Thursday, August 29, 2013

Today's Mystery Author Guest: Aaron Paul Lazar

As promised yesterday, fellow mystery author Aaron Paul Lazar is visiting my blog today. To read his bio and see his photo, please page down to yesterday's post. Also, Aaron is running a contest for a free electronic copy of the latest book in his young adult Gus LeGarde series, Don't Let the Wind Catch You, the cover art for which appears above. Aaron will select the winner tomorrow evening from among those who leave a comment today or tomorrow and will announce the name in a comment on this post. He will give away a Kindle compatible copy and a Nook compatible copy, so be sure to specify which format you would like in your comment.

In the book, when young Gus LeGarde befriends a cranky old hermit in the woods who speaks to an Oneida Indian spirit named Penaki, he wonders if the man is nuts. But when Penni rattles tin cups, draws on dusty mirrors, and flips book pages, pestering them to find evidence to avenge her past and free her from earthly bondage, things change. What Gus doesn’t understand is why his mother hates Tully. His relentless digging reveals a hint of scandal about Tully and Gus’s maternal grandfather, Marlowe Wright. Can his natural compassion help him accept the not-so-normal facts about Tully and Marlowe?

On horseback, Gus and his friends ride through woods overlooking Conesus Lake, following Penni’s trail to an abandoned house reportedly infected with the deadly Genesee Valley Fever from the 1700s. Unafraid, they enter and make an astounding find that could rewrite history. Gus summons courage beyond his years in this poignant and powerful telling of the sultry summer of 1965.

Sounds like a very interesting read to me, even if you aren't a young adult! Below is Aaron's guest post.

An Indian Soul by Aaron Paul Lazar

I’ve always been fascinated by Indian* culture. Not from a touristy point of view, mind you, but more from a strong, unyielding pull that comes from deep inside me and seems to grow stronger with every year.

I’m not sure why this is happening, but I do know I have some native blood flowing in my veins. My grandmother told me that one of her French Canadian ancestors married a native woman. I’ve been proud of that fact all my life, but went along blindly accepting the fact without asking more questions until it was too late. My grandmother and father both died in the same year—1997—and there’s no one else to query about which tribe my great, great, great grandmother may have belonged to, or where she lived in Canada. I do know that my grandmother was born in a little town named Beau Rivage, near Quebec, and that it no longer exists because of an intentional flooding done to create a lake, or some such thing. Some folks have suggested our tribe was the Metis, but I have no proof. I never asked my grandmother more than that. Sigh. I really wish I had.

But there’s something inside that draws me to the woods and outdoors with such a visceral pull, I can’t resist. I’m deeply happy when I’m hiking in the woods, tending my gardens, or sitting beside the Sacandaga River. I frequently imagine what life would have been like as an Indian brave—hunting, tending orchards, managing crops, running through the woods all day. It’s more than an occasional speculative thought. I seem to think about it a lot.

I believe God intended us to live as one with nature, managing our woods and fields carefully, without chemicals. This concept starkly contrasts with the lives many of us have now, sitting in an office behind a computer screen. Our bodies aren’t meant to do that, they’re meant to move and bend, with the strength and agility that comes from activity. If only we could somehow recapture the beautiful, natural ways of our ancestors who lived and nurtured the land, I know we’d eliminate high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes, and more.

When I started to write my Don’t Let the Wind Catch You, the sequel to Tremolo: cry of the loon, I decided to make the ethereal spirit who shows up in chapter 1 an Oneida Indian.

The Iroquois Nation, whose people call themselves the Hau de no sau nee, consists of six individual tribes located in the northeastern region of North America. The Six Nations includes the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, and Tuscarora. I chose the Iroquois tribes because I know people of this tribe once lived and walked on the same trails I frequent, and it seemed fitting, you know?

Penaki, or Penni, as she’s affectionately known, pesters young Gus and his friends to find evidence in an old abandoned house that is rumored to still harbor the virus for the Genesee Valley Fever, which killed hundreds in the late 1700s. She needs to be avenged by having the truth come out, so she can be released from her earthly bonds.

When I write about Native Americans, whether it’s Don’t Let the Wind Catch You or my new Tall Pines series, I feel most inspired while sitting by the Sacandaga River in Hope, New York, or hiking the deep woods nearby. I picture the land before roads bisected its wild beauty, before electric poles marred its view, in a time when man had to rely on his skill and wit to survive.

Like I said, I’ve always been fascinated by this culture. In lieu of going back in time to live life among the trees and rivers, I guess I’m creating a new world, where treachery may lurk around each corner, but where natural beauty abounds, as well.

I’m definitely enjoying the ride.

You can read the first chapters in Don’t Let the Wind Catch You by clicking on the title. Let me know what you think by contacting me at aaron.lazar AT

*I’ve read a lot of books on Indians lately, and have been educated to discover that most tribes don’t like being called Native American. They prefer either their tribe name (like Seneca or Cherokee), or native people, or Indian. So I’m trying to dump the PA term from most of my discussions to honor them.

Thanks Aaron! Now, who has a comment or question for Aaron Paul Lazar? Good luck in the contest!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Tomorrow's Guest: Aaron Paul Lazar

Tomorrow, fellow mystery author Aaron Paul Lazar will guest on my blog. He will talk about his Indian soul, and I'm sure you'll be intrigued by what he has to say. Also, Aaron will run a contest for an electronic copy of Don't Let the Wind Catch You, the latest book in his young adult Gus LeGarde series. He will choose the winner from among those who leave a comment. He will give away a Kindle compatible copy and a Nook compatible copy, so be sure to specify which format you would like in your comment.

Aaron Paul Lazar writes to soothe his soul. An award-winning, bestselling Kindle author of three addictive mystery series, Aaron enjoys the Genesee Valley countryside in upstate New York, where his characters embrace life, play with their dogs and grandkids, grow sumptuous gardens, and chase bad guys. Watch for his upcoming releases, The Seacrest (2013), Sanctuary (2014), and Virtuoso (2014).

Monday, August 26, 2013

Danger in a Remote River Canyon

I'm at Inkspot, the blog for Midnight Ink authors, today, with a report on my research trip down Cataract Canyon on the Colorado River in Utah that I took for Fatal Descent, the third book in my RM Outdoor Adventures series. Head on over there to see some spectacular scenery shots!

Friday, August 23, 2013

A Bicycle Tour in the Lot Valley of France - Part 3

This is the third part of my report on my May trip to the Lot Valley in France. For the first two parts, page down below this report.

On the fifth day of our stay at the Domaine du Haut Baran, we took the day off from bicycling to tour the religious site of Rocamadour (Wikipedia article) with William as our very well-informed guide. It features a basilica complex built into a cliffside and was the fourth most visited Christian pilgrimage site after the Holy Lands, the Vatican, and St Jacques de Compostelle in Spain.

On the way we toured a still-operating flour mill built in the thirteenth century by four generations of monks (see photos below). In the last photo, Neil and I are sitting in the kitchen fireplace used by the monks and that is still being used, on that day to cook a duck for dinner for the mill guide and his wife.

We started our visit to Rocamadour by lunching at a restaurant across the valley that gave us a spectacular view of the site.

Then we started our tour in the village at the base of the cliff (first photo below), and climbed the stairs (second photo) to the basilica level (third photo).

The first photo below shows the best-preserved of the religious murals that originally graced all the walls of the complex. We saw many religious icons that were the source of purported miracles, including the sword in the stone (second photo, chained to prevent theft), the black madonna statue (third photo), and the bell with a stationary clapper that only rang when a miracle was to occur (fourth photo).

Then we climbed up the rest of the hillside along a trail that passed by the stations of the cross (first photo below). Dinner that night was at a local restaurant run by a couple from New Zealand (second photo).

Our sixth day was our longest day of cycling, 36 miles. We started with a displacement via our support van (first photo below) to Assier. We cycled the rolling farmland (complete with cows and sheep, second and third photos) then rode downhill to the Cele River and followed the route of the pilgrims of St Jacques de Compostelle. We stopped at the church Espagnac-St Eulalie from the 12th century.

Then Rosalie (in the blue jacket below) outdid herself by laying out a gourmet picnic lunch spread at the roadside tables just past St Sulpice.

With very full tummies, we continued past the Troglodyte homes and the Musée du Insolite and finished our ride in the town of Cabarets. We toured the Grotte de Pech Merle caves there with their prehistoric paintings of hunting scenes including woolly mammoths, then returned to Haut Baran via Cahors and a short photo op at the Pont Valentré (Devil's Bridge--second photo below). We celebrated our week with a scrumptious dinner of pork loin stuffed with prunes. The next day we were driven back to the Toulous airport by Paul, vowing to return soon!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A Bicycle Tour in the Lot Valley of France - Part 2

This is the second part of my report on my May trip to the Lot Valley in France. For the first part, page down below this report.

During our third day at Domaine Du Haut Baran, we biked from the Haut Baran south to cross the Lot River in Vire-Sur-Lot and then turned right onto the D5 to ride to Lacapelle-Cabanac. We climbed 500 feet in altitude to the Lacapelle overlook then rode downhill to the Lot River again and crossed via the suspension bridge in Touzac. We followed farm roads along the river to Condat and a small mill stream in town where we saw a beautiful swan in the river.

Then we cycled to the Bonaguil Chateau, (Wikipedia article) the last of the fortified castles built in France in the 13th century.  This ride was 18 miles long, and we arrived at the Chateau in time to have lunch with Belgian beer at a restaurant outside before William, a French history buff, gave us an excellent tour of the grounds that lasted the rest of the afternoon.

That evening we dined at Henry's restaurant in Puy L’Eveque and had an excellent meal.

On the fourth day, we rode in the support van to Mercuès then cycled to the nearby Chateau Lagrezette winery for a morning tasting. The winery tasting room and one of its vineyards are shown in the first two photos below. The next two show some of the beautiful wisteria that was in bloom everywhere we rode.

After the winery we rode to the farmers' market in Luzech (see photos below) to select and buy goodies for lunch, including cheeses, meats, breads, fruit, and paella. I also bought some pâte and foie gras to take home.

Then we crossed the Lot River in Castelfranc and rode to Grezel to picnic beside the mill stream. William is in the white shirt cutting cantalope in the last photo.

After a wine-soaked lunch, we rode to the river’s edge in Puy L’Eveque and then along the LaGrezette vineyards to Vire-sur-Lot. We stopped to tour the church in Vire (first two photos below) before a ride in the van back to the Haut Baran. The chef-prepared dinner that evening featured Confit du Canard (last photo).

Monday, August 19, 2013

A Bicycle Tour in the Lot Valley of France - Part 1

I've been so busy with mystery author guests, news about my own books, and reporting on my summer activities in Summit County here on my blog that I haven't had a chance to share photos from my wonderful May bicycling tour in the Lot Valley of France. There's no guest this week, so here goes!

My husband and I flew into Toulouse, France, and we spent a couple of nights there so we could spend a day touring the city before the bike tour. The next day we were picked up by Paul, our van support person, at our hotel and driven about two hours to where we would stay in the Lot Valley, at the Domaine Du Haut Baran. It is the most gorgeous B and B/guest lodge/small inn we have ever stayed in by far! The grounds are lush and beautifully landscaped, as shown in the two photos below.

Our room was very comfortable (see first photo below) and stocked full of extras like thick robes for wearing to and from the outdoor pool and whirlpool. Along with bike tours like ours, William and Rosalie, the owners of the Haut Baran, host horseback riding, hiking, wine tasting, and cooking tours and artists workshops, among other activities. The second photo below shows the view out of our balcony. Sigh!

After trying on our Haut Baran bike jerseys and jackets for size, we walked around the neighborhood the first afternoon and spotted the gypsy cavern collection in one neighbor's yard and the menagerie of table animals (chickens, ducks, geese, rabbits) in another's. Then after aperitifs and appetizers on the patio, we were treated to a gourmet dinner prepared by a local chef (who cooks dinners for groups the nights they eat in) with wines selected by William to match. Then, cognac in the drawing room and a short stumble back to our room. The first photo below shows me at the dining table the next morning for breakfast (with Paul) and part of the attached living room.

On our second day at the Haut Baran, our first full day of biking, we rode south from the inn,  crossed the Lot River at Vire-sur-Lot then rode on a country lane through vineyards to the town of Puy L’Eveque, shown behind us in the photo below. I'm sandwiched between our biking guide, Joe, and my husband, Neil.

After a rest stop in Grezel, we biked up a small hill into Albas for photos at the overlook, where Neil really got into the wine tasting spirit! 

Then we crossed the Lot River again below Albas (I'm on the bridge in the photo below) and stopped for lunch in Castelfranc, a 13th century Bastide town. After lunch, we  cycled to the Trigudina winery for a tasting of Cahors (Malbec) wine, a sparkling Rosé and a local white (50-50 Viognier/Chardonnay). The winery is shown in the last two photos below. Since we were a little tipsy by then and close to the Haut Baran, we opted to ride in the van back. Total distance: 32 miles.