How can this be happening?


The setting of my recently released novel, The Scent of Rain, is the cult town of Colorado City, Arizona. The story follows 16-year-old Rose as she begins to question the abusive world in which she lives.

People are often astounded when I explain about the situation in Colorado City. They wonder how, in 2017 in the United States of America, there can be a cult enclave where children are routinely physically and sexually abused by design and where old men take girls as young as 12 in forced “marriages.”

First, let’s backtrack a little. The community of Short Creek, which straddles the Arizona-Utah Line, was founded in 1913. The mainstream Mormon church had publicly denounced the practice of polygamy – what was a mainstay belief of the religion – in 1890, as a requirement by the US government for Utah statehood. Those Mormons who insisted on maintaining multiple wives spread throughout Canada, Mexico, and the western parts of the US. They became the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the FLDS, and were subsequently rejected by the mainstream Mormon church.

The people of Short Creek practiced polygamy in relative peace until  1953, when Arizona Governor John Howard Pyle launched an armed raid on the community. But word had leaked and the polygamists were ready. Records show that three explosions signaled the arrival of 200 state troopers. The town’s men stood near an American flag that fluttered in the schoolyard, singing “God Bless America.” The women and children hid in their homes, terrified. The men were arrested, the women forced to move to away, and many of the children were placed in foster care, some never to return to their families.

The whole affair became a media nightmare when pictures of crying children and dejected women were splashed across the pages of the national media. Life magazine wrote a scathing article, decrying the treatment of the people, saying, “It was like hunting rabbits with an elephant gun.”

As the people crept back to their town, which was renamed the dual communities of Colorado City, Arizona and Hildale, Utah, a new secrecy took hold. Rulon Jeffs made himself sole leader of the group in 1986 by eliminating the council of the FLDS church. When he died in 2002, his son, Warren Jeffs, took charge, becoming what the people called “President and Prophet, Seer and Revelator.”

The ascension of Warren Jeffs – the 14th of Rulon’s 60 children – was problematic because, even as a young man, he showed a predilection for perversion. In a video released by the Washington County Office of the Attorney General in Texas, Jeffs admitted to “immoral actions with a sister and a daughter” when he was 20. Two-time cult escapee Flora Jessop told me in an interview that Jeffs designed the prairie-style dresses the women wear, outfits that press their breasts flat and hide female curves, because he was more attracted to children than adults.

“If the world knew what I was doing, they would hang me from the highest tree,” Jeffs wrote in one of his many journal entries.

Today, the “Prophet” sits in a jail 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.” Sadly, he continues to run the cult from prison. According to a report by ABC News,  FLDS children are taught that Jeff’s is the President of the United States and his people are expected to pray for him every waking hour, an effort to free him from prison. Those who disagree with his many edicts are stripped of their possessions. Wives and children are confiscated like property and distributed to men who toe the “Prophet’s” line. Others, especially teenage boys – who young girls are naturally more attracted to than the old men who covet them – are cast out of the community to fend for themselves in a world they know nothing about.

But why do so many of the estimated 10,000 people living in and around this polygamous community believe Jeff’s outlandish lies? The answer is simple. They don’t know any better. Many of them were born in the local birthing clinics and have never been away from the area, which sits on the desolate Arizona Strip. They have no access to TV or the Internet, or books, or newspapers, or films. They only know what they’re told: The world they live in is Eden, the outside world Hell on Earth. And Warren Jeff’s is their god, who has the right to deny them and their loved ones entrance into the Celestial Kingdom.

So, what can we do? This is a question the state of Arizona has been grappling with ever since the ill-fated 1953 raid. And today, the stakes are higher, because the people are, once again, ready. A system of man-made caves drilled into the mountains behind the community is the place the standoff will occur, if they are attacked again. Jessop told me that cult members’ homes are replete with weapons, often hidden in the walls. The people expect the “Beast”- their term for the government – to make an assault and they will fight and die, if need be, for their way of life.

If the pictures from 1953 provoked an outpouring of sympathy, imagine the images such a confrontation might sear into our brains, an event that would make the horrors of Waco and Jonestown seem like average blips in our 24-hour news cycle.

There is no easy answer. Though, it appears nature might eventually solve the issue of Colorado City. Almost the entire population can trace roots back to just two families: the Jessops and the Barlows. Somewhere along the line a recessive gene appeared. The birth defects caused by what is called Fumarase Deficiency are both widespread and horrendous, resulting in both physical and mental handicaps. Despite this scourge, the people refuse to marry anyone outside the cult community. So, eventually, inbreeding will destroy the people.

But at what cost to the innocent?

Anne Montgomery’s new YA 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 there any adults they can trust? Can they even trust each other?  The Scent of Rain is available at and wherever books are sold.



The magic of Girl Scout Camp

One thing we teachers get to have that most other adults don’t is a real summer vacation. Not the week or so most people take during the warm stretch of the year, but an actual couple of months off. (They don’t pay us much, but we do have perks.)

As the school year winds down, I am often reminded of those summers when I was a kid, a time when I got to be someone else.

I stood before a wrap-around mirror at Lane Bryant, a store that originally supplied clothing for pregnant women, and then moved on to the plus-size juggernaut we know today. I was 12.

“It’s not my fault,” my mother said to the saleswoman, wringing her hands. “I feed her fish and salad with no dressing.”

The woman nodded. “I’m sure you do, still the child needs a size 16 in that dress.”

I turned away from my fashionably attired mother in her spike heels and cat eye glasses, wondering if she realized that, while I was fat, I was not deaf. I could hear the pleading in her voice. “How did I end up with an obese daughter?”

Being an overweight kid in the 1960s was a rarity, as most any class picture from the time will clearly show. Add to my girth the fact that I was a tomboy and cared little about my appearance and rarely brushed my red hair, so my mother had it sheared short. Perhaps she thought I might find the style disturbing and be prompted to care more about my looks. But the only thing my bowl cut with a prominent cowlick in the front did was confuse people in regard to my gender. Sometimes, I was asked if I was a boy or a girl.

By fifth grade, I was a thickly-proportioned five-foot-five. In photographs with other students I was, on occasion, mistaken for the teacher. Other kids teased me, but they never got too close. I think I actually frightened some of them. I did have a few friends, but when I turned 12, the girl who lived two houses down announced one day that she would no longer spend time with me.

“You’re a fat girl,” she said, not looking me in the eye. “Boys don’t like fat girls. If I’m your friend, they won’t like me either.” She turned and walked away. She never spoke to me again.

I sometimes stared at other girls in my class. By comparison most seemed to be petit, delicate little things. One in particular, a blond, blue-eyed child with perfect pitch and straight A’s, always stood out. She wore white lace ankle socks and played the piano. When the parts were cast for the school play one year, she was named the head fairy. My role? Head witch.

Every summer my parents sent me to Girl Scout Camp. The first time I was eight and went off for two weeks. That led to annual month-long excursions I would continue until I was 17.

I quickly learned that at camp no one forced you to brush your hair. What truly mattered had nothing to do with appearance. The most important thing at camp was swimming, for this was the activity that opened the doors to almost everything else. Campers were labeled according to their aquatic skills and assigned a cap color. Red was reserved for those most likely to sink like stones. Yellow caps had some skills, but needed serious monitoring. Green caps could hold their own in the water and blue caps were masters, swimmers the counselors never worried about.

One year, a new cap category was created just for me and one other camper. Casey and I were anointed white caps, after we completed the Red Cross Senior Life Saving course, which meant we had unfettered access to sailing and water skiing, canoeing and even scuba diving. I sometimes walked the dock when the other girls were taking their lessons, striding past the roped-off areas that kept the inexperienced swimmers from straying. I’d head out to the far end of the wooden-planked pier, not the least bit self-conscious about how I looked in my bathing suit. I would stand and stare out over the lake, where no ropes or buoys marred the view. Then I’d dive in, going deep into the dark water, feeling freer than I ever did on land.

The other thing that made me special at Girl Scout Camp was music. I had acquired an old guitar from my aunt and had taught myself a few rudimentary cords. (It’s rather amazing just how many songs you can play with G, Em, C and D7.) I learned quickly that the girl with the guitar was highly prized around the campfire every night. And when we’d sung our last song to the snap and pop of logs dying in the fire, we would head to our brown canvas tents that nestled in the trees, perched on wooden platforms, the sides rolled up. Cocooned in thick cotton sheets and flannel blankets, the pine-scented breeze wafted over us, as lake water kissed the rocks just a few feet away, and I knew a tranquil peace I had never found anywhere else.

The end of camp brought tears all around. Friends soon to be separated and, for me, the return to the world where neither swimming nor my nascent attempts at guitar playing mattered.

Then, one summer, I returned home from camp and my aunt’s jaw dropped upon seeing me.

“Who the hell are you!” she said, looking me up and down. “Damn! She’s got cheekbones.”

It wasn’t that I lost weight. The pounds just somehow rearranged, perhaps because I had less access to the candy bars I used to sneak daily.  Or maybe it was the rigors of that eight-day canoe trip. Or maybe it was magic wrought by the forest and the lake and the music and the fire. Whatever caused my transformation, no one ever called me fat again.

Me, Polly, Fish 400jpg

In this picture, holding the tail end of a papier mache fish and wearing my Girl Scout uniform, I was 12 and sometimes mistaken for the teacher.


Anne Montgomery’s new YA 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 there any adults they can trust? Can they even trust each other?  The Scent of Rain is available at and wherever books are sold.

On being nicer

Be nice 1

I became a teacher at the tender age of 45. All puffed up from my real-world experiences, and despite Welcome Back, Kotter, Boston Public, and Stand and Deliver, to name just a few depictions of struggles in the classroom, I figured teaching inner-city high school kids would be cake. Sigh…

When my on-camera TV career fizzled – a direct correlation to my nearing 40 – I spent a few years underemployed, until several acquaintances, at about the same time, enthusiastically suggested I become a teacher. Now I had never given teaching any thought. Zero! I laughed off the idea. After all, I was a dyslexic, academically underachieving high school student – who I must add here did pretty damn well in college after my brother bet me I’d flunk out the first semester.

But then my financial situation became more tenuous: you try paying the bills by officiating youth sports and working for seven bucks an hour as a part-time reporter at a small local newspaper. So, I went back to school.

It took me two years to get my teaching certification, and  before I ever stepped foot in a real classroom – I hadn’t even had the chance to do my eight weeks of student teaching – I was hired to teach video production and journalism in a high school communication arts magnet program in Phoenix, Arizona.

I learned quickly that I had replaced a beloved teacher who was popular for throwing pizza parties and allowing the students to do pretty much anything they wanted. Then, I stepped in, spouting responsibility and deadlines and maturity and professionalism.

I realized just how bad things were when one day a diminutive teen – the prettiest and most outspoken child in the room – stood up and declared that the students didn’t need me. That they had learned all they needed to know from their previous teacher. Then, she walked out, in the middle of class. To my horror, every one of my students followed her.

And so I stood at the front of the classroom, staring at all those empty seats, and I started to cry. A few “poor me” moments passed before the door opened. A tiny teacher, the “elder statesman” of the department who always had a faint whiff of nicotine wafting about her, watched me above reading glasses attached to a rainbow-colored beaded chain.

“They just left!” I motioned to the empty seats.

She nodded, walked over, and placed her hand on my shoulder. “It’ll be fine,” she said.

I turned away, embarrassed that she had seen tears slipping down my cheeks.

I continued to bulldoze my way through school days, expounding on life in the “real world” and reminding my students that if they wanted to succeed and make something of themselves they had better get with the program.

It was then that another long-time teacher sat me down after what had been a particularly tough day in the classroom. “Have you considered being . . . nicer?” she asked.

Nicer? What do you mean?”

She leaned back in her chair. “Just . . . nicer. It might help.”

“Nicer. I’d spent my previous life in newsrooms and on ballfields as an official, where “nice” was never part of the equation. You did your job, deflected unkind comments, and never let anyone see you cry.

About five years ago, I once again found myself replacing a popular teacher. Predictably, the students – mostly seniors – rebelled against the changes I made and my style of teaching. Despite the fact that I was a much more experienced teacher now, I struggled. Everyday. By the end of the school year, I was exhausted. Some of my students wouldn’t even speak to me.

During the last week of the school year, we held a department awards ceremony, where we fed the students lunch and handed out plaques, honoring those who stood out. Then the seniors got up and spoke about their time in the program, about leaving their classmates as they headed out into the world, and about the teachers who meant so much to them.

I listened to all the kind words, and watched as the other teachers, eyes glistening, accepted accolades from their students. One after another, the seniors spoke. Some cried. A few nodded in my direction as they retook their seats, but none of them said anything about me.

Then one young man stood up and faced the group. I had been especially demanding of him over the years. He wanted to be a film director. I spent a lot of time critiquing his video productions. Outside of class, we’d work on college and scholarship applications. Sometimes we’d talk about the difficulties he’d had growing up and his time in foster care. I can’t recall exactly what he spoke about initially that day, but then I heard him say my name.

“And, Ms. Montgomery,” he beamed me a smile. “I think of her as mom.” Then he walked over and put his arms around me.

Nice, indeed.

I am now finishing up my 17th year in the classroom. As my students will tell you, I can sometimes be a tough teacher. I’m still demanding, at times. Though now, I find myself saying good morning to students I don’t even know, and I take the time to ask how things are going when a student seems down. It’s not that I no longer preach responsibility and deadlines and maturity and professionalism. It’s just that I’m…well…nicer.

Anne Montgomery’s new YA 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 there any adults they can trust? Can they even trust each other?  The Scent of Rain is available at and wherever books are sold.

“How old am I supposed to look?”

I like to think – in fact, I believe – that in olden times wrinkles signified wisdom and dignity. Today, not so much. Drug makers, who are looking to wipe our faces clean of those evil little lines, are frothing at the mouth to create a product that smooths our skin, an effort to pump up their profits in what is an almost one-billion dollar a year industry.

I became acutely aware of wrinkles as I approached 40. Unbeknownst to me, I was nearing the end of my on-camera sportscasting career, not because I wasn’t good at my job. After all, I’d worked for five TV stations, so, logically, I opined, I must have been a competent reporter. But then, my final contract was not renewed and not a single TV outlet in the country expressed an interest in me, despite my credentials, which included working at both the local and national levels with a stint anchoring SportsCenter at ESPN.

It took me a while to catch on. Glimpses of older on-camera women I’d worked with – especially those framed unforgivingly in HD – more than hinted that they’d had “work” done. Then I’d look in the mirror. Did I really look all that different than when I first took my place in front of the camera?

My answer finally came in rather shocking fashion, a situation caused by years of sports officiating. I began calling amateur games in 1979. I first became a youth ice hockey official, which lead to me being certified in football, baseball, soccer, and basketball. It was those outside sports and silly rules about perception that doomed me. Until relatively recently, sports officials were not allowed to wear sunglasses. In fact, many still eschew regular glasses, as well, opting for contacts, lest they set themselves up for the, “What are ya, blind, ump?” retorts that are often flung at sports arbiters.

My loss of vision was gradual, but eventually it was clear something had to be done. Driving at night was difficult, the glare of oncoming headlights excruciating. I couldn’t see those line drives heading my way and would lose passes and kicks in the harsh stadium lights. I had cataracts, sadly, thirty years before the age my parents developed them.

The surgery was quick and simple. I remember thinking the inside of my eyeballs looked like Jackson Pollack paintings, all swirling lines and colors. A day or two later, I stood before the mirror. The haze I’d been looking through for so long had lifted, my sight clear for the first time in years. I reared back. When had all those wrinkles appeared?

It took a while, but I eventually adjusted. I had to admit that my face no longer mattered all that much. Neither my high school students, my beau, nor anyone I cared about gave a whit about whether I had lines on my face. In retrospect, it was rather freeing.

But then one day, while walking by one of those upscale salons in a fancy mall, I was stopped by a pretty twenty-something woman with an alluring accent and flawless skin. She stared at me, tilting her head, long hair cascading about her shoulders.

“Come in! Please.” She smiled, motioning toward the ornate open doors.”Let’s take a look at your face.”

As I had a little time to kill, I acquiesced. She put me in a pump-up chair, and produced fancy bottles and jars of creams and elixirs guaranteed to make me look younger. Then she handed me that dreaded little round mirror that magnifies to the extreme. I’d like to say I had never succumbed to this particular sales pitch, but I suddenly recalled all those TV years when I thought nothing of dropping two or three hundred bucks on products like the ones she was showing me.

I gazed into the mirror, and then stared up at her. “How old am I supposed to look?”

She paused, tilted her head. “Younger.”

“How much younger?”

She squinted, seemingly puzzled by the question.

“Really? What age am I supposed to look like?”

She pouted, thinking.  The smile returned as she dipped the end of her manicured pinky into a blue glass jar. “Younger.”

Then I noticed my long-time beau standing in the doorway of the salon, a bemused look on his face, a man who repeatedly, over two decades, had told me that he doesn’t care if I ever wear makeup or fix my hair or don anything but jeans and T-shirts.

Though she practically implored me to buy some of her magic creams, I declined. As I walked out the door, I couldn’t help but ask her one more time. “How old am I supposed to look?” When she couldn’t answer, I smiled and thanked her. Then Ryan wrapped his arm around my shoulder.

“I love you just the way you are,” he said.

Anne Rocking Drawing Twitter

Back when I worked in TV, the condition of my hair and makeup was, sad to say, the most important consideration of my day. Years later, I began dating a lovely man who had an artist draw my portrait. The picture he chose was from a day we’d been out out rock collecting in the Arizona desert. I had found a lovely stone, which I cupped in my hands to show him. No make-up. Hair a wild mess. “You’re the most happy when you’re rocking,” he said. “This is my favorite picture of you.” And now, it’s my favorite too.

Anne Montgomery’s new YA 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 there any adults they can trust? Can they even trust each other?  The Scent of Rain is available at and wherever books are sold.

The Scent of Rain launch a sellout!


The Scent of Rain launch party at the Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, Arizona, was a standing room only sellout. The event, which I shared with the marvelous mystery writer Cindy Brown, was a wonderful time for me personally, because my three foster sons, Brandon, Ziggy and Troy were all there, in the same place at the same time. The book is dedicated to them. In fact, Adan, one of the main characters in the the story, a young man running from foster care, is based on experiences they’ve shared with me over the years.

The Scent of Rain tells Adan’s story along with that of Rose, who flees the strict tenants of the Fundamentalist Mormon Church, where her only future is marriage to a man older than her father, and where she is doomed to a world where her worth is based solely on how many children she can produce.

While The Scent of Rain is a work of fiction, Colorado City, Arizona is a real place where children like Rose live right now. And currently, in Arizona, there are over 18,000 children in the foster care system. Children are struggling everyday. Here’s hoping The Scent of Rain can, at least, make us think more about them and, perhaps, offer a helping hand.


I wrote The Scent of Rain for a number of reasons. One was to tell the story of a teenage boy running from foster care. I am the mother of three foster sons to whom the book is dedicated and whose stories inspired one of the main characters. My thanks and love to Ziggy, Troy, and Brandon. I am proud and humbled you call me Mom.



The Scent of Rain Launch Party: Come and join the celebration

For those of you who reside here in the Valley of the Sun, or those of you who don’t mind long trips, come on out and join the celebration. The launch party and book signing for The Scent of Rain begins at 2:00 PM on April 2, 2017 at the Poisoned Pen Bookstore at 4014 N Goldwater Blvd in Scottsdale, Arizona.

That said…I thought I’d share Chapter 2 of my novel that 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 there any adults they can trust? Can they even trust each other?  

If you’d like to read Chapter 1 first, just scroll down to the March 18 post.

hope you enjoy the read.


Chapter 2

The sun tormented Adan Reyes.

The road he traveled cut through almost two million acres of northwestern Arizona, a remote and unforgiving area north of the Grand Canyon called the Arizona Strip, a land of giant, tabletop mesas and rough red mountains with broken spines jutting into the sky.

He raised his hand, shielding dark brown eyes, wishing he still had his sunglasses, which he’d sold to a college kid in Flagstaff for five bucks. He’d purchased a small cheeseburger and a bottle of water at McDonald’s— the only food he’d consumed since lunchtime the day before—then stuffed the remaining change in his pocket for emergencies. The absurdity was clear. The money was useless. He hadn’t passed a business, a house, or any sign of civilization since the trucker dropped him off.

Adan had been sure another ride would come along, but only a few vehicles had passed by, and the drivers had stared, then ignored the boy with his thumb out. So, he’d started walking. How long ago? He had no idea. The sun smoldered overhead, sucking at his skin.

What had brought him to this desolate place? Adan shook his head. What an idiot! He’d certainly not planned his escape well. His impulse had been to get away as fast as he could, before it was too late. So, he’d simply stuck out his thumb and gone wherever the drivers who picked him up were headed.

He was baking; his arms below the grimy white T-shirt sleeves burned a reddish-brown. Heat radiated beneath the Diamondbacks baseball cap, a parting gift from his mother. He wrestled with removing the hat to cool off and leaving his head covered so the bill would shade his eyes, giving him some chance to see the shimmering pavement stretching out before him.

Up ahead, a dusty unpaved road cut off to the left and snaked across the rocky ground. He squinted up the trail, hoping for some sign of life, but the track disappeared into the hills. He reached for the water bottle he’d tucked into the mesh netting on his backpack and held the container at eye level. The dark grime beneath his fingernails produced a sudden urge to wash his hands, but only an inch of water remained. He thought of the long showers he used to take back in Phoenix, then looked down at his filthy jeans and the once-dazzling white Jordan’s he’d worked so hard for. He felt a sudden rush of guilt, thinking of his poor mother who gasped when she heard what he paid for the shoes. He took great care with his clothes, and his bi-monthly haircuts, always pestering the barber to make sure the razor cuts edging his short black hair were perfectly straight. His eyes filled with tears, and he began to laugh.

Stop it! This isn’t funny, he told himself. He gripped the plastic bottle, crackling the container, the sound piercing in the surrounding stillness. He’d grown up in the Sonoran Desert, had been cautioned by his high school football and track coaches about the importance of hydration, and the damaging—and sometimes fatal—effects of heat sickness. And here he was, in the middle of nowhere with one slug of water left. What a fool.

Adan scanned the area, searching for evidence of a home or at least some shade. But only endless miles of wire fencing crisscrossing the land, spreading away from the mountains and the freshly oiled blacktop that ribboned up ahead, provided any proof of human habitation.

A sudden hot wind pelted him with debris so he shut his eyes tight. When he opened them again, he saw the dust devil dance down the road, the tiny tornado’s funnel a smoky-swirl rising into the sky. He watched the gray shaft sway and twist, then placed the water bottle back in the mesh pocket and slung his pack on his shoulders. He removed his cap to wipe the sweat from his forehead and continued walking, eyes fixed to the golden yellow line that divided the road.

Sometime later, Adan lay on the rocky berm beside the pavement and reached for the bottle. The hot plastic container was empty. When had he finished the last of his water? He lay his head back and stared at the hazy sky and, for the first time, saw the pale half-moon resting overhead.