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Uluru, Australia

Uluru, Australia

On an Australian trip a few years ago, my wife and I went to see Uluru, generally recognized as the largest “rock” on the planet.  It is difficult not to be impressed by this huge chunk of sandstone. It rises 1,142 feet above the flat, desert-like area around it.  It boasts a circumference of 5.8 miles.

Besides its sheer size, in itself enough to make you just stand and stare with mouth open, another attraction is it changing colors. While basically dull, red sandstone, during the course of a day it will appear to change color, most notably becoming a glowing red at sunrise and sunset. Also unusual is its homogeneity and lack of jointing and parting. Thus, one sees no trees, bushes or anything growing on the huge expanse.

petroglyph, Australia

petroglyph, Australia

Uluru also has many ancient petroglyphs and paintings that date back many thousands of years. It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It is possible to climb to the top of Uluru, although it is a steep and difficult climb. However, Uluru is sacred to the Anangu, the Aboriginal people who claim ownership of the area, and while they do allow people to climb to the top, they also make it clear that they would rather people did not.  We did not make the climb.

Although it is 280 miles from the nearest city, it has become a tourist attraction and a small community called Yulara has grown up about eleven miles by road from Uluru, or Ayers Rock as it is also known.  There are hotels, restaurants and an airport, with a population around three thousand.

Curtin Springs Cattle Station

Curtin Springs Cattle Station

We chose not to stay in Yulara but rented a car and drove to Curtin Springs Cattle Station, about sixty miles to the north east.  For us, this was a lucky move. We arrived there and had the impression we had stepped into the bar scene of Crocodile Dundee. The people were as rough, genuine, and fun loving as Dundee and his mates. We were told that Curtin Springs was one of the smaller cattle stations in the Red Center—only 1.3 million acres. We stayed there several nights and before we left, we were invited to the owners’ home to view photographs dating back to their first arrival at Curtin Springs.

camels in Red Center

camels in Red Center

We learned much about the Red Center of Australia, the methods of raising cattle there (different from in Texas), and Australia’s wild camel problem.  Estimates of the number of camels in this area now range to somewhat over one million. You could see herds of feral camels roaming across the land and walking through fences. The camel was introduced to the area many years ago in the hope that they would provide excellent transportation across this barren land. Eventually, that was abandoned and the remaining camels turned out to run free. They have increased and multiplied and now pose a real problem to ranchers and other inhabitants of the area. Naturally we took a camel ride, but not on a wild camel.

Author James Callan on camel

Author James Callan on camel

We enjoyed all of Australia, but the Red Center and Uluru were certainly special.  And our time there gave me an opportunity to work on a writing project.

Before leaving Texas for our trip “Down Under,” I had read an old Texas folktale. I wondered how a folktale could affect the lives of people today.  While my wife and I explored the Red Center, I began piecing together a plot for a suspense tale that could grow out of that folktale. A Ton of Gold slowly took shape. For young Crystal Moore, a long-forgotten folktale, plus greed, brings murder, arson, and kidnapping into her life. At the same time, a man from the past who nearly destroyed Crystal emotionally has come back. This time, he can wreck her career. She will need all the help she can get from a former bull rider, a street-wise friend, and a 76 year-old grandmother.

A Ton of Gold by James Callan

A Ton of Gold by James Callan

A Ton of Gold, Oak Tree Press, 2013

A Ton of Gold on Amazon

Callan’s website:

Callan’s blog:

Callan’s Author Page on Amazon:


“I started with romance …”  This is the first book I ever wrote and it holds a special place in my memory.  Appalachian Paradise takes you on a five-day backpacking trek in the mountains of North Carolina.  You get to take the hike without taking the hike.  Get it?  Rob Neufeld of the Asheville Citizen-Timessays “Maggie Bishop’s novel ‘Appalachian Paradise’ is a romance that gets off to a good start and maintains an exciting tension that manages to carry to the end. ”

Appalachian Paradise by Maggie Bishop“APPALACHIAN PARADISE by Maggie Bishop is a beautiful and heartwarming hike down the path of finding true love. Wes is an outstanding hero who finds his soul mate when he least expects it and through his patience and love helps her discover what she really wants in her life. This story grabbed hold of my heartstrings from the beginning of the book and didn’t let go until the end. I was completely drawn into Wes and Suzanne’s life and it felt like I was there on the beautiful hike with them. If you are looking for a book that leaves you feeling all warm and fuzzy inside, please pick this book up and be prepared to fill your heart with love and happiness.”  Char, reviewer for Romance Junkies.

Hope you enjoy the beginning of this story.


“You want my daughter’s safety to depend on the outcome of a hand of poker?” Billy Bowers whispered to his brother.

John Bowers drained his glass and put it down, adding to the rings on the scarred game table. “Any better ideas? Wes doesn’t have a stake in her welfare. He’s got no reason to agree. This’ll give him one.”John shuffled the cards. “Damn that Suzanne. She may be my niece but I’ll still call her the most bull-headed woman alive.”

Billy craned his neck toward the stairs but saw no sign of Wes. “At least she’s talkin’ to you. She hasn’t spoken to me in ten years.”

The two of them turned and raised questioning eyebrows at Conard, Wes’s brother-in-law.

“I’ll play along,” Conard said. He was a round-faced guy with sandy hair and ready wit. Conard sported an Atlanta Braves t-shirt which he would sooner die than part with, though Wes’s sister had threatened to throw it away for years. “He’s pulled a few stunts on me over the years.”

Wes returned from the bathroom upstairs and settled in his chair. Tallest and youngest of the four, Wes wore jeans, a faded Appalachian State University t-shirt and leather work boots. “You guys finish stacking the deck while I was gone?”

“Who, us?” Billy said. He wiped his hands on his Hawaiian shirt, then realized Wes was kidding about the cards. “Would we set you up like that?”

“I’m innocent,” Conard said.

John dealt the cards, and the four men sat poker-faced, playing the hand. Wes added the winnings to his meager stack of ones and finished his Budweiser.

“Have you talked to Suzanne lately?” Billy leaned back from the scarred oak table.

John shifted in his chair. “A few days ago. You know she’s been working too hard since that promotion. Sounded like hell.”

“Gets that from her mother working hard I mean obviously not from me.” Billy sipped the last of his iced tea as John continued to shuffle. “I worry about her, you know. Wish I could do something to help her.”

Wes glanced between the two older men and shook his head. “You guys are just alike. I don’t care how different you look. Both of you determined to do all you can for little Miss Independent. From your stories, Suzanne doesn’t need or want your help.” Wes shook his empty can. “I’ve never met the woman but I know more about her than you to do. Leave her alone.”

These weekly poker games at Wes’s house might be the only way for Billy to catch up on his daughter, but enough was enough.

“That’s right, Billy,” John said. “Beat yourself up for something that happened a long time ago.”

“I need a refill.” Wes got up from his chair. “Anyone need something to drink?”

“I’ll take one.” Conard saluted his brother-in-law with his empty can.

“I’ll take care of my own.” John grabbed his glass, drained the ice into his mouth, and followed Wes upstairs to the kitchen sink. He pulled his own bottle of single-malt scotch from the cabinet.

Wes took two beers and a pitcher of sweet tea from the refrigerator. “That hard stuff’ll kill you, old man.”

“Not before my niece gives me a heart attack.”John wrenched the cap off the bottle. “She’s driving me crazy. Now she’s got a crazy idea to use my place for a week’s vacation.”

“Your place is a mite isolated, isn’t it? It’s practically inside Pisgah. I mean, it’s great for you and your consulting anywhere with internet will work or for me when I want to get away. What does she plan to do way out there?”

“That’s not the half of it. She’s only using my place for a jumping off point. She’s planning to hike for a week. Get this she plans to walk the city grime off her body,’ as she put it. Her therapist told her to get away for a while.” He poured himself a stiff one.

“Who’s she going with?”


“Alone? You’ve got to be kidding.”

They returned to the card table, and Wes handed the sweet tea pitcher to Billy and the other beer to Conard.

John continued, “Trouble is, I don’t feel comfortable with her being alone in the mountains. Plus, it’s harder than she thinks. She’s can’t hike that long five days, six to eight hours a day, steep rocky slopes. It’s not like a jog around a track.”

“She could fall and break something,” Conard volunteered. “Then she’d be up a creek for sure.”

“Exactly my point!” John brought down his fist for emphasis, making the glasses and cards jump.

Billy poured tea into his glass. “Her mother was independent or started out that way.” He put the pitcher down and stared at the glass in front of him. “She should have left me, you know . . . I’m the reason she died early.”

John sipped his drink. “Worrying over that doesn’t help now. One day, you and Suzanne’ll have to settle your differences. I’m sick and tired of being in the middle of your father-daughter mess.”

Billy shifted in his chair. “She returns my letters unopened. She won’t answer my calls, probably has that caller ID gadget. Doorman keeps me out of her building. You’re more of a father to her than I am.” He swallowed hard. “But I still care about her.”

“I’d as soon you dropped that sensitive stuff, Billy,” Wes said. “You’ll have me cryin’ in my beer.”He turned to John. “I don’t like being alone on those trails anymore myself. I’ve got a friend who’s a park ranger at Pisgah. I’ll ask him to be on the lookout for her. When’s she going?”

“Next month. May is early in the season, so there won’t be many hikers out. I’d appreciate the park ranger being on the lookout. On top of everything else, the week she picked is the one I have to be in London.” John played with the cards, absently cutting them repeatedly. “Didn’t know how to say no’.”

Wes gulped from his beer. “You going to deal those cards or make love to them?”

John dealt slowly still talking. “She only visited a few times and doesn’t know the mountains. It’s just like her to go to extremes. Her therapist suggested some time off, and she decided on a solo hike. She went on and on about the great maps she’d downloaded as if maps are going to save her.”

They picked up their cards. John sized up his brother, cleared his throat, and said to Wes, “Where are you going while they finish changing your barn to offices?”

Wes considered his cards. “I’ll stay here for the barn changes; they start next week. I’ll spend a few days helping Conard here and Mary do some work on their house and hit a hotel for a few more days when they start on this place. The contractor swears he can do the kitchen and baths in two weeks. Can’t stay there then well, I guess I could bunk down here.” Wes glanced around at the basement game room. It had been added to his family’s home in the early 80s and was the one part of the house not involved in the remodeling. “But there’s no bath. I can’t get any work done while the computer equipment is being installed, it would drive me nuts to hang around and just watch.”

John tossed his ante into the middle. “Why don’t you stay at my cabin?” He maintained perfect dead pan as Billy and Conard, watched, fascinated. “Plenty of room. Better yet, you could go  hiking  with  Suzanne.  The  timing’s  right.”

Wes yelped and slapped down his cards. “Oh, no you don’t. Kindly leave me out of this. The way you tell it, she’s no fun, always has a schedule, and has definite opinions on all subjects. Not my type at all. I’d rather stay longer with my sisters. No thank you.”

“Suit yourself.” John shrugged, rearranging a card in his hand. “Still, it seems like you’d be willing to help out with something this important. Since you’re not doing anything that week anyway.”

“It would only be a few days, and you like to hike,” Billy chimed in.

John added, “Suzanne’s not unpleasant, exactly, just prefers computers to people. She wouldn’t be bad company. I’ve seen you with your three sisters. You know how to gentle and kid women to get your way.”

Wes groaned. “Don’t ask me to do this. She aims to go by herself, she doesn’t want company, she doesn’t like you interfering in her life.”

“You’re right. We’ll have to make it look accidental.” John’s face lit up as he warmed to the idea. “You’ll just happen to be there at the same time. She won’t have a chance to say no.

“Yea, that’s a super idea,” Wes muttered. “Hi, Suzanne. I just happen to be here, so let’s go camping together! Yeah, she’ll love that.”

“It could work,” Billy said.

“Forget it, guys. Get somebody else to . . . Suzanne-sit. I’m out of it.”

“Who else could I get?” John said. “You know your way around the mountains. You’ve that southern respect for women. I trust you.”

“That’s not what I meant. She won’t like it no matter how you put it. Right, Conard?” Wes looked to his brother-in-law for support. “Right, Conard?”

“Uh. . . . Sure.” Conard glanced from one man’s face to another. Then he inspected the tabletop in front of him. ” Of course, she might come to be glad you’re there. I mean if she gets in trouble.” He snuck a glance at Wes who glowered at him.

“I’ve got it!” John’s eyebrows shot up. He squinted at the younger man across the table from him. “Let me sweeten the pot a little. Double or nothing. You win, I pay you double. You lose, and you take a hike.”

“The pot’s not that big.” Wes squirmed in his chair. He wanted none of this. “Look, I understand both her need for independence and your desire to protect her. But . . .”

John dealt the cards. “At the end of the week, you could bring her to your Mother’s Day cookout. Billy will be there. You could help pull them together.”

“I haven’t agreed to anything. You’re trying to push me the same way you do Suzanne. No wonder she doesn’t like it.” Wes took in Billy’s hopeful expression and smothered a groan.

“It’s a good way to re-introduce them,” John continued. “You could talk to her during the hike and smooth the way. Great idea! Glad I thought of it.” John grinned at Wes. “Place your bets, boys.”

Chapter 1NC Appalachian Mountains

Suzanne unloaded the groceries, checking each bag as she hung the plastic handles over her hand. She snagged the Mast General Store bag from the trunk of her Acura, and surveyed her uncle’s cabin.


A rampant wisteria vine, heavy with purple blooms, was trying to devour the porch, and giant rhododendrons loaded with fat pink buds threatened to take over the entire property. Though it was springtime, and everything was fresh and green, there was something creepy about the place. Anything or anyone could be concealed in all that mess. It really was a burglary waiting to happen. She listened but heard only soft forest sounds. She was being silly. It was just the constant fog that made the forest seem forbidding, that made the surrounding mountains seem to loom threateningly on all sides. Still, this place needed the civilizing influence of a chain saw and weed whacker.

Just another depressing day in paradise.

She stuck her nose in the Mast Store bag and inhaled the rich odor of new leather, then tramped up the steps to the porch. The beginning of success is having the proper equipment. Her new hiking boots were almost two hundred dollars, but cross trainers wouldn’t give her feet enough support for a five-day hike. Might as well be pampered, since she was following doctor’s orders. Mid-weight Italian boots with Perwanger leather upper.

Inside the front door, she hung a left to the kitchen and set the bags on her uncle’s kitchen table. Carefully selected groceries for the hike included freeze-dried entrees, trail mix, instant coffee Ugh pancake mix, instant oatmeal, granola, hot cocoa mix, whole wheat bread, peanut butter and zipper baggies. She glanced around the spacious kitchen with its pine cabinets. No need to put most of this stuff away, as it was going into her backpack.


Suzanne froze. What was that noise? Had she left the radio on?

A chill traveled the length of her frame. A quick look around the kitchen revealed nothing unusual.

Waiting for another sound, she held her breath. The spring wind whistled through the trees. There were bound to be noises she wasn’t used to hearing in her apartment in Baltimore. Probably just all those bushes brushing against the house. After all, she hadn’t spent time alone in this house before, this way-back-in-the-woods place. Day two by herself and already she was jumpy. No doubt about it, she needed a vacation. Some independent woman you are.

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Asha's Adventures by Marnia Mustafa1. Tell us about “Little Asha’s Adventure: A Girl’s Journal of Malaysia,” your latest book.

Firstly, as a first time writer, I am truly honored with this interview opportunity. I also never thought surrounding myself with such talented writers of the High Country Writers can be such a wonderful and educating experience.

This book is about little Asha and her parents during their trip to the beautiful tropical country of Malaysia to visit her grandma and grandpa. Through its colorful  illustrations and the stories behind it, this book will expose little readers, and their parents, to the kind of adventures and experiences they will have when visiting another country with different culture. The friendly people, the delicious food and mouthwatering fruits, the colorful clothing, the warm sunny beaches and the festivals are all worth exploring.

2.  Why did you write this book?

The idea came after coming home from a vacation to my homeland of Malaysia. I come from a country that has a strong multi-ethnic, muti-cultural and multi-lingual society. Raised in such environment, I grew up to be someone that respects, acknowledges and most important understands the different values, customs and beliefs practiced by many Malaysians. Because of this, I would like my daughter, Asha, as well as the children that she shall be associating with, to develop such sensitivities to everybody around them, especially everybody that are so different from them. Realizing that children learn about other cultures and people through books, the internet, media sources and even from the school, Little Asha’s Adventures was written to educate young readers, and their parents as well, about the people and the cultures of countries so different from America. If Euro-American children find only people like themselves represented in literature, they could easily get the impression that they are somehow better or more worthy as a group than others. They need to learn that they can always learn something new and different from other group of children.

I strongly believed that by exposing children to people of different cultures, they will be better prepared to function in this diverse global society that they live in. I am a product of such exposure.

Marnia Mustafa3.  The illustrations are lovely.  How did they come about?

Some of the pictures illustrated were based on actually events that Asha witnessed and some were events that I experienced myself as a child. Interestingly, many of the things told in the book still remain the same until today. For example, the way the lion dance festival and the wedding celebrations were conducted remain unchanged until today.

4.  Where do you write?  

I started writing the book early last year, when I was going through my breast cancer surgeries and treatments. My parents were here assisting and helping me during that time (they were here for almost five months) and having them around, it helped me to reserve some time for myself to do my writings and drawings. But my favorite time to do my work was at night after 10p.m, when my daughter is asleep. For 4-5 months, I would stay up until 2.00-3.00p.m. in the morning sketching my drawings. My favorite place is sitting on the couch with my sketching book and my drawing materials watching Late Night Shows. It makes me think better! You just do not know how many sketches that were discard before finally deciding with the right illustrations.

5.  What was the biggest challenge in writing this book?

I think I underestimated the difficulty of writing a children’s book and I am sure many people out there feels the same. Firstly, using and choosing the correct and proper words fitted for a child ages between 6-12 years old can be very difficult. You must put yourself in the shoes of these children to understand their thinking and their minds. Then, there is the issue of selecting the right pictures and the choices of colors.

Normally, when finding a children’s book, what attracts readers at first glance are the illustrations. Other than parents, our most important target audience are the children. With striking illustrations , a children’s book would be even more interesting.

It is something like an adult telling us about his/her vacation to a particular destination. By showing us photos of the vacation, we can understand and grasp their explanations better.

6.  Why did you pick a journal format? 

A journal format reflects a self story of a person. It is like a diary that the child would like to share personally with other children. It eases a child’s understanding of the Little Asha’s experiences.

7.  What advice do you have for first time authors?

Do not be afraid to write something that is very close to your heart. As far as publishing and marketing your book, talk and get advice from as many established writers as you can. When going through my cancer diagnosis, I learnt that sharing information is of utmost important. Writing goes the same way too. You will always learn new and informative information from other writers, even writers that are writing genres different from you.

asia-map8.  What impresses you most about Malaysia, your home country? 

Often described as “Asia In Miniature”, Malaysia acknowledge and celebrates quite a number of religious holidays and festivities throughout the year. Located in Southeast Asia, Malaysia is located between Thailand and Singapore. On the map, you will find Australia and New Zealand located underneath Malaysia. Flying to Malaysia from America would take a total of between 20-28 hours, depending on the airlines you are taking and the route you are going through. There are three major languages spoken in Malaysia. The national language is called Malay, and then there are the Indian and the Chinese languages. The Chinese population in Malaysian mostly speaks Cantonese. Most Chinese in China however speaks Mandarin.

Last year, Martha Stewart visited Malaysian and I think her visit to Malaysia was even featured in her television show.

The most impressive thing about my country? That has to be the food! The nearest place for you to sample a true Malaysian delicacy is in Charlotte at a restaurant called Cuisine Malaya.

9.  What surprised you about your new home in the United States?

Well, I am actually not new to America. The first time I came to America was in 1992, when I was sent by my Government to pursue my degree in Economics at the University of Missouri in Kansas City. I was there for five years. In fact, I have travelled to more than 20 states in America during my student years. I even went back to Kansas City in 2007 and some things still remain the same there!

10.  How did you meet your husband? — we love a romance.

Have you ever seen the movie The Terminal, with Tom Hanks and Catherine Zeta Jones? Of course I do not look like the beautiful Zeta Jones but my husband was most certainly better looking than Tom Hanks! Well, I met Brad, my hubby, at the terminal at Newark Airport. I was waiting for my flight to go back home to Malaysia (I was on a business trip in the States and my flight was delayed) and Brad was waiting for his flight to Charlotte. I was bored but was in the mood for conversation. Then, I saw him, siting next to me. Well, I am very proud to say I started the conversation first and the rest was just history!

My favorite all time book has always been Jane Eyre. I thought I would find my Mr. Rochester somewhere in England. But I guess I found him in America!

11.  What’s your favorite Malaysian saying?

My most common used Malaysian phrase is “sayang”, which means honey/baby/sweetheart/darling. I used that to both my hubby and my daughter!

12.  Is there another book in the works?  Tell us about it.

The main reason I wrote a book about Asha’s experiences in Malaysia was because her mother is a Malaysian. For her to respect me as her mom, she must also understand and respect my ethnic background and my heritage.

Brad’s family was originally from Dundee in Scotland. I too, would like Asha to meet and understand the Scottish culture. We are planning a trip soon to Scotland and that would be my second book, Asah”s Adventure: A Girl’s Journal of Scotland. In Dec  this year, we are planning to go back to Malaysia again for vacation and since Bali island is just an hour by flight from Malaysia, I would like to take Brad and Asha to Bali as well. Hopefully, that would be my third book, about Asha’s trip to Bali.

To understand the culture and lifestyles of other group of people, a child must first learn that at home.

The best place to purchase the book is at because they have the latest edition of my book.

You can also visit my website at

If you are interested to know more about Malaysia, please visit my blog at

Thank you Maggie for this opportunity!

Camels in EgyptCamel Ride to St. Simeon’s Monastery

“This is your driver, Ahmed, and your camel, Rambo,” Emen, our Egyptian trip leader announced to me, gesturing toward a moth-eaten camel with yarn balls and doum pods bobbing from his unblinking face.  Ahmed wore an impassive expression that was close to a scowl as he motioned brusquely for me to get astride the kneeling beast.  Once in the “saddle,” a fancy word for Rambo’s filthy blanket with its very small knob to grasp, I held on for dear life, my mouth dry and my knees weak,  as Rambo rose to his full height.

Camel headWe hadn’t moved yet. “No! I can’t go!” I cried. “Please let me down!” It seemed that the others in the group had easily mounted their camels, chatting with affable drivers, and were posing for photos. Ahmed  paid no attention to my cries of alarm. As Rambo lurched forward, my mouth formed a silent scream of protest.

In nearly-100-degree heat we slowly ascended a steep hill of rocky, sandy desert, headed for St. Simeon’s, a third-century Christian monastery where the desert abbas had lived, meditated, and offered hospitality to weary travelers, whatever their faith.  My wooden saddle knob was slimy with sweat. I knew I’d never make it to St. Simeon’s. Every few minutes Rambo would step down into a hole of soft sand, almost tossing me over his head,  then climb back up, nearly throwing me off behind.

“If I ever get down from this camel, I will never, never  ride one again,” I promised myself. The monastery had long ago been a safe haven for pilgrims.  Would I ever reach it?

Finally, after what seemed like hours, we approached the sandstone walls of St. Simeon’s. Ali, a gentle reenactment monk in a soft gray galabeya, called out, “Merhaba!

Welcome!”  Ahmed signaled curtly, and Rambo abruptly knelt in the sand, nearly throwing me flat on my face. My heart leaped into my mouth.  Ahmed’s lip curled in disgust.

Then I was, miraculously, standing on solid ground and following Ali and the others through a wide wooden door into the shaded courtyard.   “Here are your beds,” Ali announced genially, pointing to long rock ledges with stones for pillows. “Here’s where you’ll wash up and use the bathroom, and over there we’ll build a fire, bake bread, and cook our food.  He pantomimed each activity to make sure we felt comfortable in our new surroundings.

Egypt desertBy the time Ali was through with our tour I felt safe and calm.  Finally, inspired and fortified by the stories of the ancient, hospitable abbas, we said goodbye and left to return down the mountain.

Outside Ahmed and Rambo waited with the other drivers and camels. One look at them and I knew!  I could not abandon the peace and calm that I now felt.  I would WALK down the mountain and  preserve the tranquil feeling I had gained at St. Simeon’s. I tipped the scowling Ahmed,  patted Rambo’s nose,  and bid them a not-so-fond goodbye.

Tell us about your latest book:Hera's Revenge by Wendy Dingwall

Hera’s Revenge is the first in a murder mystery series featuring amateur sleuth, Yvonne Suarez. The first mystery takes place in Greece and the Greek Islands. Yvonne leads a small tour group, and when mysterious accidents occur along the way, she must find the strength to face what is happening, figure it out, and keep her travel clients safe and their tour experience on track. While this is going on she struggles to keep her emotions under control, she’s attracted to a tour customer, and she worries about her young daughter who has never been separated from her more than a few hours.

How did your main character come to you?:

As do most authors, I wanted an unusual protagonist. Yvonne takes characteristics from one spunky Cuban travel agent I know, and another, more reserved under pressure agent. This allows for some inner struggles and growth.

Why is your mystery based on a travel agent?:

Well, it’s that old adage, write what you know. I owned a travel agency, and worked as an independent agent for a large travel agency chain for several years. However, the main reason was the wide scope for settings and situations that it gave me as a writer. Another thing that appealed to me was that in recent years, with heightened security and hassles at the airport, and the economics around the globe, people are reluctant to travel, so I thought this would be a way to offer readers the thrill of traveling without leaving the comfort of their own homes.

When (or why) did you start writing?:

When I was in elementary school, I loved creative writing and was encouraged by teachers to become a writer. When I came home from school one day and told my mom that I wanted to be a writer when I grew up, she responded by telling me that writers often starve and it’s very difficult to earn a living. That caused me to put writing the great American novel on the back burner. In my professional life, I wrote press releases, ad copy, and occasionally when in the mood, I’d write a poem. Writing a murder mystery was always in the back of my mind. Then, I read a travel mystery, which I didn’t care for. I thought the characters were stereotypical and shallow, and thought, I’d like to see if I could do a better job at it. At the time, I had just gotten involved with the High Country Writers group in Boone, and found the encouragement I needed to get started. It took me 7 years, writing in my spare time to get through the first 4 drafts, but I finally did it.

Where do your ideas come from?:Wendy Dingwall

With my first book, I did a lot of thinking about what elements and themes I wanted in the story. From there it pretty much evolved from the characters. I chose to take the tour to Greece because of the history and mythology that I could weave into the storyline and hopefully, the travel scenes would allow the characters to excite the interest of the readers.

With my second book, I new I wanted to go to Scotland, but I got the idea for the mystery from a paranormal program I’d seen and decided to weave some paranormal elements into my second novel which takes place in Scotland. In that novel, Yvonne is on a familiarization trip, and is helping a woman find out what happened to her brother who disappeared 40 years earlier, a cold-case mystery of sorts.

How do you write your first draft?:

In the beginning, I wrote mostly long hand. Once I began typing the novel to a word document on the computer, I found it much easier to write that way. I will still jot a scene or a sentence long hand if I’m away from the computer, but when I’m seriously writing, I’m sitting at the computer typing in the zone, in a Word document.

What will you do differently when starting your next novel?:

My goal is to become more regimented in my writing. I’m still writing sporadically because of my work schedule. If I knew I could carve out a certain amount of time each day and stick to it, I’d be thrilled. It’s the best way to keep the enthusiasm and energy going toward completion of the book. Though I believe my craft as a writer has improved, I think it’s important that as writers we continue to be open to our critique groups, and editors, and to continue to hone our writing skills.

What is your favorite southern saying? (or food or fictional character):

My favorite southern saying has to be: Ya’ll come back now. My favorite southern food would be the fried green tomatoes at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, NC. And, my favorite southern character is without a doubt, Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind, she epitomizes the beauty, brains, charm, and strength of a southern women.

Tell us about where you live — we love to travel:

I live about 10 miles due west of Boone, North Carolina in the high mountains of the Appalachian Trail, the Blue Ridge Mountains. I live with my husband, Walter, our 2 Maltese rescue dogs, Tallulah and Sasha, and 1 cat, Katrina. We live on 50 acres that once was a Christmas tree, and later, a tobacco farm. From my home office window, on the second floor, I have a spectacular view of the Bethel valley and the Virginia Mountains, as this window faces north. From there, I watch everything from deer, to ground hogs, to turkeys meander through our front yard.

What’s a favorite story about your pets — we love animals:

My favorite story is about our childhood cat, Red. We swore he had nine lives. Once, we were called next door to the neighbor’s house to retrieve him from our neighbors best cast iron skillet set out on top of her gas stove, where he had fallen fast asleep. Another time my sister, Pat, and I decided we would cure, Red, of a small patch of mange by putting medicated Dermassage all over his hairy body. By the next day, we had a hairless cat. Another time, my mother arrived home from work to find our grandmother digging a whole in the back yard to bury Red, he’d been hit by a car and she was trying to dispose of his body before my sister and I found him. After lamenting the details to my mom, she glanced around to show her the body, and found that Red had wandered away, alive and well.

What book(s) influenced you when you were young:

My favorite novel as a young girl was Jane Eyre. I loved the romantic, brooding writing. It carried me away to another time and place. I would have to say that I was most entertained and inspired to write mysteries thanks to Nancy Drew, and Mary Stewart, and authors of gothic suspense novels.

What will you work on next?:

After I finish with Cailleach’s Curse (my Scottish Travel Mystery), I would like Yvonne to plan a tour for a small group of scientists to a scientific conference where a controversial discovery is a motive for murder. I haven’t yet decided where the conference will be held, I have several possible locations in mind.

For more information, click here:

by Betty Dravis

Betty Dravis: Good morning, Rob, It’s my pleasure to have you visiting with us all the way from Holland. I’m glad you could make it, and thanks for taking time from your busy schedule.

I’d like our readers to know that I met you through model/award-winning screenwriter Kitania “Kitty” Kavey who starred in our first Dream Reachers book. She recommended you highly, but I must confess, when I started researching you it was your logo that intrigued me. Odd to say, but that orange lizard is rather attractive, in a funky kind of way. (laughs)

But first things first, Rob… To relate to people as you do, a person must have inborn intuition and certain powers of persuasion. Did you recognize any special skills as a child? When did the urge to help people start? Please share some of your early childhood with us. I’m especially curious about what it was like growing up in Holland.

Rob Waterlander: Well, Betty, I am not the typical personal, mental or motivational coach people might expect. My intuitive and empathetic nature is something I was born with and have developed over my lifetime. I have always been a beacon–shining and attracting people who were wondering what direction to go–although initially, I wasn’t aware in full. Looking back, I think things started moving in the direction of guiding people when classmates started asking for guidance, mainly girls sharing their emotions.

I feel I got my extensive class, or University of Life, the first three months of my life. Long story… (laughs)

Being adopted by two of the most loving parents after I was given away has been the key to unlocking my potential for intuitively seeing and feeling people. It helped me to enter the world of helping those in search of more of what they want.

And by the way, Kitty is an amazing person, gifted and so sweet.

In 1996 I started organizing youth sports events for charity: CliniClowns sports events. CC is a foundation that originated in NYC when Patch Adams started to perform as a clown in hospitals, entertaining children with long-term illnesses, sometimes terminal. These sports events put me in contact with professional soccer players and the rest is history; one soccer player referred me to another, etc. And I love it!

By the way, Hunter Doherty “Patch” Adams is one of those special ones on earth. Would love to meet him in real life and have a chat.

As for Holland, my country is probably one of the best countries overall. I grew up in a suburb of Amsterdam, what used to be a little fishermen’s village where I felt safe, being able to play, hang out and develop the “real” me.

Betty Dravis: That’s interesting how CliniClowns started; I recall reading some stories about Patch Adams. I agree with you about him; he had to have been a caring, sensitive man to devote his life to children like that. I sensed when I met you that you were born with this “sensitive” ability, Rob. Thanks for explaining the fascinating details.

This might seem like an odd juxtaposition, but getting back to your logo before I forget: Why did you choose a lizard? And why an orange one…?

Rob Waterlander: I chose the lizard, Betty, because it’s associated with intuition and psyche, balance and sensitivity, helping us to detach from our past what no longer serves us. Detachment from ego, power to regenerate that which is lost, facing fear, controlling dreams, conservation, agility… The lizard is an archetype of adaptation, variation, flexibility and shrewdness. The lizard typifies characteristics that I work on every day within my own life, and it helps teach my clients to realize these same skills in theirs.

Also, the lizard’s stillness and its silence–having the peace and ability to hang-out for hours and hours in the heat of the sun–is something that I can relate to myself. So, as you see, there are various aspects of what the lizard is to me and, therefore, what made me choose it. I listen, absorb in silence, and then intuitively see and feel where the person’s next steps are.

Betty Dravis: Well, I can’t argue with your wise choice, Rob. I once chose the turtle as the logo for a newspaper I owned…because of its patience. But that didn’t last long because my subscribers thought I meant that they were “slow” like the turtle. (laughs)

Rob visits author Betty Dravis in California.

But back to you, after the lizard, the second thing I noticed on your page was your brilliant smile.  It was a pleasure when you visited my home in February to find that the smile is genuine and almost a constant…  I found you to be a truly happy, up-beat guy. In my opinion, only a man who has found his true calling in life can be that happy. But before you get into what you’re doing now, please share a little about the path it took to get from “there to here.”

Rob Waterlander: I am following the path leading to the sanctuary where I want to be, and being on track feels good. I have two lovely souls in my life who are blood related: my children, a son and a daughter. Those two are my link to many things in life that I cherish, given by one of the most remarkable women in my life, the high school sweetheart I married and was married to for almost twenty-one years. I divorced almost ten years ago, although she is someone I am eternally linked to. There is another woman in my life with whom I have found the connection I so want, leading closer to the sanctuary where I love and long to be. I am feeling good… From here, I have everything to offer to people looking for guidance, joy and releasing resistance in life, allowing them to be who they are and enjoying life in full.

Having been in sales for a long time, I learned a lot about myself and people. I enjoyed doing something that brought me success and acknowledgment of me as a professional: advising and selling roofing constructions for new and re-roofing projects with a contract value of up to more than two million dollars per project. One of the projects I did brought me to Richard Meier, the well-known and famous NYC architect.

My intuitive qualities were a valuable asset to work with project teams and buyers within the construction industry and during those years I developed my qualities extensively.

Betty Dravis: I agree, Rob, that being in sales teaches valuable lessons about others. I bet you felt proud and fulfilled when you actually viewed the architectural beauty of the completed construction projects, also.

I saw some recent photos of you with a lovely, dark-haired woman with a smile that matches your own. Is she the new woman that you spoke of above?

Rob with Carly

Rob Waterlander: Yes, Betty, she is felt as my mate in the sanctuary. (smiles) Her name is Carly Couweleers and we were brought together by one of her daughters and two of my best friends.  She is a guide, too—although a bit different from what I do. She is able to see through people at levels going beyond what most of us see, and I can see us working together with people in the future. It is amazing to experience someone to work with who is guided by spiritual guides and is a woman of God, also. That I asked for too…

Betty Dravis: I’m so happy for you both, Rob. Carly does, indeed, sound like a God-send and I can tell by your glowing description that she’s “the one” for you. (laughs) You should make a great, inspiring team. Like-minded, compatible people working together can perform miracles,

When you decided to take a road trip to visit me in Manteca, you were in the States for client meetings in San Francisco, and after you left you had more meetings in the L.A. area. Were those meetings successful and did you manage to help your clients progress in their search for a more meaningful life?

Rob Waterlander: I was in California for a few meetings with people and some workshops in San Francisco and L.A. I am glad I took the time to also drive down to Manteca from the Bay Area before heading to L.A.  Being able to meet up with you, as well as with your friend Johnny, was such a good thing.

You, being a mother, do have the natural drive and joy of wanting to make a difference, but it was Kitty Kavey who told me and still does: “Rob, go to L.A. They need you there.”  Truthfully, Betty, after having lived in San Diego in 2003, going back there has been a good stepping stone. I am glad I decided to say yes to the meetings. Whether the people I met are making the progress they want in their life or not, it is an option I offered to them. As you know, we all have freedom of choice.  I love working with those creative guys and gals…and Malibu is so my area. (smiles) I am certain to go back soon.

Rob poses on a hill overlooking Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

Betty Dravis: It’s a great start, Rob, and I’m happy you enjoy working in the States. Speaking of road trips reminds me that you love to travel and have clients in many countries. What countries have you visited and where did you go on your most recent trip?

Rob Waterlander: I love the globe–the playground offered to all of us here in the world. The world is huge, although I think it is nothing compared to what is out there and waiting for us, Betty.  My last travels took me to the Middle East and I will be there soon again. It’s an amazing area… Also I had the chance to spend some time in Venice this summer.

I have been to many places in the world; except for the Far East I have been to almost all continents, although not all over those continents. I would love to see more of Africa and the Middle East. Sydney and San Francisco are my favorite cities. Another part in the world that intrigues me is South America; Venezuela and Bolivia showed me extremes in atmosphere.

My next travel will be to Saudi Arabia and Northern Africa, both for business. Then in 2011, I am also traveling to the USA, both for pleasure and business. Recently, I started to look more into the Dutch Islands, close to Amsterdam, and other than the climate, it is so wonderful.

Awesome shot of Rob in Venice.

Betty Dravis: Wow–all that travel boggles my mind! That’s a mighty ambitious agenda, Rob. You certainly do love to travel, and fortunately, you’re in the right career to be able to do it. (laughs)

I know cruises are a lot of fun, so what’s the funniest or most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you on a cruise?

Rob Waterlander: Wow, Betty…. hahahahaha… I had the chance to go on a cruise with my best friend–thanking him for all the years he gave me so much fun while he was playing in one of the leading soccer leagues in the world, the Premier League in England. We went to Norway and met some wonderful entertainers while on the cruise. He had a not-so-nice experience, which to me was very funny… (laughs) We kayaked in a beautiful fjord and he turned upside down while looking backwards; not so nice for him–losing his camera and phone.  But I will always remember that cruise as precious because I spent quality time with a dear friend who gave me a lot, both he and his wife. Enjoying food and travel with a dear friend is the best!

Rob and his lovely daughter Lisa on cruise to Venice.

Well, kind of funny, too, my son’s luggage not being there when traveling for a cruise departing from Panama and having to shop for new clothes almost every day because each day new promises came our way. Eventually, he had to take part in a formal night and seeing my son actually enjoying being dressed in a tuxedo was worth it. My son said, “The next time, I will probably travel with a plastic bag and an empty suitcase.” Six weeks later, the suitcase re-emerged having been to Miami and all over the Caribbean. (laughs)

And, very sweet was being with my daughter during a formal night seeing her in her evening gown.

Betty Dravis: It’s odd how those embarrassing moments give us laughs years later, isn’t it, Rob? As for your kids in formal attire, I’m posting a photo of you with your lovely daughter in her formal gown. She does, indeed, look so grown up and lovely. I bet your son was very handsome too.

Now, getting back to your career, to sum it up, you are an intuitive motivator, “people whisperer,” inspirer and guide and you work one-on-one with people to help create the life they want. This means working to ensure their independence and helping them discover or rediscover their personal light in order to continue through life’s challenges.

That sounds like a colossal job to me. Do you mind telling us how you begin with an individual? And please share a few success stories.

Rob with his handsome son Sven on a Panama cruise.

Rob Waterlander: Before I answer that, Betty, let me assure you and your readers that my work is not meant to substitute for those who have addictions or conditions that should be treated, but I can work as part of their team to success. All the possibilities are within each individual and I can help them discover the endless joy and happiness that is there.

Light is essential. Many times we try to see the light in our lives, and we can’t. It may seem there is no light… Circumstances and events can overwhelm us. Even well-meaning friends and family can discourage us from living our true purpose. Entertainers and sports stars, in particular, are under tremendous pressure to fulfill the expectations of others around them, often losing themselves and their personal focus in the process.

What I always start with is tuning in on people, feeling and seeing behind the masks we all wear in daily life. I am just silent… I listen and, occasionally ask a question. Listening to what they say and don’t say, figuring out where they are and where they want to go…

Talking about individual people, I would have to give disclosures that most prefer me not to give. In general, I can say this: Entertainers and sportspeople with level-headed spouses who use common sense should stay in close connection with their partners, enabling them to thrive. When they lack support of a good husband/wife or similar, they might, sooner or later, need a person who is able to give support, guiding them through life’s challenges and helping them to focus on what they do so well.

Rob's parents, his children and their mother get together to celebrate his mother's 80th birthday.

Betty Dravis: I understand and respect the privacy of your clients, Rob, so thanks for generalizing for us. I totally agree that a helpful mate is a powerful force and it’s very important to support one another…whether it’s a spouse or a dear friend.

I hear that you specialize in working with people in the entertainment and sports community; professional athletes, musicians, singers, movie actors, artists and other creative talent. Why and how did you manage to narrow the field?

Rob Waterlander: As I said earlier, the sports events helped me connect with sports people and those guys kept referring me to other athletes.

Basically, I have chosen these entertainers and sports people, as well as other creative guys and gals, because I enjoy working with people with that specific state of mind. Driven and at the same time fragile somehow. I think all the attention and “The show must go on” stress levels make people prone to stuff that would stress out anyone. There is just no escape when everybody is expecting a brilliant performance and appearance.

Rob & Carly biking on Vlieland, one of the Dutch Islands.

Betty Dravis: You’re absolutely right about that, Rob. We’ve all seen some of our favorite stars, whether entertainers or athletes, fall apart due to that kind of stress.

I’ve heard through the grapevine that you’re good at what you do and I hope you don’t mind if I share what a few people wrote about you. I’ll start with Kitty Kavey since I know her and she’s mentioned above.

“Intuitive, kind and empathetic to others, Rob Waterlander is an absolute joy and privilege to work with. If you’re in the entertainment or sports industries, he really “gets” the pressures that we have to live up to–not only our own expectations, but the needs and expectations of those around us and the public. He doesn’t preach, or tell you what to do or which plan to follow. Instead he leads each individual to the place within where the answers lie. He gently guides one to what they know, and what they need to know, to not only be successful in career, but also to be able to reconnect with the happiness and peace within. Not only that, but Rob is also an expert in combining the realities of business and marketing (and public relations), with the spiritual/emotional needs of an individual.” – Kitania Kavey, Screenwriter, Actress, Model, The Netherlands/Europe

And the following is from a sports professional in the UK:

“Rob is someone who is empowering and directing. He has the ability of communicating at the right moments, pointing out exactly that part I couldn’t see beyond at that moment. I call it diving in, opening and showing the pregnant space of possibilities… opening doors to what was waiting so close. In a way, I wasn’t initially aware that I was applying aspects of what he said and shared when we interacted. When distracted by people in my daily professional or personal life, it’s easier to feel the patience of knowing whether now, tonight or tomorrow I would exactly see what I needed to see. As an athlete with a focus on performance, once or twice a week having a balanced day-to-day life is essential. Rob is a valued part of keeping focused, knowing that all is well.” – Fabian Wilnis, Professional Footballer, UK

Rob & Carly with friends Juliet and Fabian Wilnis, a professional footballer, UK.

Those are powerful words of praise, Rob. Knowing that you’ve helped those people must be encouraging to you, keeping you inspired and focused on your own dreams and goals. I’ve heard you say, “An interesting question for many coaches supporting people could be ‘who is going to motivate you when the motivator has gone home?’” Please answer that intuitive question for us.

Rob Waterlander: Well, Betty, I feel what works best is when a client is independent, only dependent on their own gained knowledge. When they absolutely know themselves–their hearts, and can listen again to their authentic selves–only then will they be secure and happy. I have made it my life’s work to guide people towards what always has been waiting for them, and once there, I just stay around to fine-tune, watching from a distance as they live thriving and wondrous lives.

Once I have established a level of clearness with my clients, I try to see them twice a year…up to a max of twelve times.

Betty Dravis: That makes perfect sense to me, Rob, and I see that truth working in the Dream Reachers that my co-author Chase Von and I have interviewed. That’s good, solid advice and I can see where we could all use someone like you in our lives—someone who really cares. I saw your gentle guidance when you met my friend John Manha who has multiple sclerosis. You talked with him at length and I saw your compassion and nurturing abilities first-hand. As a strong, determined Vietnam veteran, he’s a good judge of character and he was truly impressed with you and admires your calling. He felt your life flow… Thanks for that and for encouraging him in his personal and business goals.

But we’re nearing the end of this interview, so I’d like to invite you to share your Mission Statement. We’ve discussed everything in the statement, but I think our readers would like it condensed as a refresher.

Christmas at May Pen, Jamaica.

Rob Waterlander: My Mission Statement as stated on my website is: My goal is to guide each person to create for themselves the opportunity to have each of their talents and thoughts tuned in to the direction of that which one has a passion for. I know that if the passion and creative direction of each individual is found and followed, then the physical, mental and financial rewards will flow naturally.

Thank you, Betty, for this chance to get my message across to more people. I sure hope to meet up soon again and have the chance to do another lunch together. Meeting Johnny was felt within… Please say hi to him from me and deliver this message: “I enjoyed talking to you a lot, Johnny. Man, you have an awesome smile.” (laughs)

Betty Dravis: I, too, hope we do lunch again next time you’re in the States, Rob. I certainly enjoy your company. This time I will listen for your “silences” too. (laughs) And I’ll certainly pass on your message to Johnny. He’ll be pleased to know you’re thinking of him.

It’s awesome what you offer your clients, Rob, but I almost forgot to mention that you work with companies too. By now our readers must be eager to learn how to contact you, but before that, tell us a little about your corporate services.

"Horse Whisperer" - Rob has a way with animals too.

Rob Waterlander: I’m glad you remembered, Betty, because that’s a big part of my business. I am available to work with corporate Human Resources Departments and with recruiters and headhunters to help find the right executives for their companies…or the right companies for their clients. In today’s market it is imperative to match the job opening with the right candidate before time and money is invested in a position that doesn’t work out. I assess the needs of both the company and the job seeker to ensure a good fit for both. I walk with them on the beach or we cycle… Any activity is great while figuring out whether the company and the candidate are a match. It is so fun to be with a person who has a dream…and spending a while with a candidate for a job enables me to see whether he really wants it or whether he just wants to survive. I understand it is so much better when a person actually feels excited because the job fits a part of  his dream. And it saves a company loads of money when the new person is the right one.

Betty Dravis: You’re right, Rob! That’s very important in today’s business climate. I have several corporate friends who use services such as you offer. Thanks for expounding on that area of your profession. And now here are some links where people can reach you:

Rob’s Main website:

Other websites:!/robwaterlandercom!/robwaterlander

Before closing, Rob, this might seem silly, but I think it will shed more light on the real you: If you were stranded on a desert island what three things would you take with you?

Rob at Abu-Dhabi.

Rob Waterlander: It’s the island life! Wooo-hoooo… I’m so much an island person, it feels like a present to me. Hahahahaha… This is a good question for me, Betty. Thank you for asking.

Now let me think… What/who I would like to take with me and what I would like to have with me there? I can choose whatever I wish, though only three? Well, that is easy: My children and Carly. And hopefully, there will be available a few jackfruit trees and coconut trees.

I might be pushing a bit now, but if possible, I would like to take my two best friends. I will miss you all, but having my children and Carly will help me to get through. (smiles)

Betty Dravis: Oh-haha, Rob, I guess you would be living on love, coconuts and jackfruit then. I’ve never seen jackfruit, but I read somewhere that it’s the largest fruit in the world and can grow as large as eighty pounds. Well, that’s a lot of food, so you certainly wouldn’t go hungry. (laughs)

I really appreciate your sharing your time and your life with us today. It’s fascinating how you found your true purpose in life. I see the principle of “What goes around comes around” working in your life: Helping others achieve their full potential to live their dream enables you to live your dream.

The cost of your services wasn’t mentioned, but you do work on a sliding scale and are available worldwide, so that’s a big plus in your favor. That said, it’s been fun getting to know you better, and do come back to keep us posted from time to time. As for me, I’ll see you on Facebook, I’m sure. And I know you’re open to answer comments from everyone on Facebook.

Farewell and good luck, Rob…or in your language, Vaarwel and geluk! Please keep us posted on your activities. Oops—I almost forgot to thank you for the bright yellow “wooden shoe” house-slippers you brought me last time.

Homecoming of the Dutch Team

Rob Waterlander: Hehehehe, I see some Dutch here… (smiles)

Well, what I do always makes me feel good and that is the most important thing. Feeling good… What I charge depends on circumstances, indeed. Roughly it varies between 1,000 to 4,000 Euro/US Dollars for working with someone a maximum of two days, and people pay/arrange my travelling and lodging.

Thank you so much, Betty. It was fun to answer your questions. I am grateful because it helped me to go back to joyful moments, especially those in the six years of organizing sports events. It was fun and educational to work with pro-athletes, pro-referees and nine- to ten-year-old soccer players of the major soccer teams in Holland, as well as working with TV and radio teams and those who sponsored the events. I learned a lot… One thing I remember so well is what a general manager of Nike said: “Rob, focus on two things at the same time, max. That allows you to be successful with what you do. Just do it!”

And, I am amazed at you every day, Betty. You are the age of my mom, though you run your blogs, write books and do your interviews… I hope I have the chance to see you again and then I would like you to have some fun in real wooden shoes, instead of the fluffy ones. (laughs)

Thanks again, Betty. Hugs and loving vibes sent your way. xx

Setting for Appalachian Adventures

Setting for Appalachian Adventures

 Escapes come in all sizes, prices, time requirements, destinations, athletic requirements, and energy needed. By far the easiest escape is in the mind by reading and co-creating an experience with the author. More active, in-person escapes abound in the North Carolina mountains.

My first impression of old town Boone was uplifting because people were on the sidewalks and in the shops in the evening and at night. Sure, the town has Appalachian State University and the usual student hang outs. Many of those who walk in the town are under 25. Since ASU was the division champions in 2006 and 2007, fall football season brings in alumni from all over the world.
It also has tourists of all ages. “Escape to the mountains” is a refrain spoken by many low landers. The seasons and weather are magnified up here. Boone sits at an elevation of 3,266 feet and covers just under six square miles. Nearby are three ski slopes (Sugar Mountain, Beech and Appalachian Ski Mountain) and one huge tubing run (Hawk’s Nest). Hiking trails, camp grounds and scenic overlooks dot the Blue Ridge Parkway. Watch out for those riding bicycles. Pisgah National Forest is close. White water rafting and canoe trips run the New River, which flows North. Rock climbing and caving tours are available. Horse back riding is a favorite. Of course, the Blue Falls Ranch in my Appalachian Adventure Mysteries is pure fiction. In town are the Daniel Boone gardens and the Byway Getaway, a walkway along the banks of the South Fork of the New River. Footsloggers even has a climbing wall in old town Boone. Mast General Store sells old-fashioned candy by the pound to go along with the outdoor wear and equipment.

The town population is 13,843 but the university adds another 12,245 full-time students. In addition are part-time retirees and others with second homes who frequent the art galleries and attend the visiting author and concert series performances. Horn in the West is an outdoor drama performed each summer.

Boone is a small town but offers a wide range of experiences. Next time you’re in the South, stop by and enjoy the fresh air and long range views.



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