40,000+ Kindle/Paperback Sales, 875+ Amazon Reviews, Amazon Choice: Prime Readers, Bestselling Debut Indie, 2016 Award Winner: Next Generation Best Indie Book Awards..
“A gripping novel that combines archeological, historical, scientific, and romantic elements to create a thrilling, strong story. Authentic characters, all-too human relationships, adventures and mysteries transport readers into past, present, and future events–a wonderful discovery for this reader, who cannot wait for more!”
The Columbia Review
“We are writing with some fabulous news! Your book has been named the Winner in the ACTION/ADVENTURE category of the 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. Congratulations!”
Next Generation Indie Book Awards
Targeted Age Group:: yes
Heat/Violence Level: Heat Level 2 – PG
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
Why did the Native Americans of the Southwest, who lived peacefully on the Mesa for thousands of years suddenly cram themselves into these very dangerous cliff dwellings for a period of only 200 years, before returning to the Mesa.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
They seem to appear just when I needed them…somehow.
Southwestern New Mexico
“Just one more step and you’re gonna get a real good look at the bottom of the canyon,” said Garrett Moon.
Dr. Leah Andrews pulled the binoculars away from her eyes and watched as the toe of her boot slid over the edge of the cliff. A spray of sand floated toward the green valley floor hundreds of feet below.
“I know where I’m standing.”
Sand and gravel cascaded down the rocky slope behind them, followed by a giant who wore his hair in a short ponytail over a three-day-stubble beard. Only a well-placed sandstone boulder prevented his 280 pounds from barreling over the cliff.
“Delicate as ever,” Leah said.
Juan Cortez wiped a mixture of sweat and dust from his face. “The coast is clear, but I’d wager those park rangers are sniffing around nearby.”
“What’d you expect?” she asked, grinning despite the risk. “We are trespassing illegally in the middle of a national park.”
“She smells a cliff dwelling,” Garrett said.
Juan looked over the ledge and shook his head. “A monkey couldn’t climb that face without modern equipment.”
Tall, anvil-shaped clouds began rolling in from the southwest, signaling the beginnings of a late-season thunderstorm. The winds preceding the storm kicked dust up in flowing red curtains.
“That’s a hint of things to come,” Garrett said. “You want to be dangling from a rope when that hits?”
“Speaking of rope, where’s our climbing expert?” Leah asked.
“Resting on his climbing gear near the top of the mesa, last I saw,” said Juan.
“Figures.” Leah hoisted her backpack into place. “I’ll wake Sleeping Beauty.”
Juan took another peek over the cliff. “You’d think a couple of relatively intelligent guys would have more sense than to rappel down a sheer wall in the middle of a thunderstorm.”
Garrett grinned and pushed strands of black hair away from his face. “Yeah, but who else would look after her?”
“Don’t let her hear that,” Juan cautioned, “or we’ll both be sporting black eyes.”
“You two better not be whispering about me,” Leah called back as she climbed the slope.
“We’re just a pair of lowly, underpaid archeologists,” Garrett answered. “Our discussions are purely of a scientific nature.”
Leah was still shaking her head when she came upon Marko Kinney leaning on his climbing gear, listening to audibly heavy metal through his ear buds.
Leah poked at the shaggy young man with the toe of her boot until he killed the music. “We’re checking out a wall crack.”
Marko looked up and pointed toward the billowing clouds. “Mr. Thunder Bumper’s headed this direction, and he’s looking worked up.”
“Meet me on the other side of the rock bridge with your gear.”
The rock climber shook his head in disbelief, then gathered his gear and chased her across the rock arch toward a gnarled but sturdy-looking pine tree growing near the mesa’s edge. He dropped the pack, pulled out a nylon-anchoring sling, and wrapped it expertly around the pine tree’s trunk. Marko secured the slings, removed two 165-foot climbing lines from the backpack, and tied them together with a double fisherman’s knot.
Juan and Garrett joined them while Leah fitted herself into a padded climbing harness and fastened the metal waist buckle. Marko fed the doubled line through a standard figure-eight descender, triple-checked all the connections, and patted her on the shoulder.
“You’re cleared to fly,” he shouted over the rising wind.
She nodded and stepped to the cliff face. As sloppy as Marko looked, he was a fanatic about safety. Because of his attention to detail, Leah felt at least some peace of mind. If her dad had enjoyed the same kind of attention, he’d have been alive today.
Marko climbed into his own harness and threaded another line through the anchoring rings. He’d feed rope as she rappelled in a classic belay technique taught at most climbing schools. If she suffered gear failure, he would serve to break her fall, at least in theory.
Garrett dug out his own harness, peeking over the edge at Leah’s descent.
“I know you guys are the experts at finding cliff dwellings,” Marko said, “but I’m not thrilled about roping down that cliff face with lightning cracking around my ass.”
“Chances are she’ll shine her flashlight into the crevice, find a dead end, and we won’t be climbing down anyway,” Garrett said.
The line slackened, and a moment later Marko felt three distinct tugs on the belay. “You were saying?”
Garrett glanced up at the sky. “I guess we’re climbing down.”
Marko yanked up the freed belay. “Okay, you’re next, G.”
A minute later, Marko had a hesitant Juan in his harness and ready to join the others. “They’re waiting for you, Juan.”
The big man hesitated, then took a deep breath and leaned over the brink of nothingness. All that separated his ample posterior from a three-hundred-foot freefall were two thin strands of high-strength climbing line.
“Down you go,” said Marko.
As Juan descended, an unexpected gust of wind twisted him around, causing his face to scrape across the sandstone wall, shaving skin off his right cheek. Thunder cracked in the distance as he attempted to gain position against the rock.
“Come on, Juan,” Leah shouted encouragement from the ledge below.
Juan pushed off and rappelled until his shoes touched the ledge.
“Was that so hard?” Garrett secured him to the ledge.
“Still gotta climb back up that mother.”
Marko slid spider-like down the line and noted with quiet satisfaction that Leah had already inserted a removable locking-cam inside a weathered crack in the cliff. He crouched to examine the narrow opening. “It’s less than a meter high. How are you gonna get inside?”
“Seriously, Marko?” Leah asked. “Lie down like you’re taking a nap.”
Garrett winked and patted the young climber on the back. “You’re doing fine. Don’t let her bully you.”
Leah pushed Marko aside and dug a small flashlight out of her gear bag. “If you want something done….” She slithered quickly through the scar-like blemish in the rock cliff. Once inside, she switched on the steel penlight and crawled along on her hands and knees through the confining passageway. Ahead, the tunnel opened into a larger chamber.
“Garrett,” she called back. “You got the big light?”
Garrett crawled in behind her and handed over the high-powered halogen flashlight. Leah fumbled with the switch and then lit the chamber ahead.
“Oh, my God,” she whispered.
A massive subterranean cavern at least 50 meters high stretched far beyond even the powerful beam. The light did a fine job of illuminating the pristine remains of an 800-year-old Native American city hidden in the depths of the Gila National Wilderness.
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