Thursday, September 29, 2016

Other Voices in the Zozobra Incident (A Reprint)

Last week, we learned a little more about the protagonist of THE ZOZOBRA INCIDENT, BJ Vinson, so I’d like to take the liberty of another re-post 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 ZOZOBRA takes place, Hazel, a retired teacher and best friend of BJ’s deceased mother, 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 runs the office—and sometimes him—efficiently and makes sure the clients pay their bills… something BJ wouldn’t be nearly as proficient at doing. Plump, capable, and nosy, Hazel reminds him of that sassy maid of the same name in the comics and on 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 a slender, blue-(sapphire) eyed, blond 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 aging. A Chicago boy who attended the UNM Law 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 NE until BJ was seriously wounded in the right thigh by a bullet from an accused murder’s gun. During the long recovery, Del wasn’t able to handle 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. Nonetheless, he swallows his pride and asks BJ for help. Del also lives on throughout the series.

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 with him, the genesis of Del’s belief that Milio is behind the blackmailing.

But things are not as simple as they seem.
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New Posts published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

Thursday, September 22, 2016


Because my BJ Vinson books are being published anew by DSP Publications, it seems appropriate to reintroduce the major characters in the series. Therefore, I would like to reprint a post to this blog that appeared on August 30, 2012. 

When I write a novel, I constantly struggle to avoid "over describing" my major characters. This is to allow readers to paint a mind picture of these individuals for themselves. Apparently, I succeeded with BJ. When an artist presented a proposed a dramatic book cover for THE ZOZOBRA INCIDENT showing BJ as bearded, I reacted by saying my protagonist was clean-shaven. The artist responded that I hadn't given a clue as to whether BJ had a beard or not. So I was successful in my goal of allowing the reader to create my hero in his or her own image. Please feel free to picture the Albuquerque PI as bearded or not.

Actually, I have a very firm idea of how he looks, acts, thinks, and feels. I know who he is because I created him. I know, for example, Burleigh was a family name (his mother's father's name, as a matter of fact), and that J was a MIO--middle name only. He was born September 12, 1972 and was 34 at the time The Zozobra Incident takes place in 2006.

His parents, Robert and Frances Vinson, were both educators. They raised him with a steady, firm hand and always sought to guide rather than impose. His father was a very strong influence in his life and probably knew BJ was gay before he did. Robert was supportive and encouraged his son to play football in high school and even backed his decision to join the Marines. In later years, BJ understood this was not an attempt to "convert" him, but was his father's effort to provide as normal a background as possible to give BJ a rock-solid basis for deciding who he was and who he was going to be.

BJ came to grips with the fact he was gay slowly, finally accepting his sexual orientation in his late teens. Since he had a strong, supportive father and a nourishing, yet not dominating, mother in his life, he came to the conclusion his homosexuality was "hard-wired." Thereafter, he accepted who he was without obsessing over it. He neither hid nor flaunted his sexuality. As a result, he moved easily through all the spectra of Albuquerque society.

Both senior Vinsons died on January 2, 2003 in a car accident on Interstate-40, leaving their only son and heir an estate of $12 million. Some years earlier, they had loaned a struggling local business a modest amount of operating capital. That business later moved to Seattle and became Microsoft. By the time of their deaths, BJ had a degree in Criminology from UNM and was a detective with the Albuquerque Police Department. A little over a year later, he was shot in the thigh while he and his partner, Gene Enriquez, attempted to apprehend a murder suspect. That occasioned both the breakup between BJ and his lover, local attorney Del Dahlman, and his medical retirement from APD.

Even though he was independently wealthy, BJ continued to live in the home his father built at 5228 Post Oak Drive NW in Albuquerque's North Valley. The residence was located in a '50s middle-class neighborhood, which was growing a bit geriatric. The home, a contemporary red brick, white-trimmed, cross-gabled structure with stone foundations, had a basement--something unusual for Albuquerque at the time.

BJ was incapable of sitting around and living on his inheritance, so on September 18, 2005, he opened B. J. Vinson, Confidential Investigations. Referrals from his many cop friends helped turn the business profitable. He hired his mother best friend, a retired public school teacher named Hazel Harris, as secretary and office manager. What he got was a surrogate mother, whom he suffered fondly.

Eleven months after opening his office doors on the third floor of a historic building across the street from the Albuquerque Library's main facility, Del Dahlman came to ask his help. The lawyer was being blackmailed. Against his better judgment, BJ accepted his former' lover's request...and thus The Zozobra Incident began.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Cafeteria Buddies

Let’s go for a short story this  week. Hope this gives you some reading pleasure.


Handsome face, loopy grin, great build.
That was my reaction when I first laid eyes on Billy Watts. As a new transfer to the high school, I didn’t know anyone, and the hunky guy sitting all alone at a table in the corner of the bustling cafeteria immediately drew my eye. He was likely waiting for a bunch of buddies who hadn’t showed up yet. Nonetheless, I walked over and sat down. He looked up and smiled. Wow! Green eyes like cut emeralds.
“Hi.” I extended a hand. “I’m Sally Bealls.”
“Hello,” he rumbled in a baritone. “I’m Billy. Billy Watts.”
I faltered as he grasped my small hand in a broad, firm one. Something about the way he spoke. Very deliberate. Was that why he was sitting alone? Because he was… slow? Too late now. I’d chosen a flowerbed and was stuck in it. “I’m new. We just moved down from Albuquerque.”
“Big city girl, huh?”
I laughed at the thought of Albuquerque as a big city, but I guess it was compared to New Mexico’s small towns. And this berg where we’d ended up when my father was transferred by the power and light company was definitely a small town. Now that I had to create my own space in a brand new environment what did I do? Sat down with the slow guy on campus. Too bad, because he was a real looker.
Making the best of the situation, I chattered as I worked on my lunch. Billy answered questions with carefully enunciated words. His speech might come at the speed of a racing turtle, but the answers were lucid. He never initiated speech but responded patiently.
On Monday, I sat at a table with a girl from my homeroom who seemed friendly. I’d no sooner squared my tray on the Formica top than she elbowed me.
“Not eating with Low Watts today?”
“Why do you call him that?”
“Duh. He’s a dim bulb, or didn’t you pick up on that? Should we call you Dotty Sally?”
I sniffed and speared a baby carrot with a fork. “Can if you want, but I’m warning you. I’m gonna raise the grading curve in English.” While we ate and joked and talked about boys, my eyes wandered back to that lonely table in the corner.
The next day, I walked past the girls and sat down directly opposite Billy Watts. He glanced up, smiled, and then frowned in concentration.
“Hello, I’m Billy Watts. You’re that girl from the big city.”
“That’s right. I’m Sally.”
That big loopy grin came back, making me shiver. “You’re pretty, Sally.”
“Why thank you, sir. You’re quite handsome yourself.”
Billy Watts blushed like a three-way bulb switched from low to high.

I spent a lot of time with Billy after that, not only at the cafeteria but also hanging out after school when he didn’t have to rush off to  help his father carpenter or to finish something he was working on in the wood shop at school.
The first present he gave me was a small wooden ladybug pin he’d fashioned and painted. I wore it with pride. The next was a spider, but he saw my frown before I complimented him on his—unfortunately—realistic work and next gifted me with  a small bluebird pin. It was so absolutely perfect it caused my heart to stutter.
Charles Edward Street, who dubbed himself Ched, stopped at our table one day and looked down his long—but handsome—nose at me. “If you can separate yourself from this dim bulb long enough, I’ll take you out for a good time. After I finish quarterbacking the team in tonight’s game, that is.”
I looked him up and down. Twice, actually, because he was worth a second look. “Thanks, but Billy and I have something planned.”
Ched’s jaw dropped. “This guy? Why are you wasting your time on him?”
I stared right into his disconcertingly attractive brown eyes and stroked Billy’s latest gift pinned to my sweater. “Rather spend time with someone who can create beautiful things like this than one who runs around worshiping an odd-shaped ball and thinks that makes him a hot shot.”
Of course, that finished me with the smart set at Mountain View High.

I was brushing Jeanette’s hair when I heard a car door slam. The child ran right out from under the brush shouting “Daddy! Daddy’s home!” I walked to the window to watch Jeanette and her older brother William greet their father.
Bill welcomed them with his eternal beaming smile and wrapped them in his arms. I’d quit calling him Billy years ago. It hadn’t taken me long to figure out that my cafeteria buddy suffered from a mild form of autism—probably with a dose of the Savant Syndrome thrown in. He could create anything with his hands, but he didn’t fare well in the rest of the school system. He wasn’t dumb. In fact, he possessed a keen intelligence. It just didn’t show well. For example, he drove a car like a pro, but it had taken weeks of working with him before he was able to pass the written test.
We lived in the big city now—Albuquerque. He still thought of it that way, even though it’s simply an overgrown town. He worked as a carpenter for a local contractor, and while he would never be a supervisor, all the foremen wanted him on their crew.
Every day after his shift at the company, he came home and fashioned the most intricate little creatures from exotic woods and paint that anyone had ever seen. They flew straight out the door as freebies until I took control. Other than to family, he sold them now. Or rather I did. Bill didn’t realize he made as much from his “hobby” as he did working for a wage. He’s kind, amiable, and an altogether fitting father, neighbor, and husband. Me? I’m perfectly happy being his wife and soulmate. He’s more than a handsome face, loopy grin, and great build… much more.

Keep on reading, guys, and let me know what you think at

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

Thursday, September 8, 2016


Three nice covers, huh? At least, I think so. Unfortunately, I don't yet have one for the next book, but I like to think it will be as good. By the way, the covers you see down the right panel are the previous covers for two of the books. I left them for the sake of comparison.

Let’s take a look at some action from the fourth novel in the BJ Vinson series with the working title of THE LOVELY PINES (now in progress). Regular readers will know that our hero BJ Vinson, a confidential investigator, was drawn into the case when there was a break-in at the Lovely Pines Winery in the fictional village of Plácido, New Mexico north of Albuquerque. Nothing was taken, nothing was destroyed, but the suspicion lingers that someone is still prowling around. The following scene takes place in Chapter 13. BJ is returning to stakeout an area west of the winery.

     Remembering how the sniper had scanned the parking lot the one time I’d caught a glimpse of him, I pulled off into the forest on the south side of the highway a hundred yards west of the logging road that paralleled the Pines property and hiked the rest of the way in. Once I located a likely spot where I had an oblique view of the winery doors, the wallow where I’d encountered the sniper, and by turning my head could see the area where the bicycle tracks had ended, I pulled my backpack off and settled in a sheltered spot. This was not the perfect stakeout location, but since I was keeping an eye out for two separate individuals on two separate missions, it would do. Once comfortable, I hauled out my Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9mm semiautomatic and stuffed it in a jacket pocket. We might just be heading into July, but twilight was coming up fast, and at this altitude the temperature would drop sharply once the soil lost the sun’s warmth.
     I no sooner poured myself a lid of coffee than the odor of weeds and wildflowers and fallen pine needles surrendered to the pungent aroma of the hot liquid. I resolved to take my refreshment in smaller doses hereafter.
     Hours passed. Despite the coffee and isometric exercises, I was losing ground to the need for sleep rapidly. I’m a trained stakeout artist and had done this a hundred times, but the gentle swish of the pine boughs all around me was as effective as a sleeping tonic. I’m sure I dozed at times but for the most part managed to remain on guard.
     Somewhere around midnight I grew aware of something. I hadn’t actually heard a car, but there was one down on the highway. I glanced south but caught no glare of headlamps or parking lights. Then I heard a slight growl as a motor accelerated. The vehicle had stopped for some reason. To let someone out, perhaps? But there had been no bang of a car door. Of course not. He was sneaking in.
     Just as I was about to move, I caught movement down near the wallow. It wasn’t much, just a slight swaying of brush. In the darkness, I wasn’t even certain I’d actually seen anything, but something had snared my attention.
     Son of a bitch! The sniper! He’d snuck into place right under my nose. And movement told me he’d heard the car, too. He was going to intercept whomever had gotten out of the car. Sniper and intruder were about to meet.
     I stood up, making sure to create a racket in doing so. No reaction. Cautiously, I worked my way, tree bole by tree bole toward the wallow. He wasn’t there. He’d slipped by me again. I turned and ran to the road and headed south. I caught a glimpse of a shadowy figure ahead of me. There was just enough moonlight piercing the overhanging canopy to determine the man carried a rifle. I had no doubt he’d use it if cornered. More troubling, would he use it if he met the intruder? I couldn’t take the chance. I raised my S&W and fired three bullets into the trunk of the nearest pine. The flashes blinded me, but I stumbled left into the covering wood in case the fleeing man decided to return fire. There was nothing. Nothing but the roar of an approaching vehicle.
     Before I reached the logging road again, I heard a car screech to a halt, a car door slam, and the vehicle roar away. The sniper had phoned a buddy who’d been hanging around nearby to retrieve him.

I sincerely hope you found that worthy of your time. Maybe I’ll get the novel finished one of these days and DSP Publications will see fit to publish it.

Feel free to mail me at As always, thanks for being readers.

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

Thursday, September 1, 2016


Today, we have the finale of our Rhode Island Red versus Red-Tailed Hawk battle to the death. Remember that last week, we ended with Beulah having a close call when Old Red launched an attack. Let’s see what happens today.
Old Red
Courtesy of common

I smoothed Beulah’s feathers, checked for broken skin on her back where the talons had slashed at her, and set her back on the ground. “Get on in the coop now.”
She minded me this time.

The next morning, I was feeding the chickens in the coop and counting the days until school started again when I spotted that big red-tail up on the pole taking a powerful lot of interest in what was going on down below. I finished up and went back out in the yard and shook my fist at the feathered killer. She ignored me, so I got out my slingshot—the one made from a Y notch of a hickory tree. I’m pretty good with it, but the stone I slung clacked against the creosoted wood right below the bird. She just give me a look and flew off to the north. I couldn’t follow her very far because of trees breaking up the skyline.
I turned at the sound of some familiar clucking and saw Beulah making a beeline for me. I’d left the coop gate open. All the other hens was busy pecking up the seeds I’d spread out for them, but not my girl. She was coming to me. She knew I kept a few seeds in my pocket just for her. Halfway there, she squawked and turned around, her legs making a blur. I knew without looking that Old Red was back.
I darted for the coop and slammed the door shut just as a fierce bundle of feathers and beak and sharp talons whooshed past me. That hawk slammed into the chicken wire on the gate with a bang, setting all the hens to cackling and scattering this way and that. They didn’t have mind enough to know they was safe inside the coop. Not quite believing what I was seeing, I watched that hawk bounce off the wire and hit the ground on her back. Before I could move, she scrambled to her feet with a loud flutter of feathers, took half a dozen staggering steps, and got herself airborne. My boot made contact with her tail, giving her a little extra lift.
It took me half the afternoon to coax Beulah off her nest and out of the hen house. Didn’t manage to get her out of the coop. That was okay, she was safe there. Besides, I had other things to do.

After two mornings with no sight of the red-tail, I figured the hawk had learned her lesson and gone on to better hunting. So I didn’t put a stop to it when Beulah followed me out of the pen into the barnyard where we played a game of chasing one another around the yard. On a pass by the back porch, I grabbed ma’s broom propped outside the door. Beulah liked me to shove it at her. She squawked and flapped her wings to jump over it. Then I run and she chased me.
Beulah was almost clear across the barnyard from me when I caught movement in the big oak I sometimes like to climb. It took a moment to spot Old Red perched on a limb up near the top. I let out a yell and raced toward Beulah, but she musta figured we was still playing, ‘cause she cackled and run away. So now it was a deadly race between the hawk and me. She folded her wings and dropped down on my unsuspecting baby while I ran to intercept her. I didn’t make it, but I was close enough to wield that broom like Babe Ruth swatting a baseball.
All hell broke loose. Contact about jarred my arms right outa their sockets. There was a big thud as broom straw met feathers and muscle and velocity. The broom handle broke. I landed on my backside. Beulah squawked and scratched my face as she raced over me, headed for the coop. I sat up and spotted the hawk laying in the dirt. Not moving.
Cripes. I hadn’t wanted to kill the bird. Just save my Beulah. Then as I watched, a wing fluttered. The hawk squirmed. Slowly, the bird got to her feet and swayed like pa when he’s been too long at the neighbor’s still. She took a step. Another. After staggering around for a bit, she sorta squatted down, spread her wings, and managed to get off the ground. She made it to the oak’s lowest limb and sat there for a good five minutes. With a final look down at me, she flew off and circled to get some altitude. Then she disappeared to the south.
Me and Beulah ain’t seen her since.

There you have it, the private war with our narrator and Beulah on one side and Old Red on the other. Rest assured, nature lovers, that the hawk is just fine… and apparently learned a valuable lesson. Hope you enjoyed the story.

Feel free to mail me at As always, thanks for being readers.

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

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