If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com

Our August Author Interviews--8/2 Maggie Toussaint, 8/9 Kellye Garrett, 8/16 Matt Ferraz, 8/23 Matthew Iden, 8/30 Julia Buckley. Please join us in welcoming these authors to WWK.

August Saturday Guest Bloggers: 8/5--Kathleen Kaska, 8/12 Triss Stein, WWK bloggers-Margaret S. Hamilton on 8/19 and Kait Carson on 8/26. Look for E. B. Davis's blog on 8/29--the fifth Tuesday of August.


“May 16, 2017 – The Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA) today announced the finalists of the second annual Star Award, given to authors of published women’s fiction. Six finalists were chosen in two categories, General and Outstanding Debut. The winners of the Star Award will be announced at the WFWA Retreat in Albuquerque, New Mexico on September 23, 2017.”

In the general category, WWK’s Carla Damron was one of three finalist for her novel, The Stone Necklace. Go to Carladamron.com for more information. Congratulations, Carla!

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Warren Bull's new Lincoln mystery, Abraham Lincoln In Court & Campaign has been released. Look for the Kindle version on February 3.

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published. Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th.

In addition, our prolific KM will have the following shorts published as well: "Sight Unseen" in Fish Out of Water, Guppie (SinC) anthology, just released, and "Making Tracks" in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon anthology, October 2017.

Margaret S. Hamilton's short story, "Once a Kappa" was published as a finalist in the Southern Writer's Magazine annual short story contest issue. Mysterical-E published her "Double Crust Corpse" in the Fall 2016 issue. "Baby Killer" will appear in the 2017 solar eclipse anthology Day of the Dark to be published this summer prior to the eclipse in August.

Linda Rodriquez has two pending book publications. Plotting the Character-Driven Novel will be released by Scapegoat Press on November 29th. Every Family Doubt, the fourth Skeet Bannion mystery, is scheduled for release on October, 18, 2017. Look for the interview by E. B. Davis here on that date!

James M. Jackson's 4th book in the Seamus McCree series, Doubtful Relations, is now available. His novella "Low Tide at Tybee" appears February 7 as part of Lowcountry Crimes: Four Novellas, which is available for order.

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Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Road Less Traveled



by Julie Tollefson

If you fly over my home state of Kansas, you’ll see a checkerboard landscape of farmland. If you drive through on one of the main interstates, you’ll likely get the impression that so many have of Kansas—that it is flat and monotonous.

It’s true that we don’t have the mountains of Colorado or the oceans of California, but we do have treasures. To find them, you have to get off the highway.

Western Ribbonsnake.
Exploring these out of the way places is something my husband and I enjoy for somewhat different reasons. His first love is herpetology, an affinity for reptiles and amphibians that I’ve grown to appreciate (but not fully understand) in the 28 years we’ve been together. He’ll jump at any chance he can get to cruise the back roads in search of snakes. Literally. Herping (aka snake hunting or road cruising) means slow drives on lonely roads punctuated by slamming on the brakes when you spot a snake in the road, leaping from the car, and chasing down critters before they slither into the underbrush just so you can oooh and aaah, take a few photos, and then release them back into the wild.

Butterfly on liatris.
His approach to these outings is more, um, energetic than mine. I like the scenery. The wildflowers half-hidden in unusual rock formations and the russet swathes of big and little bluestem grasses in the fall. A butterfly feeding on liatris. A stroll through woodlands or prairie at a pace well short of “hike.”

An additional benefit, for me, is the wealth of material I collect for my writing, from scene setting to character development. In August, our desire to escape for a day took us to Wabaunsee County in the northeastern corner of the state. At the Friendly Cooker, a diner where we had lunch, we eavesdropped on the folks around us (lots of characters in small-town diners!) and got the last two pieces of delicious strawberry rhubarb pie free because it was near closing time and the manager felt generous. We spent the rest of the day hiking a little-known prairie area managed by the Audubon Society, its path lined with boulders deposited by glaciers during the last Ice Age, and exploring roads most people don’t know exist.

The real adventure of the day came when we chose to follow a dirt “road” marked on our trusty Kansas Gazetteer but obviously little used. The farther along we drove, the narrower the road became and the taller the weeds. At one point, the weeds growing in the center of the road trail were taller than my car. Someday, that road will find a place in my fiction.

The "road" narrowed and the weeds grew taller on the other side of that hill.

What are your favorite roads less traveled?

16 comments:

Jim Jackson said...

Jan and I travel blue highways (so-called because of the color representation or local roads on state maps) whenever possible. I am fearless/stupid and have taken many roads like the one you found with weeds taller than the car. My most recent insanity that way was in New Brunswick on a hilly road, slick with wet red clay that was so infrequently traveled we needed to pull a tree out of the road. I knew we’d get to the bottom of the hill; I wondered if we’d get to the top. I’m guessing my granddaughter may remember that for a while.

I avoided a traffic citation in Kansas by taking back roads. I was in the northwest corner of the state heading for a state part where we’d grab lunch, when a state trooper pulled me over for excess speed. I had Michigan plates and he asked where we were headed. So I told him of our desire to see states while avoiding the interstates. He was so taken with the idea of people actually looking at Kansas that he let me off with a warning.

I thoroughly enjoyed William Least Heat Moon’s Prairie Erth. It’s a wonderful book about the Flint Hills in Kansas.

~ Jim

Julie Tollefson said...

Jim - I think it's wonderful when folks get off the main interstates and see any part of the country from up close. If you were in northwest Kansas, did you drive through the Arikaree Breaks? Stunning, rugged canyons unlike any other part of Kansas. I'm so glad you brought up Prairie Erth - it's a classic!

Jim Jackson said...

Julie -- we did see the Arikaree Breaks--a mini badlands area.

Julie Tollefson said...

That's great! There are a lot of Kansans who've never even heard of the Breaks.

Gloria Alden said...


Julie, I loved your pictures and your descriptions of "off the road." Most of my vacations are camping with my siblings now. It used to be with my immediate family and extended family. The early part of our trip is the super highways - boring. It's when we leave those to go to the park we're heading for that I really enjoy the trip. Sometimes my sisters and I take the secondary roads and even veer off to see small towns or other things. Once we've settled into our campsite, we explore the areas in the vicinity discovering all sorts of things.

Grace Topping said...

I guess we all have to have an interest--snakes being one of them. I'd rather see them through glass at a reptile house at the zoo. Your travels across the countryside sound more appealing. I need to become more adventurous.

KM Rockwood said...

I have a few favorite spots, although I'm not sure they are really "less traveled."

One is Happel's Meadow, a unique uplands wetland in Blue Ridge Summit, PA. It used to be called Bear Swamp. It teems with wildlife, and there aren't many upland wetlands, especially as accessible as this one.

Another is the Sunken Forest, a rare maritime holly forest between the sand dunes on Fire Island, off Long Island, NY. Baordwalks have been built through it, and for part of the year, a ferry provides access.

Julie Tollefson said...

Thank you, Gloria! I'm not much of a camper - I tried when we were younger, but I really prefer a roof over my head at night. One of my favorite places, though, is a cabin in a state park in Louisiana. We've had many fun vacations there. It's our "base camp" for hiking and canoeing adventures in the bayou.

Julie Tollefson said...

Grace - The snake interest was hard for me to understand at first but I'm much more accepting now. I still don't handle them or get too close - I like a telephoto lens when I'm photographing them!

Julie Tollefson said...

KM - Those both sound delightful. I spent a summer on Long Island, interning at Newsday, when I was in college. I saw so many things that summer, but not the Sunken Forest. Sounds like I'll have to go back!

Kait said...

Glorious story. I too am a big fan of the road untaken. What's the name of the critter on your hand? He's a little sweetie! Much as I like snakes, I would not hang around a coiled rattler long enough to take a picture! Call me chicken.

Julie Tollefson said...

Thanks, Kait! That's a Western Ribbonsnake - cute little thing. I gotta say I don't get too close to the venomous snakes. If I can't get a decent photo with a telephoto lens, I hand the camera off.

Margaret Turkevich said...

I remember driving the Natchez Trace from Jackson to Natchez. Deserted, remote, a great place to dump a body. I didn't see any snakes which doesn't mean they weren't there.

E. B. Davis said...

My roads are off the road. I beach drive and hunt for seashells. They can cut your feet, but they don't bite. Back in my home state of Pennsylvania, I had a lot of backroads to drive. On Hatteras, we only have one road--unless you create your own.;>)

Julie Tollefson said...

Margaret - Ha! That's terrific. Backroads offer so many opportunities for mystery writers!

EB - I'm trying to imagine whether I would like living in a place that only has one road. Do you ever feel hemmed in?

E. B. Davis said...

Hemmed in? I can see miles and miles out into the ocean, the shoreline, dunes, and up into the sky. If I want, I can dig down in the sand. Nope, a road only has two directions. On the beach, I have 360 degrees of freedom.