Teens struggling with career goals should try a gap year

Young people need to have an idea of what they want to do in the future before going to college.

It’s almost time for the graduation season, and, in that regard, I want to mention an idea with which I wholeheartedly agree. And yet, just a few years ago I would have been completely against the idea.

In Abby Fawk’s USA Today Article “College can wait, but finding your life purpose can’t,” Fawk opines that American teens facing that jump to a postsecondary education are often unsure what they want their future to look like, so heading straight to college is a mistake.

As a former high school teacher of 20 years, I know Fawk is correct. I have faced hundreds of children across my desk, and when I asked what they thought their lives might look like in ten years, I was—more often than not— faced with blank stares. I would then go into my, What do you want to be when you grow up? spiel. I’d ask: What do you like to do? What are you good at? What will someone pay you to do? And again, I often received no reply.

Then the children graduated, most without any idea regarding what might make them happy in their business lives. We teachers have hammered into them that the next stop must be college. (Note that when I say college, I’m referring to any form of post-high school education.  Wanting to be a carpenter, an electrician, or an airplane mechanic are equally fine choices as wanting to be a doctor or a neurophysicist.)

What isn’t fine is having no idea what you want to study and then plowing ahead to your college of choice.

That college education is expensive, so before you go, have a plan.

“College is the single biggest investment we can make in a young person’s life,” Hawk said. “Four years at a flagship state school can now cost $100,000 and private college can run three to four times that figure. Yet the vast majority of students arrive unprepared to make the most of the experience.”

Fawk believes that it’s time for students to revisit the idea of a gap year. As I said earlier, I did my best to dissuade kids who wanted to take a year off before getting additional education, because statistics showed that once young people start earning money, they are less likely to give up that cash flow and return to school.

But Fawk explained that a gap year, if done right, is not about losing forward momentum and can be a rewarding launch pad to a bright future.

“It’s to gather experiences and insights that inform everything that comes next,” she said.

Fawk is the founder and CEO of Global Citizen Year, a program devoted to giving young people the chance to immerse themselves in other cultures, to stretch their comfort zones, and to forge relationships with people who are different than they are. If this sounds a bit like the Peace Corps, it is. The idea is to take the year following high school graduation and expand one’s horizons. To learn more about yourself by living alongside others in a completely different environment.

A gap year can include volunteer activities like working with Habitat for Humanity.

But the GCY project is not the only way students can accomplish these goals. A stint in the military, the Peace Corps, or volunteering can also help young people find out who they are and what they want in life.

Studies show that American teens are growing up more slowly than the generations that proceeded them. Young people struggle with basic skills like time management, problem-solving, and navigating relationships. Why then do we shoehorn them into making decisions that will impact the rest of their lives when many are clearly not ready?

The idea is to give new high-school graduates a little breathing room before they make that leap. A well-thought-out gap year just might be the answer.

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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

Review/interview requests: media@touchpointpress.com

Get your copy where you buy books.

Rosepoint Publishing gives Wolf Catcher 5-stars

“Boy, didn’t this one grip me quickly and keep me glued to the pages! Loved the cliff-hanging chapter endings. Well researched, well-plotted and paced…Trust me, you’ll love it. Totally recommended and out now!” 

Find the rest of the review here.

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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

Review/interview requests: media@touchpointpress.com

Get your copies where you buy books.

Movie Reviewing: The best job I ever had!

I love movies, so when I was offered the opportunity to be a film reviewer, I jumped at the chance.

One day, while working in the newsroom of a small local paper, the editor called out, “Who wants to review a movie?”

Despite the fact that I was primarily a sports reporter, I leaped from my seat, arm waving like a sugared-up third grader. “I’ll do it!” I cried, hoping he’d pick me. Then, I noticed no one else in the newsroom had responded. My fellow reporters remained hunched over their keyboards, solemn determination creased on their faces.

The editor stared at me, looking rather weary in retrospect, and held out a thick white packet. Inside, I discovered glossy actor headshots, bios, a synopsis of the film, information on the director, and previously published quotes made by those involved in the making of the film. The movie was called Love & Basketball which I thought fortuitous since it was sports-themed. Despite the cheesy title, it turned out to be a pretty good flick. While there was the obvious romance angle, the story was also about gender inequality in sports, the idea that women can be judged as being too athletic, and the choices we must make when deciding where we want to go in life.

I arrived at the cavernous cinema where only a few other reporters were seated with their writing pads and tiny pen lights. Then the music started. I picked a chair, settled in, and marveled at the idea that I was getting paid to go to the movies.

I mention this because I came across a film recently while stuffed into a Delta seat. I was returning from a vacation and faced hours shoe-horned in with nothing to do. I passed one movie numerous times as I scrolled through the offerings, believing I would be bored by the premise. It was a sports film, which, considering that most of my life has been devoted to the sports world as both a reporter and an amateur sports official, would certainly seem to be in my bailiwick. And yet, I didn’t want to watch it. Now, don’t get me wrong, sports themes have given us some of the greatest movies ever made: Bull Durham, Field of Dreams, Raging Bull, Rocky, Rudy, A League of Their Own, and Hoosiers, to name a few.

And yet, it took me a while to decide to watch American Underdog. I already knew the story of NFL quarterback Kurt Warner, a stand-up guy who was stocking grocery shelves after not a single pro team drafted him out of college. Despite his inauspicious start, he would go on to play 12 years in the league, leading the St. Louis Rams to a Super Bowl victory and claiming MVP honors. He would also take the lowly Arizona Cardinals—my long-time team of choice— to the Super Bowl where they fell to the Pittsburg Steelers in a 27-23 thriller. Warner was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2017. Add to this Warner’s wife: a former active-duty Marine, divorced with two kids—one with disabilities—and their improbable love story. Clearly the plot was a good one. But I figured it would be the usual saccharine take on a humble man making good.

But I was wrong.

Here’s my mini review.

American Underdog

The Kurt Warner Story


American Underdog tells story of Kurt Warner’s improbable rise to stardom, a journey with an ending only he could see. His dogged determination is beautifully portrayed by actor Zachary Levi, who is so strikingly similar to Warner that by the end of the film he has become the NFL Super Bowl MVP. At 6’4″ Levi carries himself like an athlete and he mastered Warner’s understated, humble demeanor.

Academy Award-winner Anna Paquin plays Warner’s love interest Brenda, a commitment-shy, former active-duty Marine and single mom. Paquin captures Brenda’s reticence as she tries to discourage Warner’s affections and her strength as she deals with personal tragedy.

As a former sports reporter, I found the technical skills involved in editing the film’s on-field scenes exceptional, especially the parts where shots were expertly intermixed with actual footage of the real Warner on the field. The seamless highlights were a joy to watch.

I have only one small gripe: Levi was clearly a bit old to be playing a college football player in the beginning of the film, but I can’t see a way around that, because it was his performance that made the movie great.

American Underdog is an wonderful film, even for those who are not sports fans. I highly recommend it!

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

Review/interview requests: media@touchpointpress.com

Get your copy where you buy books.

The Castle is up for a RONE Award: Here’s how you can help!

My suspense novel The Castle has been nominated for a 2022 RONE Award, an annual competition sponsored by InD’tale Magazine that honors the best books in the Indie and Small publishing industry.

The second round of voting depends on the reading public: you guys. If you feel so inclined, I’d be delighted if you could cast a vote for The Castle. If the novel moves on, the next round of judging involves a group of industry professionals including editors, writers, and professors.

Here’s what you need to do, if you want to participate: You must register at www.indtale.com in order to vote. Once you register, you will be required to click the verification link sent to you via email. Then, decide if The Castle is worthy of your vote.

Voting is open all next week, between April 11-17.

Thank you for your consideration.

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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.

REVIEWS FOR THE CASTLE

Midwest Book Reviews

A deftly written and riveting read from cover to cover, “The Castle” effectively showcases author Anne Montgomery’s genuine mastery of the Romantic Suspense genre.” 

Sara Steven

Chik Lit Central

“A slow burn thriller, mixed in with a touch of mystical realism…A true five-star experience!”

SaraRose Auburn

Writing & Reviews

“A beautifully considered, sumptuous novel from a skilled storyteller.”

Tonya Mathenia

InD’tale Magazine

Ms. Montgomery manipulates uncomfortable subjects and dark suspense into a gripping tale with hints of romance and humor carefully guiding readers on an informative journey of survival and self-discovery.

Anu Menon

Thought is Free Book Blog

“Soul-stirring. A brilliant book…Truly a masterpiece.”

Katherine Hayward Pérez

Just Katherine Blog

“I was gripped from start to end.”

Margaret Millmore

Author

“Ms. Montgomery has an almost magical talent to draw the reader into the worlds she creates through her words. Her characters are interesting, vulnerable and strong. While describing the locations in which her books are set, she weaves history with vivid images, immersing the reader in a hard-to-put-down story full of history, beauty and mystery.”

REVIEW COPIES OF THE CASTLE AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST

Review/interview requests: media@touchpointpress.com
Orders: info@touchpointpress.com
Also from Ingram and major retailers

Get your copy here



“(I) wholeheartedly recommend this excellent novel to lovers of history and archaeology.”

Wolf Catcher

Through meticulous research, Anne Montgomery opens a window on ancient Arizona native Indian culture. Not only does she take us into the carefully reconstructed daily life of the Hopi, but she also cleverly links the past to the present by involving those detectives of the past: archaeologists. I use the term detectives deliberately because their work is not just uncovering the difficult-to-find artifacts but involves combatting looters who, often in a family tradition, try to make an illicit fortune from extremely valuable objects, desecrating sites and knowledge as they operate.

I love Ms Montgomery’s detailed descriptions of Hopi manufacture and lifestyle. The author describes strong characters through whom we learn about interpersonal relationships, religious beliefs and as the title suggests, relationship with nature. It might be a minor detail, but I also got a glimpse of modern Arizona. In all, a very satisfying well written novel, whose plot grips the reader. I don’t cover that aspect for fear of spoilers, but wholeheartedly recommend this excellent novel to lovers of history and archaeology.

John Broughton

Goodreads UK

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

Review/interview requests: media@touchpointpress.com

Are pink tutus and glitter in my future?

Reading those prescription foldouts can be rather disturbing.

We all get medical prescriptions from time to time. I did recently, and, as usual, I pulled out the ridiculously long insert with minuscule print explaining all the ways said medication might make me ill, or, you know, kill me.

The two-sided formthat unfolded to the size of an open newspaper and which appeared in multiple languagesindicated side effects might include nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, headache, thinning hair, cold or flu-like symptoms, dizziness, trouble breathing, difficulty sleeping, and irritability, to name a few. I guess I should have been grateful that death wasn’t included this time, as it has been on previous prescriptions.

I realize the following statement was meant to reassure me:  “Your physician prescribed this for you after considering your overall health and the good it might do.” I’m not sure it made me feel any better, but I took the stuff anyway.

The product, an…um…hormonal vaginal cream—There! I said it!—was meant to calm some pain and irritation from which I’d been suffering.

“This sometimes happens when you’re post-menopausal,” my gynecologist explained, not the first doctor who’s stared at me lately, pointing out my advancing age. “Take it three times a week at bedtime.”

“Yes, ma’am!” I said, with every intention of doing what I was told.  The problem came when I assumed that the plunger was a dose. I took that cream for a week and a half, without noticing the little measuring scale on the side. That prompted me to read the outside of the box where my prescription explained that my dose was one gram. I quickly realized I’d been taking four times the required amount.

When I was their age, dressing up meant shorts, sneakers, and a tee shirt. No frills required.

As you might expect, I briefly freaked out. I’ve never taken anything with “hormones” labeled on the box. Would I soon be feeling the need to don a pink tutu or perhaps hurl handfuls of brightly-colored sparkles into the air? Or maybe demand a mani-pedi with violet polish and rhinestones?

You might not be taking me seriously, at this point. But as a life-long, not-the-least-bit girly girl, I wondered if the drug might change me. Would I wake up one morning afraid of spiders? Would I discover a new-found love of dainty shoes? Would I lose my love of digging in the dirt for rocks? Might I rethink false eyelashes or check out my butt in the health club mirror in the hope of taking that perfect, backside selfie? Or, egads, might I opt for a Lifetime movie over a football game?

The more I thought about it, the more worrisome the idea became, so I phoned my doctor. A few hours later, her assistant called me back.

“It’s fine. You haven’t done any damage. Just take the prescribed dose from now on,” she said.

Whew! I relaxed, but I still wonder about that stuff in the tube. And, just now, an ad for frilly lingerie has appeared on my computer. For the first time ever, I’m tempted to look.

Hummmm?

(Disclaimer: I made up that last part. Hell! I don’t even wear a bra. I’ll let you know if anything changes.)

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

Review/interview requests: media@touchpointpress.com

Me and Mrs. Hamilton

My mom threw herself a 96th birthday party, thinking it would be her last project. But she was wrong.

Last year, my mother announced she would be throwing herself a birthday party. The event was a command performance, and, since no one in the family wanted to tangle with Mary Anne, we all dutifully arrived at my mom’s independent living facility outside of Denver in July for the festivities.

My mother arranged all the details, right down to the devilishly delicious chocolate cake, since, like most of us, she carries the chocolate-addiction gene.  When it came time for gift giving, she turned the tables, handing out presents to those in attendance: personal possessions she mostly wanted to give to the grand and great-grandchildren. She was 96.

That night, happy with her efforts, she went to sleep with every intention of not waking up. But the next morning, she blinked her eyes open. As she has every day since. Now it’s not that she’s depressed, it’s just that almost all of her friends are dead. And my dad died in 2019. Then the pandemic hit, leaving her mostly alone in her apartment.

Apparently, I will be playing an elderly Eliza Hamilton, at my mother’s behest.

In her defense, she rarely complained. “I read the paper,” she explained. “I watch the news. And I read books every day.” Still, she described the lockdown as worse than the Depression and World War II, times that were awful, but where one was not cut off from most human contact.

Which brings me to today. Though my mother thought her birthday party would be her last project, I now know that’s not true.

“I want you to play Eliza Hamilton,” she said on the phone.

I was half-listening at the time. “Wait. What?”

“I want you to play Alexander Hamilton’s wife. I’ll write the script.”

It seems the people at the home were putting together a series of events in honor of the Fourth of July. My mother had just finished reading My Dear Hamilton, a fascinating account of the life of Eliza Hamilton, the Founding Father’s wife.

That’s me in the green dress in my role as Joanne in the Starlight Community Theater production of Company.

I wasn’t sure what to say. While I was in plays as a teenager, that part of my life had been packed away for a long time. That changed a few years back when friends talked me into auditioning for a community theater production of Steven Solheim’s Company. When I was offered the part of the acerbic, hard-drinking, thrice-married Joanne, a job that required singing two solos, a spot of tap dancing, and learning to smoke fake cigarettes, I was rather horrified. Still, when the final curtain call was over and my parents sat happily clapping in the audience, I was glad I took the shot.

“Don’t worry about anything. I’ve got a costume.”

“I’m a lot bigger than you, Mom,” I said grasping for a way to say no.

“And I’ll write your lines.”

I had no worries there. My mother earned a college degree from Penn State University, back when women just didn’t do that type of thing. She was a reporter in radio and print in the 1940s, and is the author of several books of historical fiction. Had my mother been born later, I believe she would have foregone marriage and childbearing and would instead be a governor, or a Supreme Court Justice, or President of the United States.

“You will play Eliza in her sixties, long after her husband died,” she said obviously assuming I wouldn’t say no.

“Um…” I could find no easy escape.

“The event is on June 24th.”

I was quiet for a moment.

“I need a project,” she said. “This will be the last one.”

I have the impression that, if all goes as planned and I don’t do something horribly embarrassing, she will once again take to her bed following the event, close her eyes, and—satisfied with her life—she will hope to drift off. Though, knowing Mary Anne, I wouldn’t be surprised if there will be more projects in the future.

In the meantime, I will put on my gray wig and 19th century bonnet and practice my lines.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

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

Review/interview requests: media@touchpointpress.com

Wildwood Reads gives Wolf Catcher 5-Stars

“Once again the author has created a beautiful story with a powerful message. She took a piece of history and brought it to life.”

Megan Salcido

Wildwood Reads

Find the rest of the review here.

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

Review/interview requests: media@touchpointpress.com

Get your copy where you buy books.

I love rocks, but let’s keep it simple

I have no memory of not being a rocker. Perhaps I was born that way.

I love rocks. I have collected them my whole life. So, when I was asked to pick a science in college, geology was a pretty easy call. I enjoyed learning about how mountains form and marveled at the tectonic plates that move our continents around ever so slowly. I can’t pass a road cut without trying to identify the colorful sedimentary layers and when I stare at the stars I remember being taught about the solar system and how it formed.

I mention this because after I took three geology courses, the thrill wore off. It wasn’t my love of rocks and minerals that waned, it was how complicated geology had become.

Here are a few of my rocks, 400 or so that reside in my living room, just so you know I’m passionate about my collecting.

“Today we’ll be talking about cryptocrystalline structures,” my professor said one day in class. He went on to explain complex things I didn’t understand and no longer remember. What I do recall is that I realized I didn’t care. I loved rocks because they were beautiful or fascinating. Perhaps you now think me shallow, but that rocks were pretty was enough for me from then on.

Today, thanks to the Internet, I’m a member of several Facebook pages for mineral enthusiasts. There are thousands of us out there, so I feel a little
better about my rocking addiction. Every day, I look at photographs of lovely specimens from around the world. But recently, things have gotten problematic again.

Take this post, for example: IMO it is a water-worn cobble of plagioclase porphyry: phenocrysts of bladed plagioclase feldspar in an aphanitic basaltic matrix.”

And this one: Mesolite is a tectosilicate mineral with formula Na₂Ca₂(Al₂Si₃O₁₀)₃·8H₂O. It is a member of the zeolite group and is closely related to natrolite which it also resembles in appearance. Mesolite crystallizes in the orthorhombic system and typically forms fibrous, acicular prismatic crystals or masses.

How can we describe these fluorite crystals? Humm? I think pretty sums it up nicely.

Yikes!

Can’t we just admire beauty without all the scientific mumbo jumbo? One wonders whether the above mineral descriptions are just a bit of braggadocio. Or maybe it’s me. Perhaps, if I’d taken more of those geology classes, I could confidently craft my own long-winded, science-laden description of a clump a beautiful fluorite crystals.

So, do I regret my decision to pass on higher-level geology? Let me think on it.

Doo doo da da doo doo da…

Nope! Pretty works just fine.

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

Review/interview requests: media@touchpointpress.com

Of islands, birds, and rum

Our backyard in St. Croix gives us front row seats where we watch the sea and the birds that live here.

My sweetie pie and I have a little place in St. Croix.

“Where?” you ask.

Well, she’s one of the US Virgin Islands. St. John, St. Thomas and tiny Water Island—which is mostly uninhabited and remote— are her sisters, but she is the red-headed step child of the group. St. Croix is not flashy and full of nightlife. Travelers don’t come to party. They come to stare at the sea, which, depending on the side of the island you’re on, is peaceful with serene turquoise waters and white sand beaches, or wildly rough and constantly changing, displaying every color of blue you can imagine.

We are exceptionally spoiled because just outside our back porch a vast swath of sea bordered by green mountains and rolling hills entertains us daily: a moving piece of living art.

According to the fossil record, pelicans have been around at least 30 million years.

Onto this canvas each day come the birds. We have spent the last three decades living in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert, so these creatures are different from the ones we’re used to. Everyday, a pair of brown pelicans soars overhead before they fold their wings and dive into the foamy white waves, hoping to snare fish to feed their baby who sometimes flies with them.  

Pelicans resemble prehistoric creatures and perhaps for good reason. Their ancestors go back at least 30 million years, according to fossil records, so they’ve done pretty well on the evolutionary scale. The birds developed a throat pouch that expands when they hit the water. About two-and-half gallons of water rushes in and, if they’re lucky, a fish or two, which get scooped up and gobbled down.

Frigates harass other seabirds, get them to throw up their food, then catch the meal in mid-air. Yum!

But they only get to keep the meal as long as the frigate birds aren’t around. While these fleet creatures with scissor tails—named after the powerful French Man-of-War sailing ships— can snatch flying fish, tuna, and herring from the surface, unlike other seabirds they don’t have waterproof feathers. So, rather than risk their plumage in the sea, they often attack other birds to steal a meal. Frigates will harass our friends the pelicans, for example, and get them so frazzeled they will throw up their food. But there’s no waste, I promise, because the frigate bird is there to grab the regurgitated fish, snatching the tasty treat in mid-air. Even cooler perhaps, and far less gross, is the fact that frigate birds can fly for months at a time over the ocean and are able to sleep while doing so. How cool is that?

This fine banty rooster visited us daily with his herem, but a hawk has made the chickens move away.

There are also beautiful feral chickens all over St.Croix, birds displaying rust, black, brown, white, and purple-colored feathers, the descendants of chickens that arrived with Europeans five centuries ago. Striking red-combed banty roosters strut about with their harems, plucking bugs and worms from the ground that they ceremoniously give to their hens. The birds are so ubiquitous here that the rooster is the island’s unofficial mascot.

On our last trip, half a dozen chickens would come up to our back porch daily and visit. But this time, not a single one appeared. We wondered why and then spotted an elegant, brown winged bird with a curved beak: a predator that the locals call a chicken hawk. No wonder our feathered friends had fled.

The sea, the sky, the birds, and a spot of Captain Morgan. Life is good!

There are other birds—tiny black ones that flit past so quickly you wonder if you imagined them and swift white birds that fight arial battles with one another— but we haven’t been able to identify them yet. All we know is we’re provided with constant avian entertainment each day, a show that makes Netflix pale in comparison.

I’d tell you more—especially about the six-point, white-tailed buck that stared at us from 15 feet away before slipping over a hillside the other day— but there’s an iced glass of sweet, dark rum waiting for me on the porch.

Ah….

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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.

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