Wednesday 30 October 2013

Write...Edit...Publish Halloweeen Blogfest - my entry HAUNTING, combined with Francine Howarth's Halloween Blogfest.

Welcome to creepy Halloween! There are many blogfests vying for attention. I am combining the Write...Edit...Publish blogfest with Francine Howarth's Trick or Treat Blogfest where you either give or receive free books. (In comments, say if you want your name to go into a hat to win a free book - say TREAT!)

Those who participate in the WEP blogfest will be competing for a $10 Amazon Gift card from yours truly (for the entry that catches my , and Francine is donating a free e-book to a participant.

Here is my creepy story...(sorry, I've been re-reading The Book Thief for the umpteenth time with my students, so I'm a little influenced by Death as narrator.) I'm sorry it's not exactly a fun entry, but there are some of them around...

Death has come to town. He arrives on runway 13A at midnight, thirteen minutes behind schedule. Despite the ferocious Twitter campaign demanding a new runway to deal with the increased traffic, the flight was late as usual. He couldn’t resist tweeting: #JFK #FLT307 #lateagain just for the pure heck of it.

He blends in with the weary commuters—squalling infants protesting painful ears and broken sleep, briefcases no doubt stuffed with duty free goods and hotel mini bar spirits, and myriad rackety suitcases squalling about just one trip too many. No one takes any notice of Death, no one senses his menace even though he mischievously brushes against as many unfortunate travellers as he can. What fun. Back in the swing of it again after the hiccup last time. He rubs his artificial leg. That will haunt him for the rest of his days, may they be long and eventful.

Death walks, lurching a little, protecting himself from the unseemly haste of humans desperate for their comfy bed, whether hotel or home. He has no baggage to collect; it would slow him down, but this night he can’t resist a little people watching as the weary souls await luggage collection at No 7 carousel. He stands in the vast, clattery room, surrounded by chattering children and the peculiar odour of those cooped together too closely on a thirteen-hour flight, watches them fighting over their luggage like chickens in the hen house pecking for grain. 

He could have done the deed earlier, on the plane, but that would have been too easy. And not according to plan. And, heck, he would have bit the dust too, or the ocean. Not ready for that sacrifice, but the time was coming. 

Gotta always stick to the plan. He studies the bed-ready faces, wishes he could tell them how lucky they are to be alive. How capricious is Death.

He follows the crowd to customs. A blind man could find his way simply by the noise and crush of humanity not at its best. The aromas from the coffee shop tantalize his olfactory glands, but he has no desire to indulge himself. He hardly recognises the place; it’s been so long since he visited, but this is just a quick in and quick out so it doesn’t bother him. No place is home any longer. The world is his stage. And he’s such an evil player. How delicious!

No one takes any notice as he passes by. Midnight eyes are blind, even those of the custom’s man, badged MARVIN. There are things that a sleep-deprived MARVIN, probably pulling a double shift, should have noticed. Just what was hidden beneath his long black coat? They do wonderful things with plastic these days. A body search would be in order, but he’s home free. Marvin missed an opportunity to be a hero, dead or alive.

Death shrugs and heads away from the passport-stamp-thumping desks, the babel of foreign languages, the wail of exhausted children. As he exits, he deliberately brushes a young lover caught in the act of whispering sweet nothings to whoever is on the receiving end of the phone. The young lover turns his shoulder towards Death, and continues his midnight electronic tryst. Oh, young man, I could finish you in a moment!

Now Death is out of doors. Humidity clutches his throat, the acrid smell of exhaust fumes threaten to overwhelm him. Then it begins to rain before his lungs are poisoned; it washes away the grime, turning the pavement into a slippery, oozy slush.

Death squints through the tumbling rain. A shaft of moonlight shimmers on the taxi roof, turned red by the neon sign poking its broken nose from the opposite side of the barrier. How strange. But it is a strange night. He checks over his shoulder, both directions. then wrenches open the nearest taxi door. The artificial smell of air freshener offends his sensibilities. The seat sags and he lurches into the middle. He smirks, imagining the lurching that people will be doing tomorrow…er, today.

“The Plaza Hotel,” he growls to the driver. The driver gives him the finger with his eyes, then pulls out into the stream of traffic. Death doesn’t glance behind. He feels hidden in the interior with its misty windows. He has more important things to think about. The plan must be perfectly executed. Ha, ha. Perfect choice of words.

Room 13  on (well, it should be 13!) the thirteenth floor is the perfect place to visit for his thirteenth act of terror.

Death has come to town.


General feedback please as this story is for this blogfest only.

Click on the WEP HAUNTED blogfest list in my right-hand sidebar to read other entries. Click on the TRICK OR TREAT badge to visit participants and to snaffle a book! 

Here are Francine's rules for both AUTHORS and VISITORS:


1) pop all the names of people who ask for a "TREAT" into a hat and choose a winner!
2)  Award a Kindle copy of the book/s featured to the winner


1) State in your comment whether you want your name popped into the author's hat.
2) Use your imagination for demanding your Treat! 


Monday 28 October 2013

The creator of the Hugo Marston mystery series comes to town...and answers questions re Publication, Setting, Influences like Agatha Christie and more...

Hello friends!

What better way to welcome Halloween week than with mystery author, Mark Pryor. I've been a huge fan of Mark's since reading his first novel in the Hugo Marston series, The Bookseller, set in Paris, which I reviewed here.  Mark happened upon my review and wrote to thank me. Needless to say, I was thrilled, so thrilled, I asked him if he would be interviewed on my humble blog and was so very pleased when he said he'd be happy to.


Who is Mark Pryor?

Mark Pryor is a former newspaper reporter from England, and now an assistant district attorney with the Travis County District Attorney's Office, in Austin, Texas. He is the creator of the nationally-recognized true-crime blog D.A. Confidential. He has appeared on CBS News's 48 Hours and Discovery Channel's Discovery ID: Cold Blood.

He is the author of the Hugo Marston mystery novels. The first was THE BOOKSELLER (Oct 2012) and upon release was Library Journal's Debut of the Month with a starred review. RT Book Reviews called it "a fantastic debut!" and gave it 4 and 1/2 stars, and listed it as an "unputdownable mystery." The second was THE CRYPT THIEF, released in May of 2013, and next up is THE BLOOD PROMISE, due out in January 2014.

Mark is also the author of the true crime book, AS SHE LAY SLEEPING, which is the account of a "cold" murder case he prosecuted. Published in January 2013, Publisher's Weekly gave it a starred review and called it "compelling" and "riveting."
Mark lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife and three children.

Now Mark answers my questions...

Mark, share with us your journey to publication.

I’ve been writing stories for as long as I can remember, but got serious about wanting to be published around ten years ago. I wrote two mystery novels, basing them on an English barrister who was burned out, and moved to the US (Texas, of course!) to teach law. He found himself drawn into murder cases, and defending those wrongly accused. I think the premise for the series is actually decent, but I suspect the execution left something to be desired – neither novel garnered any interest from agents.

Then I wrote THE BOOKSELLER. I think it was a better book, by a long chalk. My wife told me, “Wow, it reads like a real novel,” which was a good sign! When I approached agents with it, I got some pretty immediate, positive responses and eventually signed with the wonderful Ann Collette, of the Helen Rees Agency in Boston. It took a year for us to knock it into shape and find a home for it, but I’m thrilled with my publisher (Seventh Street Books) and since they signed me up, Random House has taken on their distribution, which has helped sales a lot.

Since then, it's been sort of a rollercoaster. I suppose THE BOOKSELLER (and to some extent, the second book, THE CRYPT THIEF) have done pretty well because they made me another offer and now I'm working on books four and five!

What were your writing influences?

As a kid, a teenager, and adult, almost all of my reading has consisted of mysteries. The Hardy Boys, Agatha Christie, the Sherlock Holmes stories. It was inevitable that, should I become a writer, I’d write mysteries! 

More recently, since taking up the craft, I’ve paid more attention to the writing styles and techniques used by the authors I read. One of those is Alan Furst, who has a wonderful ability to show the character of a place by sketching its outlines and then putting in one or two dabs of color.
The example I give of this, as applied to my writing, is this: when I was last in Paris, I walked down a cobbled, pedestrian street. I looked ahead and saw, coming toward me, a pretty girl on a bicycle, her winter coat billowing out behind her, with one hand gripping the handlebars and the other latched onto an airport carry-on bag, jumping and bouncing on its little wheels as she towed it behind her. She had a big smile on her face.

That image conveys, I hope, an impression of Paris as vividly as any description of the Eiffel Tower or Champs Elysees. And far more personal. I suppose this is a long-winded way of saying that I now try to convey as much as possible through close-up imagery. There’s a place for rooftops and cityscapes, sure, but I use those more sparingly.

How did your MC, Hugo Marston, come into being?

I wanted to create a hero who is a little more traditional, a bit more old-fashioned. Hugo doesn’t have the quirks and agonies of some modern heroes. Nothing wrong with a tortured MC, of course, I just didn’t think I could do it as well as people are already doing it, and I actively wanted someone whose demons were no more ferocious than most of ours. I also based him a lot on my father, Hugo gets his quiet intelligence, and his non-judgmental nature from my dad.

As for his background, well, I’ve long been interested in behavioral profiling. I’ve worked with a couple of profilers in my job as a prosecutor and what they do, and the cases they handle, are fascinating. So I thought it’d be a good background for Hugo. Now, I don’t rely on those skills too much, I like old-style crime detection too much to allow Hugo to solve his mysteries by pontification alone. A mix of detective work and profiling keep me, and him, happy.

Finally his job – I wanted him to be a professional, and to operate in Europe. I wanted him to have a gun and a badge and some authority. I wanted him to have reasons to investigate crimes, and not just happen to be where a crime is committed for every book, like dear old Ms. Marple stumbling into bodies all the time.  As head of security at the US Embassy, he can roam France and even go assist other embassies and consulates abroad. Very helpful.

Why did you choose Paris for the setting for your first novel in the series. And how many books do you plan for the series?  How much research do you do when writing your stories?

I had the idea for THE BOOKSELLER while on a trip to Paris with my wife. As such, it was inevitable the first book would be set there, and once I created Hugo it seemed necessary for the first few, at least, to be in Paris. Which I didn’t mind at all, of course!

Right now we’re planning on six. The third comes out in January of next year, the fourth in October. He’ll stay in Paris for number three (THE BLOOD PROMISE) but the fourth will actually be a prequel, and take place in London and a quiet country village not too far from the city. The fifth will be set in Barcelona, and the sixth… undecided! I’m thinking Bordeaux right now, but Prague is also a possibility. Which brings me to research… I won’t ever set a book in a place I’ve not visited. I’ve been to Paris a dozen times, probably, and spent a lot of time in London when I lived in England. Which meant a trip to Barcelona for me, obviously another tough part of this writing gig…

On the research issue, one of the fun things I did was spend time at the US Embassy in Paris, meeting with the folks who work there and making sure I got (most of) my facts right. I’m still in touch with a couple of people, and get to ask them questions on protocol and capabilities when I have them.

I was fascinated by the 'bouquinistes' along the River Seine. How did you get this idea?

That was purely situational. I was quite literally walking alongside the River Seine, passing these bookstalls and thinking how wonderfully original, how peculiar to Paris they are. And something went kapow in my mind and the story was born. As I was writing, I liked the idea of featuring something truly Parisian and decided that in future books I’d try to do the same. Hence, in THE CRYPT THIEF, the city’s wonderful cemeteries play a central role, and in THE BLOOD PROMISE… well, I can’t actually tell you which aspect of Paris plays a role, it’d give things away!

Are you a PANTSER or a PLOTTER? 

I wrote THE BOOKSELLER and THE CRYPT THIEF from the seat of my pants. Totally. I tried the same with THE BLOOD PROMISE, but failed miserably and I wrote myself into a corner. So I backed up, and started again with a plotting plan. To begin with, I didn’t plot it in detail, just wrote more of an outline. Then I broke the book down and wrote one or two sentences for the first eight chapters – what was going to happen in each one. Then I wrote those chapters, and then did the same for the next eight, sort of hop-scotching my way forward like that. I’ll be using that method from now on, it’s quite effective for me, gives me a target to aim for but isn’t too limiting.

Thanks so much Mark for visiting this week...


It’s summer in Paris and two tourists have been killed in Père La Chaise cemetery in front of Jim Morrison’s grave.

The killer leaves the bodies untouched but moves deeper into the cemetery, where he breaks into the crypt of a long-dead Moulin Rouge dancer. In a bizarre twist, he disappears into the night with part of her skeleton. The cemetery is locked down and put under surveillance, but the thief returns, flitting in and out like a ghost, taking more bones from another legendary can-can dancer under cover of night.
One of the dead tourists proves to be an American and the other a woman linked to a known terrorist; so the US ambassador sends his best man and the embassy's head of security-Hugo Marston-to help the French police with their investigation.
At first, Hugo is stumped. How does this killer operate unseen? And why is he stealing the bones of once-famous can-can girls? Hugo cracks the secrets of the graveyard, but soon realizes that old bones aren't all this serial killer wants: his ultimate plan requires the flesh and organs of the living.
And when the crypt thief spots the former FBI agent on his tail, he decides that Hugo's body will do just fine.

Buy Mark Pryor's books on Amazon 

In a few days, the net will be flooded with spooky stories. Sign up for the WEP blogfest if you haven't already done so, and share your creepy story with us!

  • If you're published, what did your journey look like?
  • If you're still seeking publication, did Mark's story help you?

Friday 25 October 2013

Book review - The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho. Roland Yeoman's first blogfest - scary reads.

My review for The Armchair Squid's Cephalopod Coffeehouse Club.

The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho

From Goodreads:

Every few decades a book is published that changes the lives of its readers forever. Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist is such a book With over a million and a half copies sold in Latin America and Europe, The Alchemist has already achieved the status of a modern classic.

The American publisher Harper Collins said: "…reading the alchemist was like getting up at dawn and seeing the sun rise while the rest of the world still slept.”


This is a book read by American presidents. When I started reading it, I knew why these powerful men had read it. It’s a deceptively simple tale with a compelling message of the most magical of all journeys: the quest to fulfil one’s destiny. It’s full of psychological intensity and spirituality, couched in fairy tale language.

The story is of an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago who travels from his homeland in Spain to the Egyptian desert. He is on a quest--in search of a treasure buried in the Pyramids. His journey is fraught with obstacles and peppered with intriguing characters.

Along the way he meets a Gypsy woman, a man who calls himself king, and an alchemist, all of whom point Santiago in the direction of his quest. No one knows what the treasure is, or if Santiago will be able to surmount the obstacles along the way to reach his goal. The intriguing aspect of this novel is that what starts out as a journey to find worldly goods turns into a discovery of the treasure found within. The message is that the magic, dreams and treasures we all seek elsewhere are found at our doorstep.

There is a shimmering elegance in its telling. The language is lush, evocative, and the story deeply humane. The story of Santiago is an eternal testament to the transforming power of our dreams and the importance of listening to our hearts. There is comic charm and dramatic tension aplenty. Overall it is a sweetly exotic tale that young and old alike can immerse themselves in. After all, it’s an adventure story full of magic and wisdom. What's not to love about that?

Why was The Alchemist such a success? Probably because we all need to be aware of our personal calling. Whenever we do something that fills us with enthusiasm we are following the legend. But we don’t all have the courage to confront our dream. Coelho relates the journey as best he can. He deals with each of the four obstacles he claims stand in the way of us realizing our dream. In his words:

1.       We are told from childhood that everything we want to do is impossible. We get to the stage when our personal calling is so deeply buried in our souls that it is invisible. But it is still there.
2.       Love. We know what we want to do but we’re afraid of hurting those around us by abandoning everything to pursue our dream. Those who genuinely wish us well want us to be happy and are prepared to accompany us on our journey.
3.       Fear of defeat. We fight for our dream but it doesn't work out. We cannot go back. We do want it and have staked everything on it. The path of personal calling is no easier than any other path except our whole heart is in this journey. Have patience. The Universe is conspiring in your favour even though you don’t understand how. Why is defeat necessary? Who knows? But they happen. Maybe when we first start fighting for our dream we make mistakes. The secret of life – fall seven times, get up eight times. The defeats may go on for years, eating away at our soul, until one day we are no longer able to free ourselves from bitterness and it stays with us for the rest of our lives. Then one day we notice that what we always wanted is there, waiting for us.
4.       The most dangerous of obstacles--the fear of realizing the dream we’ve fought for all our lives. Oscar Wilde claims that each man kills the thing he loves. The mere possibility of getting what we want fills the soul of an ordinary man with guilt. We check out those who’ve failed and feel we don’t deserve to get what we want either. We forget about all the obstacles we’ve overcome, all the suffering, all the things we had to give up. Many people when their personal calling was within their grasp, commit a series of stupid mistakes and never reach their goal. They self destruct when their goal was only  a step away. The most dangerous obstacle as has a saintly aura about it. Renounce the joy and conquest. However, if you believe yourself worthy of the thing you fought so hard to get, you become an instrument of God, you understand why you are here.

Click HERE for more book reviews.
The little shepherd boy Santiago’s purpose in life was to travel, so travel he did. He was looking for treasure. His journeys were full of excitement and danger, but did he reach his goal? How did his journey end? You'll have to read it to find out.

Claim the life of your dreams.

Have you read The Alchemist? What did you think of it?

The only way I can hope to get all my blog posts done is to double up. Here is my entry for Roland's first ever blogfest.

His instructions:

You have from October 1st to Halloween to post about the book which scared you the most as a young reader and the book which scared you the most as an adult.

Okay, I've never been a fan of horror, so I avoid scary books and movies, but I've managed to read/see a few in my time. 


Where the Wild Things Are is a 1963 children's picture book by American writer and illustrator Maurice Sendak. It has been reprinted, animated, filmed ever since. The story, which comprises just 338 words, focuses on a young boy named Max, who, after dressing in his wolf costume, wreaks havoc through his household and is disciplined by being sent to his bedroom. As he feels agitation with his mother, Max's bedroom undergoes a mysterious transformation into a jungle environment, and he winds up sailing to an island inhabited by malicious beasts known as the "Wild Things." After successfully intimidating the creatures, Max is hailed as the king of the Wild Things and enjoys a playful romp with his subjects; however, he decides to return home, to the Wild Things' dismay. After arriving in his bedroom, Max discovers a hot supper waiting for him. Doesn't sound that scary, but I thought it was when I was little. 


Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley

As an adult, I still find this book disturbing. The idea of creating a monster, then rejecting it, is a sad scenario, but it did open up new lines of thought about science. Frankenstein, or, The Modern Prometheus is a novel written by Mary Shelley about eccentric scientist Victor Frankenstein, who creates a grotesque creature in an unorthodox scientific experiment. 

Shelley had travelled in the region of Geneva, where much of the story takes place, and the topics of galvanism and other similar occult ideas were themes of conversation among her companions, particularly her future husband, Percy Shelley. The storyline emerged from a dream. Mary, Percy, Lord Byron, and John Polidori decided to have a competition to see who could write the best horror story. After thinking for weeks about what her possible storyline could be, Shelley dreamt about a scientist who created life and was horrified by what he had made. She then wrote Frankenstein.

Thanks to Wikipedia for most of the information contained herein.

Thursday 24 October 2013

Malala Yousafzai, Pakistani schoolgirl is my current hero. WHO'S YOUR HERO? blogfest to announce J L Campbell's novel, Saving Sam.

Congratulations Joy!

The release of the novel Saving Sam by J.L. Campbell has been timed to coincide with National Heroes’ Day celebrations in Jamaica. Sam, the protagonist finds a hero—or heroine if you like—in his aunt and the mission of this blogfest is to write a maximum of 300 words about someone who has been a source of inspiration. So, Who’s Your Hero?


Malala Yousafzai

Malala, the sixteen-year old Pakistani girl shot by the Taliban for insisting on the right for girls to attend school, is my current hero. I've been transfixed by her story. Imagine setting in motion such a sequence of events, accepting what has happened to her at the hands of the Taliban: "I was just one target for their violence", and continuing the fight for girls and education globally once she'd undergone medical treatment in Britain. 

Education is something most of us take for granted, but literacy rates for girls (and boys, too) in countries such as Pakistan and Afghanistan are woeful, and who better to begin a campaign for "a world where everyone can go to school", than a young girl directly affected by the recently negative ruling which banned girls from attending school in Pakistan. (When the Taliban controlled Afghanistan, girls were forbidden to attend school, and teachers were executed for clandestine teaching activities.)

Malala has already been awarded the 2013 International Children's Peace Prize and some expected her to win this year's Nobel Peace Prize. She didn't, but I predict in the future she will if the Taliban don't make good their threats to kill her next time. 

She has met President Obama and the Queen of England, but not eveyone thinks Malala is a hero -- In Pakistan reaction has been mixed, with many hailing her as a national heroine while others have criticised her for promoting a "Western" agenda. Hmm. Go Malala! I'm with you all the way!

Now to the blurb from Joy's latest:

J.L. Campbell is a proud Jamaican and an award-winning writer, who is always on the lookout for story-making material.
She writes romantic suspense, women's fiction and young adult novels. She is the author of Contraband, Christine's Odyssey, Dissolution, Distraction, Don't Get Mad...Get Even, Giving up the Dream, Kicked to the Kerb, Retribution and Hardware (written under the pen name Jayda McTyson).

She blogs at Feel free to connect with her on Facebook or Twitter or visit her Amazon author page.

Now visit some more posts heralding Joy's new book.
There's still some time to sign up if you want to tell us about your hero.

Wednesday 23 October 2013

Yolanda Renee - Alaska as setting, with photos. Writing what you know...

Hello friends!

I've seen questions raised on facebook and in the blogosphere about guest posts, book tours, book launches, cover reveals. I understand, but with limited opportunity, how do authors let us know a new book has been launched? So I'm happy to do my bit, promoting authors who have written a book that has appealed to me. I try to make it interesting for my blog readers.

Many of you know and love Yolanda Renée. She has been recently published by Curiosity Quills Press. I've read her first book, Murder, Madness and Love and am sailing through her second, Memories of Murder. These stories are chilling and thrilling, set in exotic (to me) places such as Idaho, Seattle and Alaska. 

I've asked Yolanda to give me a first-person eyewitness account of her Alaskan experiences. You know what they say--write about what you know, so Yolanda decided to research an Alaskan setting the hard way...and the results? In her own on...

Alaska - Love at First Sight - and One More Mountain to Climb

Yolanda in 1976, about to embark on her Alaskan adventure.

A two-week vacation in Alaska turned into a four year adventure. I arrived in the land of the last frontier – I fell in love, immediately, yes, love at first sight! I originally thought an Alaskan setting would be unique, and when I first started writing Murder, Madness & Love, it was. Imagine -- there was no reality television, no Ice Road Truckers, no Sarah Palin, and no Selling Alaska. In fact, when I started writing my book I think most people still saw Alaska as nothing more than an iceberg!

Atigun Pass
I loved the endless hours of bright sunshine. Was dumbstruck by the views of some of the tallest mountains I'd ever seen. Being from the east coast of the United States, what folks referred to as mountains are really rolling hills in comparison. Millions of evergreens, tall birch trees, and wildlife everywhere you turned greeted me. There is such a sense of adventure in this place.

The spirit of the people I met was the most amazing, as no one was a stranger. I saw most of us like the misfit toys in the Rudolf Christmas tale, on our own private iceberg that no one wanted to be rescued from. I even felt safe hitchhiking, although it wasn't something I did alone. I was part of the University crowd – a clique of intellectuals (but only because I dated one) and in a safe environment. I was on my very first adventure, and felt truly independent. I was in charge of my destiny.
Brooks Range
During my first week, I went on a wilderness hike. I carried a 35-pound pack, sported a pair of barely worn hiking boots, and all with no wilderness experience. The group my boyfriend introduced me to - two other couples - let me know that being a novice had not gained me any points. I sensed hostility, and was surprised, but these folks had a plan, and only four days to accomplish it. They were on a quest into the Alaska Range to take pictures of grizzlies in their natural habitat, and they weren't interested in a sightseer.
My boyfriend took pity on me and made sure my load was much lighter than what the others carried. Some of them hauled 45 to 50 pound packs. To say I struggled would be an understatement. The temperatures, in the seventies, were still a bit cool for my thin blood, but I quickly worked up a sweat walking across the Alaskan tundra.
The tundra in the Alaskan Range
Imagine clumps of earth dotting a bog, and your goal it to make sure you stepped on the clump, and not down into the blog. It took skill, a steady eye, a massive stride, and great balance, something difficult to achieve if you've never worn a pack on your back or heavy hiking boots on your feet. So yes, I struggled; I was 110 pounds, five foot five, and wore size six shoes.

It was no picnic. Thousands of swarming mosquitoes attacked us, like flies to a decaying body. Even though I wore a hat with a net over my entire head to keep them out of my eyes, mouth and nose, there were literally millions of the bastards, especially near the stream we wanted to follow up and into the mountains. The constant buzz and swatting of the black swarms soon got to the pros; most of them did not sport the netting I had chosen to wear.

A change of direction was required. We headed away from the stream to higher and cooler territory. We headed straight up a 1000-foot rise. It was a rocky slope that I literally had to crawl up on hands and knees, while the others simply walked to the top. I was slowing down the rest of the group. My boyfriend stayed with me, encouraged me, but I felt his disappointment. You know that inexperienced weakling in all the movies, that was me, although I wasn't a whiner. I stayed tough, well, stoic, at least.

 After two days, the two other couples abandoned me; they got up one morning and left me behind. I felt bad because my boyfriend stayed behind too; this was his adventure as much as it was mine. But while mortified that I was so inadequate, I was glad for the break. They were headed into an area with bears, and I was happy not to have to face a grizzly on top of everything else.

The hikers returned that evening, highly disappointed that they'd not seen one bear, and felt their extended hike had been a waste of time. While my boyfriend and I fished, slept in, well, mostly slept, and explored the general area, they spent the day trekking rocky slopes and not seeing a thing. Honestly, I was grimly pleased. They were a bit like bullies to someone who had never, ever hiked a mountain path, let alone a wilderness where no path existed.

Although, prior to this adventure, I was a walker, and walked over a mile to and from work every day, my walking was done on a sidewalk in tennis shoes; I was nowhere close to being ready for such a huge endeavor. These guys moved with purpose and speed, so when they didn't achieve their objective, and it wasn't my fault, I couldn't help but feel vindicated.

By the end of the adventure, they were a bit kinder, even sympathetic, I think because my boyfriend was constantly apologizing on my behalf, which only made me feel worse. The most surprising thing about the trip was that a two-day hike in, took half a day to hike out. I never did understand that, but I kept up with them and we enjoyed breakfast together at a diner on the road back to Fairbanks.

It was an amazing experience and while at times humiliating, it only made me more determined to conquer Alaska, because while difficult, it was also the most amazing thing I'd ever done! I wish I could show you pictures of that time -- my boyfriend took hundreds, but when we broke up, he kept them.

Everywhere you turn in Alaska there is an amazing view, whether the extensive mountain ranges, the Inland Passage, the Arctic Ocean, or the mighty Yukon River. From the rain forests of the southern panhandle to the mountainous interior, to the frozen almost desert like north – Alaska is an amazing experience. 

        In book 3 of the Murder trilogy, Obsession to Murder, I plan to go deeper into the beauty that is Alaska. Detective Steven Quaid's new quest will take him deep into the Brooks Range, and all the way to the Aleutian Islands.

        Murder, Madness & Love and Memories of Murder the first two books in the Murder trilogy are now available on Amazon Kindle, Kobo, and B & N and in paperback.

Thank you Denise, for allowing me the opportunity to discuss how my own adventure in Alaska, helped to inspire my choice of an Alaskan setting. But I am curious, do your readers enjoy the setting of a story as much as the characters, or do they find it fluff that takes away from the action? 
You can find Yolanda Renée here:

  •   Please answer Yolanda's question -- do you enjoy the setting of the story as much as the characters -- or do you skip over setting as so much 'fluff'? (Most of you know my opinion -- setting is character to me.
  • Don't forget to add your name to the list for the HAUNTING blogfest next week. Yolanda is there!