Thursday, October 27, 2016


I’m wallowing in nostalgia again this week, so I’d like to publish a paean to my late wife. Please bear with me as I remember Betty.

I know exactly when the act of inhaling and exhaling became something more than simply breathing… when it became breathsong.
Subconsciously, I accepted the concept long ago, but understanding it as song became clear to me as my wife lay dying in an ICU, her lungs tortured by pneumonia, her breathing measured by machines. Betty had a long history with the illness. She suffered a serious case decades ago. In later years, she acquired “walking pneumonia” five times in one twelve-month period, something that required medical attention but not hospitalization.
She had an even longer association with tobacco. She took up smoking at age sixteen and continued unabated until her admission to the ICU unit at UNM Hospital. Betty had routinely smoked two packs a day in the fifty-five years I’d known her. When I questioned her about verified data proving the use of tobacco could be deadly, she responded that those were statistics. “I’m an individual with my own set of genes and stamina and ways of dealing with health issues.” In years hence, I’ve wondered if that intelligent woman realized how dumb she sounded at that moment.
Betty’s gone now, of course, but I often think of her breathsong. A language all its own, it beat to a unique rhythm that changed with the stimulus of the moment… tempest, squall, tornado, sea breeze, gentle caress, mountain calm. Full-throated when she drew on Doral filter tips—a muted inhale followed by a satisfied whoosh, signifying pleasure. Slow and languid when cuddling one of our sons as he slept in her arms. Sharp and irritated when the other child grew mischievous.
Her breath signaled anything she wished to express: excitement, fatigue, love, displeasure…and especially the passing of an emotional storm. Her breathing bespoke of love at times of personal intimacy, awe when viewing such marvels as the Valles Caldera, surprise at an anniversary present, apprehension when confronting one of life’s unexpected challenges. It projected her anger or displeasure (usually with me) as distinctly as it expressed forgiveness and struck a chord of clear warning when someone earned her displeasure.
I remember the day that song died.
Oh, how I miss her breathsong.

Thanks for indulging me in this moment of weakness. Betty was a red-headed gal with a temperament to match. I was lucky to have known her.

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

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Auto-da-fey in Santa Fe

As the release date for The Zozobra Incident draws closer, I am increasingly excited at the prospect. November 15, 2016 is a red-letter day for me… Zozobra day. So forgive me for continuing to talk about the upcoming re-release.
Old Man Gloom, Alias Zozobra, Burned to Cinders to the Cheers of Spectators.

Not to worry, it’s an annual burning-at-the-stake that’s been going on in the City Different since 1924. The victim, of course, is not flesh and blood; he’s a fifty-foot articulated puppet whose annual incineration is designed to render all of our woes and worries to ashes... along with him. Or at least, that’s the Mexican folklore legend.

The event takes place on the Thursday following Labor Day and kicks off the Santa Fe Fiesta, a grand celebration dating back to 1712 when the Marquis de Peñuelo, the Governor of New Spain, decreed a party to mark the reconquest of Santa Fe by Don Diego de Vargas following the Pueblo Revolt. The Fiesta is billed as North America’s oldest continuous civic celebration.
Now comes Don Travis’s timely novel, The Zozobra Incident, using the burning of Zozobra as a pivotal moment in his contemporary murder mystery. He provides the flavor, as well as the history, of this symbolic purging of our souls. Zozobra is the first of a series of mysteries featuring BJ Vinson, an Albuquerque confidential investigator. Each novel in the series takes place in New Mexico, allowing the author to paint vivid word pictures of some of our beautiful landscapes and historical places.

New Mexico author Sarah Storme reviewed The Zozobra Incident and awarded it five stars: When BJ Vinson's ex-lover comes to him for help, the investigator is drawn into an increasingly dangerous mystery full of murder and blackmail. And the big question: is his new love interest involved, or simply at risk?

Don Travis weaves a fast-paced mystery over the backdrop of Albuquerque and Santa Fe, sending his protagonist into more and more dangerous situations as the story progresses. BJ Vinson, ex-Marine and ex-cop, not only deals with gangbangers and thugs with ease, he also handles most of the prejudice against his sexual orientation with an admirable shrug. He's a guy who is easy to root for.

I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys mysteries full of suspense, and with deliciously exciting endings. Readers will also enjoy the excitement of new romance laced through the tale.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Buyer’s Remorse

From age and experience comes wisdom; from wisdom comes decisiveness. Right?

Perhaps not. I’m a “status quo” sort of guy. Except for a computer, almost everything I own probably qualifies as an antique. Until absolutely forced to replace it, I slept on a bed bought over fifty years ago. Heck, I use handkerchiefs that are thirty years old. Ragged, but old. A couple of tables in the apartment are senior to my sons.

 The point I am trying to make is that other than consumables, I do not often buy things. In addition, I am really attached to my favorite chair. But when my legs start going numb after sitting for a period of time, I consider the idea of acquiring another. You must understand that there are two centers to my universe (well, three… but we won’t talk about the refrigerator): my Lazy Boy recliner and my computer desk. I eat meals in that chair. I read there. Nap there. Work puzzles and write short fiction on my laptopand it’s only fifteen-years-old, hardly an antique.

     Nonetheless, when Lazy Boy advertises a sale, I consider this a sign from on high that it is time to act. I visit the store and ask to see their cheapest…er, least expensive chair. In passing, the sales representative points out a recliner he considers their best buy. Naturally, it is fully $100 more than the chea… least expensive. The man invites me to sit in the chair of my choice and try out all sixteen of its positions while he goes to the office and works up a pricing sheet.
    The old boy knew what he was doing. After five minutes, I recognize the chair is too small. When I recline, the foreshortened back leaves my head hanging with me staring at the ceiling slightly behind me. My hips don’t fit properly. On and on. So I do what he knew I would ask him to show me that other chair. By comparison, it is heaven. The cost is at the upper limit of my budget, so I have to bargain. I agree to handle the sales tax if he eliminates the charge for “stain-proofing” the fabric. He agrees but won’t budge on the $80 delivery charge. Okay, so I’ll pick it up at the warehouse and do away with that deal breaker. I know people with trucks and muscles. Shouldn’t be a problem. So we make all the arrangements, and I return home.
    Once there, I sit in my old recliner and note how well it fits the rather odd contours of my body. How comfortable it is when I lie back and close my eyes. Heck, I don’t need a new one. Can probably get another fifteen years out of this one. Then I make the mistake of eating supper in the chair. By the time I finish, my legs are well on the way to numb.
    Wednesday arrives… the day of the Great Chair Pickup. I’d asked my neighbor (hereinafter known as MN) to help me pick up my new purchase. MN is big, hefty fellow almost as old as I am who has a Nissan van equal to the task. Between the two of us, we should be able get my chair into the apartment and dispose of the old one.
    Lazy Boy’s workers at the warehouse load my purchase into the Nissan and we head home. Unloading the chair presents no problem. MN has a two-wheeled trolley, so getting it to my apartment should be easy even though we have a series of steps to maneuver. Two at the sidewalk, five where we turned into my building, and two more on the way to the front door.
    We make the first two steps but then discover that the chair is dragging on the sidewalk. We reposition it, which isn’t as easy as I expected. Even so, we make it to the set of five steps in front of my building where we run into a problem. MN insists we fasten the chair with a bungee cord so it won’t fall off the trolley as we bump our way up the steps. I don’t think thait's necessary because I am at the bottom supporting the chair, but we’d used his truck and mostly his muscle power thus far. Besides, he’s a trained scientist. (True, he’s a geologist, but it has an “i-s-t” at the end, doesn’t it? My government and history degrees only have an “e-n-t” and an “o-r-y between them. And what’s an ent and an ory when compared to an ist?)
    The trouble was, we don’t have a bungee cord long enough to do the job. We can hook it one place or the other but not both. MN sits down on the third step to rest while he puts his scientific mind to work solving our problem, but when muscle power won’t stretch a six-inch cord to twelve inches, he decides to stand up. That’s when I discover he’s no better at getting off the ground than I am. I think for a minute he isn’t going to make it, and I certainly can’t help him. He’s bigger than I am (configured differently, but bigger), and I have trouble getting me up, much less him.
    As he’s fighting that battle, another neighbor comes by (hereinafter known as My Other Neighbor or MON) and sees our predicament. After taking in the situation, he grabs the trolley, pulls it up the steps, and rolls the chair into the apartment. Then he hoists my favorite recliner over his shoulder and hauls it up an entire flight of stairs to his apartment—without even a wobble in his knees—thereby saving me the trouble of disposing of it.
    After that, I collapsed into my new chair and squirmed for ten minutes bemoaning the fact it didn’t conform to my exhausted body before finally falling into a restless asleep. MN went to his own upstairs apartment (most likely on his hands and knees) to fall into his bed for a nap. MON tripped down the stairs from his apartment and whistled his way to his car to go do who knows what? Probably slay dragons and save old duffers from poorly planned physical activities.


Just wait. In fifteen or so years, you’ll read this post from an entirely different viewpoint than you are now. Let me know what you think  at Thanks for being readers.

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

Thursday, October 6, 2016

More Characters from The Zozobra Incident (A Reprint)

I apologize for another reprint (and promise to use them more sparingly in the future), but I want to complete my introduction of the major characters from both the book, THE ZOZOBRA INCIDENT, and the BJ Vinson Mystery Series. Remember, DSP Publications is giving rebirth to the novel (and the series) beginning November 15.

Last week, we learned about BJ, our protagonist, took a look at Hazel Harris, his secretary-office manager-surrogate mom, and met Del Dahlman, BJ’s first love and first bitter disappointment, who is now a successful Albuquerque attorney. We will see these characters throughout the series.

We also gained some insight into Emilio Prada, the handsome gigolo responsible for breaking up BJ and Del. Now let’s look at some other individuals who populate BJ’s world.

Detective Eugene (Gene) Enriquez is just shy of his forty-first birthday when we first meet him. A local (he was born in Bernalillo, a town fifteen miles north of Albuquerque), Gene is stocky, five-seven, and weighs 155 pounds. A Hispanic, he has vaguely Polynesian features a lot of women find attractive. After his army service, he goes through the Albuquerque Police Academy and is sworn in as an officer. He walks a downtown beat and even rides horse patrol for a short period, but his ambition is to become a detective. Some years after he achieves this goal, he finds himself assigned to a new partner… a gay partner. B. J. Vinson. It bothers him at first that BJ, who could have passed as a hetero, doesn’t bother to deny his homosexuality when asked about it. Before long, Gene comes to admire his new partner’s honesty. The guy is gay, and that’s that. Once Gene learns he can trust his partner’s judgment and instincts, they get along professionally and socially. Gene takes some flack from other cops about riding with a queer, but Gene is married to Glenda, an attractive woman with whom he has five kids. He figures that all the cover he needs. He takes it hard when BJ nearly dies while they are apprehending an accused murderer, but he keeps in touch when his partner takes medical retirement and opens a confidential investigations office. He is one of the few people who knows BJ inherited a fortune upon his parent’s death. We’ll see Gene again.

Paul Barton looks Hispanic to Anglos and Anglo to Hispanics. When BJ first meets him, the family name “Barton” takes him by surprise. He expected it to be a Spanish surname, but it is Paul’s mother who carries the Latin blood. Paul was born on June 13, 1985 in Albuquerque’s South Valley. That makes him twenty-one at the time of THE ZOZOBRA INCIDENT. BJ first spies him with a cowgirl on the dance floor at the C&W Palace, Albuquerque’s biggest book-stomping joint. Drawn by Paul’s good looks and lean frame, BJ later realizes the kid is the new lifeguard at the North Valley Country Club where he swims as therapy for the bullet wound in his thigh. Once the connection is made, their mutual attraction soon becomes evident. This is the first time BJ has been tempted since Del’s betrayal. Paul is not only a lifeguard, he is also a full-time student at UNM pursuing a degree in Journalism. In addition, he works in the school’s cafeteria so he can live on campus his senior year. Paul is 5’11” and weighs 155 pounds. He has brown eyes, brown hair, and a swimmer’s build, A small dragon tattoo decorates his left pec. Fiercely independent, he drives an old Plymouth coupe even though BJ offers to buy him a more recent model. He’s an expert swimmer, plays soccer and golf, and loves to dance. His father, Paul Barton Sr. was a carpenter who died of TB when Paul was ten-years-old. His mother, Luisa Marta Arrular de Barton, works two jobs while raising her son. He is exposed to gang activity in the South Valley, but resists the temptation to join. Once Paul and BJ get together, Paul is absolutely devoted, even though there are some stormy times ahead. Needless to say, we’ll see Paul in future novels.

And then there is the surprise fun character. The widow Mrs. Gertrude Wardlow has lived across the street from BJ for as long as he can remember. He considers her as a frail, diminutive old woman who wears her white hair like a helmet and speaks in a thin, tremulous voice. But when the chips are down, he learns she and her late husband Herb were both retired from the DEA and that she still has the spirit as well as the will of a fighter. She is a continuing character.

This is the last of the reprints for a while. Let me know what you think at A hoorah to all readers.

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

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