Sunday, August 17, 2014

Writers Standing Against Plagiarism

Plagiarism is wrong. We’ve been taught that since we were children. I distinctly remember being taught the principle when I was in the fifth grade when I was writing an essay that involved some research. I didn’t understand what the big deal was. I mean, the information was written in a book. What was the difference whether I copied it directly or just used the information? It’s a tough distinction to teach to a child.
Plagiarism isn’t a crime you can be arrested for. However, if you are a proven plagiarist, you can be expelled from school or lose your job or certification. And, the person whose copyright you infringed upon can sue you and collect money.

I’ve been aware for quite awhile that teachers are constantly on the lookout for this type of theft among the work of their students. Some have even begun employing software that can detect identical phrases in two different essays. Others will Google a student’s unusually well-honed paragraph to see if it may have been lifted from someone else’s work.

My interest in the subject of plagiarism deepened this last week when a fellow writer had her intellectual property stolen. Rachel Ann Nunes, a popular Utah writer, found out that someone had taken one of  her clean romances, changed  characters’ names, added steamy sex scenes and was publishing it through Amazon as erotica. The person was writing under the pen name of Sam Taylor Mullens.

I imagine “Ms. Mullens” felt she was safe, figuring the readership of the two genres was so different, but she was wrong. She had sent an advanced readers copy to someone who was familiar with the book she stole, and she let Rachel Nunes know.

Quite a few writers have been watching developments as Rachel has tried to find out the identity of Sam Taylor Mullens. I can tell you that, if I had written the scenario I’ve watched play out as fiction, people would tell me it was too outlandish. No one would be so stupid as to try that trick and then, when caught, react in the manner that “Ms. Mullens” did.

If you’re interested in reading about what happened—or if you just like intrigue-- it’s been chronicled on several blogs. But you might want to read about it from Rachel herself—her diary of what happened and comments from friends and (possibly) sock puppets of the perpetrator. You can find it on Rachel's blog.

There are also interesting comments on a blog called The Passive Voice

Notice as you read Rachel's blog that Dave Farland set up a fundraising site for her to help defray attorney’s fees. If you’d like to help, here’s where you do it.

You can understand why the writing community is concerned. After recently publishing my first indie book, I’m amazed at how easy it was—after the blood-sweat-tears of the writing and editing process, that is. That wasn’t easy. If you've never learned the plagiarism-is-wrong lesson, and you’ve got something somebody else wrote, boom, put it up and slap your name on it and, you’re an author.

Rachel was lucky to have an honest reviewer who was familiar with her earlier book. I wonder how many writers there are out there who are not so lucky.

Monday, July 28, 2014


I promised Michelle Wilson ages ago that I would review her book DOES THIS INSECURITY MAKE ME LOOK FAT?  To that end, I read the book and loved it.

It was about this time that Blogger began to take exception to the web browser I was using and wouldn’t let me post. I solved this problem by posting from my husband’s computer, but this was unhandy. That and my challenged memory cells made it so little blogging was done, and the review wasn’t done.

I changed web browsers and the problem was fixed. Now I could post the review.

That was about the time that the water main broke and flooded the office. We packed up everything, including Michelle’s book, and it has been sitting in the garage for about three months while we waited for the flooring to be redone.

So, tonight I began putting my office back together and found Michelle’s book. Finally, I can redeem my promise to her.  Never mind it’s been about nine months since the book came out. It can do with another little punch.

First, let me tell you about Michelle Wilson. She’s hilarious. She’s fun. But she’s also deep and able to articulate things that are serious and solemn. You’d never suspect that she has an insecure bone in her body. She confesses in this book that she does, even though, if you’ve met her, you find that hard to believe. But when she starts telling you about her insecurities you think, “She’s just like me!” This beautiful, vivacious, talented, compassionate person has the same self doubts that I do.

What makes this book so great is that it rings true. Michelle is Everywoman, and through the stories of her journey—a journey she’s still on—we find strength and hope for our own journeys.

Michelle’s book is divided into two parts. Part one is called “Learning to see.” It’s about perspective, and she names the first chapter “All the Little Leaves.” She tells the story of her first pair of glasses when she was in grade school and how, when she walked outside with them on she was amazed to see that trees had individual leaves. Throughout the first part of the book she helps us understand that it’s important that we see things correctly.

In the second part of the book, the one called “Choose to Be,” Michelle talks about forging on in spite of our limitations. Here’s a sample:

It’s okay not to be good at everything. I can’t multitask in the kitchen. I burn things when I try to multitask. I accept my limitations and operate within the boundaries that work for me. (For example, I stare at the oven timer and eat cookie dough while the cookies are baking so I won’t forget they are in the oven. It’s a sacrifice I am willing to make.)

This is a book to be read in the nooks and crannies of our busy lives. Read a few pages over lunch, or while you’re waiting in the dentist’s office. You’ll smile. You’ll nod in agreement. And you’ll go about the rest of your day with a lighter step.

 I was furnished a copy of the book to read and review, but the fact that I didn't buy the book did not color my opinion. This is a valuable book. You can get it at Deseret Book.What's more, it's on sale right now.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Spider Latham is back!

Spider is back! And he’s driving the Yugo again!

I’m announcing the launch of my newest book and fourth in the Spider Latham series. TROUBLE AT THE RED PUEBLO is set in the Kanab UT/Fredonia AZ area.

Here’s Amazon’s intro:

When Deputy Sheriff turned private investigator Spider Latham is sent to help the Red Pueblo Museum, he doesn’t suspect it will cause a rift between his wife, Laurie, and himself. 

Museum Director Martin Taylor is desperate, and his son Matt is angry. Some unknown person is bent on destroying the museum financially and is about to succeed. Things turn violent. It ends with someone’s skull bashed in with an Anasazi ax, and everyone has motive for the murder. 

Can Spider untangle the web of secrecy and lies surrounding the museum before the Taylors lose it all? And in the process, can he save his own marriage?

The book is available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle, at the Nook store on Barnes and Noble, and on Kobo.

My launch party will be at the Red Pueblo Museum in Fredonia AZ on July 30. If you’re in the Kanab UT / Fredonia AZ area, come by at 7 in the evening (AZ time—it’s 8 PM Utah time) and see the museum that is the setting for the book.

I hope you’ll enjoy meeting Spider again. For me, it was like seeing an old friend I hadn’t seen in years and picking up the threads again.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

An Interview with Susan Aylworth, Author of ZUCCHINI PIE

I met Susan Aylworth three years ago at a writers conference, and we subsequently served together on the board of directors of LDStorymakers. I found her to be hardworking, level-headed, and funny, all necessary for getting things done.
 It’s my pleasure to introduce her and her newest novel, ZUCCHINI PIE, on my blog today.

LIZ: How long have you been writing?

SUSAN: My first novel was started on a large yellow legal pad with one of those huge third grade pencils. I was nine. If you want to count the first one I finished, that still gives me about 25 years in the business. It's what I've always wanted to do.

LIZ: Do you come from a literary background? 

SUSAN: Yes. My parents were grade school teachers who read to us (their children)  and encouraged us all to read on our own. I earned a couple of degrees in English and taught at the university level for about three decades. I love literary fiction, but I enjoy reading--and writing--in almost every genre.

LIZ: Zucchini Pie is told from several points of view. Why did you structure the story in this way? 

SUSAN: A traumatic event doesn't happen to a person. It happens to that person and everyone involved in that life. I wanted to show how Granny's death and the family situation it precipitated impacted every member of the family, each a little differently.

 LIZ: One of the points of view, Karen Burnett, is president of the Relief Society. Can you tell those not familiar with this organization what it is?

 SUSAN: Relief Society is the women's organization (also the front-line humanitarian aid organization) of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or the Mormon Church. In other Christian faiths, it might be called the Ladies' Aid Society or something similar. The ward Relief Society president is a lay minister with most of the responsibilities that go along with ministering to a congregation, although she serves without pay and on her own time. The job is consuming in time, responsibility, and emotional commitment, and it's one of the most rewarding positions I've ever held.
LIZ: You deal with some pretty heavy themes: mental illness, torn-apart families.  Was there a reason you wrote about those themes--albeit with a light touch?  

SUSAN: Some Christian literature looks only at the smiling surface of life, as if terrible things can't happen in Christian homes among believers. My goal with this book was to look at some of the ugly things that do impact human lives, even among practicing, faithful people. Our Heavenly Father never promised us we wouldn't deal with mental illness or torn-apart families, only that He would be there to help us through and that, through the power of the Atonement, all that is wrong in our lives may be made right. I wanted to show ordinary but faithful people dealing with extraordinary circumstances--some coping better than others, but all of them making real, human choices.
LIZ: It's an interesting juxtaposition, those themes and the homey recipes. Can you tell us how you happened to do that? 

SUSAN: The two ideas arose at the same time. A friend and colleague at the university had created a writing class based on food and families. That is, students found recipes for favorite dishes that had become part of family traditions and then wrote food journals, focusing on the emotions and rituals they associated with each food. We talked quite a bit about the emotional impacts of certain foods in our lives and I went to her final presentation day where each student prepared a dish and read the journal entry that went with it. I was astonished at the deep feelings students revealed when they wrote about favorite foods.

 At the same time, I was talking with another friend about the impact of a family member's mental illness on the lives and structure of their whole family. We were recognizing that many families don't survive that strain. The idea began growing almost organically. Put together a cookbook novel with an investigation of mental illness and how members of a ripped-apart family try to cope with poor choices made by their predecessors, throw in a writer's basic question ("what if?") and you have ZUCCHINI PIE.

 LIZ: Tell us about the recipes. Does each have a connection with you or your family? 

 SUSAN: Some (Sourdough Bread, Pumpkin-Date Bread, L.A. Temple Oatmeal Cookies, for example) are family stalwarts with their own traditions and rituals. Others I dug up new just for this book. My daughter had recently taught me to make my own hummus and I've been experimenting with naan, so I enjoyed finding my favorite recipes for those. Still other recipes were answers to recent family needs, such as when I had fresh blackberries ripening in my backyard and needed something different for dinner. A few offer homage to friends who shared their own recipes and asked me to make room in the Burnetts' lives for their family favorites.
LIZ: Which recipe is your favorite and why? 

SUSAN: That's like asking me which child or grandchild is my favorite and it has the same answer: It depends on the day. *;) winking

LIZ:  What's the story line of the project you're working on now? 

 SUSAN: In the mid-90s I wrote a series of light romance novels set in the fictional town of Rainbow Rock, Arizona. The books were originally published in hardback by Avalon, although I've recently begun selling digital versions of the same stories. I'm currently doing the final edit of a manuscript for a new book in that series, appropriately titled RETURN TO RAINBOW ROCK.

LIZ:  What advice do you have for someone who wants to be a writer? 

 SUSAN: Read, read, read. Then, while you are reading more, write, write, write. You can't become a writer without being a reader first and you can't become a good writer without plenty of practice and learning from your own mistakes. I liken reading something wonderful written by a world-class writer and then deciding to do that yourself to watching a math genius work a kind of problem you've never seen before and then being completely clueless when you get home and try to do the problems from the book. Yes, there are geniuses who write brilliant debut novels, but most of us start with simpler stories and learn by doing. Even some of today's giants (I'm thinking of Stephen King and his book On Writing) have used that process. Once you are making progress, joining writers' groups and attending conferences can make a big difference in moving your career forward, but only writing makes you a writer.   

 LIZ: Is there any final word you'd like to offer aspiring writers? 

SUSAN: If you're toying with the idea of maybe writing a book someday and publishing it for everyone to read, take up hiking or golf or knitting instead. Writing something satisfying for your own enjoyment can be a good hobby, but writing for the public is a vocation. You can't toy with it and do it well. I believe it was Somerset Maugham who said, "I write because I can't not write." When writing consumes you in just that way, you won't say, "I wish I had time to write." You'll write and wish you had time for other things. If that's how you feel about writing, then own it: You're a writer. May it bring you joy.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Thermo-nators and Kool-water bags

Life has a way of surprising me. I had no thought, when we moved to the high desert last year, that we’d end with a small manufacturing process going on in the shop.

Derrill and I are busily turning out Thermo-nators and Kool-water bags.

Thermo-nators are heat shields that strap to the inside of your leg as you ride an ATV to protect from the heat radiated from the engine and transmission. The first ones I made were from ironing board covers, but they’re not washable. We had canvas on hand, and I figured that the light color would reflect the heat and be washable, too. I also knew that before the advent of modern fabrics, firefighters’ coats were made of canvas. So, I made a pair of these heat shields out of canvas with a low-loft polyester batting as insulator. They worked, and Derrill dubbed them Thermo-nators. We’re now in production, and you can find them at

We’re also turning out Kool-water bags. It’s a way of ensuring that on the hottest day, with no refrigeration, you’ll still get a cool drink. You can find them at

They work on the principle of evaporative cooling. The canvas allows moisture to seep through, and as that water evaporates, it brings down the temperature of the water inside. I don’t understand how it works, I just know that it does.

Not only that, it’s made out of renewable materials and helps keep plastic water bottles out of landfills.

When Derrill and I were young, canvas water bags were ubiquitous in the southwest. You’d seldom see a car traversing a long stretch of desert highway without a waterbag hung on the antenna or hood ornament. But with the advent of plastic thermoses and in-house icemakers, they pretty much disappeared.

Here’s how we came to be making them: Derrill wanted to find a water bag to take when we went out on our ATVs. I searched online to find one for his birthday and ended up buying one on Ebay that was probably as old as I am. It was in pretty tough shape (kind of like me), but after he replaced the grommets, we took it out with us. Sure enough, even when the temperature was nudging a hundred, the water in the bag stayed cool.

As I had searched on line for a bag for Derrill, I found other people who were asking where to get one. It seemed that no one was manufacturing them. Until now.

So, if you drop by to see us, check in the shop. (I call it the sweatshop.) We’ll be there, churning out Thermo-nators and Kool-water bags.

Friday, June 14, 2013

In His Hands by Jenny Hess - A Review

I didn’t know what to expect when I began Jenny Hess’s book In His Hands, but the subtitle A Mother’s Journey Through the Grief of Sudden Loss was a clue, so I was prepared for a sad story. It is a sad story—my mother would call it a three-hankie book—but it’s much more than that. My review is going to have to be random thoughts because I promised to post today, and I just finished it yesterday.

Random thought #1: Jenny Hess’s book In His Hands should be required reading, because everyone at one time or another is going to be bereaved, and having read this book is going to be forearmed. She lets you know that there are things in life that can shake the foundation of faith and familial ties, but you can work through it and arrive at a place—albeit a different place—where both faith and ties are intact.

Random thought #2: The book is well written. I remember a professor teaching me the difference between sentiment and sentimentality. He said that sentiment creates thoughts or views through good descriptions and characters, whereas sentimentality manipulates the reader’s emotions. He said here’s how you tell if something is sentimentality: when reading something makes you cry and you’re ashamed of your tears. This book made me cry, but I was never ashamed. Ms. Hess’s description of her experience in the emergency room is powerful and I know will linger with me for a long time.

Random thought #3: In His Hands reminds me of C. S. Lewis’s A Grief Remembered. In that book, Lewis lets the reader accompany him on his journey as he works through his grief at losing his wife. It’s a warts-and-all journey by a person who has written and lectured widely about dealing with emotional pain as a Christian and then finds that lecturing about it is easier than living through it. Ms. Hess tells us several times how, pre-loss, she was the epitome of Mormon Motherhood Capability, and she bravely and generously lets us see how thoroughly the props were knocked out from under her.

Random thought #4: This book is a primer for how to deal with people who have experienced a profound loss. It teaches us that there are many ways to deal with that loss and that each is okay, that we should not judge because someone isn’t expressing grief the way we think they should. It also offers lessons for those on the outside looking in who want to help but don’t know how.

Random thought #5: This book is written from the perspective of a faithful member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but the lessons learned are universal. See Random Thought #1.

So there you go. In His Hands is the kind of book that stays with you for days after you finish it, but those random thoughts are the ones that sprang to mind this morning. I highly recommend this book, but keep a box of tissues close by, because you will certainly be moved by Jenny Hess’s story.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Spider Latham Redux

Yes, I'm bringing Spider back.

 I'm still getting emails from people I don't know asking when I'm going to write anothr Spider Latham book. I've been working on other things, but moving to Kanab has stirred the mystery writer in me, and I've decided this area is the perfect setting for a series. And why go about creating a new protagonist when everybody loves Spider?

The first book in the new series will center around the Red Pueblo Anasazi Museum and Heritage Park. It's a little gem of a museum on the north edge of Fredonia a tiny town that sits on the south side of the Utah/Arizona border.

The museum has a wonderful collection of Anasazi artifacts, and the adjacent heritage park has a replica dugout house as well as an authentic pioneer cabin, a sheep wagon, and an old drill rig completely made of wood--including a wooden flywheel. 

They have a Facebook page. Check it out and 'like' it.

The mystery concerns a cache found by Dixon Spendlove, the museum director. Someone had secreted a gun, a saddle, and other personal items in a cave sometime during the mid-1800's and Dixon came upon the cache as he was exploring the area.  The display is fascinating and certainly set the creative juices flowing.

So, here's Chapter One of (working title) The Red Pueblo

Spider Latham yanked at his tie, loosening it in anticipation of reaching the safety of home. With one hand on the steering wheel of his pickup, he pulled the black polyester neckwear from under his collar and handed it to his wife.

Laurie took it absently and pointed at a small, square sedan sitting in the driveway in front of their house. “Isn’t that the car you drove home from Vegas last year?”

“Yep. That’s the one.” Spider turned off the gravel road, rolled over the cattle guard and pulled up beside the orange Yugo with flames decorating its front end. “I don’t know that I’m ready for company.”

Laurie patted his knee. “Maybe company is what you need. You like that fellow don’t you? What ‘s his name?”

“Jade Tremain. Yeah, I like him. But today’s not . . .“

“Life goes on.” The moment he turned off the key, Laurie opened the door and slid down to the ground. Smiling, she walked toward the young man just emerging from the compact car. “Hello, Jade. Welcome.”

Jade took the hand she held out to him. “Did I come at a bad time?” His eyes went from Laurie, dressed in a black dress and high heels, to Spider, wearing a black suit on a hot August weekday.

Spider got out of the pickup and ambled over, pulling down his Stetson to shade his eyes from the afternoon sun. He shook the younger man’s hand and nodded toward the Yugo. “Your dad still keeping you humble?”

Jade laughed. “It was the only company car left in the garage. No one else wants to drive it.”

Laurie patted the orange fender. “I never will forget having to rescue Spider when he drove it home that time he was doing some work for your dad.”

Spider eyed the car. “I wonder why he hangs on to it. It must be more than twenty years old.”

“It is, but it doesn’t have that many miles on it.” Jade looked at his watch. “I’ve come to talk to you about doing some more work for Dad.”

“Spider, take Jade out back,” Laurie said. “You can sit in the shade while he tells you what he’s come for. I’ll bring out some ice water.” She headed up the walk to the front door.

Spider jerked his head in invitation and led his guest across the lawn. At the back yard fence he held the gate open.

Jade passed through. “I tried to call, but it said the phone was disconnected.”

“Things have been pretty tight lately. We figured that was something we could do without.” Spider fished a cell phone from his shirt pocket. “The county gave me this to use for work, but I don’t take any personal calls on it.”

“So you’re still deputy sheriff?”

Spider pocketed the phone as he headed toward a grape arbor. “Yeah, but the county’s running out of money. Ever since this last recession hit, all employees have to take three unpaid furlough days each month. And then I had a funeral to pay for.”

Jade stopped just short of the shade. “Oh, gee, Spider. Is that where you’ve just been?” He hit his forehead with the heel of his hand. “I bet you wish I hadn’t come.”

Spider sat in one of the chairs and pointed at the other. “Take a load off.”

Jade hesitated, his hands in his pockets.

“Sit,” Spider said.

Jade sat. “I’m sorry about coming this afternoon, Spider. Would you . . . could I ask . . . whose funeral was it?”

Spider crossed his legs, resting the ankle of his black cowboy boot on his knee. He took off his Stetson, held it in his lap, and turned his face away. “My mother’s.” As he looked off to the south, his eyes welled up and a tear slid down his cheek.

Jade shifted in his chair. “I’d better go.”

Still looking away, Spider made a negative motion with his hand. He drew a handkerchief from the inside pocket of his coat and wiped his eyes. “Don’t go.” He blew his nose and turned to face the younger man. “I don’t know where that came from. I haven’t cried a tear since Mama died.”

Jade sat with his hands on his knees. He opened his mouth as if to say something, but closed it again and folded his arms tightly across his chest.

Spider cleared his throat. “Actually, the old woman who lived with us this last year wasn’t my mama.” He smiled at the confused look on Jade’s face. “My mother had Alzheimer’s. We’ve been saying that we’d rejoice when she was finally released from that prison, but here I am crying. In front of company, no less.”

Jade pursed his lips and looked down at his feet.

Spider uncrossed his legs and leaned forward. “So, what’s on Brick Tremain’s mind? Why’d your daddy make you drive the three hours from Las Vegas to Lincoln County to see me, aside from the fact that he couldn’t talk to me on the phone?”

“He needs you to do some investigating for him, but he says it will take longer than a weekend. He wants to know if the sheriff’s office can spare you for a week or so.”

“Shoot, the sheriff would probably kiss your daddy on both cheeks if he employed me for a week or more. That would mean that he wouldn’t have to take any furlough days himself. It’s really chafing him that he’s being treated the same as his deputy.” Spider put his handkerchief back in the inner pocket. “What does the boss want me to do?”

The screen door banged, and Jade waited to answer while Laurie approached with a tray holding three tall glasses of ice water. He murmured thanks and set the glass on a table beside his chair. After she served her husband and sat with her own cool drink, he spoke. “My dad is on the board of directors of a small museum in Arizona. Anasazi artifacts and stuff like that.”

Spider took a sip. “I know that Anasazi were early Pueblo Indians. That’s about all I know about them.”

Jade smiled. “Well, that’s more than I know.”

“Where is this museum?” Laurie asked.

“It’s in a little town called Fredonia, right on the Utah-Arizona border.”

Laurie’s smile was huge. “You’re kidding! I have cousins in Fredonia.”

“Dad says the museum director lives in Kanab, Utah. I guess it’s near Fredonia.”

Laurie nodded. “Seven miles north. I have cousins in Kanab, too.”

Spider leaned back and smiled at his wife. “Never mind about your relatives. Let’s hear what Jade has to say about the problem this museum has and what his daddy wants me to do.”

“I don’t know the particulars.” Jade stretched out his legs and jingled the keys in his pocket. “I just know they’re in trouble. Someone is threatening to close down the museum and ruin the director financially. They need help right away, like by the end of next week. Dad wants you to go over and lend a hand.” Jake looked at his watch again.

“That’s mighty slim—“ Spider was about to go on when Laurie put her hand on his knee.

“Do you need to leave?” she asked Jake.

The young man ran his hand through his curly hair. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to look impatient. The truth is, my wife is supposed to call me. She went to the doctor this morning.”

“Is anything wrong?” Laurie’s concerned look deepened.

Jade’s cheeks grew rosy and he shook his head. “We’re expecting a baby. It’s our first.”

“Congratulations!” Spider stood and held out his hand. “If you don’t have any more information for me, I’ll let you get on your way back to Vegas. Tell me who I talk to at the museum.”

Jade stood, patting his shirt pocket before extracting a business card. “Here’s the director’s contact information. He can tell you the whole story.”

Spider walked with Jade toward the gate, reading the card as he went. “Should I call him or just show up?”

“We’ll just show up,” Laurie said. “Since we don’t have a phone.”

Spider stopped and looked down at his wife. “We’ll show up? Are you coming with?”

“There’s no need for me to stay home now,” Laurie said. Her voice quavered at the end of the sentence and her eyes filled with tears. She accepted the handkerchief Spider proffered and turned away for a moment to wipe her eyes. “Excuse me,” she said to Jade. “I didn’t expect to get weepy.”

Jade stopped at the gate to let her go through first. “Please don’t apologize. I should have come on another day.”

She shook her head. “No, I think it’s wonderful you came today. This will give us both something to think about instead of the empty chair in the living room.”

Spider put his arm around his wife as they walked Jade to his car.

The young man stopped with his hand on the door handle and looked at the roof of the Latham vehicle, still showing the dents Spider hadn’t been able to completely hammer out after the rollover accident he had on one of his first cases. “I see you’re still driving the same pickup.”

“It runs good,” Spider said. “And it’s easy to spot in a crowded parking lot.”

“My dad would approve,” Jade said with a smile, opening the door. He paused and leaned on the top of the car. “If things are so tight here, why don’t you come to Vegas and work for Tremain Enterprises? Dad’d hire you in an instant.”

“I know that,” Spider said. “He told me the same thing last time I worked for him, but Lathams have been living in Meadow Valley for four generations. Five if you count my boys. We’ve got good pasture and artesian water. It’s worth hanging onto, even when times are lean.”

Jade slid into the driver’s seat and closed the door, speaking through the open window. “Dad says there’s a room for you at the Best Western in Kanab. It’s there on the main drag. He wants you to call him once you’re settled in and understand the lay of the land.”

“Will do.” Spider drew Laurie back a pace as Jade started the engine. They watched as the car turned around in the drive and waved as it rattled over the cattle guard.

“I’ll run over to Bud’s and ask him to check on the cattle for me every few days,” Laurie said. “Then I’ll stick all those funeral casseroles in the freezer and pack something for us to eat for supper on the way.”

“We’re leaving this afternoon?”

“You heard what Jade said. They’re in trouble and there’s a deadline.”

Spider took the phone from his pocket. “All right. I’ll call and make sure it’s okay for me to take the time off.”

Laurie headed toward the barn. “I’m getting my saddle right now and putting it in the pickup so I don’t forget it.”

Spider paused with his thumb on the key pad. “Hold on a minute. You’re taking your saddle?”

Laurie stopped and turned around. “Yeah. I thought I’d spend some time with Jack.”


“Jack Houghton, my cousin. We used to ride all around that red rock country when I was sixteen. It would be fun to do it again.”

“Isn’t he a dentist? How do you know he has horses?”

“His sister Sally was at the funeral today. She told me he’s bought the old family ranch and built a new house and stables on it.”

“Huh,” Spider grunted. As Laurie turned again toward the barn, he went back to scrolling through the menu on his phone to find the sheriff’s number.