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New Parish…

I can’t wait to share my books with everyone! This is what a college professor wrote about New Parish:

Review of New Parish

“I did two reads of the book.  The first time in January and then I just read it again and made comments. Honestly, most of my comments were simply wanting more information. It sounds like a second book is in the works that it covers more culture which will be fantastic. Julie is a captivating author. After the first six chapters I spent more late nights reading than I should have. I found that I made comments in the first few chapters and then as I got caught up in the story I had less to say because I was just truly enjoying the story line. This story captured the magic of your community, it’s the kind of hometown we wish we all had, and the kind of community where we wish all of our children could be raised. I’ll be first in line to buy anything she publishes.

Jaclyn Knapp, M.S., ED.S – Weber State University, Ogden, UT

Water Canyon Park

Not far from where I now live is a place called Water Canyon Park. It’s a small rustic park with a few picnic areas and lots of rugged grandiosity all around. I love going there to spend some quiet time, or write, or just take in the abundant beauty it offers. I’ve used this place for several scenes in my books, it just has so much to draw from. There’s quiet solitude, amazing mountains and mesas, and the feel of being more than one’s self. It lends much to a writer’s imagination and inspires that imagination to greater heights!

I can imagine pioneers of old roaming through there, seeing the wonders of the place for the first time and feeling that they’ve found a bit of paradise. I could see them there thinking they’d found a respite from their journey, or maybe even a place to stop and build a home among the tall cottonwoods, Russian olive trees, and the gnarly oak that grow there. There’s a natural spring that the pioneers could have gathered water from. I can imagine the pioneers with covered wagons circled around in the clearing getting ready for supper, with the tall skyscraper mountains standing watch behind them. They’d have to be careful around the prickly pear, but what an amazing time they would have had. Maybe they would have had squirrel stew, there’s an abundance of squirrels there now, but I don’t know about back in the old days. If not squirrel stew then maybe jack rabbit pie, that would definitely have been an option.

An excerpt from New Parish when my characters saw Water Canyon for the first time:

“The plane turned again and they flew over some mountain mesas lined with gorgeous colors of different shades of chocolaty brown, auburn, ocher and umber. Brother Michael informed the passengers that, “This is what we call the Water Canyon, it has some really good hiking trails. Some of them are quite challenging, but always rewarding.”

            “It’s gorgeous,” Samantha whispered.

            Sarah smiled, she could see that her mom was still in white knuckle mode, but the absolute beauty of what was below was overpowering her fear.

            “Yes it is,” agreed David.”

I’ll of course attach some pictures so you can see the place I’ve been talking about…

This link shows part of Water Canyon:

http://www.americansouthwest.net/slot_canyons/water-canyon/index.html

Arizona Strip

There’s a lot of life that has happened on the Arizona Strip. The Native Americans, the early explorers, and the Mormon pioneers, were all a part of that life. I think they all were looking for a place to live differently, to find new ways of expanding their freedoms, knowledge, and experiences. The Arizona Strip is still full of life with new explorers and pioneers of today. It’s an amazing thing to go explore along the Honeymoon Trial, Pipe Springs, Lees Ferry, Zion’s Park, the Grand Canyon, and countless other places here.  

When I visit these places it’s amazing to see that much of the natural wonders have been wisely preserved. It’s like stepping back in time, you can feel the spirit of the place and the people who walked there long ago. I love history! For me being able to visit history by going to places that haven’t changed in hundreds of years is very inspiring. Studying the history of this area through books, journals, and articles, allows me to gain a deeper understanding of how things have evolved and how the characters in my books would have evolved from the rich heritage that was, to the present day culture that exists, because of their history.

“Sarah woke early the next morning she quickly showered, dressed, and sneaked out of the house. She wanted to spend some quiet time alone this morning, to take in the beauty of the little community that was weaving its way into her heart. There was still snow around but all the walk ways were cleared away, and the snow created accents to the surrounding areas, it really gave contrast to the mountains. The sun was just starting to peek up over the horizon, there were a few clouds in the sky, which looked like it went on forever. This created the most beautiful sunrise she had ever seen. It looked like the sky was lined and smudged with pink and purple cotton candy. Sarah slowed her pace and thought, “This is really an absolutely amazingly beautiful place…””

This place, the Arizona Strip, makes an amazing and incredible setting for my books, and my adventures! I’m very much looking forward to many more adventures…

 

There’s Beauty All Around… If You’re Looking for It

Someone wise once told me that you’ll find the good if you look for it, and you’ll find the bad if you’re looking for that. All the elements and levels of good and bad are all around us all the time. Some are unavoidable and can’t be overlooked, some are very subtle, either way, life has taught me, the most prominent (good or bad) will be what we are looking for…

 I’ve always been a glass half full kind of girl… so I look for the good, the beauty, and the wonders around me. Yeah, that other stuff happens, but I try not to focus on it.

Out here in the western desert there’s what some might say a lot of harsh, dangerous, and foreboding land, and they’d be right. One has to have a deep respect for the land, its climate, and the animal life that’s here, but with that respect one can find the wondrous beauty that’s present here.

In the spring the desert blooms, okay, I think it’s beautiful all year round, but in the spring, it blooms. Some springs there are more blooms than others, but each year you get something. From the prickly pear cacti to the globemallow and even the sage brush, it blooms. This turns the desert into an almost treasure hunt for me. You literally ride along the barren stretches of sand and sagebrush and then a splash of color bursts out at you. Its easily missed, if you’re not looking for it, but if you’re looking for it, it’s an awesome treasure.

Prickly Pear Rose

In my book, New Parish, the main character, Sarah, was riding across a barren stretch in her life till she found something different. At first, she didn’t know if it was something good or something bad. She was willing to do the work to find out, she was looking for the good, so she found it. She finds the beauty, love, and fulfillment she’d been longing for all her life… after several bits of conflict of course.

Excerpt from New Parish:

““I feel like I’ve stepped into a Louis L’Amour novel,” Sarah said looking around at all the cowboys and horses.

            The cowboy band was playing and there was a square dance going, Mary said, “Come on let’s go!”

            Sarah said, “No way, I’ve never dosey doed in my life. I don’t know how,” trying to excuse herself from this activity.

            Mary grabbed her hand and pulled her toward the dance area in front of the wooden stage the band was on, “I’ll show you, it’s fun!” she said laughing.

            Sarah had an inner dread that she was not only going to dosey doe for the first time, but that Mary had much more confidence in her abilities than she did.

            Mary had her twirling around the grassy dance area in no time. They were both laughing at her many mistakes, and having so much fun. Then Sarah saw one of cowboys on the stage…”

Okay, so Sarah falls down and embarrasses herself, but she’s willing to look for the good in life and she finds it.

Hidden treasures are all around us if we are willing to look for the good, take a chance, and cultivate the courage to be brave enough to find them.

Below are pictures of some flowers and scenes I found on a recent adventure to the Honeymoon Trail:

 

Researching the West…

Research is a big part of the writing process, it’s one that I enjoy immensely. I’ve been researching the people who lived out here in this extraordinarily unique area, the Arizona Strip. People like Jim Emett, Jacob Hamblin, and Lot Smith, just to name a few. They were true cowboys, mountain men, and adventurers of the old west. They lived lives like Daniel Boone and Davey Crockett, they were true to life characters that John Wayne would have played in his best movies. All three of these men were marshals, ranchers, farmers, trailblazers, oh yeah, and polygamists. I’ll tell you more about each of them soonish.

The late 1800’s and early 1900’s was a time of rugged survival out here. Many didn’t make it, but those who did left their mark and a few heroic stories behind to let us know how life was in those days. This rich history is both exciting and intriguing to me as I learn more.

Like I said research is a part of writing that I enjoy, actually I haven’t found any part of writing yet that I don’t enjoy. Learning about these incredible people helps me bring my characters to life, it gives them depth and a fictional history that’s based on the real history of here. I can’t go back in time and experience what they did, but I can study their lives and experience it that way. The books I’m writing now are in present day, but the ones I’m planning on writing next are going to be back in the late 1800’s. I’m sure I’m not the only writer that plans two to three books ahead… it’s just a very normal thing for me now.

Point Sublime Overlook at the Grand Canyon

Yeah, the one everyone writes about, the Grand Canyon. There are several view points, I think I’ve been to all of them now except the one I most want to visit. The one where you can stand on a glass overlook and look straight down into the canyon… someday. I’d seen pictures before I actually visited the Grand Canyon, I remember thinking, “Yeah, that’s big, looks amazing.” Well, no, it’s not big, its huge! It’s breathtakingly humongous. It’s much more than amazing, it’s awe inspiring. No picture could ever really give you the full giganticness and grandeur of it. You really do have to experience it for yourself…

Here’s an excerpt from my book as my characters experienced the Grand Canyon:

“A few minutes more and the plane was showing them the vastness of the Grand Canyon. They all oohed and ahead as the glorious scene entered their view. The vast canyon seemed to go on forever, it was as though there were a whole mountain range within the canyon with deep ravines, cliffs, and a river. The beauty of it had Sarah and her parents repeatedly saying “oh look at that,” for the duration of the time they were above the Grand Canyon.”

This is a review from a friend, (Socrates) who’s visited the place a lot:
“Beyond Awesome

Reviewed May 20, 2015

Once again we returned to our favorite vantage point of this unbelievable natural wonder, Point Sublime… and once again we were amazed at the overpowering scope of its thrilling beauty. Although it requires a high clearance four wheel drive vehicle and just under two hours of slow going to reach this, the best view of the canyon, the scenery of the forest and meadows is breathtaking, wild life abundant, and only a handful of visitors to share your view… a peaceful picnic on a finger jutting out into the this awesome chasm is truly life at its most generous moment…”

As I said before pictures can’t really show the full canyon effect, but I of course took some. So here’s my feeble attempt at capturing something beyond the camera’s capacity:

Oak Grove…

Not far from the Honeymoon Trail is another wonderful oasis in the middle of the desert, Oak Grove, it’s a part of Dixie National Forest in southern Utah, with an elevation 6800 ft. I’ve been up there a couple of times and each time there was no one else around. Just you and the beauty of the place.

It reminds me of back home with tall pine trees that reach for the sky covering the top of the mountain. It’s almost serene, a place you can go to think, have a picnic, or just write a few scenes in your book. This place has an old rustic rock gazebo, beautiful trails, and a spring that pools up along one trails creating a picturesque place that just one visit gives a person forever memories.

This scene from my book, New Parish, is set in Oak Grove:

“He’d shown her the trail that led to the gazebo he built before he ever built the cabin. He’d used very rustic materials to build it, round creek rock and rough hewn beams and poles for the open walls, with split cedar shingles for the roof. Sarah thought about sitting in there on the benches that he’d made to go around the inside along the creek rock lower walls. Then her mind turned to the other paths they walked, one led to a small waterfall stream that they had splashed each other in, Sarah smiled warmly at that memory. Another path led them through the tall ponderosas that seemed to be reaching for the distant sky, she remembered seeing little snippets of the surrounding mountains through the trees which gave them even more grandeur.”

I always try to make the settings in my books as real as possible, so, I write about places I’ve been… those places range from all over the south east to all over the south west, and a few other places. I do love to travel…

Below are a few pictures from my visit to Oak Grove:

 

Kanab UT – The Cowboy Town

Kanab UT, ever since the first time I visited this awesome place I’ve called it The Cowboy Town. There have been some amazing real and fictional cowboys roaming the streets of Kanab and the surrounding areas throughout its history. They filmed loads of old western movies there, and around there, there’s even a museum with some of the old movie sets out back to show off the history of that era. The local restaurants have signed photos of the actors who frequented their establishments hanging on the walls, well, Nedra’s does anyways. If you go to Kanab you have to go to Nedra’s and the museum, they’ll both give you some necessary history and culture of the Cowboy Town.

Kanab is also another stop along the Honeymoon trail, which I’ve been writing about lately. The fella I mentioned in my last post, Jim Emett, (that was a guide to Zane Grey), was the marshal of Kanab for a while before he went to Lees Ferry to work there. I’m learning more and more about Jim Emett, he was quite an amazing person, the kind of person legends are made of.

Because of my interest in the area, its history and Jim Emett, I’m reading Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey, (I usually stick with Louis L’Amour) I found out that Zane Grey wrote about the areas I’ve been living in and visiting and described them in some detail in this book and a couple of other books. It’s been an interesting read so far, it’s fiction of course, and he doesn’t have too many good things to say about the Mormons and their system of plural marriage but the descriptions of the area are good. He did make at least two visits out to this area, but only met a few Mormons and never lived the religion, or as far as I know experienced it except from an outside looking in with a prejudice perspective, so his point of view on that is spurious. (I think the rest of the story needs to be told on the plural marriage issue, lots has been told on one side, it’s time for the other side to emerge.) I do love his descriptors of Pipe Springs, Lees Ferry, the Grand Canyon, and the surrounding areas, though. He used the experiences he had in this wondrous place to create an amazing setting for his book.

In my books I try to infuse my characters with the real life experiences that have been so inspiring to me, both out here and back home in Georgia and Tennessee. I think a writer should write about what they know or have experienced, it fills the story with life.  It also gives the writer some pretty great adventures…

Every year in Kanab they have what the locals call Cowboy Days. I’ve watched as the wagon train came in from the long ride. It was wonderful to watch and experience, actually going out on the trail and doing that must be so incredible, I can only imagine… The link below will show you what things are like during those Cowboy Days.

https://www.westernlegendsroundup.com/

The trail ride:

https://www.westernlegendsroundup.com/events/wagon-train-2017-4-day-3-night/

A few pictures from my adventures…

Lees Ferry – Another stop along the Honeymoon Trail…

Not too far from the Vermillion Cliffs there’s another spot on the Honeymoon Trail, that I’ve visited, it’s called Lees Ferry. Another beautiful oasis in the middle of the desert, it’s called Lees Ferry because there was a ferry there that allowed pioneers, cowboys, Native Americans, mountain men, and even a writer or two to cross the wild Colorado River there – and the man who manned the ferry first was John D. Lee, ergo Lees Ferry.

The area was settled by Mormon families who of course were polygamous. The third man in charge of the Lees Ferry and the Lonely Dell Ranch, where the families lived, was Jim Emett. The reason I mention him is that he was a guide to Zane Grey when he was out that way hunting mountain lions. It was said that Zane Grey admired him and wrote about him both figuratively and literally. I thought that bit of information was cool… it set my mind to pondering what things would have been like when Jim Emett guided Zane Grey out into the vast wilderness and what sort of conversations they might have had…

Lees Ferry is now a part of Glen Canyon National Park and will always be preserved for everyone to enjoy and learn about. The history, the beauty, and the hardships are all there to inform and haunt visitors, permanently. Lees Ferry is honestly one of those places you really need to experience in person to get the grandeur of the whole thing. It’s truly breathtaking…

I try my best to capture the natural beauty that is all around here, in my books. I also try through my characters to show a bit of the history of the area, the plural marriage aspect, (in a positive way, because just like monogamous marriage, it’s not all bad), and the respect the people here have for the land and each other.

A snippet from my book New Parish, for you:

“Sarah sat listening to them without really listening, she peered out the wide panoramic windows of the plane. The scene below was amazing and filled with the exquisite desert landscape she was falling in love with. The rich colored mesas, the prairies filled with sage brush, cactus, and so much more than Sarah had imagined would be there, it was all becoming a part of her new life. This excited Sarah, it gave her something to explore and learn about while she was contemplating the next part of her life…”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The links below will show you more, if you’re interested:

National Park page:

https://www.nps.gov/glca/planyourvisit/lees-ferry.htm

Loads of history and information about this beautiful place:

http://grandcanyonhistory.clas.asu.edu/sites_coloradorivercorridor_leesferry.html

The Rough and Rugged Honeymoon Trail…

There’s a rough and rugged trail that meanders from Snowflake Arizona to St. George Utah. Well, the rough and rugged trail used to be the only way to get from Snowflake to St. George, now it only takes about six hours to traverse the distance, back in the 1800’s it took 4-6 weeks. There’s a nice smooth highway for most to the distance now that allows you to take in the majestic scenes along the way with ease. The original rough and rugged trail is still mostly intact, though you’d need a four-wheel drive vehicle of some kind to travel on it, (I’m sure they would’ve loved to have a four-wheel drive back in the day as well.) That rough and rugged trail was dubbed the Honeymoon Trail back in the 1800’s, and is now a part of the western history I love to visit and write about.

A sign along the Honeymoon Trail.

There’s over four hundred miles of the rough and rugged trail that holds not only beauty but many dangers for those brave enough to take on the challenge. The settlers in the 1800’s would take on that extreme challenge because they wanted to get married (plurally or monogamously, I’m not prejudice either way) in the St. George Temple, thus the naming of the trail, The Honeymoon Trail.

The Pipe Springs Monument, that I wrote about last week, is one of the stops along the Honeymoon Trail. I’ve visited several points of historic interest, to me, along this trail. Hopefully I’ll visit a few more soonish. The Vermillion Cliffs was one place I was particularly entranced with. I wrote about an experience I had there in my book New Parish:

“… They spent a few moments enjoying the rare scenes of what was like a bygone era, then the plane flew past, and Brother Michael said, “There they are, the Vermillion Cliffs.”

            He was pointing to a range of mountains that were almost completely barren of vegetation. The cliffs had a rich purple hue with some of the coral earth tones of the New Parish mesas. They were much larger and longer in range, “Wow…” thought Sarah. The plane flew closer and closer and went along the whole of the cliffs giving the passengers an incredible view of the beauty that was there.

            Sarah jumped as her dad suddenly shouted, “Oh, oh! Look! There’s one!”

            Everyone looked to see the giant bird he was so excited about. It was circling just above the top of one of the cliffs. It flew slowly around and around spiraling higher and higher. They all watched as the condor ascended into the sky, at times looking like a kite hanging on the wind, frozen in time. The condor gradually soared out of sight… Sarah had been so wrapped up in the experience that she’d almost forgotten to breathe. She thought to herself, “Wow, they’re amazing…””

Seeing that condor soaring above the Vermillion Cliffs was truly an experience I’ll never forget.

 

Below is an article from True West Magazine about the Honeymoon Trail if want to know a bit more:

http://www.truewestmagazine.com/honeymoon-trail/

Gene Autry and Ann Rutherford Singing the Honeymoon Trail… I love old westerns!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZKhAtgk5Ax4