August 9, 2020

New Mexico Enchants! Vicky Ramakka

 I am glad to have an opportunity to write about New Mexico, specifically San Juan County in the northwest corner, part of the Four Corners region. San Juan County is tucked up against Arizona on the west and Colorado on the north. It covers more square miles than Delaware and Rhode Island combined, plus another Delaware. From my home just 10 miles from the Colorado border, on a clear day I can see mountains in Colorado to the north and in Arizona to the west. Utah is out of sight range, but only a two-hour drive away. 

Archeological research indicates this area has been occupied for thousands of years by indigenous cultures. Spanish explorers passed through here in the 1600s, with Hispanic homesteader settlements flourishing by the early 1800s. Farmington, the largest town in San Juan County, was largely settled by Mormons migrating from Utah, drawn to the agricultural prospects offered by good river bottom land. The San Juan River, the Animas River and the La Plata River, all originating in Colorado's mountains, flow through San Juan County. Farmington is sometimes called Totah, a Navajo word for where three rivers meet.

Early farmers recognized this potential farmland and named their new settlements Farmington, Fruitland, and Waterflow. Tons of apples and other fruits were shipped by rail to all parts of the country. Few of those orchards remain due to an almost complete shift from agriculture to oil and gas production. Oil and natural gas resources brought a significant wave of growth from the 1930s through 1950s. The early wildcatters and well drilling hands came mainly from Oklahoma and Texas. These settlement patterns give San Juan County a hard-working, blue-collar, get-the-job done reputation.

The Navajo Nation takes up nearly two-thirds of western San Juan County. On the opposite side of the county, lies part of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribal reservation, which extends into Colorado. A notable feature on the Navajo Reservation is Ship Rock, the remaining pinnacle of a long-ago eroded volcano. Nearby is the town of Shiprock. While writing my novel, The Cactus Plot, I learned to differentiate the spelling of Ship Rock, the geological feature, from the town's name, Shiprock. This is the value of careful research and asking knowledgeable friends to review a manuscript.

In the Navajo language, Ship Rock is known as Tsé Bitʼaʼí’ meaning "rock with wings." Mystery readers will recognize this expression as the title of Anne Hillerman's second book, Rock With Wings. This five-book series (soon to be six with Stargazer to be released in 2021) carries on the wonderful novels written by her father, Tony Hillerman. Like her father, Anne is a down-to-earth, gracious person who generously supports beginning authors. I can attest to that in bringing my first novel into fruition.

One of my favorite events is the Totah Festival held each year in Farmington, over the Labor Day weekend. This two-day celebration of Native American culture includes pow-

wow dances, art and crafts show and sale, and a woven rug auction. I enjoy munching on roast turkey legs and fry bread and admit that my wallet is sometimes much thinner after the rug auction.

Two world heritage sites, Chaco Culture National Historical Park and Aztec Ruins National Monument, are located in San Juan County. In addition to these well-known sites, there are hundreds of archeological sites to explore in the back county of northwest New Mexico. I am a volunteer Site Steward for a significant rock art site in Largo Canyon that I have visited nearly twenty times. While the intent of the Site Steward program is to monitor and deter vandalism, I just thoroughly enjoy standing before a cliff face covered with petroglyphs and surrendering to wonder—who made these, what were they communicating, why this spot, what was their world like at the time?

Like myself, the heroine of my novel grew up on the East coast. Also like many folks that have adopted New Mexico as their forever home, she replaces initial perceptions that New Mexico is a barren desert with a fascination for its unique high desert environment and falls in love with its sunsets. My motto is, Life is too short to miss even one New Mexico sunset.

Vicky Ramakka is the author of The Cactus Plot, an environmental mystery with a botanist
heroine who uses knowledge of plant ecology to solve two murders. The story is an entertaining
mystery with the underlying theme of protecting endangered species on public lands. Read
more at Artemesia Publishing Message Vicky at
"This is a delicious, layered Cozy Mystery/Women Sleuth paperback. …it's an informed cultural
and ecological immersion rolled up in a mystery."—Phaedra Greenwood, enchantment

Vicky Ramakka
Aztec, New Mexico

You cannot perceive beauty but with a serene mind.  Henry David Thoreau

(All info provided and released by author) 

August 2, 2020

Jennifer Wilck Shares Her New Jersey Home

I live in NJ, the Garden State, and yes, despite what you may have heard, there is an abundance of flowers, farms and beauty throughout my state.

We’ve also had a lot of cases of Covid-19. While my family and I have remained healthy, we’ve had to spend the past three months social distancing from everyone, wearing masks, and basically staying in our homes. One of the things that has gotten me through this time is flowers and nature. And as mentioned above, there’s plenty of that here.

I’ve spent a lot of time outdoors, planting and cultivating flowers, walking on local nature trails, and even trying my hand at planting seeds that are supposed to eventually become herbs. I have my doubts, but I’m willing to give it a try.

With so much craziness in the world, planting and nurturing restores my soul and reminds me that even while I stop, nature doesn’t. Things still grow and bloom and carry out the natural cycle.

My family has gotten used to me lagging behind on our walks as I stop to take photos of pretty buds on trees or interesting leaves that I notice.

Because we have so much time, we’ve searched for new places to walk and admire things. After all, walking around the block gets boring after a while. A beautiful place my younger daughter introduced us to is Natirar Park in Somerset County. With more than 400 acres of property to wander, there’s plenty of room to social distance and discover natural beauty. It used to be an estate, and the main house is still there. Completed in 1912, the name Natirar is an anagram for the Raritan River that meanders through the property. There’s also a fancy restaurant that I hope reopens because I’ve always wanted to try it.

During our time walking the grounds, we enjoyed the peace and the beauty of the land, encompassing walking trails, woods and fields. And of course, I took photos.

I post many of my photos on my Instagram account but I also use them for inspiration when I’m writing. In addition to often writing about food in my books, I’ve noticed that many of my characters either enjoy nature walks or planting and designing gardens. While not all of my books take place in New Jersey, I incorporate what I know and adapt to other locations.

In one of my oldest, no-longer-published, books, Skin Deep, the hero and heroine visit the heroine’s family on Thanksgiving and walk one of the many Morris County trails to get outside and away from everyone. In Learning to Love, the hero and heroine walk to Loantaka Brook Reservation Most of the trails I mention I’ve walked along and they’re beautiful in any season.

For a chance to win an e-book of mine (your choice), comment below and tell me what your favorite outdoor activity is. I’ll choose a winner soon. Make sure to leave a form of contact so I can find you or, click on the tabs above and send that info to Annette-she’ll forward to me.

To learn more about me and my books, please feel free to stalk follow me below:

I’ve got a new book coming out in September, so be sure to sign up for my newsletter for previews! And thanks to Annette for letting me be a guest on her blog.

(all info provided and released by author)

July 26, 2020

New Hampshire Literary Agents:

Here’s a great link to New Hampshire literary.  Informative, quick, easy to use site.  I like those three things in a website. 

And even better, a link to a very cool artist retreat/colony spot

Applications for residency are set to be accepted soon so scroll down and click on that link to apply.  There are some impressive artists and authors on the list. 

I love the method’s McDowell is taking with this pandemic—click on that link to find out.

And, I heard somewhere in my day’s this last week, (I’m pretty busy lately so I couldn’t tell you where or when precisely) that people were reading more because they’re limited in their travels.  It’s a great time to be an author for sure.  

MacDowell LogoStay safe, well, and thanks for stopping by 50 Authors from 50 States blog.

(All info downloaded from websites listed)

July 19, 2020

Nevada Flashback

Kay Phoenix: Hello from Las Vegas

Let me tell you about my hometown. Las Vegas is more than just the stretch of road that slices down the center, holding world famous casinos. Las Vegas is a city of old-west heritage, with a strong, female mayor who occasionally wears a cowboy hat. We have an independent spirit. We have a sense of community which has only been strengthened since that awful night last October when evil rained down bullets into a crowd of innocents. Our men and women of law enforcement, and our first responders, many #VegasBorn, rose to the occasion as heroes. Many others did what they could…giving blood, donating meals to the workers, providing free hotel rooms to family or even offering free plastic surgery to the victims.  There were so many acts of kindness that were not reported by the media to the rest of the world. It was truly astonishing.

I’m writing this blog the morning after our Vegas Gold Knights won the first game against the Capitals 6-4.  I hope that by the time this feature is released, that beautiful Stanley Cup will be residing in my hometown. But, if it isn’t, that is also fine. Our Knights have done what they promised us in the moments before the puck dropped in their very first game last October. After a permanent banner was raised bearing the names of the 58 victims of October 1st mass shooting that occurred only a few weeks before, and a few blocks south, they promised us that they would “do our best to help heal this valley.” And they have! Every home ice game has been played beneath the banner bearing those 58 names.

Las Vegas is a tourist’s paradise. I’m sure many of you have been here either on vacation or to celebrate a happy occasion. The next time you are here, please look out of your hotel room at the miles and miles of homes and neighborhoods that stretch to the beautiful, occasionally snow-capped mountains that frame our valley, and know that those homes are filled with unsung heroes. Know that your waiter, uber driver, busboy, or even the maid in the hallway gave blood and/or donated to the Red Cross after October 1st. If you see a show, know that many of our popular local entertainers held benefits to help cover costs of medical care for victims, and many of them visited patients in the hospital.

I’ve never been prouder to call Las Vegas my hometown, and seeing so many residents wearing Vegas Golden Knights shirts, high-fiving each other in the grocery stores, smiling and nodding to each other in the post office, is tremendous. It’s exactly what we’ve needed as a community to heal after October 1st. The very noble Vegas Golden Knights have made good on their promise to help us heal, rather or not they bring home the Stanley Cup (but I still hope they do!).

#VegasBorn  #VegasStrong

Ms. Phoenix is a rare bird herself...a lifelong resident of Las Vegas, Nevada. She belongs to Las Vegas Romance Writers and has served on the board for several years. She is also a member of Romance Writers of America with PAN status.

Prior to writing, Kay was a Graphic Artist for fifteen years in the casino industry and holds degrees in both Graphic Arts and Psychology. In her spare time she enjoys hiking, traveling and photography. She is also involved in several Las Vegas non-profits, and is the current Chairman of a popular, long-running, local art show.

Kay has been blessed to be able to travel many places, which inspired her to host a weekly author spotlight called “Midweek Escapes” on her blog. It features guest author’s favorite vacation destinations, their travel tips, and, of course, information about their book releases and occasional giveaways.

For a giveaway, Kay Phoenix offers two awesome prizes!  One audio book, and one physical, autographed book to be mailed. Leave a form of contact when you comment so we can award the prize if you win! 

(all info provided/released by author)