After a career as a Seattle newspaper reporter, Carole Beers knew she wanted to return to the Rogue Valley, where she had grown up.
Now retired, Beers has achieved two dreams — moving back and publishing a book in which Rogue Valley locales feature prominently.
Her novel "Saddle Tramps" follows the adventures of a persistent, wise-cracking heroine intent on figuring out who killed a valuable show horse.
"I always felt in my heart I would return to the Rogue Valley," Beers said. "I felt a gratitude toward it. I wanted to share my love for all the natural features, the history, the flora and fauna, the culture and the warm community feeling."
A Grants Pass resident, Beers is a member of the Ashland-based Monday Mayhem writers group, which she credits with helping her get published.
Group members not only recommended promising agents and publishers, they have rigorous expectations.
"You are critiqued honestly — for good and for bad. We're encouraged to write 20 pages every two weeks. It keeps you writing with a goal in mind, whether it's a short story, book or play," she said.
Beers said she had a rough outline in mind when she started her book, then let her strong, colorful characters take over.
The main character, experienced horsewoman and former reporter Pepper Kane, has a keen wit and unquenchable curiosity.
When someone gives a black-and-white stallion named Dark Vader an injection, causing him to drop dead in his stall, Kane's investigative urges kick in.
"As I wrote, the character almost decided what she wanted to do," Beers said. "When you create characters that seem real to you, you find that they do surprising things."
She has created a believable cast of characters who are not only the friends and acquaintances of Pepper Kane, but suspects in the mystery.
One friend was leasing Dark Vader as show horse and hoped to win enough prize money to buy the hair salon where he works. But then a wealthy woman bought the horse out from under him, spoiling his dreams.
Two other rich competitors — a mother and daughter duo — may have wanted to off Dark Vader and eliminate a strong competitor to their own show horses.
While Kane is poking into the mystery, she is also juggling a full life. Covering the costs of her own show horse is not cheap, and her tack and apparel shop in Gold Hill is about to go under as she struggles to pay the rent. She also helps out her aging parents.
"She's an older heroine in her 50s," Beers said. "I like the idea of having a realistic person. I didn't want her to be too privileged. I wanted her to have normal problems."
Beers said she didn't want to write a grisly crime novel or hard-edged Western.
"I wanted to have an amateur sleuth solve a mystery involving horses," she said. "I wanted to write the kind of book I would like to read."
Beers is at work on a sequel.
"Saddle Tramps" is available at Bloomsbury Books, 290 E. Main St., Ashland and other area bookstores.
Beers and fellow members of the Monday Mayhem writers group will have a table and offer their books from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8, during the Ashland Literary Festival at Southern Oregon University's Hannon Library.
The group will also take part in a panel discussion titled "You're Killing Me: Why a Writers' Group?"
Beers will read from and sign copies of her book at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 13, at Bloomsbury Books.
Visit caroletbeers.com for more information about the book, Beers and upcoming events.
Reach staff reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.