Tag Archive for: mountains

Countdown to Murder in the Mountains!

 by Shari Randall

I’m peeking out of the writing cave to share some fun news. I’ll have a story in the new cozy mystery short story collection, MURDER IN THE MOUNTAINS. It was a kick to take the characters from my Lobster Shack Mystery series on a Sound of Music Tour in the Austrian Alps where – of course – they stumble upon a murder. I hope you’ll check it out. The collection also features terrific stories from Gretchen Archer, Tina Kashian, Barb Goffman, Eleanor Cawood Jones, Cathy Wiley, Leslie Budewitz, Shawn Reilly Simmons, and Karen Cantwell. There’s a special ebook prepublication price of only 99 cents, so order yours today. Hope you enjoy your trip to the mountains!


Sam, their son, threw a rock into the creek. “Kerplunk!” he said as he jumped up and down punching fists into the air. 

Cameron smiled and turned James, her husband, to share in the joy of a perfect child.

“He is fun,” James said in reply to her smile.

He put his arm around her shoulder and gave a quick squeeze as they watched their progeny run off the bridge to the hiking path to gather another rock in the perfect proportions to make the “kerplunk” sound. Cameron’s family had farmed and enjoyed the bridge, the path, the entire fifty-acre park on the small mountain in the hills of South Carolina since they’d arrived from Scotland in the 1700s. Now a thousand years later their small family enjoyed their land with the lingering ghosts of ancestors’ and former occupants’ past.

James checked his watch. Nodded at Cameron. Gave his wife a deep kiss and turned to walk back to the family cart.

Thirty minutes’ later Cameron and Sam had set up a picnic on the flat rocks that bordered the creek. A checked cloth covered the broad expanse of granite. They had set platters of fresh vegetables and fruit accompanied by clear tall bottles of water out. Sam jumped up and down, waiting in anticipation for the rest of the family to arrive. 

Within minutes James hurried to join them. He kissed Cameron. He gave Sam a ride on his shoulders and set him down on a small chair set up next to the make-shift table and then sat in the chair that sat empty waiting for him.

“How was work?” Cameron asked as she spooned the food onto his plate. 

“Good. It was a long shift. I told them I can’t do any more than twelve hours as it confuses our boy,” James smiled at his son. “James was late though…” he whispered this bit into Cameron’s ear.

“We’re together now. Is that enough?” She asked.

“I don’t know, is it?” he replied.

They finished their meal and took a family walk on the rest of the path to the top of the mountain. At the lookout point, they paused and took in the town’s view below. Lights glittered from various train head and taillights. Streetlights only glowed in the street to show the way when something triggered them and weren’t visible from above. The streets had become mobile and fluid and flowed with the rising earth and waters drove the commuter trains. Personal carts for families and individuals traveled less than fifty miles to the nearest train station and home after a short energy regeneration from the sun.

James turned to Cameron, “It will be okay. We are near the end. Only a few more months and we can retire and enjoy our time together on the farm.”

“Yes. Yes. I know.” Cameron leaned her head on James’ shoulder and took in his body warmth, his scent of cedar, and a slight hint of lavender. She called Sam to their side, and they walked down the mountain to the family cart.

She had less than twelve hours with this James and she wanted to make every moment count as the sunset over the horizon.

Half a day later the other James came home and planted a kiss on
her cheek to awaken her.

“I made coffee, and I whipped the eggs for breakfast. I will take a quick shower and join you.” He fluffed the pillow next to his wife to remove the indentions from the other husband and headed to the master bathroom.

Cameron rolled over, eyes filled with sleep, and ran her hand over the pillow still warm with James’ touch. She pictured him there, short inky
hair that curled over his ears if left too long between haircuts. His nose, not too short or long, in profile like a regal nose to her. Their hands touching, his long fingers encircling her small ones as they slept their limited time together. She sighed, edged herself to the side of the bed and set her feet on the floor. James had left a folded piece of paper on her bedside and she snatched it up and pressed it to her heart with both hands. 

The other James called from the shower reminded her that needed to hurry and awake Sam to go to school.

She padded over to their son’s room and opened the curtains to let in the natural light. She stood for a moment, still clutching the note to her chest with one hand as she used the other to play with the window lock, opening and closing it. Noticing that if it were open or closed, you could only tell the difference if you looked at it from the right angle. Which was it? Did it matter? Are you happy with it being open or shut? Are you safe with it either way? She turned it once more, ensuring it set in the open position and read her note.

“I love you. No matter what. No matter when. No matter how long.”

She allowed herself one small sigh. She tucked the note into the diaper bag. The bag that sat in the corner of her closet. No one else had opened the bag in over four years since Sam was a toddler and six years before new James arrived. She walked across the tile floor and kissed her child on the forehead. She urged him out of the bed and into school clothes before she headed down the stairs to the kitchen and the fresh day that awaited her.

James sat in one of the swivel chairs at the kitchen island and twirled their son around the one next to him. The boy giggled. The man spun the chair harder.

“You will make him sick,” Cameron said as she plated up the eggs, vegetarian bacon, and whole wheat bread onto three plates.

“Can Daddy take me into school today?” Sam pleaded.

Cameron glanced at James who gave her the “it’s our time” look and she shook her head at the child. “Not today, sweet cheeks, Daddy, and I have plans.”

The trip to the council would take a few hours and James had to get some sleep beforehand. 

Neither James’ seemed to be able to fall asleep without her being in their arms. Both James’ wanted to make love to her a few times a week. They seemed to know when the other had their turn and would never ask for one within twenty hours of the other. Cameron insisted that one night a week she took off. Time with them was getting short. The other James wouldn’t be here much longer. She needed to arrange a way to hide that she’d been with him so the other one wouldn’t know.

Later in the week, after a long, grueling meeting at the council, with the monies paid, with the “retirement” imminent, she had to get out of the house without either of them. Sam and she traveled to the path again and so he could play “kerplunk.” She rocked back and forth on a root from a rather ancient oak and begged her body and heart to comply with what her brain had agreed to do before the other James became approved, created, and showed up at their house.

Cameron played “kerplunk” a few times herself and as she leaned over a rock bed to pick up a new stone, she noticed her wedding ring had broken in half. Her diamonds had sliced into thin pieces that scattered in the sudden wind that had picked up in the valley. She silently screamed in horror. The pieces wouldn’t fit together. The diamonds had shattered to the point there was no way to repair them. 

Cameron saw their son fall to his knees and look at her with terror in his face. He called her for help, reached his arms out to her, but her feet didn’t move and her fingers desperately searched for the bits of
diamond in the sand. She tried to gather the pieces of diamond and gold band to meld them back into the oneness that had existed on her left ring finger to no avail. 

“James,” she whispered. Behind her came the sound of footfalls on dry leaves.


I hope you’ve enjoyed this short story. It came to me in a dream last year. I woke up and wrote it down. I hope to one day expand upon it and then you’ll find out what happened to James or James. 

Robin Hillyer-Miles writes romance of the contemporary, magic-realism, and cozy mystery varieties. “West End Club” appears in the anthology “Love in the Lowcountry: A Winter Holiday Edition.” She’s writing “Cathy’s Corner” a 45,000-word contemporary romance set in the fictional town of Marion’s Corner, SC.
You can find her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/RobinHillyerMilesAuthorTourGuideYoga
The anthology is offered on Amazon in paperback or e-book here:

CLICKING OUR HEELS – Mountains or Beach?

Mountains or Beach?

Cathy Perkins: 
“Both!  I live in the mountains
(yeah, I know, tough gig, someone has to do itJ) so the beach is a favorite
getaway.  I love looking out the window
every morning at a scene most people consider a vacation destination but mostly
I love the quiet that comes with living in the mountains – and the wonderful ‘neighbors’
who look out for each other.”

Sparkle Abbey: 
“Absolutely the beach!  Whether it’s
a beautiful blue California beach, or a white sand Gulf beach, or tropical
island beach, we’re there.”

Paffi Flood: 
“Definitely mountains.  I love the
idea of the beach.  I dream about it all
through winter, especially after I see ads for resorts, but after I arrive at a
beach, within minutes, I’m done with the blaring sun and the intruding sand.”

Debra H. Goldstein:  “Beach!! 
Actually, it is the water. 
Swirling waves bring out my creativity and  I don’t if
it’s raining or the sun is out, the key for me is the movement of the water.”

create a peaceful feeling
that I can’t get anywhere else.

Jennae M. Phillippe:  “I used to live in Los Angeles so I am going
to go ahead and say: both!  Because you
can go from the mountains to the beach in a single drive.  It’s a very lovely drive.”

Linda Rodriguez: 
“I’m totally a mountains person. 
I enjoy the beach, but mountains make me so happy I feel as if I could
fly, and I’m always a little homesick for them. 
Probably because I come from a long line of conquered mountain and hill
people – Cherokee, Scots Highland, and Irish.

Bethany Maines: 
“Beach!  Who doesn’t love the feel
of sand between their toes?”

Dru Ann Love: 
“Neither.  Give me a city location
and I’m there.  If I had to choose
between the two, it would be mountains as long as I’m being driven up it.”

Juliana Aragon Fatula:  “Beach. 
Dillon Beach, California.  Two
summers ago, I met my best friend there for two weeks and we workshopped on the
beach her novel and my memoirs.  It was a
learning experience and I realized how much I love writing when I can read or
write all day or night without interruptions from family/day to day chores.  It was a magical visionary time of enlightenment
with someone I love and that loves writing, too.”

Kay Kendall: 
“I must choose the beach since being hemmed in by mountains makes me
uncomfortable, claustrophobic.  That’s
because I grew up on the wide open spaces of Texas and Kansas.  When I’m at the beach, it’s not for
sunbathing.  That’s boring, and I don’t
like to be hot.  I like to walk along a
beach and look for shells.  The beaches
of Oregon are fantastic.  South Carolina

Marilyn Meredith: “I live in the foothills of the
Sierra and can see the nearby mountains from my office window.  My Tempe Crabtree series is set in a mountain
town similar to where I am.”

Some Thoughts on Setting

Whenever I go anywhere I always pay attention to everything that’s around. Who knows, someday I might write about a place like that.

My Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novels are set in a fictional small beach town between Santa Barbara and Ventura. There is such a place and it’s called Carpenteria. It is too large for the community I write about and I prefer not to use a real place so I don’t use a business that goes belly-up or have a problem with new city ordinances or changes in streets.

However, Rocky Bluff has similarities to Carpenteria when it comes to weather and what it’s like to live near the beach in that part of Southern California. Whenever I spend time in the area I like to soak up the flavor and spend time seeing what people are doing, what the houses look like, what kind of plants thrive. Recently when I attended a wedding in my grandson’s uncle’s huge and elegant backyard, which I soon learned I should have called it a private estate in Santa Barbara, I  realized that one day I could have my characters do something in a “private estate” which would give me a while new setting. It’s a whole new lifestyle than what I’m used to and been writing about though I’ve known the uncle since he was barely out of high school, and he graduated with my middle daughter.

But, I digress. The whole point is that though I’m writing about a fictional town I want it to seem real and represent the area that I am writing about.

My Deputy Tempe Crabtree mysteries are set in a place much like where I live except that I moved it up in the mountains another 1000 feet. The other wedding I went to was at a hidden away resort with a gorgeous lodge and many cabins tucked away among the pines, cedars and Sequoias along with with waterfalls and ponds. It occurred to me that it was much like my imaginary Bear Creek. So again, I took in all the smells, the beauty of the place.

My made-up town of Bear Creek has a strong resemblance to Springville where I live. I chose not to call it by it’s real name, not just because I moved it, but because the businesses don’t last long and then new ones come in. I wanted a more permanent look to my main street. We are very near an Indian reservation so I also have one in some of my mysteries. In fact, Deputy Crabtree herself was inspired by a young Native woman I met quite a few years ago. We chatted and she told me a bit about growing up on the reservation. Tempe looks like this woman. I saw her once again when she had art on display at the Springville Inn (yes, it plays a prominent role in many books) and my first Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery had just been published and I gave her a copy.

Many of that series have been published since then. Recently, I had the opportunity to spend some time with my model for Tempe again–like Tempe she has aged a bit, but still looks like who I see in my mind’s eye as I’m writing. She doesn’t live on the reservation anymore, but close by and has been lately engaged in decorating the school bus stops with native designs–she draws them and supervises children and adults in filling in the colors. H’mmm, maybe I can write something about that in one of my mysteries.

With either series, fictional or not, I want the settings to see real when someone is reading one of the books.

Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith