March 19, 2017

Settling of Idaho Leads to Inspiration with Resident, Julie Weston

Idaho is a state of contrasts—from farmland to mines to sagebrush steppe to rocky mountains, to blue lakes and white water rivers.  Shoshone, Nez Perce and other Indian tribes peopled the varied geography.  They met, guided, and saved Lewis and Clark on their expedition to explore the Louisiana Purchase in 1804-05.  And then the Indians were swept away.

Forested and mineral filled mountains and deep lakes—Coeur d’Alene and Pend O’Reille—fill the panhandle of northern Idaho.  Rolling hills of fertile earth and high plateaus of camas and the tribal lands of the Nez Perce comprise the large batholith of central Idaho.  From there, the land turns to high desert and more mountains, this time the granite peaks of south central Idaho, and the Stanley Basin, where the Salmon River begins its flow to the north as the River of No Return.  Farther south lies more farmland irrigated by the Snake River. 

In the mid to late 1800s, thousands of settlers arrived in Idaho, both north and south, mostly searching for gold, which they found in abundance for a short period.  When the ready gold played out, only the hard rock miners stayed, digging deep for lead, silver and zinc with tunnels and shafts into the mountains and rock crushers and smelters on top.  Loggers cut the forests and farmers settled the fertile Palouse area in north central Idaho, and their winter wheat farming continues to this day. The southern farmers grow not only the famous potatoes of Idaho, but also range sheep and cattle and raise sugar beets.
My mother’s family arrived here in the 1870s, on their way to Oregon.  Weary and ill, they stopped in Boise City.  My forebears cleared sagebrush from the town square, claimed land for settlement near by, worked in the mines of the Wood River Valley and freighted supplies to other mines north and west of the Stanley Basin, where they also spent summers searching for valuable metals.  My grandmother and my mother were both born in Idaho.

I was raised in the mining town of Kellogg, in Idaho’s panhandle.  Although I left Idaho to attend school and law school in Seattle, Washington, Idaho has always been the home of my heart.  I now live here again, this time in Hailey, a south central town located near the first American destination ski resort:  Sun Valley. Skiing has been and still is a passion of my husband and me.

 My first book is a memoir of place:  The Good Times Are All Gone Now:  Life, Death and Rebirth in an Idaho Mining Town (University of Oklahoma Press, 2009).  This book tells stories of my ancestors in Idaho, of the mining in north Idaho over 100 years, and of my growing up years in a town famous for its silver and lead and notorious for its brothels, gambling and drinking.  This book won Honorable Mention in the 2009 Idaho Book of the Year Award.

Nearly all of my writing—short stories, essays, and books—has been about Idaho and the stories I learned from my own family, as well as from the miners and characters of my home town and the towns of Hailey, Ketchum, and Stanley, and research.  The beauty of the state has influenced my characters and me, but so have the fierce landscapes, the outdoors, the mining, the prejudices of the state’s people, the sheepherding, and the contrasts reflected in its geography.

My next two books are mysteries, set in the 1920s in the high desert and mountains of central Idaho.  Nellie Burns, a photographer, comes to Idaho from Chicago and is based on an early woman photographer in the panhandle.  Her black Labrador dog, Moonshine, fits right in with all the dogs of Ketchum.  The Chinese characters; Rosy, a one-eyed miner; Charlie Asteguigoiri, a Basque sheriff; and Goldie, owner of a boarding house, could have stepped right out of the streets of Hailey and Ketchum, where the action takes place, in MOONSHADOWS (Five Star Publishing, 2015).  Kirkus Reviews said:  This debut mystery from Weston authentically portrays the gritty mining towns and the wild beauty of Idaho while presenting a challenging puzzle. Ridley Pearson called it “A gorgeously written, taut mystery.”  It was a Finalist in the May Sarton Literary Award and True West Magazine named it Best of the Rest in mystery.

My second mystery, BASQUE MOON (Five Star Publishing, 2016), set in the Sawtooth and White Cloud Mountains of the Stanley Basin, follows many of the same characters, and adds a few more to the Idaho pantheon, including sheepherders and cowboys.  Kirkus Reviews called this one a “rip-roarin’ Idaho yarn.”
 Nellie and Moonshine and the sheriff are now embarked on an adventure in Craters of the Moon, a national monument since 1924, finding bodies and terror in caves and desolate lava fields, in the third mystery, still in process.

All photographs, including the cover photos, are by Gerry Morrison.  To enjoy more of his work, visit .  The painting on the cover of my memoir was done by my mother, Marie Whitesel, in 1961.

To learn more about my books, stories and essays, visit  .

If you crave mystery set in 1920’s Idaho, I am offering one lucky winner his or her choice of MOONSHADOWS or BASQUE MOON and an 8x10 of one of the photos above.  Please leave a comment with your preferred contact info to be entered to win!     

March 12, 2017

Amy Reade Shares Her Love of Hawaii

The last time I posted on Fifty Authors from Fifty States, I wrote about New Jersey. And though New Jersey is where I live, you’ll find my heart on the Island of Hawaii (often called the Big Island, and not to be confused with the entire State of Hawaii). 

There are so many reasons to love the Island of Hawaii. Where do I begin?

Probably the most obvious place to begin is with the weather, particularly along the west side of the island, much of which makes up the Kohala Coast. The temperature fluctuation all year long is within a very narrow range. It gets a bit hotter in the summer, but for the most part every day is in the eighties. Overnight it gets into the seventies. When the trade winds are blowing, it’s nothing short of heavenly. You don’t notice the heat and your body is comfortably cool even as the temperatures rise. On those days when the trade winds don’t blow, it can get a bit uncomfortable, but just wait it out—the winds will return.

The next thing people think about when Hawaii comes to mind is the lush vegetation. The east side of the Big Island is covered in rainforest. And the waterfalls you see online and on television and in magazines? They’re all real and you can visit them. The flowers are heartbreakingly beautiful, and there are different varieties in bloom all year long. My favorites are the birds of paradise, but I also love the bougainvillea, hibiscus, plumeria, tuberose, and ginger. The west side of the Big Island is dry and sunny and not as lush as the east side. There are other islands in the State of Hawaii which offer luxuriant green everywhere (think Kauai), but the Big Island has a more varied climate system.

And those beaches. There are no words. There are coarse sand beaches. There are soft, almost powdery, sand beaches. There are black sand and green sand beaches. And by law, all beaches in the State of Hawaii are public up to the vegetation line.

One of the most fascinating things about the Island of Hawaii is that it’s made up of extinct, dormant, and active volcanoes. From the northernmost part of the island, you’ll find Kohala (extinct), Mauna Kea (dormant), Mauna Loa (active), Hualalai (active), and Kilauea (active, flowing since 1983). And here’s something even more interesting: about 22 miles southeast of the Island of Hawaii is an undersea volcano, called Loihi. If Loihi continues to erupt at its current level, it will break the surface of the Pacific Ocean between 10,000 and 100,000 years from now, becoming a brand new Hawaiian island.
In addition to all these things that set the Island of Hawaii apart from almost everywhere else on earth (with the possible exception of the other Hawaiian islands), there is the food. 

Hawaii has a cuisine all its own, and it ranges from humble poi (from the root of the taro plant) to loco moco (a mouthwatering concoction of rice, covered with two hamburger patties chock full of chopped onions, covered with brown gravy, topped with a fried egg), to fresh fruits including coconut, papaya, guava, lychee, pineapple, every imaginable citrus, rambutan, dragon fruit, and the list goes on. And then there are the fish, which are as fun to pronounce as they are delicious. There’s opakapaka, ahi, he’e, ono, opah, mahi mahi, kumu, and opihi, to name a few. My favorite way to eat fish in Hawaii is raw—take some cubed ahi tuna, add some soy sauce, sesame oil, scallions, chopped or sliced onion, a little bit of Japanese mayonnaise, some sriracha sauce, and a little bit of masago (an orange roe) for topping. Called poke (and pronounced “poh-kay”), it’s Hawaii in a bowl.

I'll give away an ecopy of The House on Candlewick Lane. Comment here for your chance at it.  Leave a link so I can contact you if you win!

I wish I had more time and space to devote to telling you more of what I love about Hawaii, but I’ll leave that for another time. If you’ve never visited the Islands of Aloha, I hope you get a chance someday. My guess is you’ll lose your heart there, too.

USA Today bestselling author Amy M. Reade is a recovering lawyer living in southern New Jersey. The House on Candlewick Lane is the first of The Malice Novels, Amy’s gothic suspense series set in the United Kingdom. The second book in the series, Highland Peril, will be released in the fall of 2017. She is currently at work on the third book. Amy is also the author of Secrets of Hallstead House, The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor, and House of Hanging Jade, all standalones of gothic suspense. She loves reading, cooking, and traveling.
(all info author provided)