Thursday, September 27, 2012

Getting Personal

Okay, BJ Vinson is going to have to fend for himself this week. I, Don Travis, his creator and master (I like to believe) am going to hog the spotlight. It’s been an “interesting” couple of months. On Saturday, August 4, I thought I was a young squire again. You know, one who could walk and chew gum at the same time. After all, I was on my way to pick up a lady named Bobbi for a nice dinner out. Well, I walked straight off two steps and ended up falling on my hip. A neighbor helped pick me up from the concrete, and I limped the rest of the way to my car. I went to dinner, as planned, and figured things weren’t too bad.

Yeah, right. By Wednesday or so, I was virtually helpless. After considering my options, I dialed 911 and took my first ride in an ambulance to the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Albuquerque. The Emergency Room of any hospital is not normally a pleasant experience, but those folks took pretty good care of me. Most likely, because they recognized I’m a big baby when it comes to pain. The long and the short of it is, I was admitted that night and had surgery for a herniated disc between L4 and L5 (and there are more of you out there who understand that terminology than I would ever have believed) on the 16th. They either felt I was recovered sufficiently to release or got fed up with my mewling, because they threw me out on the following Monday. But since I live alone, I was delivered into the hands of the lady who went to dinner with me that fateful night of the fall. 

I am sufficiently recovered to return home; however, as fate would have it, my Florence Nightingale had surgery on her right hand, and now we provide mutual help. She’s the legs, and I’m the hands. Together, we manage to get everything done, despite the fact she has six dogs, a cockatiel, and three canaries.

Next week, I’ll try to do better.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Bisti Business, a Novel

A few days ago, Robert Brown, the publisher of Ampichellis Ebooks, sent some suggested cover art for the next BJ Vinson mystery. He also asked for the back cover blurb, a dedication, and acknowledgments for The Bisti Business. That means release of the E-book is getting close. Hopefully, Martin-Brown Publishers will follow with a print copy soon thereafter.

In this novel, the second of the series, a phone call from Anthony Alfano, a wealthy Napa Valley vineyard owner, sends BJ on the hunt for Alfano’s younger son and his traveling companion. The trail first leads to the Continental Divide country on Interstate 40 west of Albuquerque. Then the Porsche Boxter the two young men are driving is reported in Taos. BJ charters a Cessna for a quick trip to the historic town, flying over the Taos Box—which will mean something to the white water rafters among you—and soaring over the great steel bridge spanning the gorge in time to see a bright orange sports car crash through the protective fencing, plunge into the canyon, and crash into the river 650 feet below.

It takes some time to determine the younger Alfano and his gay traveling companion, Dana Norville, were not in the car, and requires some good, solid detective work to determine the two were separated from the vehicle in Farmington, an oil and gas town in the Four Corners area of the state. From there, the trail leads south to the Bisti/De Na Zin Wilderness area—as weird a landscape as you’ll ever see. There, a grisly discovery turns the investigation on its head.

During the course of this tale, we visit the awesome volcanic plug called Shiprock and the great Navajo Reservation. Hopefully, readers unfamiliar with our state will discover interesting and beautiful places, and those who are will find themselves visiting treasured locales.

I don’t know about you, but I can hardly wait for the publication date.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

More Characters from The Zozobra Incident

In the real world: Last week’s Burning of Zozobra at the Santa Fe Fiesta got a little dicey. High winds delayed the firing of the monster for approximately an hour and a half. But there were still thousands in the park to cheer the ogre’s death. Last night’s local newscast told of a petition being circulated by locals to make the event into a family-friendly affair again. As the event has grown over the years, it has lost a good deal of that air. 

Last week, we learned additional information about some of the people who populate The Zozobra Incident. In addition to BJ, our protagonist, we took a look at Hazel Harris, his secretary, office manager, and surrogate mom. We also looked at Del Dahlman, BJ’s first love and first bitter disappointment, who was now a successful Albuquerque attorney. And finally, we gained some insight into Emilio Prada, the handsome gigolo responsible for breaking up BJ and Del. This week, let’s look at some of the other characters.

Detective Eugene (Gene) Enriquez was just shy of his 41st birthday when we first met him in The Zozobra Incident. A local (he was born in Bernalillo, a town 15 miles north of Albuquerque) he was stocky, five-seven, and weighed 155 pounds. A Hispanic, he had vaguely Polynesian features a lot of women find attractive. After his army service, he went through the Albuquerque Police Academy and was sworn in as an officer. He walked a downtown beat, and even rode horse patrol for a short period, but his interest was in becoming a detective. Some years after he achieved his goal, he found himself assigned to a new partner…a gay partner. B. J. Vinson. It bothered him at first that BJ, who could have passed as a hetero, didn’t bother to deny his homosexuality when asked about it. Before long, he came to admire his new partner’s honesty. The guy was gay, and that was that. Once Gene learned he could trust his partner’s judgment and instincts, they got along professionally and socially. Gene took some flack from other cops about riding with a queer, but he was married to Glenda, an attractive woman with whom he had five kids, and he figured that provided all the cover he needed. He took it hard when BJ nearly died while they were apprehending an accused murderer, but he kept in touch when his partner took medical retirement and opened a confidential investigations office. He was one of the few people who knew BJ inherited a fortune upon his parent’s death. 

Paul Barton looked Hispanic to Anglos, and Anglo to Hispanics. When BJ first met him, the family name “Barton” took him by surprise. He expected it to be Spanish. But it was Paul’s mother who carried the Latin blood. Paul was born on June 13, 1985 in Albuquerque’s South Valley. That made him twenty-one at the time of The Zozobra Incident. BJ first spied him with a cowgirl on the dance floor at the C&W Palace, the city’s biggest boot-stomping joint, and was drawn by his good looks and lean frame. BJ later realizes the kid was the new lifeguard at the North Valley Country Club where he swam as therapy for the bullet wound in his thigh. Once he made the connection, the mutual attraction soon became evident. This was the first time BJ has been tempted since Del’s betrayal. But Paul was not only a lifeguard, he was also a full time student at UNM pursuing a degree in Journalism. He worked in the school’s cafeteria so he can live on campus his senior year. Paul was 5’11” and weighed 155 pounds. He had brown eyes, brown hair, a swimmer’s build, and has a small dragon tattoo above left nipple. Fiercely independent, he drove old Plymouth Coupe even though BJ offered to buy him a more recent model. He was an expert swimmer, played soccer and golf, and loved to dance. His father, Paul Barton, Sr., was a carpenter who died of TB when Paul was ten-years-old. His mother, Luisa Maria Arrullar de Barton worked two jobs thereafter to raise her son. He was exposed to gang activity in the South Valley, but resisted temptation to join. Once Paul and BJ get together, Paul was absolutely devoted, even though there were some stormy times ahead. 

And then there’s the fun character, the surprise, the widow. Mrs. Gertrude Wardlaw has lived across the street from BJ for as long as he can remember. He considered her as this frail diminutive old woman who wore her white hair like a helmet and spoke in a thin, tremulous voice. But when the chips were down, he learned she and her late husband Herb (whose ashes rested on her fireplace mantle) were both retired from the DEA, and she still had the spirit…as well as the will of a fighter. 

Next Week: We’ll have to wait and see.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Other Voices in The Zozobra Incident

 Today…or rather tonight…is the annual Burning of Zozobra, a historic event which plays an important part in the book. I had planned to be present and participate in the festivities, but my recent back surgery put an end to those aspirations. Would that I could be there! 

Last week, we learned a little more about the protagonist of The Zozobra Incident, BJ Vinson, so I thought it might be fun to take a deeper look into some of the other voices in the novel, starting with Hazel Harris, BJ’s office manager and surrogate mom. 

At the time the Zozobra Incident takes place, Hazel, who is a retired teacher and the best friend of BJ’s deceased mother, Frances, is sixty-three-years-old. She stands 5’5” and weighs 150 pounds. She is plump, rather dowdy, gray-eyed, and considers it her responsibility to be a stand-in mom. Although he tweaks her nose now and then, BJ puts up with Hazel’s smothering because he is truly fond of her. Besides, she’s runs the office—and sometimes him—efficiently and makes sure the clients pay their bills…something BJ wouldn’t be nearly as efficient at doing. Plump, efficient, and nosy, she reminds him of that sassy maid of comics and TV who runs the fictional Baxter household. She doesn’t approve of his gay lifestyle, but loves him like a son. We meet her throughout the series. 

Delbert David Dahlman, known as Del to his friends and associates, is slender, blue-(sapphire) eyed, blond, and trim with an athletic build (obtained in a gym). He stands 5’11” and weighs 160 pounds. Del possesses an eternally youthful appearance that seems to defy ageing. A Chicago boy who came to the UNM law school after high school, he’s practiced mostly corporate and tax law in Albuquerque ever since 2001. He is an associate attorney with a large local firm named Stone, Hedges, Martinez, Levishon, etc…or the Blahs, as BJ calls them. He is thirty-two-years-old in 2006 when he comes to BJ and asks for help running down a blackmailer. He had met BJ in the line of duty, and when they were attracted to one another, they ended up living together in BJ’s home on Post Oak NW until BJ was seriously wounded in the right thigh by a bullet from an accused murderer’s gun. During the long recovery, Del wasn’t able to take care of the home nursing and allowed himself to be seduced by a handsome gigolo named Emilio Prada. The manner of the split-up makes it hard for him to come to BJ when he assumes Emilio is handing around some raw pictures of Del and himself. Nonetheless, he swallows his pride and asks BJ for help. 

Emilio Prada is a twenties-something legal immigrant from Durango, Mexico. He is handsome in that way some Hispanic juveniles are prettier than their girlfriends, although “Milio” never grew out of it. Rather than work for a living, he uses his looks and slender, wiry build to make his money. He is amoral more than immoral. He sees nothing wrong with selling himself to men or women. In fact, he enjoys the seduction. When he meets Del Dahlman, he figures he’s found a goldmine…the answer to his dreams. Here is a handsome, successful man wealthy enough to take care of him for the rest of his life. Besides, the sex is good. But Milio likes to dominate his marks (and that’s what Del is) and oversteps the bounds of their relationship. When Del sends him packing, he takes some very graphic pictures of the two of them with him, the genesis of Del’s belief Milio is behind the blackmailing. 

But things are not as simple as they seem. 

Next Week: More voices from The Zozobra Incident. 

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