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Brannans Novels are Set in Mines

Sandra “Sam” Brannan is a member of a prominent mining family – Pete Lien and Sons – who has parlayed her mining experience into a series of mystery novels that have a secondary purpose of familiarizing the public with mining and heavy equipment.

I met with her at Conexpo/Con-Agg 2011, where she had a booth (right next to DSC’s booth) where she was signing books, and she took time out for a one-on-one conference with me in the press room.

Members of the Lien family must work in other companies and industries for five years before joining the family business. So after receiving her MBA from the University of Wyoming in 1986, she worked for Boeing in Seattle as industrial operations manager before applying for a job in the family business.

Brannan is a fourth-generation Lien and granddaughter of the company founder, with her eight siblings. Her brother Pete is president of Pete Lien and Sons. (See related article on page 13.)

In 1991, she was hired on as manager of the non-metallic minerals division of Colorado Lien Company, 20 miles north of Fort Collins, where they are mining a deposit of high grade limestone interspersed with layers of native red sandstone. The operation involves blasting the deposits in layers, processing the limestone for sale in the industrial market and creating a range of construction products from the sandstone for local sale.

The mine is visible as a broad red slash on a ridge in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains (visible from my house), and the plan is to create a wildlife refuge on the property after the limestone deposit is mined out – decades down the road. The mine has been in operation since the beginning of the 20th century.

Brannan’s first book, In the Belly of Jonah, has her protagonist Liv Bergen working at the mine, and she concentrates on the reclamation the company is doing in the mined-out areas. I visited the mine recently, and Mike Golliher, Brannan’s successor as division manager, drove me around and pointed out the reclaimed areas, which the company had graded and planted with the cooperation of the State of Colorado, and it replicates the bushes, plants, stones and grasses that are familiar in areas that have never been touched by humans.

Golliher explained that the blasted and rocky areas, including cliffs, would remain as rocky features, while the planted areas would provide habitat for species that have always lived in the area. The mine is a popular source of red rock in the area, and the neighbors are fond of it, but the good public relations for mining and heavy equipment in Brannan’s book increase the public’s understanding and acceptance of the industry. Her writing skills grab the reader and don’t let go, and for someone whose career involves heavy equipment, quarries and processing plants, it feels like home.

The next book in the Liv Bergen Series is Return to Sodom, set in Sturgis, South Dakota in the midst of the annual Sturgis motorcycle rally, where Liv is taking some R&R after her traumatic adventure at the limestone mine in Colorado. In Sturgis, a ready-mix plant is the backdrop of Liv’s first exciting experience.

Coming out in August 2012 is the third book in the series – Widow’s Might. In 2013, the fourth book, Noah’s Rainy Day, will be released.

The books are high quality paperbacks, published by Greenleaf Book Group Press, and can be ordered from Brannan’s Web site: http://sandrabrannan.com.

In the Belly of Jonah, Paperback, 288 pages, Sept. 1, 2010, ISBN: 978-1608320509; $14.95

Lot’s Return to Sodom, paperback, eBook, 320 pages; June 1, 2011; ISBN: 978-1608321193; $14.95

Promotion: Marissa DeCuir; JKSCommunications: marissa@jkscommunications.com

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