Thursday, February 25, 2016


Thanks to all who sent expressions of sympathy after my blog about my Blue Time. Appreciate them very much.

This week, I’d like to give another short scene from my “work in progress” novel called THE LOVELY PINES, which will be the fourth in the BJ Vinson Mystery Series. (Can’t tell you how excited I am about working with Dreamspinner Press on the reissue of THE ZOZOBRA INCIDENT and THE BISTI BUSINESS as well as the initial release of the third novel, THE CITY OF ROCKS, starting in the fall of this year.)

The following scene from Chapter 1 is the opening of the story. Regular readers will recognize BJ Vinson as the viewpoint character.

Albuquerque, New Mexico
     The dapper gentleman my secretary, Hazel Harris Weeks, ushered into the office spoke with a slight European accent. “Grüezi, Mr. Vinson, I am Ariel Gonda. It is good to finally meet you.”
     Taking grüezi to be a German word for “hello” or “howdy,” I stood to accept the proffered handshake as my mind grappled for the meaning of his greeting. Then a memory dropped into place. Ariel Gonda was the corporate Treasurer of Alfano Vineyards in Napa Valley. I’d run across his name during what I mentally referred to as the Bisti Business, but I had never actually met the man before. If I recalled correctly, he was a Swiss national, so the word in question was likely Swiss German.
     “Mr. Gonda, how are Aggie and Lando doing?” I referred to the two Alfano brothers to let him know I’d made the connection.
     “They are well, thank you. At least, they were when I last spoke to Aggie. I am no longer with the organization. I am now one of you. That is to say, a bona fide New Mexico citizen.”
     I smiled inwardly as he neatly covered his tracks. It’s best to be precise when drawing comparisons to a gay confidential investigator. “Welcome to our world, Mr. Gonda.”
     “Please call me Ariel. As you can see, I have become Americanized. In my native Switzerland, we would never have arrived at first names so swiftly. I find the informality refreshing.”
     “With pleasure, if you’ll call me BJ. Please have a seat and tell me what I can do for you. Unless, of course, this is a social call.”
     “Would that it were. Unfortunately, it is your services as an investigator I require at the moment.”
He settled into the comfortable chair directly opposite my old-fashioned walnut desk and glanced around the wainscoted room. I detected a gleam of approval in his pale blue eyes as he studied pieces of my late father’s cowboy and western art collection adorning the light beige walls. He brought his attention back to me, a clue he was ready to discuss business.
     I took a small tape recorder from my drawer and placed it on the desk. “Do you mind if I record the conversation?” With his consent, I turned on the device and dictated the time and place and participants in the meeting. “Now, why don’t you tell me about your problem?”
     He cleared his throat. “The matter that brings me here is a break-in at my winery last week.”
     “What was taken?”
     “Nothing that I can determine.”
     "Merely some papers in my office and lab disturbed. But nothing was destroyed or taken, and there are some quite valuable instruments in the laboratory."
     I tapped my desk blotter with the point of a gold and onyx letter opener fashioned like a Toledo blade. “Valle Plácido doesn’t have a police force, so I assume you reported the break-in to the Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office.”
     “I did. However, since nothing was taken, they decided it was a case of adolescent mischief and closed the investigation—such as it was.”
     “Apparently, you disagree with that conclusion. Have there been other incidents?”
     “Certain small things have occurred. Things I would not have noticed were it not for the earlier break-in.” He paused to lean back in the chair and cross his legs in a less formal manner. Covering the lower portion of his face with a palm, he pulled his hand down over his chin and neck as though smoothing a non-existent moustache and beard. “I suppose I can best explain by telling you that two days following the actual burglary, if that is the proper terminology, I noticed some of my tools and equipment had been moved.”
Why in the world would a "nothing" break-in send a winery owner to a Confidential Investigator? Of course, the forcing of a hasp (as we later learn was the method of entry) indicates a serious effort to get into the place, but if nothing was taken or destroyed, why go to the expense of an outside investigation?

I hope this piques your interest in the book. I’m having fun writing it.

Thanks for being readers. Keep it up! Feel free to contact me at

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

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Short Story Time - My Personal Hero

How about a short story this week. Here's one I wrote awhile ago. Might even have been published somewhere in a longer form. Hope you enjoy.

Whenever talk turns to superheroes, my mind never goes to comic book characters like Superman or Batman. I automatically think of Wesley DeVille. You see, he’s my own personal hero. He’s also a super guy, so that qualifies him as a superhero. He doesn’t fly or catch bullets in his teeth or a cut a fancy figure like Captain This or Super That. He’s just plain old Wes.
I met him five years ago at the Ram and Boar, one of Albuquerque’s gay bars, when I was twenty-one and cocky and going through my flaming gay period. Don’t get me wrong! I don’t have anything against Auntie Gertrude behavior, but it wasn’t me … not the real me. It was just a phase that didn’t last long.
I was sitting at a corner table with a couple of friends when he filled the doorway for a moment before moving into the bar. At first, I took him for a politician because of the way he worked the room. At the time, I wasn’t impressed by anything except the size of the guy. I’m a shade under six feet, and he towered over me by four or five inches. I couldn’t help but admire the bulky shoulders and corded arms. His heavy, flat pecs looked like they should throw him off balance, especially since his torso quickly tapered to nice, trim hips and a bubble butt. Above the neck he was wholesome, pug-nosed, and freckled. But I’d never considered Mr. Universe types to be sexually attractive.
“Now that’s something to see!” Dave observed worshipfully. Dave was probably my closest friend at the University of New Mexico.
“If you like brick outhouses,” I came back, a little surprised at my own caustic tone. “Who is he?”
“Name’s Wes DeVille. He works construction. He’s an engineer or a foreman or something like that.” 
I shook my head. “Engineer? Hell, he can’t be any older than we are.”
“Twenty-four,” Gracie, the girl sitting with us, said. “Six-five, fifty-four-inch chest, thirty-two at the waist, and thirty-five at those dreamy hips. Oh, and two-twenty-five packed pounds.”
Dave and I looked at her in amazement. “How do you know all of that?” we demanded in unison.
“We had our own Mr. Gay contest in here a couple of months back. I got to see all that glorious flesh covered only by a skimpy scrap of cloth. He won—hands down.”
 “So what did he win?” I asked.
“A crisp, new hundred-dollar bill. He turned around and spent the whole thing buying everyone drinks. Oh, my,” Gracie panted, putting a hand to her bosom. “Here he comes. If he speaks to me, I’ll just faint.”
But she didn’t. She merely blushed when he called her by name and grasped her dainty hand in his. After fumbling around a bit, Gracie remembered to introduce us.
“This is Dave Deaver. He’s a transfer from New Mexico State this semester.” She turned to me, “And this other dude is Alan Schalk.”
“Uncertain servant,” Wes responded, apropos of nothing.
“Sorry. I’m into names. Alan’s Celtic for uncertain. And Shalk is German for a man who works for another—a servant. That doesn’t describe you to me.”
“Uh, what should my name be?”
“Maybe Jonathan for God-given and Saroyan.”
“Which is?” I prompted.
“Armenian for mountain prince.”
I blushed as I blurted, “I’m pre-law.”
“Good for you. The brotherhood needs good lawyers.”
“Uh, I guess so.” Being a gay rights lawyer was a new concept for me. I was more attuned to piling up loads of filthy lucre and establishing a power base for something or the other—I hadn’t decided what as yet.
Wes asked to join us and pulled up a chair next to mine. The magnetism of his presence drew a few others to our table. Wes held court for the next hour, buying a round of drinks, talking with everyone, giving equal time to each, and discussing whatever subject that arose on equal footing—nothing condescending about this guy
 Deep into that enchanted evening, a sudden commotion at the door drew our attention. A young man reeled into the room, gave an exhausted gasp, and collapsed in the vestibule. The room fell quiet, and then everyone made a dash for the figure lying on the floor. It was evident he had just suffered a beating. Cries of shock and anger and anguish filled the big room.
“Damn!” Wes swore loudly. “They’re at it again.” Without a moment’s hesitation, he tore out the door.
“Who’s at what?” I asked Gracie, aware of the look of fear on her face.
“Gay bashers!” she shrieked. “They’ve been hanging around the sweet bars and beating up the guys as they come and go.”
“I’m gonna go check things out,” I said, trying to sound braver than I felt.
UNM’s main campus was only a few blocks down Central Avenue, and many of the guys walked back and forth. About a block down the street, I saw three college students headed for the U with Wes trailing along about fifty feet behind them. Just east of the campus there’ a small police substation made out of a converted diner on a small triangle of land. It is closed at night, but still it was a police station.
And that’s where the gang of gay-haters launched their attack. Four figures suddenly bolted from cars parked on the north side of the station and quickly bore down on the three college students.
If I had not seen it with my own eyes, I would not have believed a man of Wes’s size could move so quickly. He took two running steps, three bounding leaps, and landed on the back of a buzz-cut hood preparing to slam a ball bat against the head of his victim. Instead, the gangster slid face-down across ten feet of concrete and banged, head-first into the building.
Wes didn’t waste time waiting to see what happened to the thug. He swiped one of the other attackers off the back of another victim and turned to meet the other two as they shifted their attention to him.
Wes seemed to grow before my very eyes. He towered above the others, causing them to falter a moment. A mistake. He plowed into them, sweeping them off the sidewalk and dumping them into the street. Central Avenue  is Albuquerque’s main east-west drag, and the two had to scramble to get out of the way of onrushing traffic. Pausing only to grab their two fallen fellows, they limped across the street to their cars. Wes chose not to pursue them, but I saw his eyes locking onto the license plates of the two vehicles racing up Monte Vista.
The whole thing had been surrealistic. Not a word had been spoken. It was as if a reel of a silent film had played out before me. The traffic on Central hadn’t even slowed. It was as if nothing extraordinary had taken place on that cool autumn night. But it had! I witnessed it.
And big, hulking Wes DeVille had instantly become my personal hero.
Well, that’s it for this week. Hope you got a little enjoyment out of the post. You keep on reading, and I’ll keep on writing.

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Thursday, February 11, 2016

It’s that Blue Time of Year Again

Betty Morgan

Most of my friends know that I have a difficult period each year during the months of February, March, and April. I lost my wife Betty to pneumonia and renal failure on February 12 in 2009. That was one month and one day short of her birthday (March 13) and about two months shy of our fifty-first wedding anniversary. Ergo, my “blue quarter.”

It is interesting to note how my feelings have changed in the intervening seven years. I recognize now what I did not comprehend at the time. My reaction to her death was almost despair, which could be said to be normal. But from this distance, I understand it for what it was. Selfish grief. Apart from missing a companionship built over a long period of time, I can see now that my reactions centered around my losses. I couldn’t cook… who was going to feed me now? Who would wash my clothes, my dishes, keep me presentable? (I’ve always been something of a slob.) See to the upkeep of the household?

My grief didn’t mature into a true sorrow for the loss of Betty until probably the first anniversay of her death. Then I began to appreciate the things she brought to our relationship rather than simply resent the loss of them. Perversely, that made her loss more keenly felt than when I was wallowing in self pity. Ironic that I had to stop resenting the loss of her contributions to the marriage before I could really appreciate them. Human nature… or just Don’s nature? I honestly don’t know.

I’ve chuckled with friends over the fact that Betty and I couldn’t agree on a lot of things, including the year we came from Denver to Albuquerque. I thought it was 1961; she insisted it was 1963. Judging from our younger son’s birthday (he was born in Albuquerque), she was likely right. We also disagreed over our wedding date. She was certain it was April 8, and I knew for dead fact it was April 12. Our marriage license had been misplaced, so eventually she sent to Denver for a copy. Guess what? My dead fact was a dead duck. We were married on April 8 back when they were still using the Julian calendar. The two dates I have never confused were the day of her birth and the day of her death.

The picture above is not one of my favorites because of the background the photographer chose. Betty had bright, copper-red hair which doesn’t show up in the photograph. In the actual picture, she’s holding our younger son on her lap when he was about a year old, but I had to crop it. Grant is taller and stronger than I am these days, and he’d tear my head off if I were to show him in that pose.

So I’ll be a little quieter and more restrained over these next three months. Not as much so as in prior years, but my meloncholy will never totally disappear… just become more bearable. I miss you, Betty Darlene Claiborne Morgan.
Thanks for indulging me for a personal moment... again. Please keep reading and feel free to contact me at


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

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Took a Little Trip to the Emergency Room

Last Thursday, I learned how to slip past the crowded waiting room and slide straight into a bed at the Emergency Room. “I think I’m having a mini-stroke” does the trick quite well.

A few weeks earlier, I was sitting in front of one of the VA Medical Center’s Neuro Psychologists taking tests and answering questions for better than three hours as a result of expressing concern to my regular caregiver about grappling for words (a bad sign for a writer) and forgetting why I walked through one door into another room. That occasioned all sorts of activity, including this intensive interview/grilling/testing session.

 In the midst of our "play time," a second doctor wandered into the psychologist’s room and started asking about some of the things on my medical record, one of which was a couple of episodes where my vision went spotty for 30 minutes or so.

This unknown doctor had reviewed my recent brain MRI and was concerned these episodes might be signs of mini-strokes. This prompted a warning from him that in the event of a stroke, I should get to the emergency room immediately because after three hours, the effects of a stroke are irreversible. (He didn’t tell me how successful they were at reversing them if I got there within the time limit.)

Soooo… when I had a vision problem on the morning that fated Thursday, I scooted on down to the ER where I uttered those magic words that had me flat of my back in the MRI machine within twenty minutes of passing through the ER’s admitting door.

After that, they plowed a ditch in my vein and planted one of those IV things (whether they needed one or not) and pasted a couple of dozen terminals all over my chest and sides for an electrocardiogram. (And don’t ever let anyone tell you they are painless. Maybe the test is, but removing those devils from your tender flesh certainly isn’t.) My blood pressure measured a whopping 188/61, but that was perfectly normal for someone being so manhandled. It had nothing to do with my medical episode, I’m convinced.

After that, a nice nurse came in and had me do ridiculous things like touching my nose and her finger and the like. When she had her quota of fun, an ER doctor appeared and had me do the same things all over again. Then nothing. And nothing. My three hours were running out fast and they hadn’t done a thing to reverse my condition unless playing pitty-pat with a nurse and a doctor was some sort of curandero medicine I wasn't familiar with.

Sometime after that crucial third hour had elapsed, two doctors walked into the room and announced they were from Neurology. Okay, maybe these guys could save me from becoming a living vegetable. Guess what? All they wanted was a game of pitty-pat, too. I guess word of my prowess at the sport had made its way around the hospital. At any rate, they excused themselves and said they needed to consult.

They consulted away the fourth hour, likely sealing my fate. Eventually, they returned and told me I wasn’t having a stroke.

“There’s a name for your condition, but it’s not a stroke.”

“What about my vision problems? That’s the fourth time that’s happened in the last 6 months.”

“Strokes are not the only thing that cause that.”

“But I wasn’t able to talk normally.”

“Yes, but if you’d had a stroke, you wouldn’t be able to call up the words you wanted. You were just mispronouncing words you wanted to say.”


“Strokes aren’t the only thing that cause that.”

“I couldn’t make sense out of the words I was reading at the time.” I tried to keep from sounding petulant.

“Yes, but you could make out the words. Probably wouldn’t have been able to do that if you’d had a stroke. Besides the MRI was negative.”

“Okay, so it wasn’t a stroke. What was it?” 

“You had a migraine condition.”

“A what?" Was there too much scorn in my voice? "I didn’t have a headache. I never have headaches.”

“Yes, we know. That’s in the record.”

“But a migraine is nothing but a headache. A super-duper headache.”

“Not always. At any rate you can get dressed and go home. There’s no treatment required.”

I went home halfway convinced they were discharging me in the midst of a fatal stroke and absolutely certain I wasn’t having a migraine headache. But when I looked up Migraines on the internet, lo and behold, there it was. An Acephalgic Migraine (also called the silent migraine) has all the symptoms of a migraine minus the headache.

The kicker to the whole thing came when my youngest sibling (he was born minutes after his twin) called the next morning to update one another on family news. Naturally, I launched into the story of my ER visit. Before I even got to the end, he interrupted. “You had a migraine.”

I gasped in astonishment. “How did you know?”

“I’ve had them for years.”

“But I had no headache?”

“I don’t either.”

Son of a gun!
I don't know about you, but I've noticed of late that if I didn't have medical, dental, optical, and laboratory appointments, my social calendar would be mighty thin.

Guys and gals, thanks for being readers. Keep it up! Feel free to contact me at

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

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