Why Alaska?

Today I'm enjoying the joy of mysteries again with a guest post from another mystery writer,Stephanie Joyce Cole, whose novel of unexpected romance, personal reinvention, and mysterious suspense is set in Alaska. We visited Alaska a few years ago and loved it, but I couldn't resist the opportunity to ask the author:

Why Alaska?

So, over to you Stephanie, and thank you for visiting my blog:
(Readers, don't miss the great bonus excerpt from Stephanie's novel, Compass North, below, plus a rafflecopter giveaway!):

            There are many amazing places in this wonderful world, and Alaska is certainly one of them.  Alaska is enormous, as you know if you’ve ever seen the map of Alaska superimposed on a map of the United States.  Because it is so huge, there is no one typical place in Alaska.  Alaska can be found in the scenic fishing communities in the fjords along the Alaska Panhandle, in the company of throngs of grizzly bears in Katmai, and among the Native Alaskans who have lived for many generations in the tiny subsistence villages that dot Alaska’s far western and northern coasts.  So when I tell you that COMPASS NORTH takes place in Alaska, we have to zoom in a little closer, to Homer, Alaska.

            Homer is a small quirky city located in Kachemak Bay, not too far from Anchorage.  You can see some lovely pictures of Homer on my website, and I’ve included links there too, for more information.

            COMPASS NORTH is a romantic suspense novel about personal reinvention.  Meredith narrowly escapes a catastrophic accident and is presumed dead.  She slips into a new identity and a new life in Homer, leaving behind her deceitful husband and  her disastrous marriage back in Florida.  She finds that it’s not that easy to leave the baggage of the past behind, but she discovers that she can to peel back the layers of unhappiness that have weighed her down, to find her strength and joy again.  But not everyone back in Florida is convinced that she’s dead, and someone is looking for her, someone who could destroy her dream of becoming a new person.

            Homer, Alaska is the perfect location for this story.  First of all, it’s just drop-dead gorgeous.  Gleaming glaciers pour down the flanks of the high mountains that circle Kachemak Bay.  The bay abounds with sea and bird life.  According to Wikipedia, the Homer Spit, an isthmus of land that spins out into the bay for over four miles, is the longest road into ocean waters in the entire world.  And Homer is one of those communities that exudes character.  You’ll find fishermen, ex-hippies, tourists, artists...the list goes on.

            Meredith had to be in a place where she could disappear.  Homer was a very long way from her home in Florida, but more than that, Alaskans all over the state pride themselves on their rugged and individualistic spirits.  The land and weather can be harsh, but there are those who manage to live a subsistence lifestyle and barter for their needs, disconnected from the kind of life most of us lead.

            And the struggles Meredith experiences in Alaska mirror her internal journey. Just as she has to learn to deal with icy weather, bears, lack of money and the suspicions of the people she meets, she has to come to terms with her questions about who she has become and who she wants to be.  In Homer, Meredith is adrift in a new place, finding her way and finding herself.

Excerpt from Compass North by Stephanie Joyce Cole:

Meredith sat squeezed against the wall behind the wobbly table with the plastic checkerboard cover. She pushed the last bits of her hamburger bun around her plate. With the long drive finally over, they had stopped to eat at a trailer-turned-diner on the fringe of town.

“So, can we drop you someplace before we take off?” Evan waved to the waitress, motioning for the check.

She took a deep breath and ran her fingers along the pattern in the tablecloth. “Well, I’m not sure...um, I haven’t really decided where...” She looked up and saw Evan frowning at her.

“You don’t have a plan? No place at all to stay tonight?”

Meredith shook her head.

Jan bit at her lower lip and stared at her. “Gee, Meredith, we just assumed you had it all worked out. I wish we could offer you a place, but we’re couch surfing right now until we can get back into our old apartment.”

She saw Jan and Evan exchange anxious glances, and she felt a pang of shame. This wasn’t what they bargained for when they offered a stranger a ride. They didn’t expect to be responsible for me.

Meredith looked down at her hands. She took a deep breath. “I...guess I thought there might be a cheap hostel. I guess I just didn’t think...”

She didn’t have any plan. None at all. She’d hardly focused her thoughts except when the memory of the accident raged back into her head, and when that happened, the terror and pain were almost too much to bear. So she’d tried to smooth out her mind, just letting the hours pass, letting the fatigue and the strangeness of all this wash over her.

No plan. But something had changed now. This was all crazy, but she felt she was watching someone else, someone brand new sitting here in this rundown but cozy restaurant, and that new person was the one with no place to go. It was like play-acting, like being inside of someone else’s skin. Here was a new someone, who didn’t know where she was going to sleep tonight, but this new person wasn’t stumbling around, lost, dragging a huge, black bag of mistakes and bad decisions. She lifted her chin and stared out the window.

“Wait a minute.” Jan looked at Evan. “What about Auntie Rita? I saw her outside just a few minutes ago.” She turned back to Meredith. “She’s not really anyone’s aunt—at least as far as we know—but my mom always made me call her that. I know she’s got a bit of room. She was trying to rent out a spare room a while back, but she didn’t get any takers, I guess.” Jan shrugged.

Evan smirked. “Big surprise. No one wanted to live with Rita. How can that be?”

She glared and him and breathed an exasperated sigh. “Her place is out of town, but you should be able to get back tomorrow without too much of a problem. Rita drives in all the time.”

“Rita, really?” Evan gave a low whistle. “You’re really ready to go there, Jan? You know how she can be.”

Jan pointed her finger at Meredith. “Look, it’s past noon already, and she doesn’t have a clue about where she’s going to sleep tonight. Rita likes me. Well, at least I think she does. I’m going to find her.”

Evan rolled his eyes up at the ceiling. “Rita...jeez...”

Meredith sipped her coffee and stared out the window. She tried to keep her thoughts steady. Now what? She did need a place to stay. She needed to be in a place where her new self might exist, just for a little while. She didn’t want this new Meredith to disappear, not yet.

Puffs of dust bloomed as a brisk, stinging wind whipped at the loose dirt in the parking lot. It was only late September, but the few people outside wore gloves and hats pulled down snug over their ears. Just beyond the rough lot, a greenish-black wall of spruce trees huddled close, their thick boughs knocking and bouncing in the wind. And behind them the tops of jagged and fierce peaks seemingly leaned forward, looming over the spruce. The wild world pushed back here, refusing to let the manmade world have the upper hand.

I am in a new place where I don’t exist. The old Meredith doesn’t exist here.

About Compass North:

 Meredith slips into a new identity and a new life in a small town in Alaska, she discovers it’s not that easy to leave behind the baggage from her past.
Set in the spectacular natural landscape of Southcentral Alaska,
COMPASS NORTH tracks an unexpected journey of personal reinvention.
Reeling from the sudden breakup of her disastrous marriage, Meredith barely escapes a freak accident in Alaska and is presumed dead. She stumbles into a new identity and a new life in a quirky small town. As new friendships grow, Meredith has to learn to trust in herself again.
When a romance with a local fisherman unexpectedly blossoms, Meredith’s secret jeopardizes her hopes for future happiness. And someone is searching for her, someone who will threaten Meredith’s dream of a reinvented life.

About the Author:
Stephanie Joyce Cole lived for many decades in Alaska before she recently relocated to Seattle, WA, where she lives with her husband and a predatory but lovable Manx cat. She has an MFA in Creative Writing, Fiction from the University of Alaska, Anchorage. Her goal is to write books that are both thought-provoking and entertaining, and that will carry readers into an adventure in small-town Alaska.

Giveaway Details:
There is a tour wide giveaway. Prizes include the following:
  • Five mystery eBooks from Champagne Book Group. Books will be selected at random from publisher.
  • $20 gift card to either Amazon or B&N, courtesy of Joyce Proell
Giveaway is International.

Rafflecopter giveaway

Find out more about all 4 of these great mystery novels and authors! Follow the other tour posts at...

Link to the event page:  http://junipergrovebooksolutions.com/multiple-author-mystery-tour/


Sheila Deeth said…
Thank you so much for visiting my blog. I really loved our one and only visit to Alaska--there was so much more to see than I'd imagined, and it was fall, so the colors were truly incredible.
CA Heaven said…
Alaska sounds like a cool place to stage s novel. I've been to our part of the Arctic (Svalbard), but never to Alaska, except in the books by Jack London >:)

Cold As Heaven
Sheila Deeth said…
Ah, Jack London. Now you've got me wanting to reread those books!

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