April 17, 2011

Visit Kansas with Betsy Dornbusch

As I write this, the Jayhawks are a top seed in the National Tournament. I might live in Colorado now, but March Madness rolls around and suddenly I’m a Kansan again, watching the Jayhawks claw their way to the top of the rankings and then the tournaments, surprising sports writers and basketball fans everywhere. They don’t get the press the Eastern teams do, because, really, it’s Kansas, right? Not enough people live there to even care.
And true, there is an abundance of open space in Kansas, rolling fields and rock formations, dotted with towns.
The smaller population out on the prairie is so convenient for covert ops, I’m launching my WIP, the second installment of the SENTINEL series there:

Kaelin Trevet paused midway between his car and the old barn as the ground trembled. Carcasses of dried wheat crunched under his boots and invisible fingers crawled up his spine. Stiff from bumping along dirt roads and peering through the moonless night for errant deer, he tensed further as he listened for threat in the icy air. Nothing. Must be paranoia, thanks to his brother Aidan suggesting the enemy was causing earthquakes. Tonight’s drop was two hours south-east of Wichita, Kansas, of all places. No way Asmodai knew he was here.

Lawrence is one town I claim as “home”, having lived there for five years during college. It’s an interesting place, founded for political reasons to keep Kansas free of slavery. Anti-slavery Jayhawkers had to rebuild the town after it was ransacked and burned by pro-slavery Bushwackers in 1863. Their resilience gives writers the scope to which heroes might fall and rebound: they buried their dead and rebuilt, remaining firmly anti-slavery, participating in the Underground Railroad, and supplying travelers on the Oregon Trail. Lawrence school kids take regular field trips to see the preserved wheel ruts. And it retains its flair of freedom, expressed now with art and attitude and influenced by KU, with every bit the sophistication of nearby Kansas City. Today The Hawk still doles out cheap beer near campus, Sunflower Outdoor and Bike is always worth a stop, and the Jayhawk statue still hasn’t left its perch in front of Strong Hall, proving the local legend that a virgin has yet to graduate from KU.
Some of my happiest memories, though, are from Columbus, the little town where Grannie and Granddad lived. Picture a town square, a courthouse, a soda fountain, the biggest house in town converted to the mortuary, and a famous stone bathhouse fronting the town pool, and you’ve sized up Columbus. I attribute my love of small towns to my childhood visits there. Nowadays, we live about quarter-time in a small mountain town, where our kids take unsupervised trips to the park, candy shop, and swimming, just like I did in Columbus. There’s a certain measure of freedom for a kid in a small town, and it translates to adulthood, too. Life just doesn’t feel right unless I spend time with small town folk. And like me, Aidan and Kaelin get itchy if they don’t return to their own small town from time to time.
Everyone who drops in to leave a comment or question this week will win a copy of your choice of QUENCHED or QUENCHER or the new crime anthology DEADLY BY THE DOZEN that includes my story “Living on the Blood of Others.”

Betsy Dornbusch’s new urban fantasy, SENTINEL: ARCHIVE OF FIRE is forthcoming from Whiskey Creek in 2011. Under the penname Ainsley, Whiskey Creek Torrid published two of Betsy Dornbusch’s books last year, QUENCHED and QUENCHER. The first installment of the Salt Road Saga, LOST PRINCE, will be published in 2011, also by Torrid. When she’s not traversing I70 on her way to visit Kansas, Betsy splits her time between Superior and Grand Lake, Colorado. She runs a longstanding website, Sex Scenes at Starbucks, edits the magazine Electric Spec, and pretends to be a soccer mom. Nobody’s buying the soccer mom bit, though.


  1. Interesting post. I have family roots in Olathe. Never been to Kansas...but I want to visit!

  2. I thing I like most about this series is the love everyone shows for their homeplace.
    I've never been to Kansas, but expressions like these should prompt a desire to visit in any of us.

  3. Having grown up in the Midwest, I'm very familiar with Kansas. Lovely state. Your WIP sounds like a great read! :)

  4. fun blog. Kansas has some really flat country there!

  5. I plan a visit to Topeka sometime in the next six months or so to visit cousins and do a presentation on my next YA book to be published in June. I've had other family living in Kansas, but they moved across the river to "dare I say it?" Kansas City, Missouri.
    Thank you for bringing your memories of Kansas small-town life alive and some of the history of famous Lawrence, KS.

  6. From the underground railroad to the town square with the soda fountain, your blog drew me in. I wish I could hop in my car and drive over and walk around to see everything first hand. Thanks!

  7. I'm going to have to add Kansas to the places I want to visit! Thank you for sharing your love of your home state with us.

  8. Yea! I'm so glad you enjoyed it. My roots are there, and so are my husband's, so we go back a lot, even though we now live in Colorado.--Betsy

  9. Also, if you want a book, let me know an email address and which one! All are currently eBooks only.


  10. Kansas! That explains so much about you.

  11. I have been to Kansas. Actually I lived in Leavenworth, not the prison but the army base. I really enjoyed my time in Kansas. I have very good memories of your state.

    debby236 at gmail dot com

  12. That's cool, Debby. Thanks for dropping in. --Betsy


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