Go West, Young Woman — Guest Annette Dashofy

nowayhome-cover-front-sm-518x800I met Annette when we were both nominated for the Agatha Award for Best First Novel. One might think we’d be bitter rivals but instead became good friends (along with all the other nominees). We welcome Annette back to talk about her fifth book in the Zoe Chambers mystery series!

I grew up with a steady diet of westerns. My dad and I watched them all. Bonanza, The Virginian, Gunsmoke, Big Valley. Later I fell in love with Alias Smith and Jones. Much of my reading material was authored by Zane Grey. My cousin and I used to play cowboys on our horses. In my vivid imagination, our farm buildings were livery stables, saloons, hotels, and the sheriff’s office. The green valleys of Pennsylvania became the rocky canyons of Wyoming in our world.

annettehorseI never lost that love of the Old West. The TV shows faded into obscurity, and I’d almost forgotten them until one day I turned on a retro television network and spotted Hannibal Heyes. The next week, I randomly tuned into the same station and re-discovered Trampas. That long dormant passion flamed back to life.

However, in spite of my romance with the mountains and deserts of Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, and New Mexico, the farthest west I’d ever been was eastern Indiana.

At some point, I decided, dadgum it, I was going out there. Call it the top of my bucket list or whatever, but it became my mission in life. And it finally happened.

That trip in the summer of 2013 was supposed to be a once-in-a-lifetime dream vacation. Not only was I going out West, I was going to finally meet several friends I’d known online but never face-to-face.

In his best “let me get this right” voice, my darling husband said, “We’re going to fly to Colorado and stay with someone you don’t know?”

I said, “I know her.”

Hubby is something of Luddite and distrusts the internet. Distrusted it even more back then. “But you’ve never met her.”

I shrugged.

He went on, “And then we’re going to drive for hours to stay with someone else you don’t know???”

I didn’t see the point in arguing with him.

But that’s exactly what we did. We flew in to the Colorado Springs Airport and jumped into a vehicle with my longtime critique buddy Donnell Bell and her husband, Les. It felt more gardenridelike a wonderful reunion than a first-time meeting.

Almost a week later, we bid a tearful goodbye, and Hubby and I loaded our gear into a rental SUV for a long drive southwest to Aztec, New Mexico, where we “met” my dear friend Leta Burns. There was much schoolgirlish squealing and hugging. Hubby stood back, certain we were all insane. But at least he was finally convinced that my online friends were neither imaginary, nor ax murderers luring hapless victims from across the country with promises of horseback rides and ghost towns.

Anyhow, besides meeting old/new friends, the trip was amazing. I remember looking out of the window of the airplane as it came in for our Colorado landing and crying at my first sight of real mountains. I exclaimed, “Wow!” at every new vista. That drive from Colorado Springs to Aztec took us from snow capped peaks to flat prairies to mesas. We drove through Wolf Creek Pass.


After our visit in Aztec, Leta, Hubby, and I drove south nine hours through even more diverse scenery to Silver City. We saw a gazillion prairie dogs and a few elk.

garden-of-the-gods-trail-ride-001-800x612On that once-in-a-lifetime trip, I rode a horse through the Garden of the Gods, I shopped the streets of Durango and ate at the haunted Strater Hotel. We wandered through a ghost town and toured the cabin where Billy the Kid lived…at least in the movie The Missing.

And oh so much more.

What I didn’t realize until I returned to the green rolling hills of Pennsylvania was that the once-in-a-lifetime trip wasn’t once in a lifetime. Like the lyrics from one of my favorite songs, I’d come home to a place I’d never been before. And those online friends had become family. I’ve been back every year.

I also didn’t realize right away that a seed of a story had been sewn. Heck, at that time, Circle of Influence didn’t yet have a publisher. I didn’t know there would be a Zoe Chambers mystery series.

But there is, and by the second book in it, I knew at some point, Zoe would be taking a trip to New Mexico. My exclamations of “Wow!” would come from her lips as well. A Pennsylvania fish out of water in the badlands of the four corners.

No Way Home is the fifth in that series and it does indeed take Zoe someplace she’s never been before.

dashofy-1559-534x800Annette Dashofy is the USA Today best-selling author of the Zoe Chambers mystery series about a paramedic and deputy coroner in rural Pennsylvania’s tight-knit Vance Township. CIRCLE OF INFLUENCE was a finalist for the Agatha Award for Best First Novel of 2014 and BRIDGES BURNED was nominated for the 2015 Agatha for Best Contemporary Novel. NO WAY HOME, the fifth in the series, hits bookstores March 14.

Readers: Have you ever visited some place that unexpectedly felt like home?




59 Thoughts

  1. Welcome to this home, Annette! I have followed your rising career with so much happiness for you. I’m a native southern Californian growing up in the shadow of the 6000-ft San Gabriel Mountains, and dry vistas are in my blood, I think. I’ve spent time in a few parts of New Mexico and adored it but am way past due for a trip back. There’s just something about shades of tan and rust red, brown and muted greens that is so much more beautiful than lush green. And when I fly west and cross the Rockies, I feel like I can finally really breathe again. Your new book is on order!

    1. Thanks so much, Edith! It was such a culture shock that first trip, but now when I go back, it truly is “coming home.”

      And I’ve finally learned which towns are north or south of which other towns.

  2. Good morning, everyone. Thanks so much to Sherry and all my Wicked buddies for having me here today!

  3. I think Lititz PA is like that for us. We went there several years ago and we’ve been going back ever since. It’s only about a three hour drive for us so we can go for a few days, feed the ducks and enjoy driving through the Amish country.

    1. I love the Amish Country. We love taking day trips out to Charm and Sugar Creek in Ohio. It doesn’t feel like “home” to me, but it’s lovely. And the food is GREAT.

  4. When we took out road trip to AK a number of years ago, I felt like Haines was or could be home. Not going to happen, but I remember it fondly.

  5. Hi Annette! *waves and sends hugs* I’m really looking forward to reading this book. See you at your launch!

    Other than our cabin in the Laurel Highlands, my favorite place is Gettysburg. We’ve been going there at least yearly since our boys were little. My very first published article was about our first trip there when the boys were 10 and 6. That first visit is probably the reason our oldest is an historian. We’ve made well over twenty trips there, and each time I still learn something new.

    And speaking of online friends, I can’t wait to see the Wickeds again at Malice!

    1. We first went toGettysburg when our boys were 9 and 5, Joyce, on the way back to MA from a DC trip. My oldest ended up a historian, too, and now lives in Maryland so it’s easier for him and his historian girlfriend to visit Gettysbury.

      1. We stopped at Gettysburg on the way back from Indiana when our daughter was in grade school. She hated the place. I’d love to go back now, especially since I’ve figured out which regiment one of my great-great-(great?) uncles fought in, and exactly where they were on the battlefield. (He survived.)

  6. Good to see you here, Annette!

    Funny how those old westerns left their mark on us. What I remember best is the simple sense of justice: the white-hat guys won, the black-hat guys were hauled off to jail, and nobody died. (Of course, there weren’t a whole lot of women–maybe Annie Oakley or Calamity Jane. And all the Indians were noble.)

    As for that feeling of “home”? Ireland. Once I got to West Cork, I felt like it was in my bones. Nearly twenty years later, people I know there ask me, “when are you coming home again?”

    But a few years ago I visited a writer friend in Tucson. I’d never seen a desert, but I was amazed by the place. All of it–the light, the air, the cactuses everywhere. I may not get back there again, but I won’t forget it.

  7. Congrats on the new book—first and foremost!—but also wanted to say how much I loved this story, and your exchange with your husband pre-trip was priceless. 🙂

      1. Only the second time I met Sherry I gave her a ride to the Seascape writing weekend in CT two hours away. Her daughter was very concerned that I might not be a safe person to drive with!

      2. Well, Edith, we do kill people (fictionally) for a living, so that alone might give loved ones a moment’s pause. 😉

  8. I can’t wait to read Zoe’s next adventure! My grandmother lived in Colorado Springs so I visited a few times as a kid. I remember how strange and fascinating Garden of the Gods was to my Iowa girl used to green eyes. As an adult I lived in Cheyenne, Wyoming and Grand Junction, Colorado. Both taught me that there are many types of beauty in the world. Thanks for visiting and sharing your experiences!

    1. Thanks so much for having me here, Sherry. I still need to get to Wyoming. And Montana.

      1. Hubby wants to go fly fishing in northern Wyoming or southern Montana. Working on figuring out a way to make that happen.

  9. I am adopting your wild west adventure plan! I also grew up with westerns but have never been very far out that way. That is now a life goal.

    I am so pleased about your meetings with online friends. Who says the friendship isn’t genuine? I hope Ray learned his lesson there!

    1. He did, Ramona. However he still thinks we’re all crazy. Truth be told, he may not be entirely wrong… 😉

  10. Enjoyed this a lot, Annette. And answering your question, it was my first trip to England that felt kind of like home. The source isn’t’ that different from yours, not tv, but all the books by English authors I’d read as a child. And my husband is equally baffled. 🙂

  11. Annette, what a great “road trip” story! I really enjoyed your adventures and look forward to reading the next installment of your Zoe Chambers series. I felt right at home the first time I visited San Francisco. I wandered the streets as though I had walked them before. The next time I visit I may just stay because I’m convinced I belong there.

    1. That’s how I feel about New Mexico, however my hubby REFUSES to move. And I kinda like him so I guess I’m stuck with annual visits. 😀

      1. Haha, Kim! I do understand. Mine only goes with me every other year, and the times he stays home are often the most fun. DON’T TELL HIM I SAID THAT! 😀

  12. Hey, some of the best friends I have are ones I’ve never “met.” 🙂

    Congrats on the book and as one of Annette’s critique buddies, I can assure you all that it is fabulous – of course. I’d like to take a visit out west someday. Of course, part of me is afraid I won’t be active enough to enjoy it, but maybe someone will boost me up on the horse.

    Home? Either Olean, NY (where I went to college) or the Laurel Highlands. Both share the characteristics of mid-sized mountains, water, and lots of lush, towering maples. It feels…peaceful. What can I say, I like trees.

    1. Liz/Mary, Leta has a great story about boosting someone up on a horse. Not me. But I’m not at liberty to divulge the details either. Anyway, if you get the chance, you definitely should go at least once.

  13. Poor Ray, poor Les, they just didn’t get it. Annette and I had critiqued so long, and had had so many online discussions, I think we may have known one another better than if we’d been neighbors. And how cool was it, that she came to see me, then traveled to the place I’d grown up. The Four Corners Area. Now, I need to get to Pennsylvania and maybe attend a conference out there! Phenomenal storyteller. So proud to call Annette Dashofy my friend! ~ Donnell

  14. Congratulations, Annette, on your latest release. I loved reading about your adventures of traveling out west and staying with friends you had never met. My husband once arranged for us to visit a fellow veteran he had met. I was a nervous wreck about staying with them when I had never met them. It turned out to be a wonderful weekend and we’ve become close friends.

    Growing up in Pennsylvania like you (Altoona in my case), I love those beautiful Allegheny Mountains in western Pennsylvania. I don’t live there any longer, but I sure enjoy seeing them when I travel home for a visit. My husband and I traveled to Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona to help our daughter move. Driving through those areas beautiful areas, we enjoyed it but felt that we had landed on another planet.

      1. Yes, “Another planet” is how Zoe feels about it in No Way Home too! And I definitely look forward to seeing you at Malice!

  15. Hi Annette–I too am an easterner who loves westerns, especially in movies and books. I cried when I closed the book Lonesome Dove–because it was over.

    Welcome back to the Wicked Cozys and best of luck with No Way Home (love the title).

  16. There is something about the West — two places that immediately felt like home are Sedona, Arizona and Woody Creek, Colorado.

    I really enjoyed your story about going West to see your new friends!

  17. But, but…don’t you know everyone you meet on the internet is an ax murderer? 🙂 I have made so many good friends via the internet, including one of my best friends that I’m lucky enough to hang out with in real life. I am so thankful for the world it has opened up.

  18. Most of my heart homes are in books. They were where I would escape to when I was lonely or sad – the jungle with the boy and his marvelous mud washing machine, the prairie with Laura, River Heights with Nancy, Maine and Colorado with Stephen King’s characters, New Orleans with Louis and Lestat, Broward’s with Annie and Max.

    When I was little I spent summers in the mountains with my aunt and two cousins. We would roam all through the woods, climbing trees, splashing in streams and creeks, playing with bugs until dark started to fall and we could hear my aunt calling us home. I felt safe there even when we weren’t safe – getting treed by a wild boar was not safe, getting bitten by a snake was not safe, getting caught in a cow stampede (okay, it was mostly a sedate cow amble but there were a lot of cows and those things are taller than you realize) wasn’t safe. But I was happy there until it was time to go “home” to the suburbs.

    I grew up and got married and we found a place that backed to woods and I could be in the in suburbs with all its conveniences and then when I need to escape I can sit in the back and look at the trees. But I’d still rather be on that mountain with acres to roam and the arc of the trees to shade me.

  19. I fell in love with Minnesota from the Macalester College literature, and spent ten years of college and work with swimming and canoeing in cold lakes in summer and cross-country skiing in winter. Family pulled me back to Missouri, but I’m still fond of Minnesota and its more humane political climate . . . not sure about the winters, though. Garrison once said something about sending the elders south. Zoe’s adventures have sparked my interest in the Southwest . . . and horses. <3

  20. Hello Annette and thanks for visiting the Wickeds again today! When I was a child my parents bought crate filled with Zane Grey books at a yard sale. I read them all. And then I read them all again, at least once.

  21. Thanks for being here Annette! I felt that way the first time I visited San Francisco. Immediately felt like a place I could settle into without a second thought. Great post!

    1. Thanks, Liz. it’s always a pleasure to visit all of you Wickeds! I’ve never been to San Francisco, but would love to.

  22. What a fun piece. I love the idea of the old west living in Dashofy’s tapestry for years before she had a chance of visiting. She obviously has a vivid imagination!

    1. Thanks, Jennifer. With regards to a vivid imagination, I could write an entire other blog about how many times I’ve been accused of that!

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