Thursday, November 26, 2015

A Guest Post: Donald T. Morgan’s THE EAGLE’S CLAW

I recently asked another Albuquerque author if he would be interested in doing a guest post on this blog. As a result, this week my readers will get a look at Donald T. Morgan’s ebook novel THE EAGLE’S CLAW. CLAW is the telling of the intertwined stories of two young Apaches – one a mixed-blood and the other a pure-blood – as they grow up on a reservation. The two come at life from very different perspectives in south central New Mexico in the aftermath of World War II. The prologue of CLAW takes a rather unusual approach to introducing us to Román Otero, the book’s protagonist. Read on.
By Donald T. Morgan

The Edge of Mountain Apache Reservation, Southern New Mexico, June 1946

Sleep brought a restless dream. Rather, it was the stitching together of a memory by the boy’s subconscious from scraps collected and then forgotten over the years. There was a man in the dream, a tall Indah with brown hair and sad, gray eyes. A small, tawny woman with long, black hair and a beautiful smile was in it, as well. The izdan, well past school age, yearned to be able to read and write. The man, who taught at the Indian school, helped her learn. They were together often. They talked and laughed and grew toward one another.
They left the reservation and were married in the white man’s way. The woman often returned to her mother’s wickiup, but the schoolteacher never came. This was good because a man gazing upon his mother-in-law risked blindness. The young wife blossomed with health and happiness and child. Strength and pride replaced the longing in the man’s eyes.
One day, more Indah brought a rodeo to the reservation. The Tinneh loved a rodeo. It was great fun to watch the gaunt, pale men flop around on bucking horses. Some of the People rode, too. The crowd cheered when a cowboy rolled in the dust, no matter he was white or tribesman.
Then a hush fell over the stands. A magnificent roan pranced into the arena. A devil horse with fire-eyes and a black mane writhing like a nest of serpents. Its great hooves struck sparks from the earth.
No one could ride him, hooted the rodeo hands. No one ever had. No one ever would. They offered the bribe of money to any who succeeded. The Apache men stirred restlessly, but advised by diyi—the shamans among them—they refused the challenge even though the prize was hefty.
One man stepped forward. The white man with gray eyes. A teacher didn’t make much money, and he had a family on the way. He would claim the reward.
Death stalked the arena. Evil corrupted the air. The cowboys’ flesh turned green from it. The roan danced in savage glee. The smell of horse sweat and manure and hot dogs and dust hung heavy over the crowd. Invisible owls screeched. Whippoorwills cried, and coyotes cackled.
From the uneasy safety of his dream, the boy watched the man mount the haughty horse. The chute gate flew open. The roan shot out, bucking and whirling in a frenzy. The Indah rode him! He rode the wicked beast.
Enraged by the humiliation, the roan flung himself against the fence. The man was hurt. His fingers loosened. The animal twisted savagely, and the rider fell. The demon horse wheeled.
The woman with the beautiful smile ran into the arena, waving her arms to turn the frothy beast away. The horse charged on, driven insane by talons of monster owls buried in his withers.
The man was dead. The dreamer thought the woman was, too, but she moved. Her body strained in birth even as she died.
      And he knew he had seen himself born.

I have always been warned away from dream sequences to open a book, but I think this one works, don’t you? The novel weaves an interesting tale as it follows the orphaned Ro’s upbringing in an old-fashioned wickiup, overseen by a reclusive grandmother with the reputation of a witch. Jose Peyote, who thought himself emancipated through service in the US Marine Corps during the war, runs into another set of problems.

I hope you’ll be motivated to buy the Kindle book and read it for yourself.

As always, I’m interested in your reactions. Thanks for reading.


New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Robin Seggblue

How about a little short fiction this week? Sometimes I wonder how much of the fiction comes from the mind and how much comes right out of suppressed memory? Hard to tell. Let me know if you’ve had any experiences like the following.

“You have the most bea-u-tiful eyes, Robin Thackery,” the girl said. ”They mimic your  name. You know, Robin’s egg blue.”
I remembered blushing ten years ago when Marella Hughes had spoken those words. My cheeks had grown so red they’d actually stung, just as if they’d been frost-bitten.
Marella and I were both twelve at the time, and while I can’t claim I was smitten, I was uncomfortably interested. We’d played together most of our young lives, but I think I’d just realized that she was somehow different from me … and the other guys in our little group.
Whatever. But she’d marked me for the next few years. My last name became – outside of parents and teachers and preachers – Seggblue. Robin Seggblue.
In the way of things, we grew up, best friends yet not intimate – beyond confiding most of my secrets to her – and eventually lost touch when her family moved to Cleveland. I remember being despondent most of my high school freshman year. We’d kept in touch for a while until they moved again. Then she vanished entirely from my life.
In the meantime, the years passed. I grew up, went off to college, and returned to my hometown earlier this year to take a position as an instructor of Computer Sciences in the local community college. New life, new interests, new friends, but still no real, lasting, permanent girlfriend … as Marella might have been.
And then this morning, as I walked down the hall toward my cubbyhole office, I heard something I hadn’t heard in six long years.
“Robin! Robin Seggblue!”
My heart tumbled and my mouth went dry as I turned toward the sound of that voice. I almost didn’t recognize her. Still looking for that skinny sixteen-year-old with freckles and pigtails, I saw intead a tall, emerald-eyed, raven-haired, sophisticated-looking woman in a silk pantsuit with sensible shoes.
“M-Marella?” I couldn’t keep the question mark out of my voice even though I knew this vision was my old buddy.
She came forward with arms held out. “Didn’t you know I was coming?"
I shook my head mutely as she clasped me to her, making me take note of another change in this stunning creature. This was a full-bosomed Marella, not the girl with the budding knobs I remembered.
“I took a year’s contract at CC to teach English. I wanted a break before I go for my Master’s next year,” she explained.
I held her at arm’s length. “I hadn’t heard. Great to see you.”
“Let me see if those eyes are still the way I remember them. Yup, pretty as ever. Robin’s egg blue.”
“Yours are pretty great, too.” I glanced at the people swirling by us and wondered if anyone had heard. Not that it mattered … I guess. I dropped my arms away. All I needed was to hear gossip that Mr. Thackery got caught practically making love to this … purrrr … pussy cat in the hallway between classes.
We agreed to meet for dinner that night at Blue Corn Joe’s before rushing our separate ways. I entered my classroom slightly breathless to find the room atwitter. Of course, it was Susan who’d taken notice of my chance meeting and spread the news to the classroom. Anyone else would have let it go, but not her.
“Who was that sweetheart you were buzzing in the hallway, Thackery?”
Susan Horvacs was one of those bright kids who had the brains to start college-level courses while still in high school. Now a year past graduation, she had almost enough credits for her Associate Degree. She was pretty, confident, and full of brass. I couldn’t even get her to call me Mr. Thackery like the rest of the class, including seventy-year-old Mrs. Harper who was determined to get some kind of a degree before she passed on.
“What was it that vision of loveliness called you? Segblew? The “vision of loveliness” part had a slightly sarcastic ring.
Damnation, nosy Susan must have been lurking out of sight and witnessed the entire meeting. I tried to put some authority in my voice. “Don’t know what you mean.”
“Yeah, she called you something like that. Robin. Robin Segblew.” This sharp young woman gazed straight into my eyes, and I saw the tumblers fall into place and unlock the puzzle in her brain. Her eyes widened.
“Blue. Robin’s … Robin’s egg blue. She called you Robin’s egg blue.”
After that revelation, it took a little effort to get the class settled down to Window’s Excel, but eventually I had them working problems with the formula function of the program.
Blue Corn Joe’s is a little classier than its name implies. Originally a Mexican food joint, Joe Reynaldo, the owner, had branched out into Anglo food. Burgers and dogs. Then a few years ago, he’d redone the décor and turned it into one of the better restaurants in town.
I wouldn’t say I was nervous, but I arrived a quarter of an hour early. The hostess, dressed in a green and white peasant’s costume with rolled hair fixed firmly in place by a huge tortoise shell comb, had known me for years. As a matter of fact, Ruby, Marella, and I had gone to high school together. Ruby selected a small, intimate table in a remote corner and agreed to bring my date upon her arrival.
Even though I could not see the entry, I knew the moment Marella arrived because there was a lot of squealing and greeting when she walked through the door. Ruby getting reacquainted, most likely. A few minutes later, Ruby returned looking slightly discomfited. A radiant Marella trailed along behind. And two steps behind her traipsed a tall, buff jock with shoulders so broad they threatened to split his form-fitting shirt.
“Sorry, we don’t have another table available,” Ruby said. “It’s going to be snug for a party of three.”
A smiling Marella clasped my shoulders and gave me a brotherly buzz. Then she stepped back.
“Robin, I’d like you to meet my boyfriend, Sam Steffans. Gus, this is Robin Thackery, or as we used to call him, Robin Seggblue. Get it?”
Gus stared straight into my eyes and grimaced. “Got it.”
Worst date ever! The whole situation was embarrassing, but playing kneesies with both of them at that tiny table raised it to a whole other level. Furthermore, she had her pet name for the boyfriend, as well. His eyes were gray, so he was Steelie Sam. Steelie Sam Steffans. The whole image put me off completely. Before it was over, Marella didn’t seem quite so clever, nearly so sophisticated, and not even quite so pretty.
We said our awkward goodnights, and parted – never to see one another again, so far as I was concerned. Of course, that wasn’t true. I’d see her in the teacher’s lounge, the hallway, somewhere on campus for damned near a whole year. Ugh. The thought made Blue Corn Joe’s excellent Tuna Melt on dark rye roll around uneasily in my stomach.
I drove through the night through pool after pool of bluish white streetlights. About five blocks down the road I thought of Susan and what she’d make of the fiasco tonight if she ever heard about it.
Susan. Her eyes were huge. Huge and brown. Elk’s eyes. Nah, too young. Maybe not. She must be at least nineteen. Only four years younger than I was. Yeah. Elkseyes. Susan Elkseyes Horvacs.
It had a certain ring to it.
Drop me a line and let me know how you liked it. Thanks for reading.

Thursday, November 12, 2015


This week, let’s take another look at THE ZOZOBRA INCIDENT. The following scene comes at the beginning of Chapter 5. Our PI, BJ Vinson, has called his client, Attorney Del Dahlman, to BJ’s office for an update on a talk he's had with the gay hustler Del believes is trying to use some racy snapshots for blackmail purposes. BJ derives a bit of pleasure out of delivering the message that the gigolo, Emilio Prada, has been using the photos to “prime the pump” with new johns.
Del still looked like an adolescent—great genes, probably. He was blessed with a comeliness that transcended male and female. It was a blend of both, I suppose. But for the first time since I’d known him, he had bloodshot eyes, a refreshing reminder he was merely mortal. The aroma he brought with him was hot, pungent coffee from the deli down the street, and the unidentified stimulus was a warm Danish.
He struggled to balance two plastic-lidded cups of steaming coffee and a white bakery bag, barely managing to set them on my desk without dumping everything all over my pale green Saxony carpet. I reached for one of the coffees as Del plopped into a chair across from me. Wordlessly, he opened the bag and took out a couple of warm cheese Danish.
“You look like hell.” I took a sip of the brew and laid one of the pastries on a napkin. “Damn, that’s good coffee.”
“Yeah, well, you look pretty, too.” He picked up the other cup and took off the lid.
“Speaking of pretty, I don’t think Emilio’s the one trying to yank your chain.”
Del froze with the cup inches from his lips. He put it back on the desk without drinking. “What are you talking about? He’s the only one who has the pictures.”
“Well, strictly speaking, that’s not true.”
Del shrank with mortification as I outlined my findings to date, alternating the delicious bits of narrative with tasty bites of pastry. His coffee cooled as he slumped in the chair, taking the verbal body blows without uttering a word until I finished my report.
“Harding?” he asked in a small voice. “Richard Harding of Premier Tank & Plating? How did he get his hands on them?”
“I’ll leave that to your powers of deduction. You must have some since you claim to be a lawyer.”
“Come on, I’m paying your bills. How did he get them?”
“That’s not germane to the investigation. I found them and retrieved them, and that’s all that matters.”
“Vince, you’re enjoying this way too much.”
I sobered—or pretended to. “Any reason Harding would want the upper hand with you?”
“None that I know of. I was the lead attorney in his plant expansion fight. Still represent him in a union matter. He ought to be cheering me on, not distracting me.”
“Way I figure it, he glommed onto a couple of the photos when he saw them. For leverage in case you had a disagreement.”
Del nodded. “Sounds about right. But he can’t do that now, right?”
“I recovered Harding’s copies of the pictures and deleted them from his computer. I’m no expert, but so far as I can tell, they’re gone. Before we leave Premier, there’s one other possibility to discuss.”
“What’s that?”
“The pictures were locked in Harding’s office. What if some of the help rifled his files and handed over copies to the union people?”
“Oh, shit!” Del exclaimed. “But wait, wouldn’t they just contact me and threaten to reveal the photos?”
“That makes sense, but maybe it’s like you said; you validate your vulnerability if you pay the five thousand.”
“I don’t think so. Demanding money is a patently criminal act. No law firm would be a party to that.” He paused before shrugging. “But you never know.”
“A law firm doesn’t have to be involved. Maybe the union people are doing it on their own.”
He dry washed his face. “So what do we do?”
“I’ll phone Harding to see if anyone broke into his computer.”
Del seemed to have lost his appetite for the moment, so I confiscated his Danish. No use letting it go to waste.
“By the way, assuming Emilio was the only one with the photos was dumb. He had to get the film developed somewhere, didn’t he? And you never considered he’d use the photos as bait for new johns?”
He groaned. “Never crossed my mind. Damn, who else has seen them?”
“Emilio gave me a few names, but I don’t know if he gave me all of them. He’s pretty active, and having one of Albuquerque’s leading attorneys as a satisfied customer isn’t hurting his rep any.”
“I’ll hurt more than his rep if I ever get my hands on the little shit.”
“In my book it would be justifiable homicide, but the justice system might take another view. Which brings us to the question of why aren’t you returning my calls? If it’s not important enough for you to respond, then it’s not important enough for me to pursue. Maybe we ought to forget about the whole thing.”

How is Del going to react to that veiled threat? You'll have to read on to find out.

I had fun writing this book. Come to think of it, I usually find that I had fun penning a novel – after the agony of the actual writing is over, of course.

Thanks for being a reader and for perusing this post. Remember, I’m always pleased to hear from you.



New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Good News … Possibly, Maybe

I haven’t mentioned it before, but my publisher and I had a parting of the ways several weeks ago. Although I was disturbed by one facet of the breech, I thought ithe literary divorce was  amicable. Apparently, not everyone in the publishing house felt the same way. I got some terse and downright snippy responses to emails dealing with details of the termination .

I wasn’t a good fit for the firm, and I recognized that early on. They, on the other hand, knew right off the bat that I’m lousy at selling myself and my products. Did that make the ending inevitable? Perhaps so, but the lbreakup left me with no way to access copies of The Zozobra Incident and The Bisti Business, much less having the long-promised The City of Rocks ever see the light of day. Woe is me. Alas and alack!

Another Albuquerque author, a friend who occasionally does guest posts for me, recently contracted a book to DreamSpinner Press and suggested I give them a try. Although it is early in the publishing game for him, he really sang praises for the attention the publisher has given him in the short time he’s been working with them.

After some sober reflection, I decided to give them a try. I know it is difficult – if not impossible – to get to get one publisher to pick up a book previously brought out by another house, but perhaps DreamSpinner would be interested in Rocks. If so, I would at least be able to continue the BJ Vinson mystery series. That meant, of course, I’d need to look into self-publishing to preserve the first two books.

My friend provided me with a contact at DreamSpinner, so I queried her at to the possibility they would publish Rocks. She responded by email that this looked interesting to her, but that she was leaving for a vacation and would not return until toward the end of October. Would I be able to wait until then? Of course, I would. Now an expression of interest … or even an invitation to submit a manuscript is a long way from getting something published. Furthermore, I might never hear from the lady again after she returned to work.

As the end of the month neared, I fretted over contacting her again, but I have returned from vacations during my working days to find myself swamped with work. So I decided to wait.

Lo and behold, before October was out, I got an email saying she was back and ready to proceed if I was. I was. So I sent a reply giving more details on the three books and the series I was weaving about this gay, macho, ex-Marine, ex-policeman confidential investigator in Albuquerque. Then I provided some details on my former publisher and gave what I hoped was a fair and measured opinion of our broken relationship.

Then I settled down to wait. But not for long. The next day, asked me to submit. Then she followed that request with twelve perfectly wonderful words: “But I won’t be interested unless I can have all three books.” Then she asked if I had evidence the rights to the published books had reverted to me.

Would you care to guess how long it took me to forward that information?


That post was probably more interesting to me than to any reader, so thanks once again for indulging me. Please remember, I’m always happy to hear from readers.



New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

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