“Hi, cute dog!”

The smallish uncollared pooch stopped barking and looked up at his master after determining I was no threat.

“Don’t need to be nice to everyone. No law sayin’ you have to be nice all the time. Laws and lawyers. Lawyers are backstabbers, every one. Two of my brothers are lawyers. I know.”

The dog looked from his master to me then, his head cocked in an expression that said, “He may be crazy, but he’s mine.”

I decided not to engage the old man, focusing instead on offloading my paddle board. I was excited about my first 7-mile adventure down the Colorado River from Gold Bar Camp to just past the Intrepid Potash Plant. The river was moving swiftly.

Mike handed me the can of pepper spray from the truck, but was reluctant to leave. I helped him offload his kayak near the boat ramp where my paddle board waited for me to pump it up.

“A boat. Why would I have a boat? Too big. Who’d watch my truck while I’m gone? You won’t. You’re just a dog. I’d like to take a nap, but who’s gonna watch my back while I sleep? Not you. You’re just a small dog. Wild animals come and rip out my throat. Nothing you could do.”

“Oh, boy,” Mike whispered.

“I’ll be fine. Go,” I told him. The old man and his dog disappeared for a bit.

While Mike drove down to the Plant to preposition the truck before biking back the 7 miles, I kept my eye on the disgruntled character, who continued to rant against the people who were watching and the lawyers and the people who had boats and the rules about everything including being nice. By the time Mike returned, the pair was gone and I was eager to hit the water.

It was my first time on a paddle board in moving water, and I launched with every expectation that I’d immediately handle myself like a pro. Within moments I was swept away from Mike, who was struggling with pulling his kayak from the sucking mud on the bank. I decided to spin my board around and try my success at paddling back upstream.

To be honest, I was a little freaked out at the idea of losing sight of him.

So of course I fell in.

It wasn’t a little slip off the side of the board, or a drop to my butt on the board like I’d done my first time on Lake Travis. No, it was a magnificent limbs-to-the-four-corners backwards off the side total dunk. And Mike never saw it.

More shocking than the frigid mountain water was the reality that I had fallen in. I ottered my way back onto the board, a challenging feat with the bulky life vest, and was back on my feet by the time Mike caught up with me. He wondered why I was dripping wet.

The rest of the downriver trip was a blast, and I managed to stay atop the board despite some close calls each time I tried a new stance. I’ve seen photos of tanned, fit, bikini-clad young gals doing yoga on their boards. I’m neither tanned not particularly fit and I can’t imagine ever wearing a bikini again, but I managed an awesome downward dog. Seeing the canyon walls passing by upside-down was pretty cool.

My new character for Book II of Waterwight was gone by the time we returned to retrieve Mike’s bike, but Mike made a suggestion about the character I’ll definitely use. We saw him again in his truck on the side of the road when we returned to the river the next day, and I was just a little disappointed not to hear his latest monologue. My paddle-board-on-the-river legs were far more confident in their ability to keep me on the right side of the board. So confident, in fact, that I thought I’d be able to stay upright when the waves from a passing riverboat reached me.

I couldn’t.


Traveling Corona Girls

Our last trip to Moab wasn’t nearly as much fun as this one’s been, probably because I was hobbling around on crutches last year. It’s ever-so-much easier to hike on two feet.

After learning how to play Backgammon yesterday from a YouTube video called “Backgammon for Complete Beginners” (I kept waiting for him to say “Morons”), Mike and I opted for a hike rather than a canoe and paddleboat adventure down the river because with the gale force winds and resultant waves, I would’ve been blown all the way to the Gulf before you could say “lizard!” Lizards fairly litter Moab. And bunnies.

“Oh! A dog! He’s beautiful!”

We were on our way to Corona Arch with Ranger-the-Beautiful when five lovely young gals carrying empty cans of Corona swarmed us.

“We had to drink Corona at the arch,” they explained unnecessarily. They were on a road trip from the west coast to their homes in the Midwest, and after loving on our beautiful dog for a while, asked us for hiking advice in Colorado.

“What are your names?” I asked.






We told them about Leadville and how they should hike around the Fish Hatchery and maybe even stay at the Leadville Hostel and Inn. I told them about my novel, and Maggie said she loved to read. If I’d had a copy with me, I would’ve given it to her. I told Salina I might have to use her name in my next novel.

“Take a selfie!” I suggested, “That way you can prove you’ve met the author!”

And so a selfie was taken, and the traveling Corona Girls went on their happy-to-have-seen-a-dog way.

It’s been a challenge letting go of the control I had with my own phone, but after 3 days now sans iPhone, I’m feeling a burden lifted. I don’t have to take a picture of everything . . .

The vibrant pinks and yellows of cactus blossoms against the verdant green.

The railroad tracks’ perfect curve between towering walls of chiseled red rock.

The endless acres of slickrock canyons looking like an alien planet.

The mysterious caves high up on the ancient walls.

The river tearing toward the ocean.

The beautiful dog.

The lizards.

The bunnies.

Safe travels, Corona Girls.

Purple/Green Tie Guy

His name was Jim. “Is this seat taken?” he asked of me in the airport terminal waiting area.

“All yours.” I gestured for him to sit. “I love your tie.” It was a vibrant purple/green alternating diagonal stripe. It was excellent.purple green tie small

“Oh, this?” He seemed surprised, but pleasantly.

He settled in and seemed open to small talk. He didn’t pull out his phone, and mine was broken.

“Do you like fantasy adventure novels?” I showed him my last copy of Waterwight. I always travel with several copies to give away to people I think might enjoy them. I had already given away copies to 8, 10, and 13-year-old girls and one to a 60ish-year-old wheelchair bound man battling lung cancer.

“Not really.” He explained that he preferred novels with suspenseful political intrigue. “Why? Are you trying to get rid of that? Is it awful?”

Well, I was unprepared for that question, as if he should have known whom he was sitting next to.

“No! It’s really good! I wrote it!” There was no recrimination in my voice, and I laughed then at his flustered attempt at apology.

A young college-age girl sitting across from me caught my eye and seemed interested in the book, so I excused myself from Jim and plopped down next to the girl. She was delighted with her signed copy.

“See what you missed out on?” I teased purple/green tie guy, who seemed genuinely sorry he had said, “Not really.” So I gave him a bookmark and told him he might want to order one someday. He seemed impressed when I told him Kirkus had reviewed it favorably.

Perhaps he’ll even check out my blog. If you’re reading this now, Jim, let me know what you think of my novel! And watch what you say to strangers in airports . . .

Kirkus Review

Having friends and family say they enjoy my writing makes me glow inside.

Having complete strangers (and professionals in the publishing industry) agree        makes me positively giddy!

Positive(ly wonderful) Kirkus Review
My Kirkus review says Waterwight “–is powerfully spooky, reminiscent of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline.”
I’ll take that!

Here’s what Kirkus says about Waterwight:

In this YA adventure, a girl orphaned by global cataclysm searches for a new home, encountering talking animals and discovering she possesses special powers. It’s been three or four years since The Event, a huge natural disaster with unnatural consequences that no one wants to talk about, including the adults at the orphanage where Celeste Araia Nolan, about 14, now lives. After a strange dream, Celeste decides to run away; in her journey, she meets helpful talking cats and dogs and the dangerous Shifter, an evil
being who can take different forms. She also discovers an amazing ability: she can defy gravity, first with leaps and
bounds, then by actually flying. From a stony-visaged mountain she calls Old Man Massive, Celeste learns she “must find the key to stopping the advance of the big water” lying southward. This is no normal ocean; it’s pink, gelatinous, reeking, destructive, and still spreading. Celeste flies across, getting a boost from Orville, a talking, winged,
French-speaking frog who spoke to her in dreams. On the other side lies a village of children, survivors who have also
developed strange powers, controlled by a mysterious Overleader, who punishes rule breakers. As Celeste works to find the key and save her new friends, she will face dangerous tests of her courage and resolve. McHargue (“Miss?”, 2013) taps into dreamscapes with their myth/dream logic very effectively in this entertaining novel. The section where Celeste gets trapped in a seductive fantasy castle—her parents alive, only her favorite foods on the table, every room full of toys and games—is powerfully spooky, reminiscent of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline. Post-apocalyptic YA fiction can be unrelentingly grim, but McHargue brings wit and warmth to this account as well as psychological insights, particularly in developing the Overleader’s character. There’s perhaps too much back and forth from the village to the mountain (Celeste begins to seem like a commuter flight), but the novel’s charms overcome this defect. Readers should want to know what happens next in the Waterwight world.
Striking dreamscapes make this tale about a heroine who can fly a fine first outing in a planned series.

Here’s the link to the review on their site: Kirkus Review of Waterwight

So what are you waiting for? Order your copies today!

Waterwight: Book I of the Waterwight Series