Monday, April 6, 2015

Jemez Springs, New Mexico, Sites

On 3/16, I described the Hot Springs around Jemez Springs, New Mexico. The town and the surrounding area has more to offer than simply soaking. You can also visit the ruins of an old Spanish church; Soda Dam, a cool rock formation formed from the mineralized water flowing in the river; and Battleship Rock, so named because it resembles the prow of a battleship. (Pictures on my Pinterest page.)

I’ve attended many writing retreats at a Hummingbird Music Camp north of the town, and those experiences inspired my romantic suspense novel Counterfeits. When Jenny inherits a children’s art camp, she discovers that her grandmother’s death might not have been an accident after all. Doing research at a real camp tucked away in the woods, and hiking above Battleship Rock for a scene where Jenny gets lost, helped the setting feel realistic. Here's an excerpt from when Jenny visits Battleship Rock.

She stood for a minute on the short bridge over the narrow river, watching the water bubbling over rocks. The sound was like music in the quiet air. She listened carefully but could hear no human noises except for, occasionally, the faint hiss of a car passing on the highway. The lazy insects buzzing in the bushes were louder.
Something unwound inside her, some tension she hadn’t even known she held. She had gotten used to the noise and bustle of the city – she’d thought. If asked, she might have expected the quiet and loneliness here to be difficult to bear. But it wasn’t. It was peaceful.
She retrieved her painting equipment, leaving her purse tucked underneath the front seat. It seemed silly to lock the car with no one around, but she did it anyway. She passed under the shadowy trees and set up with a clear view of Battleship Rock, the 200-foot-tall cliff that got its name because it looked like the prow of a ship, at least to some imaginative people.
At the base of the cliff, the slope continued at a gentler angle, covered with small boulders and jumbled loose rocks that made for awkward footing. She didn’t need to get that close anyway. Perched at the border between the trees and the boulder field, she had sunshine and a clear view.

Of course, in the book, the site doesn't stay so relaxing. The men who killed her grandmother are searching for stolen paintings, and they think Jenny is involved. They find her at Battleship Rock and she has to escape up the steep trail into the woods:

Her boots ate up the hard-packed dirt. She pushed past bushes and ducked under tree branches, panting as the slope got steeper. She scrambled over a series of fallen boulders, and then she was in the evergreen trees. Branches brushed her arms and caught at her hair as she plunged ahead.
Up, up, she surged. Her boots slipped in the loose dirt, dragging her back, forcing her to fight for every inch and use her hands for balance. Her lungs burned and her thighs screamed, but she kept moving. She made the forested plateau where the land flattened out and she was running, running, first through the most open path, but there they could see her, catch up with her, so she darted into thicker trees.
Her chest was on fire. She glanced back and didn’t see anyone. Hide, hide. She ducked behind a huge fallen log and tried to squat, but her legs gave out and she sat down hard. At least she was now hidden behind the nearly three-foot-high log.

Visiting real places can help a writer bring their setting to life. Book or web research has its place, but there's nothing like smelling the evergreen trees and feeling the burn in your thighs as you hike to help capture those sensory details!

Counterfeits: Painter Jenny Kinley has spent the last decade struggling in the New York art world. Her grandmother’s sudden death brings her home to New Mexico, but inheriting the children’s art camp her grandmother ran is more of a burden than a gift. How can she give up her lifelong dreams of showing her work in galleries and museums?

Rob Caruso, the camp cook and all-around handyman, would be happy to run the camp with Jenny. Dare he even dream of that, when his past holds dark secrets that he can never share? When Jenny’s father reappears after a decade-long absence, only Rob knows where he’s been and what danger he’s brought with him.

Jenny and Rob face midnight break-ins and make desperate escapes, but the biggest danger may come from the secrets that don’t want to stay buried. In the end, they must decide whether their dreams will bring them together or force them apart.

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