Friday, February 24, 2012

The Best Thing About Writing is Getting Published

The above title doesn't have a lot to do with what we talked about over the past two weeks, but it does tie into my first guest, bookstore manager Michael Siewert. As writers our hope is to be sold out of wonderful bookstores like Tome on the Range.
This is a two week summary of Writers’ Block. I do not know where the time goes, but I never have quite enough. My expectations and my delivery are two different things altogether.

Writers’ Block on KFUN has been a wonderful experience from the get go back in November when I first got this harebrained idea and Joseph went along with it. I had no idea what kind of reception I would get or where I would find guests, but they’ve been there week after week. Beginning in March, thanks to Tome on the Range, the time slot has a sponsor and that is an enormous plus. Thanks Nancy!

Back to the last two weeks. One of my favorite segments of the program is when Michael Siewert, manager at Tome on the Range, is in the studio to talk about what’s new in the bookstore. I’m intrigued by several of the new offerings and have already picked up “The Vow,” by Kim and Krickitt Carpenter, the story of a couple who fell in love and got married, and after an accident that stole Krickitt’s memory, fell in love and got married all over again. You can't make real life up, folks, and this is a wonderful tale of true love overcoming monumental obstacles. I also snagged “Emily, Alone,” by Stewart O’Nan, author of another book Michael talked about, “The Odds, A Love Story.” 

"The final weekend of their marriage, hounded by insolvency, indecision, and, stupidly, half-secretly, in the never-distant past ruled by memory, infidelity, Art and Marion Fowler fled the country." This opening line sets the stage for an inside look at real people dealing with the real world in ways least likely to produce results, but more in keeping with the way real people think. Happy ever after? What are the odds?

Michael also discussed “A Great Aridness: Climate Change and the Future of the American Southwest,” by William deBuys, which will be the Sunday Salon at Tome on the Range, Feb. 26 at 2 p.m. As you might imagine it’s about water, the southwest and climate change. Something to read for anyone who is effected by decisions made about water locally, regionally and globally. It’s not their problem or our problem, in his scientific and thoughtful look at this timely subject, duBuys points out that water – or the lack of water - is everyone’s concern.

A second book Michael talked about on the subject of water is “The Big Thirst: the Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water,” by Charles Fishman. It’s a broad view of the subject and as one review said, “You’ll never look at a lawn sprinkler, the ocean or a glass of tap water in the same way again.”

One book I must get is “Taft 2012,” by Jason Heller. The following is from the book jacket and is quirky enough to get my attention! 

“He is the perfect presidential candidate. Conservatives love his hard-hitting Republican résumé. Liberals love his passion for peaceful diplomacy. The media can’t get enough of his larger-than-life personality. Regular folks can identify with his larger-than-life physique. And all the American people love that he’s an honest, hard-working man who tells it like it is.

There’s just one problem: He is William Howard Taft... and he was already U.S. president a hundred years ago. So what on earth is he doing alive and well and considering a running mate in 2012?” 

Considering the craziness of 2012 politics, Taft is looking pretty good right now.

“God’s Hotel,” by Victoria Sweet won’t be released until April, but it is a book Michael is much taken with, given its subject matter and relevance. It is a book about San Francisco’s Laguna Honda Hospital, described in the summary as “…the last almshouse in the country, a descendant of the Hôtel-Dieu (God's hotel) that cared for the sick in the Middle Ages. Ballet dancers and rock musicians, professors and thieves – ‘anyone who had fallen, or, often, lept, onto hard times’ and needed extended medical care-ended up here. So did Victoria Sweet, who came for two months and stayed for twenty years.” 

The book melds ideas about the historical practice of medicine going back to when it was believed the body was governed by “four humours” to modern day medicine where the rule of practice too often comes across as being more about cold hard cash than it is about care and compassion. Don't wait until April. Ask Tome to put you on the waiting list to receive a copy when it comes in.

My call-in guest was the always interesting Anne Hosansky. I’ve never met Anne except by e-mail and on Writers’ Block, but I love her humor, quick wit and her work. She has written articles in widely published magazines as well as self-publishing two books on grief and a third book about heroic women of the Bible.

Anne is a writer, published author and the leader of workshops on writing and on grief and recovery. She is a New Yorker with a background in theater and public speaking. Her love of writing has given her the opportunity to be both an instructor and a student of life.

“Ten Women of Valor,” is a book written in first person from the perspective of each Biblical heroine. The vignettes are slices of life that reveal how these stalwart women triumphed in a male-dominated world. It also gives the reader a realistic view of life in an era we can only imagine. This chap book isn’t long, but it is rich with insight, ranging from resolute Sarah to courageous Queen Esther. Each woman confides candid feelings of ambition, passion and sibling rivalry, revealing how they coped with issues similar in concept to those faced by women in the modern world.

Hosansky’s “Widow’s Walk, One Woman's Spiritual and Emotional Journey to a New Life,” is her own story. "Honest, unsparing, ultimately uplifting account of a passage from devastating grief to a fulfilling life alone...Stands out by virtue of the author's bravery in growing to meet the challenges of her new life." -  Kirkus Reviews.

It has been described as a “love story and a continuing life story; an inspirational account of an ending that becomes a new beginning.” First published in 1994, it was a Parade Magazine recommended read, and cited by actress Anne Meara as, "…truly a wonderful journey; we discover and grow with the author as she navigates the rapids of grief."

In “Turning Toward Tomorrow, Victories Over Loss,” Anne sought out others who were living through the loss of a spouse or domestic partner. The book is a collection of these stories dramatically revealing how each created a new life. Loneliness, survivor guilt, anger, forging a new social life and the balancing act of single parenthood are among the topics explored. 

All of these titles are available through Anne’s website

The Feb. 21, program was a walk down memory lane for many. Editha Bartley has been so much a part of the area for so many years it’s like being in the kitchen with an old friend. Her Las Vegas Optic column, “Palabras Pintorescas” (word pictures) is widely read. Editha does not claim to be a writer, and yet her life experiences and homey outlook on life have been recorded by her own hand in at least three newspapers over the years, and her prolific correspondence bears testament to a life well and fully lived.

With Editha you don’t have to give her much of a lead to get her going. In her interview on Tuesday she covered everything from her current writing job at the Optic to her enjoyment of Jesus Lopez’s radio program and Optic column with their insights into times gone by, and how those times influence today.

She also spoke with deep appreciation of her life at Gascon Ranch (a dude ranch back in the day), and following her dad the doc around. Home schooled before home schooling was “in” Editha was perhaps precocious - although she didn’t use that word in talking about herself - and mature beyond her years. Influenced by parents who impressed on her the value of work, the importance of caring for the land, an appreciation for the past, and respect for others she emerged as an independent young woman willing to take on most anything, including entering college at the tender age of 15.

Editha is witty and charming, completely authentic and a Las Vegas (though she lives in Mora County but don’t tell anyone) treasure. Thanks for your time, Edita, it was a pleasure.

My call-in guest, Jean Harrington, is an educator turned author who proves that retirement doesn’t mean quitting. Since retiring to Florida she has jumped feet-first into writing and publishing. Her first book in a female-sleuth series is a hoot and half, with a wonderful protagonist and a whole raft of other interesting, slightly kooky and sometimes downright scary characters.

“Designed for Death,” introduces Devalera Dunne, a young widow who moves to Florida to start a new life. Still grieving for her husband she hesitates to engage too much with others, still feeling her way through her loss. But the death of her new friend and interior design client drags her into encounters with people who test her faith in humankind and push her to take risks she’s not ready for. She is smart, savvy and independent. Not even a hurricane can keep her down. Throw in a couple of hunky guys and you have a merry mix of mayhem. No, it’s not a bodice ripper, but it is a little bit of a romance tied in with a whole lot of mystery and suspense.

Jean said in her interview that the one thing she found out about herself when she was writing the book is that she actually has a sense of humor, which for some reason surprised her. From our interview it is obvious she is quick witted, sharp as a stiletto (pump that is), and classy as only a woman with a brain can be. 

Deva Dunne is her third book. The first two are historical romance novels with spunky Grace O’Malley as the central character. “The Barefoot Queen,” “In the Lion’s Mouth,” and “Designed for Death,” are all available on Jean’s website

Tune in Feb. 28 when my in-studio guest will be Marcus Gottschalk. In “Pioneer Merchants of Las Vegas,” Gottschalk proves that Las Vegas was the southwest’s most important commercial center for nearly 30 years in the late 19th century – a thesis that has filled an important gap in the understanding of the region’s history.

My call-in guest is Elizabeth S. Craig, who writes the Memphis Barbeque series for Penguin/Berkley (as Riley Adams), the Southern Quilting mysteries (2012) for Penguin/NAL, and the Myrtle Clover series for Midnight Ink. She blogs daily at Mystery Writing is Murder, which was named by Writer’s Digest as one of the 101 Best Websites for Writers for 2010 and 2011. I've read the first Myrtle Clover book and I can't wait to get to the next one. She's an octogenarian with more than a little nerve and a resolve to be more than just a little old lady.

Tune in on Tuesday, KFUN/KLVF, 9 a.m., streaming live at

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Writers Explore the Real World and Create New Ones

Jose Vasquez
Jose Vasquez was the winner of the first Writers’ Block writing contest with his entry about the first snow of the year. The wonderful surprise for me in our interview was to learn he has done quite a bit of writing, including music composition and lyrics, and he can sing.

And the man is a ham. Something I never knew about him, but then I haven’t known him all that long. When he learned he'd won the contest he was in San Francisco getting ready to perform at an open mike night.

Jose and his siblings grew up in an environment where learning and applying what you learned was a way of life. He wrote in a recent blog about the Paths that influence and sustain him. It was a reminder of what is important, like his connection to family. Jose and other family members spent the last several months being present for their aging and ailing father, J.D. Vasquez, a well known and well respected educator who passed away at home surrounded by those who loved him most.
Jose had written a chap book about his dad’s life, a wonderful memorial to J.D. and a gift to the family that will be treasured.

Jose also read his wonderful children’s story, The King Who Wanted to be a Jester. As with most children's literature, it is a charming story with a strong message.

Although retired, he spends much of his time writing a blog for Barnabas Institute, the Center for Christian Community, in Santa Fe, and supporting its initiatives. According to the website, The Barnabas Institute is a nondenominational ministry of encouragement that provides inspiration and practical help for people who want to live Christian lives. Jose can be reached by e-mail at

Mark Tierno, my call-in guest has created a monumental 13-book epic sci-fi/fantasy novel. Maldene sweeps across the galaxy full of bizarre characters, an evil being whose motives are unfathomable, and a world where the one thing you can expect is the unexpected.

Tierno uses his physics and math background to lend credibility to the strange environment he has created and uses his skill with words to bring to life a myriad of characters.

From the Maldene website: Picture a planet, giant Earth-swallowing sphere, swaddled green with the color of life, the glare of its giant blue star glistening off its atmosphere in colorful, almost aurora-like, bursts of light. Picture three moons in an eternal cosmic dance around this large orb, the smallest colored the blue of Earth’s sky, the next the green of deepest seas, and the largest the yellow of your own home star. Picture the swoop and whirl of these satellites as they leave no part of that orb with a moonless night, yet also none with the multiple romance of more than one. Picture a planet all filled with magic, mystery, and utter strangeness. 
Picture Maldene.

Tune in Tuesday, Feb. 14, for a visit with Tome on the Range manager, Michael Siewert. We’ll be exploring books, books, books, maybe a few about romance, sweethearts and Valentine’s Day.

Also on the air with me will be call-in guest Anne Hosansky. Anne has a new book out entitled Ten Women of Valor, about Biblical heroines from a feminist view. The women speak in their own voices about how they managed to triumph in a male-dominated world. Ranging from Sarah to Esther the women confide feelings of ambition, passion and sibling rivalry — and emerge as women coping with many of the same issues faced by women today. Anne has also written Turning Toward Tomorrow, Victories Over Loss and Widow’s Walk, One Woman's Spiritual and Emotional Journey To A New Life.

Friday, February 3, 2012

A columnist, an author and a bookseller went into a bar…

On KFUN, live in the studio.
Well, they didn’t go into a bar, but they were guests on Writers’ Block. Two of my favorite people joined me this last Tuesday to talk about writing and books: Art Trujillo and Nancy Colalillo.

Art is a witty fellow and a wonderful commentator on life, language and current events. He talked about his column in the Optic, Work of Art, how he comes up with his column ideas, and the frustration of not being perfect as a copy editor. Well, he didn’t say it quite that way, but he did mention that perhaps criticism can be a bit irksome.

As a bit of a critic himself when it comes to grammar and punctuation, he recognizes constructive criticism when it comes from others and takes it with good grace… mostly. It’s too bad we didn’t get around to talking about his other passion, photography. Watch out when you see him coming with a camera in hand, he’s likely to take a shot of you and post it on Facebook.

What I like about Art’s column - which according to his son Stan in Denmark has been read by people in every state in the U.S.A. - is his honesty, humor and ability to hone in on the very subjects people want to read about. He is often topical, sometimes nostalgic and always on target. As a home-grown Las Vegan he remembers vividly what happened years ago. Admittedly these memories don’t always jibe with his family’s memories, but as Art said, they are his memories and when he shares them with us, it makes us all smile.
Art should think about collecting his columns into a book. I know people would buy a collection of essays that recalls the Las Vegas of yesteryear from the perspective of someone who watched the town grow up. Thanks, Art, for taking time to be on the show with me.

Nancy was as always informative. She talked about World Book Night, a fantastic opportunity to share the love of reading. People who are selected to be part of the book give away will have 30 books to give to people who are light readers.

There is a world of discovery in books. On World Book Night, April 23, those doors of discovery will open all over Las Vegas and all over the US. The expectation is that 50,000 books will be given away.

The deadline to sign up is looming – Feb. 6, so click on World Book Night and apply to be a distributor.
Nancy also talked about the Feb. 19 salon at Tome on the Range, a discussion of Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche.

The Tome website blurb reads: “Is mental illness the latest Western export, a new form of imperialism?  Journalist Ethan Watters investigates how others' embrace of Western ideas of mental health and illness impacts local cultures and indigenous methods for coping.”

You can go to the Tome website to read reviews of the book. The conversation will be facilitated by Nancy.

My call-in guest was Cindy Cromer, the author of Desperate Measures, a suspense novel set in St. Kitts. A perfect vacation turns into a fast-paced race to find out who is disrupting the lives of Caitlin and her family with deadly intent. Cindy has had favorable reviews and is working on the next installment.

Cindy said her challenge with the second book is to create something entirely fresh and new and yet keep the threads of the Desperate Measures storyline.

I’m sure she can do it. Her enthusiasm for writing was evident in our interview. It is obvious she has a passion for creating interesting and realistic characters.

From her publisher’s website: “Cindy Huefner Cromer, formally a New Jersey resident, now resides in Stuart, Florida, with her husband, son, and daughter. Cindy works as a laboratory scientist and executive. As the president of a laboratory network, she has written numerous laboratory procedures and research documents. Driven by a passion for suspense and mystery novels, she dreamed of becoming a writer. Her dream turned into reality with the release of her debut suspense novel, Desperate Measures. She is currently working on her second novel, Desperate Deceptions. Plots are in place for her third and fourth books.

So that’s a wrap for Tuesday, Jan. 31. My very best intention is to get my website updated from week to week with a summary of that week’s program. That doesn’t always happen. I have great guests and hope listeners will enjoy hearing about writers and how they create the books we love to read.

Next week tune in to learn about the winner of my first writing challenge. Jose Vasquez will be there to read his story and talk about writing. My call-in guest is a writer who says when he is in the zone he can write 12,000 words a day. I can tell you folks, that is NOT an easy thing to do. Mark Tierno has written a massive work of science fiction. I haven’t read Maldene, but I am intrigued. Tune in Feb. 6 to find out more.

Writers’ Block streams live at 8:45 a.m., MST Tuesdays on KFUN.