books, hippies, Writing

A Whole Lot Going On

First, to those who anticipate buying a paperback of Peace, Love, and You Know What, the only holdup is the arrival of the hard copy proof. That is imminent. The biggest concern for Michelle, the designer, and me is the layout. This is a first for us.

I will let everyone know as soon as I pull the trigger — and as loudly as I can.

PeaceLove_Cover smallOn related topics, the electronic equipment I ordered to record Peace, Love, and You Know What is on its way. The prequel, Professor Groovy and Other Stories is in the batter’s circle. I scheduled a solo reading at SOMOS of Taos for July 8, a week after I am in a marathon reading as part of the open house at its new location.

Meanwhile, I am copyediting the next book to be launched — The Sweet Spot. This is one of my hilltown books. Here is a teaser: A big scandal in a small town — love and mislove, secrets and discovery, rich and poor, old families and newcomers, deep roots and fresh starts, violence and peace.

The Sweet Spot takes place in 1978. It didn’t happen in the small town of Worthington, where I once lived, but it could have. This book is not a comedy, but a couple of the characters are, well, characters, who may generate a chuckle from the reader.

Speaking of copyediting, I got inspired while reading a friend’s non-fiction book to do it as a sideline business. When I was given a sample copy, I found the book to be interesting and well-written, but, alas, it contained so many typos. Hundreds of typos. My friend had just sent it to the publisher, and I advised him to take it back. I volunteered my services to copyedit the book. The book had been edited — for pay no less — but still I found spelling errors, lack of hyphens, improper punctuation, and so many inconsistencies. I did four go-throughs and was happy to do it.

The experience got me thinking about doing editing for pay. I have been editing and copyediting other people’s writing, never mind my own, for decades. I know how not to get in the way of a writer’s voice. If I have questions, I ask them.

My aim would be not to let errors be a distraction to a piece of writing. And with the self-publishing opportunities now available, would-be authors need that kind of help.

Right now, I am figuring out rates, how to get the word out — you know, the business end of writing.

One final note, which I am adding after the original post, is about a rattle snake. I was getting water from the back spigot when a young rattler ambled about six inches from my foot. I am pleased at myself for not freaking out. Instead, I watched it curl beneath one of the currant bushes. I am going to pay attention to where I walk from now on.

My neighbor just found one on her back door. She called a friend, who chopped off its head, skinned it and took the rest back with him. He will use the fat as medicine and eat the meat. So the rattler didn’t die in vain.

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: This trio, playing lively Hispanic music, was part of the entertainment when Hank and I were at the Taos Farmers Market on Saturday.


back yard
Taos, Writing

Where I Write

I am fortunate to have a room to myself when I write. It’s located on the northern end of our home in Taos, and a large window in front of my desk gives me an expansive view of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the sagebrush-filled mesa and a great big sky.

The scenery is not a distraction but a nice reprieve when I raise my eyes above the laptop’s screen.


Where I write

Years ago, a friend mailed me the book, “The Writer’s Desk,” which contained photos by Jill Krementz of the places where 56 famous authors write. Among them are Stephen King, Bernard Malamud, Pablo Neruda, Katharine Porters, Ralph Ellison, and Tennessee Williams.

Several like Jean Piaget’s office are seriously cluttered with paper. Krementz’ book was published in 1996 so there are museum-worthy computers, typewriters and pens. Most of the authors have windows near their desk. I jealously note E.B. White’s overlooks an ocean.

The book includes quotes from each author about the writing process. Eudora Welty said she thinks best in the morning. Amy Tan wrote, “I surround myself with objects that carry with them a personal history — old books, bowls and boxes, splintering chairs and benches from imperial China.

While admittedly not in these authors’ league, I too have a writer’s office. My husband Hank made me a desk from black walnut boards a customer said to throw away. I have other furniture he built: the arts-and-craft-style Morris chair, book cases, an end table, a filing cabinet (yes of wood), frames for the art, and a bed we use for guests. I am very lucky.

And like Amy Tan, I surround myself with objects that are so personal I don’t know if they would mean as much to others like the chunk of driftwood I found on a Block Island beach, a lobster-shaped bell that belonged to my grandmother, and other stuff I’ve picked up along the way.

The bed has a Pendleton blanket and above it a Navajo weaving, a gift from my sister Christine.

I have no source of music — I never write to it — although sometimes tunes drift in from Hank’s workshop on the other side of the wall.

My friend Teresa Dovalpage, who is an author and my collaborator for a bilingual kids series, remarked once my office was a reflection of my personality. I believe she’s right.

So when do I write? I get up early before I leave for the newsroom. I have a cup of coffee and a half bagel to get me started. And, if I take my eyes off my computer, I can watch dawn break over the landscape.

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: Yes, that’s a winter view from my office.

zack at millicent rogers
family, friends, Taos, Travel, Writing

New Year’s Revolution

2015 was a very good year. It was a creative year — and that is important to me.

Was it a happy year? Yes, except for the passing of my father in September. He will be missed by so many, especially his family. By my measure, Dad, who was almost 93, had a life richer than most. I am grateful we were there to be there with him at the end. Here is the eulogy I wrote:

During 2015 I kept writing and rewriting. New projects include the Los Primos bilingual series for young readers written with my collaborator Teresa Dovalpage, the fourth in the Twin Jinn series and a YA novel. I spent time with the novels I finished a while ago — I suppose they’re not done until they are published — to make them better with what I know now.

In a post I wrote a year ago, I noted I wanted to connect readers to my books. Ah, but as I’ve discovered, there is writing and the business of writing. I let my agent go after four years and am in the midst of other publishing opportunities. (More about that in the near future.)

I launched this website, an improved one for my Twin Jinn series and a Facebook author page

I found new authors to love. And I got to do more public interviews with authors, including Anne Hillerman and the fellows for the Aldo Leopold Foundation.

As for travel, we saw family — including the debut performance in Boston of our son Nate’s band — and friends around the country. We camped and hiked this fall in Rocky Mountain National Park, where the elk were bugling. (I’ve already made reservations to camp at Yellowstone in August.)

Other blessings: Hank’s companionship, a meaningful job, caring friends, and good health. A productive garden — we just finished the last of the carrots, kale and chard stored in the fridge. We still have beets.

So what’s ahead? I will keep writing and rewriting. I aim to move more and sit less. I will visit family and friends. I will grow our food and flowers.

And, I will embrace the change 2016 will bring me.

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: That’s our son, Zack, at the Millicent Rogers Museum in Taos, one of three we visited with his friend Suzie during their Christmas visit.

books, Dickens, Writing

Caught Up in Hard Times

This post isn’t about what’s happening in the world although the title would be apropos if I were. I am writing about Charles Dickens’ novel Hard Times.

I admit it has been an awfully long time since I read anything by Dickens. Probably the last was A Tale of Two Cities. Maybe it was David Copperfeld. But reading Hard Times is part of my research for a new writing project. I’m not going to give too much away, but this project is a YA novel — my first venture in this genre — set in the 1850s. Charles Dickens is in it and he is inspired to use one of my characters for his novel, Hard Times.

When I called my daughter Sarah, who is a Dickens scholar, for advice, she recommended Hard Times and one of its characters in particular. Besides, she told me, it is one of his shorter books. About 50 pages in, I am convinced she’s right.

Like many of Dickens’ novels, Hard Times appeared in serial form first in his Hard timesperiodical Household Words — from April to August 1854 — before it was published as one volume at the end of the year. So, the chapters are understandably short. I can imagine Dickens’ fans devouring a chapter and being impatient for the next.

My own novels have short chapters. I won’t pretend to be in the same realm as Dickens. But I tend to write for those who are used to getting information in bits and bytes. Besides, as a longtime journalist, I have difficulty writing long.

For my research, I’m reading about Dickens and what he used from his interesting life in his novels.

So what was happening when Dickens wrote Hard Times? France and Britain allied with Turkey against Russia during the Crimean War. Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote The Charge of the Light Brigade. And across the great pond, Henry David Thoreau, completed Walden.

Okay, I took a break. It’s back to Hard Times.

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: That’s a pumpkin that grew all on its own in my garden. Right now it has a welcoming spot on the bench beside our garage door.

stray dog cantina
Taos, Writing


Today we drove straight up to Taos Ski Valley, 9,200 feet at its base, for a fall ritual — drinking a glass of good German beer on the deck of The Bavarian Restaurant while we take in the view.

We were late in the season, probably too late, because we noted on the drive up the golden leaves on the aspens were either faded or non-existent. And, alas, The Bavarian was closed.

huevos rancheros

Huevos Rancheros at Tim’s Stray Dog Cantina

Disappointed, Hank and I headed down to the main village where we took in the progress of a new mega-hotel being built. Then, we ate at Tim’s Stray Dog Cantina, where we enjoyed the atmosphere, a super-friendly waiter and the best huevos rancheros I’ve ever had. I also came back with a story idea for the newspaper.

So much for that ritual.

Actually, my life is so busy, I have established rituals, or I prefer, habits so I can finish what I want to do in the midst of what has to be done, like my job.

So that means I get up early to write. I aim for 5 a.m., well before dawn these days. I feed the cat, first, of course, or she won’t let me be, and make myself coffee. For those one or two hours I have no distractions from my writing or the business of writing.

What am I working on these days? I just finished what I feel is a solid draft of Northern Comfort, one of my country novels. It begins with the accidental death of a boy. I explore the messy lives of the adults caught in that tragedy. I use what I learned when I lived in a very small town in Western Massachusetts.

Now, I will set Northern Comfort aside for a couple of months — another worthwhile habit.

I’ve returned to my Twin Jinn series for middle-graders. (You can find excerpts elsewhere on this website, but soon this series will get its own site.) The fourth book takes the Jinn family to the town of Big Top, where circus and carnival folk live. Writing about the twins, Jute and Fina, puts me a happy mood.

What are my other habits? I write a post for my website and email my dear college friend, Fred, once a week. I take a long walk at least four times. And, I read what others write at night.

I make it work. And if I get surprised like I did today, well, I can handle that too.

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: That’s the bar at Tim’s Stray Dog Cantina in Taos Ski Valley.