Home, Sweet Home by Saralyn Richard

Home, Sweet Home

by Saralyn Richard

I live on an island, and there’s a saying around here that when you cross the causeway coming into the island, you leave all your troubles behind. The saying must be true, because everyone I know says they experience something truly spiritual whenever they drive into town. It happens to me every time—a lightening of the mood, a warming of the heart, and sometimes, a tear in the eye.

Home is more than a place. It’s an atmosphere, an attitude, a group of people whom you love and who love you back, an album full of memories.

I left my island home many years ago, but the connection remained strong. I moved back in 2005, back to the house I grew up in. Not many people are lucky enough to do this, but I was, and I’m so grateful.

Here in this house, I sat at the kitchen table with my entire nuclear family, had girlfriends spend the night, was picked up for my first and subsequent dates, brought my husband-to-be home to meet my family.

The house and I have been through celebrations and tragedies. I know its every cranny, every pebble in its concrete, every branch of its trees.

No wonder, then, that the homes in my novels are practically characters, especially the estates in the Detective Parrott mystery series, located in Brandywine Valley. Bucolia, Manderley, Sweetgrass, and Moonglow—each with its own special characteristics—serve as places, but also figure into the books’ plots. Secrets abound within their walls.

What connotations of home have you found in some of your favorite books? How did the author breathe life into the homes in those books?

 

Saralyn Richard writes award-winning humor- and romance-tinged mysteries that pull back the curtain on people in settings as diverse as elite country manor houses and disadvantaged urban high schools. Her works include the Detective Parrott mystery series, two standalone mysteries, a children’s book, and various short stories published in anthologies. She also edited the nonfiction book, Burn Survivors. An active member of International Thriller Writers and Mystery Writers of America, Saralyn teaches creative writing and literature. Her favorite thing about being an author is interacting with readers like you. If you would like to subscribe to Saralyn’s monthly newsletter and receive information, giveaways, opportunities, surveys, freebies, and more, sign up at https://saralynrichard.com.

Justice in New France, 1734

My latest mystery book took me back in time and out of my comfort zone. Conflagration! is a historical mystery set in Montreal in 1734. It raises issues about slavery in Canada – and introduces us to a justice system that is distinctly different from 2024.

I posed 10 questions to the book’s main character Philippe Archambeau, a court clerk assigned specifically to document the case of Marie-Joseph Angélique almost three centuries ago. His answers are below. (Hint: You can also find them in the book.)
  1. ARE LAWYERS A CORNERSTONE OF THE JUSTICE SYSTEM IN NEW FRANCE?
    Witnesses are a cornerstone of the French judicial system. We do this without lawyers. We do not allow lawyers to practice in New France. We are not English.
  2. IS EVIDENCE CRITICAL TO A CONVICTION?
    I turned to the Criminal Ordinance of 1670 and other legal documents for this question. It does not take me long to find what I am looking for. Rumor alone constitutes legal grounds for accusing, arresting, and convicting an individual.
  3. DOES THE ACCUSED GET TO FACE THEIR ACCUSERS?
    Confrontation is part of the judicial process. It enables the accused to deny accusations directly. It gives witnesses the opportunity to rethink, perhaps to revise, their earlier testimony.
  4. IS TORTURE AN ACCEPTABLE PUNISHMENT?
    The Criminal Ordinance permits torture for serious crimes. There are reasons for this. Torture can help extract a confession. This is important to get to the truth of a matter. There is also the issue of accomplices. Torture can help to draw out names that would otherwise die on an accused’s lips.
  5. WHAT ARE BRODEQUINS?
    The brodequins are very effective. Misleadingly and accurately called laced boots or tight boots, this particular form of torture involves packing a person’s legs between narrow boards tightly bound. Wooden wedges are then pounded between board and human flesh. Bone breaks. Boards do not.
  6. ARE INDIVIDUALS PRESUMED INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY?
    French law says all accused are presumed guilty. The accused must prove their innocence.
  7. WHAT IS THE PUNISHMENT FOR A CAPITAL CRIME LIKE ARSON?
    The punishment: death, torture, or banishment. Or some combination of those. Being found guilty will mean an end to the life someone knows regardless of the punishment.
  8. WHAT IS THE CODE NOIR?
    The Code Noir explicitly states how slaves are to be treated in New France. It discusses punishment and freedom of movement, or more accurately, lack of movement. The Code also requires all slaves convert to Catholicism. It is an owner’s responsibility to ensure this happens. Sooner rather than later.
  9. IS THERE AN APPEAL PROCESS?
    Mais oui! The appeal judgment would be rendered by the Conseil Supérieur in Québec. It is the foremost judicial body in New France. Their decision will be final.
  10. DOES MONTREAL HAVE ITS OWN PRISON? IS THERE A JAILER?
    There is a prison, of course. It is attached to the courthouse – and it is where the jailer lives.

About The Book

On a warm spring day in April 1734, a fire raged through the merchants’ quarter in Montréal. When the flames finally died, 46 buildings – including the Hôtel-Dieu convent and hospital – had been destroyed. Within hours, rumors ran rampant that Marie-Joseph Angélique, an enslaved Black woman fighting for her freedom, had started the fire with her white lover. Less than a day later, Angélique sat in prison, her lover nowhere to be found. Though she denied the charges, witnesses claimed Angélique was the arsonist even though no one saw her set the fire.

Philippe Archambeau, a court clerk assigned specifically to document her case, believes Angelique might just be telling the truth. Or not. A reticent servant, a boisterous jailer, and three fire-scorched shingles prove indispensable in his quest to uncover what really happened.

Angélique’s time is running out as Archambeau searches for answers. Will the determined court clerk discover what really happened the night Montreal burned to the ground before it’s too late?

How Cozy!

First, a happy piece of news!

The Body Next Door has just won GOLD in the 2024 American Legacy Book Awards. I am honored and happy for the recognition, the fifth one for this, my second book in the Samantha Newman Mystery Series. I’m also amazed and amused. Here’s why:

Flashback to 2014:

I’d helped someone else write a successful thriller, and just finished the first book that was all mine. I wrote it as a thriller as well: fast-moving and tense, bad guys revealed from the beginning, there’s a bomb, and good people might die.

But the publisher who loved it marketed The Body Business as a Romantic Suspense novel, not a thriller.

Then I wrote a sequel, The Body Next Door.  When it was released in 2016 (the recent American Legacy prize is for backlisted books), many readers and reviewers called it a Cozy. The first prize it won back then was a Chanticleer Mystery & Mayhem award, which, as I later discovered, is given for cozies like Agatha Christie classics. I was pleased, but confused.

So, what makes my book a cozy?

Cozies are very popular entertainment, but when I studied the genre more than a decade ago, I encountered a slew of rabid rule-keepers that strictly defined what made a book a cozy and, especially, what must never happen in one: graphic sex, cursing, and bloody violence. Not wanting to incur the wrath of the cozy police in the form of angry reviews, I laid low.

While there’s no graphic sex in my books, the bad guys in the first book do some pretty unsavory things. Also, cozies are usually set in small towns, while my series is set in a big metropolitan area. It’s common for a cozy protagonist to own a cat or other sentient pet (Samantha has none) and to manage a small business, preferably a cozy store or restaurant. Neither element is present in my books.

And yet, to my amazement and amusement, The Body Next Door has won a Best Cozy award again. Now I’m wondering if the series should be described as Cozy.

The rules seem to have loosened in recent years. Are cozy readers more forgiving?

Which brings me to Book 3, The Body in the News, which was recently released. It follows the continuing saga of Samantha Newman, who must solve yet another murder while still struggling to find her true calling. The story features the main characters and settings from the beginning of the series and adds a few colorful new ones, too.

I’m still wary of calling the book anything except a Romantic Mystery. Full of suspense, with interesting characters and a dollop of humor, whichever way someone wants to classify my books is just fine with me, as long as they have been entertained.

Do you look for certain genres to enjoy, or are you an omivourous reader?

Please comment below!

Gay Yellen is a former magazine editor and national journalism award winner. She was the contributing book editor for Five Minutes to Midnight (Delacorte), an international thriller and New York Times Notable. Her award-winning Samantha Newman Mystery Series includes The Body Business, The Body Next Door, and The Body in the News.

Gay loves to connect with book clubs and community groups in person and online. Contact her through her website, GayYellen.com.

 

DO LOOK BACK

HERE IS MY RAMBLE OF THE MONTH:

What is this thing about not looking back? Does anyone really not do that? How do we know where we’re going if we don’t know where we’ve been? I was thinking about that a lot lately because, I guess you could say, I experienced a bad spell where I was way down in the dumps. Then I was at a meeting last week and someone started talking about Lot’s wife and not looking back. (BTW, I’m annoyed we don’t know Lot’s wife’s name.) I’d already been thinking about her.

The past twelve or so months have been trying to say the least. Not wanting to bore any readers with my sad story, suffice it to say, if I took a stress test, I’d score 100+.

Since I moved back from Mexico at the end of 2016, I’ve aimed to put out at least one book before the end of each year, but because of the issues in my sad story, I didn’t get one out before the end of ’23. So, what did I do? I set myself a goal, or you could say, a deadline of June ’24 to get that book out and the end of ’24 to get another book out I haven’t finished yet either.

I was feeling sorry for myself that so many issues were getting in the way on this book writing and publishing thing that I so often love. Frustrated. Then I remembered, at the end of each year I look at what I did or what happened in the previous year and what I want to do in the upcoming year. Like Janus. I hadn’t really let myself focus on that as much as I usually do, so one day I sat myself down and looked at what I’ve accomplished not just in the past year but in the past seventy-four (74) years of my life. I instantly felt better, especially when I didn’t turn into a pillar of salt.

I also felt better a couple of days ago, when I decided I’d probably quit getting headaches, some of which are migraines, if I quit overwhelming myself. I changed my deadlines and gave myself permission to change them again. I’m in this because I love it, and I don’t love it when I put unreal expectations on myself and cause myself to have a negative response.

By the way, did you know that if you go on YouTube and put in Don’t Look Back, you will find pages of songs that include Don’t Look Back In Anger. What is it about not looking back that fascinates people?

What a coincidence that I was reading about Janus, and to my surprise, I found a blog or essay or whatever the author called it about Janus, the god of writing. https://writescape.ca/site/2017/01/janus-the-god-of-writing/ .

I’m saying look forward, but look back. See where you’ve come. See what you’ve accomplished. Do not take life too seriously. You will never get out of it alive—Elbert Hubbard. (Something I’ll be constantly reminding myself.)

 

Susan P. Baker is a retired judge, mother of 2, grandmother of 8, world traveler, author of 14 published books with several partials in her drawers—at least that’s what she used to say back when partials were printed out, before computers and the Internet. You can read more about her at www.susanpbaker.com.

 

 

 

 

 

How Best to Make Sure the Books You Love Keep Coming

How Best to Make Sure the Books You Love Keep Coming by Linda Rodriguez

Some of the things I’ve learned as a published novelist have turned me into a better fan of my own favorite authors. I’ve written on this blog before about pre-ordering and how I learned of its importance to writers. Instead of waiting for the books of my favorite author to be published, I pre-order now, knowing I’m contributing to their success, as well as assuring I’ll have their book as soon as it’s available.

I thought I was already helping with reviews. On my blog, www.LindaRodriguezWrites.blogspot.com, I try to spotlight books by literary writers of color who might be hard for the average reader to find, as well as mystery novelists who are writing high-quality fiction. I do this with profiles, interviews, and sometimes reviews of individual books. However, I’ve learned that reviews on Amazon and Goodreads count more toward sales than those longer ones on my blog or elsewhere.

I’ve always just given stars to books on Goodreads. I’ve read so many books that I didn’t think I had time for more than that. I was wrong. Those stars don’t do much good. It’s the reviews that make others decide to pick up the book to read. It’s the same with Amazon—reviews lead to sales. Even for authors who seem to have it made! Often even famous writers are just a breath or two away from tumbling down the slopes in the fickle game of publishing (as we saw recently when the major publishers all suddenly threw off multiple mystery writers, leaving many scrambling for new publishers or trying to reinvent themselves), and success is even more volatile for midlist authors. I try not to buy much on Amazon, so I’ve not done much except hit the ‘Like” button for a book/author I enjoy.

I learned about how important these reviews can be to authors, and I’d set myself a goal to post a daily review of a novelist whose work I enjoyed on either Amazon or Goodreads.  Unfortunately, Amazon now won’t allow me to review many of the books I’d like to, because they assume I’m friends with the author. In some cases, I barely know the author, and in others, I don’t know them, at all, but Amazon has decided that, since I’m an author myself, I must necessarily know all other authors, apparently. So this is one way that I can’t contribute to keeping my favorite authors publishing, but if you can, those reviews matter more than almost any others. I have learned how to link my blog, so a review on my blog posts to my author page on Amazon or Goodreads, however. This is one thing I can do to make sure the writers I love don’t disappear on me.

I’ve always been a person others ask for book recommendations, primarily because I read so much in so many areas. Now that I’ve learned how important that word-of-mouth advice on books can be, I’ll be doing a lot more book recommendations and not just waiting for folks to ask me. I have occasionally requested my library system buy a book I want that they don’t have. Now, as soon as I know a book is coming out by one of my favorite writers, I will request my library system order that book—and my own pre-orders for those books will be through local bookstores because that helps them decide whether or not to order in that book to have on the shelves.

The publishing business is in deep flux right now, and authors are being required to do more than ever to promote their books. Every novelist I know, famous or unknown, is buried in a mountain of promotion efforts while still trying to write the books we fans love and wait for breathlessly. The sheer numbers, literally millions, of books flooding the market now, some by authors who haven’t bothered to learn to be good writers or good editors, makes it hard for the potential buyer to find the writers who have worked for many years to hone their craft. Everything we, as fans of good writing in whatever genre, can do to make our favorite authors successful ensures that in the volatile atmosphere of publishing today these favorite novelists will survive and thrive—and continue providing us with our favorite addiction, their good books.

Do you know of other strategies we fans can do to help ensure the success of the book and authors we love?

 

A Hand, a Fist —T.K. Thorne

hands-clip-art-10

What kind of world allows young American football players to feel comfortable making a video about raping an unconscious girl?  A world where the defense against a brutal, fatal rape of a student in India is that “respectable women are not raped?”  A world where a young Pakistani student is shot for going to school?

The brutal actions on Oct 7 shocked us, yet there are  daily attacks on women throughout the world.   Not to mention the massacre of children in schools.

What do these two subjects—violence against women and mass shootings—share?  They are both about power.

In most individuals, most of the time, the drive to power funnels into positive channels—a determination to make a business successful; craft an environment that ensures the best future for our children; cure disease; explore space or the ocean or the world of the quantum; render a painting that reflects our deepest emotions; or find the words that move a reader.  That is power.

There are also negative channels—the malicious release of a computer virus, the poisoning of trees: the sabotage of a fellow worker; the punch of a fist; the pulling of a trigger; even when the gun is aimed at the aggressor’s own head.  These acts are also efforts to establish or regain power.

Why do we struggle so to be the master of our environment, our emotions, or influence?

Survival.

In the millennia that shaped us, if we were not wired to seek power, we would have been eaten.  In another post, The Most Important Question, I explored the question of whether our basic nature has evolved since we became “human.”  Recently, a research project added to that discussion when scientists found that the human hand, so intricately designed to manipulate and experience the world was also uniquely evolved to become a weapon, as a fist. We aren’t going to erase our nature, and if we did, we might loose all the best that we are or can be in the bargain.

What we can do, what we must do, is civilize ourselves with laws and education and support safety nets. We need to make abusing power, be it physical, emotional or political, unacceptable; to encourage a world where “success” is culturally defined by making the world a better place.

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T.K. Thorne writes about what moves her, following a flight path of curiosity, reflection, and imagination. Check out her (fiction and nonfiction) books at TKThorne.com

 

In the right place

Céad míle fáilte. This Gaelic expression means “a hundred thousand welcomes.” If you live in Nova Scotia, as I do, this is an expression you will have seen for much of your life. (Pronouncing it is a different issue altogether.) A hundred thousand welcomes in any language speaks to the type of people you are likely to encounter when you come here and the values they place on such encounters.


Meet Riel Brava

image of the cover of Hung Out To DieAttractive, razor-sharp, ambitious, and something more. Riel is the lead character in my mystery novel Hung Out to Die.

Raised in Santa Barbara, California, Riel has been transplanted to Nova Scotia where he is CEO of the Canadian Cannabis Corporation – one of the estimated four to twelve percent of CEOs who are psychopaths. It’s business as usual until Riel finds his world hanging by a thread.

Riel resists the hunt to catch a killer. Detective Lin Raynes draws the reluctant CEO into the investigation, and the seeds of an unexpected and unusual friendship are sown. Ultimately, Riel finds himself on the butt end of a rifle in the ribs and a long drive to the middle of Nowhere, Nova Scotia.

Welcome to Nova Scotia

Riel lives in Elmsdale, Nova Scotia, about a 40-minute drive from Halifax, the province’s capital. In East Coast parlance, Riel is a come from away.

Fact is, I could have placed Riel in the middle of anywhere. The murder is not location specific. The victim does not fall from the Brooklyn Bridge or mysteriously appear atop Old Faithful, places that are singular. Nova Scotia made sense for me as a writer, and it made sense for Riel as a character. I live here; I know this province better than any other place. I can write about it with ease, and with a personal perspective.

For Riel, who lives uncomfortably in a world where people hug each other because they care and share the pain of others because their brain is wired that way, being in a place where he does not have roots, where he is an outsider, mirrors what goes on within Riel. It’s the right place for him.

Because I am from Nova Scotia, I can also authentically and naturally insert elements of life here. Take the language, for instance. You may discover some new words such as “bejesus” and “tinchlet.” There will be expressions common to the area. “Bless your heart” is one you’ll hear a lot in Nova Scotia, and Riel hears it as well.

There is also food that has Nova Scotia marinated into it, as Riel discovers. Turns out Riel is now a donair aficionado. (I am not.)

Who’s in Control

One of the things I have learned as a writer is that I am in control, and I am not in control. I can decide to situate a character in a particular place, and the character will let me know if that is the right place as the writing unfolds. In the case of Riel, he ends up in the dark of winter at a deserted row of cottages called, what else, Fáilte.

I did not see that coming. I have a feeling Riel did.

Learn About The Author

Learn more about donalee on her author website: https://donaleemoulton.com/

Check Out The Agatha Nominations

by Paula Gail Benson

Whether or not you can attend the fabulous gathering of Malice Domestic at the end of this month, be sure to check out the marvelous novels, books, and stories that have received prestigious Agatha nominations. You’ll have some delightful reading. (NOTE: click on the short story for a link to the text.) Here’s a list:

Best Contemporary Novel

WINED AND DIED IN NEW ORLEANS, Ellen Byron

HELPLESS, Annette Dashofy

THE WEEKEND RETREAT, Tara Laskowski

A CASE OF THE BLEUS, Korina Moss

THE RAVEN THIEF, Gigi Pandian

Best Historical Novel

DEATH AMONG THE RUINS, Susanna Caulkins

ACT LIKE A LADY, THINK LIKE A LORD, Celeste Connally

I HEARD A FLY BUZZ WHEN I DIED, Amanda Flower

TIME’S UNDOING, Cheryl Head

THE MISTRESS OF BHATIA HOUSE, Sujata Massey

Best First Novel

GLORY BE, Danielle Arceneaux

THE HINT OF LIGHT, Kristin Kisska
DUTCH THREAT, Josh Pachter

CRIME AND PARCHMENT, Daphne Silver

MOTHER-DAUGHTER MURDER NIGHT, Nina Simon

Best Short Story

“THE KNIFE SHARPENER”, Shelley Costa, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Jul/Aug 2023

“A GOOD JUDGE OF CHARACTER”, Tina de Bellegarde, Malice Domestic 17, Murder Most Traditional

“REAL COURAGE”, Barb Goffman, Black Cat Mystery Magazine #14

“TICKET TO RIDE”, Dru Ann Love and Kristopher Zgorski, Happiness is a Warm Gun

“SHAMU, WORLD’S GREATEST DETECTIVE”, Richie Narvaez, Time in San Diego, Bouchercon 2023

Best Non-Fiction

FINDERS: JUSTICE, FAITH AND IDENTITY IN IRISH CRIME FICTION, Anjili Babbar

PERPLEXING PLOTS: POPULAR STORYTELLING AND THE POETICS OF MURDER, David Bordwell

A MYSTERY OF MYSTERIES: THE DEATH AND LIFE OF EDGAR ALLAN POE, Mark Dawidziak

FALLEN ANGEL: THE LIFE OF EDGAR ALLAN POE, Robert Morgan

Best Children’s/YA Mystery

MYRTLE, MEANS AND OPPORTUNITY, Elizabeth C. Bunce

THE SASQUATCH OF HAWTHOURNE ELEMENTARY, K. B. Jackson
ARANA AND SPIDERMAN, Alex Segura
THE MYSTERY OF THE RADCLIFFE RIDDLE, Taryn Souders

ENOLA HOLMES AND THE MARK OF THE MONGOOSE, Nancy Springer

 

Writing Idiosyncrasies by Debra H. Goldstein

Writing Idiosyncrasies by Debra H. Goldstein

I don’t believe in writer’s block, but I do believe certain conditions have to be right for me to be creative.

I envy my friends who successfully produce one thousand or more words a day. The ones who explain that if “you don’t put your bottom in the seat, you’ll never have anything to show as an author.” If I try to follow their method, I agonize and then end up throwing out most of what I’ve written. For me, an idea must germinate internally until it reaches a point that the muse can’t hold it back. Then, and only then, can the words magically flow from my brain to my fingertips.

Still, having the words ready to flow isn’t enough. I need to have background music when I write anything of consequence. For me, that is usually show music or artists whose songs tend to be more lyrically oriented. The music can’t be rock or heavy metal. Words are key. Sometimes, I just keep playing the same album or two repeatedly until I finish the book or story. The irony is that the same set of songs or albums usually won’t work for the next project I take on.

Then, there is the setting. One chair may be good for a particular book, but the room and chair don’t feel right for something else. Today, I futzed around wanting to write some blogs in the sunroom/office where I usually write, but nothing flowed. Although the weather is in the sixties and sunny today, I walked into my living room, crawled onto the couch, and lit the fireplace. The mood was set. I started writing and somehow four hours have passed.

Tomorrow, I want to work on a new proposal that has been kicking around in my head. Of course, I have no idea how long it will take me to know it is ready, what music is necessary for it to flow and where I should write it. Do you have any idiosyncrasies when it comes to writing or doing any other things in your home or worklife?

April is National Poetry Month FYI by Juliana Aragón Fatula

My first manuscript was published while I was graduating from CSU Pueblo in 2008. The publisher was Ghost Road Press in Denver, CO. My editor was the fabulous Sonya who was an angel sent from my ancestors to restore my confidence and shine a light on my poetic voice. I adore her and Caleb Seeling at Conundrum Press who along with Sonya sent me a new contract to republish my first book of poetry, Crazy Chicana in Catholic City under a new book cover and ISBN but with the same contents. I of course said, yes.

One day at dinner in Denver with my publisher, Caleb, he asked me if I had another manuscript and I whipped my second poetry collection, Red Canyon Falling on Churches, out of my briefcase sitting at my feet. He published my second book with an exquisite book cover with a photo by Tracy Harmon, the prize-winning investigative journalist and Nationally renowned photojournalist, and my bff of 35 years, since we were college mates. She also does my headshots, promotional videos, etc. She is a goddess and a good human being.

In the meantime, I’m publishing poems, essays, and non-fiction pieces in anthologies and small presses. I am a published writer with a following of fans who think I’m kinda fascinating. I write about my ancestors, my dysfunctional family, my political activism, and my spirituality, my voice is strong, honest, shocking, and hilarious. I’m not bragging, I’m explaining who I am and what I write about. I write the truth even though it hurts it also heals. I’m a healer of sorts. A Chingona Corn Mother, ordained by the Universal Church, a mentor, a mom, wife, pet parent, liberal, radical feminist, and spiritual leader of my community. My community consists of members of the LGBTQ+ and the marginalized people of color, especially the immigrants asking for our help, the writing community, the social activists and hippies, the lesbian lovers, and the Pittsburgh Heroes, the indigenous ancestors who survived and gave me their survival skills. These are my people. I’m a poet.

I’ve workshopped in San Antonio, TX with Sandra Cisneros’ Annual Macondo Writers’ Workshop, with Denise Chavez in Las Cruces, New Mexico, with Francisco Aragón in Salt Lake City, UT, for the Smithsonian Our America: the Latino Presence in American Art, and in sunny Dillon Beach, CA for the first annual Chingona Writers’ Workshop.
My performances have included libraries, universities, bookstores, coffee shops, and cultural art centers in Boulder, Colorado Springs, Denver, Pueblo, Salida, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, Alamosa, and for the Department of Defense in Los Azores, Sicily, Kuwait, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Diego Garcia Archipelagos Islands.
My dream of being an author in the library in my hometown came true. The Rawlings Library in Pueblo has my books on the shelf between Rudolfo Anaya and Sandra Cisneros! I almost lost my shit when I realized I am a poet.

One more braggadocio statement if you will indulge me, it is amazing and I’m proud that I’ve won awards for my poetry but also that I’ve met and befriended so many generous writers in my journeys. Some of these amazing writers are professors at universities and have asked permission to read my poems in their poetry classes with their students. And the Albuquerque Poet Laureate, Jessica Helen Lopez. asked if she could read my poem, the Hat, in a performance. I was honored of course.

My life has changed in the last three decades since I became sober and I have to give credit to my husband for sticking with me through all the craziness.

Finally, I’d like to share the story of meeting the international icon, Sandra Cisneros. She was at the Rawlings Library in Pueblo doing a speaking tour. I met her and she shook hands with me and everyone in the room. I never thought she’d come back to the cheap seats but she did with a big smile on her face. I was impressed and a huge fan. I handed her my first book of poetry, Crazy Chicana in Catholic City. She asked me to sign it. I did. I forgot to breathe and almost passed out.

The next day at her reading she mentioned my book to the audience and talked about me for five minutes! Everyone with me in the front row, my friends and professors from CSU Pueblo stared at me with their mouths open. They cheered for me when Sandra told the audience they should buy my book. She asked if I had any copies with me. I said I had a box in my trunk in the parking lot. My BFF, Leslie the librarian extraordinaire, jumped up and shouted, I’ll fetch them. And off she ran.

I sold books beside Sandra. I had a shorter line. Afterward, she told me I want to give you an author blurb to sell more books. She said, your writing makes me want to write poetry. She also asked me to apply to her Macondo Foundation writer’s workshop. She said it’s competitive so keep applying until you get in. I applied twice and the second year was accepted.

My life has never been the same since I met Sandra. She is my angel on earth who lifts me when doubting my skills. She has introduced me to editors who have helped me improve my writing.

Denise Chavez won my heart at the Rawlings Library. I met her and she drew me into her magical world of literature. I’ve become an improved writer and human being because of my friendship with these writers. Linda Rodriguez introduced herself to me at AWP one year in Denver and invited me to join the Stiletto Gang after a few years of being friends on Facebook and emailing. She saved me hundreds of times because she had faith in me, I began to believe I could be a writer and not just a poet but a mystery writer.

I’m still revising my completed manuscript, The Colorado Sisters, but because I don’t want to write a good book, I want to write a great book, I haven’t sent it out to be published yet. It needs a good tweaking or two and then when my editor tells me it’s ready I’ll submit but not till it’s ready.

It’s not easy writing a great murder mystery. I might end up publishing it as a short story or screenplay. But wouldn’t it be great to have my first novel be a prize winner? Oohwee! I’d have a hootenanny and celebrate because I’ll have finished my first mystery and it can sit on the shelf with Rudolfo Anaya, Linda Rodriguez, Maria Melendez Kelson, Lucha Corpi, Katherine, Manuel Ramos, Mario Acevedo, and Stephen King!