Wolf Catcher: An excerpt

My historical novel Wolf Catcher will be published by TouchPoint press on February 2, 2022. Here’s a sneak peek. I hope you enjoy the read.

WOLF CATCHER

In 1939, on the last day of excavation, a shovel broke through the floor of a pit house at the Northern Arizona site archeologists called Ridge Ruin. The burial chamber overflowed with fabulous funerary objects: four hundred and twenty carved arrowheads, twenty-five decorated pottery vessels, a large collection of minerals and crystals, reed tubes filled with pigments, myriad baskets, and shells from the far off Pacific Ocean. Then there was the man, bedecked in fine turquoise jewelry and intricate beadwork, his body surrounded by wooden swords with handles carved as animal hooves and human hands. The Hopi workers stepped back from the grave, knowing what the Moochiwimi sticks meant. This man, buried nine hundred years earlier, was a magician.

Chapter 1

1098 A.D.

The azure sky revealed no signs of the violence that had changed the world. Only a pine-scented breeze pressed through a gnarled stand of junipers that stretched along the wash. He closed his eyes and remembered the ragged band of refugees, the lingering sulfur smell of them, and the story they told. The ground, they said, had heaved and broken open, a fissure splitting the earth in a roar of steam and brilliant flames that shot straight into the high desert night sky.

The horizon burned with a rainbow of fire, not just orange and yellow, but greens and blues, the heavens saturated with blazing pillars. Red clouds rose up, then settled upon the earth, building the mountain. Thick clods of burning stone burst forth, raining on the terrified people who had tried to save the sacred corn. Tongues of flame battled with lightning strikes that zigzagged across the sky. Streams of orange liquid ran in burning rivers, devouring everything. Had the villagers not moved a good distance away earlier, they would certainly have been consumed by the angry creature living beneath the earth.

Surely it was a sign that the People had been behaving badly.

A brightly-colored blue jay squawked and alighted onto a twisted branch above him. The bird jerked its head, glaring with an obsidian eye. The man smiled at the creature, then turned his thoughts back to the volcano, the place his father had instructed him to go. He glanced at the western sky. The journey from his village had taken several moons. It had been a difficult and lonely trek.

An animal’s howl reverberated off the stone slab on which he sat and melted away grisly visions of his village and the people he left behind.

He howled back, the sound indistinguishable from that of the animal. Moments later, a huge snow-colored kwewu bounded up the boulders to his side. The beast raised her snout and sniffed the air.

The man pointed to the northwest where he hoped to find the Volcano God’s home. “We will go that way, early in the morning.” He scratched the animal between the ears.

A short time later, he spread his bedroll in a shallow cave fronted by a dry wash and a small, twisted pinyon. He placed the bundle of carved sticks to his left and the shiny stone blade to his right. Clutching the leather bundle he wore on a thong around his neck, he silently renewed his promise to complete his quest and then prayed to the dead for their help.

When he finished, he stretched out in the soft sand, closed his eyes, and reached one last time for the blade. The kwewu turned in three circles before dropping down at his side.

Two men were crouched close by, silent behind a thick screen of prickly pear. The scarred one—the right side of his face bisected from forehead to chin, the result of a long-ago battle wound—had watched the man and animal go into a cave, unsure of whether the vision was real. The massive white creature was unlike any wolf he had ever seen. Its sleek, snowy fur and thickly muscled body seemed all the more incongruous because it walked beside the man. He, too, was different. Before the sun had set, the scarred one witnessed an odd light shining from the stranger’s eyes. He was exceptionally tall with fawn-colored skin. The two watchers nodded to one another and moved off to the far side of a short hill, careful to remain downwind, lest the animal catch their scents on the breeze.

The kwewu stirred and lifted her head. She raised her snout and sniffed at the breeze. A low, malevolent growl came from deep in her throat. In one motion, she rose and surged toward the sound.

She attacked the scarred watcher from behind, leaping onto the man’s back, knocking him to the ground. The warrior rolled and fought to protect himself, but was unable to reach the blade he wore secured in a sheath at his waist. The animal’s teeth tore a bloody gash in his forearm. He tried knocking the white wolf away, but her weight pinned him to the ground. The warrior forced his mind to slow as he faced the beast, keeping his chin down to protect his neck.

“No! No!” a voice called out. “Stop!”

Instantly, the wolf froze, pink drool oozing between lethally sharp teeth whose sole purpose was to rip flesh.

“Come!” the tall pale man ordered. But a moment later his world evaporated, a stone-headed club ending his attempt to call the animal off. A sickening thunk sounded and he rode the high-pitched cry of the kwewu into the darkness.

Chapter 2

Flagstaff, Arizona 2005

Kate Butler and Jack Cooper met in the lounge of the Hotel Monte Vista.

“I got the Bon Jovi Room.” She smiled, holding up the keycard to room 305. “It seems he once slept there.”

Cooper smiled and tried to remember the last time he’d seen Kate. “I’m in the Zane Grey Suite. There are copies of his book covers all over the walls—”

“I once read Riders of the Purple Sage.” Kate eyed the offerings behind the bar.

Cooper motioned to a twenty-something woman drying glasses. Even in late May, tinsel and brightly-colored Christmas lights decorated the room. A jukebox was positioned near one wall and a round glass machine filled with Reese’s Pieces sat on the bar. The dispenser delivered a handful of candy if fed a quarter. Humphrey Bogart’s sagging mug stared from a Casablanca poster.

After the drinks were delivered, Cooper sipped a twelve-year-old Scotch on the rocks. The Yuma County Deputy Sheriff leaned back on the stool. “How long has it been, Kate?”

“I can’t remember, Coop.” She sipped her beer from the bottle.

Cooper fingered the rim of his glass. “So, fill me in on your archeologist friend. Will Doctor—”

“Perkins. Dr. Perkins.” Kate didn’t notice she’d cut him off. Again.

“You didn’t let me finish.”

Kate dropped her head to her chest. “I’ve been trying to stop interrupting people, Coop.”

Cooper twirled the ice in his drink with a small red plastic straw, ice cubes clinking against the glass, and gave her a wry smile.

“Really! I’ve been practicing. Taking a breath. Pausing before I jump in.” The former television reporter seemed sincere.

“I’m guessing your well-honed ability to cut in served you well as a journalist.”

“Sometimes.” Kate’s blue eyes flashed. “Especially in press conferences. If you didn’t ask fast, your question didn’t get answered. But those one-on-one interviews were always hard for me because I—”

“Was always finishing other people’s sentences?” Cooper raised both eyebrows and leaned his chin on one hand. “Go on, Butler. Fill me in on what I’m doing here.”

Kate took a breath. “I’m in Flagstaff to work on a freelance magazine article. I thought you might be interested in doing some … research.”

Cooper grinned, admiring Kate’s simple white T-shirt, straight faded jeans, and well broken-in cowboy boots. A pair of silver earrings inlaid with turquoise and black onyx dangled down her neck. She was fibbing. “Is it my interest in archeology or something else?

Kate frowned and took a deep breath. Then she shrugged. “I’m still adjusting, Jack.”

“I can’t believe they fired you.”

“I’m too old.” Kate laughed, though she sounded sad. “I’m no longer pretty enough to be on the front end of a camera.”

“What about all those Emmys for investigative reporting, Kate?”

“They’re gathering dust in my closet. I just have to face it, Coop. Women broadcasters have a shelf-life, and, like a loaf of bread, mine has expired.”

He shook his head. “And then you missed me.”

She fiddled with the label on a sweating bottle of Coors.

When Kate didn’t respond, Cooper let her off the hook. “You mentioned something about a magician,”

“Yes!” The spark returned to her eyes. “But let me backtrack a little. I worked with Dr. Perkins on my last story, the one about the ballcourts.” Kate took a quick sip of chilled beer.

“I’ve read about ballcourts. As I recall, Native Americans in Central and South America played games with their enemies’ heads.”

“That depends on where they were playing. They think the ball game comes originally from Mesoamerica. In fact, when the early explorers arrived from Europe, they found the Indians playing with rubber balls, all decked out in their padded uniforms and helmets. An entire team was escorted back to Spain to play for the king and queen. And there’s evidence that some of those vanquished in the ball game did, in fact, lose their heads and had them booted around the court.”

“To the raucous cheers of the victors!” Cooper pumped his arm into the air.

“No doubt,” Kate said. “But here in the U.S., there’s nothing that points to that ever happening. In fact, for a long time, no one even thought there were any ballcourts here. Archeologists had only found them in Mexico and farther south. They’ve now identified almost two hundred ballcourts in Arizona, and there are probably many more. They’re really hard to find sometimes.”

“I’ve seen the one at Pueblo Grande Museum in Phoenix.” Cooper took another drink of Glenfiddich and pictured the anachronistic Hohokam ruin that rested near Sky Harbor Airport in the eastern section of the city. “It kind of looks like an oval swimming pool without the water.”

“That one is pretty typical. A ballcourt is a depression carved out of the ground and plastered with a stucco-type material to make the floor and sides smooth. But there are also some made of stone. The ballcourts average about eighty feet wide and are sometimes longer than a football field. The walls are about nine feet high. There are different types of goals at each end. Think basketball or hockey.”

Cooper smiled.

 “What?”

“I like your hair,” he said.

Kate reached up, tucking her shoulder-length auburn hair behind her ears.

“Back when you were covering the police beat for Channel 10 your hair was short. I liked that, too.” Cooper grinned. “When we get back to Phoenix, I want you to point out the guy who said you’re too old and not attractive enough to be on TV. I think I’ll have a friendly chat with him.”

Kate blushed. “Don’t do anything you’ll regret.”

“Of course not. Now, go on. Tell me more about this game.”

“From what we can tell, the players had to pass a ball, sometimes rubber or leather, or even stone, through the goal. Dr. Perkins is the one who took me out to Ridge Ruin to see the ballcourt.”

Kate remembered the day she’d learned about the man she was now unable to forget. The site of the ruin was about ten miles east of Flagstaff. Cold raindrops started to fall on the scattered junipers, their piney scent mixed with rain-dampened earth. The ground was rocky, a mixture of small chunks of red basalt and black cinders left from the eruption of the Sunset Crater Volcano almost nine hundred years earlier. But it was the man-made objects that had captured Kate’s imagination. Though the remains of Ridge Ruin had been backfilled to keep what was left of the pueblo hidden from view and safe from looters, the ground was littered everywhere with beautiful pottery fragments: potshards with ornate black-and-white patterns, pieces scattered everywhere that Kate knew she wasn’t even supposed to touch.

She looked at Cooper and lost her train of thought for a moment. After all those times she’d picked up the phone and put it down again, she’d finally called and invited him to join her. Was it a good idea? Maybe not.

“And?” Cooper rubbed his finger around the edge of the rocks glass.

“And … that day at Ridge Ruin, Dr. Perkins explained what little we really know about the ball game. I tried to imagine the people back then, excited, urging their favorite players on. And then he turned and pointed to the hill behind us. ‘That’s where The Magician was found,’ he told me. ‘Who?’ I asked. Then the rain started falling really hard and we bolted back to the truck. We’ll meet with Dr. Perkins tomorrow and see The Magician’s funerary objects.”

“I don’t want to bother you while you’re working,” Cooper said. “I see my role as faithful puppy, following around adoringly at your heels.”

His blue eyes twinkled. They perfectly matched his cashmere sweater. Jack Cooper was the best-dressed cop she’d ever met.

“Why don’t you tell me what you know about The Magician, so I can pretend to be your assistant.”

“I thought you were tired of undercover work, Coop.”

“Don’t want to let those valuable skills just rust away, darlin’.” He signaled to the barmaid for another round.

“No more beer for me,” Kate said. “I’ll have some tea. I have to work tomorrow.”

“However, I do not.” Cooper grinned and ordered their drinks.

A short time later, Kate filled her teacup from a round white pot. No sugar. No cream. Kate Butler, unlike her Irish ancestors, liked her tea—which she was as devoted to as much as any soda or coffee drinker was to his beverage of choice—black and straight.

“After Dr. Perkins pointed out The Magician’s burial place at Ridge Ruin that day in the rain, I forgot about it for a while. No, forgot isn’t the right word. I put him in the back of my head because I had the ballcourt story to write. And I had classes since I was working on my masters.”

“I’m proud of you.”

 “Proud?”

“Yes, Kate. Going back to school. Getting a master’s degree. Not an easy thing for an average middle-aged American.”

Kate frowned. “Let’s drop the middle-aged reference, shall we?”

Cooper patted her hand. “Tell me about The Magician.”

“I did some research to see if I could get the magazine to let me do a story on him,” Kate said. “I found a paper by John C. McGregor titled ‘Burial of an Early American Magicianthat was presented to the American Philosophical Society in 1943.”

“I think I’ve read about McGregor. He was an archeologist?”

“He was. He led the group that exhumed The Magician in 1939. So, he was there at the discovery of the tomb. I’m not sure of his official title at that time, but when he presented the paper, he was the Archeologist and Curator of Dendrochronology at the Museum of Northern Arizona.”

“Ah, dendrochronology.” Cooper sipped the single-malt Scotch. “Dating past events through the study of tree rings. Lots of rain—thick rings. Drought—thin rings. Archeologists count the rings to determine the tree’s number of growing seasons and the weather patterns during that time. Right?”

“Is there nothing you don’t know something about?”

“I am a Renaissance Man, Kate.” Cooper grinned.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 0-3.jpg

The past and present collide when a tenacious reporter seeks information on an eleventh century magician…and uncovers more than she bargained for.

WOLF CATCHER

Anne Montgomery

Historical Fiction/Suspense

TouchPoint Press

February 2, 2022

In 1939, archeologists uncovered a tomb at the Northern Arizona site called Ridge Ruin. The man, bedecked in fine turquoise jewelry and intricate bead work, was surrounded by wooden swords with handles carved into animal hooves and human hands. The Hopi workers stepped back from the grave, knowing what the Moochiwimi sticks meant. This man, buried nine hundred years earlier, was a magician.

Former television journalist Kate Butler hangs on to her investigative reporting career by writing freelance magazine articles. Her research on The Magician shows he bore some European facial characteristics and physical qualities that made him different from the people who buried him. Her quest to discover The Magician’s origin carries her back to a time when the high desert world was shattered by the birth of a volcano and into the present-day dangers of archeological looting where black market sales of antiquities can lead to murder.

REVIEW COPIES OF WOLF CATCHER AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST

Contact: Chelsea Pieper, Publicity Manager, Media Liaison

Review/interview requests: media@touchpointpress.com

Pre-orders available here.

Learning to respect the dead

Wolf Catcher will be released by Touchpoint Press on February 2, 2022.

I’m not a religious person, so I have, in the past, missed signs around me that had spiritual implications. For example, when I was researching my novel Wolf Catcher—which will be released by TouchPoint Press on February 2, 2022–I didn’t understand how offensive some of my choices were in that regard.

Originally, I was hired to write a magazine article about the man they call The Magician. His fabulous, nine-hundred-year-old tomb had been uncovered by archeologists in 1939, beneath a pueblo on a lonely hillside about ten miles from Flagstaff, Arizona. Back in those days, no one thought anything of exhuming indigenous burial grounds, which now seems absurd. Logically speaking, there’s not much difference between rifling through the belongings of ancient mummies and digging up one’s modern-day grandmother. (Imagine collecting the jewelry from grandma’s body and selling her precious possessions on eBay.)  And yet, that’s what been happening world-wide over the last several centuries.

I remember the fanfare when the King Tut exhibit traveled across the US in 1979. I never considered that putting his funerary objects on display might have been disrespectful.

As a kid, I grew up going to the Museum of Natural History in New York, where burial offerings from around the world were often on exhibit. The practice seemed quite common and acceptable. But, while trying to determine who The Magician might have been, I discovered just how offensive it is to put human remains and funerary objects on display. My first hint was a letter my editor at the magazine received when I stupidly requested a DNA test on The Magician. My reasoning seemed sound. The Magician was described by those who found him as different from the people who buried him in several ways. He was particularly tall for his time and did not resemble the Native Americans who populated the region. He was said to have Caucasian facial features, so my first thought was how did a man who may have had some European ancestry make it to what would become the American Southwest almost one-thousand years ago.

My request for scientific analysis was met with a hard no from the Hopi tribal authorities. The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990 stipulates that all remains and funerary objects must be treated with respect and dignity and that the destruction of any portion of a body—even something as seemingly insignificant as a tiny fleck of tooth for a DNA sample—is unacceptable and illegal.

At that point, I was so focused on getting my story done, that I didn’t really understand what the big deal was. Then, when I arrived to interview an archeologist I’d worked with previously, I was shocked when he didn’t appear. It would be another archeologist who would gently explain the problem. Archeologists, I learned, are bound by their relationships with Native American Tribes. If they want to dig on tribal or even public land, they must get permission. If they don’t follow the rules, they will be shut out, which would hurt their reputations as scientists and limit their ability to study. My investigation posed a threat to the man’s career, a risk he wasn’t willing to take.

This ancient pottery shard perhaps depicts a turtle or a man. It’s the one piece I kept, because it was harvested from a site that was being prepared for houses and I’d been given permission to take it.

While researching the story, I picked up a number of pottery shards. My logic was simple. I was on public land, so clearly I had committed no crime. But again, I was wrong. Those beautiful pieces of ancient fired clay, many so bright and vibrant they looked like they’d been painted yesterday, should never have been taken from their resting places, because once you’ve removed an artifact from its setting, you’ve destroyed its sense of time and place—it’s historical significance—something you can never get back.

After finishing Wolf Catcher, I found myself staring at those thousand-year-old bits of pottery and couldn’t pretend I hadn’t done something wrong. I spoke about my feelings with a friend who was a nondenominational pastor. She quickly responded that I should put the pieces back where I found them.

So, she and I traveled to Ridge Ruin where I gently returned the shards to the hillside. We stood on the rocky ground under which the pueblo lay hidden, having long ago been backfilled to protect it from looters. I stared at the spot where The Magician had been buried with such reverence all those years ago. My friend asked me to apologize for my mistake, which I did.

As I said earlier, I’m not a religious person, and yet, as we left that windswept hillside that held the remains of Ridge Ruin in its belly, I felt better. And I promised myself I would not make the same mistakes ever again.

The past and present collide when a tenacious reporter seeks information on an eleventh century magician…and uncovers more than she bargained for.

WOLF CATCHER

Anne Montgomery

Historical Fiction/Suspense

TouchPoint Press

February 2, 2022

In 1939, archeologists uncovered a tomb at the Northern Arizona site called Ridge Ruin. The man, bedecked in fine turquoise jewelry and intricate bead work, was surrounded by wooden swords with handles carved into animal hooves and human hands. The Hopi workers stepped back from the grave, knowing what the Moochiwimi sticks meant. This man, buried nine hundred years earlier, was a magician.

Former television journalist Kate Butler hangs on to her investigative reporting career by writing freelance magazine articles. Her research on The Magician shows he bore some European facial characteristics and physical qualities that made him different from the people who buried him. Her quest to discover The Magician’s origin carries her back to a time when the high desert world was shattered by the birth of a volcano and into the present-day dangers of archeological looting where black market sales of antiquities can lead to murder.

REVIEW COPIES OF WOLF CATCHER AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST

Contact: Chelsea Pieper, Publicity Manager, Media Liaison

Review/interview requests: media@touchpointpress.com

Pre-orders available here.

How a sports reporter ended up writing about history

The fabulous, Palaeolithic cave paintings in Lascaux, France inspired my love of ancient history when I was a child.

I know exactly when my interest in ancient history was sparked. I recall a TV show that showcased fabulous 17,000-year-old cave paintings of animals in France, a program that inspired me to grab a hammer and chisel and head out into my Northern New Jersey garage. I was maybe 12, and can you really blame me for wanting to see what ancient people might have left inside the walls of my home? With visions of drawings and arrow points and pottery dancing in my head, I wailed away at that wall. That is until my mother arrived, her pointy-toed high heels clacking on the driveway. She gazed at me through black, cat eye glasses. It wasn’t until that moment that I sensed I might be doing something wrong. I dropped my tools and ran. The rest of the weekend I had to stand and watch my father as he repaired the damaged wall, muttering under his breath the whole time.

The Mesoamerican ballgame was a cross between basketball and ice hockey.

I have been fascinated by what happened long ago for over 50 years. How human lives have changed in myriad ways, but are the same in many others. It should come as no surprise then that I started writing about history. I was hired by Arizona Highways Magazine to research a story on Mesoamerican ballcourts. As I’d spent most of my professional life at that point as a TV sports anchor and reporter, asking me to write about an ancient ballgame made some sense. Turns out there are over 200 ballcourts in Arizona alone, a testament to the popularity of the contest, which looked a bit like basketball with participants padded rather similarly to modern-day ice hockey players.

It was while researching that story that I accidentally discovered the man they call The Magician. I remember the day I arrived at the lonely, high-desert site about ten miles from Flagstaff, Arizona. Cold raindrops started to fall on the scattered junipers, their piney scent mixed with that of dampened earth. The ground was a rocky mixture of small chunks of red basalt and black cinder left from the eruption of the Sunset Crater Volcano almost nine-hundred years earlier. Beautiful pottery fragments with intricate black-and-white designs littered the hillside. I was interviewing an archeologist from the Museum of Northern Arizona about the ballcourts when he pointed up the slope.

“That’s where they found The Magician,” he said, as if I might know who he was talking about.

It was while reseraching a story on ancient Mesoamerican ballcourts–this one at the Wupatki National Monument–that I learned about the man they call The Magician.

After some research, I wondered about the man and his fantastic grave that was discovered in 1939 and filled with over 600 exquisite funerary objects: arrow points and pots, mineral specimens and shells from the far-off Pacific Ocean. Fine turquoise jewelry, beaded items, paint pigments, baskets, and mosaics. Then, there were the wooden swords with handles carved into animal hooves and human hands, the objects that identified him as a sword swallower and a magician.

My novel, Wolf Catcher, which will be published by TouchPoint Press on February 2, 2022, tells two stories. One follows Kate Butler, a former TV reporter who’s no longer pretty enough to be on the front end of a camera. She’s turned to print reporting, but can’t get anyone to talk about the The Magician. Still, Kate, who has given up any dreams of a personal life to concentrate on her work, is determined to finish the job.

Kaya lives at the Village on the Ridge in the late 11th century, shortly after the waking of the Volcano God, whose eruption changed the lives of the people in the high desert. Some, like those on the Ridge, were blessed, while others were left to wander the landscape homeless and hungry. Kaya is a healer who, like Kate, has given up a personal life for her vocation. She is tasked with tending an odd-looking injured man who the People call Wolf Catcher. The massive white wolf that appears with him is both fascinating and frightening. Some believe the arrival of the two is a harbinger.

Wolf Catcher tells the modern-day story of a reporter’s quest to determine whether Europeans somehow arrived in the New World thousands of years earlier than previously believed, the problems associated with archeological looting and the black market sales of antiquities, and delves into personal choices and relationships, proving human beings have not changed all that much over the centuries.

The past and present collide when a tenacious reporter seeks information on an eleventh century magician…and uncovers more than she bargained for.

WOLF CATCHER

Anne Montgomery

Historical Fiction/Suspense

TouchPoint Press

February 2, 2022

In 1939, archeologists uncovered a tomb at the Northern Arizona site called Ridge Ruin. The man, bedecked in fine turquoise jewelry and intricate bead work, was surrounded by wooden swords with handles carved into animal hooves and human hands. The Hopi workers stepped back from the grave, knowing what the Moochiwimi sticks meant. This man, buried nine hundred years earlier, was a magician.

Former television journalist Kate Butler hangs on to her investigative reporting career by writing freelance magazine articles. Her research on The Magician shows he bore some European facial characteristics and physical qualities that made him different from the people who buried him. Her quest to discover The Magician’s origin carries her back to a time when the high desert world was shattered by the birth of a volcano and into the present-day dangers of archeological looting where black market sales of antiquities can lead to murder.

REVIEW COPIES OF WOLF CATCHER AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST

Contact: Chelsea Pieper, Publicity Manager, Media Liaison

Review/interview requests: media@touchpointpress.com

Get your copy where you buy books.

Revisiting a most extraordinary New Year’s Eve

Every year for decades I have wondered whether the coming New Yera’s Eve celebration could top the one I experienced in 1976. So far, nothing’s come close. So, in honor of that long ago evening, I will share the story again.

download-1
Vianden Castle is one of scores in Luxembourg, but it would be a castle in nearby France that would be the setting for an unforgettable New Year’s Eve.

Forty-six years ago, I faced a young man I had just met.

“Come with me,” he said.

I had arrived in Luxembourg, that wee country squeezed by Germany, France and Belgium, just two days earlier, the beginning of a six-month stint abroad at my university’s branch campus. I had been placed with Kurt and Margareta Schroeder: Swedes, two of the loveliest people I have ever met. Lennart was their son.

“She’s an old friend,” he explained about the woman who owned the castle. “Every New Year’s Eve we go there and celebrate.”

I did not, at that point, sense there was something he wasn’t telling me. Sweet Margareta, who would, over the course of my stay, squeeze me orange juice and provide fresh-baked bread and honey each morning, assured me that the short drive into France would be fun and that her blond, blue-eyed boy with the mass of unruly curls would take good care of me.

“Sure, I’ll go. What should I wear?”

“It’s a drafty, dirty old castle,” Lennart said. “Just wear jeans.”

Later, we drove past open fields and woodlands where trees stood naked and lacy, having long ago shed their leaves. Pewter clouds pressed from above. The chill made me glad to be wrapped in a turtleneck, heavy sweater, and ski jacket. My straight-legged Levi’s topped rugged hiking boots. As the countryside raced by, I wondered what a “dirty, old castle” might look like. I’d spent my life in New Jersey, a place pretty much devoid of castles of any kind.

Lennart turned onto a narrow road, like the rest, a quaint blend of forest and rolling pastures.

“This is part of the estate,” he said. “She inherited two thousand acres from her grandfather.”

download-4
A six-foot, white marble sculpture depicting this famous scene of Washington crossing the Delaware incongruously rested halfway up the castle’s front stairs.

When he pulled onto the circular drive, I stared at the massive, two-story stone structure that was maybe four-hundred years old. As we mounted a wide, white stairway, I considered the odd placement of a sculpture that appeared to be George Washington and his men on their fabled crossing of the Delaware. The piece rested halfway up the staircase. I would soon learn that the statue’s haphazard placement was a remnant of the castle’s World War II occupation by Nazi officers who were caught amidst their attempts to steal artwork. The sculpture was left on the stairs as soldiers fled an attack by local French citizens and there it remained.

“The castle has sixty-four rooms,” Lennart said. “But we only use a few of them. It costs too much to keep the heat on.”

Marie greeted us in French and with two kisses, one on each check for Lennart. She eyed me quizzically. I couldn’t help but notice her modelesque frame squeezed into impossibly tight jeans. A scarlet, long-sleeved shirt similarly hugged her curves, revealing a hint of cleavage, and perfectly matching red lipstick highlighted her lips. Raven hair hung loose down her back. High, black heels clacked with each step.

My hiking boots suddenly felt heavy. My cuffed Levi’s a bit too rustic.

Marie chattered on with Lennart in French, one of five languages he conversed in fluently. “She doesn’t speak English,” he whispered.

My French was pathetic. I could read menus and road signs and order wine, if I had to. But I didn’t need to understand the language to see there was something between them.

Marie led us into a dining room where a long table was set with linens and crystal. A chandelier sparkled above, throwing shadowed light on 16th century paintings. Over the course of the evening, eight other Parisians would join us, not one of whom spoke English.

Multiple bottles of wine and champagne were uncorked. When we were all seated, a silver tray appeared from the kitchen bearing a massive fish. I wondered if poisson was the traditional New Year’s Eve repast, as I requested another serving. I didn’t notice I was the only one asking for seconds.

I was surprised when the next platter appeared. And even more so when subsequent others arrived. I knew, without being told, that to decline an offering would be rude. As I needed a pause before the next course circled the table, I was greatly appreciative when we ran out of wine and Lennart explained that we would have to trek to the cellar for more. One dark-haired, animated man–who I was told was a popular French comedian–led us through the castle’s murky halls and stairways. He started singing Gregorian chants, which seemed both fitting and a bit sacrilegious when we arrived at the family chapel, replete with alter and pews and cross. More than a bit tipsy, we joined him, our voices echoing off ancient stone walls.

We wound our way through the dark halls of the castle until we reached a wine cellar, where some bottles were over 100 years old.

We retrieved myriad dusty bottles of wine, some over 100 years old. As you might expect, much of the rest of the evening is a bit of a blur. But sometime later, I woke in a bedroom shrouded in shadow. I could hear the ticking of a grandfather clock and loud stomping. Boots hitting the floor over and over. But my wine-addled brain and warm covers precluded me from investigating.

The next morning, I asked Lennart if I could see the clock. He translated my request. Marie, tilted her head.

“The clock was removed from that room many years ago,” Lennart said.

I wondered if the Nazis were to blame, but I didn’t ask.

“And the stomping?” I waited while Lennart spoke with Marie.

“That is the German soldier,” he translated. “He was caught in the courtyard when the Nazis were fleeing. He was killed there. Later, Marie’s grandfather took the man’s skull and placed it in his library. The soldier has been marching around the castle at night ever since.”

I stared at Marie. Her shrug told me a stomping Nazi ghost was no big deal in an old French castle.

On the drive back to Luxembourg, Lennart would confess that he and Marie had dated for years. This was the first New Year’s Eve celebration they weren’t a couple. He knew she was seeing someone and didn’t want to go to the castle alone. He did not disuuade the others when they inquired if we were dating.

Over four-and-a-half decades of New Year’s Eve celebrations have passed since my trip into the French countryside, an evening filled with subterfuge, fabulous food, old wine, a stomping ghost, and an invisble grandfather clock.

I’m pretty sure nothing will ever top that.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image.png

The past and present collide when a tenacious reporter seeks information on an eleventh century magician…and uncovers more than she bargained for.

WOLF CATCHER

Anne Montgomery

Historical Fiction/Suspense

TouchPoint Press

February 2, 2022

In 1939, archeologists uncovered a tomb at the Northern Arizona site called Ridge Ruin. The man, bedecked in fine turquoise jewelry and intricate bead work, was surrounded by wooden swords with handles carved into animal hooves and human hands. The Hopi workers stepped back from the grave, knowing what the Moochiwimi sticks meant. This man, buried nine hundred years earlier, was a magician.

Former television journalist Kate Butler hangs on to her investigative reporting career by writing freelance magazine articles. Her research on The Magician shows he bore some European facial characteristics and physical qualities that made him different from the people who buried him. Her quest to discover The Magician’s origin carries her back to a time when the high desert world was shattered by the birth of a volcano and into the present-day dangers of archeological looting where black market sales of antiquities can lead to murder.

REVIEW COPIES OF WOLF CATCHER AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST

Contact: Chelsea Pieper, Publicity Manager, Media Liaison

Review/interview requests: media@touchpointpress.com

Pre-orders available here.

Wolf Catcher to be released on February 2, 2022

The past and present collide when a tenacious reporter seeks information on an eleventh century magician…and uncovers more than she bargained for.

I’m delighted to announce that Touchpoint Press will be releasing my novel Wolf Catcher on February 2, 2022. For lovers of suspense and historical fiction based in fact, I encourage you to take a look.

Kate and Kaya, who are separated by nine centuries, both feel rejected by the societies in which they live and are bound together by one man. The Magician, as he came to be called, was discovered in 1939 when archeologists uncovered a tomb at a remote Northern Arizona site called Ridge Ruin. The man, bedecked in fine turquoise jewelry and intricate beadwork, was surrounded by myriad pots, arrow points, and fine mineral specimens. But it was the wooden swords with handles carved into animal hooves and human hands that the Hopi workers explained identified him as a magician.

But who was he? In my former role as a journalist, I was tasked with determining why this man, who appeared different from the people who buried him, was interred so reverently and with such incredible wealth. Many of the situations that fictional reporter Kate Butler faces in the story actually happened. My research carried me back to a time when the high desert world was shattered by the birth of a volcano, then forward into the present-day dangers of archeological looting and the black market sales of antiquities.

Pre-orders are available here.

Deconstructing the holidays

Some people love their Christmas decorations so much they keep them up long after the holiday season is over.

The winter holidays are funny things. Some people get all giddy at the thought of the festivities. You know the ones. Those folks who put their Christmas lights up in October and keep every strand in place until tearfully taking them down in April. Wreaths are a permanent fixture, and they feel compelled to send out those incredibly detailed family newsletters where everyone is happy, successful, and using all their spare time to feed the homeless.

Others, however, dread those year-end family/friend celebrations. Some despair at the thought of ugly-sweater parties, accidental pauses under the mistletoe, secret Santas, and those groaning tables of tempting but questionable potluck fare.

Don’t get me wrong. When I was a kid, I thought Christmas was grand, even though my parents made us work for every one of the cool things we got. In our house, one had to prove oneself worthy of those special gifts. I’d skied for several years before Santa deposited those bright-blue skis with my name engraved on the tips under the tree. And he added a light blue jacket that matched a new ski outfit. Very cool. Then, Santa decided that after two years of renting a clarinet, I could have my very own. Same with the guitar that appeared magically under the tree when I was 15. A sweet Yamaha 12-string that arrived via reindeer sled, three years after I’d begun plunking away on an old hand-me-down. Back then, we had to prove to “Santa” that our hobbies were not just passing fancies. And anticipation—a quaint idea in our world where everyone wants things right now—was a constant companion.

When my siblings and I were older, however, the thought of returning home for the holidays necessitated pre-party meet-ups at a local bar where we would fortify ourselves against the coming family event. Why, you ask? Mostly, we dreaded those gatherings because we had a very small group of partiers. Our whole family consisted of Mom, Dad, three siblings, two aunts, and an uncle. Despite the usual copious amounts of alcohol, everyone was pretty reserved, unless an argument broke out, which happened periodically since we were all loud and opinionated and no one ever agreed on anything. With such a small bunch of revelers, it was damn hard to hide when things got heated. And since no one in the group was apt to don an elf hat and be silly or break into Christmas carols, mostly we were so bored we couldn’t wait for the celebration to end. (I could also add here that my Mom was not a very good cook, but since she’s still chugging along at almost 97, maybe I should just let that slide.)

While this is not my family celebrating Christmas in the 60’s, it’s will give you a damned good idea of what those celebrations looked like. Where are the Sicilians when you need them?

Note that my small family was not of the huggy-kissy variety. We are of stoic Irish extraction, so Christmas Eve visits to my Italian friend’s home were a revelation. Two hundred people would materialize turning her house into a Sicilian-style, lipsmacking, backslapping madhouse. I’d watch her mother prepare for the locust-like arrival of the relatives. Just making cookies was astonishing. Since no bowl was big enough for the massive batches of Christmas cookies, five pounds of flour and a big sack of sugar would be dumped on the kitchen counter. A hole would be hallowed in the middle of the pile and a dozen cracked eggs would be deposited inside. Then she’d add everything else and mix the batter by hand. I was always sure those eggs would come oozing out and spill onto the floor, but they never did. Occasionally, Nonnie—my friend’s tiny, black-clad, widowed grandmother— would wander through, look at me and say something in Italian. I’m pretty sure she was trying to figure out how she ended up with a red-headed, freckled, blue-eyed granddaughter whose name she didn’t know. But then she’d grin, pat me on the cheek, and shuffle away. When comparing my family’s staid Christmas events to the frenetic Italian version, I could sense something was missing. Ours just wasn’t fun.

I know what you’re thinking. Christmas, isn’t about parties and revelry and gazing at my friend’s handsome cousin Vito leaning rakishly against a doorjamb beneath the mistletoe. No, it’s a religious holiday. As a former, hardcore Catholic, I am well aware of that aspect of the event, and I admit that I sometimes miss all that gilded, incense-infused, clerical pomp. But as anyone who has ever watched TV around the holidays knows, Christmas is really about buying stuff and parties. (Some of you are now praying for my soul, but one must tell the truth.)

Today, I wince at the frantic holiday activity that seems to consume people. My sweetie pie and I long ago stopped exchanging gifts, because there’s nothing we want or need. And since the kids are all in their twenties, there seems no reason to haul out the decorations. Note that I learned a neat trick last year. If the kids want a tree, I’ll buy it, but they have to put it up and take it down. So far I’ve had no takers.

Here’s a solid holiday wish, though it didn’t turn out exactly the way Mulder intended.

I will admit that Peace on Earth is a swell Christmas idea. But when I hear the phrase I always picture Mulder in the TV series X-Files when the disturbed FBI investigator is given a wish. “I want Peace on Earth!” he says with conviction. Suddenly, there’s silence and the genie explains that all the people on Earth are now gone, as per Mulder’s request.

Which reminds me of that other winter holiday: New Years. As a former waitress and bartender, I might have relished the results of Mulder’s wish during that particular celebration, considering the usual mass of crazy revelers standing six deep at the bar. New Year’s Eve was so out of control that I have hidden myself at home on that night for decades. And I wear a hard hat, just in case some celebratory wacko feels like shooting a weapon into the sky to ring in the new year.

All that said, please don’t think me Scrooge-like. If you invite me to a holiday party, I promise I will kiss and hug and backslap in honor of those long-ago Sicilians. I will embibe and try every dish on your buffet. And, even though it didn’t work out so well for Mulder, I will make the most important wish of all. “I want Peace on Earth!” I’ll cry. And maybe, if you all don’t disappear, you’ll wish for it too.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is the-castle_front-cover-1.jpg

Ancient ruins, haunted memories, and a ruthless criminal combine with a touch of mystic presence in this taut mystery about a crime we all must address.

THE CASTLE

Anne Montgomery

Contemporary Women’s Fiction/Suspense

TouchPoint Press

September 13, 2021

Maggie, a National Park Ranger of Native American descent, is back at The Castle—a six-hundred-year-old pueblo carved into a limestone cliff in Arizona’s Verde Valley. Maggie, who suffers from depression, has been through several traumas: the gang rape she suffered while in the Coast Guard, the sudden death of her ten-year-old son, and a suicide attempt.

One evening, she chases a young Native American boy through the park and gasps as he climbs the face of The Castle cliff and disappears into the pueblo. When searchers find no child, Maggie’s friends believe she’s suffering from depression-induced hallucinations.

Maggie has several men in her life. The baker, newcomer Jim Casey, who always greets her with a warm smile and pink boxes filled with sweet delicacies. Brett Collins, a scuba diver who is doing scientific studies in Montezuma Well, a dangerous cylindrical depression that houses strange creatures found nowhere else on Earth. Dave, an amiable waiter with whom she’s had a one-night stand, and her new boss Glen.

One of these men is a serial rapist and Maggie is his next target. In a thrilling and terrifying denouement, Maggie faces her rapist and conquers her worst fears once and for all.

REVIEW COPIES OF THE CASTLE AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST

Also available on NetGalley

Contact: Chelsea Pieper, Publicity Manager, Media Liaison

Review/interview requests: media@touchpointpress.com

Get your copy here or where you buy books.

Need help? All you have to do is ask

My old friend Laurie often told me people want to help, all you have to do is ask. It wasn’t until recently that I understood.

I have had a friend for many years who advised me that if I ever needed help all I have to do is look around, find a person, and ask. At the time, I smiled and claimed I understood, and yet the thought of needing assistance from a stranger rankled. (In fact, I struggled with asking loved ones for help.)

Still, Laurie insisted that it worked every time. Note that when we met, Laurie was confined to a wheelchair, the result of an accident that left her paralyzed from the waist down. Still, it didn’t seem to slow her down. I watched her play wheelchair tennis and we skied together, with her guiding her sled down the mountain using short, modified poles, something she sometimes did attached to blind skiers, so that they too might experience the thrill of skiing. Laurie has worked her whole life, traveled the world, and not too long ago I watched as she rolled across a stage to accept her PhD.

Recently, I thought of her advice. A badly broken leg that required surgical repair had me homebound for several months. A knee scooter became my prime mode of transportation. When the doctor informed me that I was free to walk in my big, plastic boot, I was thrilled, but my enthusiasm dampened the moment I took my first step.

It hurt! A lot! Kind of like I was breaking my leg all over again. Day after day, I tried, but after several weeks, my leg didn’t feel much better. I finally began to believe the doctor’s prognosis that it would take six to tweleve months for me to get back to normal.

When my sweetie pie, who’d been tending to my needs, got a very bad cold, we both agreed he should stay home, so I wouldn’t get sick, as well. The time had come for me to figure things out myself.

Determined to get back into the world on my own, I hobbled to my car and drove to the health club, grateful that my left leg is the mangled appendage. I leaned heavily on my cane and walked the few steps to the trunk of my car where I managed to pull out my scooter. The wheels were unwieldly and I realized I probably wouldn’t be able to get it back in the car. I muddled that problem over in the pool, where, as you might expect, walking was so much easier. Ah….

As I was leaving the club, I asked the young man at the desk if he could help me.

“Of course!” He graced me with a beautiful smile. After he got my scooter situated, he helped me to the driverseat, and offered me a fist bump before waving me off.

That felt so nice that I tried it again on the man who does security in the Trader Joe’s parking lot. Again, a lovely smile. “Happy to help!”

It went that way the rest of the day. My favorite was the eleven-year-old girl who smiled shyly at me as I scooted through the grocery store. After passing by, she did an about face and approached me. “Can I get anything for you, ma’am?” She looked so sweet and earnest.

“How nice of you to ask,” I said. “But I already have everything I need.”

She smiled, nodded, and bounced away.

After another gentleman in the parking lot pushed my scooter into the truck and waved, I sat there thinking about people in general. As an avid consumer of the news, I sometimes get disillusioned about mankind. But now I know most people are nice. They want to help. And, as Laurie taught me, all you have to do is ask.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is the-castle_front-cover-1.jpg

Ancient ruins, haunted memories, and a ruthless criminal combine with a touch of mystic presence in this taut mystery about a crime we all must address.

THE CASTLE

Anne Montgomery

Contemporary Women’s Fiction/Suspense

TouchPoint Press

September 13, 2021

Maggie, a National Park Ranger of Native American descent, is back at The Castle—a six-hundred-year-old pueblo carved into a limestone cliff in Arizona’s Verde Valley. Maggie, who suffers from depression, has been through several traumas: the gang rape she suffered while in the Coast Guard, the sudden death of her ten-year-old son, and a suicide attempt.

One evening, she chases a young Native American boy through the park and gasps as he climbs the face of The Castle cliff and disappears into the pueblo. When searchers find no child, Maggie’s friends believe she’s suffering from depression-induced hallucinations.

Maggie has several men in her life. The baker, newcomer Jim Casey, who always greets her with a warm smile and pink boxes filled with sweet delicacies. Brett Collins, a scuba diver who is doing scientific studies in Montezuma Well, a dangerous cylindrical depression that houses strange creatures found nowhere else on Earth. Dave, an amiable waiter with whom she’s had a one-night stand, and her new boss Glen.

One of these men is a serial rapist and Maggie is his next target. In a thrilling and terrifying denouement, Maggie faces her rapist and conquers her worst fears once and for all.

REVIEW COPIES OF THE CASTLE AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST

Also available on NetGalley

Contact: Chelsea Pieper, Publicity Manager, Media Liaison

Review/interview requests: media@touchpointpress.com

Get your copy here or where you buy books.

Learning to walk again: It’s harder than I thought!

It took a while, but I have made peace with my cane.

“You can walk in your boot,” my surgeon said.

I was so excited, but wondered at the way he eyed me.

“It’ll hurt,” he pointed out.

Despite those words, I wasn’t worried. I’d been in a lot of pain over the previous months, the result of a bout of Covid that somehow evaded my vaccine jabs and caused me to pass out, resulting in a badly-broken leg. Still, as I faced the man who’d made me the proud new owner of a large titanium plate and eleven screws, I was convinced that I’d be running around in short order.

But I was wrong. My leg had been inactive for a long time. Putting pressure on my foot felt like it was breaking all over again. “Owww!” I yelped as I staggered about in my boot.

“Take it easy!” my sweetie pie said, frowning at my awkward display.

I have lots of new hardware. Apparently, it’ll be a while before my metal bits start getting along with my regular bits.

“How long will this take to get back to normal?” I asked my physical therapist. When he agreed with the surgeon that it would be anywhere from six to twelve months, I scoffed. I wondered if they were predicating their replies on the fact that I’m 66. I can’t tell you how many doctors in the last year or two have smiled and reminded me that I’m, um, elderly. Which makes me want to shout that I’ve worked out all my life, I eat right, and get my sleep. Yes, I drink some wine with dinner and have a bit of chocolate everyday, but I’m healthy and certainly not old!

Because I felt the need to research what is considered old age, I will now have to retract my previous statement. Turns out the World Health Organization says old age begins at 60. Sigh…

I have been toddling around for three weeks. Improvment is achingly slow. Sometimes, I still cheat and grab my scooter.

“Have you considered a cane?” I was asked during a PT session.

A chill ran down my spine. A cane? I visualized myself bent over and shuffling, a halo of white hair, a flowery housedress, and some fuzzy slippers. Still, in a fit of frustration, I purchased a walking stick from Amazon. It’s shiny turquoise with a big, square bottom so I won’t fall over. The only thing that made me feel better was the fact that by definition a cane has long been considered a symbol of strength and power, authority and social prestige. While the definition goes on to explain that it is predominately men to whom a cane is a sign of success, I feel secure jumping on the bandwagon.

My cane and I are learning to become friends. I still feel a little quesy when I grab the handle. The first ten steps or so make my leg bark in protest. But there’s no other way to get better. So, for the time being, me and my cane “got a thing, goin’ on,” do, do do…🎵🎶🎵🎶🎵

I’ll let you know how it goes.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is the-castle_front-cover-1.jpg

Ancient ruins, haunted memories, and a ruthless criminal combine with a touch of mystic presence in this taut mystery about a crime we all must address.

THE CASTLE

Anne Montgomery

Contemporary Women’s Fiction/Suspense

TouchPoint Press

September 13, 2021

Maggie, a National Park Ranger of Native American descent, is back at The Castle—a six-hundred-year-old pueblo carved into a limestone cliff in Arizona’s Verde Valley. Maggie, who suffers from depression, has been through several traumas: the gang rape she suffered while in the Coast Guard, the sudden death of her ten-year-old son, and a suicide attempt.

One evening, she chases a young Native American boy through the park and gasps as he climbs the face of The Castle cliff and disappears into the pueblo. When searchers find no child, Maggie’s friends believe she’s suffering from depression-induced hallucinations.

Maggie has several men in her life. The baker, newcomer Jim Casey, who always greets her with a warm smile and pink boxes filled with sweet delicacies. Brett Collins, a scuba diver who is doing scientific studies in Montezuma Well, a dangerous cylindrical depression that houses strange creatures found nowhere else on Earth. Dave, an amiable waiter with whom she’s had a one-night stand, and her new boss Glen.

One of these men is a serial rapist and Maggie is his next target. In a thrilling and terrifying denouement, Maggie faces her rapist and conquers her worst fears once and for all.

REVIEW COPIES OF THE CASTLE AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST

Contact: Chelsea Pieper, Publicity Manager, Media Liaison

Review/interview requests: media@touchpointpress.com

Available where you buy books.

PICKING A GENRE IS NO EASY TASK

A Light in the Desert is a suspense novel.

The moment I mention the impending arrival of a new book, prospective readers ask, “What’s the genre?”

“Well, um…it’s hard to say,” I respond, staring at my shoes, wondering why such a simple question has no equally simple answer.

I have a tendency to write stories without giving thought to where they might fit in literary culture.  So far, my titles have been variously listed as soft-thriller, contemporary fiction, romantic suspense, historical fiction, women’s fiction, and young adult fiction. So you can see why labeling my work tends to make my head spin.

Still, identifying a genre for your novel is important.

“We use genre as a way to identify the category of a book. Where it should be sold in a store. Or who its competition will be,” long-time literary agent Steve Laub wrote in his blog article Does Genre Matter? “The best way to describe it is to say that publishers and booksellers sell books out of boxes. The boxes are labeled “Romance” “Thriller” “Mystery” etc. Before we resist that exercise I would claim that we consumers buy books out of those boxes. It is quite possible that the boxes were created by us (the consumers).”

Wild Horses on the Salt has been called women’s fiction and suspense with a touch of romance.

There is some dispute about which English book should be called the first novel. Some believe Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote of La Mancha, published in 1605, deserves the honor. Others opine that Daniel Defoe’s 1719 Robinson Crusoe should get the nod. Either way, neither author had to think too hard about genre.

“In 1719, when “Robinson Crusoe” appeared, many people considered “the novel,” in itself, to be a genre,” said Joshua Rothman in his The New Yorker article titled A Better Way to Think About The Genre Debate. “The novel was a new thing—a long, fictitious, drama-filled work of prose—and its competitors were other prose genres: histories, biographies, political tracts, sermons, testimonies about travel to far-off lands. What set the novel apart from those other prose genres was its ostentatious fictitiousness.”

Clearly, modern-day authors can find labeling their work infinitely more complicated than those early novelists.  Look at today’s overwhelming number of possible fiction genres. The Book Industry Study Group’s list of fiction topics includes approximately 140 genres, all of which can be combined in what seems like a never-ending number of possibilities.

The Scent of Rain was marketed as young-adult fiction.

I’ll admit, sometimes I’m jealous of my romance-writer friends, their covers bursting with muscled torsos and over-flowing bodices that leave not a hint of confusion about what type of story resides inside. Still, as difficult as pinning down that perfect genre might be, there’s no way around it, especially if you want to contact agents, or publishers, or editors, or reviewers, because those folks are pretty specific about the types of book they’re interested in. If you want to be considered an amateur in the publishing world, go ahead and send a query about your sci-fi, apocalyptic, young adult romance to someone who has made clear their genre of choice is Regency historical fiction. (And you were wondering why you hadn’t heard back.)

While some authors may be tempted to leave the genre decision to others, remember you wrote the book. You know the story and the characters better than anyone. Ultimately, you should choose. An article on the blog Rock Your Writing called How To Figure Out Your Book’s Genre suggests you consider, “who is the mostly likely to seek out this particular type of book, buy this type of book, and enjoy this type of book.”

While the decision on genre is yours, it’s the reader we authors need to consider, because, as Laub pointed out, if our “baby” is in the wrong box, maybe those readers won’t find it.

And, in case you’re wondering, my new book The Castle is listed as both contemporary women’s fiction and suspense. See what you think.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is the-castle_front-cover-1.jpg

Ancient ruins, haunted memories, and a ruthless criminal combine with a touch of mystic presence in this taut mystery about a crime we all must address.

THE CASTLE

Anne Montgomery

Contemporary Women’s Fiction/Suspense

TouchPoint Press

September 13, 2021

Maggie, a National Park Ranger of Native American descent, is back at The Castle—a six-hundred-year-old pueblo carved into a limestone cliff in Arizona’s Verde Valley. Maggie, who suffers from depression, has been through several traumas: the gang rape she suffered while in the Coast Guard, the sudden death of her ten-year-old son, and a suicide attempt.

One evening, she chases a young Native American boy through the park and gasps as he climbs the face of The Castle cliff and disappears into the pueblo. When searchers find no child, Maggie’s friends believe she’s suffering from depression-induced hallucinations.

Maggie has several men in her life. The baker, newcomer Jim Casey, who always greets her with a warm smile and pink boxes filled with sweet delicacies. Brett Collins, a scuba diver who is doing scientific studies in Montezuma Well, a dangerous cylindrical depression that houses strange creatures found nowhere else on Earth. Dave, an amiable waiter with whom she’s had a one-night stand, and her new boss Glen.

One of these men is a serial rapist and Maggie is his next target. In a thrilling and terrifying denouement, Maggie faces her rapist and conquers her worst fears once and for all.

REVIEW COPIES OF THE CASTLE AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST

Also available on NetGalley

Contact: Chelsea Pieper, Publicity Manager, Media Liaison

Review/interview requests: media@touchpointpress.com

Get your copy here or where you buy books.

NOVEMBER IS NATIONAL FAMILY CAREGIVERS MONTH, SO LET’S SAY THANK YOU

Forty-eight million Americans serve as caregivers for friends and family members in need.

I have always considered myself strong and quite capable of taking care of myself, but life has a way of swatting our perceptions away. I came to this conclusion when I was stricken with Covid-19—despite being fully vaccinated— a broken leg that rendered me unable to walk for two months, and an eye infection that affected my vision. (No, I never do anything halfway.)

I admit that I rarely thought of caregivers before, but as I stared up from my bed—broken and sick— at the face of my masked sweetie pie, I was struck by my utter helplessness. In the beginning, I was too sick to consider how much work I’d become. Nor did it register that I wasn’t the only person in Ryan’s care. His prime caretaking responsibility is his 85-year-old mom who is losing her eyesight and suffers from dementia.  

So, Ry was now faced with two of us. When the Covid started to ease, I jokingly called Ryan Ethan Frome, the title character in the 1911 novel by American author Edith Wharton. For those who are unfamiliar with the story, poor Ethan, who has a disabled shrew of a wife, falls in love with a pretty young woman. Then, with no way out, they decide to commit suicide together, however the plan goes awry. They both live, but the woman becomes disabled, so Ethan now has two sickly people to care for.

Ryan, as my caregiver, had to do everything when I was sick and broken.

According to the AARP, “Every day, some 48 million Americans help parents, spouses and other loved ones with medical care, meals, bathing, dressing, chores and much more. They do it out of love, not for pay.”

When I was well enough to notice, I realized the enormous pressure Ryan faced. He had to feed his mother, monitor her medications, and tend to grocery shopping and medical appointments, as well as weather her constant confusion and memory issues. Then he had to come to my house and care for all my needs, as well.  

As you can imagine, caregivers are suffering. “Family caregivers now encompass more than one in five Americans,” says the research series Caregiving in the US.  “The study also reveals that family caregivers are in worse health compared to five years ago.” Caregivers spend a whopping 13 days each month “on tasks such as shopping, food preparation, housekeeping, laundry, transportation, and giving medication.”

These constant demands force caregivers to push their own lives and needs aside, often causing burnout. Between 40 to 70% of caregivers are said to suffer from depression, with those attending to patients with cognitive decline being the most likely to be effected. Also, chronic illnesses like diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, heart disease, and immune system disorders can worsen.

Ryan stepped up and became a caregiver when I needed him. I will always be grateful.

What can caregivers do? First, ask for help, if you’re feeling overwhelmed. There are agencies all over the country that offer services to caregivers that can help lighten the load, so check the Internet and your insurance company to see what’s available. Do the best you can, but forgive yourself when days don’t go as planned. And carve out some time out for yourself.

Every Tuesday, Ryan goes to lunch with his long-time buddies. The gathering is his one time of respite during the week when most of his efforts revolve around me and his mom. He always seems more energized when he returns from these get-togthers and happily tells me what’s new with the boys.

November is National Family Caregivers Month, so I’d like to give a big shoutout to those who shoulder the responsibilities for others. Caregiving is an exhausting, often overlooked effort. So thank you to all the folks who support those of us in need.

And, of course, I’m especially grateful for Ryan who jumped in with both feet when my health failed, never getting angry, and doing his best to cheer me up when I was down.

Thank you, Ry. I love you!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is the-castle_front-cover-1.jpg

Ancient ruins, haunted memories, and a ruthless criminal combine with a touch of mystic presence in this taut mystery about a crime we all must address.

THE CASTLE

Anne Montgomery

Contemporary Women’s Fiction/Suspense

TouchPoint Press

September 13, 2021

Maggie, a National Park Ranger of Native American descent, is back at The Castle—a six-hundred-year-old pueblo carved into a limestone cliff in Arizona’s Verde Valley. Maggie, who suffers from depression, has been through several traumas: the gang rape she suffered while in the Coast Guard, the sudden death of her ten-year-old son, and a suicide attempt.

One evening, she chases a young Native American boy through the park and gasps as he climbs the face of The Castle cliff and disappears into the pueblo. When searchers find no child, Maggie’s friends believe she’s suffering from depression-induced hallucinations.

Maggie has several men in her life. The baker, newcomer Jim Casey, who always greets her with a warm smile and pink boxes filled with sweet delicacies. Brett Collins, a scuba diver who is doing scientific studies in Montezuma Well, a dangerous cylindrical depression that houses strange creatures found nowhere else on Earth. Dave, an amiable waiter with whom she’s had a one-night stand, and her new boss Glen.

One of these men is a serial rapist and Maggie is his next target. In a thrilling and terrifying denouement, Maggie faces her rapist and conquers her worst fears once and for all.

REVIEW COPIES OF THE CASTLE AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST

Contact: Chelsea Pieper, Publicity Manager, Media Liaison

Review/interview requests: media@touchpointpress.com

Get your copy where you buy books.