Saturday, March 28, 2009

The power of one

The other day, the first review of Getting Lucky appeared on Amazon. It's a good one, so I posted a "Yahoo" to the Internet Writing Workshop. Several members responded by saying they were ordering my book, and between March 26 and March 28 my Amazon ranking increased by 474,377 places!

Those rankings are mighty volatile, of course, but such a big gain is a sight to see. It shows how getting and leveraging one review can make a difference.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A trip to Big Bend in Texas

We just returned from a great trip with two other couples to Big Bend in Texas. Two of us took our RVs, and the third took their car. It was a good time to go, as the weather hasn't turned hot yet; summmertime heat down there can be brutal—110 to 115 degrees, we're told.

Big Bend, of course, refers to the bend in the Rio Grande that shapes western Texas. Travelers can tell they are getting close to the river by the strip of green that stands in sharp contrast to the barren, beige landscape. In the middle of a massive cliff is a notch that's visible from miles away; that is the Santa Elena Canyon, through which the Rio Grande flows.

We also spent time in Fort Davis, an old fort designed to protect a travel route against marauding Apaches who might be bent on stealing some of their land back. The fort is in the Davis Mountains, which is also the site of the McDonald Observatory, where we spent our first evening watching the stars on a perfect night. Our guide used a Star Wars-like laser pointer to show us Aldebaran, Polaris, Betelgeuse, Sirius, a passing satellite, and many other celestial objects. The laser itself was a wonder, as it looked like the fellow was scraping the stars.

On our first morning, our friends saw javelinas, but all I saw were some tame deer that seemed to have no fear of humans.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Where ideas come from

The Bluestocking Guide has published my post on where a writer's ideas come from. Please check it out!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Southwest Senior article

Here is a nice article published in Southwest Senior, a free monthly with a circulation of about 13,000 here in  Las Cruces. Reprinted with permission.

Local author Bob Sanchez will debut as SWS book reviewer

By Cheryl Fallstead

Bob Sanchez’s book, When Pigs Fly, is an absolute delight and, I must admit, a bit of a surprise. I knew that he had written a book about some bumbling outlaws trying to pull off a heist in the Southwest, but didn’t realize how entertaining it would be. You see, I know Sanchez from when we were both members of a local writing club and I just didn’t give him enough credit for having such a devilish sense of humor. Now I know better.

Perhaps if I had studied the jacket notes by other authors I would have grabbed this book for a read sooner. Kathryn Mackel, author of The Hidden, says of Sanchez’s book: "When Pigs Fly is a masterpiece of comic writing combined with a touching story. Quirky doesn’t begin to describe the characters — they’re sometimes terrifying, often hilarious, and always unique. Robert Sanchez has the perfect touch for comedy, delivering a riotous good time while giving us a well-developed protagonist we’ll want to follow for many books to come."

I read the book in just a few sittings, pulled from one chapter to the next because I just had to see what other bits of craziness Sanchez had devised. The characters were developed to such an extent that I could envision them, from the lead bad guy, dubbed Diet Cola, to our hero, Mack Durgin, and his saucy parents.

When Pigs Fly was published in 2006 through iUniverse. He has since sold 500 copies, which is well above the industry average for self-published books, which is about 100. He is currently working with iUniverse to determine if his book will now also be sold in brick and mortar stores as he has reached their Star level of sales. His book is currently available through,,

Bob has written reviews for the internet review of books since its inception in October 2007, and serves as its Web master. Bob will be taking on another role in April when he debuts as the Southwest Senior book reviewer. Each month, Bob will tell us about books he has read that have a connection to our readers: recently published books that are either written by regional authors, about our area, or related to topics of interest to seniors. If you have a book to suggest for Bob to review, e-mail the editor at Authors may send a review copy to Southwest Senior, P.O. Box 1053 Las Cruces, NM 88004, attention Bob Sanchez.

After working as a technical writer for 20 years when he wrote user manuals for non-technical people, Sanchez decided to delve into writing fiction. Long-time Massachusetts residents, Sanchez and his wife had always wanted to visit the Southwest. Over several years they took vacation trips to Arizona, including popular locations such as Sedona, the Grand Canyon and the Tucson area. It was radically different from their home in New England, but they both loved it and kept coming back.

He says, "I started thinking about a character that I had been working with before. I had written several novels before and I had used a character named Mack Durgin, who was originally cast as a private detective in the Lowell, Massachusetts, area."

He even had an agent working to find a publisher for one of the books, entitled Getting Lucky. Unfortunately, that book didn’t sell and Bob set it aside and started a new one. "I decided to move my character to a place that was both new to me and new to him," he said.

The trips to Arizona, where much of the book’s action takes place, served as research, along with contact with on-line friends and through Web sites. Sanchez says that he was able to help make the story details more accurate by asking those friends who live in Tucson. At one point, the javelina in the book was going to rest under a mesquite bush, but his friend in Arizona suggested it would more likely take a nap under a jojoba bush. Another detail he gleaned was that a cactus wren makes a sound like a car backfiring.

Some things in the story came from Sanchez’s life, like an uncomfortable situation he places one of his characters in that has to do with an unzipped zipper. It didn’t happen to Sanchez, but he was the one who had to let the unfortunate man know something was amiss. He filed the situation away in the back of his head to use someday in a book.

Mack Durgin, the main character in the book, is a retired police officer. In the unsold book, Getting Lucky, Durgin was a private detective, which required a fair amount of research for the Sanchez. Since Mack now has two different backgrounds, Getting Lucky has been rewritten with a new central character. That book will come out in the next few months through iUniverse. "I just decided that I would make the central character a different person so I wouldn’t have to worry about contradictions in backgrounds," Bob explains.

He may also do more books with Mack Durgin. "I’ve started something but haven’t gotten too far along with it. It would be based in Pincushion (the imaginary town Bob developed in When Pigs Fly), but would bring him over to New Mexico. It’s going to center on the space port," he says.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Getting Lucky on Amazon

I found out by accident that Getting Lucky is already available on Amazon! Check it out at:

Cool, no?

Monday, March 09, 2009

A Mexican-American celebration

On March 9, 1916, Pancho Villa led a raid on the village of Columbus, New Mexico. Shortly thereafter, General John "Black Jack" Pershing led a punitive raid into Mexico.

For the last half dozen years, Columbus has hosted Camp Furlong Day to commemorate the brief hostilities and to help cement a spirit of friendship between the two neighboring countries. Men, women, and children on horseback rode from Chihuahua to the border, and Americans did the same from as far away (so I was told) as Colorado.

This year Nancy, two friends and I 
formed a mini caravan and drove our RVs to Columbus to witness the festivities. For a very reasonable fee we stayed in Pancho Villa State Park, the site of the old Camp Furlong. The weather forecast was for 50 and 60-mph winds on the day of the event—hardly an auspicious prediction. If I had 
been true to my word, Nancy and I would not have crossed the border; what with the drug cartels fighting the Federales and murders in the thousands, I had said many times that I would never go to Mexico again.

I lied.

The first thing we did was to drive three miles to Palomas, park, and walk across the border to eat lunch in a pink building called La Tienda Rosa, or The Pink Store. Scanning the menu, I decided to have the Pancho Villa Plate, a choice based on the name alone. It consisted of a beef taco, a chimichanga, and refried beans, which I supplemented with a three-dollar margarita. Muy bien. We learned from the waiter not to fear the water, because they and apparently all
 restaurants in Mexico serve only distilled water, including in the ice. Good thing. Tap water makes everyone sick down there, not just us gringos.

Outside, I heard a lot of commotion. No, it wasn't the feared gunfight. A small parade of horseback riders made their way up the street with much fanfare, apparently having ridden from deep inside Mexico. Next to me on the sidewalk stood a young soldier in uniform, casually holding an automatic rifle. The riders stopped a few yards past me at the base of a large statue of a mustachioed Pancho Villa on horseback, no more than a twenty-second walk from the border. I am fairly certain they didn't stop there to worship, but el General was definitely the object of their affection. By the way, his face bears an uncanny resemblance to Teddy Roosevelt. If you moved the same statue a hundred yards to the north into Yanqui territory, it could easily pass for T.R. charging up San Juan Hill.

Though I'm not much of a drinker, I decided to buy some relatively inexpensive liquor at a store that was even closer (if that's possible) to the border. As I walked around examining labels, a young boy of 13 or so followed me, three or four steps behind, whichever direction I stepped. Did he want something from me? Maybe he hoped my wallet would fall out of my pocket or I'd pay him a dollar to go away? I never found out. 

I picked up a couple of bottles and headed for the counter. Nancy stopped me, held out a quarter, and whispered that I should give it to the boy (not the stalker) who stood in front of the counter and bagged bottles for customers. Our friend Robie had clued us in that this is a widespread custom in Mexico: a boy picks up your purchase and bags it for you, hoping for a tip.

Back at the park, we met a couple from Manitoba who come down to this same location every year to escape the bitter Canadian winters. They stay for months at a time, defraying expenses by helping to manage the park.

The next day, Saturday, the wind howled as predicted, whipping up clouds of sand and dust. The event itself was small and pleasant. From a bandstand, the mayor of Columbus greeted us in Spanish and English while 15 or 20 vendors sold t-shirts and tacos, local kitsch and sugared kettle corn. To my untrained eye there looked like 400 to 500 people in attendance, though a vendor told me that about 2000 was the official estimate for the entire day. People came and went, of course. Some may have been blown away. By the time we tired of watching a man do fancy tricks with his horse, many of the vendors had packed up and gone home. We left too, somehow missing what promised to be a colorful folklórico dance.

It was a perfectly fine event, and I'd go again—but I might check for wind advisories first.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Cover copy for Getting Lucky

Here is the copy for the back cover of Getting Lucky, due out this month:

I woke up in the dark, shivering to the bone while searing pain sent yellow and purple flashes across my eyes. I could hear the wind but couldn’t feel it. Maybe this was hell, where eternal punishment came as a grab-bag of assaults to the skull, the back, the noseGod, the stench! My maker must have condemned me to die and smell my own rotting flesh, its cold vapors drifting up to my nose and corroding my insides as well. Mixed with the smell of Clay Webster’s carcass was a sweeter smell, but one no less sickening: I must have drunk myself to death with cheap booze and fallen into a slag heap of unrecycled waste.

Maybe I could come back in another life and try again. In my next life I would study library science. Librarians didn’t go to hell. They didn’t wake up face down in turkey carcasses, smelling like peach brandy, feeling like they’ve been sleeping in a.

I looked straight up and saw the stars.

I was in a Dumpster.


When beautiful Bonita Esquivez hires P.I. Clay Webster to find her husband, Lucky, Clay expects an easy missing-person case. But when Bonita bites a poisoned bonbon, more than a quick buck is at stake. Clay needs to establish exactly who Lucky is and determine if his client could be lying to him.

Fifty-five-year-old Clay Webster knows pain; he lost his thirty-year marriage, his son, Sean, and his twenty-eight-year police career. Trying to build a new life, his wit is his weapon, and humor is his first line of defense against life’s assaults. His search for Lucky centers primarily on Lowell, Massachusetts, where he tries to save a drowning teenager in a canal and hires yet another teenager, Denton La Rock Junior, who has been making prank phone calls to his home. Clay looks for links between Lucky and A Touch of Love, the new porn shop in town.

Meanwhile, Senator Carleton Swinburne rails against the city’s perceived moral decay, personified partly by ex-cops such as Clay Webster. Perhaps Chantal Ladoute, Clay’s old friend the ex-nun, will be his moral gyroscope as he navigates an increasingly dangerous course.

Who has time to write?

My friends at the Internet Writing Workshop blog pose an interesting poll question:

For me, it's fewer distractions. I can work on a million writing-related activities such as blogging, email, marketing my books, reading about writing, going to meetings, updating websites, critiquing, chatting, and on and on. Then there are critical activities like putting out the trash, taking a walk, playing with the cats, having lunch, putting away the dishes, watching Morning Joe, drinking coffee, photgraphing flowers blooming in the yard... Can you tell that I'm retired? By the time all this activity is out of the way, can you see that I lack either time or energy to write?

Maybe I need to make writing a higher priority. I'll do that tomorrow for sure. Right now I'm meeting a friend at Starbucks.