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Capturing California

I have lived in southern California for most of my life. As the daughter of a marine, we moved a lot but we always ended up back at Camp Pendleton. I went to school here, married here, had kids here, and created a home here. And now, as I begin this new thriller series, I get to write about the state I love so much.

My first book takes place near the famous art town of Idyllwild in the San Jacinto Mountains. A delightful town that has a dog as its honorary mayor, it's the largest town on the mountain and is host to art festivals and other celebrations that draw people from all around.

The story is set in December and it occurred to me that not everyone gets our strange hot weather Christmas practices. I grew up with decorated palm trees, tumbleweed snowmen, and beach bonfire Christmas parties. We wear our ugly sweaters with shorts and flip-flops, play in manufactured snow, and have to protect our poinsettias from too much sun. It's a whole different ballgame, Christmas in SoCal.

And, oh my goodness, if it actually snows! Southern Californians visit snow like it's another one of our attractions. It's popular for people in the area to head up the mountain when it snows to go sledding and have hot cocoa at the little cafes. It's not deep snow nor does it last very long, but we are so proud of it.

In the hotter months, it's a great place to hike the world-famous Suicide Rock, now called Lily Rock, a favorite of hikers. My daughters loved to pretend they were falling off the edge of cliffs during our hikes. Hilarious.

Our family used to camp in the woods of Mt. San Jacinto State Park and the memories of those campfire s'mores are some of my favorites. Nestled under the trees, we'd make neon shapes in the dark with glow sticks. It was cooler up in the mountains than down in Riverside County. A nice escape from the heat for all of us. And the stars! Oh my goodness there were always so many.

A great thing about camping up there is that Idyllwild is not far from the campground. A beautiful little town, our family often got hot cocoa and pizza there after a long day of sledding. There's a lot to do with all the shops, cafes, restaurants, and galleries. Plus it's a very friendly town that offers a lot of places to stay if you don't like camping.

If you're especially lucky, you may even run into Mayor Max, the unofficial-official mayor of Idyllwild who is a local celebrity. He pulls up in this truck and a crowd forms and he just soaks up all the love. He even seems to smile for pictures.

There are so many quirky, cool, and surprising things in SoCal and I hope to show just how much I love this place to readers of my books. From the sandy shores to the rocky desert of Joshua Tree, I can't wait to cause imaginary havoc in my favorite places.

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