I never would have written my first book if it hadn’t been for Alan.

I didn’t plan on becoming a writer twelve years ago when I moved to Raton, New Mexico with my partner.  I did not dabble in writing short stories or poetry or keeping a journal as a child.  My muse did not inspire me. I didn’t dream of becoming a writer, and Alan didn’t plan on dying three years after we settled here.

We moved from Las Vegas, New Mexico where I retired from twenty-five years of teaching, more than half of them at West Las Vegas Middle School where I might have been considered the token ‘white person’. My good friend, Mary, nicknamed me “huera” and it stuck. But I loved the school, my fellow teachers, and especially the kids. And I loved living in the heart of Old Town, a half block from the plaza and within easy walking distance to great restaurants and shops. Everything I know about cooking red chile, green chile stew, calabacitas, tamales, quelites, biscochitos, and tortillas I learned in Las Vegas. So, what brought me here?

Alan was a classical pianist and worked at the University in Las Vegas as an adjunct professor teaching voice and piano, but he wasn’t happy. He was overworked and under-appreciated. It was a dead-end job with no hope for advancement or benefits, so he quit in frustration, and we relocated. We were both attracted to the beautiful landscape and opportunities for outdoor activities here in the mountains of Northeastern New Mexico. When we weren’t hiking or trying to fix up the old house we bought together, Alan played the piano for hours.

It was during these hikes that he taught me not to just look but to see everything from the smallest details to the amazing shapes and colors. He was like an innocent child on these hikes, excited over a newly discovered fossil, a smooth shiny stone, the first wildflowers of spring, brave pasqueflowers pushing through the snow. Alan had a zest for life that was hard to match. He found beauty in twisted branches and would bring home a backpack full of his treasures then craft them into walking sticks and small animals. Alan was an artist, and I was a sidekick but with no creative outlet of my own. So, after I showed no talent at painting, he encouraged me to take a writing class that was being offered free of charge.

It was an especially cruel twist of fate that he was afflicted with undiagnosed cancer that had settled in his spine and that one day, on a painful short walk, his legs gave out and he was paralyzed from the waist down. The cancer had already metastasized from his lungs, was stage 4, and incurable. He put up a brave front, but time ran out far too soon.

You may be asking what this has to do with my writing and why I have wandered so far off track. Well, there are many aspects of the character of Abe Freeman, my co-protagonist in the Emily Etcitty Mystery Series, that was inspired by Alan’s own character. My stories are total fiction, and all incidents are fictional, but Abe is a kind, gentle person with a love of the natural world, as was Alan. And he is someone who also loves to make beautiful music. I know Alan is continuing to make beautiful music, I can hear it when the wind rustles the trees and the pines begin to sing. I dedicate these books to you, my dear friend.

You Can’t Go Home Again

Says Thomas Wolfe in his novel by the same title. And I know this to be true, I’ve tried. I have longed for that place called home, but know in my heart that change is inevitable. On my infrequent returns to California where I was born, I discovered that all that remained familiar was a  nostalgic wish for something long gone. I attended my fiftieth and fifty-fifth class reunions and felt no sense of homecoming. My high school hangouts, the theater where I held my first job, the municipal swimming pool, even that house I once lived in had been either torn down, boarded up, or replaced by something new and shiny, or shoddy and sad. Perhaps this feeling of homelessness has something to do with the constant moving that has been a part of my life, the trying to fit in but never quite being accepted in each new town. I suppose people who have remained in one place or have ties to the land where they were born and raised have a different feeling about home. But for me, it seemed best to move on.

“Make your mistakes, take your chances, look silly, but keep on going. Don’t freeze up,” quotes Thomas Wolfe.

Don’t take me wrong. I have lived in some wonderful places and loved each for their their unique beauty and charm: Places like Whidbey Island, Washington; Pensacola, Florida; Coronado, California; Rota, Spain; Sigonella, Sicily; Trujillo, Honduras; the Four Corners area of New Mexico; Las Vegas, New Mexico; and now, the beautiful mountains of Raton, New Mexico. I have learned so much from the different cultures, enjoyed their foods, customs, people. All that I have seen and experienced has broadened my writing.  I feel that my life is so much richer and blessed by not having that one place called home. Here are some of the places I have called home.

Whidbey Island, Washington

Pensacola, Florida

Rota, Spain

Sigonella, Sicily

Trujillo, Honduras

Four Corners of New Mexico

Navajo Lady herding sheep Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park ARIZONA

Las Vegas, New Mexico

Raton, New Mexico

I am content to make the most out of each and every endeavor and have no real desire to return to the scenes of my past. It is best to cherish the memories of all the good times and good people I’ve met along the way.







When That Book Review Is Not Everything You Had Hoped For

Authors, when you receive a negative review, what is your reaction? Some people actually respond to the reviewer in a defensive manner. (Not a good idea) Others, with their thin-skinned egos deflated, may sulk, feel devastated, even talk of giving up writing. Then, there are some authors who never look at reviews. (recommended by many), but I am not one of them. I know how important reviews are to fledgling authors, and I read each and every one of them. A book with lots of reviews has real legitimacy and helps sales. I have to admit, there is something to be learned from even the harshest of criticisms if you are willing to evaluate them in a constructive manner.

First off, it’s important to remember that even best-sellers get negative reviews.

 “It was one of the most boring and shallow books that I have ever read.” —review of the American classic The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Not nearly enough consistency and far to [sic] little plot.”—review of Harry Potter And the Half Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling.

But, we’re talking about your baby, and you can’t bear to see your baby bashed. You can cry, get mad, have a few too many drinks,

Or you can learn.

Case in point: The majority of my reviews for Abducted Innocence have been very positive and uplifting, so I naturally want more of these. But this example had me thinking of ways in which I may need to do some more work.

“Reading to 30% of the book, I found the characters to be flat and uninteresting, the relationship between Emily and Abe lacked feeling and connection in my opinion and the character’s action in many situations (up to this point) somewhat predictable. Sadly, there just wasn’t a hook that that grabbed me and engaged me in the story.”

The reviewer admitted he had not read the first in the series, and did not finish the book. I still felt the review was fair and has given me something to think about as I finish up the third book in the Emily Etcitty Mysteries. How do I give my characters more depth? How can I strengthen that all -important hook so that the reader is engaged from the beginning?

In conclusion, I would like to thank this reviewer for his thought-provoking assessment, and I hope that this critique will help me to continue to improve as a writer.

Please, write an honest review.