Thursday, December 3, 2015

What I learned on Old Main Hill

    Back in the day of the quarter (vs. semester) season, when finals were over in December, we did some sledding. The lack of sleds didn't pose a problem; a few cafeteria trays disappeared for an hour and then returned with stories to tell. 
     All flushed and breathless, I dropped by to see my favorite professor, whose office was in this wonderful historic building. He looked up from his desk and said in his quiet, Parkinson's-colored voice, "I have never had a student who's written with more insight than you. It was an honor to read this.” 
     Sometimes the greatest gift you can give is genuine praise. It won't hurt the budget at all. 

Introduction to Folklore 101, Austin E. Fife

Friday, September 18, 2015

The mother of all....muskrats

So...yesterday there was a great commotion in the back yard. Gus the BorderBeagle had cornered his quarry, which had taken refuge in a large plastic storm drain hose, about 4 feet long. I looked out to see Gus with his nose jammed into the hose, which he then held up in the air as he trotted around in the yard. If I hadn't been worried about the critter, which I assumed was a squirrel, I should have videotaped him. He looked like a circus performer.
Then he'd drop the hose and bark first at one end and then the other. I heard little squeaks and scratches from inside the hose. So I pulled Gus inside and waited for his prisoner to escape.
After about 20 minutes a little nose poked out and then pulled back in. After about half an hour, the whole thing emerged. It was either the mother of all squirrels or.....wait! It had a long scraggly tail! Gus had cornered a muskrat! It slowly made its way to what I hope was safety under the blue spruces. We've never had a muskrat in the yard in the 23 years we've lived in this home. I had to look it up on the internet to be sure. Poor Gus is very despondent that his hunt was interrupted. I had to let him lick the empty peanut butter jar for comfort.
And that was the most exciting event of my week.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

An honor for Gabriel's Daughters

Post Office Box 1285    Santa Fe, New Mexico 87504

 (505) 660-6357    Fax: (505) 983-0899

New Mexico Book Association is pleased to announce the
Santa Fe—06-27-2015--Here are the winning recipients of the 2015 Southwest Book Design and Production Awards, announced and presented on June 17 at the NMBA Gala and Membership Meeting. This is the sixth year that these coveted recognitions have been awarded to the publishers and creators of a few outstanding books produced during the past several months. NMBA is a not-for-profit organization and is pleased to offer this award program for New Mexico’s authors and publishers as well as to those in surrounding states.  SWBDA Coordinator James Mafchir and NMBA President Paula Lozar made the presentations.


Mysterious New Mexico:
Miracles, Magic, and Monsters in the Land of Enchantment
University of New Mexico Press
Benjamin Radford, author

Spiritual Law: The Essence of Swedenborg’s Divine Providence
Rock Point Press, publisher
Joanna V. Hill, author


A Legacy in Arms:
American Firearm Manufacture, Design, and Artistry, 1800-1900
University of Oklahoma Press
Richard C. Rattenbury, author

Gasa Gasa Girl Goes to Camp: A Nisei Youth behind a World War II Fence
The University of Utah Press
Lily Yuriko Nakai Havey, author


A  Family of the Land: The Texas Photography of Guy Gillette
University of Oklahoma Press
Andy Wilkinson, author

The Memory of Stone: Meditations on the Canyons of the West
University of New Mexico Press
Erv Schroeder, author


Clovis Caches: Recent Discoveries & New Research
University of New Mexico Press
Bruce B. Huckell and J. David Kilby, authors

New Mexican Folk Music / Cancionero del Folklor Nuevomexicano
University of New Mexico Press
Cipriano Frederico Vigil, author


Medicine from the Kitchen
Author House, LLC, Publisher
Jessie Emerson, RN, author

Saddle Up: A Cowboy Guide to Writing
Rio Grande Books, Publisher
Slim Randles, author


Chasing Dichos through Chimayo
University of New Mexico Press
Don J. Usner, author

The Power of the Hebrew Alphabet
Gaon Books, Publisher
Gloria Abella Ballen, author


Ears of Corn:  Listen
3: A Taos Press, Publisher
Max Early, author

Poems from the Fields of Dharma
Blue Spruce Books, Publisher
Thomas Reidy, author


How Chile Came to New Mexico
Rio Grande Books, Publisher
Rudolfo Anaya, author

Gator, Gator, Second Grader
Five Star Publications, Inc.
Conrad J. Storad, author

Gabriel’s Daughters
Jolly Fish Press, LLC, Publisher
Janet Kay Jensen, author

Spiritual Law: The Essence of Swedenborg’s Divine Providence
Rock Point Press, Publisher
Joanna V. Hill, author


The Wastewater Gardener:
Preserving the Planet One Flush at a Time
Synergetic Press, Publisher
Mark Nelson, author

The King and Queen of Comezón
University of Oklahoma Press
Denise Chavez, author

The Roque Lobato House, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Schenck Southwest Publishing
Chris Wilson and Oliver Horn, authors


Behind The Lines
Milbrown Press, Publisher
Jeffrey B. Miller, author


Southwest Art Defined: An Illustrated Guide
Rio Nuevo Publishers
Margaret Moore Booker, author

If you are interested in any of these books or would like to interview any of the winners, we would be happy to arrange it.

Please contact: Karen Villanueva 239-877-4248, email:

Monday, July 13, 2015

Book Review: Healing Stone by Brock Booher

                        One boy's gift may be more than his town is ready for. 

Book Review: Healing Stone by Brock Booher

First, the cover: It is eye-catching and catches the spirit of the story. It has a dark background with beautiful contrast of the golden elements of stalks of wheat,  and the shading on the lettering is very effective. 

Stone Molony, age 17, is already a most unusual young man---insightful, mature, and wise beyond his years--- when he discovers he has the gift of healing, something so powerful and life-changing that a lesser character wouldn’t be able to cope with it. “The day I discovered my gift, I saved Rusty’s life, and then he saved mine,” Stone relates. Stunned that he was able to touch his gravely injured dog and restore his limbs and his health, he hardly has time to process this miracle before Rusty takes a snake bite intended for Stone and dies. 

Word of Stone’s gift spreads rapidly in his small rural town and a series of healings takes place. Within his own family, though, is a grave need that Stone cannot meet, and it is devastating. His older brother, Leck, suffered serious injuries in Korea and has come home embittered and hopeless. His parents don’t understand why Stone cannot heal his own brother, and Stone lives with their grief and disapproval.  But Stone has learned something very important about his gift: it is dependent on the faith of the sufferer.

From the publisher: “Set in 1955 Kentucky, Healing Stone explores the effects of racism and corruption hidden in a small town and the redemptive power of hope discovered in one unique boy.”

The plot is original and unpredictable, the characters well-drawn, and the language simply musical. The colloquialisms are vivid and often laugh-out-loud funny, as well as spot-on.

With hints of Huck Finn and Elmer Gantry, Brock Booher's Healing Stone is a compelling and uplifting read.

Brock Booher grew up on a farm in rural Kentucky, the fourth of ten children, where he learned to work hard, use his imagination, and believe in himself. He left the farm to pursue the friendly skies as a pilot, and currently flies for a major US carrier. A dedicated husband and father of six children, he began writing out of sheer arrogance, but the writing craft quickly humbled him. During that process, he discovered that he enjoyed writing because it is an endeavor that can never quite be mastered. He still gladly struggles everyday to improve his writing and storytelling skills

You can buy the book here: here

  • File Size: 758 KB
  • Print Length: 273 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Cedar Fort, Inc (April 6, 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled 

  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled

Find  Brock on facebook:

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Body, Mind and Spirit: Gabriel's Daughters wins prestigious design award

June 17, 2015
Santa Fe, New Mexico

Gabriel's Daughters won first place honors in the "Body, Mind and Spirit" category of the prestigious Southwest Book Design and Production Award. 
Entries came from five southwestern states. 
The awards were presented at the annual New Mexico Book Association Gala in Santa Fe, New Mexico. 

Congratulations to the team at Jolly Fish Press! 

The Southwest Book Design and Production Award 
is sponsored by

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

An Acquired Taste and a Song about a Sandwich

In honor of this summer's upcoming opera season, a column on the subject seems timely.

I’m told that opera is an acquired taste. I’ve sampled a number of operas by now and for the most part, my taste buds haven’t matured. In fact, I’ve concluded that I am a Broadway Musical person. I truly love musicals. But I do like classical music, too, very much, and there are many splendid themes I recognize from great operatic works. I guess the “wasted” piano and violin lessons and music appreciation classes in childhood did pay off in adulthood, in the form of simple enjoyment of the music, and in some absolutely memorable moments I will always cherish.

I suspect that with me, appreciating opera has something to do with attention span and bladder capacity. I can even quote an authority on this subject. Alfred Hitchcock said, "The length of the film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder." I just wasn’t meant to sit through long, long afternoons of opera.

The sad moment of truth,the knowledge that I probably wouldn't develop a passionate love for opera, manifested itself during a performance of Handel’s Julius Caesar several years ago. Before that I had tried, truly tried to understand opera. Besides, how could we go wrong with Handel, we thought when we purchased our tickets? How, indeed? We learned that with Handel's Julius Caesar we could go wrong. Very, very wrong.

The orchestration was gorgeous, as we expected from Handel, featuring the musical instruments of the period, but when it came to the plot and vocals and artists, oh, my! We spent a very long afternoon listening to a series of very accomplished singers perform a very long series of vocal gymnastics, one after another, while others stood perfectly still on the stage, holding torches and palm fronds. We knew they had wonderful voices too, these scenery-holders, as we'd heard them sing in another production, but for most of Julius Caesar they were relegated to assistant sword-carriers, which was a waste of talent, we thought. The production lasted for about seven hours. Husband will insist it was eight hours, but he is prone to exaggeration.

To add to our great confusion, the part of the great general, Julius Caesar, was sung by a true male soprano. The male soprano was authentic, too, in Handel’s day, we have since read, but this particular voice and the concept of a man singing in the the female soprano's territory were simply jarring to our uneducated eyes and ears.

The first portrayal of Julius Caesar I recall seeing on film was by Richard Burton, and Mr. Burton was no soprano. He didn’t even really sing (as we learned when he appeared on Broadway in Camelot), but who really cared? He was, after all Richard Burton, with that beautiful, rich Welsh-bred voice and articulate delivery, and he was undoubtedly and thoroughly masculine in presence. I have since read a biography or two mentioning him, and there was evidently no question about his masculinity, according to the many women who kissed and told. And kissed again.

On the other hand, the gender of Mr. Handel’s operatic Julius Caesar onstage that afternoon wasn’t all that obvious until we finally confirmed the presence of facial hair. When he opened his mouth and those first elevated notes poured out, well, as Husband protested, no self-respecting soldier would have followed that high C into battle, and I was inclined to agree. I’m sorry, I just didn’t buy it, and neither did Cleopatra, evidently; they didn’t come to a good end, and it took them two hours too long to reach that very unhappy conclusion.

I suppose that sometimes I can’t quite lose myself in the moment, as you must in opera, because I’m an author and editor, always striving for concise, clean language. It's important to be able to suspend belief in order to appreciate the opera, I think, for it is meant to be bigger than life. There are no small emotions, no small moments or gestures or steps, and surely no small notes, even, in opera. It’s all enormous in scope, to be acted and danced and sung and played out before our bedazzled senses.

Our local opera company is marvelous and deserving of all the many accolades it receives. The historic theater in which they perform is a jewel, and visiting performers often get misty-eyed when they experience its acoustics for the first time. We usually attend several of the opera productions each summer, though we choose the light/comic/operettas/Broadway musicals over the more ponderous Tales of Hoffman types.

One summer’s lighter offerings included the musical The Most Happy Fella. I’d heard of it many times but had never seen it, and I was looking forward to the evening. After seeing it, I'd have to say that The Most Happy Fella has a charming plot with a raggedly-stitched patchwork quilt of mismatched songs, including the haunting “Joey, Joey,” the fingersnapping showtune “Standin’ on the Corner, Watchin’ All the Girls Go By,” and a few others that feel more pure in the operatic sense, as if they’d wandered in from the wrong production and decided to stay anyway.

Some songs were in performed English, some were in Italian; the older sister from the Old Country did not have an accent, but her younger brother, the Most Happy Fella, well-a, he sure did have-a an accent. Nobody explained that one to my satisfaction. In fact, nobody even attempted to, that I recall.

The point in the musical that I’m finally reaching here, the moment when time stopped in the theater and I lost myself in the opera, comes now. It was a song performed by a delicious trio of waiters. I don’t think they even had names, because, after all, though they were happy fellas, they weren’t the Happy Fella, even though their voices were richer and more powerful than The Happy Fella. Their names, as listed in the program, were simply Waiters One, Two, and Three. They wore white aprons tied just below their armpits, and held various articles of food in their hands, and from their energetic pantomimes even I could tell that the whole village was preparing for the joyful wedding feast to be held that night, and these three waiters were right at the heart of it.

Allow me quite a bit of literary license as I describe the scene:

The tables are heavy with food — every kind of food imaginable, including meat, breads, cheeses, fruits, vegetables,multi-storied pastries taller than I am, and, since the musical takes place in wine country, of course there is plenty of alcohol, which in the end causes its usual mischief, but I won’t give away that plot twist. Anyway, now comes the glorious song from the waiters, at least my version of it, and since it’s in Italian, I'm pretty safe offering my translation to most readers who don't speak Italian.

Verse One:

Waiter One: (holds up a loaf of bread) The hoagie!
Waiter Two: The hoagie!
Waiter Three: The hoagie!
Waiter One: The hoagie!
Waiter Two: The hoagie!
Waiter Three: The hoagie!
Waiters One, Two and Three: The hoagie, oh, the hoagie, yes the hoagie, oh, the hoagie . . . . . . . . (instrumental interlude) . . . ta-da!

Verse Two:

Waiter One: (holds up the mustard, but we can’t see a brand name) The mustard!
Waiter Two: The mustard!
Waiter Three: The mustard!
Waiter One: The mustard!
Waiter Two: The mustard!
Waiter Three: The mustard!
Waiters One, Two, and Three: The mustard, oh, the mustard, yes, the mustard, oh the mustard . . . . . . . (instrumental interlude) . . . ta-da!

This goes on for about ten splendid minutes as the three prepare what any clueless opera-goer can see is a sandwich, and we’re all getting very, very hungry, but we don’t notice the hunger pangs, because . . .

Waiters One, Two, and Three could be singing about raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens or the Dow Jones or Obamacare. It simply doesn’t matter. The actual assembling of the sandwich is a nice visual, of course, but those three marvelous voices, and the way they blend - - - even better than the mayo they praise so richly in Verse Three - - - well, if we could have specified an encore number (and we did applaud Waiters One, Two and Three very enthusiastically after that number, and again at the end, when they took their bows), it would have been that one. I would even have happily bought another high-priced ticket just to hear them sing what I called “The Sandwich Song” one more time.

I may not be a connoisseur of opera, and I don’t even like mustard, but for the chance to hear those three happy white - aproned waiters sing the praises of a garden-variety sandwich, well, I’d toss a bouquet of fresh parsley on the stage just to show my appreciation. The Sandwich Song was simply one of those exquisite show-stopping numbers you don’t ever want to end.

Several years later, those three rich, soaring voices still ring in my mind whenever I pass a Subway sandwich shop.

When art moves us, as this song did, it stays in our minds and gently colors everything else that’s there, for our lasting benefit. I felt that overwhelming joy when I stood before a Van Gogh painting for the first time in my life, and I felt it that afternoon when those waiters sang the praise of onions, among other ingredients; and perhaps that's why I had tears in my eyes, even all the way back in row M.

Ann Patchett, a lyrical writer, offers this beautiful paragraph in Bel Canto, a book I am now devouring for the second time just for the pleasure of it. Listen to her description of a group of people who have just heard the most famous soprano of their day perform for them, in a small intimate party setting:

Some of them had loved her for years. They had every recording she had ever made. They kept a notebook and wrote down every place they had seen her, listing the music, the names of the cast, the conductor. There were others there that night who had not heard her name, who would have said, if asked, that opera was a collection of nonsensical cat screechings, that they would much rather pass three hours in a dentist’s chair. These were the ones who wept openly now, the ones who had been so mistaken.

For me, that’s another one of those wonderful moments I'll remember, and it will gently color everything else that’s there—simply reading that graceful passage from a truly gifted writer. And that's how I felt when Waiters One, Two and Three graced us with their splendid voices. 

I’m sure Ms. Patchett would have loved my singing waiters, too, and their lusty Sandwich Song.

originally posted June 2008

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Book Reviews: O, the Humanity!

About book reviews:  Authors need reviews. We want reviews. And of course we want readers to love our books and post glowing reviews.

The author of a memoir I really enjoyed asked me to post my review on a site where his book had been subjected to some tough criticism. I  smiled at one reviewer’s comment that the author of the memoir seemed “self-involved.”

    From Wikipedia: Memoir (from French: mémoire: memoria, meaning memory or reminiscence), is a literary nonfiction genre. More specifically, it is a collection of memories that an individual writes about moments or events, both public or private that took place in the author's life.

So, to respond to the reviewer’s criticism: Yes. Memoirs tend to be self-involved. As the central theme of the memoir in question, the author described a harrowing event that had a profound effect on his life. He then analyzed decisions he made during that event, and the effect they had on the outcome. He traced the origins of those decisions, attitudes and experiences that had shaped his personality throughout the years and that directed his behavior during the crisis. Sounds self-involved to me. As one would expect in a memoir.

In the rare case that your book isn’t the best book the reader’s ever read, well, it happens.

A recent review pointed out what the reader perceived as weakness in my latest book, suggesting potential that wasn’t realized.  Gulp.  I 'd had the same concerns as I wrote the book, taking special care to strengthen and improve some of the very areas the reader noted. So---painful as it was, I’d have to say the reviewer was perceptive and her points were valid.

When a review is less than glowing, here’s a good perspective from Norman Vincent Peale:

The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism. 

Thanks, Norman. I plead guilty as charged. 

Monday, May 25, 2015

More Kentucky Humor

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I've visited Kentucky. What a beautiful state. I couldn't resist sharing some Kentucky humor, because I've used a fictional town in Kentucky for a setting in both of my novels, Don't You Marry the Mormon Boys, and Gabriel's Daughters

In case you think I'm picking on Kentucky, I'll be writing about Utah humor, too. I might start with unusual names parents choose for their children. Stay tuned. 

Kentucky Residency Application

STATE OF KENTUCKY RESIDENCY APPLICATION Name: ________________ (_) Billy-Bob (last) (_) Billy-Joe (_) Billy-Ray (_) Billy-Sue (_) Billy-Mae (_) Billy-Jack (Check appropriate box) 

Age: ____ Sex: ____ M _____ F _____ N/A 

Shoe Size ____ Left ____ Right 

Occupation: (_) Farmer (_) Mechanic (_) Hair Dresser (_) Un-employed Spouse`s Name: 

__________________________ Relationship with spouse: (_) Sister (_) Brother (_) Aunt (_) Uncle (_) Cousin (_) Mother (_) Father (_) Son (_) Daughter 

(_) Number of children living in household: ___ Number that are yours: ___ 

Mother`s Name: _______________________ Father`s Name: _______________________ (If not sure, leave blank) Education: 

1 2 3 4 (Circle highest grade completed) 

Do you (_)own or (_)rent your mobile home? (Check appropriate box) 

__ Total number of vehicles you own 

__ Number of vehicles that still crank 

__ Number of vehicles in front yard __ 

Number of vehicles in back yard __ 

Number of vehicles on cement blocks 

Firearms you own and where you keep them: ____ truck ____ bedroom ____ bathroom ____ kitchen ____ shed 

Model and year of your pickup: _____________ 194_ 

Do you have a gun rack? (_) Yes (_) No; please explain: 

Newspapers/magazines you subscribe to: (_) The National Enquirer (_) The Globe (_) TV Guide (_) Soap Opera Digest (_) Rifle and Shotgun 

___ Number of times you`ve seen a UFO 

___ Number of times you`ve seen Elvis

 ___ Number of times you`ve seen Elvis in a UFO 

How often do you bathe: (_)Weekly (_)Monthly (_)Not Applicable 

Color of teeth: (_)Yellow (_)Brownish-Yellow (_)Brown (_)Black (_)N/A 

Brand of chewing tobacco you prefer: (_)Red-Man 

How far is your home from a paved road? (_)1 mile (_)2 miles (_)don`t know