5.0 out of 5 stars Great story about wildland firefighters
Reviewed in the United States on June 16, 2020
I don't normally read romance novels, but I was intrigued by the wildlands firefighter twist. Paige did an excellent job of taking you into the heat of the battle against the blazing wildfires in Alaska. Very exciting and well written.
April rated it it was amazing 5 stars
Alaska Spark is a riveting story inspired by the author’s real life experiences as a firefighter and smokejumper and it sucked me in straight away. I love anything that has real-life experiences woven into it.
This is an exhilarating, action-packed romance novel. The author knows how to paint a picture with words like very few can. The characters, the fires, the Alaskan landscape, the smoke inhalation and a certain sexy kiss jump off the pages. I felt like I couldn’t read or turn the pages fast enough.
The female character is smart, strong and relatable—but she’s had her share of challenges, setbacks and bad choices. The male lead is sexy and charming but he’s not perfect either. He’s got his own internal conflicts. I don’t want to say too much. Just read it! I think this is a story for modern-day women...about modern love. And it’s the perfect romance for pandemic times. Enjoy! (less)
5.0 out of 5 stars Captivating and Well Written
Reviewed in the United States on June 3, 2020
This story is a page-tuner! I enjoyed the authors knowledge about fire fighting in the Last Frontier and she blended her knowledge into an intriguing romance with a flare of suspense. I am looking forward to the rest of the series. I have recommended this book to others I know who will enjoy reading it.
Love this book! Worth Re-reading!
Alaskan Spark is a wild ride that threw me into the world of wildland firefighting - something completely foreign to me. The characters are fun and memorable, and the setting is gorgeous. As an Alaskan, the author has everything from the animals to the plants and places dead on. The story takes you through quite a few twists and turns which I really enjoyed, and there are events that will have you on the edge of your seat. I highly recommend this book. I plan to keep it in my library to reread whenever the mood strikes me."
5.0 out of 5 stars A story of wildfires and romance that was told so well I could almost feel the heat
Reviewed in the United States on June 16, 2020
I've read a lot of "first" novels, but this one had the feel of having been written by a seasoned pro. LoLo Paige writes with such insight and passion that I felt like I was right there with the characters. I could almost feel the heat of the wildfires that surrounded the crews as they staved off threats to the community and, in some cases, to each other. The attraction between Tara and Ryan was crafted so well that I was on edge wondering when they would let go of their doubts and fully go for it. I am definitely looking forward to reading the next book in the series and following the journeys of characters who piqued my curiosity in this first book.
Monica Devine rated it it was amazing
Whether outrunning flames in Deadman’s Ravine or saving wolf pups in a cataclysmic burn, Alaska Spark delivers. The book’s main characters, Tara and Ryan develop a slow-burning romance that picks up steam as they fight fires in Alaska. Honor, humor, gripping close calls, vengeance, a fierce comradery, and tangled disappointments fuel the events in this story across every dazzling page. By the end, I truly cared about the characters, hoping their love would overcome survivor’s guilt and the complicated emotions they each endured from tragic losses in their pasts. LoLo Paige is a darn good writer. Through “the sharp reek of burning timber” I could smell those fires. I could sense the bravery of daring smokejumpers, taste the terrifying panic in the fight to survive a burn-over. I don’t know what LoLo Paige has in store for us in her next book of this series. But I do know Its arrival can’t come too soon. (less)
By Lynn Lovegreen
LoLo Paige is a local author who came to Alaska to seek romance and adventure and found both. Her true story in The Anchorage Press about a close call while fighting wildfires in Alaska won a 2016 Alaska Press Club award. Her debut novel ALASKA SPARK is loosely based on that story. I interviewed her recently to find out more.
You’re a longtime Alaskan, and have had many occupations here. What was your favorite job?
I did a lot of things for the Department of the Interior during my 35-year career, mostly in Anchorage. I transferred from the U.S. Forest Service in Missoula, Montana to the Bureau of Land Management in Anchorage back in the early 80s, after the passage of ANILCA and ANCSA, that greatly affected land conveyances from federal jurisdiction to state and Native ownership. I started out as a Land Law Examiner for BLM adjudicating onshore oil and gas leases, then worked in mining recordation, and took a job as a realty specialist out at the BLM office at Campbell Tract. I traveled around the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta doing Native allotment field exam at villages up and down the Kuskokwim River. I met so many wonderful people and saw Alaska’s beautiful southwest. I liked all of these jobs.
When I was on the management track at the BLM State Office in Anchorage, our state director created a program for aspiring land managers to learn the fire management program. He had us put boots on the ground and pulled 20 of us off of our desks and had us go through the Alaska Fire Service firefighting training program in Fairbanks. It was called the Fire Familiarization Training program back then. Being a forestry major and having worked in fire with the Forest Service in Missoula, it was an automatic magnet for me. And so I spent a couple summers with my fire crew fighting fires in Alaska’s Interior. What an experience that was, let me tell you! A lot of hard work, but rewarding when all was said and done.
After that, I began a family and couldn’t go out on fires, so I went to work for the BLM Joint Pipeline Office, where I worked as a federal regulator for the Trans Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) and traveled from Prudhoe (Deadhorse) to Valdez doing site inspections for TAPS. I had the good fortune of seeing most of Alaska with these jobs.
What was your least favorite or most unusual job?
I didn’t have a least favorite job in Alaska. Back in Montana, I worked cleaning the Liberal Arts building offices at the University of Montana, cleaning offices of well known writers back then, and that’s when I resolved that someday I will be a writer too.
How did you get into wildland firefighting?
Fire is part of the forestry curriculum at the University of Montana, and that’s how I got into it. In the summer, fire jobs were posted on the bulletin boards in our department. At first I was hired as a forestry technician to write a Recreation Guide for the Lolo National Forest, so when jobs came open with firefighting, I applied and got on at the Missoula Smokejumper Base and later at the Ninemile Ranger District. I took the training and then got hooked.
I understand you’ve written about it for the Anchorage Press. Can you tell us about that?
When I began writing freelance after I retired from the DOI, a work friend suggested I write about that close call our crew had on the Eielson Fire back in the late 80s. I wrote it up and submitted it with my own photos, and lo and behold the story won an Alaska Press Club award for best historical, all media a year later. I was knocked back by that. I later ran into one of the judges who suggested I write a novel about wildland firefighting. I did, then went to a writer’s conference in Pasadena where I had the good fortune to talk to Heather Graham, a well known romantic suspense author. She advised I make it a romance. I outlined it on the flight home to Anchorage and drafted it during Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month), which started the next day.
How did firefighting make its way into your book?
I first wrote the story as a women’s fiction story with a strong female heroine. My husband was all, so where’s the love interest? So I followed Ms. Graham and my husband’s advice. I had to learn how to write romance, so joined the Romance Writers of America, and my Alaska Chapter, who basically taught me not only how to write, but how to write about love.
Have you always been a writer?
My family, who are all passed away now, encouraged me to write. I did it off and on, but didn’t do it seriously until I hung up the day job. It just sort of grew. From freelance I jumped into writing novels. I have 3 romances written so far, that are the first books in 3 different series. The beauty of the romance genre is all the subgenres of it. So I’m launching 2 romantic suspense series, this Blazing Hearts Wildfire series where Alaska Spark is Book One. Then Otter Rock, Book One of another series I haven’t titled yet. The 3rd one will launch another series, The Wanderlust Series, a romance with older characters.
What did you want to show about Alaska in this book?
The wonder and magnificence of Alaska. How diverse her landscape is. The immensity. All of it. This is my home. I’m proud to be Alaskan and I’ve never looked back. I saw a magazine in the 8th grade called The Alaska Sportsman, before it became Alaska Magazine. That magazine changed my life. I set my sights on moving North. All I had to do was cross Canada from Montana. Montana was my training ground. Back in the 90s my sister came to visit and she and I flew into the Alaska Range in a plane out of Talkeetna piloted by Lowell Thomas, Jr. We landed on the Ruth Glacier and to this day I’ll never forget that experience. I wrote it into a chapter in the book with my hero and heroine. I’m really proud of that chapter. I showcased Alaska the best I knew how, the magic of her and how she grabs hold of your heart and never lets go.
How does being an Alaskan color your view of the world/affect your writing?
Covid has affected everyone’s lives and changed how we live. Alaskans are no strangers to being prepared and knowing how to get through hard times. From earthquakes to volcanoes and everything in between, our isolation has strengthened us, and taught us to rely on ourselves and to help one another. One of the themes in Alaska Spark is, family doesn’t have to be blood, which every Alaskan knows as most of our extended families and families of origin are in the Lower 48. But the main message during this time of pandemic anxiety in my book is the message of love, hope, forgiveness, and redemption. Hope is what we are all clinging to right now, hope that this virus will leave us, hope that we’ll get back to normal someday, hope that we can all share togetherness as we have in the past. And love, because every one of us wants to love and be loved.
What can you tell us about Alaskan writers?
If it weren’t for my fellow writers and the writing community here in Alaska, I can honestly say this book wouldn’t have happened in the way that it did. I am grateful for the generosity of writers and authors here that are willing to share their knowledge. This was a big dream come true for me since the sixth grade, when I read the Nancy Drew, Judy Bolton, and Beverly Gray series and dreamed of being a writer.
Alaska Spark description:
Tara Waters loves firefighting but she’s running from her past. So is Ryan O’Connor, the Alaskan smokejumper who tries to win her over. But when someone on the job sabotages Tara and threatens to destroy everything she’s worked for and a chance for love, Tara and Ryan find they must fight for survival and a willingness to risk everything for love. Romance, fire, and sabotage are an explosive mix!
Learn more about LoLo Paige and Alaska Spark at https://www.lolopaige.com/.
Lynn Lovegreen is a longtime resident of the Anchorage area. She writes young adult historical fiction set in Alaska.
Link to the Press article:
LoLo Paige is the pseudonym of an author friend with a brand new release. The unpublished version took the writing contest circuit by storm. Alaska Spark is her debut release, and I’m pleased to introduce you to LoLo today. ~ Donnell
By LoLo Paige
It is officially summer up here North of 60 degrees parallel in Alaska, which means a couple of things. First, we have all night daylight, which is more like twilight that spurs new growth in our spruce, birch, and willow. Second, it is warm! And third, well the warmth means it is wildfire season. A land mass of 663,268 square miles equates to a lot of action with lightning-caused wildfires, as it does all around the American West.
Last summer the smoke was so dense in Southcentral Alaska, no one could open their windows in our 90-degree heat and Alaskans overran Costco, desperate for fans to stay cool. 90 degrees was rare for our maritime climate down here in the banana belt of Eagle River.
Growing up in western Montana, it was the same. In Missoula, more people worked for the U.S. Forest Service than any other employer in the 1970s. I made my rounds of all of the Forest Service offices, working for the LoLo National Forest (my sister told me I was named after this forest and I grew up believing it) and the Missoula Technology and Development Center, where wildland firefighting innovations are developed. The fire shelters each wildland firefighter carries was developed and refined at the MTDC, along with other equipment used to fight wildfires.
I worked for the Missoula Ranger District as a forestry technician and later worked on a Ninemile Ranger District handline fire crew. But the Smokejumper Base was the most action-packed place to work in the summer. Jumpers came from all over to do refresher training and new recruits hoping to become a “Zulie” went through rigorous training to jump out of perfectly good planes to fight fires. I had the honor and good fortune to meet Deanne Shulman, the first woman smokejumper in the U.S. Read about her historic Breaking Barriers at 1,500 Feet here: https://bit.ly/3eHzPc0
As a forestry major at the University of Montana, fire ecology was part of my program, and I was drawn into firefighting as a seasonal with the Forest Service. Most of the summer jobs back in the 1970s and 80s were filled with college kids like me from the forestry and natural resource degree programs in universities around the western states mostly.
When fires happen you are dispatched with your fire crew when requests are made for resources. Most fires are small and require less staff, but in recent years with the hotter, drier summers, fires have quickly grown to massive proportions, as we’ve seen in California, Washington, Montana and other states in the arid West.
Back in the 1980s, Alaska promised adventure. I moved North to work for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. The fire program in Fairbanks was legendary and back then it was the BLM Alaska Fire Service that handled most of the fire suppression north of Fairbanks. The Alaska Department of Natural Resources handled the southern half of the state. Agency structure and reorganization through the years evolved into what is known today as the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center, or AICC. It consists of the BLM, Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and Alaska Department of Natural Resources. Each of these agencies has oversight of land jurisdiction and it makes sense to consolidate agency resources to fight fires in Alaska.
Part of our fire training was to work with public outreach to educate homeowners on the urban-rural fire interface, where outlying neighborhoods and subdivisions border wildlands. We made sure homeowners understood the importance of defensible space around their homes, areas largely devoid of vegetation. The National Fire Protection Association has specific actions to take to prepare homes for protection against wildfires. More information on this can be found at https://www.nfpa.org/Public-Education/Fire-causes-and-risks/Wildfire/Preparing-homes-for-wildfire
The most important action is to remove all trees and vegetation within the Immediate and Intermediate Zones, the areas closest to the house at least thirty feet away. When fires reach trees and crown from tree to tree, rooftops can ignite if the trees are too close. Another no-no is never stack firewood next to a building.
In the novel I’ve recently released about wildland firefighting, Alaska Spark, I write about what happens when these things have not been done and where inaction can lead. And because it’s fiction I raised the stakes high for homeowners and firefighters in the book.
The story is a romantic suspense about the dynamic of working in a stressful environment with men and women in a firefighting environment. When I fought fire, I was fortunate to have good leadership and crew bosses who knew fire behavior and always kept safety a priority. I enjoyed the give and take between everyone on a crew, regardless of gender. I worked on a crew where most of us were mature and several of us were married and everyone respected each other’s boundaries.
Everyone has to work to pass the fitness tests. When I worked fire in the 1970s and 80s, we had to pass a Step Test. The 3-Minute Step Test measures aerobic (cardiovascular) fitness level based on how quickly the heart rate returns to normal after exercise. The goal is to step on and off the bench for 3 minutes while keeping a consistent pace to see how quickly the heart rate reduces afterwards. Now physical fitness for fire is measured in another way.
The Work Capacity Test, known informally as the pack test, is a U.S. Forest Service physical test for wildland firefighters. The pack test is intentionally stressful as it tests the capacity of muscular strength and aerobic endurance of the firefighter. Pack tests are split into three tests to measure activity levels of arduous, moderate, and light. It consists of a 3-mile walk with a 45-pound pack over level terrain. I include this in the novel.
As a female, it was always a challenge to prove I could do the physical aspects of the job that used to be traditionally done by males. Sometimes I worked with old-school thinkers who thought women had no place on a fire line. I worked hard to prove myself, as seeing is believing. Most came around, but there always seemed to be one who remained stubborn. I write about this in the novel too. Many women face this in male-dominated professions. But now, women make up a healthy portion of fire crews. An all-woman fire crew from Montana came up to Alaska last summer to fight fires.
Looking back, those firefighting jobs made me grow up. I quickly learned that not only did I have the responsibility to watch out for my own safety on the fire line, I had to watch out for each of my crew members. We learned to trust each other; without trust it’s difficult for a crew to congeal and work successfully as a team. Everyone proves their capability on the fire line and gender fades once trust is established. Firefighting was one of the most exhilarating work experiences of my life for all kinds of reasons.
Anyone who is interested in seasonal work or careers in wildland fire can check out this resource at the U.S. Forest Service website: https://www.fs.usda.gov/working-with-us/jobs/fire
Both Forest Service and BLM offer careers in Fire and Aviation. Here’s the BLM website https://www.blm.gov/programs/public-safety-and-fire/fire-and-aviation/careers
When I set out to write a novel I wanted to write about heroes. Back in 2015, the first freelance article I published with The Anchorage Press, was about a close call our crew had fighting a fire in Alaska’s Interior. https://www.anchoragepress.com/news/embers-of-memories/article_bcd3c7bd-36f8-5859-839b-97d3dde7a52a.html
The story won an Alaska Press Club award for best history, all media the following year. A judge suggested I write a novel based on this story. So I did and Alaska Spark released on the last day of May.
I love writing about the grit and determination required to be a firefighter. And a love for our wildlands and to protect the homes that border them. As our Alaska fire season progresses, I cross my fingers that everyone will be okay, and no more homes will be lost to future fires as we experienced last year and other years. Behind the firefighting efforts are people like Whitney, Martin, and Rego in my Embers of Memories story–and firefighting retardant planes like Jaws.
They will always be my heroes.
About Alaska Spark: Romance, sabotage, and fire are an explosive mix. This smoking hot, action-packed romantic suspense will keep you turning pages long into the night.
Reeling from a broken heart, the last thing Tara wants is a new man. Fighting fires is simpler. But when a fire victim dies on her watch and she’s reassigned to Alaska, she accepts it even though her dreams fall out of reach.
Ryan is a sexy firefighter with big plans for the future, but he has his own demons. He soothes his guilt by always putting himself in harm’s way. When Ryan finds Tara in his refresher fire training class, sparks fly and he wants to help her with her own guilt. But she’s decided no more mixing romance with fire–she always gets burned.
Ryan has a plan to break down her walls, but before long they have bigger problems. Someone on the fire crew is sabotaging Tara at every turn.
If the two of them can’t uncover the villain then their budding romance could be extinguished before it even has a chance to heat up.
About the Author: LoLo Paige holds a master’s degree in Environmental Science from Alaska Pacific University. She has decades of stage and film acting experience and has appeared as an extra in scenes with Nicolas Cage, John Krasinski, Dermot Mulroney, and Jon Voight. This led to screenwriting and her screenplay, Evacuation, about a runaway blaze in Alaska won 4th place in the 2018 L.A. Independent Film Festival. LoLo lives in Alaska with her husband and golden retriever, enjoying summers at their oceanfront cabin, fishing for halibut and salmon…and writing! She’s working on Books 2 and 3 of her Blazing Hearts Wildfire Series. She is also launching another romantic suspense series, crime thrillers involving the popular Alaska State Troopers.
ALASKA SPARK is now available as an e-book and paperback on Barnes and Noble and on Amazon at https://amzn.to/3beo8rv