which stops offer other prizes, click HERE. At the bottom of the page, click “Reviews,” and each of the reviews that show up have a link to that particular blogger’s post. Have fun!

$75 Cozy Cash Giveaway!

blog-tour-giveaway

The blog tour for Trust My Heart has officially started, and I have some exciting details to pass along. Over the next three weeks, I’ll be appearing on a lot of different blogs. There will be opportunities to win free books on several of them, but one lucky winner will receive an awesome Murphy-themed basket of goodies with a $75 VISA gift card.

To check out the tour and enter the giveaway, click here. But hurry! The tour ends 11/23.

Writer Wednesday – Our Sweet, Lovable Fur Babies

sept-graphic

For our Writer Wednesday post this month, my Firebird friends and I are talking about our pets. I’ve had lots of special fur babies over the years. Tiggy, my first cat as an adult, used to “hug” me when I picked him up, wrapping his front paws around my neck and burying his face in my hair.

itsy-and-suki

Here is Suki and her pal Itsy. Suki (the Siamese) loved to play fetch. She had a little rubber mouse that she would drop at our feet and meow for us to throw it for her. This would go on until we finally wore her out. After a good nap, she was ready to go again.

smudge

 

 

 

Smudge was a solid white cat who was completely deaf. As a kitten he had two gray smudges on top of his head. The smudges faded and disappeared, but the name stuck. He was super sweet and loved to go for walks and car rides, the longest of which was from Florida to Connecticut and back. We used to get a lot of double-takes on the dog walks at rest areas. Here he is in Virginia.

Our last two cats to pass away were Itsy at 14 and Suki at 17 1/2 years old. We’re now a one-cat family, which hasn’t been typical for us. Midnight is enjoying being king of the house. He likes sitting in my lap as I write. I think he’s critiquing.

Midnight in dining room

 

He also loves boxes. It doesn’t matter how small. I call this pic, “How to fit 17 pounds of feline blubber into a 7×10 box.”

midnight

 

 

 

 

 

 

midnight-catnip

 

 

 

Recently Midnight discovered something that he likes even better than boxes. My mom got him his first catnip toy. That black blob you see is a stoned cat.

morgan-and-bailey

 

 

After years of having only cats, we rescued two long-haired dachshunds, Morgan and Bailey. We lost Bailey to an enlarged heart, but her sister Morgan is still with us. She likes my husband, but she’s super attached to me.

 

DSCN0619

 

 

 

Morgan’s favorites things are whatever Mommy is doing, whether it’s something fun, like sailing…

 

 

 

 

Morgan in yard

 

…or just hanging out while Mommy writes.

 

 

 

 

morgan-surgery

 

 

Today, though, she’s having a rough time. She had to have 12 teeth extracted. Doesn’t she look sad? But now as I write this, she’s sleeping peacefully beside me, having had a dose of doggie morphine.

 

 

What about you? Do you have, or have you had any especially memorable pets? (I know, they’re all special!) To check out my friends’ lovable fur babies, click the links below.

Tamra Baumann – Priscilla Oliveras – Sharon Wray