Saturday, May 25, 2013


Some people contend that their individual personalities are molded from their past experiences. My three books in the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY are a culmination of three things: my diligent research on prehistoric cultures, my well-oiled imagination, and my past experiences, both good and bad.  The climbing episodes in the first and second books of the TRILOGY came from a past experience. I used to rock climb. 

Figure Two.
I took the dialogue below (in blue) from Chapter 9 of SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL where a villainous tribe has forced their women and children slaves to scale a granite rock face in what they called the haunted Spirit Rock Canyon. Add in a death-defying waterfall right next to this rock face and a long fall into the river below should anything happen and it translates into compelling drama. I have been told by some readers that this particular section of the book makes their fingers tingle and their stomachs roll as they read it. That is EXACTLY what I wanted to happen when YOU read it!   
When I wrote Chapter 9, I envisioned a rock wall similar to the rock wall in Figure two, except below the climber in Figure two was a shear drop off. I would tell you how the story of the rock wall ends in the book, but I better let you read SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL to find out for yourself. Let me briefly introduce you to the characters in the dialogue below. Ayasha was a young orphan girl in the captured tribe and Namid was a strong young woman from the same tribe who was watching out for Ayasha.         
Ayasha was the next climber. She hesitated to take the first breathtaking step onto the rock wall, right above the vertical cliff. Ayasha looked down at the cloud of mist rising above the river. Namid gently placed her hands on Ayasha’s waist.
            “You will be all right!” Namid told her. “I will be right behind you!”         
            “I am scared!”
            “We are both scared, but we must do this!”
            The rope around Ayasha tightened as the prisoner climbing in front of her had reached the rope’s limit.
            “You must go, Ayasha!” Namid pleaded.
           Ayasha touched the rock wall with her fingers, searching for a finger hold. Finally, she stepped out onto the rock wall, her legs shaking. She took a step, hesitated, and then took another step. 
           “Good, Ayasha! See how easy it is!” Namid said, praising the small girl. “I am right behind you!”
          Ayasha took several more steps up the rock wall with Namid climbing closely behind her. Ayasha was almost to the top of the rock wall when she glanced over to her right and spied Chindi, the monstrous waterfall. Ayasha’s muscles froze on the rock wall, under the captivating spell of the waterfall. 
          This rock climbing event in the book came from my  personal experience of  rock climbing in college. Even though I was severely scared of high places in college and still do not like high places, I let a group of friends in college convince me to technical rock climb with them. That's one way of getting over your fear of something - a direct attack. Over the course of two years of climbing, I thought I had cured my fear of heights. 
         On one particular climb, my friend and I climbed up a vertical crack in the granite rock face to about one hundred feet above the ground. There, the vertical crack disappeared and directly above us the rock face overhung like a massive granite ceiling. We knew we were not skilled enough to climb the overhang and the only way out of the predicament was to find a way around the overhang. To our right was a steep featureless rock wall that wrapped around the side of the overhang. This was our only chance. Our dilemma was that this rock wall was as smooth as glass with only a few small rock crystals to put our boots or fingers on and there was no way to protect ourselves against a long fall (we did not bring any rock bolts on the climb). Climbing across the rock wall and slipping meant a very long free fall for one of us.  
Figure Three.
      We both tried to climb across the rock wall, but we lacked the intestinal fortitude or mental toughness to handle it. Neither of us had the guts to take a thirty or forty foot teeth-jarring fall before the climbing rope caught us. One hundred feet above the ground, we began panicking and making mental errors.  The rock wall defeated us and we rappelled back to the ground with our tails tucked between our legs. It was a very long time before I went rock climbing again and after that episode, climbing would never be the same.  
        Figure three above is what I envisioned the river looked like from the rock wall that Ayasha and Namid climbed in the above passage from SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL. This is not exactly a reassuring sight, even if you are not the one climbing it.  
        I hope you read SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL and share your thoughts and comments with me and others. SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL and the rest of the TRILOGY are available in paperback and e book at, Barnes and, and many other booksellers. 

Safe climbing, now!

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