Saturday, December 27, 2008

Finishing old homework

Over a half century ago, I waltzed into the ninth grade without realizing that teachers actually expected me to work. Miss Murphy, our English teacher, assigned us to read Jane Eyre, and dear God, I didn’t want to. What language was it even in? Miss Brontë never wrote anything in simple English, it seemed to me; why use only one word when she could use ten? And she never left a room in Thornfield. She issued from it. That and perhaps the fact that the story was about a girl convinced me not to do my scholastic duty.

Oh, there were consequences of my sloth, but they are beside my point. I enjoyed War and Peace, but declined to finish Anna Karenina in two tries. Then in my thirties, I reread David Copperfield to see whether I would hate it as much as I did in high school. Well, as Mark Twain might have said, the story got better with age—my age.

Fast forward to the present, 50-plus years since my disastrous introduction to Charlotte Brontë. What would I make of her work now? To find out, I recently downloaded Jane Eyre onto my new Kindle with the intent of alternating between reading it and American Lion, my February review assignment for The Internet Review of Books.

Reader, she hooked me. Yes, I chuckled at the flowery language at first, imagining my fourteen-year-old alter ego diligently reading but looking up half her words in the dictionary. As a writer, I noted techniques modern writers don't use, such as addressing the reader directly ("Reader, I married him"). Now and then a coincidence stretches credulity, as when Jane is rescued from near-certain death by three people who just happen to be first cousins she never knew existed. (When was the last time that happened to you, reader?) A couple of other events occur that help greatly to resolve the plot, and I won’t mention them but to say they are deus ex machina. Yet Jane Eyre has a number of credible twists driven by the force of her personality.

The critic Harold Bloom includes Charlotte Brontë in Genius: A Mosaic of One Hundred Exemplary Minds. He suggests that Brontë intended Jane Eyre to mirror her own personality and virtues, but Jane’s goodness approaches a perfection I would rather not see in a real person. So yes, I root for her—an essential reaction to good fiction—yet I would not last long in the company of a real Jane Eyre, nor she in mine. A plain-looking young woman of frail constitution and fierce stubbornness, she consents to nothing out of accord with her view of God's will—and her God doesn’t put up with much.

Perhaps Jane Eyre comes as close to feminist literature as one is likely to find in the early 19th century. Jane shows men all the deference expected in that era, even addressing Rochester, the man she adores, as “sir” and “Master.” But wait til the end and see how that relationship changes.

So now I have to finish reading American Lion and don't have 50 years to write the review; it’s due in February.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Review of Three Generations, No Imbeciles

The website of the Georgia State University Law School has quoted from my review of the excellent Three Generations, No Imbeciles, which ran in November 2008 issue of The Internet Review of Books. It’s great to see that review site (which I help with) receive the attention it deserves.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Welcome to America

This poem won second prize in the poetry category at the 2008 El Paso Writer’s League writing contest:

Welcome to America

Hirschfeld washed ashore

In Galveston

My mother’s grandfather

Left bayonets and cannon behind

To raise chickens, cotton, Kinder

But spoke the Prussian tongue

Until he died.

Mesilla, where I meet

My writing friends,

Belonged to Mexico

Back in the day

Of European potentates

Ruling south of our border

Then with a stroke of ink and

A sack of gold

The people stayed and

The border moved—

Welcome to America.

The poet Frost wrote of walls

Unloved but neighborly

Saying “respect my land”

Walls not so high you cannot cross them

Though he’d much prefer

You knocked on his door and

Asked permission to come in.


This short piece won first prize in the humorous fiction category in the 2008 El Paso Writer’s League writing contest.


By Bob Sanchez

George knew the world was coming apart at the seams. Only by furious effort had the world avoided the Y2K debacle, with its attendant threat of planetary lockjaw. Citizens would have been shot dead for their bottled water, their gasoline, their triple-A batteries and their clean underwear.

“I’ve had it with you, George.” Lila was trying to tell him something. He examined an unopened roll of duct tape, wondering if the stuff had an expiration date. Maybe he’d better buy a fresh supply, just in case.

Okay, he thought, we dodged the millennial bullet only to take one in the heart with nine-eleven. We have Columbine shootings, no-fly lists, outsourced jobs and insourced illegals, corporate meltdowns, ozone holes, and Americans up to their asses in IEDs in Iraq. Now that Pacific Rim runt has Nagasaki-sized nukes he’ll be selling to terrorists to finance restocking his liquor cabinet and his porn collection.

Lila grabbed the package out of his hand. “This isn’t going to keep out sarin, anthrax, or radioactive isotopes.”

“You’re red in the face,” George said. “Are you sick?”

 “Only of living in a bomb shelter, surrounded by” —she waved an arm in a sweeping motion—“sterile gauze and chlorine tablets. And a year’s supply of Charmin!”

“Because if you’re sick, you should sleep on the cot tonight.” He took back the duct tape and opened the package. “Maybe I didn’t seal the windows properly.”

“We don’t need to live like this! We are not a terrorist target—we’re a hundred miles from the nearest city!”

“But downwind,” he said quietly.

For the first time, he noticed that she had her winter coat on and that she had packed a suitcase.“I’m leaving you,” she said.

“Right now?”

“Now isn’t soon enough, but yes.”

“But you’re safe here.”

“I don’t care. I’m sick of being safe. I’ll risk sorry.”

George took Lila’s hand, and for a fleeting moment her expression softened. Then he placed the roll of duct tape into her hand. “At least take this,” he said.

He thought nothing of it when her jaw dropped at the sight of his gift.

Or when she gripped it tightly in her fist.

Or when she cocked her arm like a World Series fastballer.

So he didn’t blink when her arm whipped forward. The hard, black roll followed a short, swift trajectory from her fingertips to his temple. George had always suspected that his life would end in a flash of blinding light.

And so it did.



Monday, December 08, 2008

Getting Lucky

Tonight I resubmitted an edited version of Getting Lucky to iUniverse. They had a good set of suggestions that should make it a significantly better book.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Poems for a philistine

On the Internet Writing Workshop,  a woman had asked people to recommend poems she could introduce to her “philistine” friend. Here were my suggestions:

You could do worse than introduce your philistine to Robert Frost—Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening and Mending Wall are two of my favorites. Longer but worth a look is Death of the Hired Hand, while Nothing Gold Can Stay is short and sweet.

A few other random favorites, all available on

Ozymandias of Egypt by Percy Bysshe Shelley
Dover Beach by Matthew Arnold
On a Favourite Cat, Drowned in a Tub of Gold Fishes by Thomas Gray is a bit literary, but has a clever punch line you’re sure to recognize.
A Penitential Week by Carolyn Wells isn’t world-class poetry, but it’s clever and funny.

Now a suggestion on delivery: Don’t just hand your friend the poems and send him off to read them by himself. Sit down with him, in front of a blazing fireplace if you can manage that, and take turns reading aloud to each other.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Don’t leave me!

Here is a small tip for anyone with a website or a blog: Why not make your links open up in separate windows so your visitors don’t have to leave your website? Just open your HTML editor and look for a link, which will look something like this:

<a href="">The link</a>

Simply add the following code after the link exactly as shown:


So it looks like this:

<a href="" target="_blank">The link</a>

Be sure to include the underscore.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Internet publicity tips by Penny Sanseveri

Tonight I spent a fruitful hour on the phone with Penny Sanseveri of Author Marketing Experts, who ran a telephone conference on “Red Hot Internet Publicity.” One of her great tips was to join one or two social networking groups such as Facebook or Squidoo, then seek out like-minded friends on them and blog regularly.

You can get in on these free weekly conferences by checking out that website.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Three Generations, No Imbeciles

The November 2008 issue of The Internet Review of Books published my review of Three Generations, No Imbeciles, which covers the eugenics movement here in the US as well as the specific case of Carrie Buck, who was sterilized because she was considered morally and mentally unfit to bear children. Not cheery stuff, but as someone noted today, it's not the type of history you learn in school.

This is my 14th contribution to the IRB, where I can also yahoo because they allow me to play webmaster. My pay is zero, but the editor has promised me a 10 percent raise if I continue to behave.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sign sighted in Southwest

The other day, a nice note arrived from a reader of When Pigs Fly:

“My wife and I both read your book and thoroughly enjoyed it.  Shortly after reading the book we were on a bicycling tour through southwest AZ and spotted your adopt a highway sign.  We should have taken a picture.  We use a company called Cycling Escapes and the owner has offerred to snap a photo for us but we couldn't narrow down the stretch of road.”

I don’t live in Southwest Arizona and don’t have an adopt a highway sign anywhere, but no matter. An unexpected note like this makes writing worthwhile.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Traveling to Monument Valley

We honor Tony Hillerman, the wonderful Southwest writer who just passed away. His plots never mattered that much to me, but his characters Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee were a joy to follow wherever they went. Hillerman wrote of Indian culture with great understanding and sensitivity. Many of us in the region refer to northwest New Mexico as Hillerman Country. My wife and two cats ventured there in our RV a week ago, traveling through Gallup on the Navajo Reservation, through Window Rock, and across wide-open stretches of Arizona. Our ultimate goal was Monument Valley, on the Arizona-Utah state line, but the landscape along the way is magnificent. Here is a sampling of what we saw.

This and the photo above are in Monument Valley. In the 1920s a settler enticed John Ford to travel here from Hollywood, and Ford filmed a number of Westerns here, including Stagecoach (1939).

A Navajo back yard behind the RV park, smack in the middle of Monument Valley:

The rock from which the town of Mexican Hat, Utah derives its name:

We had never heard of it, but when I saw the sign pointing to Valley of the Gods, I knew we had to go there. With a little imagination, this rock looks like a Southern belle:

This Navajo girl posed for me in front of Canyon de Chelly while her mom sat in a pickup truck weaving on a hand loom. Navajo spell the canyon “Tseyi,” and the pronunciation is roughly like “Shea.”

And of course I had to have one of these:

Friday, September 19, 2008

Seven Wheelchairs

Yesterday my copy of Seven Wheelchairs arrived by UPS, and I promptly read the first five chapters. This is the new and compelling memoir by Gary Presley, who contracted polio almost fifty years ago and has been wearing out wheelchairs ever since. Never mind that Gary is a friend of mine; this dude can write. Gilion Dumas has written an excellent review for The Internet Review of Books.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Gila Cliff Dwellings

This article recently appeared in Southwest Senior.

Gila Cliff Dwellings:
Ancient beauty within easy reach

By Bob Sanchez

Apparently, the Mogollon valued privacy.

If so, they found the right place in the remote and rugged terrain north of present-day Silver City. For about a hundred years around the thirteenth century, they lived on the relative safety of a cliffside near the banks of the Gila River. The Mogollon (pronounced muguhYON) eventually moved on for unknown reasons, perhaps joining and blending with the Apache and other groups. Whites rediscovered the caves in 1878, and by 1884 looted many of the remaining artifacts. Yet plenty of evidence remains of human activity: stone walls, areas for cooking and food preparation, and forty large rooms.

About six hundred years after the Mogollon departure, my wife and I decided to visit these Gila Cliff Dwellings. Friends told us they had made the trip, leaving Las Cruces at 6 a.m. and returning at 10 p.m. Ouch. That didn’t sound like a day trip to us.

We delayed our visit until we purchased our RV, then did a little web research that turned up Doc Campbell’s RV site in Gila Hot Springs, only a short distance from the dwellings. We eagerly planned our first trip. Of course we could have driven our car and stayed in a motel. Silver City is about 42 miles away, making it a good jumping-off point. A couple of small, no-frills campsites are also available between the Visitor’s Center and the trailhead. My wife and I chose to stay at Doc Campbell’s, with hookups for electricity, water, and—does life get any better than this?—a sewer connection. (To borrow a title from Willa Cather: O Pioneers!)

The round trip from Las Cruces is only 300 miles, but parts of the route are slow going. We took I-10 to Deming, Route 180 north to Routes 152, 35, and finally, 15. This allowed us to bypass the tricky part of Route 15 that is closed to vehicles longer than 20 feet because of the narrow road and sharp bends. That excluded us and our 25-foot RV, and it kept us from seeing Pinos Altos, which may be a good overnight stop for auto travelers with its Bear Creek Motel and Cabins. But even if you’re driving your car, be careful on that lower part of Route 15. An email correspondent told me that on the same day we went, he drove that stretch in his car and got stuck by trying to turn around on a hairpin turn, resulting in a 2-1/2 hour delay until help arrived.

Not that the rest of Route 15 is a superhighway; it’s slow and winding, but worth it. Stop at the Visitor’s Center for information and books, or drive directly to the parking lot at the trailhead. From there you can see the magnificent cliffs. You’ll pay a nominal admission charge of $3 per person (cash and exact change required), unless you have a Golden Age pass. Knowledgeable volunteer docents cheerfully answer questions and chat with visitors. Twice daily, they offer free guided tours beginning at the dwellings. Just cross a footbridge over the Gila River, and you’re on your way.

The trail is a one-mile walk with log steps and a series of footbridges that criss-cross a mountain brook among ponderosa pines, cactus, piñon, junipers, and Douglas fir. Though the walk is easy enough, the trail rises 180 feet, including one steep section. Benches are available along the way in case you tire, and you may find a walking stick helpful.

It takes only a few minutes to get your first glance at the ancient cliff dwellings. They are a marvel—no structure could be stronger than a series of caves shielded by several hundred feet of sheer cliff. It’s made of a congomerate spewed out about 28,000,000 years ago by a pair of volcanoes.

It’s easy to see the appeal, having an isolated location well-protected from elements and enemies, with access to water and wildlife. The Mogollon created forty rooms inside the six caves, and the people were probably quite safe from wild animals. They hunted and fished, grew corn, beans, and squash. Yucca proved to be a versatile resource for food, material for sandals, needles, and even soap. Archaeologists estimate the dates of the Mogollon cliff occupation to be from 1270 to 1300 AD based on close examination of artifacts left behind, for example, analyzing core samples of the wood in the vegas.

Less easy to see is why they left after living in the area for only a century. Drought, perhaps? Over the centuries, other people used the caves for brief periods and then left. The Chiricahua Apache once lived in the area until the United States forced them onto reservations in the 1880s. In 1907, Congress and President Theodore Roosevelt established the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument and the Gila National Forest. If you’d like to learn more before your trip, see the Park Service’s website. On that website, be sure to click the “History & Culture” tab, which leads to the boring-sounding “Administrative History.” Don’t let the drab title fool you. This has plenty of additional information, including useful sketches of the dwellings.

During the summer, the trail to the dwellings is open from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m., and you have to be off the trail by 7 p.m. Hours vary by season, so check the website or call 575-536-9461 if you’re visiting another time of the year. The Park Service advises visitors to wear sturdy clothing and to bring water.

If you live in Las Cruces, be sure to visit the Gila Cliff Dwellings at least once in your life. You’ll see a place of serene beauty that thrived in a time before recorded history.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Thinking outside the bookstore

Here is another set of notes from a Penny Sanseveri teleconference, this one entitled “Book Signing Gold.” Again, she knows I am posting this information. Penny owns Author Marketing Experts and provided this information for free. Thank you, Penny.

Book signings are boring. Where you spend your time selling books is important. Selling eight books at a signing is pretty average.

People don’t want to be sold. They want to know what is in it for them to buy and read the book. Think outside the bookstore. Bookstores don’t like authors blanketing the area. The first event you have is good for 90 percent of your audience. Subsequent events yield less.

Friends and relatives don’t always buy your book.

Seasonal angles allow you to plan events. If a bookstore has a newsletter, try to get into it—at end of the month if possible, to maximize your exposure in the issue. Contribute to the newsletter if that is possible. If a bookstore has a community relations manager, that is the person to contact. For self-published authors, it may be necessary to leave copies on consignment.

Specialty stores are good. When you make arrangements, send a confirmation letter including info on how to obtain or reorder copies of the book. If possible, find out who is on their media list.

A 2-3 hour session is good, as well as a 20-30 minute talk.

Barnes & Noble stores sometimes have an “author’s night.” Try to partner with them.

Consider collaborating with another author on a “buddy system.” event. Mixing genres is okay. Consider promotional items such as bookmarks, bag stuffers, etc.

Spread out signings in a given area over time.

Build a relationship with the stores. Be friendly.

Regional promotion can be very helpful.

Publishers buy shelf space and floor space in bookstores.

Penny will also offer an event concerning signings outside the bookstore.

Stores may do some posters, but they often allow you to put up your own.

Instead of requesting a review by local media, pitch an idea for a feature. Signings can be used to generate local media attention.

Rule of Seven: You need 7 exposures to get people to recognize and purchase the book.

If you have a newsletter, make sure people sign up for it.

Craigs List is a great place to post free events. On the day of an event, fax the media’s assignment desk, and let them know why people should attend.

Bring copies of your book in your car. Don’t assume that copies of your book will be available at an event. Bring your own copies just in case someone forgot to order. “Autographed by author“ stickers are worthwhile. Autographed books are a great gift idea.

Always show up early and stay late at events. Marketing is about movement and message. You do not necessarily have to read a chapter of your book; you can always talk about the craft of writing. Be really creative. Passion sells. Be engaged in your topic. Show you believe in it. Record yourself for the first few sessions. Don't overwhelm the audience with info. Keep presentations simple. Practice. Get honest critiques before hand.

The best way to sell a book is to talk about it. You can even sell at Starbucks—best to go through the local stores rather than through Corporate.

Be sure to send thank-you notes.

Typical discounts: 40% at bookstores, and 20% at non-bookstore events.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Red Sox fan endorses When Pigs Fly

Die-hard Red Sox fan and booster of the arts Dave Douillette recently found his mother Ruth’s copy of When Pigs Fly and intends to bring it with him to college, where he hopes it will fulfill his lit requirement. “This is an awesome book,” the sophomore said, noting the tome’s heft and bright colors. “I definitely might read it.”

Mr. Douillette reportedly asked his mother what was in it for him if he allowed her to take his picture with the celebrated book. Ms. Douillette denied coercing her son. Meanwhile, New Mexico author Bob Sanchez brushed aside allegations that he paid in the low single figures for the prized endorsement. “All I promised was a link back to Ruth’s great blog,” he insisted.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Getting Lucky cover

My second novel, Getting Lucky, is progressing with iUniverse; it’s in the queue for an editorial evaluation. Meanwhile, the photo at the right is the Pawtucket Canal in Lowell, Massachusetts, and will be the book’s cover. I purchased this photo from Lee Fortier. See more of his excellent work at his website.

A graphic artist from iUniverse will design a page using this photo. My original suggestion to them was to incorporate a four-leaf clover with a bloody bullet hole, but I am leaving it up to the artist’s judgment. It will be fun to see what they come up with.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Notes from a seminar on press kits

Yesterday I took part in a teleseminar conducted by Penny Sanseveri of Author Marketing Experts, and I thought I'd share my notes. I called her office ahead of time, so she knows I am posting this.

Don’t assume that a random visitor to your web page knows what you’re all about. Be sure you know your own goals.

A press kit is an author's resume. It shows professionalism. It should include:

A customized cover letter—very important.

An author bio
Have some fun with this. It should be thorough (but not too long) and personalized. Don't be irrelevant. Humanize yourself. Put the most important information up front. Include a photo of yourself.

Fact sheets
Be careful with any information you supply, because anything in the press kit can be used. “Did you know?” type of info is good.

Press release
You can have different press releases for different markets. Customize them as much as possible.

Tip sheet
For example, “5, 7, or 10 things...” This is information you can also put on your website.

Interview questions
You can supply a list of suggested interview questions. First, though, run them by someone objective. Also, practice interviewing so you can see any holes.

Other media
Include clippings, etc. Media draw media. List wherever you’ve been.

Newsletter, if you have one.
Copy of your book
Copies of reviews (but don't send copies of reviews to other reviewers)
You can put your press kit on CD.
Electronic media kit—clean and simple.

Online press room
On your web site. You can tell all you need in one place, everything you would put in a press kit.
Include past press releases in both Word and PDF format.
Include photo of yourself.
Include the book cover.
List the topics you are willing to talk about.
List upcoming events—but keep it up to date, as outdated lists are annoying.
Comprehensive media page with links. Include Internet media.
Include contact information. Do not make people fill out a form.
Include any milestones achieved with your book.
Always include a copy of the book with the media kit. If the book isn’t out yet, consider including a mini-version with the cover and a few chapters.

Fun things to include
Any giveaways as promos

Blurbs are important, but be sure they are tied to your topic.
Places to submit articles:,

A press kit isn’t necessary for every new book, but do it if it’s major.
Anytime you give a presentation, get someone to write you a letter of recommendation.
If you are available to speak, be sure to make that clear.

Librarians like books that create a buzz.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Reader's Choice!

iUniverse just notified me that When Pigs Fly just qualified for their Reader’s Choice designation. Yahoo!

Next up is Getting Lucky, which I plan to submit to iUniverse this week. I began writing GL back in 1994, and the novel has been largely complete for years. This week I have been proofreading ’til my eyes are ready to fall out.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Five new reviews!

Outside El Comedor Restaurant, where the Mesilla Valley Writers fiction group meets

When I sent a copy of When Pigs Fly to book reviewer Floyd Orr, little did I know that he would submit five separate reviews to five different publications. Since he’s given me permssion to use them as I see fit, I’m posting them here. Many thanks to Floyd for all the thought and effort he put into these reviews.

The Authors Den Review

Bob Sanchez has chosen a delightful set of colorful characters to indulge the reader’s imagination in his first novel. I cannot accurately portray the imagery in my mind while I read When Pigs Fly without mentioning the black comedy movie, Raising Arizona. As in that legendary comic adventure, many of the most entertaining characters in When Pigs Fly are petty criminals, and it may not be a coincidence that most of the action takes place in Arizona. Mr. Sanchez had a long career as a technical writer, and he has stated that he spent considerable time in a writers’ group, too. All those years of practice are evident in Mr. Sanchez’ first foray into the entertainment novel genre. The editing is tight, the typos are minimal, and the dialog is appropriately ungrammatical for a bunch of sleazy, uneducated characters. When Pigs Fly is not a long, heavy, or serious book. It’s a romping summer lark with a retired Yankee cop, his brand-new girlfriend, a little pet pig you will come to love, even though he’s stinky, and a pair of thieves who are about as competent as the two in the movie, Home Alone!

The Blogger News Net Review

If you’re looking for a light, quick, entertaining, summer read, When Pigs Fly is an excellent choice. Retired technical writer Bob Sanchez has released his first novel and it’s a slam-bang hoot with the offbeat energy of Raising Arizona raging through its pages. In fact, most of the action takes place in Arizona, and that’s not a bad coincidence at all.

The storyline is both twisted and convoluted, so try to stay with me here. Since I never give away any more of a book’s plotline than I as a consumer would want to read in a review, the following description is merely the beginning. An eighty-year-old couple in Lowell, MA, buys a lottery ticket with the jackpot numbers printed right on it. A stinky, three-hundred-pound, sleazebucket thief steals the ticket, but he does not put it in his pocket. The thief has already been sentenced to a time of less than one year for a previous conviction, and the ticket is good for a year. Instead of cashing it in immediately, he hides the ticket inside an urn in the couple’s house, planning to retrieve it after serving his time. Little does he know that the urn contains the ashes of a dead city policeman. The son of the couple is a retired Lowell cop now living in Arizona. After losing his longtime wife, Mack Durgin had chosen to retire where he and his wife had always planned. He had not planned to receive a FedEx package from his parents containing the urn of ashes, the hot ticket, and some costume jewelry his addled elderly mom had included as a bonus. Mack has a drunken quickie with a lady of less than stellar reputation, and her boyfriend with a tattoo of a brain on his skull doesn’t care for the dalliance. Two brothers in crime once familiar to Officer Durgin back in Lowell join forces with the brain/skull guy and Mr. Piggie to track down the high-flying lottery ticket. In the meantime, Mack has come to his erotic senses and begun courting a nicer young lady, one whose charms have also entranced an Elvis impersonator who doesn’t know when to zip up. Last, but far from the least interesting, is Poindexter, a pet javelina pig that has just won a big ribbon as his owner’s science project. Trust me: you’ll be rootin’ for Poindexter all the way to the end!

A lot of action, humor, poignant dialogue, and, of course, wild and crazy characters have been crammed between the covers of When Pigs Fly. Bob Sanchez has said that he enjoys making people laugh, a concept that becomes obvious from the style of his first novel. Due to line spacing within the dialogue and the presence of many short chapters, When Pigs Fly is a somewhat quicker read than its page count might imply. You’ll fly through this quirky little story just like Poindexter!

The B&N Review

Raising Arizona

Although others have compared Bob Sanchez’ first novel with the movie, Pulp Fiction, the parallels for me were more in line with Raising Arizona. This book is crammed with imaginative characters and thoughtful plotting, bringing images of several movies into the reader’s consciousness. The fast pacing of the action in this quick summer read could be likened to Into the Night, in which Jeff Goldblum and Michelle Pfeiffer are chased by crazy crooks as they develop their own new relationship. That movie even featured an Elvis impersonator, too. A more modern movie similarity can be seen in The Whole Nine Yards, in which you never know if the unpredictable nature of the characters is going to explode into violence or benign monkey business. Bob Sanchez has had a long career in the field of technical writing, but When Pigs Fly is his first novel. The author’s extensive experience shows through the taut editing and careful plot construction of When Pigs Fly. My only complaint is that the book is too short: double line spacing in the dialogue and the many chapter breaks make the book a somewhat shorter read than the page count would otherwise indicate. There is little doubt that When Pigs Fly is a fun book to read!

The Amazon Review

Rootin’ for Poindexter

Technical writer Bob Sanchez’ first novel is a funny, entertaining summer read. The movie images of Raising Arizona, Into the Night, The Whole Nine Yards, and Pulp Fiction are somewhat unmistakable as the author takes the reader on a slam-bang ride through Arizona. Retired cop Mack Durgin and his new feminine acquaintance are being tracked with a GPS unit hidden in the lady’s car by an Elvis impersonator who doesn’t know when to quit. Neither do the band of colorful characters following Mack who hope to cash in on a lottery ticket originally purchased by Mack’s elderly parents. Mack just wants to dump his friend’s ashes over The Grand Canyon and develop a lasting relationship with his new lady friend.

As a somewhat established book critic, I can tell you that When Pigs Fly has easily earned four stars, but at least a little of the gushing praise for this book is a bit over the top. I got about forty pages into it before I even cracked a serious smile. There are a few laughs to be had by the antics of some of the sleazy criminals created by Mr. Sanchez, but the book is too short and the storyline could even be called a bit derivative of the movies mentioned. When Pigs Fly is a good, light, imaginative book, but it’s no Cat’s Cradle.

Although I have offered a bit of criticism of When Pigs Fly, there are, indeed, many things to like about the book. The ringleader of these is Poindexter, the pet javelina pig that wins a ribbon as his loving owner’s science project and is subsequently dumped out in the desert to fend for himself. Poindexter’s trials as a newly wild pig fly in and out of the storyline as the inept villains weave the main humor of the plot. Whether you find the book laugh-out-loud funny or just pleasantly humorous, you will be rootin’ for Poindexter to the end!

The PODBRAM Review

If you’re looking for a light, quick, entertaining, summer read, When Pigs Fly is an excellent choice. Retired technical writer Bob Sanchez has released his first novel and it’s a slam-bang hoot with the offbeat energy of Raising Arizona raging through its pages. In fact, most of the action takes place in Arizona, and that’s not a bad coincidence at all.

The storyline is both twisted and convoluted, so try to stay with me here. Since I never give away any more of a book’s plotline than I as a consumer would want to read in a review, the following description is merely the beginning. An eighty-year-old couple in Lowell, MA, buys a lottery ticket with the jackpot numbers printed right on it. A stinky, three-hundred-pound, sleazebucket thief steals the ticket, but he does not put it in his pocket. The thief has already been sentenced to a time of less than one year for a previous conviction, and the ticket is good for a year. Instead of cashing it in immediately, he hides the ticket inside an urn in the couple’s house, planning to retrieve it after serving his time. Little does he know that the urn contains the ashes of a dead city policeman. The son of the couple is a retired Lowell cop now living in Arizona. After losing his longtime wife, Mack Durgin had chosen to retire where he and his wife had always planned. He had not planned to receive a FedEx package from his parents containing the urn of ashes, the hot ticket, and some costume jewelry his addled elderly mom had included as a bonus. Mack has a drunken quickie with a lady of less than stellar reputation, and her boyfriend with a tattoo of a brain on his skull doesn’t care for the dalliance. Two brothers in crime once familiar to Officer Durgin back in Lowell join forces with the brain/skull guy and Mr. Piggie to track down the high-flying lottery ticket. In the meantime, Mack has come to his erotic senses and begun courting a nicer young lady, one whose charms have also entranced an Elvis impersonator who doesn’t know when to zip up. Last, but far from the least interesting, is Poindexter, a pet javelina pig that has just won a big ribbon as his owner’s science project. Trust me: you’ll be rootin’ for Poindexter all the way to the end!

A lot of action, humor, poignant dialogue, and, of course, wild and crazy characters have been crammed between the covers of When Pigs Fly. Bob Sanchez has said that he enjoys making people laugh, a concept that becomes obvious from the style of his first novel. There are some of the standard POD boo-boos such as misplaced common words and punctuation errors present in the book, but the number of incidences is considerably less than average. You can tell that Mr. Sanchez cares enough to present a professional product to his readers. Due to line spacing within the dialogue and the presence of many short chapters, When Pigs Fly is a somewhat quicker read than its page count might imply. Especially as the author’s first foray into the humor genre, When Pigs Fly is a highly commendable first effort. You’ll fly through this quirky little story just like Poindexter!

Saturday, July 19, 2008


Clouds built up around mid-day today, settling low over the Organ Mountains to the east. An afternoon of rain followed, as has happened several times in the last two weeks. This is the monsoon season in New Mexico, a season that last year came up completely dry. Raindrops became rivulets, and rivulets became torrents of muddy water racing to find their level, spilling and flowing and draining from a thousand directions into the arroyos.

We have a large arroyo near us, one with an earthen dam on the far side, built, so it's said, to contain a five-hundred-year flood. For more than ten months of every year, it's a bone-dry home for scrub brush, rabbits, coyotes and snakes. Today I stopped to look at a fast-moving river flowing into drainpipes and safely under Roadrunner Boulevard on its way to the Rio Grande. Tomorrow, unless it rains again, the arroyo will be nearly dry. Next time I hope to remember my camera.

Tonight, at nearly midnight, we hear the incessant white noise of countless frogs in the arroyo about a quarter mile down the street from us. Perhaps the water has brought dormant eggs to life. No predators will starve tonight.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Thanks, Mary Simonsen!

When Pigs Fly just received a generous review that folks can see on Amazon and several other sites. Reviewer Mary Simonsen is the author of Pemberley Remembered, which I’ve just ordered. She and I have crossed paths on Shelfari, a great site for book lovers.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Getting around to a little writing

Red yucca

The other day I bought close-up lenses for my camera and will be gallivanting around town looking for bugs on flower petals and other photogenic stuff. It will be a good break from all the hours I've been spending in front of the computer. I have put a lot of satisfying time into the Internet Writing Workshop and the Internet Review of Books, and then proofreading a friend's novel, and then volunteering for the Obama for President campaign, and then...and then...oh yes, writing of my own. In less than two weeks I have to submit my short story, Beethoven's Lost Penny, to our writing group’s chapbook. That is mostly finished, but needs a bit of work. (A bit is all it’s going to get, regardless of what it needs.)

Some kind friends have asked when I’ll write a follow-up to When Pigs Fly. One is in the works, but not far along. Another, Getting Lucky, has been basically finished since before the millennium. It needs some nips, tucks, and changes, but those oughtn't take long. A new book—definitely self-published— by early 2009 is at least a possibility.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Visiting Hillerman country

Shiprock, on the Navajo reservation. The region features in much of Tony Hillerman’s work.

June is hot here in Las Cruces, with too many days of 100-plus heat to please us. Our plan was to head north to Santa Fe and beyond in our RV, and damn the price of gasoline. So last Sunday, we decided to load it up for a Monday morning departure. We plugged it in to run the A/C, but the rig draws too many amps, and we kept losing juice. Inside the RV, the air was stifling, which made us both ugly—and then we noticed the blinking red light on the carbon monoxide alarm.

So the next morning, after sleeping off our foul moods, we arranged for someone to care for the cats and then drove north in our car. That was much, much better. Our cats hate to travel anyway. We made no specific plans beyond looking at a map of northwest New Mexico and looking for routes designated as scenic. Our first stop was Santa Fe, our tiny and beautiful state capital. We ate dinner at The Blue Corn Café, where I ate chalupas, described on the menu as “Two yellow corn shells filled with black beans and choice of chicken, ground beef or calabacitas then topped with cheese, chile, lettuce, tomato, sour cream and guacamole.” Muy bien.

At the right is one of the more interesting storefronts. We also stopped in a small shop on 109 East Palace Street that turns out to have been the clearing house for nuclear scientists working in nearby Los Alamos on the Manhattan Project in World War II. A woman told us that each day, scientists would be gathered there, blindfolded, and put on a bus so even they wouldn’t know where they would be working. Monitors watched them closely when they went into Santa Fe in their free time to make sure that no one spoke about the project.

The sign at the right reads in part, “All men and women who made the first atomic bomb passed through this portal to their secret mission at Los Alamos....” The decoration above the plaque prompted the photo.

As lovely as Santa Fe is, we wanted to get out into the countryside, so we skipped out on all the museums we had planned to visit, rationalizing that we aren't big on museums anyway. Not far out of town, we visited Bandelier National Monument, with interesting and accessible Indian ruins.

We didn’t plan to visit Taos, which we had seen once before, but I took a wrong turn and wound up there anyway. In a Burger King parking lot, an elk head caught my attention; it was all trussed and riding on a flat-bed truck. We couldn’t tell if it was a real animal or not. I hope not.

A few miles outside of Taos, we noticed a small neighborhood of strange-looking (to us) homes. We stopped in front of one, and I asked for permission to walk around the yard and photograph it. The owner, a 30-something fellow, said he built it himself out of old tires, baled hay, and other recycled materials. Much of the living space is below ground, and some of the other houses have large banks of dirt around them for insulation. He said his heating costs run about $100 per year for propane. No one can blame this fellow for the energy crisis.

We also found the Rio Grande Gorge, where the river looks mighty compared to its peaceful flow through Las Cruces. I stood on the bridge and took a photo of the breathtaking view hundreds of feet below. That evening at the motel, we turned on the news to learn that a man had just leaped off the bridge; originally, he had been thought to be wearing a parachute that failed to open, but instead he had a backpack and a suicide note.

The Carson National Forest was a delight, with the road taking us up to 11,000 feet above sea level and through a vast range of evergreens and snow-dappled mountains. It was June 18, and there were still patches of snow alongside the road.

Our travels took us through several Indian reservations, such as Zia and Pueblo, but the Navajo reservation is the largest in the area. All seem sparsely populated and characterized by casinos, pawn shops, and mobile homes. I wish I could report better news. There is a lot of oil drilling in the region of Shiprock and Farmington, and Halliburton has a presence. Perhaps the various tribes will in time share in whatever wealth the oil fields generate. Perhaps.

Our specific goal in driving to the far northwest was to see Shiprock—the rock, not the town. It is a sacred Navajo site, and truly is a site to behold. That's the picture at the beginning of this post.

We hadn't planned to visit Four Corners until we realized how close we were. It's in the middle of the Navajo Nation, and we paid $3 per person to see a circular marker with an “X” in the middle, marking the exact intersection of four states. People stood in line, waiting their turn to stand on the spot, but we were content to watch and to visit a few of the Navajo vendors whose booths surrounded the spot. At the right, this fellow’s left hand is in Utah, his right hand in Arizona; his left foot is in Colorado, and his right foot is in New Mexico.

We drove up into Colorado and had lunch at the Cyprus Cafe in Durango, a great way to celebrate our 43rd wedding anniversary. The gyro was the best I've ever had.

I don’t mean to end this post on a downbeat, but I must comment on the dozens of roadside memorials we saw. Usually they consist of crosses decorated with flowers, names, dates, and pictures. Sometimes they appeared at dangerous-looking curves, but more often I saw them on straight, wide and benign stretches of highway. This cross, with a painting of a girl in a graduation gown, was one of a pair.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

The Confederate War Bonnet

I wrote this for the Midwest Book Review. Since MBR permits re-use, I am posting it here as well.

The Confederate War Bonnet:
A Novel of the Civil War in Indian Territory

By Jack Shakely
264 pp. iUniverse $17.95

Civil War buffs and historical fiction fans will enjoy this novel with its authentic and unusual take on the conflict. Based on historical incidents and real people, first-time author Jack Shakely brings us a view of the war from the point of view of Jack Gaston, a member of the Creek Nation who serves the Confederate cause. Gaston, one of two college-educated Creeks, leaves his studies at Harvard University in 1863 to serve his people, who have allied themselves with the South. For the many tribes that appear in this story—including Choctaw, Chickasaw, Seminole, Creek—the main issue is not slavery or keeping the Union together—it’s survival. They must do what they can to preserve their own interests in the face of ever-increasing white encroachment.

Gaston’s odyssey takes him through many of the Civil War’s major conflicts. In one of his imaginative contributions, he writes a news column providing breathless accounts of one “Captain War Bonnet,” who strikes terror into Yankee forces. As intended, Yankee forces read the detailed accounts that included his whereabouts, which proves to be a great waste of their time and resources.

Himself of Creek ancestry, Shakely presents a good story with a decent plot and sympathetic characters. His research helps readers understand some of the differences and conflicts among the various Indian cultures, and certainly between Indians and whites. The Confederate War Bonnet seems at times like a mix between a novel and a non-fiction history, because of Shakely’s shifting point of view and the often reportorial style. It’s obviously Jack Gaston’s story, yet we occasionally hear from another narrator (the author) about what happens many decades later, for example:

...Maxey wrote to all the soldiers, “Your action has been glorious. You have made yourself a name in history.”

This of course was true. To borrow a phrase from Franklin Roosevelt it was a name made in the history of infamy.

And on rare occasions, the author editorializes:

Nothing in American musical history is quite so cringingly, wincingly embarrassing as the mistrel show. But this phenomenon of white men in blackface was a theater tradition for more than a hundred years in this country, lasting well into the twentieth century. The vicious racist stereotyping...

Yes indeed, but passages like this can make the reader wonder whose story this is. Shakely also refers to “this Chautauqua,” in the sense of the adult education movement, although the first such event didn’t occur until almost a decade after the Civil War.

These are not major flaws; I take them as minor liberties that don’t hurt the underlying story. Shakely states that most of the characters were real people, and the events historically accurate. The Confederate War Bonnet is a readable and well-told tale that Shakely fills with color, sensitivity, humor, and plenty of research..

Apparently, the war bonnet really existed, with its Confederate stars and bars woven in. Too bad the author didn’t have a photo of the headdress—it would have made a fine cover for a thoughtful book.

Note: Here is the Amazon link.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Memories of Germany

This article just appeared in Southwest Senior here in Las Cruces, and is reprinted with their permission.

I Remember…

By Bob Sanchez

MädchenIt was 1985, and my 13-year stint in customer service had mercifully ended. I was determined to change my career to technical writing, but every potential employer wanted applicants to show both academic credentials and a writing portfolio. So I enrolled in a technical communications program at the University of Massachusetts, and took on all the freelance writing assignments I could find—for free when necessary, as long as I garnered at least a byline.

In those days, personal computers were new, and The Boston Computer Society (BCS) had taken on the task of educating the area’s public about their use. They published a slick magazine that printed some of my work, though they didn’t pay; those clips formed the rudiments of my portfolio, but the work was not technical.

Then at a BCS meeting, I traded business cards with a professional translator named Lee who said he needed someone to provide him with publicity. He was thrilled with the newspaper profile I wrote for him (gratis, of course), which he reprinted and distributed endlessly.

Castle on the Rhine
One day, Lee called me. He had a German client named Gunther who had written a computer manual in English and wanted help in editing it. When I looked at the draft, I thought—to paraphrase Truman Capote—it didn’t need an edit so much as a trip to Lourdes. “It needs a complete rewrite,” I said. Their answer surprised me: “Come to Germany and work on it here.” They offered a good wage plus expenses, and said my utter inability to speak German was no problem.

RothenburgIn July, I kissed my family goodbye and boarded an Iceland Air flight to Luxembourg, where Gunther himself picked me up and drove us across Germany’s heartland at about 110 miles per hour on the darkened Autobahn. My obvious terror amused him. At a restaurant stop, a waitress complimented me on my German, though I had stumbled through all three or four words in my vocabulary. In a highway rest room, a woman sold toilet paper by the sheet.

Gunther had arranged for me to stay with a young family who lived across from his business in a tiny farm town, so for a month, my commute was a 30-second walk to a vintage 1923 schoolhouse that Gunther and his two sons used for their business. After a breakfast of coffee, bread, and jam, I would cross the road, greet the sons (who’d gone to college in California and spoke excellent English), and go to the second floor. There I was typically alone with my computer station and my work, the window open to the smell of manure and the lowing of cows from the barnyard next door.

There were no restaurants nearby, and I had no car during the week, so Gunther’s wife served substantial evening meals. The nearest city was Fulda, a lovely city about the size of Las Cruces. I’d read about the “Fulda gap” in Tom Clancy's novel Red Storm Rising—it was the invasion route for Soviet armies. On Saturday mornings, one of Gunther’s sons drove me to a car rental shop where I rented a vehicle and headed out on my own for the weekend.

My automotive jaunts took me through beautiful, rustic villages to the barbed-wire border where signs warned of unexploded land mines. Few of the locals outside of my work spoke any English, yet I generally conveyed what I needed by smiling and pointing—and occasionally looking desperate. Trucks with names on their sides like Mengele and Krupp reminded me that this beautiful country and friendly people had a dark past.

One weekend I drove to the Rhine River and boarded a tourist boat. We passed postcard-worthy towns, bucolic vineyards, and three dozen castles before turning around at the base of a massive cliff named Lorelei’s Rock.

Another weekend took me to Berlin, which meant driving through communist East Germany. At one point I pulled to the side of the highway, thinking I could help a stranded motorist. After many gestures, he conveyed that he wanted me to tow his car somewhere. I pictured this destroying my rental car, so I gave him a ride to the nearest telephone instead. I was only willing to go so far for world peace.

West Berlin was inexpensive, because I slept in the car. My weekly pay was thick in my wallet, making me constantly self-conscious. Most of this money had to come home with me to Massachusetts to pay bills. I stood at the edge of a crowd, watching a Middle-Eastern con artist run a shell game. He was good. I always thought I knew which shell the pea was under, and I was always wrong. A lot of people lost money, but I held tightly onto my wallet, fearing I’d be scammed or robbed.
Berlin Wall
The Berlin Wall near Checkpoint Charlie was a mass of grafitti, colorful and chaotic; I stood on a platform and looked into East Berlin, which seemed gray and sterile. Later that day, I inadvertently cut off a motorcyclist in traffic. Oops. He was a police officer, and he pulled me over. Since I couldn’t appear in court, I had to pay my 30 Deutschmark fine directly to him. Then on my way back, of course I had to drive through East Germany again, where another police officer flagged me down and ticketed me for speeding. Unlike in the decadent West, the East Germans had strict speed limits on their autobahn—and they had speed traps. For my part, I had receipts for traffic fines from both countries. The receipts became souvenirs.

Sign at town lineMy first technical writing assignment was completed in a month, and I missed my family considerably. My wife and eleven-year-old son Jeff greeted me on my arrival back in Boston, and they told me they had recently seen Back to the Future at a theater. “Well, we’ll have to see it again,” I said. “The three of us.”

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The silver is gone, but the tourists are gold

As the story goes, prospector Ed Schiefflen came to southern Arizona looking for silver, and folks warned him that all he’d find was his own tombstone. Well, he found silver, and he founded the town of Tombstone. The town bustled for as long as the silver held out, drawing honest workers as well as no small number of criminals. Around 1900 or so, Tombstone was said to have a higher rate of homicide than New York City.

It’s under 300 miles from our home in Las Cruces, so we finally packed our cats, George and Gracie, into the RV to check it out. G & G were underwhelmed by the whole experience, homebodies that they are, but Nancy and I quite enjoyed the trip. We stayed in an RV park within sight of the O.K. Corral, where lawmen shot it out with malefactors and sent them off to Boot Hill Cemetery to rest in graves like this:

It’s a small graveyard with freshly painted epitaphs on wood markers. Like almost everything in town, it is maintained for the benefit of the tourists who keep the town alive. Now, folks can tour the town in horse-drawn wagons.

—and when they’re through, they can whet their whistles at Big Nose Kate’s, a saloon named after the girlfriend of Doc Holliday:

—or they can check out what is billed as the world’s largest rosebush, a century-old Lady Banksia that is large enough to walk under and covers about 8,000 square feet:

Above is the view from a specially-built stand that provides a better sense of the breadth of this amazing bush. Here is the trunk:

You can also pay to see fake shootouts at the O.K. Corral, but Nancy and I spent our cash on ice creams instead.

By the way, G & G would be upset with me if I didn’t show them in the RV. Here’s George:

And here is his sister Gracie:

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Taking the RV to Big Bend National Park

The Rio Grande in Big Bend National Park

Our friends didn't think we’d go on Monday, because the weather had been so bad here in New Mexico. But we had already left Las Cruces for Big Bend in Texas before the weather soured, and were clueless until our return today. Passing through El Paso, we could hardly see the nearby Franklin Mountains, which were a ghostly outline through the swirling sand. The wind whipped across the border from Juarez, occasionally limiting the visibility to a few hundred feet.

So by virtue of our RV trip, we missed most of a big howler. Good thing. We had headed east on I-10 to Van Horn, and then south through Valentine, Marfa, Alpine, and Marathon, with gorgeous weather nearly the whole time. We saw a family of javelinas by the roadside, but by the time I could stop and grab my camera, they had escaped deep into the chaparral. Same luck with the antelope we saw. There were lots of free-range cattle, and Nancy had to hit the brakes to avoid hitting a bull that had wandered onto the highway. He had trouble with his footing on the asphalt, but he found his way to safety. As we started back this morning, we saw five vultures perched on a wire fence and looking at a dead animal—like personal-injury lawyers checking out a potential client, I thought.

We met interesting people at the RV park in Marathon. A retired couple, for example—she a former prosecutor, he a former police detective. Back in the 1990s, they had just been back from their honeymoon about a week when she saw him on live television in a shootout with a man who had just murdered his girlfriend. Our companions were both fascinating; we could have listened to them reminisce all night.

Ocotillo in bloom

Our RV in Marathon, Texas

Cholla with nest (cactus wren, I think)

RV park grounds, Marathon, Texas

Big Bend National Park

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Maiden voyage to the Gila Cliff Dwellings

This week, we drove our new (to us) RV up to the Gila Cliff Dwellings in south central New Mexico. Technically, it can be a day trip, but we have friends who left Las Cruces at 6 a.m. and returned at 10 p.m. Much of the trip is on narrow, winding roads with occasional steep drops. We had to avoid a stretch of Highway 15, because it is closed to vehicles over 20 feet long, and our vehicle is 25.

Both elevation and latitude increase on the trip, and the vegetation changes gradually from sere desert with dried-up arroyos, creosote bushes, and prickly pear cactus to ponderosa pines and streams with honest-to-goodness water in them. The cacti never completely disappear, but they become much less prevalent in the upper elevations.

I will hold back on many of the details, because I have an assignment to write an article about it for Southwest Senior. But the dwellings were briefly the home of the Mogollon Indians about 700 years ago, and were abandoned for reasons unknown. The area was the home of the Chiricahua Apache, whose most famous member was Geronimo.

An Amazon plot?

Jeff Bezos
On my favorite writing list, The Internet Writing Workshop, there’s been discussion about what Amazon is supposedly doing to self-publishing outfits such as iUniverse and PublishAmerica. Angela Hoy wrote a lengthy story outlining Amazon's supposed malfeasance. As the story goes, bad boy Bezos (see mug shot) is protecting his own BookSurge by removing the “Buy” buttons on listings for competitors’ books. In a variation of the tale, competitive listings themselves are being removed. I read that “all 1500” PublishAmerica authors have been affected. When I expressed skepticism, saying that my iUniverse offering, When Pigs Fly, is still available for purchase on Amazon, a correspondent said I would pay for my smug refusal to read the whole Hoy piece, and my day of reckoning would come.

Yeah, well. Allow me to quote my favorite B-movie actor, Ronald Reagan: Trust, but verify. In the small sampling of PublishAmerica, iUniverse, and BookSurge listings I checked on Amazon, all were treated the same.

Maybe there is something to the claims, but I don't see it. If you want to scare me, do it with easily verifiable evidence. At least do some minimal fact-checking before you pass along a rumor.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A trip to Arizona

Last week I finally met my friend Kate Reynolds after corresponding with her for years by email. She and her husband were gracious hosts to my wife and me when we went to Arizona to pick up our RV. Kate is a fine writer who has contributed to The Insider’s Guide to Phoenix and The Insider’s Guide to Tucson.

The timing of the trip was great, as poppies and bluebonnets are abloom in abundance. This is a photo taken at the Tonto National Monument, said to be the last stronghold of Cochise. Note the blanket of poppies on the mountainside:

Roadside bluebonnets, my moms favorite flower:

Poppies and saguaro on a hillside:

Bergaalwyn blooming in Tohono Chul Park, Tucson:

And bougainvillea at the Holiday Inn, Mesa: