Thursday, March 28, 2019

Why I Murdered my highschool sweetheart by Juliana Aragon Fatula

Dear Reader,

I'm writing my first murder mystery. Mystery is my favorite genre for reading. I've always been in awe of great mystery writers, thrillers, who dun nits. So naturally my first novel had to be about someone getting killed and someone solving the mystery. What I didn't plan in my brainstorming was to write a comedy. But for some crazy reason, I began trying to make homicide funny. I opened my big mouth and let everyone know how I planned to write a great story about a great murder.

In my naivete, I didn't realize how much hard work goes into writing a great story. I made the mistake of getting caught up in the politics of the nation during the 2018 election and fell into a depression that turned into an anger, that turned into a revenge. I wanted to make a point with my story about greed, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, all the phobias.

My anger swirled and twirled into a cyclone of hate and I set out to destroy anyone I felt a strong hatred for, like the lessons I'd learned in my 60 plus years had just gone out the window because of my strong political beliefs. I doomed my writing by getting too caught up in history making and not adhering to the writing rules. Just tell the story. So after much deliberation  and reflection, I've decided to let go of my anger and hatred for the vile men and women of our nation who take pleasure in destroying what is great about our country, our diversity.

I found a couple of friends on Facebook from high school and demonized them. I took my revenge on their nasty behavior and killed them in my novel. Ha. I thought. That will teach you to mess with me. But now I realize my emotions took over and I made it personal.

So after writing my draft and submitting it to a couple of trusted comadres to critique, I waited patiently for feedback. One of my readers asked me not to kill my high school sweetheart and to write a love story instead. One critique took me another direction and wanted my murder mystery to be about empowering women and telling the story of the women from the safe house.

I did some soul searching and realized where I went wrong. I let my desire to tell a political story interfere with my original plan to write a murder mystery. So now I'm back at it. I took some time away from my  novel to think about the story and what I truly want to convey to my readers. It's not about hate, revenge, bitterness. It's about love, redemption, salvation, survival, and setting an example for young women to never give up on having a happy life.

Even though I've been close to death, incarcerated, addicted, abused, selfish, neglectful, vindictive, jealous, I am a survivor and that's what I need to write about. Not the ugly side of life. The beautiful journey of one woman who rode down the wrong path and headed for destruction but found a true love, a love for herself, and changed the path of her trajectory toward helping other survivors. My story is not a love story. It is a story of survival. A story of tragedy turned into a miracle. A story of a woman falling in love with a couple of Border Collies and finding happiness in saving women from tragedy.

My eyes have been opened and now I'm prepared to write the story I alone can tell. The story I've been creating all of my life. The story of a strong, proud, flawed woman who wants to help others. This is the story I'm writing. I've learned so much in my 60 plus years. I want to share that wisdom and knowledge with the next generation of women who struggle everyday in the world we've created. Women are the answer to survival. If I can write a great story about a woman who overcame her flaws and made a difference in other women's lives, I can tell the true story, not the facts, but the truth.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

No More Changes

by Bethany Maines

Recently, I took a workshop on how to convert a novel to a screenplay. It was a fascinating workshop that gave practical tips on how to deconstruct and then reconstruct a novel into a new format. Plot, structure and character development are all core elements of any story telling method and it was interesting to see how a different mode of storytelling could affect a story.

I chose to experiment on my 2018 Christmas novella Blue Christmas. Blue Christmas is about a down on her luck college student, Blue Jones, who is determined to do whatever it takes to pay off her grandmother’s medical bills – including burglary. So obviously it’s a romance and there are diamond thieves and a dog.  Because… Christmas?

As I worked my way through my story, I saw several things that I would like to improve. And it was not so very long ago that I loved every bit of that story!  What the heck happened to my perfect little morsel of criminal Christmas?! Why is it that an author / creative person can’t stop improving on a work?  I mean, we all hate George Lucas for going back and adding special effects and scenes to Star Wars, don’t we? When are we, or should we, be forced to say walk away?  My personal feeling is that once a work is in the public, then except for correcting typos or other blatant errors, that an author should not make any “improvements”. People end up loving specific works and changing even a sentence or two can affect someone’s perception of a work.

Of course, none of that prevents me from making those changes in my screenplay.
Buy Blue Christmas from Amazon * Barnes & Noble * iBook * Kobo
Blue Jones just stole Jake Garner’s dog. And his heart. But technically the French Bulldog, Jacques, belongs to Jake’s ex-girlfriend. And soon Jake is being pressured to return the dog and Blue is being targeted by mysterious attackers. Can Jake find Blue and Jacques before her stalkers do? For Blue, Christmas has never been quite so dangerous. For Jake, Christmas has never been quite so Blue.

Bethany Maines is the author of the Carrie Mae Mystery Series, 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 fourth degree 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 YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Pure Luck!

By Lynn McPherson

With the recent passing of St. Patrick’s Day, I’ve been thinking about the idea of luck. Is it a real thing? Are people naturally lucky or unlucky? Where is the concept most prevalent? Let’s look at some of these questions on today’s blog post.

According to, the term ‘luck of the Irish’ comes from the successes of Irish miners during the second half of the 19th century during the gold and silver rush. But the concept of luck is not strictly for the Emerald Isle. In fact, it seems to span across the globe, from a range of places and cultures. There are all sorts of different objects and rituals that are believed to bring luck.

Today, one of the most obvious places it can be seen is in sports. From community league hockey to major league baseball, there are all sorts of rituals that participating athletes seem to subscribe to.  Superstitions abound and can often explain seemingly inexplicable behaviour. For example, have you ever noticed a pitcher tap his leg twice before throwing a ball, or a big hitter refusing to shave a beard or wash a uniform? This can often be explained by the player’s belief that the behaviour will bring a lucky game. We are talking about elite sports players who are making millions of dollars!

Human behaviour can be fascinating. As a writer, I am always interested in the motivation behind action. With little science behind it, luck is one of the most puzzling but interesting ideas that people seem drawn to. Are there any rituals that you would like to share that bring you luck? Or do you shun the idea all together? I must admit that I am a believer. But ask me to explain why and I would have a hard time putting it into words.

Lynn McPherson has worked for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, ran a small business, and taught English across the globe. She has travelled the world solo where her daring spirit has led her to jump out of airplanes, dive with sharks, and learn she would never master a surfboard. She now channels her lifelong love of adventure and history into her writing, where she is free to go anywhere, anytime. Her cozy series has two books out: The Girls' Weekend Murder and The Girls Whispered Murder.  

Monday, March 25, 2019

Mystery Short Story Nominations

by Paula Gail Benson

This time of year, it’s great to be able to celebrate some of the best in mystery short stories with the nominations for recognition by the Mystery Writers of America (which presents the Edgar awards, named after Edgar Allan Poe) and Malice Domestic (which presents the Agathas, named after Agatha Christie). The Edgars are determined by MWA member judges and presented at a Gala Banquet, held this year at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City.
Following are the 2019 Edgar Best Short Story nominees:

“Rabid – A Mike Bowditch Short Story” by Paul Doiron (Minotaur Books).
“Paranoid Enough for Two” – The Honorable Traitors by John Lutz (Kensington Publishing).
“Ancient and Modern” – Bloody Scotland by Val McDermid (Pegasus Books).
“English 398: Fiction Workshop” – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by Art Taylor (Dell Magazines).
“The Sleep Tight Motel” – Dark Corners Collection by Lisa Unger (Amazon Publishing).

Gigi Pandian's 2017 Agatha Best Short Story Award
The Agathas are nominated by persons registered to attend the annual Malice Domestic conference in Bethesda, Maryland, and will be selected by a ballot of those who attend the conference. The awards will be presented at the banquet on May 4, 2019. This year’s nominees provide a range of time periods and characters to contemplate and savor. For the first time, a wife and husband (Tara Laskowski and Art Taylor) have been nominated for the award. Here are the links to each story:

"All God's Sparrows" by Leslie Budewitz (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine)
"A Postcard for the Dead" by Susanna Calkins in Florida Happens (Three Rooms Press)
"Bug Appetit" by Barb Goffman (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine)
"The Case of the Vanishing Professor" by Tara Laskowski (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine)
"English 398: Fiction Workshop" by Art Taylor (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine)

Please read and enjoy!

Friday, March 22, 2019

When Crime Meets Magic--by T.K. Thorne

   Writer, humanist,
          dog-mom, horse servant and cat-slave,
       Lover of solitude
          and the company of good friends,
        New places, new ideas
           and old wisdom.

The first thing most people say to me when they learn I was a career cop is, “Oh. You don’t look like a policeman.”

This is a good thing because I’m a woman.

Perhaps at 5’3”, I don’t fit the stereotype in their minds. That’s not worrisome to my self-image because during my 20+ years in the Birmingham Police Department, it never occurred to me that I was too small . . . other than the annoying fact that my hands couldn’t fit properly around a gun. Not only did I have to figure out an alternate way to shoot, there were other challenges. In those early Academy days, we had to carry the fifty bullets needed for the firearms qualification tests in our pants pocket and dig them out to reload with one hand (the other held the gun). Tight time constraints for firing and reloading were in place to try to replicate some of the stress of being under fire.

If I pulled more than six bullets at a time out of my pocket, it overwhelmed my small hand’s capacity to manipulate them into position to reload. Bullets tumbled to the ground, making it impossible to reload in time. With practice, I developed the ability to blindly grab exactly six bullets at a time. I’m still proud of that skill, though I’ve yet to find a good use for it.

Since Joseph Wambaugh’s controversial Choir Boys appeared in 1975, the number of law enforcement authors has grown, but they’re still an anomaly, and so I get to surprise with the double whammy of being a retired cop and a writer. I’ve learned to deal with the “You don’t look like a policeman,” reaction with a smile and a simple, “Thank you.” And when I explain my latest novel is about a young police woman in Birmingham, Alabama who discovers she’s a witch, I get an even more fun reaction—“Is it autobiographical?”

Seriously, yes, I get this.  At first, I was too stunned by the question to respond, but now, I immediately shoot back with a straight face, “Totally.”

Even though I don’t claim to be a witch, I did pull on my police background to give authenticity to the story. Challenges lurked, even so. It has been a while since I wore blue, so I had to update department polices and equipment to those of current day, such as putting a body camera on my patrol officers and computers in the cars, but these were minor items. The most critical element was attitude, knowing how people in law enforcement who risk their lives on a daily basis think and react. That said, I certainly don’t espouse writing only “what you know” in that sense. If I did, I’d have a problem dabbling a little magic in with murder and mayhem!

My character, Rose Brighton, is a police officer in the city of Birmingham, Alabama. She’s taller than I am and has no problem holding a gun properly, but Rose has other challenges. Her first clue that her life is about to get complicated comes when she’s chasing a suspect down an alley and he appears to divide into two men, the real suspect, frozen in time, and a shadow version with a gun. From here things go south. She shoots a man in the back, the nightmare of every cop, and can’t explain what really happened. Unraveling that and the mystery of who she really is becomes a high-stakes struggle for survival.

Weaving magic “realistically” into a crime story was a bit like learning to pull exactly six from a pocket full of bullets.  It seemed improbable at first, but maybe learning that skill was not such worthless endeavor after all. Maybe it was a reminder that anything is possible. 

Even a police-witch.

T.K. Thorne’s childhood passion for storytelling deepened when she became a police officer in Birmingham, Alabama.  “It was a crash course in life and what motivated and mattered to people.” In her newest novel, HOUSE OF ROSE, murder and mayhem mix with a little magic when a police officer discovers she’s a witch. 

Both her award-winning debut historical novels, NOAH’S WIFE and ANGELS AT THE GATE, tell the stories of unknown women in famous biblical tales—the wife of Noah and the wife of Lot. Her first non-fiction book, LAST CHANCE FOR JUSTICE, the inside story of the investigation and trials of the 1963 Birmingham church bombing, was featured on the New York Post’s “Books You Should Be Reading” list. 

T.K. loves traveling and speaking about her books and life lessons. She writes at her mountaintop home near Birmingham, often with two dogs and a cat vying for her lap. 

 More info at Join her private newsletter email list and receive a two free short stories at “TK’s Korner.

Thursday, March 21, 2019


By Cathy Perkins

Happy first day of spring!

I've seen so many pictures of daffodils and other spring flowers in the past few days. Here in the Pacific Northwest, eh, not so much. But we're loving the sunshine.

I can feel the effect of vitamin D on my creativity and am working away on the next novel. 

How's your spring unfolding? 

An award-winning author of financial mysteries, Cathy Perkins writes twisting dark suspense and light amateur sleuth stories.  When not writing, she battles with the beavers over the pond height or heads out on another travel adventure. She lives in Washington with her husband, children, several dogs and the resident deer herd.  Visit her at or on Facebook 

Sign up for her new release announcement newsletter in either place.

She's hard at work on sequel to The Body in the Beaver Pond, which was recently presented with the Claymore Award.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

What's Your Work Environment Like?

by Kay Kendall

One of the perennial questions asked of us mystery authors at events is whether we use outlines or are we "pantsers." That is, do we write by the seat of our pants, and just let the outlines be damned?

As a published author of six years' time, having heard this question asked many times, I now know what to expect from the answers. Some use outlines, more do not, and many of us say we are sort of in the middle. We have a rough idea of where our plots are going, but we don't make detailed outlines. In other words, to each her own.

Recently I was asked another type of question:
what type of environment do I work in?

This question I enjoyed thinking about. Here is my answer, with a twist at the end.

I keep the standard type how-to and reference books heaped around me. Turns out that is mostly for their good karma. I suppose that’s what it is as I rarely refer to them when I’m writing. Once upon a time I had a hard bound thesaurus, using it often. I adored it. But when the online dictionaries and thesaurus type websites got really good, I began to just use those.

My writer’s lair is, I confess, a dreadful mess. When I need to hunt for or double check historical facts, I start to dig through piles of books to find the needed source. My so-called system works for me.

I’ve been relieved lately to read that intelligent people are usually messy. That has to mean I’m amazingly brilliant!

When I used to work a nine-to-five job in a building full of research scientists, I saw the complete range of office space, from pristine to unbelievably messy--way worse than mine. But that was only for one man. The laboratory spaces were always well ordered.

I never understood how anyone could work at a desk day in and day out and have a neatly ordered work space. Mostly tongue in cheek, I coined this maxim--Never trust a person with an entirely clean desk. Why? Because that person is not really getting any work done.

Okay, I've indulged in true confessions. So now it is your turn. Is your desk neat or messy--or somewhere in between?


Author Kay Kendall is passionate about historical mysteries.  She lives in Texas with her Canadian husband, three house rabbits, and spaniel Wills. Visit Kay at her website   or on Facebook 

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Celebrating Pretty Books

by J.M. Phillippe

There is nothing quite like seeing your book in print for the first time. I adore eBooks, and am just as thrilled when someone buys a digital version of my books as when they buy a print one, but actually seeing my books in print does something to me that seeing it digitally just doesn't do. In print, it's tangible, solid. My first memories of books were of course the print kind, and seeing my words as I flip through the pages feels magical.

I am particularly excited because today, the print version of my latest book, The Glitter of Gold, a space age retelling of Rumpelstiltskin and part of the Galactic Dreams Volume 2 boxed set, is being released, and I can't wait for folks to see it because the inside is just so pretty!

 I love all the details inside the book, from the font choices to the additional little illustrations found in the section and chapter headings. A quality design can really add something to the way a reader experiences a book, and I am super excited for the experience that readers will have with this book.

Maybe Bookstagram (taking pretty photos of books for Instagram or other social media) has made me even more aware of just how pretty books can be, but lately I have been thrilled to see what designers are doing to help add to the experience of readers investing money (and shelf space!) on print editions.

So here's to pretty books -- may the stories they contain be just as memorable!


J.M. Phillippe is the author of the novels Perfect Likeness and The Christmas Spirit, the sci-fairy tales Aurora One and The Glitter of Gold (part of the Galactic Dreams boxed sets) and the short stories The Sight and Plane Signals. She has lived in the deserts of California, the suburbs of Seattle, and the mad rush of New York City. She works as a clinical social worker in Brooklyn, New York and spends her free time binge-watching quality TV, drinking cider with amazing friends, and learning the art of radical self-acceptance, one day at a time.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Looking Forward to Deckle Edge

by Paula Gail Benson

This weekend, I've delighted in reading about all the activities at Sleuthfest. Next weekend, in Columbia, S.C., we're looking forward to our own literary festival, Deckle Edge, on Saturday, March 23. The "deckle edge" is the rough edge on hand cut paper, often seen on early printed books. If you're in the area, please come to the main library on Assembly Street for a day of celebrating the written word.

I'm particularly excited to be moderating a panel about the Detective in the South. The panelists are authors David Burnsworth, Sasscer Hill, Roger Johns, Raegan Teller, and Maggie Toussaint. Here's some information about the topic and participants:

To paraphrase Raymond Chandler, “Down the mean streets a detective, man or woman, must go, who is not himself or herself mean.” What happens when those mean streets happen to be in the American South? Does the setting change the crime or detective, or both? Join us for a lively discussion involving traditional and unique fictional detectives whose investigations have a Southern flair!

David Burnsworth became fascinated with the Deep South at a young age. After a receiving a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Tennessee and fifteen years in the corporate world, he made the decision to write a novel. Having lived in Charleston on Sullivan’s Island for five years, the setting for his Brack Pelton novels was a foregone conclusion. He and his wife call South Carolina home. He also writes a series featuring private detective Blu Carraway.

Sasscer Hill is the author of the Agatha and Macavity nominated Nikki Latrelle horseracing series. Her latest novels, Flamingo Road and The Dark Side of Town, have followed Fia McKee, who after being put on leave for use of excessive force as a Baltimore police officer receives a second chance working for the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau. Flamingo Road won the $10,000 Dr. Tony Ryan Best in Horse Racing Literature Award for 2018. In addition, Sasscer, herself and expert horsewoman, has written a Nikki Latrelle prequel for Young Adults and a number of short stories.

Roger Johns writes the Wallace Hartman Mysteries from St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books: Dark River Rising (2017) and River of Secrets (2018). He is the 2018 Georgia Author of the Year (Detective·Mystery Category), a 2018 Killer Nashville Readers’ Choice Award nominee, a finalist for the 2018 Silver Falchion Award for best police procedural, runner-up for the 2019 Frank Yerby Fiction Award, and the 2019 JKS Communications Author-in-Residence. His articles and interviews on writing and the writing life appear in Career Authors, Criminal Element, and the Southern Literary Review. He co-authors the MurderBooks blog at www.murder-books.com

Raegan Teller is the award-winning author of the Enid Blackwell series. Murder in Madden (Pondhawk Press, 2016) was her debut novel, followed by The Last Sale (2018) and Secrets Never Told (2019)Her mystery novels are set in and around Columbia, where she lives with her husband and two cats. Teller writes about small town intrigue, family secrets, and tales of murder, and while her books are fiction, her books are inspired by real events. She is a summa cum laude graduate of Queens University, Charlotte, and a member of Sisters in Crime, South Carolina Writers Association, and Charlotte Writers Club.

Maggie Toussaint is a scientist by training, a romanticist at heart, and an award-winning author of mystery, romance, romantic suspense, and science fiction. Her series protagonist Baxley Powell has inherited the ability to dreamwalk in order to find answers about crime. Through her investigations, Baxley seeks justice for the dead and solace for the living in a unique lowcountry setting. Maggie is the Past President of the Southeast Mystery Writers of America and a member of Low Country Sisters in Crime.

We hope you can join us!

Thursday, March 14, 2019

from La Bloga an Interview by Xanath Caraza with Juliana

Juliana Aragón Fatula’s, three books of poetry are Crazy Chicana in Catholic City (2nd edition), Red Canyon Falling on Churches, winner of the High Plains Book Award for Poetry 2016, (Conundrum Press), and a chapbook, The Road I Ride Bleeds (Casa de Cinco Hermanas Press). She has been anthologized as a poet in Open Windows III, El Tecolote, Trance, and broadcast on Colorado Public Radio’s Colorado Matters. She teaches writing workshops for Bridging Borders and Writers in the Schools and believes in the power of education to change lives. She is currently writing a mystery, The Colorado Sisters. 

Who is Juliana? 

That’s heavy. My mind goes crazy thinking of answers, but the truth is I’m a small-town girl, raised in a large family, very poor, but not as poor as my ancestors. My paternal great-grandfather was a Navajo sheep herder in Villa Nueva, New Mexico in a village outside of Santa Fe. My maternal Navajo great-grandfather was sold to the Gomez family in Alamosa, Colorado for food and a horse when he was four-years-old.

I was raised a Mexican-Americana, Mestiza, Mexica, Aztec in Southern Colorado. In the seventies, I marched with the Denver Brown Berets and heard the civil rights organizer, Corky Gonzales, speak as a political activist. I claimed the label Chicana, Xicana, Xicanx. I honor my indigenous roots, my mestizaje, my culture and history. I write about living between two worlds.
My beginning as a poet. I embrace my mestizaje and spirituality as a true American, indigenous. I remember where I come from. What’s the dicho, “How can we know where we’re going, until we know where we’ve been?”

I drove to Villa Nueva, New Mexico to gather stones and put my feet in the Pecos Rio. I met locals and heard their stories. I entered the church where my great-grandparents were married and my father baptized in 1917.

My father’s homeland, like mine in Southern Colorado; has the same trees, soil, grasses, herbal medicine, religion, language, culture. He landed in Tortilla Flats. My second book, Red Canyon Falling on Churches, comes from those cuentos, those stories, poemas. Born forty years apart: 1917 and 1957, we were both brown skinned, brown eyed, brown hair, mestizo nose, Navajo and Mexicano culture and language, religion and spirituality. My DNA is indigenous to this land.

I grew up with ten kids and one bike. We had to share. Growing up in Southern Colorado with grandparents from Villa Nueva, New Mexico and Alamosa, Colorado in el valle, I inherited brown skin, my last name, Aragón, my Spanglish, my culture and myths.

We never crossed the border, the border crossed us. My father migrated to Colorado from New Mexico when he was ten and went to work; he had brothers and sisters depending on him. My grandparents died very young and my father raised his siblings. He was a loved father figure. My mother was the strongest and most generous woman I ever knew. She grew up next to the river and rail road tracks in a shack with dirt floors. My parents taught me to give back to my community.

How do you define yourself as a poet?

 I define myself as a confessional poet and as a member of the Macondo Foundation I follow the mission statement: a community of poets, novelists, journalists, performance artists, and creative writers of all genres whose work is socially engaged. Their work and talents are part of a large task of community building and under-served communities through their writing.

I write about my truth, nature, addiction, creation stories with tricksters and desert creatures. I aim to make my audience laugh, cry, and dream. The first decade as a writer was an experiment. Now that I'm 'seasoned,' I teach writing workshops, write blogs on writing, conduct literary interviews, and review my favorite books. I feel like it's ok to call myself a writer now.

As a child, who first introduced you to reading?  Who guided you through your first readings?

I was introduced to reading by my older sister, Irena. She was ten years older than me and since our family was so large, she was given the responsibility to watch over me. She took me to the library for my books. I never imagined someday I would be a writer. My sister has been my guardian angel for my entire life. Even now she sends me blessings from heaven. I often wonder what her life could have been like if she had the same choices I had.
I was the first in my family to graduate college. She would have been incredibly proud of me as would my parents. They believed in me even when I lacked confidence in myself; they knew I had special talents and power to change things with an education. There’s nothing more powerful than an educated Chicana. I am Chicana Woman, hear me as I raise some hell.

How did you first become a poet?

I was born a poet. I have a very twisted sense of humor and sometimes strangers think I’m sonsa, but it’s just an act. I’m always acting. I’m odd. I’m mysterious. I’m curious. I’m telepathic. I’m psychic and psycho. Ja ja aja ja. I crack myself up when I get on a roll. I’m ridiculous and irreverent and righteous and rotten and refined and riddled with guilt. But my writing; my poems are my salvation. They are my medicine. I’ve been healed with the power of words.

My path has always been about beauty and truth. I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but, I didn’t write poetry until I was fifty.  Ten years ago, I enrolled at Colorado State University-Pueblo, to become a Language Arts teacher in my hometown. I chose creative writing as my minor and began my introduction to Ethnic Literature. I read poetry by the icons, Sandra Cisneros, Joy Harjo, Leslie Marmon Silko, Lorna Dee Cervantes, Maya Angelou and many others, but it was the poems written by Chicanas that inspired me to write about my culture, language, and heritage. I grew in four years of Chicanx Literature, Ethnic Studies, Shakespeare, Creative Writing: Drama, Poetry, Fiction, and Non-Fiction Nature Writing.

Where were your first poems written?

If I’m honest they were written when I was in junior high school. I didn’t know how funny I used to be until my best prima/soul sister gave me the notes I passed to her every day in the halls at school. I was hilarious. It was like getting in a time machine and going back to my teens. I was wild and unconcerned about what anyone said about me. I wore what I wanted, I walked where I wanted to go, and I said what I wanted to say. I was the character from Crazy Chicana in Catholic City. I wrote in my journal every day. I was a young woman in love with being in love. I kept all the letters from my loved ones and when I read them now, I always cry tears of joy at the memories of them in my heart. I’ve been very blessed.

My first poems were published in the literary magazine at CSU-Pueblo, The Hungry Eye, and on the webpage for CSU Pueblo’s Hispanic Cultural Experience: A Collection of Poetry, Essays, and Short Stories from Pueblo, Colorado. These poems began as performance pieces for the Denver Indian Thespians and Su Teatro in 1992. Those stories morphed into poems.

When did you start to publish?  And, what impact did seeing your first publications have on you?

I published in literary magazines in college, won poetry contests, and published several poems in anthologies. Several of those poems were later published in my first book of poetry, Crazy Chicana in Catholic City. My first book of poems was published because of an independent study course I took with my mentor, David Keplinger. Never did I imagine the publisher would send me a contract and publish my manuscript, but I gained confidence with each publication and grew to be a prolific writer.
My first book arrived on my doorstep; I realized how much hard work I put into it and how taking risks had proved successful.  I decided to write my second manuscript, Red Canyon Falling on Churches. My publisher, Caleb Seeling and editor, Sonya Unrein, at Conundrum Press in Denver promoted my books, arranged readings, and gave me a voice. Being published changed my perception of myself and gave me courage to help other beginning writers. It gave me the incentive to teach writing workshops to at-risk-youth, like the Bridging Borders Workshops I teach in Pueblo.

Do you have any favorite poems by other authors?  Or stanzas?  Could you share some verses along with your reflection of what drew you toward that poem/those stanzas?

Maya Angelou inspired me with “Phenomenal Woman.” One of my favorite verses:
Now you understand/Just why my head’s not bowed. /I don’t shout or jump about/Or have to talk real loud. /When you see, me passing, /It ought to make you proud.

“And Still I Rise”, and “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” and her quote is engrained in my head, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

An essay written by Gloria Anzaldúa, “Linguistic Terrorism” awoke in me a rebellious voice. “...We are your linguistic nightmare, your linguistic aberration, your linguistic mestizaje, the subject of your bruja. Because we speak with tongues of fire we are culturally crucified. Racial1y, cultural1y, and linguistically somas huerfanos - we speak an orphan tongue.
“Chicanas who grew up speaking Chicano Spanish have internalized the belief that we speak poor Spanish. It is illegitimate, a bastard language. And because we internalize how our language has been used against us by the dominant culture, we use our language differences against each other.”

Shakespeare changed the way I write, “We know what we are, but know not what we might be.”

A letter I received from Sandra Cisneros last year after she read my second book, Red Canyon Falling on Churches, changed my life in small and big ways; she wrote to me, “…Think what light you are transmitting to others as you walk your own path. A lantern leading others on their path. This is sacred work. May you always be this light. Abrazos.” Sandra.  I cried when I read that line. She moved me. I changed. I grew. She inspired me to work with other writers.

I was invited to join The Stiletto Gang, a group of women writers on a mission to bring mystery, romance, humor, and high heels to the world; and Women Who Write the Rockies, literary women writing in the shadow of the Rockies: a community of like-minded women sharing news, readings, publications, and reviews. I’m learning from these women how to write for an internet audience on these websites. I’m enjoying the blog experience and reaching a new group of readers who might not otherwise ever know my work.

What is a day of creative writing like for you?  Where do you write?  How often?

It’s midnight and I’m in my kitchen writing, listening to Bob Marley. My muse refuses to let me sleep during full moons. It’s a red moon tonight. I’ve tried staying in bed but I toss and toss until I get up and go to work.
My writing space: I love writing in hotel rooms, coffee shops, in my back yard, in the wilderness in my twenty-four-foot camper. My husband, Vince, and I go camping in the Colorado wilderness with our Border Collie, Big Bad Baby Boy Bear. My husband hikes with Bear and gives me my space to write or read.

I write in my back yard under the grape arbor, and my sun/moon room are also favorites spots. I have my Chicana Garden with fruit trees, ivy and wood vine climbing the fences. The backyard is filled with birdhouses, bird baths, bird feeders. The wind blows the twenty-five chimes for each year we’ve been married, and birds sing along. It’s a magical place. Colorado fresh air and sunshine, even on winter days. I make a fire in the woodstove, heat up the porch, brew some chai, read a book, and watch the snow fall.

If I'm real lucky, I escape to the mountains and the wilderness of the Rocky Mountains and the Continental Divide. Up there, no phones, cell service, television, nosy neighbors or worries. I write, read, nap, eat, sleep, wander through fields of wildflowers. Watch the fish jump in the lake. And I write and write and write and write. I’m hypnotized. I fall into a pattern of waking and writing and writing until I can't keep my eyes open every night. I feel like a writer. I feel productive. I feel fierce.

When do you know when a poem is ready to be read?

I always read my work out loud. Sometimes I record it and listen to it playback several times. I ask friends if I can try a poem out on them for their reaction. I read their body language. Sometimes it’s positive feedback, sometimes, not so much. If I hear the poem and it sounds like music, if it has the power to move someone to laugh or cry, if it makes me want to perform it on stage in front of an audience, I know in my heart it’s ready.

Could you describe your activities as poet?

I won the High Plains Book Award for poetry, 2016, in Billings Montana. My husband and I drove to Montana with an invitation as a finalist. I met some great poets and writers and fell in love with Billings. If I hadn’t won the prize, I still would have come out a winner because of the experience. It elevated me to a new high. The feedback from the judges allowed me to accept that I am an award-winning poet.

I had just had knee replacement surgery; however, I didn’t let that stop me from attending and when I won, I dropped my cane and danced up on stage like a lunatic. The audience laughed at my enthusiasm and cheered for my first win as a published poet.

It gave me confidence to submit a third manuscript, a memoir of poems: Gathering Momentum. It’s unpublished but I’m proud to have finished it; it was the most difficult thing I ever wrote. I included my Mother’s recipes so they would never be forgotten. I’m preserving my family’s histories.

I love performing and maybe that’s why I didn’t begin writing until I was in my fifties. I was having too much fun being on stage. My writing began as a performance artist. I wrote short cuentos about my family. Some sad, some funny, some tragic, some hopeful. I never felt like a poet. I felt like a storyteller.

In the nineties, I worked with Su Teatro in Denver, Colorado. I learned the tradition of taking the word to the people. I became very active in the Chicano community. Su Teatro organized and attended protests carrying picket signs; Justice for Janitors, Amnesty International, and of course the United Farm Workers. We sang protest songs; they had Aztec dancers in full regalia. One time we drove from Denver to Pueblo, Colorado and joined the American Indian Movement to protest Columbus Day.
In 1995, I joined the Latin Locomotions, Sherry Coca Candelaria and Manuel Roybal, Sr. from Su Teatro. We traveled to the Persian Gulf to perform for the troops. We toured five weeks and entertained in Sicily, the Azores, Diego Garcia, and the United Arab Emirates. It was my first time out of the country. I dreamed of traveling all my life and now I was being loaded on cargo planes and flying across the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, the Persian Gulf, and the Indian Ocean.  The Department of Defense paid me to sing, dance, and tell stories for Hispanic Awareness in the Military.

What’s something that helped to shape your outlook to life?

The good and bad experiences molded me in to a strong, independent, out-spoken woman who is fearless. I’ve faced hard times and remained a survivor, never a victim. As a teenager, I was headed for prison or death.  I was loud, rebellious, a tomboy; many of my closest friends I grew up with are dead from their lifestyle choices.
I chose to have a baby at fifteen, drop out of high-school, go to work and thanks to Planned Parenthood, I raised my son as a single parent and had pre-natal healthcare. My son is in his early forties; I turn sixty this year. Having access to healthcare through Planned Parenthood changed me. It shaped my future.
With an education, I became independent with a job and a steady income. I worked for many decades in Denver and climbed the corporate ladder. I was not corporate material. I’m a performance artist. I wanted more than a job and a desk. I never gave up on that dream. I made it happen. Pure will power.

I returned to school and graduated from Colorado State University – Pueblo in 2008 and became an educated Chicana. My son claims I should have a Ph.D. because I’ve been going to school his entire life. That’s not a fact; but it is true.  Not an alternative fact, but a truth.  I love learning and I am a lifelong learner. I love teaching and I teach my students to love learning.
My son gave me a purpose and made me rock steady. I became focused and escaped the cycle of poverty. My husband would say, “We’re poor, but we have love and kindness in us.”  We’ve both been sober for twenty-seven years. We support each other; we are best friends.

Could you comment on your life as a cultural activist?

I’m extremely proud of my activism with at-risk-teens. I’ve taught hundreds of students in Southern Colorado through the Writers in the Schools Program with Colorado Humanities. Some are in high school and college now. I remain close with many of them through social media. Gotta love Facebook, que no? Sometimes they ask me for advice. They lovingly call me, Mama Fatula. I don’t have grandchildren, so I gave all the love inside me to my students. Many of them hugged me every day. I listened to them. Some of them needed more than a teacher. I mentored many students who bravely walked out of the closet and into the sunshine as proud members of the LGBTQ community. I’m so proud of them. I’m proud of the students who invited me to their high school graduation. They’re in college now; they are the future of this country. They changed me. They taught me more than I taught them.
I tell my students about my first protest.  I led the first-sit in to protest the school’s policy of forbidding the female students to wear blue jeans. In 1852, Emma Snodgrass was arrested for wearing pants. Women protested until women were allowed to wear pants. When I tell my students this they are shocked.
In 1972, my fellow female students protested to wear blue jeans instead of pantsuits. I lead the female students and they followed me; I didn’t know then I was leading. Today, I understand the power of being able to express myself and communicate my reality through spoken word.

What project/s are you working on that you would like to share?

I’m a storyteller; and a very good listener. I’m writing my first murder mystery because I love a challenge. I’ve been writing The Colorado Sisters for the last year.  I wanted to see what else there was inside my head. Turns out there’s plenty. But getting up every day and making something out of nothing takes dedication, work, and talent.  I learned that you can’t write a book, if you don’t sit down and write.

I’m creative and weave stories and characters like a movie inside my head. I love writing dialogue and using humor in my writing to curb the edge of the murder, the nitty gritty of the story, the dark secrets we all have, the criminal element of detective work, and finally the investigative work can’t be just evidence, testimony, and undercover work; there must be balance with the characters’ lives because in real life, we have up and down days and have funny things happen all around us, if we pay attention.

What advice do you have for other poets?

My good friend, Manuel, always says, “Everywhere you go; there you are.” Never forget that bit of wisdom. It might save your life someday. Surround yourself with smart, talented, generous people like Manuel, who have a social conscience and are activists. My writing gives me a voice and a medium to reach people. It’s the same for my writer friends. Read lots of books and write lots of poems and then read books about writing poems and write poems and read books written by poets you admire and then write more poems.

One piece of advice, don’t ever change your voice or your truth to make someone else happy. Don’t change a word if you feel it is your truth. You’re not writing for you parents, siblings, partner, children. Write for yourself and write the kind of poems you want to read. And attend lots of book readings, writing conferences and writing workshops, and network with everyone you meet. Keep those connections current through social media. Share your story with new writers and encourage them to write from the heart not the head.

Remember you can’t please everyone; and not everyone will like you, or your poems. But for those who do appreciate your writing, you tell them how much their feedback feeds your soul. You meet your readers and audience and share your stories about how you became a writer. You teach poetry writing workshops to others and encourage young and old to write, write, write.

What else would you like to share?

I have fears: I’m afraid of drowning. I’m scared of la Llorona and el Cucuy, I’m afraid of the future under a misogynist, xenophobic, racist, President and cabinet. I’m frightened by the racism that exists in our country. And finally, I’m afraid of Climate Change and the future of our Mother Earth. However, I have faith in the young people; I have faith, and like Maya Angelou sings, “And still I rise.”