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Find Your Summer Dig

Not everyone’s vacations are the same. In fact, many archaeology students and others interested in the field look forward to spending their summer vacation months in the dirt at an archaeological dig, sponsored by universities, museums, and historical societies all over the planet. Most trips are organized through universities or university-related programs. In HEARTS IN RUIN, a Southwestern university initiates a dig as an instructional site for a number of years and then abandons the project. That summer, a Midwestern college takes up the project to continue the dig. Following is an excerpt of HEARTS IN RUIN, providing just a taste of the project and the conflicts in play. Following that is a list of some of the archaeological digs expected to be conducted in the West and Southwest this summer.


The following scene takes place as routines are beginning to set in at the dig. Andrea and Daniel have had an intimate moment recently, but have not discussed it since. Andrea is skeptical of Daniel’s theories about the age of the site. But in this scene, Andrea discovers something she does not expect–in fact, something far outside her expectations that changes the course of conflicts in the story.

Under the mid-morning sun, Andrea helped Chloe and Courtney with an interesting shard. She noted the position and strata evidence and corrected Chloe’s photographic technique. But the item seemed, even though the evidence was sound, to be in the wrong place.

She scanned the area. The strata was clear. She decided to check it against the vertical. Daniel was there, lost in thought. “You mind?” she interrupted.

He looked slightly startled. “No, of course not.”

Andrea stepped past him.

He jotted notes in a field book, closed it, and walked away toward the lab tent.

Is he trying not to talk?

Andrea shrugged it off. She reviewed the strata and crouched at the two-thirds point. A strata mix caught her eye. Where the lines should have continued consistently from one side to the other, a gap appeared, line after line, creating a very thin column of earth-tone that interrupted the lines. It appeared to be a hole—a hole that had been carefully dug and filled ages ago. Only the smallest part of it showed. The vertical trench had either almost completely dug up what had been the fill in the ancient hole, or, if she was lucky, had only barely sliced into it. She scraped slightly. The column broadened. Most of the hole and its fill were still there, intact. Yes! These were the nuggets of the past archaeologists lived for. She took photos and notes, meticulously recording all pertinent data, and then traced the column to its bottom, searching for whatever had been, hopefully, buried there.

In her experience, not many things were buried during the Clovis period. She might find remains. That would be a score. She might find trash. Also a score from an archaeological perspective. But when she located the bottom, she noted an object that might not be either. She brushed away at it, taking notes and photos as she progressed.

Finally, the nature of the small object was clear. A small vessel. A bowl. It was wrapped in something, leaves, large leaves, something organic. But the entire setup was puzzling. Even the top of the hole was too low according to Daniel’s numbers. But there it was. There were clear, unbroken strata directly above it. The hole had been dug unbelievably early. Pre-Clovis.

She studied the artifact in place. It appeared to have artwork, but also…no, that wouldn’t be possible, not for something this old. It had to be something else. But its markings had the unmistakable characteristics of…written language?


Many of the following digs continue from year to year. Some are certain to take place again this summer, while a few are merely highly probable. This list focuses on the west and southwest. But there are digs all over the United States and the world and it would not be hard to find a dig close to you, wherever you are, with a little diligent internet searching.

Chaco Stratigraphy Project (New Mexico)
University of New Mexico. Chaco was the center of an unprecedented cultural development between ca. AD 800 and 1200 known as the “Chaco Phenomenon.” During this period, people living in and around the canyon experienced an explosive episode of economic growth that culminated in the construction of large masonry buildings called “great houses.”

Cooper’s Ferry (Idaho)
Oregon State University. Cooper’s Ferry is an early Paleoindian site in the Salmon River valley of Idaho since 2009. The site has a long record of repeated human occupation, beginning with a Western Stemmed Tradition/Paleoarchaic artifact assemblage. See the article Fieldwork in Focus: Cooper’s Ferry for additional information.

Crow Canyon Archaeology Adventures (Colorado)
The Crow Canyon Archaeological Center continues its on-going research on ancient Pueblo Indian communities with weekly dig programs for adults, teens, families, teachers, and other groups.

Greater Yellowstone (Montana)
Indiana University. This field school is a holistic, field-based program in the social history and human ecology of the Northwestern High Plains and Middle Rocky Mountains with a special emphasis on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. If you like camping, hiking, and archaeology, this field school is for you

Rock Art Ranch (Arizona)
University of Arizona. Rock Art Ranch contains some of the most spectacular rock art in the Southwest, dating from 6000 BC to AD 1400, all of which has been documented. The ranch lies in the high desert at 5100’ elevation, in an area used over the past eight thousand years by mobile hunting and gathering groups, early farmers, and later, after A.D. 500, by more sedentary farmers representing archaeological cultures of the adjacent Mogollon Rim and Colorado Plateau regions.

Totah Archaeological Project (New Mexico, USA)
San Juan College and B-Square Ranch. The Totah Archaeological Project Field School is being offered and supported by San Juan College in partnership with Tommy Bolack and the B-Square Ranch. The goal of the project is to provide archaeological educational opportunities for San Juan College students, local community members, and visitors to the region, and to contribute to research on the Anasazi culture in the Totah area.

Wind Wolves (California)
Institute for Field Research (UCLA). Since 2005, the Enculturating Environments Project has been investigating rock-art, habitation, and special-purpose sites throughout the Wildlands Conservancy’s Wind Wolves Preserve. This field school will continue this work throughout the preserve with particular focus on the only known Chumash cache cave having extensive perishable material remaining in situ.


Following is what some of the early readers of HEARTS AND RUIN have to say about the archaeology in the story:

  • “…a realistic view of the challenges involved with an archaeological dig”
  • “…a wonderful portrayal of sexy archaeologists doing a legitimate archaeological dig.”
  • “This is an entertaining and informative novel where the author has taken us on a dig with him. Never had an idea of how complex this is as a long, arduous task where dedication and discipline (and some times years) is required.”
  • It is that rare combination read of intelligence, suspense, and a building love story(ies) that makes you snarl at family members who break in on your reading time because it’s time to fix dinner. It also made me chew over my life choices as to why I didn’t become an archaeologist and is it too late to start a new career.”
  • Use of details about how a dig comes about and is managed entertain and move us through the plot to become an integral part of the story.”


EBOOKS–Here to Stay and Then Some…

HEARTS IN RUIN is published as an eBook by Liquid Silver Books, an experienced eBook publisher. As such, the book is marketed as one of many eBooks that continue to rise in popularity and challenge the 570-year reign of printed tomes.

A quick look at known sales figures for the past couple of years shows an explosion in sales up to about 2011 (a Reuters article reported that electronic books “more than doubled in popularity in 2011″), and a slight slowdown in 2012.

But based on the publishers’ practices, and the clear focus of the Romance Writers of America at the 2012 Annual Conference in California (and what we are all seeing in the office, the lunch room, home, and on outlets like Amazon), it seems clear the pace has picked up again. According to one article (by Tom Corson-Knowles on, reviewing a Pricewaterhouse Coopers report of the Total United States Consumer book market, the 2013 picture should be something like this, in terms of dollars:

eBooks are cheaper than physical books, and particularly in fiction, it’s likely that eBooks have outsold hardcover books (in number of works sold–probably not dollars spent).

The use of eBooks is growing in more than just fiction. School Library Journal’s 4th Annual Survey of eBook Usage in U.S. K-12 Libraries extrapolates an estimated $73 million spent on eBooks in U.S. schools in the 2012-13 school year, and since the prior survey, the percentage of school resource budgets spent on eBooks has nearly doubled, with an expected triple of that budget by 2018.

Yes, there is still something wonderful about a physical book. We clutter my walls with shelves of them (not to mention certain floors, drawers, and other previously open spaces).  And for reference books, it’s nice to have a tabletop full of open books, comparing pages, sections and illustrations. But sometimes, the inability to do something simple, like word-search or change the font, makes the eBook format more attractive.

Projections vary. There is not a foreseeable future in which physical books don’t exist (at least not in a future in which people still exist to read them), but eBooks will continue their invasion into the mainstream for quite awhile. In the short term, the Pricewaterhouse Coopers projection for the 2016 U.S. Book Market seems reasonable.

The trend will probably continue from there for at least a few more years. More interesting are the changes to the industry these figures imply. eBooks are easier and cheaper to produce and market. Self publishing is consequently easier. Markets have developed, and will continue to develop, to take all of these changes into account, and in the end, the book consumer, and hopefully writers as well, should benefit.

Liquid Silver Books

Everyone should fall madly in love at least once … a day

lsblogoHEARTS IN RUIN is published by Liquid Silver Books–an eBook publisher with more than fourteen years experience in publishing digital books.

From Liquid Silver Books:

The greatest of passions can be set alight by a single glance or the right romance novel. Liquid Silver Books has been turning good stories into good books for over 14 years. LSB offers a full line of romance genres in all heat level from classic sweet to edgy intense. Romance readers worldwide have discovered Liquid Silver Books gives the idea of reading under the covers a whole new meaning! Sexy, Sultry, Sensuous . . . Liquid Silver is hot!

The awesome staff at Liquid Silver Books includes:

  • Founder/Owner Raven Moore
  • General Manager Roscoe James
  • Sales & Marketing Manager Michelle Hoppe
  • Editorial Director Terri Schaefer
  • Assistant Production Manager Maria Davis
  • Sales and Marketing Assistant Terri Fanchin
  • Marketing Art Assistant Valerie Tibbs
  • And the Editor for HEARTS IN RUIN is the wonderful Ansley Blackstock.

To see the latest LSB releases, CLICK HERE.

Last November, ARe Cafe spotlighted Liquid Silver Books with the following observations:

Genres: Liquid Silver Books publishes most sub-genres of erotic romance. LSB also offers a selection of sweeter romances, and has launched a line of retro romances called Liquid Gold Classics.

Noted Authors: Eve LanglaisBecca JamesonRosanna LeoBonnie Dee

Liquid Silver Books has racked up quite a few awards over the years. Winners include Mercy of These Bones by Vivien Dean (EPIC Award) and One Night Stand by Parker Kincaide (RomCon Reader’s Crown).

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Comparing Clovis DNA with Modern and Pre-Clovis Sequences

The mystery of humanity’s occupation of the continent is not mere fiction. Evidence continues to challenge past presumptions, including recent DNA sequencing of skeletal remains.

Migratory route of first humans to reach Ameri...
Migratory route of first humans to reach America, through an ice free corridor (Clovis theory). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The “Anzick” skeleton of a small boy dating from Clovis period time (11,500-9,500 BCE) was found in Montana many years ago. Radiocarbon dating of the burial show the burial is dated at 10,600 BCE. Scientists have sequenced the boy’s full genome and have found it closely related to all modern Native Americans. This result may be very contrary to an idea that the Clovis people were from a Solutrean group from Europe. The DNA study shows also that there is a deep divergence between northern Native Americans and those from Central and South America that happened before the Clovis era.

For more CLICK HERE.

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Oldest Human Footprints in North America Identified

A hunter-gatherer who trekked through a desert oasis a hundred centuries ago left the continent’s most lasting impression: the oldest known human footprints in North America.

There are only two of them — one left and one right — but the ancient traveler’s path through mineral-rich sediment in the Chihuahuan Desert allowed them to become enshrined in stone, and now dated, some 10,500 years later.

Fossil human footprints
These two human prints, originally discovered in 1961, have been dated to be about 10,550 years old. (Photo courtesy Arturo Gonzalez)

“To my knowledge the oldest human prints previously reported in North America are around 6,000 years old, so the … prints pre-date these by some 5,000 years,” said Dr. Nicholas Felstead, a geoarchaeologist at Durham University who led a new analysis of the prints.

The tracks were first discovered during highway construction in northeastern Mexico, about 300 kilometers from the Texas border, in 1961. They were excavated and taken to a local museum for study, but their precise location was lost to history.

A search for the site in 2006 came up empty, but it did turn up an additional 11 tracks in the general area where the original prints were believed to have been found — a marshy, spring-fed desert refuge known as Cuatro Ciénegas.

Felstead and his team were able to date the tracks because they were preserved in travertine, a sedimentary rock that contains minute traces of uranium from the waters in which it formed.“Both sets of prints are ones that have been identified before and are the only reported footprints in the Cuatro Ciénegas Basin, but neither have previously been dated,” Felstead said in an interview.

Since uranium decays into the element thorium at predictable rates, the scientists were able to measure the ratio of those materials to determine the specimens’ ages.

Their results showed that the pair of tracks discovered in 1961, now housed at Saltillo’s Museo del Desierto, were about 10,550 years old.

The 11 other prints, which remain where they were found in a Cuatro Ciénegas quarry, dated back about 7,250 years, according to the research.

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Writer’s Kaboodle Interview

It was an honor to be interviewed this evening by Sezoni Whitfield at Writer’s Kaboodle. Writer’s Kaboodle is a networking site for book lovers, writers and best-selling authors everywhere. Its hashtag, #WritersKaboodle, is its conversation forum where readers and writers can find discussions about new releases, read recommendations, writing tips and useful resources.

Below is the text of the interview, including comments and questions from guests invited to the interview.

Sezoni Whitfield: Hi J. C. Conway! Welcome to the chat on ‎Writer’s Kaboodle.

J. C. Conway: Thank you for having me.

SW: Could you tell us a little about your book HEARTS IN RUIN?

JC: Sure. It’s about two archaeologists, Andrea and Daniel, who differ passionately in their views about how to handle some extraordinary and controversially old artifacts at a remote New Mexico dig. Add to that the problem of being extremely attracted to each other, and then the activities of at least two outside forces that work hard and effectively to sabotage or even destroy the site before its significance can be documented, and you have the main story. The most important side story takes place some 20,000 years ago during a tragic climatic change caused by a celestial impact. The plight of those characters, and what remains of them, is at the heart of the mystery Daniel and Andrea are striving to uncover.

SW: When was Hearts in Ruin published?

JC: It came out May 5 — Cinco de Mayo — 2014. It’s an eBook.

SW: What is the genre and what inspired you to write the Hearts in Ruin?

JC: Hearts in Ruin is a contemporary romance and suspense story. The characters and the underlying mystery they are trying to solve actually came to me as I was researching celestial impacts. There have been many climate changing impacts in the dim past. I didn’t want to write a story all about that. But the remnants of one of those hits, and the effect it had on the ancient people of the time, made a great foundation for the conflict in the story. Daniel and Andrea, of course, are modern archaeologists, steeped in academia, each in their own way.

SW: Which character would you like to introduce this evening?

JC: Let’s introduce Andrea. She’s the character that gets the most point-of-view time. She is a doctoral candidate in archaeology. She’s worked very hard for many years to earn her position as the top-ranking graduate student in her department. She is planning to run her own dig this year and finish her dissertation. Then her dig is whisked away from her by an outsider, Daniel.

SW: How do you come up with so much information to write about?

JC: Well, it depends. When it comes to the people, I write until they come to life for me. Andrea, for instance, has a strong personality, she’s confrontational and blunt, she’s also incredibly smart and has a great deal of integrity. I have no idea where she came from. But now that I know her, it was a snap to find the conflict that would bother her the most. She had to be in a position where her own integrity was compromised and she felt cornered into a betrayal. If we’re talking about the foundations of the story, the schools, the site, the archaeology and its nuances, I research. I talk to people. I draw on my own experiences. I surf the internet like a madman looking for authentic people involved in a real way with the things I need to learn.

SW: Can we order Hearts in Ruin directly from you? Or on a publishing site?

JC: Not from me. It is available quite a few places. Here are a few links:

LSB is Liquid Silver Books. The publisher.

SW: If readers want an autographed copy of Hearts in Ruin, what should they do?

JC: That’s a question I’m still pondering — how to autograph an eBook. I’ve signed anthologies with my short stories in them. I would love to do the same with this book. Until and if it gets into print, I guess the best I can do is autograph a printed cover page, which would be kinda cool–at least I’d appreciate it from an author I like. For something like that, anyone can just contact me on Facebook and I’ll figure out how to get it done.

Judy Rosine Hyp (Guest): I just ordered it for my nook! I don’t normally read romance but it actually sounds interesting and more than just romance.

JC: Thanks Judy — yes, while it is a romance and published by a romance publisher, there are some readers that have come up to me and said they felt it was more of a mystery or suspense, and they really enjoyed it that way.

SW: Woohoo! Judy Rosine Hyp thank you for ordering J. C. Conway’s book!

JC: Yes, thank you very much. I hope you thoroughly enjoy the story!

SW: J. C., is Hearts in Ruin available in Kindle and paperback as well?

JRH: I love mystery and suspense!

JC: That’s ideal. Throw in a romance, and that’s what you’ve got.

SW: Judy, feel free to ask J. C. questions about his book.

JRH: Sounds good! I will post on Sezoni’s wall when I am done with it!

SW: J. C., what is the takeaway for the reader?

JC: That would be wonderful, Judy! I’ve only had four reviews so far on Amazon from customers. They’ve all liked it. But I’m certainly anxious to hear more from readers and how they feel about it.

SW: Judy, that would be awesome!

JC: Sezoni Whitfield I guess it’s that there are always more questions than answers, but that’s fine, so long as it is approached with an open mind and being true to yourself. Both of the main characters in this book have to look inside, question their motives, and reconcile that with their actions. Without that, they don’t have a chance against their other troubles.

SW: J. C., what advice do you have for writers who want to become better writers?

JC: There is a lot of good advice out there. Seek it out. Everyone is different. For me, I feel it is most important to (a) dedicate time to writing, and (b) study the craft. It’s tough to take critiques at the beginning. But that’s how you learn fastest. Develop the thick skin it takes to be told your work could be better, and plow forward. Study, write, study write.

Kris Lynn (Guest): Hi, just chiming in – hope it’s not too late. I like the last question – anxious to get your reply J. C. Conway. You are such a good writer, how did you do it – what path did you take to achieve your goals?

JC: Hi Kris! Thank you! I took pretty much that path. I thought I was good when I was younger, but it took quite a few years before I realized that kind of good wasn’t good enough. I dropped the ego and started listening, learning and practicing!

JRH: You didn’t mention Bin……yes I down loaded and starting reading it!

KL: Great answer. And it helps to have a thick skin about people’s reactions, edits, and so forth. I know you are always perfecting your craft.

JC: Judy — Yes. I like Bin and Tala. They appear in the prologue, and you will see them again … they’ve got quite a story of their own.

SW: Hi Kris! Are you currently reading Hearts in Ruin?

JC: Kris — It’s a never ending thing, isn’t it?

JRH: Ok I’m going to check out now. I want to read! Thank you!

JC: Thank you, Judy!

SW: J.C., do you have a favorite quote you’d like to share before we go?

KL: Hi, I’m not sure what protocol is for these Facebook things. I am reading Hearts in Ruin and I was immediately engaged in the story. J. C., there are some similarities in my story to yours, so I am reading (and writing because now I really want to finish my book! I’m jealous) yours closely. Not only for the characters and story, but how you deal with the archaeological side of things.

JC: I like Philip K. Dick’s quote, which appears in VALIS, and I think also in I Hope I shall Arrive Soon — “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.”

SW: Kris, let me know if you want to do an interview on Facebook when your book releases. Just send me an e-mail to

JC: This has been a lot of fun, Sezoni Whitfield. Thank you very much for hosting. Kris Lynn, definitely take her up on the invitation. I am looking forward to you publishing your work.

KL: Oh my gosh. I will definitely like to do that. I hope to finish in the next couple of weeks with the first draft. Still need to revise etc. etc. So, I’m a ways out. So happy for J. C. This is a terrific book.

SW: J. C., thank you for joining us this evening! We enjoyed learning about Hearts in Ruin.

KL: Goodbye and keep writing, J. C. On to the next book!

JC: Thank you. Have a wonderful evening.

SW: Kris and Judy, Thank you both for participating in the chat! Judy, I’m glad you found something good to read!

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