Posts Tagged ‘Adventure’

Fill you life with experiences

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Woman Climber

“Far better it is to dare mighty things,

to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure,

than to rank with those poor spirits

who neither enjoy nor suffer much

because they live in the gray twilight

that knows neither victory nor defeat.”

–Teddy Roosevelt

Do It Anyway and Make a Difference

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The second book of my Search and Rescue mystery series featuring Gracie Kinkaid, “Murder Off the Beaten Path, releases October 7, 2014.


As a member of a mountain search and rescue team, Gracie Kinkaid routinely volunteers to put her life on the line. But it’s at her new day job at a residential camp in the mountains of southern California where she finds her life is really in danger.…

Murder Off the Beaten Path: A Search and Rescue Mystery tells how Gracie responds to a Search and Rescue call-out for a car that’s gone over the side of a treacherous mountain highway. The crash, which Gracie quickly suspects is no accident, proves to be one in an escalating and deadly series of events that lead her right back to Camp Ponderosa, a church-owned camp where she works. As Gracie probes more deeply into the dark secrets at the camp, she unearths a hidden world of illegal activities, including murder, and finds herself going head-to-head with desperate perpetrators who will do anything to silence her forever.

Murder Off the Beaten Path contains all of the same ingredients that made the first book in this series, Zero-Degree Murder, such a smashing success—thrills, chills, break-neck pacing, and its quirky, fearless heroine, Gracie Kinkaid, on almost every page. Lots of new characters and some returning ones, an intriguing new setting—a residential camp high in the mountains, and an exciting new nightmare for Gracie.

Of “Zero-Degree Murder,” Library Journal wrote: “This exciting, seriously good adventure debut deserves a place in your book carts. With her spunky female leading the way, Rowland dishes out generous portions of adrenaline rush. …Her adventure writing style has real flair.”

“Murder Off the Beaten Path,” and the first in the series, Zero-Degree Murder” are available on my website, http://www.mlrowland.com, and at http://www.amazon.com and http://www.barnesandnoble.com.

And don’t forget your local brick and mortar bookstore. If they don’t carry it, they can order it for you!

Thanks, everyone!

Happy reading!

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My husband and I travel to the incredible state of Utah as often as we can. We’re drawn to its amazing geology, its truly awesome canyons and slickrock.

Here are some pictures from a recent Thanksgiving trip (with my apologies to the REAL photographers out there):

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A couple of weeks ago, not far from where I live, a rock climber fell 80 feet to his death.

Two men were rappelling. One experienced. One not. The fourth time, the experienced guy rappelled down alone to belay his friend from the bottom leaving the inexperienced one to rig himself alone. The man backed off the edge and fell all the way to the ground.

A first responder who also happened to have ropes and climbing experience, climbed up and around to the top of the cliff to inspect the anchor and the man’s rigging.

There were two anchors at the top with a chain attached to each anchor. The rope was fed through two links of chain. The theory is the man grabbed a bight of rope “above” the chain to feed through his belay device rather than both sides of the ropes below the chain. When he went over the side, the rope pulled right through and the man fell.

As an aside, the climbers weren’t wearing helmets. Some climbers maintain that helmets are worn for protection from falling rock and don’t make a significant difference in a fall. This seems to be the case in this instance. In spite of a significant gouge out of the man’s skull, there was almost no blood indicating the man’s heart had already stopped beating–he probably died of a combination of spinal trauma and traumatic asphyxia.

It’s soooo easy to second-guess someone and criticize after-the-fact from a distance. Still, I’m reasonably confident that this incredibly sad accident could have been prevented if the man’s climbing buddy had done a safety check.

How much more time does it take to do that extra squeeze of a carabiner to make sure it’s locked? Or to tie a knot at the bottom of your rope (so you don’t rappel off the end)? Or have a buddy check your rigging?

5 seconds? 10? 30? An entire minute?

Depends how much time you think your life is worth.

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Even among “experts,” there seems to be quite a bit of confusion (mostly on my part) about what a thriller is. And how does a thriller differ from a mystery?

I’ve heard several definitions, some contradictory.

I heard one definition at a writers’ conference: Mysteries are more cerebral with a puzzle (usually a murder) to solve; thrillers are more action-oriented.

Donald Maass in his great book, “Writing the Breakout Novel,” says that the plot events in thrillers have to accomplish 2 things: they need to be utterly believable and utterly incredible. High stakes are required whether they’re personal or global.

“Writers Market FAQ” by Peter Rubie explains that in Thrillers (and Suspense novels), the protagonist is constantly in danger.

I recently read that it’s a matter of the “stakes.” Is it a global story involving espionage, the fate of thousands if not millions of people, etc.?  Then it’s a thriller. If it’s smaller, more intimate, a more confined setting, it’s a mystery.

In “Don’t Get Dead,” my protagonist, Gracie Kinkaid, faces obstacles on three fronts. Two are physical: the elements (she gets stranded in a blizzard high in the mountains and must keep Rob Christian alive with very limited resources) and an unknown killer stalking her and Rob for unknown reasons. The third is emotional/psychological–she must battle her own self-doubts. The stakes are constantly raised, then raised again throughout until the final confrontation.

Which still doesn’t solve the problem: Is “Don’t Get Dead” a thriller or mystery?

My conclusion: Pick one. It’s whatever the person you’re dealing with (agent, editor, publisher) says it is. If they want to label it a mystery, that’s what it is. If they say it’s a thriller, then that’s what it is.

So, for the moment anyway, I’m plugging “Don’t Get Dead” as a mystery.

Any ideas? Suggestions? Opinions?

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As promised, here are a few pages from my new novel, “Don’t Get Dead,” the first of the Gracie Kinkaid mysteries.



The body hung upside down in the truck, suspended by the seatbelt, sun-bleached hair hanging straight down to skim the roof of the cab.

The light from the headlamp strapped to Gracie’s forehead merged with that of Ralph Hunter’s mag flashlight to illuminate the interior of the crumpled pick-up that had shot off the road high above their heads and now lay upside down amid a jumble of rocks and vegetation on the desert floor.

“Well, as far as dead bodies go,” Gracie said, “this one’s in pretty good shape. At least it’s in one piece.”

Ralph grunted his agreement.

Thank God this guy was wearing his seatbelt, Gracie thought. She had seen the results of vehicles launching themselves off mountain roads and highways. Often times drivers wearing seatbelts walked away relatively unscathed from their impromptu four-hundred foot roller-coaster rides. Drivers not wearing seatbelts usually didn’t. As exhausted as Gracie was, retrieving body parts would definitely have sucked.

Gracie dug a piece of strawberry bubble gum from a side pocket of her pants and popped it into her mouth, dutifully tucking the wrapper back into the same pocket.

In spite of the heavy shadows of the truck’s interior, Gracie was able to discern that the victim was male and young, possibly still in his teens, and that there was little blood inside the cab or on the body itself. “He didn’t bleed out,” Gracie said as she tugged open the radio chest pack she wore and picked out a pair of purple latex gloves.

“Blunt force trauma probably knocked him out,” Ralph said, keeping his voice as bland and clinical as if they were sitting comfortably in a classroom discussing ropes rescue theory and not the cause of death of someone who hours before had been a breathing, laughing human being with a family, maybe a sweetheart, and dreams and a future. “Traumatic asphyxia. Died from hanging upside down in the seatbelt.”

Gracie snapped on the gloves. “First time I’ve seen someone actually die from wearing a seat belt.”

“Dead for sure without it.” Ralph swung the beam of his flashlight over so he could see Gracie’s face without shining it directly into her eyes. “You okay with this, Gracie girl?”

“Yes,” Gracie bit off. Then, “No!” followed by, “Yes! I need to be able to do this, dammit!”

“Okay then,” Ralph said, obviously taking her at her word. “Let’s open it up.”

Ralph slipped his heavy flashlight through a belt loop, then, donning his own pair of latex gloves, tugged on the passenger door handle of the upended truck. When the dented door resisted, he planted a dusty boot on the truck’s side panel and hauled with both hands until the door opened with an unearthly screech of metal on metal that raised the hair on the back of Gracie’s neck.

In what both rescuers knew was a formality, but had to be done regardless, Ralph leaned inside the cab and placed two fingers on the carotid artery of the young man’s neck, checking for any signs of life.

Gracie silently counted off the seconds until Ralph said in a low voice, “Nothing.”

He wrestled a thin wallet from the back pocket of the dead man’s jeans and held it out behind him. “ID.”

As Gracie grabbed the wallet and backed away from the truck, she became aware for the first time of muffled voices and occasional bursts of laughter filtering through the forest of Joshua trees behind her, signaling the arrival of the rest of the recovery team hefting in the litter–the orange plastic basket in which to transport the body–from one of the countless dirt roads that criss-crossed the desert flats.

Unoccupied, the Junkin litter was unwieldy and heavy. Day packs, body bag, daisy chains of woven nylon webbing, steel carabiners and other ropes rescue hardware tossed into the basket weighed it down even further. Another one hundred eighty pounds or so of dead weight translated into strained shoulders, arms and hands on the way out.

Gracie opened the wallet and zeroed the beam of her headlamp on the California driver’s license inside. A bright young face smiled back at her.


She snapped the wallet closed and shoved it into a side vest pocket.

“Deep breath,” she whispered to herself. “Do not feel anything. You have to get the job done.”

Her eyes slid over to the truck where Ralph was sifting through papers scattered inside the truck cab.

“Besides, you barf all over Ralphie’s boots again and your ass is grass.”

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