Wednesday, March 28, 2012

New Mexico Showcased in March 27 Program

Writers’ Block guests on March 27 talked about traveling New Mexico and fitness as a way of life. Author Sharon Niederman will talk about her book Signs & Shrines, Spiritual Journeys Across New Mexico on Saturday, March 31, 3 p.m. at Tome on the Range. Writers' Block streams live each Tuesday at 9 a.m. MST, at

A Travel Guide to New Mexico Adventures 

Author Sharon Niederman

If you want a fun travel guide for New Mexico Signs & Shrines, Spiritual Journeys Across New Mexico by Sharon Niederman, is the book for you. The guide is informational and interesting, the language clear and concise and the sites fun and intriguing.

Sharon says for her life is a spiritual journey and many of the places she has been have provided her with meaningful experiences, and fodder for her books. Signs & Shrines is one of seven books she has written or collaborated on. Her novel Return to Abo is now available as an e-book and the others are all available at most indie bookstores and on-line retailers. See Sharon’s website for titles and more information.

The author and her latest book will be featured at a Tome on the Range on Saturday, March 31 at 3 p.m.

What I liked about Signs & Shrines is that it made me fall in love with New Mexico all over again. I’ve had dreams of living by the ocean and then I think about all the quirky out-of-the-way treasures just down the road, and I realize this is the best place to be.

Sharon said the stories used in her latest book come from information gathered over a 20-year period. The areas touched on include such places at Chimayo, Chaco Canyon, Santa Fe and Taos. And it isn’t just the place; it’s the journey. The Old Spanish Trail, Roads of the Ancestral Puebloans, The Path of the Migrations are some of the paths along the way.

The book is intended as a travel guide, but it is so much more. It’s easy to follow with chapters organized by region with entries listed under categories that I think of as calls to action. Instead of “places of interest,” Sharon calls one section, “Discover,” which is a friendly reminder that when you travel you are on an adventure of discovery. Recreate (outdoor fun), cherish (shopping for the original and unique), meander (day trips and off the beaten path attractions), renew (meditation, spas and retreats), nourish (food), respite (lodging), celebrate (local festivals) and on the town (entertainment venues). These headings encourage the reader to get up and get with it. 

An added bonus is Sharon’s photography. Iconic color photos of people doing what people do, sacred images and scenic shots fill the book with enticing reasons to spend your tourist dollar in mystical and magical New Mexico.

Buy the book and keep it in your car. You never know when you might like to take a side trip that will lead to an adventure.

Fitness Trainer Motivates and Inspires

Creating a better life for other people fits into Rico Marciano’s life just fine. He has worked with many people who thought disability was a permanent condition. Through fitness and diet he has helped people regain strength and mobility, but more importantly he has helped motivate his clients to be and do their best against the odds.

This energetic entrepreneur is a TV and radio personality in Florida and is working on a manuscript about his experiences as a fitness instructor. He has written and produced a documentary about his work and has written scripts awaiting a producer.

I enjoyed my conversation with Rico, which was high energy and non-stop. It is as though he’s busy getting as much out of life as he possibly can. During his he career he has won championships in every sport and performed in film, TV, theater, nightclubs and on radio.
 As a Certified Physical Fitness Instructor, he designs exercise programs for various neurological and orthopedic disabilities, programs for athletes, breast cancer survivors, and conditioning. He has won multiple awards including Trainer of the Year and Chip Van Wanderham Achievement Award for his work with the disabled.

Tune in next week for the latest reads at Tome on the Range with Michael Siewert, and a conversation with
Roslynn Alexander, who says she is an artist who uses words in her art.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Poetry and Memoir, Life in Vignette

Writers’ Block guests on March 20 talked about the value of poetry as a writing form and essayist Cindy Charlton talked about memoir writing and her book signing on Saturday, March 24, 3 p.m. at Tome on the Range. Writers' Block streams live every Tuesday at at 9 a.m. MST.

Shirley Blackwell and Georgia Santa Maria

Poetry does not appeal to everyone, perhaps because it is a much misunderstood medium of expression. New Mexico State Poetry Society President Shirley Balance Blackwell is trying to change that by bringing poetry into the modern age through technology and outreach. She and Georgia Santa Maria were as excited about promoting the Poetry Society as they were about promoting their work. Already There, Shirley’s book of poetry is available through her website. Georgia’s body of work has been published and includes both poetry and photography. Both read a poem from their books and each spoke about the value of belonging to writing groups.

Shirley has a lively personality, an obvious passion for poetry and a clear understanding of the importance of networking with other writers. A starting point for her was to revitalize the New Mexico State Poetry Society by increasing membership and improving its web presence. Originally from Deming, much of her career was in Washington, D.C. She returned to New Mexico as a result of her final assignment and now lives near Albuquerque with her husband and two rescue dogs. When asked, “Why Poetry,” she said, “Sometimes there’s no other way to live.”

The title, Already There, reminds the reader that much of what we’re looking for is there, sometimes right in front of us, we just need to be, as Shirley says, paying attention. Her poetry is wonderfully personal and covers the range from visionary to practical. In Upon Reflection she describes coming home with carefully chosen words and the way they visually appear on the page.

In Quantum Theology she writes:

“If poems were numbers and computers were infinite,
I would search for a magic algorithm of words
that-muliplied, magnified-would loop, swirl, and branch;
grow complexes of beauty; produce patterns truer
than I could devise but were there for the viewer.”

There’s more of this poem, but this verse gives you a sense of pacing and the exploration of a novel idea through the eyes of this inventive and creative poet. Her sense of what is and what can be come together in interesting ways. Whether she is writing about a mother-in-law with dementia, the discretion to keep silent about her happy marriage when everyone else is bemoaning the disappointment in theirs, or not being at her mother’s bedside at the time of her passing the words ring true and crystallize vignettes of life through the eyes of someone who has been there.

I recommend Already There whether you are a fan of poetry or someone who would like an introduction to a writing discipline that tells quick stories in lyrical form.

Georgia Santa Maria has a lovely laugh and appears to be innately cheerful. She read Santa Rosa from her book, Lichen Kiss, explaining the book title as coming from an image of a “Marilyn Monroe-like” pair of lips in red lichen growing on a boulder. As a photographer she was charmed by nature’s whimsy and felt that it would well-reflect her eclectic collection of poetry.

Georgia said in our interview that she believes poetry tells the truth and gets to the heart of ideas. “Poetry is internal music,” she said.

An artist and writer all her life, Georgia is a native northern New Mexican who has chronicled the landscape and life, both behind the camera and on the page.  Since 2010 she has made a conscious effort to, “… get my work out there and connect with other writers in my area. I have greatly enjoyed getting to know other writers and hear their work as well as sharing mine.”

She is working on a collection of her poetry, and a book about her experiences as a storekeeper in rural New Mexico.

To learn more about the Poetry Society and its upcoming state convention on April 28, go to New Mexico State Poetry Society.

Cindy Charlton: Family Caregivers, a Testament to Love

My good friend Cindy Charlton was my call-in guest. We only needed a cup of coffee in front to us to make the conversation complete, well that and being in the same room. Chatting with Cindy always makes me feel good. She is supportive of people who try and she shores up people who are struggling. I’m looking forward to getting Chicken Soup for the Soul, Family Caregivers, which contains One in a Million, an essay by Cindy. It is a personal account of her time as a caregiver for her terminally ill husband, Michael, which she was doing at the same time she was learning to live as a disabled person with new prosthetic legs.

Cindy has been writing about her personal experiences in her blog (accessible from her website), A Survivors Handbook, but writing for Chicken Soup for the Soul, Family Caregivers, proved to be a challenge. It was both emotionally taxing and healing. She said in reading the essays submitted by others, she found common experiences, and as difficult as these experiences were, the caregivers said they would not have missed out on these moments with their loved ones. The gifts they received became precious memories.

Cindy said she writes creative non-fiction, basically memoir writing, explaining that memoir describes a journey that shows how you’ve evolved into the person you are. “While it may be cathartic,” Cindy said, “it’s very hard to get down on paper.” One in a Million recounts a time just prior to her husband’s death.

“Writing about fighting my battle with disability and what I went thought isn’t as emotional and difficult as writing about Michael. You hurt for your loved one more than you hurt for yourself. You have to be the courage for the other person.” Cindy said Michael was her caregiver as well and remembers him as being unfailing in his attention. “I don’t remember him ever quaking at anything.”

Her remarkable story is a book all its own, but this piece in Chicken Soup for the Soul, Family Caregivers is especially close to her heart.

Be sure and set aside time on Saturday, March 24 at 3 p.m., to attend her book signing at Tome on the Range. She will also talk about her experiences and what it means to be caregiver for someone in the end stages of life.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Airs Tuesdays at 9 a.m. MST

Streams live on KFUN/KLVF

Program features books, books, books and a moving story of life after loss

Tome on the Range manager Michael Siewert brought another stack of wonderful reading options to the Tuesday, March 13 program.

Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche, by Ethan Watters, will be the featured book at the Tome on the Range Sunday Salon, 3 p.m., March 18. Mental illness and how it is handled in this country is having an unexpected but perhaps predictable ripple affect across the world. Join Tome owner Nancy Colalillo in the discussion.

From the Crazy Like Us website: “The most devastating consequence of the spread of American culture across the globe has not been our golden arches or our bomb craters, but our bulldozing of the human psyche itself. American-style depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and anorexia have begun to spread around the world like contagions, and the virus is us. Traveling from Hong Kong to Sri Lanka to Zanzibar to Japan, acclaimed journalist Ethan Watters witnesses firsthand how Western healers often steamroll indigenous expressions of mental health and madness and replace them with our own. In teaching the rest of the world to think like us, we have been homogenizing the way the world goes mad.”

Michael also talked about, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, by Jonathan Haidt. “Why can’t our political leaders work together as threats loom and problems mount? Why do people so readily assume the worst about the motives of their fellow citizens? In The Righteous Mind, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt explores the origins of our divisions and points the way forward to mutual understanding.”

This excerpt from the Random House website sets the stage for a book that explores the hide-bound opinions and cultural perceptions that prevent us from seeing the “other side” of a question. Common ground doesn’t have to mean changing one’s philosophy, but rather listening with an open mind to the opinions of others, even when we don’t agree with them.

Which lead Michael to a discussion of the book, Religion for Atheists, by Alain de Botton. This is a book a little outside my ken, so I include an excerpt from de Botton’s blog, which you may want to read in full: 

Religion for Atheists suggests that rather than mocking religions, agnostics and atheists should instead steal from them – because they're packed with good ideas on how we might live and arrange our societies. Blending deep respect with total impiety, Alain (a non-believer himself) proposes that we should look to religions for insights into, among other concerns, how to…”

Another of Michael’s current favs is, Turing’s Cathedral, by George Dyson.  I suspect by Michael’s commentary, the book may be a little dense with technical minutia, but I also imagine it is a fascinating look at what we now think of as the “computer age,” when in reality it began with a person and an idea back in 1936.

From the Random House website: “It is possible to invent a single machine which can be used to compute any computable sequence,” twenty-four-year-old Alan Turing announced in 1936. In Turing’s Cathedral, George Dyson focuses on a small group of men and women, led by John von Neumann at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, who built one of the first computers to realize Alan Turing’s vision of a Universal Machine. Their work would break the distinction between numbers that mean things and numbers that do things—and our universe would never be the same.”

Michael read from a small book that manages to say quite a lot in few well chosen words. Poetry in prose form, Almost Invisible, by Mark Strand is made up of  small vignettes that make you think, smile, chuckle and even laugh out loud.

From the Random House website: “From Pulitzer Prize–winner Mark Strand comes an exquisitely witty and poignant series of prose poems. Sometimes appearing as pure prose, sometimes as impure poetry, but always with Strand’s clarity and simplicity of style, they are like riddles, their answers vanishing just as they appear within reach. Fable, domestic satire, meditation, joke, and fantasy all come together in what is arguably the liveliest, most entertaining book that Strand has yet written.”

There were other books discussed, but for a real treat, go to Tome and do some browsing. They love it when you do that.

"Leaving the Hall Light" On Defines Hope and Resilience

My call-in guest, Madeline Sharples, is a woman with a lot of courage. Her book, Leaving the Hall Light On, is part memoir, cathartic journal, story of recovery and the steps she took to rebuild her life after the suicide of her son who lived for years with bipolar disorder. It is a personal story and goes to the heart of mental illness, which affects the afflicted individual and all those with whom he or she comes into contact.

The interview with Madeline was open and honest, leaving one with the impression that nothing in her life is a surprise, and there is nothing in her life she can’t handle. She and her family walked with Paul - the son and brother whose illness lead to his suicide - through hell, and then endured another kind of hell in the weeks, months and years following his death.

I’ve read Leaving the Hall Light On, and my heart and sympathies go out to anyone who has had to learn how to live with and through horrendous tragedies.

The book is organized around Madeline’s poetry. An accomplished writer she hadn't written much poetry until after Paul’s death. As a consequence of attending a writing workshop at Esalen Institute in California, she found poetry to be intensely personal and therapeutic. “I was able to get all the personal, dark and bad stuff onto the page through poetry.” For Madeline it proved to be another means of dealing with an almost unfathomable loss

Her publisher encouraged her to use more of her poetry in the book and to organize the content around the poetry. When you read Leaving the Hall Light On, you can understand how one literary form draws strength from the other.

The book is about Paul’s “...journey into madness,” and the life Madeline and her family rebuilt after his suicide. She said she has survived and prospered in unexpected way. She is a web journalist and working on a novel.

Leaving the Hall Light On, refers to her “magical thinking" following Paul’s death that if she lived life a certain way, like leaving the hall light on, not moving from their home, not changing the telephone number, Paul would be able to find his way back to them. Her years of living with this tragedy inspired her to write the book and provides information about resources available to help others experiencing similar situations. 

The book is worth your time, especially if you are seeking information about bipolar disorder, mental illness and hope.

For more about Madeline go to any one of the following links: “Leaving the Hall Light On,”

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Program Summary

An Apricot Year, by Martha Egan
University of New Mexico Press
Price: $25.95

An Apricot Year by Martha Egan was the featured book on Writers’Block this week. It is a wonderful story about a woman whose life is turned upside down and inside out by circumstances. A gift that should have lead to a joyous experience opens the door to a future Luli Russell never anticipated. Faced with starting over she gets caught up in the lives of strangers who soon become friends. These associations will bring her a new outlook on life, unexpected relationships and a new found appreciation for New Mexico, its art, color, traditions and people.

Martha will be the guest at an author event at Tome on the Range, 3 p.m., Sunday March 11. She is a writer, entrepreneur and importer of folk art. Her shop, Pachamama, in Santa Fe features imports from Latin America. Her experiences related to the import business lead her to write Clearing Customs, in response to what she refers to the US Customs Service’s “dirty little war on small import businesses.”  

An ApricotYear is a study in character, place and relationships. Luli becomes involved in the shady side of the art business without realizing it, but the bad guy – though undoubtedly involved in art fraud – is also generous in his way. Luli is perhaps a bit naïve, which shouldn’t be interpreted as weak. Despite a defunct marriage and years of being a traditional stay-at-home wife and mom, she finds freedom in the knowledge that against the odds she is a survivor.

Martha’s experiences in the folk art world and as a shop owner in Santa Fe are reflected in the storyline as Luli seeks work in a town were finding a living wage job is next to impossible. It says a lot about Luli that she doesn’t hesitate to take on work that even her family finds unsettling.

The following information is from online resources:
The author’s interest in Latin American folk art began in the mid-‘60s in Mexico City, where she was a student at the Universidad de las Américas. She graduated in 1967 with a B.A. in Latin American History, followed by two years as a Peace Corps volunteer working with credit unions in rural Venezuela.

 Martha’s works include award-winning novels Clearing Customs (2004), Coyota (2007), and La Ranfla & Other New Mexico Stories (2009) and two non-fiction titles—Milagros: Votive Offerings from the Americas and Relicarios: Devotional Miniatures from the Americas.

Gayle Gross

Gayle Gross is a writer, entrepreneur and owner of She’s on a quest to change the world, which might seem like a big undertaking until you spend some time talking to her. Following a four-month retreat, she created a platform for authors where their work can be critiqued and where social networking training is available. Signing in as a member is free; fees apply to services. The fees are affordable. For $10 a writer can have his or her work read by a virtual book club and get feedback. A second benefit is a 15-minute prep interview with 10daybookclub that gives authors insight into ways they can use social networking as a marketing tool.

Gayle comes across as smart, creative and dynamic. Her background is in creative and professional relationship development. Her LinkedIn recommendation describe her as an entrepreneur and “the best hand-holder of budding writers and authors.”

Gayle has an active Facebook page and takes advantage of beneficial social networking tools. In developing her concept she offered shares to trusted friends. As the company grows she sees the initial benefactors as key to making the venture successful, and expects they will benefit.

“One thing that emerged from my retreat is the certainty that in everything I do I want to give back. Helping others is an important part of”

Based in Colorado, Gayle is building a network of resources to meet the needs of her growing client base. She attended Devry University and Kutztown University of Pennsylvania.

Her LinkedIn connections exceed 500 and the membership of 10daybookclub has passed the 5,000 mark.

Gayle's websites
·         Connect on Personal Facebook
·         10 Day Book Club (click here for membership information)

Gayle’s commitment to make good things happen for authors makes this an excellent tool for writers to put in their toolboxes.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

History and Mystery on KFUN/KLVF

Marcus Gottschalk is a deeply passionate historian who is spending hours on research and corroboration of the information he is collecting for the third edition of "Pioneer Merchants of Las Vegas," a book he says will continue to validate his belief that Las Vegas was the Southwest's most important commercial center for yearly 30 years in the late 19th century.

In his Tuesday interview it became clear that gathering new information is both exhilarating and critical. Marcus has studied the work of other respected historians like Dr. Lynn Perrigo and Dr. Anselmo Arellano, to gain background. A contributing factor in the development of the area was the convergence of major trade routes that brought hundreds of people to Las Vegas, some of whom settled, opened businesses and prospered.

As a conscientious researcher Marcus wants to make sure that when he publishes his information is accurate and can be substantiated. "But I can guarantee you, that as soon as you publish anything to do with history, he said, someone will come forward with documents that question your conclusions."

That perhaps is the incentive that drives Marcus to look deeper into the past and find out what makes Las Vegas the community it is today.

The 2nd edition of Pioneer Merchants of Las Vegas is no longer available for sale, but you can read it at Carnegie Library, Donnelly Library and at the Citizens' Committee for Historic Preservation office on Bridge Street.

From Marcus' bio: Since 1996 Gottschalk has researched and written about numerous significant people and events of Las Vegas' past. Gottschalk's historical viewpoints are solidly based upon documentary evidence, though he is not timid in addressing controversial topics. Gottschalk holds a Master of Arts in Public Affairs from New Mexico Highlands University and has actively sought to preserve many significant Las Vegas buildings, historical photographs and artifacts.

Elizabeth Spann Craig is a southern woman to the bone and her experiences growing up around other strong southern women have served her well. Her cozy mystery Myrtle Clover series about an octogenarian with stubborn determination and a knack for solving murders, is gaining a growing number of readers. The character, patterned after Elizabeth's grandmother, plants armies of gnomes on her lawn to let her son the police chief - who lives across the street - know when she's not happy with him for meddling in her affairs.

Writing under the name Riley Adams Elizabeth created the Memphis Barbeque series about which Publishers Weekly wrote: A sassy first in a new series from Adams. Book one, Delicious and Suspicious, has a food scout from a cable cooking channel showing up at Aunt Pat's, the restaurant owned by Lulu Taylor. When the scout is murdered, Lulu takes it personally, but danger lurks as she investigates the crime.

Murder gets worked into the plot of Quilt or Innocence, the first in Elizabeth's Quilting Mystery series due out in June.

As a mom and wife, where does Elizabeth find the time to write? She gets up around 4:30 and knocks out her page goal before the hustle and bustle of the day begins. And she doesn't allow "waiting time" to be wasted time. "If I'm waiting in the doctors office I take out my notebook and write down ideas about scenes or characters.

She also writes Mystery Writing is Murder, a blog for writers that covers a wide variety of information. She has even blogged about her Tuesday interview and suggested guidelines for other authors booked for radio programs.

She and another writer, Mike Fleming, partnered to create Writer's Knowledge Base, a search engine "helping you find the best writings on writing." I typed "character development" in the search box and got back 1093 hits with information on that subject. For writers, it's another tool in your tool box.

For more about Elizabeth and her books go to

Be sure and tune in next week when my guests will be Martha Egan, author of “An Apricot Year,” the story of a middle-aged woman whose life undergoes dramatic changes forcing her to start over, and Gayle Gross, a creative mind on a mission to change lives with 10 Day Book Club.