So you think you know how to deal with everything? Maybe not. Read on, dear readers…

Suppose you’re hiking in a remote area, and you find an isolated valley that isn’t on your map. In the valley is a shack occupied by a clearly inbred family who have, well, interesting lampshades and upholstery, and an unnatural fondness for axes and chainsaws. In this situation, there’s only one thing to do: RUN! Run for your life! Don’t look back, drop your pack if you need speed, and if you hear your buddy screaming, don’t stop – this is “every man for himself” time! The only suggestion for gear is to switch your light hikers for trail running shoes.

Or you find yourselves near an overgrown cemetery or a plague-stricken town filled with cannibal zombies. You don’t have to run quite as quickly; these creatures aren’t terribly intelligent and tend to shamble. Again, the only way to survive is to run. If you have a shotgun, blow the heads off of a couple, as they’ll stop to gorge themselves on their own dead, giving you a head start (no pun intended). If one of your group is bitten, shoot him too. He’ll only turn into one of them.

The worst situation can be avoided by not camping during the three nights of the full moon. If you do find yourself in a tent under a full moon, realize those snufflings and growlings outside your tent probably aren’t rabid raccoons. No, dear readers, they’re werewolves. Your only defense is silver – silver bullets, silver-filled shotgun shells, even a silver letter-opener. A multi-purpose tool may do enough damage to slow a werewolf down, but remember, they’re faster than you, and smarter than the living dead. Try to barricade yourself into your tent or a cave, and don’t come out until daylight. Then GO HOME!

(oops — Don’t forget about vampires! Carry lots of garlic, a flask of holy water, and several wooden stakes. In a pinch you can make stakes from tree branches with your Swiss Army knife!)

And that should keep you ready for anything.

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Fern Hill, a fellow member of Women Writing the West, was kind enough to send me an ARC copy of her latest work, Charley’s Choice: The Life and Times of Charley Parkhurst. I loved the book. I’m sharing my review with anyone who cares to read my blog! (OK, don’t know what’s up with the underlines, but can’t seem to get rid of them — sorry!)

Charley’s Choice is not the typical type or genre of book that I pick up and read — but I’m really glad that I did choose it. Ms. Hill hooked me on the first page, which is actually the end of Charley’s story. There was a mystery there, and I needed, not just wanted, but NEEDED, to follow the clues through the rest of the book.

The first chapter, after “The End,” took me to the beginning of Charley’s story, as a child in an early 19th century orphanage. A girl, Charley abandoned her dresses for boys clothing, to more easily run, climb trees, and sneak into the stable for time with the horse. Horses were what she loved, and all that she wanted to do with her life revolved around them.

After a tragedy, Charley makes her first choices. She runs away from the orphanage, disguises herself and calls herself a boy, and eventually finds a job working with horses in a livery stable.

In Hill’s deft hands, Charley comes vividly to life in that first paragraph of her story — a living child. Although quite young, Charley realizes the limited choices for women in her time and world. She decieds to live as a man and be responsible for her own life. The story describes the increasing difficulties of that decision as she matures both physically and emotionally, but through the joys and tragedies of her live, she sticks to her guns and continues to make her own choices right up to the way she dies.

In the hands of a lesser writer, this story could have rung false or dropped to a maudlin level at points. Fern Hill obviously came to “know” Charley Parkhurst through her research and as she wrote the book. She loves Charley, but portrays her honestly, warts and all. Charley isn’t idolized, though her many quite amazing accomplishments shine through her down-to-earth “auto-biography.” Her mistakes, and how she copes — or sometimes fails to cope — with personal tragedies, help make Charley a believable person. Not a character, not a heroine, but a flesh and blood person I wish I could have met. Although through Fern Hill’s writing, I feel as if I have.

Buy this book, read it, and pass it on to anyone and everyone you know who loves a good story. You won’t regret it, and your friends will thank you for introducing them to Charley Parkhurst and Fern Hill.