The Colorado Sisters, L.A. and Eva Mondragon, Chicana Private Investigators by Juliana Aragon Fatula

Me with amigo and fellow Latin Loco Motion Perform, Manuel Roybal, Sr. and our tour guide in Sicily near Mt. Etna, the tallest active volcano in Europe. I loved touring and performing on the military bases in 1995 between the Gulf War and the war that followed. The best days of my youth were spent flying in cargo planes like the ones transporting the asylum seekers from Afghanistan today. Have a little charity. 

Dear Reader, 

     This summer spun me on my heels, ripped my hair out of my head, threw me on my ass, and kicked me in the gut then punched me in the mouth. I’m not being  hyperbolic; I’m describing how I felt when I faced my son and asked him why he refused to get vaccinated against Covid 19. He said, we’re in a civil war in this country. Vaxed and the unvaxed. He shouted his theories. I remained calm and quietly wept. I gave up and accepted his choice. I’m writing this because I need your prayers or whatever voodoo you do do because I’m desperate for a miracle. If my prayers are answered, I’m worrying for no reason; but reality, science, facts, statistics and the fact that we live in a county notorious for not wearing masks or getting vaccinated has validated my fears.  

     So today, I’m going to stand tall and ask all the ancestors to send their healing power and energy to my son and protect him. I’m going to smudge sage and sweetgrass and burn copal and chant and drum in the spirits to surround him with a safety net since he won’t do it himself. I’m going to think positive and remain calm and peaceful because there’s not a fricking thing I can do. He’s an adult. It’s his body. 

     As for my healing over this heartache, I write. I’m writing a book review for a writer I greatly admire. I’m working on a speech for an event in September called Latina Voices. They invited me to speak at the ten year anniversary and asked if I’d write a poem about Latina Voices to celebrate the event. So I’m writing a poem and trying something I don’t do and rhyming so it’s easier to memorize. Ha. I’m also scouring my closets and jewelry drawer for my regalia as a Corn Mother 2022 photo shoot and working on what shoes to wear and how to style my hair. Yikes.

     I have several writing projects in the works, always. I have completed two manuscripts, a memoir of poems called Gathering Momentum. I’ve also completed my first mystery love story, The Colorado Sisters and the Atlanta Butcher and will be submitting it for possible publication with a Chicano/Latino Press. There are only a few, but it’s important to me to be represented by mi gente. 

     The mystery is complete but in my head are two more mysteries involving the Colorado Sisters, L.A. and Eva. They have been described as fascinating characters and the men in their love lives have that certain je ne sais quoi that makes women swoon. Ooh la la. The love scenes steamed up my glasses one night and I had to take a cold shower. The characters are unique, funny, mysterious, and professional. I admit I’ve fallen in love with the characters I’ve created and their little world and the Love Shack, the 35 foot Airstream that serves as home base for the P.I. biz. 

     I’m proud of the work and the creativity that went into this manuscript and I’m anxious to write the next one and the next one. If nothing else, my writing and researching, and reading, and submitting keeps my head focused and my eyes on the future instead of the past and the chaos that is the 2020 Global Pandemic and the Civil War that rips families apart. 

Titles that Scream Read Me By Juliana Aragon Fatula

 Dear Reader,

What’s in a title? What’s in a name? Ask yourself what’s the title of the last book you read and the name of the author. I last read a series of books by the author Janet Evanovich. I had heard the author’s name before, but had never read any of her work. I decided to give her a try and I am now a huge fan. I read six of her books in one week. She kept me from being sad during a rough patch in my month. I’m glad I found Janet because she made me realize something about my own writing style. 

I’ve struggled with picking a specific genre for my mystery writing but I settled on love story. Sure there are private investigators, suspects, a homicide vicim, police detectives, coroner, and crime scene, but at the heart of the story are lovers. Murder and mayhem and romance and sex scenes, oh my. Janet led me to understand that my characters are in love in the middle of a brutal attack of the Atlanta Butcher. Dun dun dun. 

So the title of my love story has to reflect both the crime and the hook, the Colorado Sisters Private Investigators and the Atlanta Butcher Homicide. The Colorado Sisters and the Atlanta Butcher. A friend suggested the title should be The Atlanta Butcher, but I see this becoming a series of mysteries: The Colorado Sisters and the Denver Diabolical Death, The Colorado Sisters and the Chicago Serial Killer, The Colorado Sisters and the Pueblo Reservoir Drowning, The Colorado Sisters and the Yellowstone Camp Kidnapping. So as you can clearly see, the Colorado Sisters have lots of crimes to solve and I should get busy writing these mystery love stories. 

Watch this blog for future reveals and follow me on facebook to discover who killed Reggie Hartless and who is the Atlanta Butcher. The Colorado Sisters, L.A. and Eva Mondragon private investigators solve murders, missing persons, and cheating spouses and they travel the lower 48 states in the Love Shack, the silver airstream office on wheels complete with bullet proof windows, security audio and video system, password encrypted locks, and satellite telecommunications. 

Also, someone asked why so many of my characters in my story are gay, lesbian, transgender, or bisexual, I explained that many of my friends are LGBTQ and it feels true to me. It may not be your truth but it is my reality, so my characters reveal the world that I envision. The world where I live has people of all backgrounds and they lead diverse lives. So when you read my work and you ask yourself what kind of writer names a criminal defense attorney Shakespeare and gives him a crew cut Chingona girlfriend with a talent for hacking computers and undercover work that solves crimes.

And while we’re at it, how about the characters Smith and Wesson, the Border Collies that fall in love with the number one suspect, Tony McNally? Will they end up in puppy prison or will they help L.A. and Eva, the Colorado Sisters, solve the investigation?   

Allow Me To Introduce Myself – And My Other Self: Using a Pen Name

 By Shari Randall

 

Any writer will tell you there are ups and downs on the road to publication. To torture the metaphor, there are washouts, hairpin turns, and dead ends along with the rare, blessed miles of straight-as-a-pin, put-the-top-down-and-blow-your-hair-back Montana highway. I thought I’d managed these changing conditions pretty well until the publication journey threw up a completely unexpected challenge.

 

A hitchhiker.

 

Anyone who’s ever watched horror movies is now having flashbacks and shouting, “Never pick up the hitchhiker!” But since it was required, I took a deep breath, swung open the door, and let her in.

Not only did I let her in, I let her drive.

I picked up a pen name, Meri Allen.

 

“Why a pen name?” readers asked. My agent says “new series new name,” and luckily, the new Ice Cream Shop series has been welcomed with great energy and reviews.

 

But how does one “be” another author? Sally Field in Sybil haunts my dreams. I have questions. What about Meri’s author photo? Should I change my look? Use a disguise? The pandemic already changed my hair color, so at least I have that going for me. A new website is in order, but who gets it, Shari or Meri? How to write Meri’s bio when she doesn’t really exist? 

 

Thank goodness the writing has gone smoothly. Both Meri and Shari adore the same writers and cut their teeth on Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, Agatha Christie, Ross MacDonald, and Sue Grafton. They’re both huge Murder, She Wrote fans.

 

Shari’s main character, Allegra “Allie” Larkin is a dancer who works in a lobster shack and discovered a talent for and love of sleuthing. Meri’s main character, Riley Rhodes, is a librarian who worked for the CIA – and had a few undercover assignments on her many travels. Riley’s older and has been around the block a few more times than Allie, but both are independent women, fiercely loyal to their families and friends. Shari set her stories on the Connecticut shoreline, Meri sets hers in a wonderful little spot in Connecticut we call the Quiet Corner. Quiet, except for the murders I’ve written in. The Lobster Shack Mysteries had definite Gilmore Girls vibes, while Meri’s Ice Cream Shop Mysteries have a Midsomer Murders vibe, darker, as befits a protagonist who has secrets of her own.

 

The writing process took me to some unexpected places, but I’ve come to love Riley and her friends in Penniman, a quintessential New England village with the covered bridge, town green, and locals with generations-long grudges and secrets to prove it. At first it was hard to put aside my Lobster Shack mysteries characters, but I’ve signed on to the Destination Murders anthology series and will bring them back in short stories once a year. I’ll still get to spend time in beloved Mystic Bay. 

 

As a writer, I’ve discovered one big benefit to a pen name. In talking with a friend who uses pen names (three!), I realized a wonderful advantage. Using a pen name gives you clear headspace to write new characters. When I write as “Meri Allen,” it’s easy to switch gears and enter into Riley’s world.

 

To my relief, Meri’s a terrific driver, and I’m enjoying the ride.

 

Writers, have you ever used a pen name? What was your experience? Readers, what do you think about authors using pen names?

 

Shari Randall is the author of the Lobster Shack Mystery series. The first in series, Curses, Boiled Again, won an Agatha Award for Best First Novel.

 

Meet Meri on social media. She’ll, well, we’ll be celebrating her new book, The Rocky Road to Ruin, with lots of giveaways and fun, plus sharing all things cozy New England and ice cream galore!

 

Check out The Rocky Road to Ruin here.

Instagram: @meriallenbooks

Facebook: Meri Allen Books

July 14-26: Win a paperback copy of The Rocky Road to Ruin! Macmillan has set up a Goodreads Giveaway

Book Hangover

 by Bethany Maines

I have a book hangover. I’m about to close out a series that’s very near and dear to my heart.  The Shark Santoyo Crime Series has characters that got under my skin and I’m loathe to let them go.  So much so, that I’m leaving the door wide-open for sequels, but I have two other series that are requiring that the next installments get done and I only have so much time in my days. 

It’s a difficult decision to walk away and I don’t know how other authors do it. I feel like there ought to be some sort of party where I eulogize and make promises I know I won’t keep about seeing them again soon and say something like “it’s not you, it’s me.” I’ll play their playlists and we can eat some Vaca Frita and complain about how it’s hard to get rid of bodies properly one more time. 

But at least I’m ending in a solid place. I’ve wrapped up the story line that ran through all the previous books and I have answered almost all the questions.  And for once, my characters get at least a moment or two of happy ever after.  They also have another adventure ready and waiting for them, should I happen to get back there, but overall I feel good about where I’m leaving them.  

I know a book hangover is real for readers, but is there one for writers?  How do any of my writer friends break up with their creations?  

About the Series:

The criminals are savage, the stakes are high and even the suburbs hide secrets that can kill.

When twenty something Shark got out of prison and made a deal with Geier, the boss of his old gang, he knew he’d be walking into trouble, but he never expected to meet the teenage crime savant Peregrine Hays. The knife-wielding beauty may fuel his dreams, but Peregrine has secrets of her own, and soon Shark is swept up in a whirlpool of murder, revenge, and love. Both streetwise and hardened by dark pasts, Shark and Peri are the perfect match as they battle crooked federal agents, sex traffickers, and gangs in search of vindication. But when Shark is faced with an enemy that knows him better than anyone else, he and Peri learn that their options may be staying together OR staying alive…

About Book 6:

Shark Santoyo is dead. Or at least he was. But now he’s back in the city chasing an art thief and dreams of the past. He has no intention of going anywhere near Peri—she left him to rot in prison. But when Al Hays brings them back together, Shark vows that nothing is going to keep them apart this time. Except that Peri isn’t the only ghost of girlfriends past in his life. Francesca de Corvo, the woman who sent him to prison for a crime she committed, seems to be coming for him with both barrels. Shark has loved, lost, and bled to get his freedom, but will it be enough to get the life—and the girl—he’s always wanted?

**

Bethany Maines is the award-winning author of the Carrie Mae Mysteries, San Juan Islands Mysteries, Shark Santoyo Crime Series, and numerous
short stories. When she’s not traveling to exotic lands, or kicking some
serious butt with her black belt in karate, she can be found chasing her
daughter or glued to the computer working on her next novel. You can also catch up with her on Twitter, FacebookInstagram, and BookBub.


Why I Chose the Mystery Genre to Write My First Novel by Juliana Aragón Fatula

Dear Reader,

This summer I’m taking a break from my gardening and spending time with a friend in her home and working on my manuscript. She asked me to keep her company while she recovers from surgery. I asked her if I could work on my novel. She said, yes. And here I am, writing to my heart’s content. 

We met the summer of my last year in college. We were roommates on our literary tour of England with the English Department of Colorado State University-Pueblo. We were senior citizens among a group of ten twenty-somethings students. The two of us hit it off immediately and have been best friends ever since. That was fourteen years ago. She loves to read mysteries. I love to read mysteries. It was a match made in heaven. Her library is extensive. Dr. Judy Noel has allowed me to use her home as my writing space many times and I appreciate the quiet and reprieve from my home and family to just write, and write, and write. 

After my second book of poetry was published, I decided that I’d like to try writing in my favorite genre, mystery.  I had studied different genres in college: Ethnic Lit, Chicana Lit, Shakespeare, the classics, fiction, non-fiction, playwriting, and poetry. My advisor felt my strength in writing was in poetry. I minored in Creative Writing Poetry and after graduating published two books and a chapbook of poetry. This made me very happy and led me to pursue writing workshops and I met and networked with great poets. But deep in my soul, I wanted more. I wanted to write a mystery. A mystery that only I could write.  A story about two Chicana Private Investigators from Denver, Colorado who are chingonas. Badasses. 

I realized right away that I didn’t have the skills necessary to write a great mystery and I refused to write a mediocre novel, so I set out to read every book on writing, I could get my hands on to learn how to write in this genre. My mentor at the Stiletto Gang, Linda Rodriguez, helped me to have the confidence to write for this blog. She had faith in me and I leaped at the opportunity to network with other mystery writers. It has been one of the best decisions I’ve made in the last ten years. I’ve met writers online that have encouraged me every day and every way to pursue my dream of being a published mystery writer. I’ve learned so much from these women at the Stiletto Gang and want to thank them for the feedback and advice they have given me. Thank you Stiletto Gang for the excellent opportunities you have given me over the years. 

At first, I was fearful that I wouldn’t have anything worth blogging about to the readers, but eventually, I fell into my rhythm of writing to my readers and attracted new fans. Today, I prepare to write my June 2021 post and wanted to tell you a little more about me and why I love the mystery genre. 

I love trying to solve the case. I read the book and search for clues. I pay attention to what people say and do which leads me to suspect they have something up their sleeve. The characters sometimes throw you off course and mislead you, so you can’t assume to know what the end will reveal. If you fall for a red herring, you just might go in the wrong direction to solve the case and a good writer will have several to throw the reader off. 

I’m learning all about how to keep the reader turning pages with a suspenseful story that doesn’t reveal too much, too soon. My sense of humor shows up in my writing and lightens the story from being too dark and dramatic. In real life, people behave differently in stressful cases like investigating homicides, so my Detectives laugh at the absurdity of how corpses end up floating, burning, hacked to pieces, or blown to smithereens. This may offend the serious reader, but I’m not writing a serious mystery. My story is full of mayhem and laughter and includes romance and suspense, murder, and unique characters full of flaws and chaos in their lives. 

The story for the Colorado Sisters began forming in my head years ago on a trip to a writing workshop in Utah. It was delicious. It’s morphed since then into a different story but the main characters remain true to themselves and I’ve adjusted some of the secondary characters to be more interesting. 

It seems like I’ve been writing this story for years and I fretted about how long it was taking me. Then one day I realized, I have been living a full-time life in addition to being a writer. I have a family that needs me and my son needed me especially when he came home after being in prison for seven years. I adapted and set aside my writing to help him adjust. I also became involved in genealogy research of my ancestors after having my DNA tested and discovered my roots go back to years of being marginalized for being indigenous to this country. This research led to more research and I learned so much about my people’s history. I found it addictive and I kept researching and reading and learning. 

During the last few years, I have also studied and learned how to grow Cannabis for medicinal purposes and that led me to study herbal remedies to medicine. I began making salve and baking edibles. I studied plants that grow indigenous to my area and began making shampoo and conditioners for my hair that has begun to grey and thin. I am now becoming a curendera, a woman with the ability to heal with plants. This turned into a belief in the ancient ways. Cleansing with sage and sweetgrass and using essential oils to scent the air in my home. I learned how to use lavender I grow in my garden into oil for many purposes. 

One day I realized that although I hadn’t finished my novel, I had reworked it and made it better than it had been in the first draft. I read it to myself and thought, that’s not bad for a rooky. But still, I wanted to be great, not good for my first novel. And that takes dedication and work. 

I also help other writers with reading their work and writing reviews of their books. I teach writing workshops to Bridging Borders, a team leadership program for young women, and mentor them.  This has been one of the most rewarding things I have done in my life. A chance to give back to my community and learn from these young women about being a positive role model. I have also taken time to volunteer to judge several writing competitions and enjoyed reading other writers’ work and learning from them how to be a better writer. 

I don’t have grandchildren, but my husband and I are pet parents and we treat our puppies and kittens like family and spoil them rotten. They have given me love unconditional and they are my therapy animals. I can’t imagine a world without them and they keep me sane. My life is full and never boring, never. Nunca. Instead, it is filled with family, friends, pets, a network of supportive writers, and a busy life of learning and becoming a better human being. My parents would be so proud of the woman I’ve become. The friends I keep company with are some of the best people in the world and keep me on my toes to keep up with them and their accomplishments. 

When I was a student, I surrounded myself with the smartest people in the class and if they made good grades, I made sure that I studied until I made good grades, tambien. And I did. I have surrounded myself with wonderful social activists, professors, teachers, actors, directors, writers, performance artists, journalists, leaders in the community, and mentors with positive ideas who are creative and make me strive for success. 

My past was shady and I was on the verge of ending up dead or in prison, but somehow I survived to graduate from college and find satisfying work as a teacher and begin a writing career. I’m happy when I’m writing but I also find great joy in performing on stage and I have continued to perform readings every chance I’m given. Sometimes it’s a small crowd in a bookstore, other times in larger venues it’s an audience of hundreds, but regardless, I’m elated to walk on stage and share my stories and the feedback, laughter, tears, applause rewards me for all of my efforts to entertain. 

My life continues to be full and challenging as I wither away into my golden years, but while I still have the ability to write, read, perform, teach, and mentor I will remain happy to be alive and appreciative of all of the blessings in life I’ve been given. 

I’ll end with this thought. Although my life has been filled with trauma and unhappiness, the past made me into the person I am now and I wouldn’t change a thing because I love the woman that writes poetry and mysteries and performs stories about my ancestors. I’m proud of my accomplishments in being the first and only one of ten siblings to graduate from college and I know that that I’ve made a difference in some of my students’ and friends’ lives and that has made all of the heartache, trials, and tribulations worthwhile. I refuse to be silenced. I remain the Crazy Chicana in Catholic City. 

Reggae Saved Me During the Pandemic of 2020 by Juliana Aragón Fatula

 

Dear Reader,
Twenty twenty-one, the pandemic year, I turned 64 and officially became a viejita. A little old woman. But not la abuelita, not a grandmother. No that didn’t happen. I’ve been waiting for decades, but my one and only son had decided that he hasn’t found the one to settle down and raise a family. Not yet. I have hope. I’ll take the blessing of having a son and remember the choice I made to only have one child. My man child is now late forties and it will take a miracle, but I believe in miracles and magic. 
Music has always been playing like a soundtrack to my life. Like a comedy/tragedy, my life spills out in a blur that has included alcoholism, drug addiction, jail, recovery, abuse, survival, mistakes, success, love, happiness, depression, fear, spirituality, anger, bravery, melancholy, absurdity, loathing, jubilation, wit, and wisdom. Mine has been an abundant and holy moly journey down the what a long strange trip it’s been. 
The music of the fifties filled my ears and I danced with my older siblings to Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Elvis, and Fats Domino. 
The sixties brought the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, the Motown Funk, and the blues of Roy Orbison. 
During the seventies, I smoke, rolled, burned, and puff puff passed the doobies to the Doobie Brothers, the Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, never could spell their name right. And of course, there was the Cosmic Blues Band and Janis, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Jackson Browne, Linda Rondstadt, Neil Young, The Eagles, and Joni Mitchell.
The eighties were for disco and punk music and the nineties were everything from rap to reggae to country to opera to tex-mex to Bollywood.
The twenties and the twenty-first century gave me a combination of blues and rockabilly. But in 2020, I dropped to my knees and asked the gods for deliverance and the answer came in Rastafarian Rap Reggaeton.
I danced away my Covid 19 blues and sang along with the Marley Boys. Collie Buddz gave me the inspiration to finish two manuscripts: One poetry book, Gathering Momentum and one murder mystery love story, The Colorado Sisters. I wore my Bluetooth headset religiously and danced under the clothesline, the grape arbor, the sunshine, the moonlight, and the rain. I sang and danced and grew giddy about life again. The music and the writing healed me like they always do. 
My friends worry I spend too much time isolated and not enough time Zooming and socializing on the websites, but I love being alone and listening to my music and writing my stories. It makes me incredibly devoid of anger towards covid idiots and non-believers in science and lets me trip around in unreality instead of the world we live in for real. The real world. 
So if you stop by and visit me, get my attention because my headset takes me to another world and I can’t hear a thing, not dogs barking, sirens blaring, kids crying, husbands yelling…
If you stop by, smell the roses and the tea simmering on the stove and sing along with me to the oldies as we grow old and tip toe through the tulips, or poppies.

WANTED: 3 BR, 2 BATHS, LOTS OF STORY INSPIRATION

By Shari Randall 

 

When she beta-read my last book, a friend told me that I seemed more interested in describing houses and settings than I was in describing people. At first I was taken aback, but after reflection, I saw her point.

 

I adore all those tv shows about houses – buying houses, selling houses, decorating houses, rehabbing houses, even haunted houses. With my husband’s military career, we’ve bought and sold plenty of houses. I love a good house tour or decorator showcase. Even dollhouses fascinate me. When I was a little girl, my favorite toy was my Barbie Dream House. Although my kids flew the nest years ago, I still have custody of their dollhouses and, sorry kids, I don’t think you’re getting them back.

 

Why do houses intrigue me so? Perhaps a psychologist could explain. Maybe the dollhouse my dad built for me and my sisters, a replica of our own red Cape Cod home, set me on this path.

 

Perhaps homes reflect the people in them and the writer in me has stumbled upon a different form of characterization? What can I say, houses inspire me.

 

With COVID, I haven’t been able to travel to scout potential story locations and buildings as much as I’d like. Lucky for me that my corner of Connecticut is full of intriguing places, places that fire my imagination and will make great settings for my books.

 

One of my characters likes to “collect castles” and so do I. Gillette’s Castle, set on a hill called the Seventh Sister overlooking the Connecticut River, is one of my favorite places to visit. Designed by William Gillette, an actor famous for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes, the castle’s décor, construction, and grounds reflect the eccentric brilliance of its owner. This place inspired another pocket-sized castle in the second, as-yet-untitled book in my Ice Cream Shop Mystery series.

 

Here’s a charmer that is slated to be the childhood home of the main character in Ice Cream Shop Mystery #1, The Rocky Road to Ruin

 

This mini-castle is tucked into a neighborhood a block from the ocean. Not your typical beach house, is it? I can only imagine the character who built this place. I feel a story coming on!

 

Writers: People or places – which do you find easier to describe? Readers: Are you as crazy about real estate as I am?

Shari Randall is the author of the Lobster Shack Mystery series from St. Martin’s Press. The first in series, CURSES, BOILED AGAIN, won an Agatha Award for Best First Novel. The first in her new Ice Cream Shop Mystery series (written as Meri Allen), THE ROCKY ROAD TO RUIN, will be published on July 27, 2021.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sixty-Four by Juliana Aragon Fatula

Sixty-four years ago, my mother was snowed-in, nine months pregnant with me, and was surrounded by family. My cousins shoveled the driveway for my mom twice and drove her to the hospital or I would have been born at home like my ancestors. 

My father worked in Colorado Springs for the Federal Government at Fort Carson as a civilian employee. He carpooled with several men and women from our home town. In 1957 on April 2, my journey began and what a long, strange trip it’s been. My father convinced the State Patrol who were turning traffic around to let his vehicle pass the roadblock on Highway 115. He told the trooper his wife was having their first baby. He had three children from his ex-wife, and my mom had three children from her ex-husband. I was my parents first child together. I’ve always been loved.

Today I’m a mother and wife. My son is 48. My husband is 59 and we’ve been married almost thirty years. Yes, it’s been a long strange trip. I had my son when I was fifteen. I married my husband when I was 34 and he was 31. I’m content to stay home and write and read and study and garden and bake and create herbal remedies. 

In the seventies, I wore the label of hippy. Today in twenty-twenty-one, I’m a hippy again being myself and loving life. Just happy to be alive. But I have struggled all of my life with severe depression, so I’m mentally ill, not insane, well a little insane, not dangerous to others or myself, but I get the blues real bad and the only thing that helps me, beside anti-depressants: music therapy. Oh, and puppy therapy, of course. My puppies and kittens keep me feeling loved unconditionally. Even though my parents have been gone for many years, I still feel their presence in my life. My dad lived to be 76. My mom 86. 

This year is the last year I can say I’m in my early sixties. Next year I’ll qualify for Medicare and Social Security and will be officially a vieja. A viejita. Although I don’t have any grandchildren, I do have nieces and nephews with children, so I’m technically  what is known as a tia abuela, or tia abuelita. Juliana la tia abuelita. I like that label, it fits me. 

I wear my hair in waist length braids wrapped in otter furs and leather. Often I wear a beaded headband and silver, copper and turquoise jewelry, I wear moccasins because I like them, always have. I make my own shampoo, conditioner, hair rinse, salve for my arthritis, and medical edibles. I admit it, I love the ganja. I’ve been documenting my journey as an herbalist and a cannabis farmer and it’s legal now. 

My father would call me a marijuana. Feminine noun for a woman who likes to smoke, vape, eat cannabis. He wouldn’t understand that I grow it for my aches and pains and depression and fatigue. He grew fruit trees and vegetables. Mom grew flowers, houseplants. Their yard was the garden of Eden. Seriously. Today, my backyard is the sanctuary that keeps me sane and peaceful. I mind my own business, garden, sing, dance, cook, and celebrate my ancestors by telling their stories. 

Si se puede. We can do it. We can beat this virus and political nightmare and begin to let the diversity and magic of cultures blend into harmony and healing. I pray for love instead of hate. Wisdom instead of ignorance. Peace instead of war. One world One Love. 

This is the year twenty-twenty-one and it’s speeding by like a rocket on its way to Mars. I watch the days zip  past and I wonder where all the time has gone. I was once young and vibrant and sexy and silly and scary. I’m still those things only now I can add wise to that list. I’ve learned a few things about life. I’m a survivor and I have a new goal. My goal is to finish The Colorado Sisters and the Atlanta Butcher and then I can feel I’ve accomplished something spectacular. I write poetry. I’m a confessional poet. But my mystery/love story is something different. It tells a story about women fighting for equality in a world dominated by some men who sometimes don’t see women as their equals. But as RGB said, “All I ask is that you take your foot from my neck.”

Wish me luck with my first mystery. I’m determined to write a great story, not a good story, but a great one. Otherwise, why bother, que no?

Plotting Party

 by Bethany Maines

Last weekend, I reached peak pandemic and hosted a gathering in my carport. It was a writer’s gathering, aka a Plotting Party, so there was a lot of sitting and staring at our notebooks. And also snacking and freezing. But, as with other joint writing gatherings I’ve hosted, we did use each other to work through problems in our outlines. No one asks more “but why?” questions than a writer except a four-year-old trying to stall bedtime. But why do you want a ball in your story?  But why is she in Ireland?  But why did the killer drain all the blood? Each story has it’s own answer and it’s fun to hear the reasoning that went into each one. 
Of course, being the writer in the hot seat isn’t quite as much fun, but it does serve an important purpose. Searching out the answers to those questions forces me to examine the clues in the story I’m writing as well as my intention for writing the character or story that particular way. When another writer points out that my characters motivations seem implausible I’m forced to confront why I want that scene or why I want the character to behave that way.  Being faced with well-intentioned friends who simply want to understand my story is the equivalent of Law & Order level third-degree. Pretty soon I’m caving and confessing that I just like something and I’ve been ignoring my characters motivations all along. 
But the added benefit of a plotting party is that I have additional minds to help me brainstorm. And with brainstorming comes encouragement and a cheering section that is irreplaceable. The pandemic has put a lot of things on hold, but creativity and friendship clearly haven’t been one of them. I see more outdoor plotting parties in the future, particularly as the weather gets warmer and I wish all of you a carport full of friends of your very own.
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Bethany Maines is the award-winning author of the Carrie Mae Mysteries, San Juan Islands Mysteries, Shark Santoyo Crime Series, and numerous
short stories. When she’s not traveling to exotic lands, or kicking some
serious butt with her black belt in karate, she can be found chasing her
daughter or glued to the computer working on her next novel.
You can also catch up with her on Twitter, FacebookInstagram, and BookBub.

Behind

 by Bethany Maines

 

As I write this, I am very far behind on writing my fourth
book in the San
Juan Island Mystery
series. I have a title, a nice first chapter, and half an
outline.  Which is at least half a draft
short of where I wanted to be at this time. 
And in other news, there’s a pandemic and my child just started back to
school, but for some reason school doesn’t start until 9:45.  Why this is I have yet to determine, but it
delays the start of my work day by a significant chunk of time.  I would love to say that those two events are
causally related, but they’re really more corollaries. They are linked and
related through the reality in which we wade, but, as much as I would like to,
I can’t actually say that my school districts scattershot, indecipherable
response to the pandemic is actually to blame for not sticking to my schedule.  I may be able to blame the pandemic itself,
which has sent me head long into escapist fun writing and sees me closing in on
finishing a trilogy of paranormal romances, but I think, in the interests of
truthfulness, that’s as far as I can pass the blame.

Me trying to escape the pandemic through writing.

But as school starts back up there is a lot of twittering
about the kids being behind. Or not being behind. Or being able to catch up no
problem!  To which I say… yeeeeeah?  Maybe. 
The truth is that private schools have been in person and in session for
much of this time.  So if you could
afford private school, which generally means that your kid (who was already looking
at better outcomes than a public school kid) is, in fact, ahead.  Yes, the public school kids will bounce back
and they’re already in similar boats to each other, but let’s just say that
some kids have better rowers on their team than others.  Yes, everything will work out in the end, but
the rah-rah “no one is behind” cheer strikes me as particularly delusional when
I can point to a whole contingent of children who are receiving a better
education due to finances. The pandemic has distinctly widened the gulf between
the haves and have-nots. 

But back to me.  Am I
behind?  My deadlines are relatively
self-imposed.  I can flex them.  Is it sooooo bad to be running late?  Maybe if I type for two days straight I can
catch up?  If I can learn anything from
the school debacle, it’s that no, probably sprinting to catch up is not the
way.  Writing consistently is probably a
better way to get quality work.  But
having already not done that, it’s probably best to go the public school route and
tell myself that I’m not behind and that everything will work out in the end.

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Bethany Maines is the award-winning author of the Carrie Mae Mysteries, San Juan Islands Mysteries, The Deveraux Legacy Series, and numerous
short stories. When she’s not traveling to exotic lands, or kicking some
serious butt with her black belt in karate, she can be found chasing her
daughter or glued to the computer working on her next novel. You can also catch up with her on Twitter, FacebookInstagram, and BookBub.