January 7, 2018

Krista Lynn, Kenneth Weene and Heidi Thomas: Sharing the State of Arizona

We Begin with Krista Lynn: Mother Earth and Father Sky This is Arizona
What I experienced as a child growing up wild on the desert of Arizona left its brand on my heart for all time. Wide open spaces, dry, dusty dirt roads that dodge hard rock outcrops and skirt around determined Saguaro cacti stubbornly standing their ground—this is the landscape that so often conjures in quiet, still moments of contemplation of my life. This is the terrain that formed my love of nature, my ties to earth and my love of the clear night sky that can only truly be seen far away from the lights of the city. 

And away from the city we lived – about twenty-five miles of dirt road northeast of a tiny roadside town, named New River, Arizona. In the 1960’s, the little settlement was about 50 miles from the outskirts of Phoenix. (If you’ve visited Phoenix in the last few years, you know that the “outskirts” have pushed outward in all directions, a sprawling urban landscape that is incredible. New River is now almost a suburb.

New River consisted of a roadside gas station/café, a dude ranch named Wrangler’s Roost, a one-room school house, several cattle ranches and dirt-poor prospectors like us. Ten miles further north on Black Canyon Highway, now Interstate 17, was Rock Springs. It boasted another café and a dry goods store with a post office. It was a real treat to go there and gawk at the “goods”:  Indian jewelry, moccasins, cowboy boots and hats. 

This environment, imbued with the spirit of Native American culture and history, is the backdrop for several of my speculative fiction stories. One should write what one knows, correct?  Below, I explain further how the real-life mysterious haunting of Superstition Mountains near Phoenix is echoed in my fictional story of Prospector’s Mountain.

I’m biased, obviously, but Arizona is the most beautiful state in the Union.
If you haven’t been to the Grand Canyon, you are missing something extraordinary. It is about a mile deep and several hundred miles long. I can attest to how far down it is, as I’ve climbed up from bottom to top. It is a switch back trail that took me several hours to trek. Switching back and forth – I’m sure it was a hundred miles.

A few years back, I had the good fortune to join a Colorado River rafting trip. After nine days of working the river with two other rafters on our three-man boat, I hiked back up to the top from Phantom Ranch.  Phantom Ranch is a lodge located within Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona. It is on the north side of the Colorado River near its confluence with Bright Angel Creek and Phantom Creek – at the bottom of the canyon.

I’ll never forget my sometimes harrowing trip on a wild river at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. The pictures above were taken on a smooth stretch of the river during the trip and during one of our hiking jaunts up into the rock cliffs. But when we hit the many rapids along the way – this is what it was like!

Toward the end of the nine days, we arrived at the confluence of the Colorado River and the Little Colorado River. This is one of the most beautiful places on the planet – where the dark green to tan colored Colorado meets the aquamarine Little Colorado. The day we were there, we maneuvered our boats to the shore and took advantage of the opportunity to swim in that incredible blue water. What makes it so blue? The limestone rock into which the river has over millennia cut its course!

Havasupai Falls Arizona is a major destination for hikers who want to visit the blue green waterfalls. Hidden in the Grand Canyon, and difficult to get reservations for, this paradise is for those who can plan ahead and enjoy hikes of 8 miles or more. The Havasupai people live near the Havasupai Falls in the Supai Village. The Havasupai people, or Havasuw `Baaja, the people of the blue green waters, are the traditional guardians of the Grand Canyon. Related to the Yuman, the Havasupai have from the beginning, inhabited the Grand Canyon and its environs.

This picture is by a fabulous photographer, Steve Bruno. His work is simply amazing. http://www.stephenbrunophotography.com/

The best time to be in Arizona is fall through spring.  Though winters can be a bit chilly at night, the average January temperature is between 62 and 74 degrees F. That’s why so many “Snow Birds” from Michigan and Minnesota and other northerners flock to Arizona at that time. For me, even summer is fine – 110-120 degree F and all - as long as I have a bucket of sun screen, a hat, a cool place to sit, and someone to make my margaritas, I’m good to go!

One can’t live in The Valley of the Sun - as the general area of Phoenix is called - and not know about Superstition Mountain. Many TV specials have been done about the Lost Dutchmen’s Gold Mine which is thought to be located somewhere in the rugged terrain of this mysterious mountain.  Many prospectors have entered the area and not returned. The stories abound. As a youth and as an adult, I have visited the area. Haven’t done much hiking there – seriously, one can get lost. It’s eerie! Doesn’t it look scary?
What’s behind the disappearances?

Well, some say they’ve solved the mystery of where the mine is, but I have my doubts. And where are those missing people? And who killed those whose bodies have been found?
Great questions and premise for a romantic suspense. Blood Stones: The Haunting of Sunset Canyon, the first book in my Sunset Canyon Series. It is set in a fictional place in central Arizona – a haunted canyon in Prospector’s Mountain.

My fictional location is a reflection of the general area of New River, Arizona with the geology of the higher desert terrain in the north. There is even a gas station/café in the story, borrowed from my recollections of the one that is still there, but renovated and modernized. For the characters in the story? All fictional, of course. As a writer, the best part is creating in your mind the world in which the drama unfolds. The hard part is getting it down on paper.

For my giveaway – I’ll chose randomly from those who comment and send that person a copy of Blood Stones and a turquoise bracelet with feather charms. The bracelet is the perfect talisman to wear when you go into the haunted canyon – you’ll see why when you read the book.  

Continuing Arizona: Then Saguaro -Author Kenneth Weene:
“They’re spirits,” my wife said. “Each one has its own story, its own… Like they’re alive and watching… talking to us.”

For all our years of travel, we’d never been to Arizona before, never seen a saguaro, those distinctive armed cacti of the Sonoran dessert. Having arrived late the night before and driven along a busy highway to our hotel, we had no sense of Phoenix other than that for us—having flown from New York the freezing February day before—it was delightfully un-wintery. If pressed, we probably would have said balmy, and yes a dry balm at that.

Now, after a standard motel breakfast bar meal including one too many of those sugar-covered pastries and—okay, I admit it—more bacon than human digestion is designed to process, we’d packed our bags in the trunk of the rental with our heavy jackets stuffed in first. We wouldn’t need those for a week.

The timeshare was, according to our maps, way to the east of our motel. My wife had the map in her lap; another of the entire state was in the pocket of her door just in case I managed to lose my way outside the boundaries of greater Phoenix.

East was easy. The Ford we’d rented came equipped with one of the latest in automobile navigational aids, a compass. Driving was easy, too. After New England with its narrow byways and New York with it floods of humanity, the broad streets of Phoenix seemed like speedways. I probably would have been speeding had I not been squinting against the morning sun. Even with sunglasses, the sun was bright and came almost directly through the windshield.

“Stop!” my wife had yelled.

Terrified that I might have hit some unseen animal or worse, I screeched the brakes. From behind me there was a complaining horn and then the rev of an engine as that person flew past us.

“I love them.” She pointed out her window towards a business complex.

“Very nice,” I replied trying to keep my composure. Meanwhile thinking, “You could have caused an accident because you like some buildings. Give me a break.”

“They’re spirits. Each one has its own story, its own… Like they’re alive and watching… talking to us.”

Only then did I realize she was talking about the six saguaro standing guard in front of that complex.

“Yes,” I agreed. I said no more. There was no need. We were both hooked. We were both ready to find a new home far from our native Northeast roots. Indeed, within the week we had purchased that home.

That evening, finally settled into the timeshare, I wrote an haiku.
six saguaro sisters
stand against the orange drought—
a wren shops for shoes

We’ve lived in Phoenix for sixteen years. Now, using a GPS we’ve driven all over the state and beyond. I’ve tried a few times to find that office complex, to again glimpse those saguaros, perhaps to thank them for their invocation, perhaps to read them their poem. I’ve never found the spot, but I have loved many a cactus since. Not just saguaro, but they remain my—our—favorite. It is my hope that if I am to be reincarnated I will come back as one and after fifty years have the energy to raise my thorny arms in greeting to the dessert sun.

If you’d like to know more of me and my writing, visit http://www.kennethweene.com or look for me on Amazon. And, if you want to find a beautiful place to live, I suggest you visit Phoenix and meet the saguaro.

 I’m giving away a copy of one of my books to one lucky winner.  Leave a comment and form of contact to enter.

And Finally, Award Winning Author, Heidi M. Thomas:
Contrary to popular opinion, Arizona is not all sand dunes and saguaro cactus. Drive north from Phoenix about an hour and you will come to the other “Mile-High City” of Prescott. Nestled in the Sierra Prieta and Bradshaw mountains are numerous lakes, the Granite Dells, pine, cedar and juniper forests.

Prescott was the territorial capital from 1864-1867, had a ten-year hiatus, then held the title again in 1877 until 1889, when Phoenix became the capital.

This “high-plains desert” area is known as the “Quad-City” area—Prescott, Chino Valley, Prescott Valley, and Dewey-Humboldt. Ninety miles north of Phoenix, the temperature is typically 15-20 degrees cooler than “the Valley.” Surrounded by mountains, a Ponderosa pine forest, and home of the Granite Dells, the area is a haven for hikers.

I live in the small, rural town of Chino Valley, about 15 miles north of Prescott, where we often see Pronghorn antelope grazing on the prairie-like fields nearby. This area reminds me a lot of eastern Montana, where I grew up on a ranch.

The Sharlot Hall Museum, the Smoki and Phippen museums are home to much of Prescott's territorial history. Whiskey Row in downtown Prescott (known until 1956 as a notorious red-light district) boasts many historic buildings, including The Palace, Arizona's oldest restaurant and bar. The city was named after author William H. Prescott, whose writings were popular during the Civil War.

Prescott also has a place in western folklore with the fact that Virgil Earp, Wyatt Earp's older brother, lived in Prescott in 1879 and told him of the boom town in Tombstone, Arizona. It is also rumored that Doc Holliday spent some time in Prescott just before heading to Tombstone, as well as his common-law wife, “Big Nose Kate.”

This area boasts the “World’s Oldest Rodeo” and Prescott is also known as “the Christmas City,” as well as “Everybody’s Home Town.” Hundreds of movies have been filmed here, including "Billy Jack," "Junior Bonner," and "Transamerica."

My book Cowgirl Up! A History of Rodeo Women fits right in to this “cowboy” area. Other novels based on my grandmother who rode roughstock in Montana rodeos during the 1920s are Cowgirl Dreams (EPIC Award winner), Follow the Dream (WILLA Award), and Dare to Dream (Finalist International Book Awards). My newest novel, Seeking the American Dream, is based on my mother, who emigrated from Germany after WWII.

Giveaway: If you leave a comment related to cowgirls or following a dream, you’ll be entered into a drawing for a copy of your choice of one of my books.

Learn more about this award winning author at her website http://www.heidimthomas.com

(All Info listed author provided. Also http://www.stephenbrunophotography.com/)


  1. I've been to Arizona and it is beautiful!

  2. A trifecta on one of the most fascinating states in the union. A good way to start the year for 50 Authors. Thanks for telling us how you feel about the place where you live.

  3. Hope those who are inspired by these posts to visit Arizona will contact me so we can meet in person.

  4. Thank you, triplets for the wonderful stories of my favorite state, Arizona. I lived in Surprise and in Scottsdale, so I've had the best of the west and east. Grand Canyon is amazing, Prescott is one of my favorite
    towns, and the Saguaro are humans reaching to the heavens. I love Indian jewelry and I have a Navaho blanket winter coat. Leaving AZ was heartbreaking. Especially now that it's in the teens in Atlanta, GA, I keep wishing I were back in the Sonoran Desert.

  5. Thanks for this captivating and fascinating introduction to Arizona and your experiences. lives and writing. Arizona is special, beautiful, unique and intriguing. I have seen The Grand Canyon, Phoenix and surrounding area and I hope one day soon to live in the area. I crave sunshine, warmth and heat so it is perfect for me. Wishing you happiness, enjoyment and continued success. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

  6. I LOVE Arizona. Been there many times. I wear my turquoise and silver Native American bracelets every day. Love Sedona, Bixby, Tombstone,even Tucson. My cousin lives in Chandler, and my husband and I stay with him whenever we come to AZ. I want so badly to move there. We're retired, and although my husband loves AZ, the thought of moving all the way out there from the East Coast is daunting to him. One place I'd like to live is Fountain Hills. Scottsdale has some good shopping and restaurants but too crowded. I like Chandler too. Those of you who live in AZ are so lucky. I've been every season except spring. I don't even mind the 120 degrees it was on one summer visit. Thanks for the wonderful AZ stories.

  7. Today, our pastor asked "what do you see in your mind when we mention a wilderness experience?" and I thought about our drive from Phoenix to Williams on I-10 back in 2013. I went there for a conference in Scottsdale, and we decided to take a side trip for a train ride to The Grand Canyon. It was, by far, the best vacation ever! Lovely state with so much beauty to behold. I must go back someday!

  8. What an interesting post which I enjoyed. Arizona is a state which I have visited and long to live in. The sunshine especially makes it so appealing for me, and the Prescott area is lovely because I do appreciate different topography. AN in depth view gives me so much to ponder. elliotbencan(at)hotmail(dot)com

  9. Great articles. Next time we come see you Heidi, we need to spend time in Prescott, not just drive thru it. You write cowboy novels, I married a novel cowboy��

  10. Interesting information about Arizona. I lived in Phoenix during all of the 1970s. Just last June I retired To Arizona from 22 years in Hawaii. I have been to the Grand Canyon three times during my childhood. Am looking forward to going again as an adult. Have many places I want to see that I had not seen before. Information in these posts is telling me to get out and go. I know I will find great shots to photograph and maybe start to paint Arizona type canvasses. Might even conjure one of my stories here. Have been reading much about this wonderful state. A lot to look forward to.

  11. Krista Lynn, I do miss the starkness of the Arizona landscape.

  12. Thank you so much for this triple treat to begin the new year, Annette. And Arizona was the perfect place to have that honor. Krista Lynn, your beautiful photos and adventurous life fascinates me. And Heidi Thomas, you have told me about a part of Arizona that I'm not familiar with. Ken Weene, it was nice to see you again and interesting to learn how you came to settle in Arizona. I have visited the Grand Canyon twice and words cannot describe it. I love the vastness of the Arizona landscape, the beauty, and the stillness (I am always reminded of the Scripture "Be still and know that I am God." I would love to be the winner of any of the books mentioned that would tell me more about Arizona and the person who wrote it. I wish eac of you continued success with your writing and inspiration to portray your beautiful state to us.

  13. Beautiful! We first saw Grand Canyon in a heavy snow storm. I will never forget standing in a foot of snow looking down, down into an other-worldly and warm appearing landscape of wet, reddish stone.
    The other special thing I remember about Arizona is tasting sopapillas for the first time. (And I probably don't know how to spell the name of those deep-fried pastry miracles correctly.) Yes, Mexican restaurants have something called that here, but none we have tried come close to the originals we ate in Arizona.

  14. How fun to see these comments about wonderful Arizona! It is very special and certainly a big part of my writer's world. It is stark and full of spirit. And, Radine, when it snows, it is amazingly magical. When I was ten years old and living in the old cabin next to the Agua Fria River, we woke one morning to a snow-dusted landscape. All the saguaros had little white caps on their uplifted arms. It was unforgettable.


Follow 50 Authors from 50 States blog for the latest