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Embracing Your Inner Wild - Guest Post by Margaret Mizushima

My family moved to Colorado when I was a young teen, and I’ve been drawn to the mountain wilderness to explore hiking trails and peaks ever since. The seasons shift dramatically in the high country. Winter brings snowfall to the ski resorts, in springtime waterways swell with snowmelt while hillsides burst with wildflowers, and sometimes—like this year—summer brings the threat of drought and wildfires.

My favorite season is autumn, when the great outdoors beckons with a dazzling display of color. Aspen dot the mountainsides with pockets of yellow, gold, and orange against a backdrop of greens and blues from endless forests of pine and spruce. I’m a slow hiker, often stepping aside on the trail to let others pass. But my pace allows for taking in the sights and scents of the high country and for stopping at scenic overlooks to catch my breath and take pictures.

Though I grew up in the San Luis Valley of Colorado, now I live in the northern part of the state, only an hour’s drive from one of the most beautiful spots on earth—Rocky Mountain National Park. The park is a protected sanctuary for many different species of wild animals. In the fall, I love to linger there at dusk to listen to the elk bugle as they come down from the mountains into the meadows. It’s a thrill to hear their melodic whistle echo from the hills, the sound traveling closer and closer until the elk finally appear through the trees. The cows graze on the meadow grass while the bulls spar.

My time hiking the Sangre de Cristo mountain range when I was a kid and that spent in the park as an adult inspired the fictional setting in my Timber Creek K-9 Mysteries. Wild spaces seem dark and full of mystery—what better stage for outdoor mysteries packed with action and adventure?

The Timber Creek K-9 Mysteries feature Deputy Mattie Cobb, her K-9 partner Robo, and veterinarian Cole Walker. The books are set in the fictional community of Timber Creek, which is surrounded by the Colorado mountains and national forest. When drug trafficking threatens their small town, local merchants and ranchers raise money for the sheriff’s department to purchase Robo, a German shepherd trained in narcotics detection and patrol.

Although Mattie has served as a deputy for seven years, her assignment as Robo’s handler is a new experience for her. As a survivor of childhood abuse, Mattie is a loner and slow to trust; but she can’t help but be drawn into a trusting relationship with her new partner. The animal-human bond does much to promote emotional healing, and each episode in the series shows Mattie’s growth as her bond with Robo deepens.

Cole Walker is newly divorced after his wife left him to raise their two daughters alone. He’s a busy veterinarian in a solo practice, but he’s determined to learn how to be a good parent and to carve out time to be with his children. Circumstances often draw Cole into the murder investigations that Mattie deals with, giving him a role in finding evidence, supporting the investigative team by providing horses for riding into the high country, or taking care of Robo as his doctor. Cole and Mattie grow closer as the series progresses. Although each mystery stands alone, readers who want to follow the characters’ stories might enjoy starting with book one, Killing Trail.

There are six books in the series, the latest titled Hanging Falls. In this episode, heavy flooding invades the high ground near Hanging Falls, a beautiful spot high up in the wilderness near Timber Creek. Mattie and Robo find a body floating at the edge of a lake, and they’re needed to help investigate, forcing Mattie to delay her trip to meet long lost family. As a list of suspects grows, her relatives visit, shedding light on her childhood abduction—but darkness threatens another victim before Mattie and Robo can track down the killers.

I love writing these outdoor, high country mysteries. Now that I’m older and not able to hike as far or climb as high as I used to, they give me the opportunity to go into my fictional world and embrace my inner wild. Reading can do that, too. If you like outdoor mysteries, I invite you to visit Timber Creek, Colorado, and spend time with Mattie and Robo.

Margaret Mizushima is the author of the award-winning and internationally published Timber Creek K-9 Mysteries. Margaret serves as president for the Rocky Mountain Chapter of Mystery Writers of America, was elected the 2019-2020 Writer of the Year by Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, and is also a member of Northern Colorado Writers and Sisters in Crime. She lives in Colorado on a small ranch with her veterinarian husband where they raised two daughters and a multitude of animals. She can be found on Facebook/AuthorMargaretMizushima, Twitter @margmizu, Instagram at margmizu, and her website at www.margaretmizushima.com.

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