Sunrise, Sunset

By Barbara J. Eikmeier

I once read that for health and prosperity a person should strive to watch two sunrises a year. I know there are some people who see two or three hundred sunrises a year. I’m not one of them. As for sunsets, I’m well-rehearsed on the shift of colors, time of day across all four seasons, and I know if the back yard is glowing pink in autumn (which means I have my back to the sun) it’s my cue to go out the front door for a “red sky at night” sunset viewing.

When I do see a sunrise (at least two per year) I’m amazed at how much more aware I am of the changing sky. Maybe light emerging from the darkness is more dramatic than fading daylight, but I think it’s the rarity of my sunrise viewing that causes me to notice the fine details.

One August morning I was leaving home early with a three-hour drive ahead of me. As I backed out of the garage, I caught the morning sun filtering through the trees creating a starburst of long sunbeams. 50 feet away, one of those rays cast light on a spider web, outlining it in perfect detail. It was far from me, yet, thanks to the sunrise spotlight, I could see the sparkle of dew drops on the silken web.

August sunrise

When my dad became ill a few years ago, I went to California regularly to help take care of him. Over the next year and half, while there, one of my duties was fixing breakfast. My dad liked his breakfast at 7 AM, and we weren’t talking about a bowl of cold cereal with milk. On the farm breakfast was a full meal and my elderly parents, as much out of habit as preference, still liked yogurt and fruit with eggs and bacon, or pancakes and sausage, or hot oatmeal every day. To have it ready and served on time I was up early and therefore saw far more than the requisite two sunrises a year.

Not an early riser by nature, I was grumpy in the morning and didn’t have much patience for cooking eggs and oatmeal before I was fully awake (I once reversed the amount of water with the amount of oats and ended up with inedible paste). My reward for getting up and making breakfast became watching the sunrise from my mother’s kitchen window.

As the seasons passed, while logging away the months of my dad’s declining health, I monitored the shift of seasons by the position of the sun coming up behind the barn. The bright orange orb of summer rose far on the northern edge of the distant Sierra Nevada Mountains out of my view. By 7 AM the summer heat was already a conversation for the day. By late summer, the sunrise had started its slide south, rising along the edge of the barn. In autumn and again in the spring, from that kitchen window, I had a straight-on view of the sunrise, the coral horizon accented with great Vs of migrating geese. During winter, I’d already be clearing the table before the sun, often shrouded with dense fog or streaked with scattered clouds, showed her face on the southern edge of my view.


Some mornings I stepped outside in my apron and bare feet to take in the wonder of the new day while snapping a picture. But most of the time I stood at that window and thought, isn’t that sunrise worth getting up for?

Are you a sunrise or sunset person? Do you make notes of dawn and dusk skies you’ve observed and use them to inform time of day in your writing?

Barbara J. Eikmeier is a quilter, writer, student of quilt history, and lover of small-town America. Raised on a dairy farm in California, she enjoys placing her characters in rural communities.



¡AY, QUÉ LÀSTIMA! by Linda Rodriguez

The men—husbands, father-in-law, cousins—sat in the living room on the flower-covered couch and armchairs or sprawled on the shag carpet in front of the televised football game, beer cans in all hands. The only differences from the majority of living rooms across America were the brand of beer (Dos Equís or Carta Blanca), the painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe above the couch serenely presiding over the laughter and profanity, and the Spanish phrases casually sprinkled throughout the Midwestern English.

“First down! Yeah! Let’s do it again! ¡Otra vez!

The women, not unlike those in my own father’s family, sat at the kitchen table and stood at stove and counters, preparing meals and gossiping about absent members of the extended family in the same flat Midwestern accents sparked with Spanish phrases. “¡Ay, qué lástima!” was the most frequent. What a shame, or what a mess, or what a tragedy. It was used in all three cases with only a change in tone and the context to indicate which.

Young newlywed with feminist ideas (after all, it was the beginning of 1970, a new age), I planted myself defiantly on that floral couch at my husband’s side. I had grown up playing football with my many brothers. I could yell for a field goal or first down with the best of them. I was going to be an equal, not shunted off to the kitchen to gossip with the women.

And other than a frown from my forbidding father-in-law (who, I was convinced, hated me anyway) and a raised eyebrow from one of my husband’s older cousins, I encountered no real resistance. Most of the younger generation thought it was cool. Oh, I knew the women in the kitchen were shaking their heads, clucking tongues, and whispering about me.

“What can you expect if Mike marries some half-breed Indian girl? ¡Ay, qué lástima!

So why did I give up my place in front of the TV and under Our Lady’s protective gaze to spend decades of my life in the steamy kitchen, patting out tortillas and clucking my tongue at the latest escapades of Manny, the drunkard second cousin once-removed (“Of course, he’s still a primo. His mother and grandfather are, aren’t they?”) and the no-good mujeriego that poor Lupe married (“¡Ay, qué lástima!”)?

I simply grew up enough to understand that the conversations in the kitchen were more than just gossip. There was always some of that, of course, but on the whole, what was taking place was of greater importance. That kitchen, as were so many, was the central hub of the web that was la familia, embracing not only distant blood relatives but godparents and godchildren, as well as in-laws of in-laws. In that kitchen, behavior was examined and evaluated, true, but usually through the lens of the good of the entire family. And the verdicts would later pass to husbands over meals or in bed back in their own homes.

“Jacinto needs to lighten up on that oldest boy of his. If Chuy can get a scholarship, why shouldn’t he go to college? One of his brothers can take over the shop.”

Over the years, as I added my own children to that family web of relationships, I learned to value the women’s kitchen-talk in a different way. Raised through my adolescence in the ultimate-individualist WASP world of my mother’s family after the divorce, I had made that competitive ethos my own, but this other way of granting importance to the good of the family and the community resonated with my early memories of my Cherokee grandmother and my father’s people. American society outside would always push the concept of each individual for himself or herself, but there was a place as well for these older ways, ways of considering la familia, the group, the tribe, trying to keep it strong and thriving, and trying to keep each member linked to everyone else in a web of love, loyalty, and concern.

Those children I gave to the family web are grown now. With so many of their second- and third-generation peers, they’ve moved away and live on the furthest fringes of the web. Like the tias who taught me to make tamales and enchiladas, along with more important things, I pull them back in as much as I can, reminding them of their obligations and ties to the family, nagging my youngest to call his prima who lives in his college town.

“But, Mom, I don’t know her! She’s not going to want to hear from me.”

“She’s Aunt Mary from Chicago’s oldest boy’s granddaughter. She’s family. Of course, she’ll want to hear from you. A friendly face in a town where she’s a stranger and brand new? Just give her a call.”

I see the same attitudes of wanting to ignore or forget family ties other than the immediate in others of my children’s generation. The media are full of voices telling Latinos to assimilate, but that’s something they’ve been doing quite successfully for as long as they’ve had the chance. The trick is to do that without losing the cultural and familial richness that is their inheritance, is in fact one of the many gifts Latinos have to offer Anglo America. That family closeness and consideration for the welfare of the community that is the extended family web has long disappeared from much of the Anglo American culture. If Latinos were to assimilate that… “¡Ay, qué lástima!


Linda Rodriguez’s 13th book, Unpapered: Writers Consider Native American Identity and Cultural Belonging, was published in May 2023. She also edited Woven Voices: 3 Generations of Puertorriqueña Poets Look at Their American Lives, The World Is One Place: Native American Poets Visit the Middle East, The Fish That Got Away: The Sixth Guppy Anthology, Fishy Business: The Fifth Guppy Anthology, and other anthologies.

Dark Sister: Poems was a finalist for the Oklahoma Book Award. Her three earlier Skeet  Bannion mystery novels—Every Hidden Fear, Every Broken Trust, Every Last Secret—and earlier books of poetry—Skin Hunger and Heart’s Migration—received critical recognition and awards, such as St. Martin’s Press/Malice Domestic Best First Novel, International Latino Book Award, Latina Book Club Best Book of 2014, Midwest Voices & Visions, Elvira Cordero Cisneros Award, Thorpe Menn Award, and Ragdale and Macondo fellowships. She also published Plotting the Character-Driven Novel, based on her popular workshop.  Her short story, “The Good Neighbor,” published in Kansas City Noir, was optioned for film.

Rodriguez is past chair of the AWP Indigenous Writer’s Caucus, past president of Border Crimes chapter of Sisters in Crime, founding board member of Latino Writers Collective and The Writers Place, and a member of International Thriller Writers, Native Writers Circle of the Americas, Wordcraft Circle of Native American Writers and Storytellers, and Kansas City Cherokee Community. Learn more about her at or follow her on Twitter at or on Mastodon at

When a Character Writes the Book

When I write fiction, my approach is to “fly by the seat of my pants”, a style often called pantser, as opposed to a plotter who outlines and plans every minute detail of a story. I’ve said that if I had to plot every trifling item in planning a novel, I’d slit my wrists. Plotting and outlining would kill the fun for me! I like it when I can hear my characters voices in my mind and they guide me through the adventure, thrilling me with surprises and the twists and turns that happen organically.

By being a pantser, new characters can pop into the story, especially if there is a plot twist requiring another person, like a street woman in Danger in the Coyote Zone. Writing about Juana brought me great joy.

Floyd, owner of Security Source where Nikki now works, made his debut in Waking Up in Medellin when it was obvious that Nikki needed a cohort to save her from the life-threatening trouble where she found herself. Floyd became one of the three main characters of the Nikki Garcia Mystery Series.

I could continue describing serendipitous incidents, such as the characters telling me where and how to end a plot, yet my latest novel, Stolen Diary, a coming-of-age story of a young math genius, is the best example of a protagonist guiding me through

her adventure. When I started Stolen Diary, I thought it would be a ghost story. Instead, Jasmin, the protagonist, led me away from the spirit world to her family’s tightly guarded secrets. Secrets are usually entangled with mystery and in this book, Jasmin must investigate them and overcome many hurdles in the process.

After I completed the manuscript, I researched the salient points of a coming-of-age novel to make sure I’d covered the important ones. My research turned up the following life-changing events in a child’s (or teen’s) life that make for a good coming-of-age saga:

  • Child discovers a parent’s secret from the past.
  • Child’s parents get divorced.
  • A family member gets sick or in some sort of trouble that changes the child’s life.
  • The family relocates to another city.
  • The young protagonist must attain a goal.
  • The young protagonist should mature into a responsible person.

Jasmin steered my pantser style to cover all the above points. She’s also told me that plotters write great stories and since they always know where they are going in the manuscript, they write much faster than pantsers! Of course, there is the plantser style, a combination of the other two.

What is your writing style?


­­­Kathryn Lane

Kathryn Lane writes mystery and suspense novels set in foreign countries. In her award-winning Nikki Garcia Mystery Series, her protagonist is a private investigator based in Miami. Her latest publication is a coming-of-age novel, Stolen Diary, about a socially awkward math genius.

Kathryn’s early work life started out as a painter in oils. To earn a living, she became a certified public accountant and embarked on a career in international finance with Johnson & Johnson.

Two decades later, she left the corporate world to create mystery and suspense thrillers, drawing inspiration from her Mexican background as well as her travels in over ninety countries.


All photographs are used for educational or editorial purposes.


Life Changes and the Life Cycle

Life Changes and the Life Cycle by Debra H. Goldstein

Lately, my life has been taking a 360 degree turn-around. Some of the changes are wonderful; others, not so much. Any way I look at it, it is quite a ride.

Not only did I pass a special birthday with a month long friends and family celebration, but we’ll be doing it again because this is a special birthday for my husband and anniversary for us. In the past, when we had these five year milestones, I’d throw a big bash. One year, it was taking friends and family to a basketball game, another year was a baseball game where my husband got to throw out the first pitch, and there was the Mexican food with a wild band playing event. For a few years, we celebrated by traveling to far-away-places with a couple we adored, but knew their health issues would limit our time as friends —- we were able to visit Italy, China, and the beach with them — good memories of good people. Perhaps, the best celebration though, was an open house we threw that not only celebrated our milestones, but commemorated the twins graduating high school and introduced our local world to our first grandson, who was three months old.

This year, other than the whirlwind month I’ve just had, we’ve opted to keep things low key and family oriented. The special highlight that we’ll all remember happens tomorrow: our sixth grandchild, the second boy, is coming to town to have his first haircut done by the same person who gave his mother her first haircut. A life cycle event.

Do you have little things like this that reinforce the concept of the life cycle for you?