Researching the Next Book

Painting that caught my eye at the art show.

I had two reasons I wanted to go to Hawaii- I had always wanted to see a tropical island and I wanted to set a book there. After working on my husband for 40 years, he finally gave in. Our daughters who had visited several of the Hawaiian islands suggested they thought their dad would like Kauai the best. When he said yes to going, I quickly booked a place to stay and got plane tickets before he changed his mind!

Last week I showed you the first couple of days in Kauai. This week I have photos from the next two days.

On Thursday we drove the Waimea Canyon Road. The canyon was pretty. It was deep, had lots of deep gorges and narrow peaks. The colors ranged from orange and pinks in the soil and rocks to the vivid greens we’re expecting to see in the foliage.

Waimea Canyon

From the Canyon Viewpoint we continued north and stopped at all the viewpoints along the way. One had a trail to the top of the waterfall we’d viewed at the Canyon viewpoint. Hubby and I started out on the trail, thinking we’d see more than the trees, brush, and vines as we slipped and slid down the muddy trail. After about a mile, we turned around and went back. It was hot, humid, no air in among the vegetation, and we couldn’t see anything.

Back at the car, we continued up the Koke’e Road to the next lookout. The Kalalau lookout overlooked the Kalalau valley and the ocean. It was really pretty.

A short distance from there was another lookout, the Pi’u o Kila. From here we took the Pihea Trail and walked a good mile and a half up it and stopped to have a picnic lunch. This trail had a rocky down hill climb to start, then it even out along the rim of the canyon but was a bit on the slippery side, but not near as bad as the trail that we’d hiked earlier in the day. There were wonderful views of the Kalalau Valley and the Waimea Canyon on the other side.

At the car we headed back the way we’d driven that morning because we had come to the end of the road. We had dinner as a small restaurant and went back to out place to soak in the hot tub and visit with some of the other vacationers at our condo.

Friday I was excited to attend a luau that night. To make sure we weren’t late for the luau we only had plans for me to check out an art show happening in Lihue.

Mindanao Gum tree

The morning started out with us walking around the area where we were staying. I took photos of the flowers and the Mindanao Gum tree which has gorgeous colored striped bark. The art show didn’t open until noon which gave us time to slowly make our way to Lihue, have lunch at the mall where the show was being held.

I’m so glad I had discovered the art show! I talked with the young woman manning the show and explained why I was there and discovered that the show is held every year and it’s a juried show with a judge. The judge this year came from California! I discovered that I can have Shandra be the judge for one of their shows, by having her be friends with one of the board members. Spending time looking at the art, I wrote down the names of the artists I admired so I can look them up online and get a feel for the type of artists who enter the show. As I walked around studying the different mediums, ideas slowly swirled in my head. While I’m still uncertain how the character will be killed and why, I know how Shandra will be in Kauai, how she becomes involved in the murder, and where I want the murder to take place.

painted gourds by Sally Tomiko

It had started raining in the afternoon. we were almost and hour early for the luau and the man at the gates suggested we go see a waterfall that was about 15 minutes away. We drove there and sat in the car for fifteen minutes waiting for the rain to let up so we could get out and look at the waterfall without being soaked.

Sitting in car waiting for rain to slow
Opaeka’a Falls

We noticed a man standing inside the open door of the men’s restroom when we drove up to the waterfall lookout. He was weaving a basket with palm leaves. Hubby and I discussed he was probably making the basket to sell. We waited until it looked like he was about finished and Hubby walked over and asked him about the basket. He was making it to sell and was asking $10 for it. I had told Hubby I’d to as high as $20 so we were both excited when he got into the car with my $20 basket.

the basket

We went back to the area for the Luau, still raining, and waited with the others at the entrance under a small entry to the gardens. We learned what I had thought would be a more intimate affair and I had made reservations for months ago had 500 people attending! It was a fun night with buffet style serving, dinner entertainment of Hawaiian songs and hula lessons and then a beautiful show afterwards. The show at the end depicted dances from all the cultures who inhabited the islands- Philippines, Tahitian, Japanese, New Zealand, Samoa. While it wasn’t as intimate as I’d thought it would be, it was definitely worth the money.

Next week I’ll tell you about finally finding the paradise I’d been looking for.

A Cowboy Christmas with Shanna Hatfield

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The jangle of spurs mingles with the jingle of sleigh bells in this celebration of Christmas, cowboy style….

A Cowboy Christmas Western Celebrations, Recipes, and Traditions By Shanna Hatfield (October 2019 • 304 pages • 978-1493042340 • Cloth •$26.95)

Through photos, interviews, 15 how-to’s, and 75 recipes, this book offers a guide to creating your own Cowboy Christmas and a celebration of the style, traditions, food, and family celebrations unique to the lifestyles of American cowboys. Featuring ranch families, rodeo cowboys, and communities with western-style Christmas celebrations, this book will highlight the things that make a Cowboy Christmas special. Each chapter will feature traditions, recipes, decorations, and stories from the interviewees.


From October 1 through December 24, Shanna is donating 10 percent of the proceeds from all her book sales (not just A Cowboy Christmasto the JCCF through her Read a Book, Help a Cowboy campaign. 

To check out a recipe, learn more about what is in the book, and to purchase visit Shanna’s website: https://shannahatfield.com/book/a-cowboy-christmas/

USA Today bestselling author Shanna Hatfield is a farm girl who loves to write. Her sweet historical romances are filled with sarcasm, humor, hope, and hunky heroes.  When Shanna isn’t dreaming up unforgettable characters, twisting plots, snapping photos, or trying new recipes, she hangs out with her beloved husband, Captain Cavedweller, at their home near Walla Walla, Washington.

Color to my World

I have a penchant for color. I like vibrant colors. Bold purples, pinks, orange, yellow, blues, and reds make me smile. Whether they are on clothing, flowers, dishes, blankets, paintings. I love color!

I know there is a place for black, brown, gray, and tan. They make great backdrops for splashes of color. Somber tones are needed to evoke certain moods.

When there are dark gray or black clouds in the sky, they inevitably spark flashes of lightning to brighten the darkness and illicit tingles of excitement, and in some, fear.

I love flowers, but, alas, I do not have a green thumb. It is a feat when I can keep a plant alive long enough for it to produce flowers. This summer I had several that exceeded my expectations, coloring my summer with joy.

When I told a friend about how I have trouble keeping plants alive he gave me a cactus. It bloomed this spring. The color was gorgeous and I hope it will grace me with blooms again next year.

I planted sunflowers in the same bathtub as I’d planted a peony from my dad’s yard. the peony had only a couple of blooms this year. I hope it will be full next year, but the sunflowers bloomed brightening the last of summer with they yellow cheer.

I try to add color to my writing without dragging the description on and on. I’ve received several reviews that comment on how I give just enough description without overdoing it. That is something that makes my heart sing as much as vibrant colors!

Jet Boating My Way to a Book by Paty Jager

It seems like ages ago, when it was only about a month ago that I and four friends took a jet boat ride down the Snake River. When my friends mentioned they were going, I invited myself along because I had planned to do the trip as some point this summer for research for the next Gabriel Hawke book.

photo from Pittsburgh Landing

The only drawback was the trip was three days before I left for Iceland. That is why you haven’t seen photos or heard about the trip. 😉

I had planned to visit my dad in his Senior Living Center that same week and make a round trip by spending the night at my younger brother’s house on his birthday. So tossing in one more day and jet boating worked out perfectly!

Except, the weather! Because it was a cloudy and not very warm day, the clear plastic side awnings, I guess you’d call them, were down to keep use from getting too wet.

We put in at Pittsburgh Landing on the Idaho side of the Snake River.

I wanted to take photos of the terrain. The best place to do that was either in front on in the back of the boat. I chose the back. I have quite a few blurry photos because of the speed we were going but the photos will allow me to remember what I saw.

We stopped at a ranch that is now a museum. The old fruit trees that had been planted years ago had fruit beginning to show. There were a few wildflowers, but we were lucky to not see any rattlesnakes. When I’d participated in our Senior Sneak before graduating from high school, our senior class rafted a different part of the Snake. There was a raft for the boys and one for the girls. Several stops along the way the boys would catch a rattlesnake and throw it on the girls’ raft. Not cool! But ever the tomboy, I’d pick it up and throw it back at them. Then it wasn’t so much fun. 🙂

On this particular trip, we enjoyed wonderful cinnamon rolls made by a woman who takes the trip every year on her birthday. I have never had such delicious, light cinnamon rolls before! From there we watched a fisherman catch and haul in a sturgeon. He was large!

fishermen with a sturgeon

We also saw some rafters trying to right a raft that had capsized. I was glad I was rafting this time!

We rode the rapids, one a class 5, and had a great time. We stopped at the Hells Canyon Dam for lunch that had been packed for us. It was delicious. Then we checked out the visitor center and climbed back on the boat for our trip down stream to the landing where we put in.

Hells Canyon Dam

To me it felt like the rapids were trickier going back down then gunning upstream through them. I enjoyed watching our guide who had been doing this for nineteen years. When we were in the regular water, he’d relax behind the helm, crossing his ankles. As we neared the rapids, he leaned forward, both hands on the levers. His feet would uncross, and he would eventually stand as he guided the boat through the rapids. When the rapids were behind us, he’d settle back down and cross his ankles.

I guess you’re probably wondering, will Hawke be on one of these boats? At this point, I say no. Only because while talking to the boat’s crew, I learned that there are always boats going up and down this section of the river. If it’s not tour boats, it’s fishermen. The river is open year round. Which made me decide most of the action will take place up on the peaks and rocky sides of the canyon walls. And that is why I wanted to take the trip. To see the terrain and learn what I could about activity on the river.

Iceland Trip- part seven

A clothed pig statue that caught my eye.

Friday, my birthday! I didn’t tell anyone on the trip because they had made a big deal out of someone else’s birthday earlier in the week. I just enjoyed the day and being on a grand adventure!

We drove up to the Presidential residence of Bessastaoir, the President of Iceland. It was a large home with farm type buildings out in the middle of open ground. There was a large pond and some geese.

I loved the drive to Lake Kleifarvatn and could see my character Hawke bringing a tracking class out to this moon-scape type surroundings to learn to look for tracks that weren’t there. It had large volcanic rises, sifting ashy dirt, minimal plants, but a beautiful lake.

On the southern end of the lake our noses crinkled. Hot springs, mud pots, and boiling pools of mud and water were just beyond the parking lot. The sulfurous steam that came up from the earth needed to be kept down wind. But the mud, steam, and sulfur made for colorful rock features. Here I had the idea of perhaps Hawke could discover a body half in one of the boiling mud pots. The upper half, making it hard to discover who the victim would be.

Our “relaxation” for the day was an hour in the Blue Lagoon. It was a spa or sorts with geothermal mineral water. We all brought our swimsuits and entered the waist high water. The silt of the minerals was so think you could only see a few inches into the water. I don’t know what the minerals were but it made my body float even more than usual. I could barely stay seated on the cement bench along the inside of the pool.

After the Blue Lagoon we drove to the Viking World Museum. Here we walked on the deck of Islendingur (the Icelander) a Viking replica ship finished in 1996 by shipbuilder Gunnar Marel Eggertsson. They used information gathered after the excavation of a ship in Norway in 1880. They believe the ship excavated had been built around 870. Using the same tools that would have been used in 870 Eggertsson and a crew built the ship. After it was built they sailed in it from Iceland to North America.

We returned to Reykjavik in the afternoon and met a specialist on the Icelandic language. He told us about how they are trying to preserve the language using more of a Norse language than other Norse countries and sticking to the odd characters in the spellings. He said many of the Norse languages these days are adding in English words and dropping some of the sounds that make the language so distinctive.

After the talk, while walking back to the hotel, I spotted a jewelry store and popped inside. A pair of earring that looked like ice caught my eye. I inquired what the price would be in dollars and purchased myself a birthday gift that will remind me of this wonderful birthday trip.

Dinner our last night was in the Harpa. A concert hall we’d been staring at every day from our hotel. After dinner and a delicious dessert of berry sorbet, a caramel nougat and berry cream slice on a nut crust, we attended a play. Icelandic Sagas: The Greatest Hits. It was a two person show that quickly ran through many of the Icelandic Sagas in a witty and hilarious depiction. I left the theater laughing until I realized I had to get up at 3:30 am to catch the bus to take me to the airport.

I’m so glad I took the chance to go on this trip. I enjoyed the other nine participants and made friends. And I traded emails with the guide so I can contact him when I need information for the book I plan to set in Iceland. I hope the Authors Guild can come up with another interesting trip next year. It could become a yearly trip for me.

Thank you for reading my blogs about my trip to Iceland. Keep checking in as I post about my jet boat trip up the Snake River and other adventures in pursuit of research for books.

Iceland Trip – part six

The harbor at Reykjavik

The Saga Circle. Today we learned more about Icelandic Sagas. I do have to say the Icelandic Settlement Centre in Borgarnes could have been left off the itinerary. While I enjoyed the artistic license taken by whoever made the scenes on the audio tour, the information was repetitive of what we’d already heard several times. And I don’t have any photos of the carved masks people made from bits and pieces of boards, and the wild-eyed berserk Egill, an Icelander who would have been titled a psychopath in this time period.

We moved on to Reykholt and the home of Snorri Sturluson, a significant chieftain, poet, and historian of the Middle Ages. Here Pastor Geir Waage told the group of Snorri’s life and how the Icelanders who were pagans slowly came around to becoming Christians, even if it was only in the public to keep the King of Norway from taking over the island. But eventually, the king did get the island when a civil war broke out and no one could come to a consensus. They asked the king to step in and help them straighten things out. This was in 1262. Snorri was dead. Killed at the hands of the king’s men after he’d befriended the king for years.

Pastor Waage was an interesting and eccentric man. He had a Hercule Poirot mustache, a dramatic flair, and when he pulled a small horn out of a pocket inside his jacket, I stared in awe as he unscrewed the top, poured two small mounds of black powder on his hand above where his thumb attached and continued talking. He replaced the horn, walked some more holding his hand in front of him with the small black mound. Then he paused, inhaled the powder into his nose, whipped out a colorful handkerchief and kept on talking as he wiped his nose and shoved the cloth back into his pocket. I’m naive enough I had to ask our guide what he’d sniffed. “Tobacco,” was his answer.

After the saga of Snorri, we drove further inland to Hraunfossar and Barnafossar waterfalls. (Fosser means falls) These were pretty, but there was a sad story that went along with the Branafosser falls. There was a land bridge across the river. A farm was on one side of the river and the church on the other. One day a mother and father left three children at the farm while they crossed the rocky precipice across the river to visit the church. When they returned the children were not home. They followed their tracks and discovered they ended at the rocky foot bridge. It was believed the children tried to follow their parents and ended up in the river. The parents knocked down the rocky foot bridge. But as I wandered around taking photos, I saw a smaller foot bridge low in the river bed. Could it have been that foot bridge?

After the waterfalls, we visited the most powerful hot spring in Europe, Deildartunguhver. There were Danger signs everywhere and our guide suggested we stay back unless one of the boiling spots should spit hot water. I noticed a young woman dressed in a flowing blue dress, posing. There was a photographer behind a bush. I call her my water nymph but I believe she was posing for an advertisement.

The event I’d been waiting for happened at the end of the day. We visited with Yrsa Siguroardottir crime fiction and children’s writer. I’d listened to the first two books of her Thora Gudmundsdottir series. It was fun hearing her talk about why she chose the occupation of lawyer for her character and how even though she’d made her character the opposite of herself, her life and moved in a direction that correlated with her character. Because I was the only member of the tour who wrote mystery, Yrsa and I started talking about writing mysteries. I was excited someone of her caliber was so open to talking with me. She said she looked forward to seeing me at Bouchercon.

Yrsa signing a book for one of my tour mates.

Later that night at dinner, one of the other members said she enjoyed listening to Yrsa and I talk about the genre we both loved. I went to bed Thursday night a very happy writer!

Iceland Trip- part five

Wednesday was an all day literary tour. We started at the Arni Magnusson Institute for Icelandic Studies at the University of Iceland. We viewed ancient manuscripts with the tales of how the island was found, populated, and traveled from democracy to being part of Denmark and back to democracy.

Specialist Gisli Sigurosson showed us the manuscripts and talked about Icelandic folklore and storytelling. How it had first been written down using calf skins and ink. And how the letters and writing were formed.

We walked to the Nordic Culture House for lunch and then joined two men at the Reykjavik City Library for the Dark Deeds Literary Walking Tour. The tour took place in the old downtown narrated with Icelandic crime fiction and ghost stories.

We started at the library with the story, “A Ghoul’s Greeting” from folktales collected by John Arnason.

City Library

From there we moved to the government building which was formally the jail. There an excerpt from “The Black Cliffs” by Gunnar Gunnarsson was read.

Old Jail

At the Culture House “The Saga of Grettir” translated by Bernard Scudder was read.

Briet Square (which I found odd because it was a circle) we heard an excerpt from “Drapa” by Gerdur Kristny and translation by Rory McTurk was read. This story was even more creepy after learning that the square was a memorial for a woman who had died in similar circumstances.

An excerpt of “Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was” by Sjon, translation by Victoria Cribb was read in the Parliament garden. It was a beautiful place for so dark a story.

And last a poem by Benedict Grondal, “To Bother” was read on the street beside his former home that is now a tourist site.

After “Dark Deeds” A literary Walking Tour, we walked back to the hotel and climbed on the bus to attend a cocktail reception in our honor at the Gunnarshus, a house given to the Writers’ Union of Iceland. The director of the union, an assistant, and two authors greeted us. We had wine or sparkling water, appetizers and talks by the two authors and discussions. It was interesting learning how writers in Iceland can put in for stipends to help them live while they write books. That is all but the crime fiction authors. It is felt by the union that because crime fiction novels are popular that the authors don’t need financial help. Yrsa Siguroardottir, who we met with the next day, had a different take on it. And not for her, but for the up and coming crime fiction writers.

The house was beautiful. It had been the house of a famous Icelandic author who started by writing in Danish to have a larger audience for his books. Upon his death the house went to the government who gave it to the Writers’ Union. They hold meetings, signings, and literary events at the house.

After the reception we returned to a nearby restaurant for dinner. It had been the easiest day on the trip and also the one that had my brain soaking in the most about writing and literature.

The next post will be about discovering the Icelandic Sagas.