Sunday, May 30, 2010

Book covers

Here are a couple of book covers I designed for a friend, Dr. Judy Hilbert. She's published both titles on Desert Blooms is her chapbook consisting mainly of writing by members of her local writing group, who are all seniors living in Las Cruces. The red blossoms are a detail from a photo I took this spring in a neighbor's yard.

This one is from last year. Our fiction critique group meets at a restaurant in Mesilla, so Judy and I set up some shots in the parking lot. She brought along a teddy bear that was germane to her story, and she placed it in the remains of an old, broken-down wagon.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

ebook ups and downs

A while back, iUniverse approached me with an offer to turn my novels into ebooks in the epub format for an introductory price of $79. After some dithering, I said yes to creating an ebook for When Pigs Fly about three weeks ago. If it worked out well, I thought, I would go back to do other titles.

Well, I followed up yesterday and learned that they'd forgotten to place my order. So today they've corrected that, and their rep saw that I got the service for free. Meanwhile, the price for future ebooks has gone up from $79 to $249. Yikes! Now I am strongly tempted to just figure out how to do it myself. The ebook won't be ready for about another six weeks.

So it's a good news-bad news deal with iUniverse. On the one hand, they have always treated me fairly and honorably. On the other, they have not overwhelmed me with their competence.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Las Cruces author Jim Lindberg

Today I submitted a short profile to Southwest Senior, about local author Jim Lindberg. This gentleman has done a lot--earned a degree in physics, built rockets at White Sands, studied the atmosphere for the Army, took up gemology as a hobby, bought gems for cash from Mexican miners, earned a private pilot's license, worked as a police officer for ten years, once had dinner in Brazil with a woman who identified herself as Hitler's photographer, and has written two books. He is a member of Mesilla Valley Writers here in Las Cruces, and says he never has writer's block or runs out of ideas.

Whew. I'm tired just thinking about it all.

Here is a link to his two books:

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

An interview with Anne Hillerman

Anne Hillerman

This interview with Anne Hillerman, daughter of the late mystery writer Tony Hillerman, appeared in the May 2010 issue of Southwest Senior. Reprinted with permission.

You and your husband Don Strel have two new books out within six months of each other: Tony Hillerman’s Landscape last October and Gardens of Santa Fe this month. What were the challenges and the pleasures of these two projects?

Both books posed a similar challenge—how to condense the information and select among so many possible photos to give readers the best book possible. For Tony Hillerman's Landscape, photographer Don Strel and I both enjoyed traveling throughout the Four Corners area and the Navajo Nation, following the footsteps of Tony Hillerman's detectives, Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn. In Gardens of Santa Fe, we delighted in the opportunity to see such gorgeous gardens and meet the interesting people who created them.

Tell us about the origins of Tony Hillerman’s Landscape.

Each fall, I help present the Tony Hillerman Writer's Conference: Focus on Mystery. One year New Mexico mystery author Michael McGarrity was our keynote speaker, and Don Strel created a slide show of the places in southern and southwestern New Mexico McGarrity used for his latest book. Tony was in the audience and enjoyed McGarrity's illustrated talk. Afterward he said to Don "Why don't you do something like that for my books?"

Which of your dad’s Chee/Leaphorn novels is your favorite, and why?

Working on our Hillerman's Landscape book gave me a great excuse to re-read them all and I found something I'd forgotten and admired in each of them. I especially enjoyed the early books, Dance Hall of the Dead, Listening Woman, The Dark Wind. I hadn't read them for 25-30 years and they hold up over time very well.

Why do you think readers connected so well with his work?

Tony Hillerman was a wonderful storyteller, with a tremendous appreciation for the landscape in which his stories are set and for the characters who inhabit them. The plot resolutions leave the readers satisfied. The bad guys get what they deserve, Leaphorn and/or Chee solve the crime—and teach us something about the Navajo in the process.

How have his novels affected popular perceptions of the Southwest?

As Don and I have traveled throughout Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico on our book tour, we met many people who say Dad's novels provided their introduction to the Southwest. They liked what they read, came here to visit, and maybe even moved here. The books present American Indians—Navajos, Hopis, Zunis, Utes and other tribes—as real people, and as different from each other. His skill here has helped educate readers who haven't had much other exposure to Southwestern Indians.

Did your dad model any of his characters on real people? And how much Tony Hillerman is in Joe Leaphorn's character?

Yes, Dad often mentioned that he built Joe Leaphorn in part on a sherriff he came to know when he worked a reporter in his early days on the police beat in rural Texas. Other characters, including one memorable villain who spends his spare time trying to find the mother who abandoned him, came from his years in journalism. Sometimes, Dad would let non-profit groups auction off the chance to have a character in his next book named after the buyer. But, although the names are real those character don't necessarilly have anything in common with the real person.

Joe Leaphorn did remind me of Dad in some ways....his unflapability, his dogged anaylzing of problems until they were solved, his tremendous love for his wife and, of course, Leaphorn's appreciation for the beauty of the landscape of the Navajo Nation. Dad loved that country and was totally devoted to his wife, my Mom Marie.

Do you plan to write fiction some day?

Yes. If it will be good fiction remains to be seen. I think every person who enjoys playing with words and stories shares that fiction dream.

Tell me about his influence on your own writing.

Both of my parents always believed that I could do, and succeed at, whatever career I chose. I saw how much my Dad loved journalism, so that was my first career and it lead to books. I had some classes with Dad at UNM when he was teaching journalism and he gave me the same tough, honest criticism he gave everyone in the class. He encouraged me to keep at it, not to get lazy with my writing, and to always expect a little more of myself.

Finally, aren't you glad he didn't follow that agent's advice to get rid of the Indian stuff?

You bet!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Cuddling my new iPad

A couple of weeks ago, I bought an iPad at the Apple store in Albuquerque. Was it worth the money? Oh, that's probably the wrong question. It's a bright, shiny grownup's toy that entices the shopper with its utter and shameless sexiness. Walk past the display model and you can almost hear it coo, ooh, baby...take me home...stroke your fingers on my interface...

They were out of stock on the $400 model, and I had to act while my resistance was low. So my wife and I walked out of the store $500 poorer but feeling oh-so twenty-first century.

People, myself included, seem to be buying these machines based mainly on their potential. A certain number of applications come with it, such as the Safari browser, email, a notepad, a calendar; other apps are free or modestly priced. Nota bene: so far, all of this duplicates functionality already on my laptop. I purchased a Sudoku game and use it a lot, but could have kept playing on my laptop for free. There is a free app that lets me read all my Kindle purchases in an appealing display, but I already own a Kindle. I can upload photos and music, but I already use my laptop for that. There's an iBook app I don't use yet because my Kindle books won't transfer over. Other apps exist, but they are still relatively few.

So I ask myself, potential for what? Simply for the uses I haven't thought of, the surprises developers will dream up.

Meanwhile, it's hard to see the iPad fulfilling any immediate need that my other gizmos can't satisfy quite well. I love it, but so far it's mostly an expensive Sudoku-playing machine.

Redundancy, anyone?

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Back on the blogging wagon

First rose of the year in our patio

A friend reminded me today that I've fallen off the blogging wagon. Guilty, your honor.

My writers' groups have had interesting guests this month: Robin Romm at Mesilla Valley Writers and Rus Bradburd at El Paso Writers' League. Both seemed like seasoned presenters as they spoke about their own works and about the writing process. Bradburd spoke of the need for writers to write against the readers' expectations and to avoid the familiar. Writing about losing is more interesting than writing about winning, he said, because losing (and conflict) reveal character.