But My English Teacher Said…


It’s a cold morning here in Heaven. The sand truck has been through town and improved the traction on the US Highway that happens to be my street. I wish they’d been through a lot sooner, like yesterday afternoon, but if wishes were horses etc.

Today is the big Christmas doings in my little town. Santa is bilocating in the bowling alley and the local hotel this morning. Following that, there is a Holiday Bazaar (craft fair). When dusk falls, there is a parade and then this evening a concert by a pretty famous (in Colorado) cowboy band at the auditorium build during the ‘3os by the WPA. It’s a panoply of diversions, an array of Christmas crafts, a deluge of delights.

Panoply is an English teacher kind of word, a word I’ve often read in student homework mixed in with “plethora”. Reading student essays, I could almost see the wheels in their minds turning, “How can I get an A?” and the thesauri on their computers burning up.

I know some English teacher had said to them, “Expand your vocabularies so you can express your ideas more clearly!” I know this because mine had said this to me. To some this advice translated into “Using big words will impress my teacher,” and to others it translated into, “OK, that’s a good idea.” I think the motivation depended, usually, on how much (and what) that student read for fun.

It was always cute to run across one of these words, and not all that easy to have to bring down the hatchet, “Dude, here’s the deal. When you write, you want to use words other people know.”

“But my English teacher said…”

The Reading


For two weeks now I’ve planned for this reading. I’ve practiced, written an introduction that wasn’t too long, found a chapter that is exciting, mysterious and makes people want to know more.

My friend Lois drove down from Colorado Springs over a mountain pass in less than ideal weather to be here. The weather has been cold and a little snowy — snowy enough to coat the warm streets, to melt and to freeze. We headed out. About 2/3 of the way to Alamosa (18 miles from Monte Vista) I could tell the roads were becoming increasingly icy under blowing snow. There was a 4WD truck in the ditch. Down the road there had clearly been an accident. We decided to turn around, come back, have dinner.

In the restaurant, I called my neighbor who had been planning to go. She was already there. Once at home, I put a note on Facebook to tell people what had happened and I then learned how many of my friends had gone to the library to get a book signed and hear me read.

I feel humbled, loved, appreciated and a great many more really wonderful things.

More Quotidian Deliberations


The sky is that white gray that says, “Dude, I’m going to snow.” There is the silence that comes before a snow as if the heavy clouds muffle life and offer some relief from the rushing around we do. Of course, for me, this is especially true when I’m snowed in the driveway… But they’re only predicting 1/2 inch. Not enough to construct a snowman, or even much for Bear to roll in or leave me snowed in.

This evening I’m going to do my first ever public reading from one of my novels — I’ve chosen The Brothers Path because it’s the newest AND it’s a little easier to explain the context of the Protestant Reformation than it is leprosy, depression or the Crusades.

I think I’m ready. I’ve rehearsed dozens of times and even set up one of the “bad” copies of the book as a prop with my intro pasted into it like pages. I only have 7 minutes to speak/read which is both good and bad. It’s good for the listeners who won’t  have to listen to a long lecture on the Reformation in Zürich, good for me because I don’t have to do this very long, but bad because without an intro, the chapter won’t make sense.

It’s made me think, again, of a novel as a world entered by a reader.



Hello, Hello, Hello, Hello


“Echo” has taken on a new meaning for me now that we have the Internet. I noticed the phenomenon especially, excruciatingly, during the recent election cycle where a news entity (legit or otherwise) would pick up a story or a Tweet and write about it and then another would pick up that story and write about the story and then another would pick up the story about the story and post THAT. Echoes. Dangerous echoes because repetition is one way of persuading people without needing facts or an argument. We are designed so that if we see something everywhere, we think it’s important, or, worse; we think it’s true just because everyone is saying it.


Reflections on My Recent Virtual Book Tour


IndieBRAG graciously invited me to write a post for their blog on my recent experiences with a virtual book tour for The Brothers Path. Overall, the experience was a mixed bag and quite (for me) expensive.

As I put together the post I came up with things I wish I had known and questions I think might help any author decide if a virtual book tour will help sell their book and will be worth the investment.

SO…if you think you might be about to self-publish your work and you want to sell it and you’re in a conundrum about how best to invest your (limited) funds to the best advantage, my little article might be helpful, at least give you something to think about.


Green Tomatoes


“In time, even dreams fade.”

Harriet — Hattie — wondered how that could be. Sure blue jeans fade from wearing, from washing, from hanging on the line in the sun. The bright red paint around the windows and doors had faded to a friendly terra-cotta which was actually prettier than the red had been. But dreams? There was nothing tangible about a dream. How could it fade? It could come true or not come true, no gradual wearing away of intensity there, a clear binary. Here today, gone tomorrow.

“I had dreams once,” her mother sighed and continued peeling the potatoes. “I thought life would bring me…” She sighed again, more deeply. “Go on outside,” she said to Hattie. “See if there are four or five tomatoes left.”

It was October and the days were shorter and the nights colder, but the tomatoes hung on, prolonging summer. Hattie found three that were ripe; others hung in green optimism, dreaming.



Lamont and Dude Talk about Culture


“Personally, I prefer science.”

“I know you do, Lamont, but don’t you think it’s strange that in biology we grow bacteria in a culture, and in human society we grow, uh, human society in a culture? Think about it.”

“That’s disturbing.”

“I know, right? I wish I hadn’t thought of it.”


Lamont and Dude are characters I came up with a couple of years ago. They have the uncanny ability to remember many of their past incarnations. This gives them a unique perspective on life, the universe, and everything.


Jaded — but Better


It finally snowed. Well not so “finally” as it is only the end of November and there’s no law saying it MUST snow on Halloween, but… Four inches followed by wind that lifted and drifted the snow. I expected Bear to greet this with vigor and joy but she seemed nonplussed. I guess she’s a fully grown dog, now. I took her on a walk alone, without Dusty T. Dog, and I expected great rolling around in the snow, great scooping up snow with the snout. She liked it, but she wasn’t enamored of it as she was as an 8 month old puppy.

Which has given me paws. Is it really that we lose enthusiasm as we get older?

Bear hasn’t suffered any disappointments that I know of to make her look at life with a jaded perspective. It’s not weltschmerz. She still shreds a box with as much joy as ever. Her new toys are decimated in minutes AND she’s figured out a new strategy that yields both cookies AND gets Mindy off the sofa. But snow!?

But I have to admit that I’m also suffering an absence of enthusiasm in general, and I think our “moods” are contagious to our dogs. She may have felt that I was just there, trudging around in the cold without any real desire for said trudging. Not that my trudge lacked vigor, but I was not as excited about snow as I have been wont to be.

My favorite months of the year are the coldest — the ones after the holidays. January, February even March (because the cranes arrive). The holiday sign is up over my street (1/2 block to the west to greet people as they arrive from Del Norte, Pagosa, Durango). Signs of Christmas are everywhere and have been for several weeks. Sometimes I feel that we are pressured into joy and that joy now translates as buying things. When I think about the recent presidential election — as, of course, I do — I think that many of the problems those two strident candidates went on about could be solved by people just not buying so much stuff. If Chinese stuff (Vietnamese stuff, Indian stuff, etc.) is so much cheaper to produce than American stuff why not produce everything in America and be happy with fewer choices and higher quality? I got a catalog (one of innumerable catalogs I get in spite of having signed up on the “don’t send me catalogs” list). Everything in it is beautiful (in a way) but who NEEDS a blown glass pumpkin that costs $100 (full price, on sale for $50)?

I think, for Americans (maybe everyone?) buying is like a drug and a way to feel we have control over our world. Ironically, it actually makes things worse by increasing peoples’ debt and dependence on out-sourced labor. I dunno. I guess, ultimately, I feel that everything comes down to each individual doorstep in one way or another.

Eh, everyone knows this. I guess I just woke up on the curmudgeonly side of the bed this morning.


Dusty and Bear and I took a long walk in the cold and the snow and Bear realized it was snow and was suddenly ecstatic! She tried to get Dusty in on the game, but he wasn’t having it.🙂 The mountains are amazing. There are clouds and behind the clouds, above the mountains the sun was shining making a very dramatic view of the Sangre de Cristos.

Nothing like dogs, snow and beauty to perk up a curmudgeon.


California’s Aching Early Winter Light


I don’t miss anything about California. I was finished with it long before I moved away. But, there is one thing, and when I see it in a photo I feel yearning, sorrow, loss and love — nostalgia. It is the light at the end of the day, coming across the ocean, reaching inland. The slanting rose and golden tones touched everything.

I did not notice it when I lived there, though I did a lot of hikes in the late afternoon into darkness, and I spent some time on hilltops watching the sun set over the ocean. For many years I drove home from school in this light, and when I lived in the mountains, I saw this light hit the distant hills with orange/pink as I headed east toward home. I took many walks on the beach in this light, cooked burgers for the kids in this light. I wrapped up art projects in my garage in this light. I got dressed to go out in this light. Walked to my car in this light. Wandered around Old Town in this light.

It meant nothing to me then, this light.


Black-shouldered Kite, hovering


Chris Bava and the existing wall between Tijuana and San Diego

P.S. The photo above is of my friend, Chris Bava (RIP). Behind him is the wall between Tijuana and the San Diego metro area. Each of the crosses you see here represents a person who died trying to get over the wall. Chris lived in Playas de Tijuana with his wife, Cat.