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Nice Article about my book...

The Mariposa Gazette, perched just outside Yosemite National Park, and the oldest continuously published newspaper in California, did a nice feature on Danger: Falling Rocks.

What did Paul Wagner do when his daughter moved to Argentina and ran out of reading material? He wrote her a book.

Penning critically acclaimed Danger: Falling Rocks took the Napa man outside his comfort zone. Wagner’s debut mystery novel set in the Stanislaus National Forest and influenced by his own experiences in the wilderness — was officially released online and at local bookstores earlier this week.

“I hope that as people read this book, they will develop a certain amount of affection for a couple of the characters,” said Wagner, who owns a cabin in Tuolumne County. “Because I certainly have. I like these two guys. I think they’re really fun to hang out with.”

Danger: Falling Rocks follows a ranger and sheriff as they investigate fictional murders near the Summit Ranger Station in the Stanislaus National Forest. Paperback copies can be purchased on websites like Amazon and Barnes & Noble for $20. Four sequels will publish in the next two years.

A good review from his faraway daughter pushed Wagner to continue fleshing out the series. All the books are shaped by his own time in the Sierra Nevada. He estimated he’s hiked more than 2,000 miles in the area, and he’s also donated time to restoring the Hite Cove trail in El Portal.

“I love doing that,” he said. “And I love getting out in the mountains and all. And it always just struck me that in a lot of cases, the people I would meet, whether they were a ranger or whether they were a trail volunteer, were pretty good, pretty interesting people.”

He strove to capture those personalities in Danger: Falling Rocks. Ranger Dan Courtwright is the hero of the story, and his character is based on a combination of mountain loving folks Wagner’s met through the years.

“We have a cabin up above Sonora, and we’ve probably done more backpacking in the Emigrant Wilderness than anywhere else,” Wagner explained. “So I thought, let’s put the first one in the Emigrant Wilderness. And let’s have him work out of that Summit Ranger Station up above Sonora.”

Wagner wants readers to reach the end of the book and enjoy the ride. Writing the novels has changed him. It’s made him conscious of the fact that so much of his previous writing career in the communications industry involved taking facts and boiling them into a cohesive and interesting narrative.

The freedom of creating his own world has allowed Wagner to invent his own realities. He believes that has helped him further develop his craftsmanship.

“I think … that writing the novels actually helped me become a better storyteller in the other half of my life,” Wagner said.

More of his finished material could be published after the five-part Dan Courtwright saga wraps up. Wagner has also written a book inspired by Giovanni Boccaccio’s Tales from the Decameron. Wagner’s modern adaptation is named Tales from the Decamperon and shares 10 true campfire stories.

“They say write about what you know,” Wagner said, “and I absolutely do that. To me, that’s the joy. Realizing there are things you’ve experienced in your life that would be entertaining and fun for other people to know about.”

His advice to writers is to focus on a specific audience every time they sit down with a pen or keyboard. When he worked in communications, for example, he wrote press releases with the reporter at the local newspaper in mind. Creating Danger: Falling Rocks specifically for his daughter helped guide him to the final product.

“I think what really helped me write the book was knowing I’m writing for this for a specific person,” Wagner said. “I’m writing this for my daughter. And so I had her in mind with every little turn or phrase.”

Rick Kushman, a New York Times best-selling author, said the book’s “zippy writing keeps the story moving along the Sierra trails, through the lineup of interesting, quirky characters, and down the winding mystery path until the satisfying end.”

Chip Morrill, an ex-U.S. Forest Service wilderness ranger, said Danger: Falling Rocks is “an enjoyable read and reflects a lifestyle that not many people are blessed to lead. As a practitioner of this way of life and a pursuer of wilderness settings, this reading has my seal of approval.”

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