Category Archives: Creativity

My novel is out!

So this happened:



Can we just talk about how excited I am to have this in my hands at last? I’ve been working on this book for five years, not counting the 19 years I spent before that with the main character in my head, trying to figure out what to do with her.

It’s available to order now. Click here for the Kindle version; click here to order it in paperback.

Is it any good? I think it is, but I’m hardly an objective critic. I wrote a novel I wanted to read, set in a town where I’d like to live and populated with people I’d like to meet. It’s hard to be objective about something you’ve been working on for years, but I’ll put it this way: The writing process being what it is, by my most conservative estimate, I’d say I’ve read most of this novel at least two dozen times, and yet I still enjoy reading it, and every time I do, I still find something that feels new — some detail I’d forgotten I wrote, or some flourish that resonates differently now than it did the last time I looked at it. When I sat down with the printed proof a couple of nights ago to look for printing issues and any other little concerns I might have missed, I thought, “I’m really looking forward to reading this just for the fun of it.”

If I can edit a book 24 times and still look forward to reading it just for the sheer enjoyment of the finished product, I feel fairly safe in assuming the average reader will enjoy reading it at least once or twice.

I feel light this afternoon. And free. And at the same time, a little lost. I don’t remember what it’s like to wake up without Sierra in my head, demanding to be written. She’s been part of my consciousness since 1991. But finishing her story has silenced the irrational but persistent fear in the back of my mind: What if I die before I finish my novel? It’s a relief to know I don’t have to worry about that any more, but it’s also a little strange to be finished with what I always assumed was my life’s work. I’m only 40. What now? I’ve got other projects going, of course — I’ve always got projects going, and plenty of them — but nothing as all-consuming as this book.

What will rise to take its place? I’m waiting to see. It’s strange to swap a bucket list for a blank sheet of paper and a couple of Pinterest boards, but it’s kind of exciting, too.



I’ve been busy.

Yes, I’ve subjected this blog to a shameful degree of neglect this summer. Here’s what I’ve been working on:

That’s right, kids. I’m about an eyelash away from being ready to publish Greetings from Coldwater. I’m anticipating a fall release on the Kindle version and — God willing — a paperback edition in time for Christmas. I shot the trailer above on and around Route 66 in New Mexico last spring, and I’ve been dinking with the novel ever since we got back.


When I started this project, I swore I wouldn’t self-publish, but the publishing industry has changed so much since then that self-publishing now requires less financial risk and far less annoyance than shopping a manuscript. I can go through Amazon to self-publish electronic and paperback editions without spending a dime. All I’m out is time — and less of it than I’d spend writing queries and copying manuscripts and standing in line at the post office to send them to people who may not bother reading them anyway. A big publishing house could probably sell more copies, but I don’t have the patience to read a thousand rejection slips before I find the right publisher. If some big-deal publisher reads it and likes it, we’ll talk.

I’ve spent most of the past 24 hours formatting the manuscript to Amazon’s specs, designing a cover, reskinning, printing a proof, and uploading the trailer to YouTube.

I’ve also been busy drawing illustrations for the past couple of weeks:












Watch this space. I’ll keep you posted on the process and all the stuff I learn as I go.



Folk Thursday: La Llorona

So a weird thing happened the other night. My mom had just finished reading my novel, and she had e-mailed me with her thoughts on the manuscript. In my response, I described how one of the book’s final scenes had drifted into my thought as I pulled into San Jon, N.M., late one night, too exhausted to drive another mile, and checked into a tired little motel a half-mile from the defunct business that had inspired much of the novel’s setting.

I’d gone to New Mexico in search of inspiration that weekend, and I found it in the surreal combination of cold and wind and darkness and desert. What I didn’t realize was precisely what I had found.

As I told Mom about that night and the way it had inspired my perception of one of the novel’s secondary characters — a kind, generous woman facing a terminal illness with grace and selflessness — a name popped into my head: La Llorona.

I had seen La Llorona mentioned once in a Tony Hillerman novel, and I was vaguely aware that she was a weeping spirit, but I knew absolutely nothing else about her.

I Googled her and was somewhat unnerved to discover a painting of La Llorona that bore a striking resemblance to the scene I’d imagined that night in San Jon, where I’d spent the evening curled up in a threadbare motel room, listening to the wind wail outside. Leave it to me to conjure up a 500-year-old infanticidal Southwestern banshee without even realizing it….

In the course of my online research, I made the delightful discovery that Joan Baez had recorded a song called “La Llorona” — so of course it had to be this week’s Folk Thursday offering. :)

Meanwhile, the benevolent character in my novel has taken on a slightly different persona. She’s still benevolent, and I still love her, but with La Llorona informing my perceptions, she has taken on a darker backstory, and her benevolence seems to be the product of a tormented soul in search of redemption.

This is what I love about writing fiction: Spend enough time with your characters, and they will eventually write much better stories than anything you could have come up with on your own.



OK … I’ve been slacking this week. I had great intentions about blogging, but I was scrambling hell-for-leather to make a deadline at the office this week, and then I had a creative outburst that had to be indulged with canvas and acrylics Friday night, and Riggy had a vet appointment Saturday morning, and there were errands to run, and church this morning, and photos to shoot for work this afternoon, and a trip to the dog park, and in between, I’ve been playing and playing and playing and playing my guitar.

I’m still not very good, but I’m getting better, and I have finally almost gotten the hang of “Diamonds and Rust” and “Love Song to a Stranger.” Today I learned “One Tin Soldier,” “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” “The Marvelous Toy,” and a new arrangement of “Deportee” that sounds better than the other one I’d been dinking around with. I’m also getting pretty good at “Helplessly Hoping.”

I didn’t realize how much I needed this. No wonder I’ve been so tense for so long: My church doesn’t have a choir, I haven’t done karaoke in years, and I gave away my piano before we moved, so I haven’t really had a musical outlet in ages.

Learning to play acoustic guitar is easily the best New Year’s resolution I’ve ever made. Even if I suck forever — which is unlikely given the speed at which I have been improving lately — it’s way cheaper than therapy.



I have finally finished the novel. Every section of it that needed major additions/deletions/reworking is complete. Sierra is on paper, and her father’s side of the story is on paper.

This evening, I expect to sleep more soundly than I’ve slept at any point since I was 15.

God bless all of you who were involved in any part of this process. Some of you know who you are. Some of you don’t. Whether you were aware of your involvement or not, I love you. Sierra loves you. Joey and Morgan and Miss Shirley and Grant and Harvey and Lil Miss and Skinny and Hank and Bill and Dr. Scherer and Nettie and Brother Jerry and Abuelito and the CSNY kittens and the entire population of the nonexistent town of Coldwater, N.M., love you.

We thank you from the bottom of our hearts — real or fictional.

Now … I have a favor to ask of you: Please don’t ask me when the book will be available. Writing it was the easy part. It is likely to be years before you find yourself standing in line at some indie bookstore to get my autograph on a copy of Greetings from Coldwater — if that ever happens at all. Once I’ve had a few days to rest on my laurels and recharge my batteries and reread the manuscript to make sure I’m comfortable enough with it to send it out into the world, I will begin exploring my options.

Right now, I believe my options are either decaf cappuccino from the Phoenix or a carton of Ben and Jerry’s from QuikTrip. Or maybe all of the above.


New Year’s Day

It’s a cold night. The new year started out gray and cold, with a few snow flurries. I hope that’s all we get.

I’ve spent most of the evening dinking around with this manuscript, trying to figure out how to rewrite and refine the sections I wrote last night.

When I get a hand free, I’ll post the photos I shot with my iPhone at the Rudolfo Anaya monument in Santa Rosa the other day. If you haven’t read Bless Me, Ultima, put that on your list of New Year’s resolutions. It’s terrific.


Starting the new year right

I got home from New Mexico at 4:30 p.m., went to dinner and picked up some groceries at 5, started working on the third draft of the novel at 9, and greeted the new year with a printout at 3 a.m.

Not bad. The last 20 pages or so will need some more tinkering, but considering how many changes and additions I’ve made since the first draft, I’m pleased.

Happy new year, kids. I’m going to bed for a couple of hours before I head to work.