Prescott woman pens mystery

 Anita Kaltenbaugh

Anita Kaltenbaugh

It’s not every day that a romantic trip to the Mexican Riviera leads to a story of intrigue and suspense. Yet that’s exactly what happened to Anita Kaltenbaugh, a travel writer and real estate broker who splits her time between Phoenix and a cabin in Prescott.

Kaltenbaugh, writing as A.K. Smith, will see the release of her debut novel, “A Deep Thing,” on Monday, Dec. 19.

The book, published in digital and print formats by The Wild Rose Press, is billed as contemporary suspense and a high-concept thriller.

“Think ‘The DaVinci Code’ of the deep,” Marilyn Baron, author of “Stumble Stones: A Novel,” said in a press release. “(It) grabs you from the beginning and doesn’t let go.”

The premise: After a tragic diving accident claimed her husband’s life and left her with a broken heart, young widow Kendall Jackson discovers her husband had secrets. Before his death, her husband arranged a diving expedition as a birthday gift for his son. Kendall persuades her estranged stepson to honor his father’s last wish. Together, Kendall and Ryder journey from the campus of Western Maryland College and the woods of Camp David to parts of Arizona and the caves of the Yucatan to discover what he’d worked so hard to hide and protect his secrets from falling into the wrong hands. Their choices will decide not only their fate but the future of others. Will they risk everything for the truth?

“My husband and I took a romantic trip to the Mexican Riviera Maya in the Yucatan and discovered cenotes,” Kaltenbaugh explained via email.

Cenotes are deep, iridescent underwater caves with fresh water. Outside Puerto Morelos, Mexico, there is a road called “Route de Cenotes.” They hired a taxi driver to take them to see one. A jaunt along dirt roads ended in the middle of the jungle.

“He stopped the taxi and let us out and pointed to the woods,” she said. “We walked back a jungle path to a beautiful hole in the ground. The water was luminescent; we were in awe of our surroundings. You can dive, snorkel and swim in these wonders of nature, and the setting was surreal.”

Back home, she couldn’t stop thinking about the cenotes. Why were they so secret and on private land? Why had she never heard of them before?

Kaltenbaugh, who worked at Western Maryland College (now renamed McDaniel College) where her main character worked, also was intrigued by the urban legend of a tunnel going from a campus building to Camp David. Again, she thought “what if.”

“Put secret societies and beautiful jungle caves together and ‘A Deep Thing’ was born,” she said.

The rough draft of the story took a year to write. After another year to complete a few more versions, she pitched the story to The Wild Rose Press at the Las Vegas Writers Conference in April 2015. She signed a contract at the beginning of October 2015 and began preparing the story for its Dec. 19, 2016, release.

Next up, she’s working on another suspense fiction book set on the island of Saba. She also blogs at wordstravelfilm.com, sharing travel advice, book reviews and what movies/binge series to stream on TV.