Buy Unleashing Colter's Hell, Lost Cause, and Need To Know three of Amazon's top selling national park thrillers today!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My 2013 Reading List

December 31, 2013: At the end of the year, I like to look back at the books I've read over the past 365 days. Here is my list. There are some really great reads, others not so much. Although, I didn't set out the year to read a broad spectrum of works, 2013 turned out to have a great mix of fiction and non-fiction, thrillers, science, history, and fantasy.  Every one of the books made me think, which I believe is the ultimate goal of every author.

What does your list look like?
  1. The Lost Bank
  2. The Inner Circle
  3. The Magic of Reality
  4. Pearl Harbor: FDR Leads the Nation to War
  5. Feast of Crows
  6. Why the North Won the War
  7. Area 51
  8. The Story of Medieval England, from King Arthur to the Tudor Conquest
  9. Dance with Dragons
  10. Inferno

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Unleashing Colter's Hell: Cover Contest Semi-Finalist

November 23, 2013: Unleashing Colter's Hell is a semi-finalist in the Authorsdb cover contest.  The thriller is one of 16 chosen out of the more than a 130 covers submitted in the mystery, thriller, and suspense category. 

The semi-finalists are listed alphabetically here. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to find Unleashing Colter's Hell.  Give it 5 Stars!

Unleashing Colter's Hell's recognition in the Authorsdb cover contest follows the novel's winning the Reader's Favorite 2013 Gold Medal in the mystery and thriller category.

Unleashing Colter's Hell makes a great gift, get the award-winning thriller here.

Sunday, November 10, 2013


November 10, 2013: Below are seven draft covers for LOST CAUSE, the follow up novel to the award winning thriller Unleashing Colter's Hell.

Beginning at Antietam and racing through Gettysburg, Wilson's Creek and other battlefields, LOST CAUSE is a chase to find a relic supposedly owned by Robert E. Lee which can give the finder the power to start the second Civil War. Look for it in 2015.

I need your help picking a cover.  Which one do you like?

Cover A
Cover B

Cover C

Cover D

Cover E

Cover F

Cover G

Friday, November 1, 2013

Lost Cause Covers Take 2

November 1, 2013: Below are the next draft covers for Lost Cause.  Which one do you like best? A,B, or C. What do you like about the covers?  What could be better?

Lost Cause if the follow up to the Unleashing Colter's Hell, the award winning national park thriller.  Look for the new thriller in 2015.

Cover A

Cover B

Cover C

Monday, October 21, 2013

Latest Lost Cause Cover

October 21, 2013: Below is the latest cover art for Lost Cause, the follow up thriller to the award winning novel Unleashing Colter's Hell.  What do you think? 
Lost Cause: the Next Grayson Cole Thriller

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Former Park Ranger wins Readers' Favorite Gold Medal

For Immediate Release

Contact: Sean Smith 206-818-4041
Former Park Ranger wins Readers' Favorite Gold Medal
Unleashing Colter's Hell awarded medal in Fiction ~ Thriller ~ Terrorist Genre
October 1, 2013: Reader's Favorite announced the winners of its 2013 International Book Award Contest today.  Unleashing Colter's Hell, a political thriller set in Yellowstone National Park, won a gold medal in the Fiction ~ Thriller ~ Terrorist genre. The list of winners can be found here:  Scroll down to the Fiction ~ Thriller ~ Terrorist to find Unleashing Colter's Hell.
Unleashing Colter's Hell was written by Sean Smith, a former Yellowstone Ranger.  Mr. Smith draws upon his personal experience and natural story telling skills to weave a terrifying thriller that critics have called "compelling" and "plausible."
The book has been Amazon's #1 "Park Ranger" Thriller and an Amazon Top 100 Terrorist Thriller. It can be found here:
Mr. Smith is currently working on Lost Cause, a follow up thriller to Unleashing Colter's Hell. The hero of Unleashing Colter's Hell, park ranger Grayson Cole, is at the center of a conspiracy that dates back to the Civil War.  It's a chase to find a relic owned by Robert E. Lee that is believed to have the power to start the second civil war.  The book is expected for release in 2015, the 150th anniversary of the Civil War's end.



Readers' Favorite 2013 International Book Award Contest Results

Readers' Favorite is proud to announce the winners of our 2013 International Book Award Contest, which consisted of thousands of entries from nearly a dozen countries.

  • Readers' Favorite is proud to help recognize some of the best new books of 2013                  
Hawesville, KY (PRWEB) October 01, 2013
Readers' Favorite is the fastest growing book review and award contest site on the Internet. They have earned the respect of renowned publishers like Random House, Penguin and Harper Collins, and have received the "Best Websites for Authors" and "Honoring Excellence" awards from the Association of Independent Authors. In addition to providing free reviews to authors who range from the first-time self-published author to seasoned professionals like James Patterson and Nicholas Sparks, Readers' Favorite also hosts a respected annual international award contest to help authors obtain more recognition and exposure.
The Readers' Favorite International Book Award Contest receives thousands of submissions in 100 genres from independent authors to publishing giants, with contestants that range from self-published authors to New York Times bestsellers and celebrities. Authors have entered from all over the world, including nearly every US state and a dozen countries.
Readers' Favorite is excited to announce the results of their 2013 International Book Award Contest, which celebrates some of the best books of 2013 from today's newest authors. Please visit 2013 Award Contest Winners page to view all of this year's award winning books. Each award winner features a review and information about the book and its author, including video trailers, author biographies, and social media links.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A perfect thriller: my secret formula

September 13, 2013: I have been enjoying political thrillers for most of my life.  I am entirely enamored by a good thriller, one with intrigue, drama, political twists and turns.  A great political thriller must start with great politics. A realistic political plot is the foundation upon which the entire story rests. A thriller can have all the remaining attributes of a great story, but if it gets the politics wrong end of story.  

What do I mean by getting the politics right? It's setting up plausible scenarios, ones that are possible not only physically but also politically. Starting from this point is a sure sign the author has done his/her homework.  An author can kill ones suspension of disbelief quick if they present a political event that is impossible, say the House of Representatives rejecting a treaty or the president enacting legislation unilaterally. Get the politics right and the rest is icing on the cake.

I am less drawn to the explosions and car chases of traditional thrillers.  They often leave me tired and often fail to push the story line in any real way. However, I recognize explosions and car chases have there place.  But give me well written political intrigue and I'm happy. A hanging threat in my book is far more terrifying than the actual violence.

I also like thrillers that muddle the bad guy. Thrillers that make it hard to suss out the actual villain are particularly appealing.  Again, its far more terrifying if evil could be anyone, rather than the mustache twisting cliché.  I am also drawn to villains that have motivations other than doing pure evil. The villains in their own mind can rationalize their violence. This approach makes the reader more likely to relate to the villain and in my book make their use of violence more tragic, more powerful. 

Thrillers that portray the hero as less than perfect are also intriguing.  A hero that must defeat the bad guy, but also overcome his/her own shortcomings makes them more believable and their effort more heroic. Heroes that are perfect lack drama. Where's the suspense in a hero that can't lose and has no flaws?

So here's my formula for a great thriller. Start with great and believable political intrigue/drama/twists and turns, minimize the car chases and explosions, throw in a complicated bad guy, and add a less than perfect hero. Voila, a perfect thriller.

Here are a few of my favorite thrillers.

What are your thoughts on a perfect thriller?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Unleashing Colter's Hell: International Book Awards Gold Medal Cover

September 4, 2014: Unleashing Colter's Hell with its International Book Awards Gold Medal.  Looks good! Get your copy of the award winning and Amazon Top 100 terrorism thriller today.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Unleashing Colter's Hell wins an International Book Awards Gold Medal

September 2, 2013: Unleashing Colter's Hell has won the 2013 International Book Awards Gold Medal in the terrorism thriller genre. I am honored to receive this award.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Lost Cause Draft Cover

August 25, 2013: Lost Cause, the next thriller in the Park Ranger Grayson Cole series is on track for its 2015 publication. Check out the draft cover. Tell us what you think in the comments section.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Tiger Drawing in Corel International Design Contest

August 25, 2013: My entry in the Corel Draw International Design Contest was accepted. It can be found here.

Please vote now and give it 5 stars!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Unleashing Colter's Hell: an Amazon top 100 Terrorism Thriller

August 19, 2013: For the first time Unleashing Colter's Hell broke Amazon's top 100 list of terrorism thrillers.
It joins a prestigious list of novels including works by the late Vince Flynn, Tom Clancy, and Clive Cussler.

Thanks to my fans for pushing us to the top!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

My Favorite National Parks

August 18, 2013: In honor of the National Park System's fast approaching 97th birthday, here is my top ten list of national parks. While I haven't been to every park, I have been to roughly half of the system's more than 400 parks, and these are among my favorites.

10. Gettysburg National Battlefield (Historical Park, PA) Every American should visit this park, especially the battlefield's little round top, the site where Colonel Joshua Chamberlin likely saved the Union.

9. The Everglades National Park (Natural Park, FL)The largest wilderness area east of the Mississippi river. Everglades provides an excellent opportunity to see a combination of wildlife found nowhere else in the nation such as alligators, panthers, and dolphins.

8. Lincoln Memorial (Historical Park, DC) Reverent and powerful memorial to the president who kept a laser like focus on preserving the United States during Civil War. Like Gettysburg, the Lincoln Memorial is a testament to those who have given so much for us to enjoy the country we have today.

7. Golden Gate National Recreation Area (Natural, Historical, Cultural Park, CA) A national park where one can stand in the shadow of centuries old Redwood trees in the morning and dine at a five star restaurant in the evening. Golden Gate like Everglades is one of the largest protected areas that border a major metropolitan city.

6. Little Big Horn National Battlefield (Historical Park, MT) An amazing site that puts western arrogance on display. Little bighorn helps remind one that a little humility sometimes is called for.

5. Arches National Park (Natural Park, UT) Park with otherworldly arches, natural bridges, and buttes and mesas. First class, outdoor university on the power of erosive forces like wind and rain.

4. Wrangell St. Elias National Park (Natural, Historical, Cultural Park, AK) The largest national park. Got to love a nation has parks larger than some other countries.

3. Mount Rainier National Park (Natural, Cultural, Historical Park, WA) A site of many personal family memories.

2. Glacier National Park (Natural Park, MT) Another park where I spent many summer vacations and made countless family memories.

1. Yellowstone National Park (Natural Park, MT/WY) Yellowstone has everything. Strange and stunning landscapes, unique features around every turn, rare and magnificent wildlife, massive lakes, raging rivers, sheer canyons, huge waterfalls, and millions of acres of solitude. It's my idea of the perfect park.

Check out Unleashing Colter's Hell, my best selling national park thriller!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Feel the Force

August 13, 2013: My poster entry for the Feel the Force art contest won! See the winning design here.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Unleashing Colter's Hell: A Reader's Favorite Award Finalist!

July 11, 2013: Unleashing Colter's Hell has been named a finalist in the Reader's Favorite annual International Award Contest! Roughly 6 finalists were selected for each category.  Unleashing Colter's Hell is a finalist in the Thriller-Terrorist genre.

The award winner will be selected in September.  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

What Gettysburg revealed to me. America is a verb.

July 3, 2013: One hundred and fifty years ago today, the Confederate army was turned back at Gettysburg by Union forces. Although not known at the time, this was the high water mark of the rebel cause and began the slow slide to its surrender. 

Historians may disagree on the pivotal point of the battle, was the first day when the Confederates failed to push the advantage they gained, was it the Union's gaining the high ground of big and little round top, or Lee's ill-advised decision to execute a frontal assault on the final day.

For me and many others, the battle's pivotal point was when the 20th Maine held the Union flank at little round top.  Colonel Joshua Chamberlain confronted with a relentless Confederate foe, and running out of ammunition made the fateful decision to order a bayonet charge. Chamberlain's unexpected move finally broke the will of the Confederate force and saved the Union flank.

Had the Union army not carried the day at this little town in middle Pennsylvania, we would now be living in a very different country today.  There may not even be an America, as the idea of secession might have run through the remaining Union states causing the entire country to collapse.  Meanwhile, the Confederacy having been borne of rebellion would have likely seen similar secession forces tear it apart.

So, instead of one United States the American continent would likely be dotted with dozens of little countries and republics.  Our present situation would more closely resemble modern Europe or worse the Balkans.

America is not perfect, but it was not meant to be.  Rather, the founding fathers stated in the Constitution that America is an ongoing experiment one that requires each generation to form a more perfect Union. America is a verb, not a noun.

The Union victory at Gettysburg preserved the opportunity for future generations to play their part in this experiment. For this I am grateful.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Pirates, adventure, and national parks! Three of my favorite things!

June 22, 2013: Archaeologists recently recovered two cannons from the famed pirate ship Queen Anne's revenge.  The revenge was the flag ship of the dreaded pirate Blackbeard.

Blackbeard ran the Revenge aground rather than accept the term's of the colonial governor. Blackbeard broke up his flotilla and abandoned some of his crew on one of the Carolina's outer bank islands, most likely in current day Cape Lookout national seashore. 

Legend has it Blackbeard buried his treasure on a nearby island, shortly after abandoning his ship.  The recent discovery of Blackbeard's sword, has breathed new life into the legend.  Interesting!

Friday, June 14, 2013

What Parks Actually Protect

June 14, 2013 Ranger Magazine the periodical for the Association of National Park Rangers is running a piece I wrote on the true value of national parks.  The attack of September of 11th was an attempt to take down the United States, however I argue al Qaeda and others who strike at our buildings and institutions can never achieve their goal.  Because America is much more than brick and mortar.

Ranger Magazine Summer 2013

Monday, May 27, 2013

A suberb novel of suspense!

May 27, 2013: Another five star review for Unleashing Colter's Hell.  The latest comes from

Here is a snippet of the latest great review.

"This thriller is not only a superb novel of suspense, but it will remain with you as one of the scariest books you will ever read. Don’t be surprised to see “Unleashing Colter’s Hell” making it to the Top Ten Bestseller’s list."

Friday, May 24, 2013

Books to take outdoors

May 24, 2013: It's the Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of summer.  Many people will be heading to the woods, the beach, or the lake for the holiday. I too have spent many a memorial day relaxing in the great outdoors.  One thing that makes this time so wonderful is the opportunity to read a great book.

If headed to the National Parks this weekend, may I suggest you take a copy of Unleashing Colter's Hell with you?  It's a fun, roller coaster ride of the thriller.  A great escape from the real world. 

Here is a short list of other great outdoor reads.

Encounters with the Archdruid
Three vignettes on David Brower, the father of the modern environmental movement.  Great sketches of the passion and skill David Brower brought to the environmental movement.

Novel that investigates what we call reality is merely an illusion we create for learning and enjoyment.
Angels and Demons
Dan Brown’s best Robert Langdon novel.

Undaunted Courage
Comprehensive review of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Gives one appreciation for the ultimate camping trip.

What books are you reading this memorial day?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Writing Fiction? Doing things we can't do in reality

May 21, 2013: One of the fun things about fiction, is writing about things and events we are unlikely to do in reality.  For example in Unleashing Colter's Hell, I created a president and his administration.  In the novel, John Paine is the President of the United States.  He is required to deal with foreign and domestic terrorist threats, a possible volcanic eruption, and the pending death of his best friend and Vice President.  It's all in the life of a commander in chief.  One of the ways I attempt to make President Paine more real to the readers is to give him a history and hint of the values that guide his decisions.

Tradition holds that presidents decorate the cabinet room with four portraits of their favorite presidents from the national gallery of art.  Which portrait the president chooses to hang gives some indication of what values and leadership style his plans to emulate.

In Unleashing Colter's Hell, President Paine chose the portraits of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Truman, and Clinton.  Paine appreciates Lincoln's laser like focus on saving the Union, Roosevelt's attention to the future, Truman's remaining humble and an "every man" even while the White House, and Clinton's deft political skill.

Who would you pick for your cabinet room?

Saturday, May 18, 2013

North Korea: Crying Wolf or Playing Possum?

May 18, 2013: North Korea recently launched several short range missiles into the Sea of Japan.  We have come to expect provocative action from Pyongyang. Here are a few of their more recent head scratchers. One, two, three. So many, one actually forgets them all.

Block 1B interceptor missile US NAVY
Experts claim the missile launches are aimed at increasing tensions to move "things" in the direction North Korea wants.  But what does North Korea want?  That is the real question.  What is the aim of all the escalating tension?  Is it to increase foreign aid, reduce the world's economic embargoes, exert influence on the world stage, or could they hide a more sinister intent?

Yet, the endless North Korean fire alarms seem counter productive.  Pyongyang's runs the risk of being seen as the boy who cried wolf.  But could this be Kim Jong Un's plan?  Lull the west to sleep with an seeming endless parade of crisis, only to hit us when we are unaware?

In Unleashing Colter's Hell, a political thriller available from Amazon, I speculate on North Korea's end game that could ultimately lead to the destruction
of civilization itself. 

Check out the thriller for yourself here!

Friday, May 17, 2013

What's the sound a person's feet make walking on sand?

May 17, 2013: One of the greatest challenges I find in writing compelling stories is engaging all human senses through the mere written word.  I make it a habit to describe places and settings with appeals to as many human senses as possible.  The wind rustled through the leaves, the sun danced on the water, the water chilled her feet, the air had the burnt taste of electricity in it, are all metaphors used to describe the scene and give the reader a deeper sense of place, intrigue, or drama.

I struggle sometimes to find the right words to capture the image I'm trying to paint.  For example, I was stumped recently by the sound feet make on sand.  What is it?  I can hear it in my head, but I'll be darned if I know the word that gives one the sense of feet squeaking across a beach. 

Do you have similar challenges?  How do you come up with the right word or words that best capture the emotion and feel for a scene? 

What is the sound a person's feet make walking on sand?

Sean Smith is an award winning conservationist and author. He is a former National Park Ranger at Yellowstone, Glacier, and the North Cascades. He is a TEDx speaker, and private pilot. He graduated from the University of Washington in 1989 with a degree in Political Science. He got his master's in Natural Resources Management from Central Washington University in 1996. He currently runs Washington State's efforts to reduce and eliminate toxic chemicals from consumer products and serves as the Mayor Pro Tem of Covington.

He has been writing stories and books since he was a child and currently writes national park thrillers from the shadow of Mount Rainier.

All his novels can be found here: Mr. Sean D Smith

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

17,000 words!

May 15, 2013: Just passed 17,000 words in my next novel the Lost Cause.  Once again our hero park ranger Grayson Cole is at the center of a conspiracy that dates back to the civil war.  It's a chase to find a relic owned by Robert E. Lee that is believed to have the power to start the second civil war. 

Look for the novel in 2015, the 150th anniversary of the end of the war!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Purple and Gold Shout Out for Unleashing Colter's Hell

May 7, 2013: The spring edition of the Purple and Gold, the alumni magazine of Chi Psi fraternity has a nice piece on my novel.  See the page image below.  Thanks to Chi Psi for their great coverage of my thriller.

Chi Psi Purple and Gold Spring 2013

Thursday, May 2, 2013

What are you prepared to do Mr. President?

May 2, 2013:  Mr. Obama's presidency is at a crossroads.  He must decide now what he is prepared to do in order to leave a positive legacy.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Toba Super Volcano Threatened Humanity?

Yellowstone Geyser ~ NPS
An Oxford led investigation dismissed a theory that the eruption of the African super volcano Toba nearly wiped out humanity more than 75,000 years ago.  Researchers were unable to find evidence that the volcanic eruption significantly altered the global climate, therefore it likely had little lasting impact upon humanity's survival.  Impacts in the vicinity of the volcano, the researchers found would have been severe.  In some cases eruption buried the surrounding area in hundreds of yards of ash.  But lasting impacts were minimal. 

In my new thriller Unleashing Colter's Hell, I speculate on what might happen to the United States if the Yellowstone super volcano were to erupt.  The story also explores who might benefit from this eruption and how they might make it happen. 

While the Toba eruption appears to have had little impact upon humanity's survival, a Yellowstone eruption could be a greater threat to our future.  Our civilization is far more advanced than our prehistoric ancestors and vulnerable to damage from an eruption.  A Yellowstone eruption would threaten food production and distribution.  Access to other necessities such as drinkable water, medical care, and shelter could be stretched to a breaking point. 

Recent seismic activity at Yellowstone is pretty typical.  However, since modern humans have never witnessed a Yellowstone eruption, we don't truly know what might indicate pending danger. Stay tuned!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

North Korean End Game?

April 27, 2013: Kim Jong Un is at it again. Pyongyang recent announced it will charge a US citizen with trying to overthrow the North Korean government.  This comes after North Korean denounced the armistice that kept the Korean peninsula cease fire for more the fifty years, detonated a nuclear weapon and a successfully launched a satellite into space.

In my new novel Unleashing Colter's Hell, I speculate about what may be the intent of these provocative moves. 

What are your thoughts?  Is North Korea's action all for show, or do they hide more sinister end game?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Must visit National Parks

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park ~ NPS
Fox came out with a list if seven must see national parks.  I have been fortunate to visit all of them and even worked at two.  How many have you visited?

Monday, April 22, 2013

National Park Week, Wish List

USS Arizona Memorial ~ NPS
April 22, 2013: It's national park week.  During this time, all parks waive their entrance fee.  So get out there!  Here is a list of parks I've never been to and wish I could visit this year.

Where will you be going this week?

1. USS Arizona (HI) ~ Love history, besides Hawaii looks good this time of year.
2. Katmai (AK) ~ Alaska not so much, but later this summer perhaps.
3. Rocky Mountain (CO) ~ Ashamed to say I've never been to Rocky.  Looking forward to going.
4. Big Bend (TX) ~ Heard great things about Big Bend.  The trip to reach the park sounds like half the fun.
5. Voyagers (MN) ~ Called to take an iconic canoe trip on one of the park's countless lakes.
6. Dry Tortugas (FL) ~ Another park where the trip to it would be a part of the adventure.  Also, looks good this time of year.
7. Hot Springs (AR) ~ One of the oldest parks and the one state I've never visited.
8. Isle Royale (MI) ~ The isolation and the chance to see wolves are what attract me to Isle Royale.
9. Tuskegee Airman (AL) ~ Love aviation and history.  Great park to combine both.
10. Joshua Tree (CA) ~ Again another park I am ashamed to say, I have never visited.  Got to go soon.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

New Research: Yellowstone volcano larger than previously thought

April 18, 2013: New research out of the University of Utah shows the magma chamber under Yellowstone national park is bigger than previously thought.  What's more, scientists believe the molten rock in this chamber is rising at an unprecedented rate displacing the surface crust.  Knowing the size of the chamber and the rate at which magma rising can help gauge the size of a future eruption. 

Past Yellowstone eruptions have buried much of the Midwest in tens of feet of ash and blotted out the sun for weeks.  If Yellowstone were to have an eruption similar to its most recent blast, it could literally be the end of the civilization as we know it.

Read Unleashing Colter's Hell for my take on what might happen if this volcano were to erupt, and who would want that to happen.

Here is a great info graphic on the geology of the Yellowstone caldera.

Source: Infographic: The Geology of Yellowstone

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Book filled Bars! My new favorite thing!

April 10th, 2013: Drinking and reading, two of my favorite things combined in one place.  Who knew?  I've found my new list of places to go!  WooHoo!  I've already been to one, fourteen to go.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Author's dB Cover Contest: Vote for Unleashing Colter's Hell!

April 4, 2013: The new cover for Unleashing Colter's Hell is entered into the Author's database cover contest.  It's listed in the Mystery, Thriller, and Suspense category.  Please vote for it here.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Author's db

April 3, 2013: Check out my page on the Author's database. It looks like I've arrived!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Is Anything Beyond Question?

April 1, 2013: What would happen to our democracy if aspects of our social life were deemed beyond question?  Could this happen?  It's actually happening right now.  Read my latest Liberals Unite column for more.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

New Cover!

March 28, 2013: Unleashing Colter's Hell has a new cover! Check it out here!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


March 26, 2013: Jackson Hole is the largest town in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem.  It is the southern gateway to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Parks.  Over the past several month I've been in negotiation with several Jackson bookstores about carrying the Unleashing Colter's Hell.  Just heard that one has agreed to carry the thriller this summer!  More to come shortly.

Get the novel here!

Monday, March 25, 2013

End of Faith in Middle Ground

March 25, 2013 My post on America's hyper fixation on avoiding political conflict recently ran on Liberals Unite.  In the piece I argue that the American body politic would be better served with an injection of healthy debate.  Conflict leads to sharper thinking and ultimately better policy.  Check out the editorial here.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Rave Reviews for Unleashing Colter's Hell

March 19, 2013:  Unleashing Colter's Hell mentioned in Central Washington University's Alumni Magazine.  The magazine notes the first novel of Sean Smith is receiving "rave reviews."  Check it out for yourself here.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

What Parks Actually Protect

March 9, 2013
On September 11, 2001, I like everyone else was horrified by al Qaeda’s attack on America and destruction of the World Trade towers and the damage to the Pentagon.  We were barraged that day with countless replays of the tower’s collapse and a smoldering Department of Defense.  Like the towers it appeared the nation teetered on the edge of ruin.   But it survived.  Since that time, I like many others have thought about the possible next attack.  Will this one take down the nation and if so where is America’s Achilles heal? 
That question is at the center of my new novel, Unleashing Colter’s Hell a political thriller set in Yellowstone national park.  The story centers on a madman who has acquired an atomic bomb with a plan to detonate it the park.  Yellowstone is one of the world’s largest super volcanoes.  The geologic record shows that the Yellowstone volcano erupts roughly every 600,000 years.  These past eruptions have buried much the mid-west in tens of feet of ash.  The sun would have been blotted out for weeks and possibly casting the world into years of winter.  It’s a plan to literally destroy the United States.  But is it possible to actually destroy the country?
The park system and the park rangers who work in them protect some of the world’s most iconic scenery, as well as some of our most sacred historic and cultural sites.  Growing up, my parents took my brother and me nearly every summer to our national parks.  We made trips to Mount Rainier and Glacier, Yellowstone and Denali, the Grand Canyon, Gettysburg, and the Everglades. 
I didn’t always enjoy these trips.  It seemed to me that parks were little more than boring scenery and dusty old buildings.  Yet since then, I’ve spent years in our national parks.  I’ve trekked the rainforests of Olympic, tramped the canyons of Zion, walked the hallowed grounds of Shiloh, and hiked the coasts of Acadia.  Through the trips I’ve come to realize that the essence of America is actually protected in our park system, because America isn’t a place or even a people.  It’s an idea, one inscribed on the walls of the Jefferson memorial. It’s the simple idea that all humans are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Where there is at least one person who believes this “self-evident truth”, there is America. 
The destruction of the World Trade towers was a powerful image.  Yet, for me a far more powerful symbol was that of the Statue of Liberty silhouetted by the burning towers.  Lady Liberty stood in defiant rejection of al Qaeda’s attack!  Other parks such as Mount Rushmore and Independence Hall sent the same message.
So, is it possible for a terrorist or even a large terrorist organization to destroy America?  I believe Lincoln summed it up best when he said no foreign power or combination of foreign powers could by force take a drink from the Ohio or make a track on the Blue Ridge in a trial of a thousand years.  Rather as long as Americans hold simple truths and charge the park service to protect the ideas, hopes, and values we hold sacred, the country will endure.
Sean Smith is a former Yellowstone ranger and writes National Park thrillers from his home in Western Washington.  Follow him on Twitter: @parkthrillers or on Facebook:


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

UW Columns' March Author Selections: Unleashing Colter's Hell Makes the List!

Nice mention in the latest edition of the University of Washington Columns magazine for Unleashing Colter's Hell!  Get your copy today!

UW Columns March 2013 Page 31

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Tight budgets make for good drama, bad park conservation

America’s National Park System is at a crossroads. The ongoing Congressional squabble over the pending budget sequestration threatens to cut hundreds of millions from an already strapped National Park Service. The budget knife, like the sword of Damocles, has hung over and on occasion fallen on the park service, making it extremely difficult for the agency to preserve and protect our national heritage.

When I set out to write the novel Unleashing Colter’s Hell, a political thriller set in Yellowstone National Park, I wanted it to be a fun, roller-coaster story about a terrorist attack on the park. The story’s hero is a single park ranger named Grayson Cole.

Prior to writing my novel, I had read countless James Bond thrillers. No matter what the situation, Bond always defeated the bad guy. He enjoyed the backing of MI5 and an endless array of tools and gadgets to do his job. Whenever Bond got in a tough spot he always seemed to have just what was needed to achieve success.

But having infinite resources or just the right tool is seldom the case in real life, especially for the National Park Service. Park rangers are tasked with protecting not only the country’s nearly 400 national park sites, but also the more than 280 million people who visit the parks each year. No easy task, made all the more difficult with the park service’s extremely tight budget. 

The park service operates on about $2.5 billion per year. That sounds like a lot of money but its actually only 1/14 of 1 percent of the entire federal budget. Or, put another way, the park service runs Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, Gettysburg, Mount Rushmore and many, many more parks, on roughly what the Defense Department spends for a single Virginia Class nuclear submarine.

Yet, America’s small investment in its national parks produces significant returns for our country. National Parks are huge economic engines that pump more than $31 billion into state and regional economies. That spending supports more than a quarter of a billion jobs.

Making matters worse, Congress’ continuing failure to address budget sequestration could cut another 5 to 8% from the park service’s budget.  In fact, just this past month  Park Service director Jon Jarvis sent a memo to park mangers calling upon them to prepare for across the board cuts. Here in the northwest Mount Rainier and Olympic will have to shave more than $1.2 million from their operations. If these cuts go through, park managers across the country will be confronted with Solomon like choices. Mass staff layoffs, reduced visitor center hours, closure of sections or entire parks could all be on the table.

I wanted my characters, specifically Grayson Cole, to operate under these real life constraints. How much suspense could be built if the lead character had infinite resources and tools to fight his enemies? I believe a more suspenseful, thrilling story is woven around a ranger who not only fights maniacal bad guys, but does it while stretching the limits of his available resources. Cole is Yellowstone’s Chief Ranger and with his contingent of roughly 2 dozen officers, he is responsible for a place that is larger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined. That’s equivalent to one ranger for an area the size of San Francisco. He drives beat up government vehicles over cratered roads, rather than high performance sports cars on the autobahn. He has limited back up and lives in dilapidated Eisenhower era housing.

My novel is pure fiction. Thankfully, I am unaware of any terrorist plot to ignite the Yellowstone super volcano and destroy the park and country. However, the park service’s budget problems are real and have the potential to damage our park system and the country almost as much as a super volcano eruption.   

Grayson Cole will take on the terrorists. To find out how he does this pick up a copy of Unleashing Colter’s Hell. However, Cole can’t save the parks on his own; he needs you to take on Congress. Contact your elected officials and urge them to hold the line on further budget cuts.  Together we can pass on a better park system.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

North Korean Attack on US! Fact or Fiction?

North Korea is at it again.  This week the North Korean government uploaded a YouTube video supposedly showing an attack on a US city resembling New York.  Defense experts all agree that North Korea does not possess the ability to strike the east coast of the United States, however with the recent North Korean rocket launch the country may now have the ability to hit cities such as Los Angeles and Seattle.  Couple this with the Pyongyang's recent announcement that it would soon test detonate a nuclear device, US officials are rightly concerned.

But would North Korea be so stupid as to strike the United States with nuclear tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles?   Missiles that could easily be traced back to the host country and invite a massive response from the US military.  Even the leaders in Pyongyang aren't that mad.  Yet, they obviously want to inflict devastating damage upon this country.

The premise of Unleashing Colter's Hell my new thriller set in Yellowstone national park, is that North Korea has provided al Queda with the weapon to inflict this fatal blow.  A strike that couldn't be traced.  Sound impossible?  Pick up a copy of Unleashing Colter's Hell today and read how easy it just might be.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Science Thrillers Guest Post: Unleashing Colter's Hell

Over on one will find my post on Unleashing Colter's Hell and my aim to tell a scientifically accurate and compelling story.  In the story I took great care when researching the current understanding of park issues such as wildlife management and volcanology.  It's my belief that a scientifically accurate story is more plausible and providing more terrifying implications.