Four Corners Monument by @TaylorLeeWrites

Quiz: Where in America can you find four state governments, two semiautonomous Native American governments, and four US federal government departments. Answer: The Four Corners Monument.

Four Corners Monument

Believe it or not, this inauspicious monument marks the quadripoint in the Southwestern United States where the states of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah meet. It is the only point in the United States shared by four states. The monument also marks the boundary between two semi-autonomous Native American governments, the Navajo Nation, and the Ute Mountain Tribe Reservation. As if that is not enough, the US Government has a large presence in the area specifically, the Department of the Interior, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Department of Agriculture and the Forest Service.

Breathtaking Scenery

In addition to all these government entities, the Four Corners Monument area includes some of the most breathtaking scenery in the country. Extraordinary forest covered mountains, raging rivers, gorgeous red rock cliffs leave visitors like me speechless with wonder. If you get the chance, please visit the Four Corners Monument area.

Not surprisingly the human elements of the area are as varied as the geographic wonders. Ranchers, farmers, miners, cowboys, Qanon crazies, local and state government officials, law enforcement officials, White Supremacists, Artists, Granolas, Canabisseurs, Mormons, and Native Americans to mention a few.

Soaking Up The Scenery

I’ve now spent three summers soaking up the glorious scenery and varied cultures of this amazing area. And not surprisingly stoking my creative story-telling genes. This is me:

I’ve concluded that if ever there was a place where stories are born, it’s the Four Corners region. At least, in my imagination, it is filled with a variety of people—the good, the bad, and the seriously wicked.

Which brings me to my new release:

Rampage by Taylor Lee

Available for $0.99 for Kindle Readers.

She’s an investigative media superstar.

He’s a formidable county sheriff.

She’s determined to expose the insurrectionist leaders. He’s determined to stop her.

If ever there was an iconic Western county sheriff, it was Calian Begay. Ruggedly handsome, arrogance was his middle name. But then, having been elected by seventy-plus percent of the voters was no small feat. Particularly for the grandson of a famous Ute Indian chief.

Determined to take down the insurrectionist leaders threatening his county, Cal wasn’t interested in the foot soldiers. He was after the clandestine political and financial kingpins underwriting the dangerous violence.

Scarlett knew all her blockbuster exposé needed was for her to capture the leader of the American Patriotic Front addressing the “White is Might” conspiracy crazies. She frankly didn’t care if that compromised the sheriff’s campaign to torpedo the insurrection.

Remembering Cal’s fierce warning if she refused to pull back, Scarlett admitted the formidable sheriff had done what no man had. Made her think twice before she blew him off.

Face it, which was more compelling? Winning a coveted national award or obeying the arrogant sheriff who, after warning her for the third time, had the temerity to threaten her personally if she “didn’t behave.”

If you dig brazen media stars, tough-as-nails lawmen, and scorching passion, hop aboard Taylor Lee’s sizzling new thrill ride. Discover how challenging exposés can be when sex and violence are in the mix. Grab Rampage: Book 1; Mayhem on the Mountain and prepare to be wowed!

And while you are savoring the sexy sheriff and audacious superstar, dive into these two fantastic Box Sets, my Author Billboard pals and I created to celebrate the Christmas season.

Unforgettable Christmas Promises

My book in the Box set is: Nuthin’s Gonna Stop Us Now.

FREE! Festive Christmas Nights (Fabulous Freebie Collection Book 5)

My books in the Box set is: Blue Christmas and Special Ops and Cops.

Travel with Mona to St. Petersburg, Capital of the Tsars

For two whole centuries, St. Petersburg was the capital of the Russian Empire. Currently the second largest city in Russia, it is recognized as Russia’s intellectual and cultural hub. When I spent a few days in 2002 on a business trip, St. Petersburg looked like a neglected city compared to Moscow. In July 2017, we stopped for two days as part of a Baltic Sea cruise and were stunned by the difference, the renovated buildings, the cleanliness of the streets, the wealth of flowers everywhere.

Our guide informed us that Putin was born in Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg), studied law at Leningrad State University, graduating in 1975, and took pride in renovating his city. Saint Petersburg, called the Venice of the North, because of its copious bridges and natural canals, mainly the Neva River, is now designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The Hermitage on the Neva
A view on the Neva at sunset

After walking along the Nevetsky Avenue, we stopped in a salon de thé and enjoyed a lunch of toast with orange caviar and a cappuccino, then headed to visit the famous Hermitage, Winter Palace of the Russian tsars. The Hermitage hosts an art collection to rival the Louvre in Paris.

In front of the Hermitage or Winter Place of the tsars.

Entrance of the Hermitage

This former palace is steeped in splendor and opulence at every turn.

Peter the Great devised the blue prints of Peterhof Palace, its 300-acre park, and superb fountains to rival the grandeur of Versailles.

The fountains are activated at noon for fifteen minutes with a music show.

The Church of the Resurrection, also called Church of Savior on Spilled Blood is the other major attraction in St. Petersburg. Commissioned by tsar Alexander III in 1883, the church was meant to honor the assassination of his father, Alexander II, which explains the name “spilled blood.” This church resembles Moscow’s famous St. Basil’s Cathedral. The most magnificent component is the 7,500 square meter of mosaics inside the church, illustrating scenes from the Bible.

The Peter and Paul Cathedral is a landmark of St. Petersburg, built on the site of the old fortress, which marks the birthplace of the city. The Peter and Paul Cathedral symbolizes imperial Russia, since it once served as a burial site for the imperial family.

Inside St. Peter and Paul Cathedral in the fortress.
The tomb of the last Romanof Tsar

There are so many beautiful churches in St. Petersburg, most of them with a colorful dome in gold, or other colors. We visited St. Isaac Church, Our Lady of Kazan, and so many more…

Just walking in the streets for hours and hours was so interesting. We also used the ultra modern underground metro to go from our hotel to downtown. Remember that in summer the sun sets at 11:30 pm. St. Petersburg is so far north that it experiences nearly 24 hours a day of sunlight from mid-May to mid-July. Even when the sun is down — for a couple of hours after midnight — the sky is white.

Russian metro
A bear for a pet?

You can’t visit Russia without attending a ballet performance or a traditional Russian folk dance in a real palace. During the intermission we mingled with the dancers a glass of vodka in hand.

I hope you enjoyed this quick visit to St. Petersburg.

To relax with a sweet Christmas romance, may I suggest my latest release, WEDDING PLANS, book 5 of the Love Plans Series.

New Release WEDDING PLANS A sweet Christmas story.
When dedicated Dr. Kent rescues a patient and is late for his own wedding, his fiancée greets him with tears, curses, and a slap. Fed up with her hysterics, Tyler cancels the wedding. The recovered patient intends to keep her handsome doctor. But the jilted bride goes out of her way to grab back her former fiancé.
Wedding Plans is part of the Love Plans Series.

New Release: SAILING AWAY PLANS: “A great love story and a second chance at a new life.”

New Release: DATING PLANS: Happiness finally seems within grasp for Matt and Brenda until the bullies in her daughter’s class pull her into their web again.

New Release RESCUE PLANS: Intense, emotional, sensual– Ariana fought hard to escape the slums and become a nurse. Captain Lopez taught her to conquer fear. Can he help her forget the scum from the past and win her trust?

Journey In The Pandemic by Angela Stevens

The Hype

Taking a journey is always an exciting backdrop for a novel. Even in fiction, we look forward to exploring the exotic location and immersing ourselves in the food, culture, and the unfamiliar. We like to see what unique elements a foreign climate will throw at the poor unsuspecting characters, and how they will survive the mayhem. However, when planning my current travel to the UK, I was skeptical about whether I really wanted the twisty-turny plot that the cover and book description (A.K.A The News and Covid) were promising me. Actually, I hoped it would be boring and uneventful. I hoped that, for once, the star characters would reach their HEA (happily-ever-after) in a predictable and timely manner.

Journey

The Book Description

The Hero and Heroine have been watching the news for months, waiting for travel to the UK to open up and stay that way. It has been 3 years since they have seen their family, and there are pressing things for the couple to sort out over there. As soon as things stabilized with travel H and h couldn’t deny their destiny any longer. With flights booked, and fingers crossed, they set off on an adventure with high hopes that their travel would be drama free.

This is the second book in the series, and although nervous about traveling in what appears to be a post-apocalyptic world–or at least a popular dystopian plot–the plucky pair are optimistic. Even though in book 1 they had encountered many plot twists–a hunt for fuel, missing planes, a vanished crew, a pilot inexplicably in Wyoming when they were in Denver airport, a case of the wrong paper work, and a weird side story about the perils of the metric v’s imperial math systems and weight calculation, the main characters believed that this time they were prepared for whatever the author through at them.

The Prologue

After booking flights to England, a whole lot of fun and games ensue. Almost from page one, the reader could pretty much guess how this story was going to turn out. When the threat of quarantining for 10 days had been lifted by a surprising early plot twist– those vaccinated now didn’t have to!–our trusty hero and heroine were lulled into a false sense of security. But of course, by the next page, a whole new set of hurdles to jump over were introduced.

Act 1

Our characters now faced three trials to see if they were worthy of the quest. (Have you noticed, all the best stories have things happen in threes?)
Trial 1: 3 days before flying, a Covid test must be taken. The results received before flying (despite tests results taking 3 days or more to be completed!).
Trial 2: a repeat Covid test to be booked and taken within 2 days of arrival. (Not to mention locating the bizarre, mysterious building that the GPS had never heard of).
Trial 3: the hero and heroine must repeat trial 1 before flying home. And they must do so while taking a side trip to an undisclosed destination across the other side of the country.

This didn’t faze the plucky adventurers. They were more than happy to conform. The last thing they wanted was to endanger any fellow passengers or family they might encounter on their quest in England. They took a trip through the CVS drive through, and by some miracle, procured their results in 24 hours. A little too easy, I thought, the author could have created more drama here. After gathering together important secret documents to prove their victory and filling out an extensive passenger locator form, they headed to the airport. (At this point, I suspected that locator form would become a key plot point later, so I squirreled that away, on the look out for when the characters might whip it out and use it to defy the villain, or perhaps the villain would use it against them.)

The characters journey took them to Charlotte airport where they expected to confront chaos and very slow queues. They had been forewarned of such obstructions by an earlier visit to this location. With test one secured in their baggage, they anticipated the next plot twist, so arrived at the airport three hours early.

Balancing expectations

I expected the worst for the characters. The author had already set up a plethora of dangers for them to face. News story full of travel horrors. People being detained in Customs at Heathrow Airport for more than five hours, fainting from lack of air and access to food and water. Two days before flying, another bad seed was sown, severe fuel shortages due to a lack of lorry drivers, should be expected.

Our heroes made peace with their rocky road. After a little wobble, where they doubted their sanity at taking on this quest, they decided there was no choice, they needed to get to the UK and they were prepared to use a whole year of patience to do it.

Plot twists are over-rated

You know when you pick up a book and expect one type of story but get a whole different one instead, and you read that story thinking any minute now, there is going to be one big plot twist and the story will give you what you expected? Well, this tale is not like that.

Arriving three hours early, the characters were through all the new screening processes at the airport, they had navigated the unprecedented short lines through TSA, and they had arrived at the departure gate in less than twenty minutes. After more than two hours wait, they boarded the plane, which took off on time!

Airplane Angela Stevens

I was still waiting for a twist, but none came. It transpired that the plane was quite empty. Passengers were able to socially distance, and used the extra space to stretch out and have a restful trip. On board food was not only provided, but it was delicious, and they enjoyed a couple of glasses of red wine to celebrate.

They arrived in England an hour early.

Aha! Now there would be trouble. The airport won’t be open and they will encounter zombies in the horrendous queues the news anchor man had forewarned us about. Perhaps that passenger locator form was going to rear its ugly head, too.

But no.

There were no queues and no zombies, just helpful staff, and a straight line through border control, where they received a casual ‘welcome back’ from the guard. They then collected their luggage and were at the car rental before the plane’s scheduled arrival time.

I presumed there would be trouble ahead because the heroes had booked a car for 10 am, but now they were two hours early. Except still their luck didn’t falter. Five minutes later, they were on the motorway, heading north on a four hour car drive to their destination.

Act 2

The characters were on the home straight. But avid readers know this is the part in a novel where things go south. Our hero is lulled into a false high. And then things are turned upside down. So, with rain pouring, they set their jaws and kept a look out for the next plot twist. I was sure it was going to involve running out of gas, but as they crept closer to their destination, the ‘fuel not available’ signs vanished, and beautiful rainbows welcomed them.

Act 3

Never happened.

Instead, the heroes headed unscathed towards a HEA. They found the mysterious building for their covid tests and then performed the second trial. And the results came through in less than twenty-four hours. They saw their family and took care of business. The only challenge they faced was rain and they had no umbrellas.

Summary of the Book

Journey In The Pandemic by Angela Stevens is a very boring novel. The heroes arrived all in one piece, with no hiccups, no delays. And they passed the three trials with flying colors. I have my fingers crossed that the sequel, Return Journey In The Pandemic will go as smoothly. Surprisingly, I have found this author’s lack of imagination quite refreshing. Perhaps there should be more stories where everything has gone to plan. And the stars of the novel do not have to go through hell to get their HEA.

Afterword

Joking aside, I want to thank all the people who made our journey boringly quick and tediously uneventful. Especially in these unprecedented times. Every single person we came into contact with greeted us with a smile. And they helped get us where we needed to be. They did a fantastic job against the backdrop of sensationalized news articles, all while wearing masks for our safety. I for one, would like to knight every bloody one of them. Seriously, they all need a pay raise and, if it wasn’t for covid, a great big hug. It has given me a glimmer of hope. The dystopian-esque novel we’ve been stuck in feels like it is almost over. And I am finally beginning to believe we will reach the end with no more plot twists.

For much more interesting and exciting story lines you can check out Angela Stevens books on Amazon, or sample one of her rom-com stories in the Author’s billboard boxed set Cute but Crazy.

Indiana Jones in Petra

I visited Petra almost ten years ago as part of a cruise that took us from Italy all the way to Singapore, sailing the Mediterranean, crossing the Suez Canal, and continuing through the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean.

The blockbuster film Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade was partly filmed in the ancient city of Petra, a place unknown to much of the world before 1989. Indiana Jones was reviewed as “One of the best action-adventure films of all time,” and “One of the all-time greats. Harrison Ford is perfection-plus as Indiana Jones, so iconic a character that the AFI cited him as the second greatest movie hero of all time.”

“Archeology has never been so cool.”

Located between rugged desert canyons and mountains– in what is now the southwestern corner of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan– Petra was once a thriving trading center and the capital of the Nabataean empire between 400 B.C. and A.D. 106. The city sat empty and in near ruin for centuries. In the early 1800s, a European traveler disguised himself in Bedouin costume and infiltrated the mysterious site. In 1985, the Petra Archaeological Park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site, and in 2007 it was named one of the new seven wonders of the world.

Bab Al Siq’ is Arabic for gateway to the ‘siq’. Here we discovered squared monuments, the massive Djinn blocks, and the Obelisk Tomb, carved in the 1st century AD. Above the tomb are four pyramids as well as a niche with a statue in bas-relief that is a symbolic representation of the five people buried there. An inscription indicated that the tomb was used for Abdomanchos and his family, probably in 40- 70 AD.

The Siq, the main road that leads to the city, is a rock canal that measures 3 to 12 meters in width and reaches up to 80 meters in height. The main part of the Siq is created by natural rock formation and the rest was carved by the Nabataeans.

The siq opens up onto Petra’s most magnificent façade; the Treasury, or Al Khazna (in Arabic). It is almost 40 meters high and intricately decorated with Corinthian capitals, friezes, figures and more. The Treasury consists of two floors with a width of 25.30 meters and a height of 39.1 meters, and comprises three chambers. The most recent excavation has unearthed a graveyard beneath the Treasury. 

Almost three decades ago, George Lucas decided to use the monumental Treasury, the centerpiece of Jordan’s ancient city of Petra, as the exterior of The Temple of the Sun in his movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Cast and crew had to travel all the way to Jordan for just one day of shooting, because that’s all it took to make those scenes work.

The Treasury is crowned by a funerary urn, which according to local legend conceals a pharaoh’s treasure. Although the original function is still a mystery, The Treasury was probably constructed in the 1st century BC. However, in reality the urn represented a memorial for royalty.

While the filmmakers were allowed to have free access to the main entrance chamber, access is prohibited to most mortal visitors. The good news is that the most spectacular part of the location is its exterior – as well as the path you need to take to get there in the first place.

The 1.2 kilometer-long walk through a cleft called The Siq is the only way to access the Treasury and come back to the entrance.

Carved directly into vibrant red, white, pink, and sandstone cliff faces, the prehistoric Jordanian city of Petra was “lost” to the Western world for hundreds of years.

Unfortunately with the pandemic going on for almost two years, I have stopped traveling. Instead I write non-stop and have finished writing a series of eight romance novels, LOVE PLANS. The five first books are on pre-order, and SAILING AWAY PLANS will be released tomorrow.

Love Plans Series:

Sailing Away Plans: The successful surgeon quits work to start a new life in the Caribbean, on his new boat and in a new clinic, but love strikes at the wrong time. [RELEASE DAY 9/2]

Dating Plans: Attraction sizzles between a divorced surgeon and a psychologist with a challenging daughter. Things get more difficult when the teenager’s father returns.

Rescue Plans: Arianna fought hard to escape the slums and become a flight nurse. Captain Lopez taught her to conquer fear. Can he help her forget the scum from the past and win her trust?

Wedding Plans: Will the doctor make the right decision between an angry fiancée and a medical emergency?

Baby Plans: They meet at the artificial insemination clinic. Zach is doing research for an article. Audrey is secretly getting a baby. But artificial insemination works in many ways…