Friday, May 25, 2012

Writing and Writers: Michael McGarrity

Writer’s Block airs every Tuesday, at 9 a.m. MST on KFUN/KLVF, streaming live at 


McGarrity Captures the Old West With Compelling Characters

The best part of Writer's Block is talking to storytellers like Michael McGarrity, whose commitment to writing well is evident in his Kevin Kerney series, and in his latest release, Hard Country. This first book in a trilogy of historical novels about the Kerney family begins in 1875 with the horrific death of John Kerney's wife while giving birth to his son, Patrick, and the violent deaths of his brother and nephew. Circumstances force John to leave the child in the care of his dead brother's widow, a woman who he believes will take care of the infant and keep him safe. Unfortunately – as is often true in life when tragedy happens – she can barely take care of herself.

Hard Country is a well-researched saga of the life and times of the old west and the birth of New Mexico. Historic events are a backdrop to the tale of John Kerney and the son whose trust he never gains. When they are reunited Patrick fights settling in and turns his rage and disillusionment on those closest to him. The boy's life is shaped by cruelty in his early years, hardship, survival in the midst of nature's brutal forces, personal loss and an inability to trust. 

McGarrity transports the reader to the dusty trails and developing towns of an expanding country. Whether you like history, family drama or just reading a great book, Hard Country is the book for you. The wild west is portrayed with heart, realism and respect for an era during which survival was a way of life.

In our May 22 radio interview it came through loud and clear that writing a historic trilogy is a challenge Michael is ready and willing to take on. Attention to detail assures the bold panorama of the land is drawn as carefully as the compelling human characters. McGarrity breathes life into the past and helps us see it as it was. It is a gripping story from page one right through to the end.

About the author: Michael McGarrity turned to writing following a successful career in criminal justice and is the author of 12 Kevin Kerney novels. He lives in Santa Fe, NM where he is currently working on the second book in the Kerney family trilogy. For more information go to his website.

Hard Country is published by Dutton, a member of Penguin Group (USA), and is available in Las Vegas, NM at Tome on the Range.
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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Writing and Writers: Karen Lenfestey

Writer’s Block airs every Tuesday, at 9 a.m. MST on KFUN/KLVF, streaming live at 


Lenfestey Writes About Women For Women

Karen Lenfestey is a writer of women's fiction, a genre with wide appeal. People are hungry for stories about real people living through real situations, and her novels fill the bill. A Sister's Promise and What Happiness Looks Like, are novels about two sisters, Kate and Joely, and the family ties that bind them.

In our interview Karen said she wanted to create characters and situations that draw the reader in and make them want to read more. She relates the events of their lives with sensitivity and understanding. The dilemma for Kate in the first book is her inability to conceive a child and her need to be there for her sister when her world is falling apart. Joely is faced with a frightening health diagnosis, the birth of her child and the loss of the man with whom she'd expected to spend her life.

In What Happiness Looks Like Joely must come to terms with her first love's return to her life, not for her, but to establish a relationship with Ana, the daughter he has never seen. Joely's illness keeps her from getting on with her life on many levels, and her betrayal by Ana's father gets in the way of her trusting any relationship. His return confuses her and angers Kate. Despite her reservations, Joely does not feel she should keep Ana apart from her dad. 

It's all about expectations and how life turns out. Karen takes on complex and painful issues with heart and delicacy.  

About the author: Karen Lenfestey, a Midwest Writers Fellowship winner, sold over 25,000 copies of her first novel, A Sister's Promise. Its sequel, What Happiness Looks Like, is now available. Her work has also been published in magazines and on a billboard in Times Square. She studied advertising at Purdue University and counseling at Indiana University. For more about the author click here.

In Las Vegas, NM the books may be ordered through Tome on the Range.


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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Writing and Writers

Writer’s Block airs every Tuesday, at 9 a.m. MST on KFUN/KLVF, streaming live at 
A Great Aridness
Climate Change and the Future of the American West
By William deBuys

“A speaker projected a map on the screen showing predicted surface water runoff for the U.S, a half century from now. The map had just been published in the scientific journal Nature. Blue areas showed where runoff would increase, red where it would decrease. The Southwest burned red. I felt chills when I looked at it. If this is true, the Southwest was in for big trouble.” This was a wake-up call that sent William deBuys on a journey to learn more, record what he learned, and write a book that is both alarming and hopeful.

Water is life, no one would disagree. Getting to agreement beyond that isn't so easy. Of greatest concern, deBuys says, is that a vast number of people – more than 30 million – depend to some degree on the Colorado River. 

“Most of them live downstream from the giant reservoir, Lake Mead, that Hoover Dam backs up.” 

Two separate studies about Lake Mead concluded that based on various climate change scenarios failure (meaning the level of water in the lake falls too low for any to pass the dam and be available downstream, which is where the aqueduct gets the water it carries to various final destinations) is a concern. Add in the fact that Arizona and California are already living beyond their water means, the teams agreed that by 2026 the likelihood of failure skyrockets.

A lot of what deBuys writes about is unsettling. The frustrations come from a sense that some people must be convinced climate change is a reality. Based on the vast amount of research done by qualified and careful scientists, it continues to mystify him that people don’t “believe” climate change is a factor. 

“We should get past this ‘belief’ business. Climate change is not a matter of belief, like choosing a religion or deciding to believe in the Tooth Fairy. You either accept this science or you don’t and if you don’t, well, that's pretty selective behavior for anyone who, say, flies on airplanes, undergoes an MRI, or uses a cell phone. The same physics that lies behind climate change also underlies those technologies. The same practices of science that makes those technolgies possible has also produced our understanding of climate. I have more sympathy for someone who rejects science as a way of knowing than for someone who accepts only the science he feels is convenient. That’s really not defensible.”

A Great Aridness is beautifully written. DeBuys establishes relationships of understanding and inquisitiveness as he learns more about the vast changes that have occurred, perhaps more evidently in the years of growing populations in areas where water is at a premium. He takes hope from the work of people who have telescoped their attention on matters most of us ignore, and take from that telescopic view a greater understanding of what is happening across the globe. Is it depressing?

“It can be pretty discouraging,” deBuys says. “But in the course of writing this book I have discovered that I am an intellectual pessimist but neuro-chemical optimist. What I mean is, the outlook is grim but the dawn of every new day is beautiful. I love writing the stories of scientific discovery that are a big part of A Great Aridness. I also love the stories of the inspiring people who are exploring new alternatives for living in the arid Southwest.”

Reviewers rave about A Great Aridness
Booklist: Starred Review
“With wide-eyed wonder and the clearest of prose, deBuys explains why we should care about these places, the people he portrays, and the conundrums over land and water he illuminates. No longer are aridity and climate change in the Southwest only of regional interest; deBuys is writing for America and we should all listen to what he has to say.”

Bill McKibbern, author Earth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet:
“This is on the short list of key books for anyone who lives in or loves the American southwest – with scientific precision and understated emotional power it  explains what your future holds. If you live elsewhere: it’s a deep glimpse into one place on our fast-changing planet, and you’ll be able to do many extrapolations. Remarkable work!”

DeBuys is the author of six books. He has been honored for his writing, including River of Traps: A New Mexico Mountain Life, which was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and was also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in general non-fiction in 1991. In 2008 an excerpt of The Walk won a Pushcart Prize. Aside from his published work, perhaps he is most proud of being part of efforts to protect more than 150,000 acres in New Mexico, Arizona and North Carolina. In our Writer's Block interview he came across as knowledgeable, realistic about the future and what needs to be done, and passionate about a cause that is much greater than most people realize.

A Great Aridness is available at Tome on the Range in Las Vegas, NM and in bookstores around the country. For more information about William deBuy and his writing go to

This Orphaned Land: 

New Mexico’s Environment Since the Manhattan Project

By V.B. Price

This Orphaned Land, New Mexico’s Environment since the Manhattan Project, tells a compelling story about how New Mexico has been affected by human choices. Everything from dumping of poisonous waste to contamination of once pure waters can be traced back to the intrusion of humans on the land. 

Author V.B. Price points to the coming of the railroad and the influx of people that brought with it a myriad of problems. Progress couldn’t be stopped. The question is, “What now?”

In the introduction of the book V.B. stated that environmental information may be one of the more “…controversial and contested categories of knowledge in the modern world. Because there is little agreement on next steps, problems continue to multiply and the clean-up is costly. And water, the resource most in contention in the arid southwest, is over adjudicated and unlikely to be replenished to meet the needs of a growing population.

In the chapter entitled, Water, A Desert Among Eons of Oceans, V.B. writes that it has become increasingly evident … that there’s more paper water than real water in New Mexico. He said that means better planning now about how water is used today and into the future. With decades of observing and reporting on the environment, the author comes at this subject with a wealth of knowledge and the compassion of someone who loves the land and gets it that we made this mess; it’s past time for us to clean it up.

In a Santa Fe New Mexican article about notable books for 2011 historian Marc Simmons wrote of This Orphaned Land, “Having absorbed and interpreted the New Mexico scene during a 50-year residence, Price provides here a stellar compendium focused on the state’s slide toward ecological degradation. His book is not only readable but a valuable reference work on the subject.”

The book is personal. This is about us. Our future in New Mexico is being lived right now in a changing environment caused by a multitude of factors, some over which we have no control; others we can tackle and fix. V.B.’s book is a must read for anyone looking for a broader understanding of what is happening to our resources and to our future. The stories are enhanced by the photography of Nell Farrell. These haunting images take what some might consider an abstract discussion and make it quite real. 

V.B. Price is a poet, human rights and environmental columnist, editor, journalist, architectural critic and teacher. He is a member of the faculty at the University of New Mexico's University Honors Program where he teaches seminars on Greek and Roman literature in translation, urban issues, the U.S. Constitution, and world poetry. He is the series editor of the Mary Burritt Christensen Poetry Series at the University of New Mexico Press. He is also an adjunct associate professor at UNM's School of Architecture and Planning.

For more information about the book and about the author, go to
The Orphaned Land is available in Las Vegas, NM at Tome on the Range.

Tune in next week when the program will be hosted by Michael Siewert of Tome on the Range with guests Bonnie Rucobo, author of King Pachuco and Princess Mirasol, and Melanie Atkins, author of books about mystery, murder, and love...with a twist.

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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Writers & Writing: Craig Johnson

Writer’s Block airs every Tuesday, at 9 a.m. MST on KFUN/KLVF, streaming live at 

Walt Longmire: From Book to TV
As the Crow Flies, the eighth book in the Walt Longmire series, starts off with Walt trying to settle on an alternate location for his daughter’s nuptials, because the person in charge of the original site has thrown a roadblock in the wedding plans. When checking out a possible, if out-of-the-way spot, Walt and Henry Standing Bear watch helplessly as a young woman falls to her death. Walt’s dog discovers that Audrey Plain Feather wasn’t the only one to tumble down the mountainside. The woman’s child appears unharmed, but to be certain Walt and Henry rush the child to the nearest hospital, which leads Walt to a second encounter with the new tribal chief of police, a troubled young woman who carries her war experiences with her into civilian life along with a chip on her shoulder.

This sets the stage for a series of events and subsequent murders that lead Sheriff Longmire and Chief Lolo Long into an unlikely partnership, and Walt way outside his jurisdiction.

Author Craig Johnson is a master at weaving small details into the big picture. As the Crow Flies presents new challenges for the sheriff, not the least of which is figuring out a way to not disappoint his daughter, while catching the killer before the villian strikes again.

Get to know Sheriff Walt Longmire. He will be around for a while. This mystery series character is the protagonist in New York Times bestselling author Craig Johnson’s books about the modern day West, and beginning June 3, he will be strolling across the Wyoming landscape on A&E in Longmire. The series has been adapted for television and in the interest of keeping the flavor and style of the story line Craig has been hired as a creative consultant on the televised version.

I have to confess I’m hooked on Walt Longmire and the other recurring characters, even though the first book I’ve read is the latest in the series, As the Crow Flies. I liked it so much that I went right down to Tome on the Range after my interview with Craig and bought the first seven.

The best books are the ones that tell great stories. What I like about As the Crow Flies is Craig’s ability to weave a story that revolves around believable characters, even when the characters are cars.

His obvious enthusiasm for writing and for the books he has created made interviewing Craig easy.  

I commented on the photos of him sitting in his wreck of a pickup with a horse interacting with him (look under the Home drop down menu under interrogation). He laughed and said, yeah, he gets along with horses just fine. “They know my moods before I do, and I discuss my ideas with them. They listen and don’t burden me with advice.”

Considering his fondness for horses, it’s a wonder there aren’t more of them in his books, but the horse power behind his transportation is under the hood, and often his nemesis is a vehicle he doesn’t much care for, like Henry Standing Bear’s truck, Rezdawg. That’s all I’m going to say about that. You’ll have the read the Longmire books to find out more.

Craig hit the New York Times bestseller list with his seventh book, Hell is Empty. When I asked him about this, he was somewhat understated and philosophical.

“I was on a book tour (for Hell is Empty) at the time and my wife called me and told me. At about that same time I was notified that A&E wanted to make a TV show. I’d say that was a good week.”

Being on a best-selling author list, he said, isn’t something he has any control over. He feels his job is to write a good book, something people want to read, with characters who are believable, and a story that reveals the heart and soul of the human condition.

He is meticulous about detail, and spends hours doing ride-alongs with law enforcement personnel in his home state of Wyoming. When he finishes a book and before it goes to print, he has friends in law enforcement who read the manuscripts to check for mistakes, anything that would take away from the credibility of the story.

Craig’s good-old-boy manner is a small part of a man who is obviously well-read and active in literary circles. He refers to his success as a Cinderella story, and says he became a writer because he “ran out of excuses.” Everybody has a story they want to tell, he said. In his case Craig Johnson continues to tell the Walt Longmire story very well.

More about Craig:

 From his website: Craig Johnson has received high praise for his Sheriff Walt Longmire novels The Cold Dish, Death Without Company, Kindness Goes Unpunished, Another Man's Moccasins, and The Dark Horse, which received a superfecta of starred reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, Publishers Weekly, and Library Journal, and was named one of Publisher's Weekly's best books of the year (2009). Each has been a Booksense/IndieNext pick with The Cold Dish and The Dark Horse both DILYS award finalists and Death Without Company the Wyoming Historical Association's Book of the Year. Another Man's Moccasins received the Western Writer's of America Spur Award for best novel of 2008 as well as the Mountains and Plains award for fiction book of the year. Craig is a board member of the MWA, having been elected as a member at large this year. He lives in Ucross, WY, population 25.

Coming June 2 to Tome

As part of his book tour for As the Crow Flies Craig will be in Las Vegas, NM at Tome on theRange on Saturday, June 2. There will be a lunch at the Plaza Hotel at noon. Tickets for the lunch are $15 and  currently available at the bookstore.

Tune in to Writer’s Block next week. My guests will be William deBuys, author of A Great Aridness, and V.B. Price, author of The Orphaned Land.  

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Writers and Writing: Lucas CorVatta

Writer’s Block airs every Tuesday, at 9 a.m. MST on KFUN/KLVF, streaming live at 

A Funny Man in Heels With a Message of Hope
Lucas CorVatta is a charming young man whose quirky sense of fun has made him into an entertainer with flair. As a writer he has a mission to encourage people to be who they are, and to live fully. As a young man he struggled to come to terms with being gay only to learn that when he revealed his nature, the people closest to him embraced him fully.

“I’m lucky. I have a family who loves and supports me,” he said in our on-air interview. Being accepted is part and parcel of who Lucas is, and he wants that for others.

Lucas writes for Pride and Equality, a gay and lesbian magazine with well over 14,000 subscribers and growing. His column The Corvatta Chronicles talks about what it means to be gay and to be funny. On his website and in the column, the one-liner that takes your eye is, “There’s no stopping a boy in heels!” His comedy routines are send ups of female comics like Phyllis Diller. He is part of a comedy troupe called the Jewel Box and is broadening his range by taking on writing gigs, being a producer, and earning his acting chops.

Lucas claims to “not be a writer,” and yet much of what he does involves writing. He creates his own routines and writes regularly to communicate his advocacy for gay rights. He said in a column in Pride and Equality, after breaking the news to his mother that he was coming out, “Her only concern was what others who are not accepting of the gay lifestyle might do to me. Six years later I’m performing gay standup comedy on stage, wearing hooker high-heels and a feathered boa. Life is a process of growth. What may not be possible today might be possible tomorrow.”

That positive attitude continues to move Lucas forward in his career and continually brings him into contact with people who encourage him. In some ways that support has allowed him to be a gentle advocate through a message of understanding, caring and compassion.

He takes seriously the importance of resources available to those who want to come out but have reservations and fears. His message is to be ready for any kind of reaction and to find support from others who know what you’re going through.