Breaking the rules can be deadly


In a moment, the magnificent Sonoran Desert can become merciless, even deadly. I will never venture there again without following the rules.

In my soon to be released YA novel The Scent of Rain, as in all my books, the beautiful but sometimes treacherous southwestern desert plays a part. I’ve lived in Phoenix, Arizona for over 25 years and I’d always believed that, in the event of a Zombie Apocalypse, I could manage to stay alive in the wilderness that butts up against our urban landscape. Years of Girl Scout camp, rock collecting in remote abandoned mines, and scuba diving in wild locales made me confident I could outwit the elements, if I found myself stuck in the middle of nowhere.

The key to survival is planning. Make rules and stick to them. As a sports official for over thirty-five years, I tend to be quite dedicated to rules. Still, one awful day, I committed the worst mistake imaginable. I broke my own rules: a decision that could have been fatal.

I was headed for a day of rock collecting in the Superstition Mountains. As always, I’d left a detailed map of where I planned to be and when to expect me home. Since finding a person in hundreds of square miles of mountainous wilderness is always a daunting task – especially when cellphone access is rarely available – the rule was that I would stay with the vehicle, which would be much easier to spot than a lone individual. My old Ford pickup was stocked with water and food, a sleeping bag, books to read, a tent, a bottle of tequila – to disinfect wounds, of course – and dog food. I traveled that day with Georgie, my aging sheltie collie, and a young spotted cattle-dog mix named Sadie.

Once off the two-lane road, I drove about a mile on a well-maintained dirt trail. But quickly, the ground became rocky and steep. A few twists and turns later, I stopped. The track was too rough. Unfortunately, I was between a rock wall and a small ledge leading into a sandy wash, so I couldn’t turn the truck around. I draped my arm over the passenger seat and started backing down the trail. Almost immediately, my rear tire slipped over the ledge, and the pickup slid into the wash. When I gunned the engine, the back tires sunk into the sand.

I swore loudly and jumped out, landing in a jumble of sharp rocks. My leg slipped into a crevice and I fell, slicing my arm on a jagged boulder. Blood ran down to my elbow in bright red streaks. I swore some more.

I stared back in the direction of the road. I was only about a mile-and-a-half in. It would be a short hike on a cool, cloudy day. I could flag someone down and call home. I strapped two water bottles around my waist, grabbed some energy bars, reapplied my sunscreen, and squashed on my Aussie hat. I put the dogs’ leashes in my pack.

I walked on the sandy wash for a short time, admiring the rocky desert beauty: spindly ocotillos, majestic saguaros, and twisted mesquite trees dotted the landscape. The dogs bounded around me. Then I stopped. Two trails, right next to one another, led away from the wash. I thought for a moment. Which one had brought me here? I took the fork to the left. I can’t remember why.

Later that morning, I stood near the top of a small mountain. The dark, open face of an abandoned mine yawned at me. I’d taken the wrong trail. I turned and gazed out at the valley. With the exception of the massive Ray Copper Mine edging the horizon, I saw only wilderness. Where was the road?

Then, the sun came out, strong and hot. I squinted and saw what looked like a white roof way off to my left. We started down the trail, which forked again. This was a mining road, composed of jagged rocks. After about 30 minutes, Georgie stopped. My collie had cut her paws on the rough trail and sat down, refusing to budge. Both animals stared at me, tongues lolling out of their mouths. I reached again for the water bottles, and was stunned that only about an inch of precious fluid remained.

The heat became stifling. I tried carrying Georgie, but she was too heavy. I looked for shade, knowing that we should wait out the heat and hike at night. But could we all survive on the little bit of water that remained? Death can come quickly in the desert.

Feeling sick to my stomach, I walked away from my girls. I’d leashed them to the meager shade of a scraggly bush, hoping to find help before dark. The coyotes would be out by then. Two tied dogs would have no chance against them.

I wiped tears from my face as I built cairns: trail markers that could lead me back. I’d had heat sickness before and recognized that I was beginning to succumb again to the light-headedness that precedes passing out. I finished the water.

Later, when I put my foot on a flat piece of pavement, I was stunned. The road simply appeared with no warning. Then, out of nowhere on that lonely stretch, a single car pulled up and stopped next to me. A young man, incongruously wearing a white button-down and tie, leaned out the window and asked if I needed help.

“You’re hurt,” he said looking at the dried blood on my arm.”

I cried.

The kind young man dropped me off at the Kearny sheriff’s office, where Mayberry-esq matrons in floral-print blouses fussed over me.  “No, I don’t want a paramedic,” I assured them, red-faced, crying. “I want my dogs!”

Several hours later, Sheriff Joe Martinez drove his cruiser into the desert with me on the seat beside him. We followed the trail of stone markers. I worried about my girls and was afraid to look when he said, “There they are!”

To my relief, we were greeted with wagging tails. Later, Sheriff Martinez, in true western hero fashion, pulled my truck from the sand and waved me off.

Prior to my brush with disaster, I could sometimes be heard mocking ill-prepared visitors who would end up lost in the desert without food, water, sunscreen, or proper clothing: hikers who approached the desert environment like a walk in a pastoral garden.

I don’t do that anymore.

And I never, ever, break the rules.

Anne Montgomery is an author. Her new novel, The Scent of Rain, tells the story of two Arizona teenagers whose fates become intertwined. Rose flees into the mountains to escape from her abusive polygamous community where her only future is marriage to a man older than her father. Adan, whose only wish is to be reunited with his mother, is on the run from the cruelties of the foster care system. Are their any adults they can trust? Can they even trust each other? The Scent of Rain will be released on March 28, 2017.

Yes, we all want friends, but sometimes you have to hit delete


Take the time to look at those friend requests. If something feels off, click delete.



Ever since we were wee tots, the notion that we had friends was intoxicating. Pals, buddies, chums, mates: whatever you call the folks with whom we share an affinity, the mere thought of them evokes feelings of warmth and happiness, ebullience and high spirits. With friends, what could go wrong?

Well, today, a lot. I’m talking here about certain Facebook friends. You know, the ones whose pictures you barely look at, before gleefully clicking on their Please Be My Friend- requests, all in the hope of adding another notch on your friend-list belt, which, of course, proves to everyone in cyberspace just how popular you really are.

But here’s the thing. We need to be careful whom we clutch to our electronic bosom. When I first began the considerable task of building my platform – that heady combination of social media accounts that today, as much as solid writing, determines whether an agent, editor, or publisher will sign an author to a contract – I didn’t pay any special attention to the folks who wished to befriend me.

Then, I started getting odd messages from men.“Saw your picture and had to contact you. What a lovely smile!” one bearded gentleman exclaimed. “How sweet!” was my initial thought. Then another mentioned something about “cuddling” and still another bemoaned his status as a divorced man, saying he was “lonely.”

After a few of these overtures, I started taking my time. I’d actually check out my possible friend’s page and I noticed a few similarities. First, their postings were woefully slim. In many cases just a few photos, which might show them in uniform – admit it ladies, uniforms are sexy – or with small children and/or cuddly little dogs. Some claimed to have attended school in exotic locales like Budapest or impressive places like West Point. Others offered that they could think of no better way to spend an afternoon than shuttling between farmers’ markets, or sipping wine, or watching a romantic sunset. It was a quick glance at the About section that showed all of these online admirers had but a handful of friends – or none at all – and little or no background information that finally had my spidey senses tingling.

So, who are these electronic suitors? Scammers in many cases, who are after your personal information in an attempt to steal your identify. Or people who want to befriend you, then share a sob story to convince you – kindhearted soul that you are – to part with some of your hard-earned cash.

The logical response is to only friend people you know. But for authors, and other people doing business on the Internet, that’s not possible. We are trying to build a clientele. What can we do? Slow down. Take a breath. Then click on your possible new friend’s page. Ask yourself, does something feel off? Once you’ve look at a few of these requests, you’ll catch the pattern. While they might look damn cute in that uniform, go ahead and click delete. You’ll be glad you did.

Anne Montgomery is an author. Her new novel, The Scent of Rain, tells the story of two Arizona teenagers whose fates become intertwined. Rose flees into the mountains to escape from her abusive polygamous community where her only future is marriage to a man older than her father. Adan, whose only wish is to be reunited with his mother, is on the run from the cruelties of the foster care system. Are their any adults they can trust? Can they even trust each other? The Scent of Rain will be released on March 28, 2017.


A cat, a boy, a bond

There was nothing extraordinary about the cat that stared at me from the pages of my local newspaper. He was black. Gold eyes. His name was Westin. He’d been at the Humane Society way too long. His $20 price tag a clear indication that if he did not find a home soon, well…

I called my son to come look at the picture. I told him about Westin. “Should we go get him?” I asked. His eyes lit up.

Within the hour we bounded through the door at the shelter, waving the newspaper article. “We’re here for Westin.” We grinned at the receptionist. A woman standing nearby frowned. I pointed at the picture again, wondering at her odd reaction.

“The story did not tell you everything,” she said, leading us toward a glassed-in enclosure, a place called the Campus for Compassion, where hard-to-adopt animals are placed for one last push to find them a forever home.

My son and I glimpsed Westin briefly through a large window as the woman ushered us through a doorway, around a corner, and through another door.  We somehow missed the sign that would have tipped us off that Westin was no ordinary kitty. The woman escorted us into the tidy room scattered with cat toys and shelves ascending one wall, where Westin quickly displayed his climbing skills. I sat on a small couch. Westin stared at me, then bounded into my lap.

“You get acquainted. I’ll get Westin’s records.” She left, closing the door behind her. A short time later, a young volunteer appeared, bearing a thick folder.

“Where did he come from?” I asked, as Westin head-butted my hand for the rub.

“He was one of thirty cats found abandoned in a hotel room,” she said. “We named them all after hotels.”

The thought that there were kitties nearby named Radisson, Hilton, Sheraton, and Howard Johnson made me want to laugh. Perhaps she read my mind.

“They’re all gone. They’ve been adopted. Westin is the only one left.”

I stared at the cat, now happily ensconced in my son’s lap. “Why?”

“Westin is sick.”

My son and I simultaneously stared at the cat, who appeared quite healthy and happy.

“When he came to us, he had lost a lot of his hair. We almost put him down. The vets here did a lot of testing and, well, Westin has horrible allergies. He’s on daily medication and will be for the rest of his life. He has to be fed special food that’s about $60 a bag.”

I stared at my son, a first-year college student who’s living at home while he studies to be a chef.

“I’ll leave you two to think about it,” she said, a hint of sadness in her voice. “He’s been here a long time.”

“It’s a lot of money,” I said when my son and I were alone. “And a lot of responsibility.” We already had three cats, two of which came to us as strays and which live on the front porch, just wild enough still that being inside upsets them. We also have an indoor cat that my son raised from a kitten. And a cattle dog.

When the volunteer came back, I asked if anyone else had ever wanted to adopt Westin.

“Oh, yes,” she said. “Until they found out about his problems.”

I turned to my son. “You said we’d split the costs,” I reminded him. He nodded, considering.

The boy with the blue eyes stroked Westin’s head. “He’s just like me, Mom. No one wanted me either.”

I stared at the ground. Troy is my third son. All of my boys spent time in the foster care system, before entering my life when they were teenagers, having been shuttled between group facilities and foster homes too many times to count, clearly understanding that there didn’t seem to be a family that wanted them.

I can’t say it hasn’t been a struggle. Westin suffered a ruptured ear drum and only wants to eat food that he’s allergic to. Still, he gets along fine with the other animals and is under the watchful eye of our vet. We are hoping that, someday, he can go without the daily doses of medication and the special expensive food. In the meantime, Troy takes care of Westin. They seem to have an understanding.


My son Troy takes care of Westin, a cat found abandoned with 29 others in a hotel room. They seem to have an understanding.

What prompted me to write The Scent of Rain? I couldn’t turn away.


 In March, my new novel The Scent of Rain will be released by the Amphorae Publishing Group. The book tells the story of Rose Madsen, a teenage girl raised in the polygamous community of Colorado City, Arizona, a cult where women are second-class citizens, preyed upon by the men of the community, forced into underage marriage, and required to give birth until they are no longer able.

While the story is fiction, the facts underlying Rose’s plight are real. At the order of the Prophet, Warren Jeffs, a man with upwards of 80 wives, the schools in Colorado City were shut down. With no education and no access to phones, TV, or the Internet, his followers have been brainwashed into believing the outside world is filled with devils and unremitting evil.

While researching information for the book, I traveled to Colorado City. At one point, outsiders were prevented from entering the town by men with rifles, but since the government paid to build the roads, stopping visitors is now illegal. What I found in the place the residents call Short Creek was both astonishing and sad. The women and girls sported strangely swept-up hairstyles and identical ankle-length, high-necked, long-sleeved, pastel-colored prairie dresses. The memory of a child, not much more than four, in her pale blue dress, staring at me from a grocery cart in the small town market broke my heart. I frightened her. My clothes identified me as an outsider, an emissary representing the evil she believed lay beyond the borders of her insular world.

Visiting Colorado City was, frankly, disturbing. But the information I gleaned from interviewing survivor Flora Jessop, who twice escaped the cult and has spent her life rescuing other girls and women from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, impressed upon me the horrors that were going on in my own state. Add to that the stories of Dr. Theodore Tarby who treated many of the FLDS children on the Arizona Strip and who tried to convince the cult members to marry outside their community, in order to avoid the plague of birth defects caused by inbreeding. Unfortunately, they ignored him.

The people of Colorado City and Hildale, towns which abut one another and which straddle the borders of Arizona and Utah, are often in the news. Slowly, their community is changing as the abuses inherent in their belief system are become more understood. As a former reporter, the simple fact that this cult exists in the United States in the 21st Century astounds me. As a teacher in a Title I school and a foster mom, the thought of children being abused by grown-ups who should know better sickens me. It has been hard to turn away.

But there is hope. The U.S. Department of Justice has recommended that the local police force be disbanded for its role in discriminating against non-believers. Cult leaders have been arrested for a complex fraudulent food stamp scheme. And Warren Jeffs sits in a cell in the Texas State Penitentiary in Huntsville, serving a term of life plus 20 years for sexually assaulting his 12 and 15-year-old child brides. In a spot of good news, a new library has opened in Colorado City, with a goal of providing education, information, and entertainment. Some light is beginning to shine through.

And that is the point of The Scent of Rain. Despite the harrowing conditions in which she lives, Rose yearns for future where she is not lost in a faceless sea of women valued only for their ability to bear children. She dreams of an education, fights against those who disparage her ambitions, and finds wonder in the world around her. As a teacher, my delight would be to meet Rose in my classroom.