Finding a mystery when you least expect it.

Chimney Rock National Monument rises up from the landscape just west of Pagosa Springs.

Sculptured by wind, weather, and time, the great sandstone sculpture has long been considered by Native Americans as a sacred site, harboring the spirits of their ancestors.

How do you decide on a great location for a novel?

Like all good ideas, the spark doesn’t come easily.

Sometimes you wonder if the spark will come at all.

Take my wife’s cozy mysteries, for example.

For her first novel, The Mah Jongg Murders, Linda did not have to wander too far past our front door.

We live in a quiet, secluded, gated community deep in the timbered hillsides of East Texas.

Step on our front porch, and you can see the lake at the bottom of the hill.

So Linda set her story in a mythical little East Texas gated community called Leisure Lake.

It felt a lot like home.

For her second mystery, Deadly Dominoes, she wanted a mysterious part of the world that had an RV Park.

She settled on Caddo Lake.

It was steeped in legends.

It was just down the road from Jefferson, which has more ghosts than tourists.

Spanish moss hangs like ancient gray beards from the limbs of the cypress trees.

Want a mystery?

Caddo has one.

And you don’t have to look very far or for very long.

Linda has begun writing novel number three, Tarot Terrors.

She wanted her curious and snooping heroine, Lillian Prestridge, to travel west and surround herself with the spirits, the legends, the aged wisdom of the Navajo.

She had decided on Sedona, the Red Rock country of Arizona.

It was perfect.

She had no doubts about it.

We spent last week in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, nestled against the peaks and valleys of Wolf Creek Pass, which looks as if it could well be the backbone of the Rocky Mountains.

We ventured to Chimney Rock, the most recognizable landmark of the surrounding high country.

It rose up like a great sphinx.

It was once the home of a Pueblo civilization that suddenly vanished.

It is strange.

It is mystical.

It is haunting.

Sculptured by wind, weather, and time, the great sandstone sculpture has long been considered by Native Americans as a sacred site, harboring the spirits of their ancestors.

Chimney Rock itself is a formidable mystery.

Ruins of the Great House lie in the shadows of Chimney Rock.

The rock is more than 535 million years old and once overlooked a community of more than two thousand ancient Pueblo Indians. The stone ruins of a kiva, which had two hundred rooms, sprawl on a mountain ridge beneath the rock.

It is believed that the Great House was first built in 1076 between a lunar standstill and finished in 1093 during another. As the moon makes its lunar cycle across the sky over a period of eighteen years and six months, it appears in a lunar standstill above Chimney Rock every nine years and three months, lasting for a period of two years.

Want a mystery?

Chimney Rock has it.

As we walked away, Linda told me, “Forget Sedona.”


“We’re not going there.”

“Why not?”

“I’m locating Tarot Terrors in Pagosa Springs.

We walked on down the mountain, and I asked the inevitable question, “What about the tarot cards?”

“Don’t worry,” she said.

“Why not.”

“I have an appointment with Anna at two o’clock tomorrow.”

“Who’s Anna?”

Linda smiled. “She reads tarot cards,” she said.

I took my map of Arizona and dropped it in the trash.

Please click HERE to purchase your copy of The Mah Jongg Murders from Amazon.

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  • And the book will be even better because she has immersed herself in the landscape. It seeps into your bones when you spend enough time there, and your bone marrow changes to exude the right thoughts.

    • Caleb Pirtle

      Extremely well said, Alicia. We write from the heart and soul, and if we spend some time with the land and the setting, they become part of our heart and soul. They become the words we could not have written otherwise. Linda left Pagosa Springs with a new fire for writing her novel.

  • Linda Pirtle

    One of my main characters has a vision quest high on a mesa overlooking Pagosa Springs with Chimney Rock in the distance. When will she meet Lillian? In the near future.

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