From Frio to Del Rio Featured on Madam Mayo

C.M. Mayo

C.M. Mayo writes the “Madam Mayo” blog which covers a wide range of topics.  Maybe you’ve heard her on her “Marfa Mondays” podcast?  She is the author of several books on Mexico and Texas, and is currently the artist-in-residence at Guadalupe Mountain National Park.  She interviewed me about my new travel guide in her latest  blog, http://madammayo.blogspot.com.   The following is from her blog.  Many thanks!

 

 

Q & A with Mary S. Black About Her New Book, “From the Frio to Del Rio”, Monday, May 22, 2017

 One of my very favorite places not just in Texas but in the galaxy is the Lower Pecos Canyonlands, so I was delighted to see that

From the Frio to Del Rio: Western Hill Country and Lower Pecos Canyonlands. Now available at Amazon.

Texas A & M Press has published Mary S. Black’s splendid and much-needed guidebook, From the Frio to Del Rio: Travel Guide to the Western Hill Country and Lower Pecos Canyonlands

From the catalog:

“Each year, more than two million visitors enjoy the attractions of the Western Hill Country, with Uvalde as its portal, and the lower Pecos River canyonlands, which stretch roughly along US 90 from Brackettville, through Del Rio, and on to the west. Amistad National Recreation Area, the Judge Roy Bean Visitors’ Center and Botanical Garden, Seminole Canyon State Park, and the Briscoe-Garner Museum in Uvalde, along with ghost towns, ancient rock art, sweeping vistas, and unique flora and fauna, are just a few of the features that make this distinctive section of the Lone Star State an enticing destination.

“Now, veteran writer, blogger, and educator Mary S. Black serves up the best of this region’s special adventures and secret treasures. From the Frio to Del Rio is chock-full of helpful maps, colorful photography, and tips on where to stay, what to do, and how to get there. In addition there are details for 10 scenic routes, 3 historic forts and 7 state parks and other recreation areas.”

Herewith an interview with the author:

C.M. MAYO: What inspired you to write this book? 

Mary S. Black

MARY S. BLACK: I think what inspired me was the land itself, and the history. The Lower Pecos Canyonlands are not well known by most people, but the landscape is incredibly majestic and unexpected. You can be driving 70 miles per hour down the highway through the desert, when, wham, a huge canyon veers off to the left like a sudden tear in the earth.

These canyons were inhabited by human beings for thousands of years. They lived off the land and made paintings on the canyon walls that illustrate their gods and belief systems. Over 300 of these paintings still exist, and you can visit some of them. They are a treasure of human culture, and I hope more people will learn to value them as something important for us to save. The people who settled this area historically were a diverse bunch with a lot of gumption. Do people know that word anymore? I guess in modern language, we might say they had a lot of guts.
C.M. MAYO: In your view, what is the most underrated place in this region?

MARY S. BLACK: If I have to pick only one, I’ll say Las Moras Springs Pool at Ft. Clark in Brackettville.  I’m always looking for

Las Moras Springs Pool

great swimming holes. Las Moras Springs Pool is the third largest spring-fed swimming pool in Texas. Crystal clear water at a year-round temperature of about 70 degrees comes into the pool from a strongly flowing spring, yet very few people swim there because they don’t know how to get access.

The pool is located on Ft. Clark, and old U.S. Army fort originally built in 1849. You can get a day-pass for $5.00 at the guard house to enter the fort, enjoy the pool or play golf on either of two gold courses, and look at all the old stone buildings that remain from when the place was an active Army fort. There is also a really interesting museum there that is open on Saturdays.

C.M. MAYO: What is your favorite place?

MARY S. BLACK: Hands down, the White Shaman Preserve. The best studied of all the ancient murals is located there.  This is

White Shaman Mural

a polychrome painting about 25 feet long and 13 feet high done on a rock wall overlooking the Pecos River. This painting tells a story about creation and how the sun was born, according to Dr. Carolyn Boyd. You can visit the preserve on Saturdays at noon if you make a reservation online through the Witte Museum.  Tours are two-three hours long, and require a fairly strenuous hike down a canyon to a rockshelter, then back up.  But to be up there, to see the mural up close and in person, to look out over the river and imagine the people who made this painting, can change your whole perspective. It’s that powerful.

C.M. MAYO: Your favorite seasonal or annual event?
MARY S. BLACK: I have two: autumn color near Lost Maples State Natural Area near Vanderpool, and tubing in the cold Frio river in summer. Both are unique experiences in Texas and shouldn’t be missed. An isolated stand of bigtooth maple turns orange and red in Sabinal Canyon in late November. And swimming in the Frio at Garner State Park is like heaven on a hot day.
C.M. MAYO: What surprised you in researching this book?
MARY S. BLACK: How fascinating the area really is. The more I learned, the more I wanted to know.  The region has seven state parks and natural areas, nine ghost towns, three historic Army forts, and many scenic drives. But the coolest part was reading about all the crazy things that have happened there, like train robberies and early airplane adventures. And Indian battles. When settlers from the US and Mexico started coming in after the Civil War, the native Apaches and Comanches were fighting for their lives. And of course the U.S. Army was trying to drive them out. It gets complicated, but there were many interesting people involved in all this, like the Black Seminole Indian Scouts at Ft. Clark, and others. One of the first settlers in the Nueces River valley was a woman named Jerusha Sanchez, who came in the 1860s. Later a widow named Elizabeth Hill and her three sons also pioneered in the area. Blacks, women, immigrants from Italy, Mexico, Germany, and other places, and Native Americans made the history what it is.
C.M. MAYO: You offer an excellent bibliography for further reading. If you could recommend only three of these books, which would they be?
 MARY S. BLACK: Hmm, they are so different, let me see.  First I think Carolyn Boyd’s new book, which is called simply TheWhite Shaman Mural, just published by University of Texas Press in 2016.  She details her 25 years of research on the painting in this book and explains how she cracked the code on what it means, an amazing accomplishment.
Then I nominate Judge Roy Bean Country by Jack Skiles, published in 1996, which is a compilation of local stories of life in the Lower Pecos. The Skiles family has been ranching in the area for over 75 years and can tell stories about mountain lions and smugglers that will make you faint.
Finally, one I found fascinating was The Newton Boys: Portrait of an Outlaw Gang by Willis and Joe Newton as told to Claude Stanush, published in 1994. It tells how they became train robbers and learned to blow bank safes with nitroglycerin, which they did in Texas and the Midwest all through the 1920s. By the time they were captured, they had stolen more money than all other outlaws at the time combined.

> From the Frio to Del Rio is available from amazon.com or your independent bookseller.

 

 

 

The Nueces River: Rio Escondido– New from Margie Crisp

Camp Wood Crossing on the Nueces River

Camp Wood Crossing on the Nueces River–painting by William Montgomery

 

I’m happy to have Margie Crisp as my guest today. Margie has a new book coming out in Spring 2017 called The Nueces

Margie Crisp with a 7 foot Texas Indigo snake

Margie Crisp with a 7 foot Texas Indigo snake.

River: Rio Escondido.  She is also the author and illustrator of the award-winning book River of Contrasts: The Texas Colorado, published by Texas A&M Press. River of Contrasts won the Texas State Historical Association Award for the best illustrated book on Texas History and Culture in 2012, and the Best Book of Non-Fiction from the Texas Institute of Letters, also in 2012. You can learn more about her at www.margiecrisp.com, or www.coloradorivertx.com.

Welcome, Margie. I know you traveled over 800 miles along the Colorado River to write River of Contrasts. How did you do that? Mary, first of all thanks for this interview. I’m a big fan of yours so this is a thrill. To be

honest, when I started my research for River of Contrasts: The Texas Colorado, I didn’t have a clue what I was getting

River of Contrasts--Available now at book stores and Amazon

River of Contrasts–Available now at book stores and Amazon

myself into. I didn’t have any training as a writer (though I had taken a few courses from the Texas Writers’ League) and ended up just following the issues and subjects that interested me. Luckily the river’s geography determined the structure of the book. I chose to start at the headwaters so I pointed my car northwest and started driving. In the upper basin the river is nothing but a trickle so I asked ranchers for permission to walk along the river. When I started exploring the river’s middle reaches I began hauling my kayak along but only the reservoirs held enough water for boating. The best paddling was without a doubt in San Saba County and down to the head of Lake Buchanan where the river runs through limestone canyons and pecan bottoms. From the Highland Lakes to the coast I paddled numerous day trips and a few overnight trips. I wish I could say I’d run the river in one trip from the headwaters to the Gulf but by taking many shorter trips I got to experience the river through flood, drought, and different seasons.

Did you do something similar for your new book on the Nueces River? I started the project the same way—looking on maps and then taking off in my car with camera, coffee and sleeping gear. I’d spent time along the Nueces but I’d never followed the river. Because my husband, artist William (Bill) Montgomery agreed to create the art for the book, we took trips to the river together as well as separately. We started the project in the midst of a record drought and it wasn’t until the fall of 2015 that there was sufficient water for paddling the upper sections. So most of our paddling and boating trips were in the lower part of the river.

What made you want to take on such a project? I am passionate about Texas rivers. Historically people relied upon

My photo of Camp Wood Crossing

Photo of Camp Wood Crossing by Mary S. Black

our rivers for food, water and transportation. A look at settlement patterns shows camps, farms and towns clustered around waterways and moving from the coast inland along the rivers. Nowadays, the people of Texas seem to have forgotten just how essential rivers are to our communities. There has been a shift towards viewing rivers as the private domains of the wealthy instead of as the great common resources that they are. I try to entertain and engage readers long enough to slip in a little education but ultimately I hope to help people feel a connection and appreciation for our amazing Texas rivers.

Traveling down these rivers requires significant time and energy. What advice would you give someone about a long river trip? Honestly there are so many variables with weather and river conditions that it is impossible to plan for every contingency, but sunscreen, a good hat, and a set of dry clothes are my essentials. Plus, lots of water and snacks!

Tell us about your other art. What media do you work in? What subjects intrigue you? I’ve worked in a variety of media over the years. Currently I’ve been working on a number of large watercolor and pencil drawings for a January 2017 show at the University of Mary Hardin Baylor in Belton. My art is based upon my personal experiences in the natural world so local flora and fauna are my mainstays.

Fish Camp by

Fish Camp by William Montgomery

You’ve exhibited many, many places and have work in the Austin Museum of Art. Do you have any exhibits coming up next spring so people can get a taste of the new book? When I considered the Nueces River project, I realized that I wanted to research and write but creating the art was daunting (the Colorado River book took over five years). Luckily my husband was interested in the project and he created a body of artwork (oils, watercolors, pen & ink) for the book. It was great to work together but we describe our journey as being parallel tracks: my writing and his art are our individual responses to joint experiences. I don’t describe his art and he doesn’t illustrate my words. Obviously I’m biased but I think the art is magnificent! We both contributed photographs for the book.

What’s next on your agenda? I’m in an art period. One of my quirks is that I have to either make art or write. After I finish up the art work for the next show, I’ll go back to writing again. I’ve got a couple of ideas for novels and there are lots of wonderful rivers to explore!

Many thanks for joining us today. I’m looking forward to tracing the Nueces with your new book. 

Carolyn Boyd: Deciphering the Oldest American “Book”

White Shaman Mural

White Shaman Mural

I am delighted to have Dr. Carolyn E. Boyd, founder of the Shumla Archaeological Research and Education Center, with us today. Dr. Boyd has spent the last 25 years studying the rock art paintings of the Lower Pecos region in Texas. The images painted on the canyon walls along the Rio Grande near Del Rio, Texas, are over 4,000 years old. Dr. Boyd and Shumla have recently been featured in Discover Magazine, Texas Monthly, Texas Highways and others.

Dr. Carolyn E. Boyd

Dr. Carolyn E. Boyd

Hello, Carolyn. Tell us a little about these ancient paintings.

 Hello Mary, and thank you for inviting me to share with your readers about the rock art of the Lower Pecos!

The region is home to at least three categories of prehistoric rock paintings—Pecos River, Red Linear, and Red Monochrome. All three are spectacular, but it is the Pecos River style that is ranked among the top bodies of prehistoric art in the world. Yes, right here in Texas we have paintings that are on par with the famous European Paleolithic cave art of Lascaux, Chauvet, and Altamira. The renowned French archaeologist Dr. Jean Clottes has declared that Pecos River rock art is second to none in the world. Pretty impressive!

What makes these paintings so remarkable is their complexity and compositional intricacy. Lower Pecos artists used earth colors to create murals that are extraordinary in the level of skill required to produce them, as well as sheer size. Some of the panels are huge, spanning over 100 feet in length and 30 feet in height. Others are very small and tucked away in secluded alcoves. There are more than 200 rockshelters north of the Rio Grande containing Pecos River style imagery. South of the border in Mexico there are likely that many or perhaps more.

Production of the massive murals was no small undertaking. Significant time and effort went into planning the composition, obtaining resources to make paint, creating the artist’s tools, constructing scaffolds or ladders, not to mention the rituals that likely accompanied each step in the process.

Halo Shelter Anthropomorphs

Halo Shelter Anthropomorphs

Pictographic elements in these ancient murals include anthropomorphs (humanlike), zoomorphs (animal-like), a wide range of geometric imagery, and enigmatic figures that don’t fit neatly into any of the other categories. Anthropomorphs are the most frequently depicted and average in size between 3 to 7 feet. However, sometimes they are huge, standing more than 25 feet tall! Others are so tiny they could fit in your pocket.

These fascinating figures are elaborately painted in red, yellow, black, and white. Their bodies are adorned with various accoutrements, such as headdresses, wrist and elbow adornments, waist tassels, and clusters of feathers at the hip. Often they are portrayed holding paraphernalia, such as atlatls, darts, staffs, and rabbit sticks.

Animals are also represented in the paintings. Deer are depicted with antlers, tails, hooves and dew claws, and at other times with only antlers or hooves. Felines tend to be painted larger than life. A few are massive, measuring over eight feet from the tip of their tail to the tip of their nose. Birds are usually small and portrayed with their wings outstretched. Some imagery resembles insects, such as caterpillars, dragonflies, and moths or butterflies. Sinuous, snake-like figures are also portrayed. One of my favorites is a horned serpent spanning 20 feet in length.

What is important about this rock art?

The murals of the Lower Pecos represent some of the oldest known ‘books’ in North America. For decades archaeologists thought these complex murals represented numerous painting episodes performed by different artists over hundreds or even thousands of years. We now know they are not a random collection of images, but compositions. As with words on a page, every image was intentionally placed. They are visual texts communicating a narrative by means of a graphic vocabulary.

Although they aren’t books in the literal sense of the word with multiple pages bound together by a hinge along one side, they do tell a story. The method of reading that story was handed down from generation to generation, such that anyone who understood the grammar could read the paintings. Then, at some point in time, everyone with that special knowledge moved on and the message of the art went into a very long period of dormancy. Today, however, we are rediscovering how to read these ancient texts and what we are learning is rewriting the prehistory of North America.

What do you think the images mean?

 Early interpretations suggested Pecos River style imagery represented hunting cults and

Panther Cave at Seminole Canyon State Park

Panther Cave at Seminole Canyon State Park

manifestations of shamanic visions. Many still adhere to the idea that the striking Pecos River style anthropomorphs represent shamans. Others continue to argue the meaning of the art was lost with the people who produced it. But the meaning is far from lost and vastly more complex than any prior explanations.

Though the artists are gone, the myths and belief systems of the hunter-gatherers who produced the murals have remained over the centuries. With stunning resilience, their beliefs have endured from some point in the distant past to shape the ideological universe of Native America into the present. Indeed, it was the symbolic world of foragers that shaped the ideological universe of later Mesoamerican agriculturalists.

The murals exquisitely detail sophisticated cosmological and mythological concepts traditionally associated with complex agricultural societies in Mesoamerica. The art brought life to the mythology, and the mythology aided in the spiritual development of the participants, helped establish community, and was used as a teaching device for understanding natural law.

However, one must keep in mind that the imagery was not strictly visual communication, but, rather, a form of visual-verbal communication. Any meaningful discussion of the significance of the rock art should take into consideration the oral traditions and the performances that accompanied it. As with the pre-Columbian codices, the imagery was likely read aloud and explained to onlookers who participated in the ceremony through ritual offerings, music, singing, chanting, and dance. This performance would have greatly increased the ritual significance of the paintings. Through ritual performance, actions that were performed by gods at the beginning of time were not only commemorated, but repeated. Thus, human action in the present re-created events of the past.

Why should people today care?

I get asked that question often. Sometimes I find it helps to explain it this way. Imagine what you would do if someone delicately placed in your hands a well-worn, extremely fragile text and said “this is one of the oldest books in North America.” What would you do? Would you consider it important enough to take care of? What lengths would you go to preserve it?

The Lower Pecos is a library full of 4,000 year-old manuscripts containing information that is transforming our understanding of North American prehistory, of hunter-gatherers, the tenacity of myth, the origin and dissemination of languages, the function of art in prehistory, and so very much more. Sadly, we are losing these ancient texts at an alarming rate to vandalism, floods, and a changing climate.

What does the Shumla Archaeological Research & Education Center do?

Shumla is a not-for-profit organization working to preserve and share the ‘library’ of painted texts

On the Shumla campus

On the Shumla campus

and the information they hold through documentation, research, stewardship and education. We are literally in a race against time to save these visual texts. I encourage you to visit our website (www.shumla.org), check us out on Facebook, and sign up for our eNews to learn more! And please, donate today to join us in our important work in the Lower Pecos.

I understand you have a new book coming out. Tell us about it.

 Yes, I do! The book is titled “The White Shaman Mural: An Enduring Creation Narrative in the Rock Art of the Lower Pecos” and it is being published by the University of Texas Press. It will be released this time next year.

In this book, I and my collaborator, Kim Cox, provide a detailed interpretation of the WhiteShaman mural, the most famous rock art panel in the Lower Pecos and one of the most famous in the world. We walk the reader down a twenty-two-year path of discovery to find that the mural tells a story of the birth of the sun and the beginning of time. Patterns in the rock art equate, in striking detail, to the mythologies of Uto-Aztecan speaking peoples, including the ancient Aztec and the present-day Huichol. The finding of such a significant thumbprint of Mesoamerican culture in the rock art demonstrates that a shared ideological universe was already firmly established among foragers living in the Lower Pecos during the Archaic. Codified on a canyon wall in Texas thousands of years ago, the White Shaman mural may represent the oldest pictorial creation narrative in North America.

Wow! That’s exciting. Thank you so much for sharing with us today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Congratulations to Citizen Scientist Sharman Apt Russell

Sharman Apt Russell

Sharman Apt Russell

Her nonfiction book Diary of a Citizen Scientist is the 2015 winner of the Willa Award for Creative Nonfiction from the literary organization Women Writing the West.  The Willa Awards are given for books featuring the stories of women and girls in the American West and are  named for Pulitzer Prize winner Willa Cather.

More about Sharman Russell in my interview last March or on her website .

More about Women Writing the West.

Congratulations Sharman!

The Soul of a Poet: Mary Locke Crofts

Langtry, Texas at dusk

Langtry, Texas at dusk

My guest this week is poet Mary Locke Crofts who has recently published a slim volume of her

To Ancient Shelter: A Sojourn in Langtry, Texas by Mary Locke Crofts

Pathways to Ancient Shelter: A Sojourn in Langtry, Texas by Mary Locke Crofts

reflections of the past and present in the desert at Langtry, Texas. Langtry is about 60 miles west of Del Rio, smack on the Rio Grande border with Mexico. Her poems about this area of ancient history and rich artistic expression beautifully capture the life and loneliness of the place. You can order a copy for yourself from Amazon.com.  The title is Pathways to Ancient Shelter: A Sojourn in Langtry, Texas. Learn more at www.marylockecrofts.com.

What led you to this project?

It was a graduate program at Pacifica Graduate Institute where I was pursuing a doctorate in mythological studies and Jungian psychology. As a 62-year-old storyteller, I selected the rock art of the lower Pecos of my dissertation. For a brief moment, I thought I might magically become an archaeologist and art historian, but, of course, that was not to be. I did, however, write about the history of rock art studies while, at the same time, imagining the unknowable myths of the hunter-gatherers who painted the rock art. As a result, I ultimately came to write about the “myth I was living in” as C. G. Jung termed it. It was an onerous journey.

Mary Locke Crofts

Mary Locke Crofts

I grew up in Big Spring, Texas, where my family owned the Western Auto Store. It was here that the wide sky and long vistas first stirred my emotional attachment and visceral response to west Texas. Langtry is 200 miles directly south of Big Spring.  interest in narratives of folklorists like J. Frank Dobie had been pulling me westward to find a cabin to write in. But it was sometime after I got my house in Langtry that I realized it was the place I had been longing for. Before that moment , I had been so disturbed by the seeming impossibility of my project that I could not see it.

What did you learn through the rock art of the early Pecos?

Through my experience of the rock art and its canyons, I came to a gradual understanding of the power of the land and its history and stories. My book came from my writing about this gradual awakening. I began with books, reading all I could about the history of rock art studies. Then I

Curly Tail Panther Rock Art Site on the Devils River in the Lower Pecos

Curly Tail Panther Rock Art Site on the Devils River in the Lower Pecos

began to explore the shelters of the lower Pecos with Carolyn Boyd and others at Shumla School in Comstock. When I got out of books and into the shelters, everything changed. Books however well written and photographs however well taken cannot capture the breathtaking power and beauty of the actual paintings found in the cliff sides along rivers and creeks. For example, the panther painted thousands of years ago seems to leap directly off the canyon wall and palpably into my perception of its creation.

 

Where the Gods Walk

by Mary Locke Crofts

 

Sacred space—

where the gods walk

with or without human awareness.

or so we hope.

Some say those who name the sacred

create it,

but others say we only discover

what is already there.

 

Long, long ago,

back when we remembered, and longer than that

when animals and humans were one,

before the split, before the fall,

sacred was not found and named.

All was mystery, everything sacred,

alive, listening, speaking—

all messages were crucial.

 

A sacred place is where I encounter the unknown

knowing the unknown is not emptiness.

It draws me as it terrifies.

Is my imagination large enough to create it,

to encompass it?

I do not know.

The sacred seems both within me

and surrounding me,

but I am not sure.

 

I come here to the rock art never doubting

that it was sacred to those who painted it.

What I doubt is whether I can share

their experience.

 

Humans and mystery—

ingredients for the sacred.

What I want to know is,

if you remove the people,

does the sacred remain?

 

What did you learn about yourself during this process?

Gradually my perspective moved from outward and objective to inward and personal. I had rented a house in Langtry in which to work. I hiked the canyons every morning, and every afternoon wrote about my experiences with the people, flora, and fauna, past and present, of this territory. I came to accept the longing that this place evokes in me so deeply that I eventually bought the house. I continue to spend many days and nights there.

What is one of the least expected things you discovered?

I did not expect that my own journey would become integral with the paths of the hunter-gathers and with the lives of current residents. Although I could not have imagined that, it remains the most rewarding part of the project.

So what’s next?

I am doing a class for University Presbyterian Church in San Antonio in on three Tuesday nights October. The information about my presentation is at
http://www.upcsa.org/sol-calendar/2015/10/13/pathways-to-ancient-shelter-rock-art-myths-and-reflections.  Ultimately, I want to continue exploring the valuable role of myth and narrative in discovering historical and personal truth.

Thank you for sharing with us today.  

 

 

C.M. Mayo, Marfa Mondays, and Writing

I am pleased to introduce my guest today on the blog, C.M. Mayo. C.M. is an

C.M. Mayo

C.M. Mayo

accomplished travel writer, novelist and translator. She is also the producer and host of the Marfa Mondays Podcasting Project, exploring Marfa, Texas and the greater Big Bend region in 24 podcasts. You can learn more about her at www.cmmayo.com and read her blog at www.madammayo.blogspot.com.

 Thanks for joining us today. What prompted you to create the podcast Marfa Mondays?

Ever since I brought out my travel memoir of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula, Miraculous Air, I had wanted to do a book about Far West Texas. I was raised in California, but born in Far West Texas—El Paso— so that was a pull. What first prompted me to think about it seriously, though, was a visit to the little town of Marfa—this was back in the late 90s, before many people outside the region, apart from aficionados of Donald Judd and the movie “Giant,” had heard of it. What struck me was how similar Marfa appeared to be to Todos Santos, a remote desert farm town on Baja California Sur’s Pacific coast, with artists moving in… Of course, Marfa as art-mecca is a story many have reported on since (of late, stories on Marfa have even appeared in Vanity Fair and Martha Stewart’s Living.) But the bigger story—the history, nature of, and changes in Far West Texas— and its connections with Mexico—that’s also something I want to write about. And I’m coming from Mexico City, where I’ve been living for over two decades, so my approach is very different from that of most American writers. In short, I‘d like to explore and learn about Far West Texas and then, in writing about it, find out what I think.

Marfa Mondays with Greg Williams Interview on Rock Art of the Lower Pecos

Marfa Mondays with Greg Williams Interview on Rock Art of the Lower Pecos

The podcasting project came about for two reasons. First, in 2009, I had given a lecture at the Library of Congress about The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, my novel based on the true story, and darned if I wasn’t going to find a way to get that recording onto the Internet! That’s how I learned—and it isn’t rocket science— to make podcasts using Apple’s GarageBand program. Second, for my travel memoir of Baja California, I did many interviews, not recording them but taking notes, and of course, because I needed to shape the narrative— in plain English, the book couldn’t ramble on—I had to select chunks and snippets; much of this material remains in my files. So for the Far West Texas book, I determined to record the interviews and, after some very basic editing (mainly of things like coughing or dogs barking, and in one case, shotguns going off), share them in-full, both while the book is in-progress and post-publication, as an on-line resource.

How is the book on the Big Bend region coming along? Can we expect it soon?

World Waiting for a Dream: A Turn in Far West Texas is the tentative title, and it’s coming along—I have now posted 17 of the projected 24 podcasts and written a few essays—but more slowly than I had originally anticipated. But that’s been true for all my books— they always take an eon longer than I anticipated. But in this case, I had already started, in January 2012, when I up and wrote a completely different book! That was Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution: Francisco I. Madero and His Secret Book, Spiritist Manual.

Mayo book 1_Madero, Mexico’s “Apostle of Democracy,” was the leader of the 1910 Revolution and President of Mexico from 1911-1913, so the fact that he was a Spiritist medium and in 1910 wrote a book about Spiritism, which he published under a pseudonym when president-elect in 1911, is not only astonishing but crucially important for understanding his thinking and, therefore, the initial phase of the Mexican Revolution itself. I dropped everything to write it because I had a Mexican publisher who wanted to bring it out in 2013 in a deluxe edition for the centennial of Madero’s assasination. That deluxe edition didn’t happen but, long story short, Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution is now out in both English and Spanish, in both paperback and Kindle, and I am now back at work on World Waiting for a Dream: A Turn in Far West Texas, aiming for an advanced draft by the end of next year 2016. In the meantime, the Marfa Mondays podcasts will be posted, one by one.

The latest podcast, #17, is an interview with Texas historian Lonn Taylor. Listen in anytime to all the podcasts, including the interview with Greg Williams, executive director of the Rock Art Foundation, here: www.cmmayo.com/marfa.

 Sometimes setting in a book almost seems like it doesn’t matter. What makes setting, or place, fascinating to you?

For me, it’s moving through the majesty of vast spaces and so retrieving a relationship with both

Mayo at Meyers Springs Rock Art Site in the Lower Pecos

Mayo at Meyers Springs Rock Art Site in the Lower Pecos

the earth and the sky, and always, a burning curiosity about the people of its past and its present. That is certainly true for me about the rock art, especially that of the Lower Pecos Canyonlands.

Speaking of rock art, that was one of the things that made me want to write about Baja California. I had often visited Los Cabos, at the bottom of the peninsula, where my parents had a beach house, but there was never time to drive two days north to San Ignacio and venture into the mysterious canyons of the Sierra de San Francisco where, so I heard, and so it turned out to be true, there were people living on goat ranches and speaking an antique Spanish, and guarding the most spectacular cave art.

mexico-to-miramar-BIGThere have also been specific buildings that fascinated me, for example, the Archduke Maximilian von Habsburg’s Miramar, an ivory castle perched on the Adriatic in Trieste, Italy, which he was still working on via correspondence with his architects and designers, when he was Emperor of Mexico. I felt that if I could see Miramar, walk up its steps and in and around its salons—most are still intact as he left them in 1864— I could find a deeper understanding of why Maximilian accepted the Mexico throne and why, in the face of doom, he last prince_refused to abdicate. And indeed, it was a richly rewarding visit; it informed my novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, and I wrote about it in a long essay, “From Mexico to Miramar or, Across the Lake of Oblivion.”

Do you have any suggestions for other writers about place?

Oh, scads! I teach a workshop on literary travel writing. Here’s a brief article about that, from the Writer’s Center’s Writer’s Carousel http://madammayo.blogspot.mx/2009/03/from-writers-carousel-literary-travel.html

Tell us about some of your other books.

I’ve mentioned the historical novel The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire and Miraculous Air: Journey of a Thousand Miles through Baja California, the Other Mexico. My first book was a mayo book 3collection of short stories, Sky Over El Nido, which won the Flannery O’Connor Award, and I also edited a collection of 24 Mexican writers, Mexico: A Traveler’s Literary Companion.

 You also write poetry. How has poetry shaped your other writing?

It’s all poetry, though some goes on for a while with more complex strands and interweavings of thought and we can call that a “novel” or a “travel memoir” or whatever.

Mayo el-cielo- Which of your books was the most fun to write. Why?

This one I’m working on now because I love being prompted to read about things I probably wouldn’t otherwise (e.g., volcanoes, J. Frank Dobie, the US-Mexican War); visiting places I probably wouldn’t otherwise (Swan House, the salt flats east of El Paso, the Solitario Dome, Marfa’s Moonlight Gemstones) and above all, the privilege of being able to talk to all sorts of people. It’s like stepping onto some wiggy mind-stretching amusement ride. Come to think of it, I could say that about all my books.

 What’s next for you?

This year, audiobooks—I will be recording Miraculous Air and Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Empire, among other works. Then there’s a novel in-progress; another book of short stories; and way, waaaay out on the horizon, maybe a book about the US-Mexican War.

 Many thanks for being with us today!

 Thank you, Mary, it is an honor and a delight.

Sharman Apt Russell and Cabeza de Vaca in the New World

 

Teresa of the New World

Teresa of the New World

My guest today is Sharman Apt Russell, emeritus professor of Humanities at Western New Mexico University and associate faculty at Antioch University in Los Angeles. Her 2014 book, Diary of a Citizen Scientist: Chasing Tiger Beetles and Other New Ways of Engaging in the World, was

Sharman Apt Russell

Sharman Apt Russell

deemed one of the top ten nature books of the year by The Guardian. She also previously wrote When the Land Was Young: Reflections on American Archaeology. Her current book for young adults is about the fictional daughter of Cabeza de Vaca.

Welcome Sharman! Tell us about your latest book Teresa of the New World.

 Hello, Mary! This novel begins in 1534 near present-day Galveston Island, Texas, with four-year-old Teresa listening to her father, the Spanish conquistador Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, telling the story of how he came to be shipwrecked in the New World and rescued by her mother’s tribe. Later, when Cabeza de Vaca leaves the tribe to walk west to outposts in New Spain, he takes Teresa with him—and changes her life forever. She grows up estranged from the magic she knew as a child, when she could listen to the earth, to all the animals and plants around her. As a kitchen servant in a Spanish household, she experiences the plagues—measles and smallpox—sweeping through the native populations of the sixteenth century. She befriends a shapeshifting jaguar and a Spanish war horse and starts her own journey to reclaim herself, to find the connection she once had to the trickster earth, and to come to some peace with her father, negotiating his love and his betrayal.

 What made you decide to write about Teresa?

New Novel of Cabeza de Vaca's Fictional Daughter

New Novel of Cabeza de Vaca’s Fictional Daughter

 I have long been fascinated by the story of Cabeza de Vaca, living for eight years as a slave, trader, and healer among the tribes of coastal Texas, walking with three other shipwrecked companions or “Children of the Sun” to reach northern Mexico—accompanied at times by thousands of Native Americans who orchestrated this traveling medicine man show and who used the Spanish for their own purposes of trade and ceremony. When Cabeza de Vaca finally returned to Spain, he wrote and published a report to King Charles which still sells in bookstores today, full of anthropological detail about the New World—our first glimpse of these tribes at the moment of First Contact. I have read that report a dozen times in half a dozen different translations. For me and others, Cabeza de Vaca is a kind of American Odysseus, adventurer and mystic, practical and intellectual, an indomitable force. His ideas were influential in “reforming” the Spanish treatment of natives; at the same time, he could be easily seen as betraying some of his ideals, as reverting to conventional Spanish ideas about conquest.

So why Teresa? Archaeologists speculate about the native descendants of this conquistador. He was eight years, after all, among native tribes. When I imagined a daughter, the story started taking shape as a fabulist one about earth magic and our connection to the land, about loss and betrayal, about the epidemics of that time, about the collision of two worlds. Teresa is formed and overwhelmed by her famous father; yet she learns, eventually, to reclaim her power and find herself in the New World.

You have several other books of cultural history or historic fiction. Tell us about them.

 My first collection of essays, Songs of the Fluteplayer: Seasons of Life in the Southwest (Addison-Wesley, 1991), was about being a back-to-the-lander in rural New Mexico in the 1980s, living on land where I would find exquisite, black on white pot shards from the Classic Mimbreño period and hiking to archeological sites with petroglyphs of the humpbacked fluteplayer. Those personal essays were a social history of that time and place—hippies and Quakers, Anglos and Hispanics, ranchers and environmentalists—mixed with a sense of New Mexico’s deep cultural roots. That book led to my next book, Kill the Cowboy: A Battle of Mythology in the New West (Addison-Wesley, 1993), about the clash between rural ranchers and rural environmentalists, which was based on the idea that each group had a connection to the land: this was truly common ground. After that, I wrote When the Land was Young: Reflections on American Archaeology (Addison-Wesley, 1996) which used the lens of the Native American Graves Repatriation Act to explore the field of archaeology in America and changes in theory and practice.

I think all these books gave me the courage to write The Last Matriarch (University of New Mexico

Jaguar

Jaguar

Press, 2000) about a tribal group living in the Mimbres Valley 11,000 years ago. How does one dare imagine a culture or people from such a different time? My inspiration has always been Reindeer Moon by Elisabeth Marshall Thomas who wrote about Europeans 25,000 years ago. I also drew heavily from Cynthia Moss’s work on elephants since mammoths are major characters in The Last Matriarch, which is partly about extinction. We lost 80% of our large land mammals at the end of the Pleistocene, probably through a combination of hunting and climate change. But really, for me, writing this book was a wonderful experience of living in a world of animism, living in this belief system where willow and lion and rock and root all had stories and are constantly talking and telling stories.

Animism is a big part of Teresa of the New World, too. She also lives in that richness of voice, that sense of connection and relationship.

Why do you think people should know about the past?

 My interest is in the deep past, partly because I believe we still carry within us that Paleolithic heritage. We were shaped by wilderness, by walking through wilderness, by hunting and gathering, by tribal life. A planet less dominated by humans and filled to the brim with animals—plains of grazing herds, charismatic predators, the sun blocked by flocks of birds—is very appealing to me. Those images tug at my heart. I know we can never get back to that. I have explored in myself that “Paleoterrific” nostalgia and romanticism. But as an environmentalist, I believe that this nostalgia also has a purpose in today’s world. We need to wake up to the changes and diminishment we are causing in the natural world. We need to reconnect to the natural world.

How do you manage your many writing interests and still have time to hike and teach?

 For me this is about writing every morning that I can. I don’t stop writing because it is a weekend, for example. I sometimes write, quite happily, during a vacation. I like to wake up and think—oh, yes, there’s that story or essay to work on! That’s what gets me leaping out of bed. I don’t usually have time or psychic space to write for too long. But an hour, two hours, three hours. It all builds. The rest of the day is for the business of writing, the business of life, for my teaching, for friends and family, for running or bicycling or hiking. It’s a pretty balanced life. But the key to me feeling balanced is that morning time.

 Where is your favorite place to hike? What do you find fascinating about it?

 I live less than two miles from the boundary of the Gila National Forest, hills of mesquite and prickly pear rolling down to the Gila River, a green line of cottonwood and sycamore and willow.

Gila National Forest

Gila National Forest

Craggy bare-boned mountains rise above the river, conical peaks, the shapes of a Stetson hat, and in two more miles as the crow flies I can be in the Gila Wilderness. This dirt road and trail is a pretty regular walk and run for me, down Box Canyon Road to the campsite where Mogollon Creek meets the Gila River, and on up to a mesa overlooking the entrance into three million acres of national forest. Often I see the tracks of bear and raccoon and fox and coyote. Occasionally I cross paths with a coati, that long nose and long tail and insouciant personality. Sometimes I see a family group of javelina—wedge-shaped and kind of adorable. Mountain lions go up and down the river corridor. This is their back yard. Vistas of grama grass and juniper. Great white-barked sycamores with the white limbs of a goddess. Rattlesnakes suddenly buzzing from the brush. This is wild country, tangibly wild, and the thrill of that never gets old. I never take any of this for granted.

Many thanks for joining us today!

 You are welcome. It has been such a pleasure!

 

 

Kaye George Writes About Awesome Waco Mammoth Museum

Mammoth

Writer Kay George and life-sized Columbian Mammoth at Waco Museum

The Awesome Waco Mammoth Museum

by Guest Blogger, Kaye George

Writer Kaye George Admires Mammoth Museum

Writer Kaye George Admires Mammoth Museum

The Waco Mammoth Museum ((http://www.waco-texas.com/cms-waco-mammoth)  is at the site of a remarkable discovery. In this stream bed, the fossilized bones of a mammoth herd, 19 mothers and babies, was discovered in 1978. Paul Barron and Eddie Bufkin were out hunting arrowheads and had the wisdom to bring the bone they found to Baylor University. It was found to belong to a Columbian mammoth.

Columbian mammoth lived in the southern part of North America. They are relatives of the wooly mammoth that the Neanderthals in my novel, Death in the Time of Ice, hunted. The novel is set 30,000 years ago, and the Columbian mammoth didn’t range as far north as the edge of the approaching glacier at that time. 30,000 years ago. That is, the Neanderthals could have hunted these animals if they’d been on the same continent. They did hunt them in Europe and Asia. In my book, the Neanderthals have made their way to what is now North America, one of the few liberties I took that runs counter to contemporary research. I say, just because we haven’t found Neanderthal bones on this continent doesn’t

Ancient Camel Bones

Ancient Camel Bones

mean they might not be here!

A dig was established in Waco, Texas at the site of the mammoth bones, which is still going on. When I visited the museum a couple of years ago, this was the largest herd of related mammoths ever uncovered in one spot. They’re aptly named. To give you an idea of their size, the mural above is life-sized and I’m about 5’ 8” tall.  You can visit the site and see the actual bones of these magnificent animals.

The herd may have gotten trapped in a steep-sided channel and drowned when a flood arose 68,000 years ago. A mural at the museum depicts the herd with their attending ancient camelops. It was thought that the herd let the camel hang around with them as an early warning system. Or maybe they could close ranks with their babies inside and let a predator get the camel.

excerpt from Death in the Time of Ice

 Nominated for Best Historical Mystery in the 2014 Agatha Awards

Here’s a part of what happened on a disastrous hunt early in the book. Enga Dancing Flower knows her Neanderthal tribe is in trouble. The dark seasons are becoming longer and the mammoth herds are fleeing south. When the tribal leader is found stabbed to death, the new leader thinks Enga did it. Expulsion and certain death loom. Enga must find the murderer to save her tribe — and herself.

Death in the Time of Ice by Kaye George

Death in the Time of Ice by Kaye George

Kokat No Ear is not here, Enga Dancing Flower thought-spoke.

Tog Flint Shaper read her thought and her fear. He summoned several others. Help me search the tall grasses. Then Tog spied a smear of dark liquid in the grass, leading toward the trees.

He must be in the forest, thought-spoke Tog. He ran into the woods, black with nightfall now, following the even blacker trail of Red and summoning the other three males to come with him.

The females squatted next to each other and waited. The males sent no thoughts to them. Enga checked on Ung. She was sound asleep. The wound still bled, but now seeped instead of spurting. Enga felt her shoulders relax just a notch.

 

Tony Burnett: A Southern Gentleman

 

Writer Tony Burnett

Writer Tony Burnett

Tony Burnett joins us on the blog today. Tony is an award-winning songwriter and poet. He is president of the Writers’ League of Texas and has recently published a book of short stories, Southern Gentlemen.

Tony: Thanks for having me on your blog, Mary. I’ve been a longtime fan of your prolific work and dedication. It’s great to see you having such success with Peyote Fire. I knew when you let me read an early draft that you were onto a unique story and setting.

 How did you come to write this collection of short stories, Tony?

To me, the short story was a natural progression from songwriting and poetry. The economy of words required keeps the

Burnett's short-story collection, Southern Gentlemen

Burnett’s short-story collection, Southern Gentlemen

writing crisp and the story moving. During the past few years publishers of contemporary story collections tend to prefer linked stories or at least stories with some commonality. When I considered what to include I realized several of my most successful stories had Southern male protagonists. It also allowed me to open with the first story I published in a nationally distributed print journal (Bait) and end with a story I love that I knew would likely never publish as a standalone piece. Leaker is too long for most magazines and too short for a novella. It also contains some graphic depictions of sex and violence. Interspersed between are various genres; historical fiction, magical realism, unreliable narrator, coming-of-age. Diverse representations of all the places I like to play can be found in the Southern male with all his quirks and faults.

 What other sorts of things do you write?

I’ve written as long as I can remember. I wrote my first story in third grade. It was a romance and had horses in. I read it, edited it, couldn’t salvage it and stuffed it in the bottom of my closet. When my mom found it she put me in therapy. Ultimately, my earliest successes were in songwriting. I also write poetry and I had a gig writing environmental feature articles for a couple of regional newspapers in the Temple/Georgetown area. I’m just wrapping up the first draft of my second novel which will be the first in a trilogy. Okay, now I’m confused.

 What’s the difference in writing a song and writing a poem?

There are so many great answers to that; form, structure, rhythm, length, rhyme scheme, but each one has an exception. I’ll go with process. The best songs and poems seem like I’m channeling. They come, more or less, complete and need little revision. That being said, when I write a song I start with the music; a riff or a chord progression, then the lyrics and melody come together later. Poems often come from contemplation or a meditative state, the quiet time. Even the angry or dark ones begin in silence. For me, quiet leads to creativity.

Burnett Writes About Adventures in the American South

Burnett writes about adventures in the American South

 If you could have a drink with any author you want, who would that be? What would you drink? And where?

Just one? Really? If I absolutely have to narrow it down it would have to be Tom Robbins. When I first read Another Roadside Attraction (or was it Still Life With Woodpecker, I don’t remember which one I read first) I thought, “Damn, this guy is having way too much fun with this.” I still think he’s one of the masters of balancing playfulness with drama and intrigue. That’s something I try to shoot for in my writing. I’d want to drink absinthe because I’ve never tried it and I bet he has, but only if we could smuggle it to one of the little villages on the banks of the Amazon.

 Does living on a farm affect your writing?

Our farm is isolated at the end of the long dirt road along a chain of ponds that was a catfish farm back in the 60s and 70s. It’s a Certified National Wildlife Refuge so it’s a great place to get close to Gaia. I no longer farm commercially, though I do grow a lot of our food. This gives me a different perspective than I had when I lived in the city. I’m more relaxed which, for me, frees the creative flow. That being said, the lack of structure makes it easy to procrastinate. All in all it gives me more opportunity. It’s up to me to use it.

 What’s the next book you’ll have ready to publish?

My first novel, Watermelon Tattoo, has garnered enough interest from a couple of A-list agents that I’ve quit querying until I get their final answer. It’s been through 5 or 6 revisions and I’ve developed it to the point where I wouldn’t make any more modifications without some agent or editor input.

While that process drags on I’m working on a concept for a multimedia publication. I have a number of artist friends, acquaintances and people I admire who work in various visual medium. My idea is to match a group of my linked poems to prints or photos of these folks work and produce a high-quality limited-edition hardcover, signed and numbered, and release it cooperatively. That’s the main reason I founded Kallisto Gaia Press It’s still in the formative stages so we’ll see. I’m also editing a collection of flash fiction and prose poems that I’ve been working on for a few years. If Southern Gentlemen does well I’ll release that in the fall of 2015.

 Tell us a little about your work with the Writers’ League of Texas.

I joined the WLT in 2010 after attending a couple of Third Thursday panels. It was without question the most important

www.writerleague.org

www.writerleague.org

thing I’ve ever done for my writing career. What success I’ve had being nationally published can be traced back to what I’ve learned from the WLT. I was asked to join the Board of Directors in 2012 after serving as an ad hoc member of the nominating committee. Beth Sample mentored me and nominated me. I was fortunate enough to not only have the time but also to realize the impact I could have volunteering. I was elected to serve as President for 2014 and have been reelected for 2015. When I joined the board WLT didn’t have an Executive Director and the staff consisted of one full-time and one part-time employee. In late 2013 we were fortunate enough to find Becka Oliver to serve as ED. She has worked wonders with the organization. We now also have a board that’s involved and committed and a staff that’s talented and dedicated. We have increased our staff and everyone is aligned with the goal of making the League Texas’ premier literary organization. When I became President in 2014 I had two main goals. First was to develop and better serve membership statewide as our name suggests. Unfortunately, my plan for doing this wasn’t sustainable. Our incredible ED and staff took the idea and implemented a program that does this through partnerships and it’s flourishing. Second, I wanted to diversify our membership; bringing in more young people, more academics, more publishing professionals and more racial diversity. The Board and staff have excelled at this. Our membership has increased almost 40% and we have partnered with a number of other organizations. Our programming has increased in scope and quality. We’ve held meetings in Houston, Dallas, Alpine, and the Hill Country just in the last few months to hear their suggestions on how to serve the needs of our members in these locations. The dedication of our board and staff is unsurpassed anywhere and they continue to amaze me with their energy and expertise.

 Thanks for being with us today, Tony.

Thanks again, Mary, for sharing my story with your readers. Southern Gentlemen is available in print or digital format through all the major international distributors. If my plan works, it will soon be available in an independent bookstore near you.

 

 

A New Book For the Holidays by Sandra Saidak

Wreath Wreath

New from Sandra Saidak: Keeprs of the Ancient Wisdom

New from Sandra Saidak: Keepers of the Ancient Wisdom

Sandra Saidak

Sandra Saidak

It’s my pleasure to welcome Sandra Saidak to the blog today. Sandy writes prehistoric fiction, short stories, and fantasy. You can find her at www.sandrasaidak.com, and on Amazon.  Her latest book, Keepers of the Ancient Wisdom, is out now, just in time for the holidays.  In this book, after more than a year as a slave to the brutal horse nomads, Saidak’s protagonist Kalie returns to the Goddess Lands to face her greatest challenge.  Kalie and Riyik must fight enemies from without and within to save their home. As the mounted horde bears down upon them, all Kalie can be certain of is the Goddess Lands will never be the same…

 What motivated you to write your first book of prehistoric fiction, Daughter of the Goddess Lands?

I’ve loved prehistory for as long as I can remember. I used to imagine stories to go with the sandy book_non-fiction I read. When The Clan of the Cave Bear came out, and restarted a genre I hadn’t even known existed, I realized I wasn’t the only one who imagined these stories. Later, as authors like Mary Mackey and Judith Tarr began taking the genre in a new direction, I found
their tales of culture clash between peaceful Goddess worshipers and violent horsemen fascinating and so gripping that I wanted to jump into the books and direct the outcome. That’s when I knew it was time to turn my imaginings into books—and finally make the story come out the way I wanted it to.

What differences did you find in writing your prehistoric series and your fantasy novel, The Seal Queen?SEAL_QUEEN_BRIGHT For Publication 2Well, for one thing, the research was different. Writing prehistory meant getting some of my favorite books off my bookshelf and fitting my ideas into what was already known (although often debated) by experts in the fields of archeology, anthropology and history. Writing The Seal Queen meant going to the library and reading mythology and folklore until I found the right magical creatures, and one really amazing Irish folktale. I had known there would be seals in the story, and I had assumed they would be selkies (those being the only shapeshifting seals I knew of). But the more I learned about selkies, the less they seemed to fit in with my story. When I discovered the roane, I knew they were exactly what I had been looking for. The other big difference between the two was that Kalie’s Journey grew and evolved over many years, and was influenced by many other authors, while The Seal Queen came to me almost fully formed while I sat on a beach in Capitola for about two hours, just staring at the waves. So: reading what I love to read, sitting on a beautiful beach, staring and waves and daydreaming = research. You can’t beat that!

 How did you learn your craft?

I took Creative Writing classes in high school and college, and I’ve been fortunate to be part of some really great writers groups and workshops, but I think I’ve learned the most about writing from reading. It was always my favorite pastime. Now I get to count it as work, too. Other than Jean Auel, most of my favorite authors write science fiction and fantasy: Spider Robinson, Orson Scott Card, Zena Henderson and Marion Zimmer Bradley to name a few.

 What advice would you give beginning writers?

Write what you love to read. And if no one is writing what you want to read, then you really need to get busy writing that. Oathbreaker's Daughter CoverBecause if you want it and it’s not out there, it’s likely other people interested in the subject are out there, waiting for someone to write it. Join a writers group to get advice (and learn how to give it) but don’t listen to anyone who says “there’s no market for that” or “oh, that’s already been done to death, so don’t bother.”

 What author would you most like to have dinner with?

If eating snacks in the green room of a science fiction convention counts, then I’ve already done so with three of the authors I’ve listed above! J Of the remaining two, it’s a hard choice. I’ll always regret never having met Zena Henderson when she was alive, but for this scenario, I think I’ll have to go with Jean Auel. There are so many things I love about her books, I could probably discuss them with her all night. Or just listen to whatever she wanted to share about the process of creating them.

 What are you working on next?

My next novel will be quite a departure from the other books. I’ll be delving into alternate history with From the Ashes, a shadow of the horsemennovel set in a late twentieth century where Germany won WWII. This novel was inspired by two ideas: first, the very real plan by Heinrich Himmler to create a series of museums of dead races, filled with “artifacts” taken from those killed in the death camps—in the case of Jews, many of those artifacts were books. The second was my own musings about what life would be like for the privileged children of the new world order. Repression breeds rebellion, even among the elite. I asked myself what would happen if some disaffected, angst-ridden college students wandered into one of those museums—and started reading. Without giving away too much, I’ll just mention that young Adolf Goebbels (grandson of Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda) becomes a rabbi. I guess I just can’t get away from history, even when it crosses genre lines.

Thanks for being with us today, Sandy!