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1. Book Blog Tour and Guest Post: Black Lightning by K. S. Jones...

About Black Lightning:

Life moves on — no matter what...

Following his father’s puzzling disappearance and his mother’s death, ten-year-old Samuel Baker goes through the motions of living in a world turned upside down. He wears an Apache talisman, a long ago gift from his father, in hopes its promise of strength and guidance is true. But what he truly wants is the power to bring his parents back. 

Heartless Aunt Janis is elated at the prospect of becoming Samuel’s legal guardian. She is sure an orphan boy will elicit such an outpouring of public sympathy that her husband will win his Senate bid by a landslide. But when Grandpa Tate arrives, things don’t go as expected, especially when black lightning strikes!

From the award-winning author of Shadow of the Hawk

Title: Black Lightning

Author Name: K.S. Jones

Genre(s): Middle Grade, Science Fiction, Fantasy

Length: Approx. 132 pages

Release Date: May 17, 2016

Publisher:  Mirror World Publishing (www.mirrorworldpublishing.com)

Follow the Tour for Reviews, Guest Posts, Exclusive Excerpts, and Spotlight Posts:

~Black Lightning and its Apache influences~

A century ago, the word “Apache” would have conjured up images of warriors on horseback with whoops, hollers, and painted faces—worthy adversaries and fierce fighters trying to protect their families, their land, and their life-way. In my new middle-grade novel, Black Lightning, a modern-day (although rural) Chiricahua (cheer-uh-kaw-wuh) Apache family is integral to the story, adding flare to the tale with their traditional ways in a contemporary world.     

The Chiricahua are most closely associated with an area in southeastern Arizona known as the Chiricahua Mountains. Within this mountainous range is the Chiricahua National Monument, which today is part of the National Park Service. It is an amazing architectural wilderness of rock pinnacles and formations, once known to the Apache as the “Land of Standing-Up Rocks.”

Storytelling has always been important in the Apache culture, and Chiricahua children are expected to be well-versed in the oral traditions and lore. These storytelling sessions are often held for the benefit of the kids and usually take place at night. Can you imagine sitting outside under a starry night and listening to the story about a race of “supernaturals” who inhabit the nearby mountains? Or maybe hear the story of a girl who married a water monster? Or learn about a place that opened a door where no door had been before?

And sometimes, Apache men and women wear amulets, or talismans, made from wood struck by lightning, called tzi-daltai. Among other virtues, it is believed the wearer can learn things from the tzi-daltai and know the right direction when lost. Most amulets are made of wood, shaved-thin and incised with a simple human form then decorated with lines to signify lightning. Some even believe lightning talks to them, while others think the flash is the flight of the arrow thrown by the Thunder People. Talismans can be worn like necklaces or carried.

Black lightning, although not a rendering of Native American lore, has gained recent recognition in the science world with what scientists are calling “dark lightning.” And given the fact that the American Southwest has some of the most spectacular thunderstorms on earth, where better to imagine the phenomenon and its potential? To a storyteller, Native American or otherwise, the possibilities are endless and interesting!

More information related to the book BLACK LIGHTNING can be found on my Pinterest page! https://www.pinterest.com/ksjones/black-lightning-by-ks-jones/

Read an Excerpt:

Samuel stood beside his mother’s rain-speckled casket. He had cried his tears dry, so there was no point in trying to find more.

“Chin up, young man,” Aunt Janis said as her fingers nudged Samuel’s jaw upward. “Death is just part of life, and our photographer needs a good picture of you for the newspapers.”

A camera flashed, leaving Samuel’s red and swollen eyes burning as if stung by the sun instead of grief.

So many important days had come and gone without his father, but surely he would come home today, wouldn’t he? Samuel closed his eyes. He pretended his father was beside him holding his hand. They had a right to hold hands, he told himself. Not because he was ten, but because it was his mother’s funeral. Two years had passed since his father left, never to be seen again. Vanished, was the word his mother had used. Into thin air, she’d said.

“Take that silly thing off.” Aunt Janis flicked Samuel’s wood and bead necklace.

“No,” he said and shook his head. “My dad gave it to me.” It was a pinewood tile, the size of a domino shaved nickel-thin, which hung from a leather cord around his neck. Burned onto the front side of the wood was a lightning bolt. Its flipside bore the blackened imprint of a tribal dancer. It had a turquoise nugget and a shiny black hematite bead strung together on each side. His father had given the talisman to him with a promise: It will guide you and give you strength when you need it most.

Today, dressed in a black suit and starchy white shirt, Samuel wore it in hopes the promise was true.

As mourners gathered, Samuel’s friend Brian came to stand beside him. “Hey,” he said.

“Hey,” Samuel answered without taking his eyes off the casket.

“Is that the necklace your dad gave you? You don’t usually wear it.” Brian’s wire-rimmed glasses slid down his straight arrow nose. He pushed them back up the bridge with one finger until they encircled his eyes again. “Can I see it? I promise I’ll give it right back.”

“It’s not a necklace.” Samuel pulled the leather cord off over his head, mussing his overgrown blond hair. “It’s a talisman.” He handed it to Brian. “My dad said it would help me, but it hasn’t done anything yet. I think it was just one of his stories. It’s probably just an old piece of scrap wood with a couple rocks tied to it.”

Brian shrugged after examining the piece then he handed it back to Samuel. “I think it’s cool. You should keep wearing it anyway.”

Nodding, Samuel hung the talisman around his neck again, but this time he dropped it down beneath his shirt where it was no longer visible. It felt warm against his skin.

“Has anybody told you where you’re going to live now?” Brian asked.

“Probably with Aunt Janis and Uncle Jack.”

Brian frowned. He kicked the tip of his shoe into the muddy soil. “They live so far away. Why can’t you just stay here and live with Mrs. Abel? She doesn’t have any kids.”

Mrs. Abel was their fourth grade teacher. She had plainly stated to all who would listen that her job was to teach the proper use of the English language to children who behaved properly. A babysitter, she had said, she was not. Today, she stood in the rain with the other mourners, eyeing the ground where the hem of her long, gray dress lay caked in mud. Tufts of brown hair jutted out from under her pink plaid scarf. Even though she stood a few feet from him, she had not spoken to Samuel since his mother’s death. Few people had. Everyone had words for Aunt Janis and they talked to Uncle Jack, but no one but Brian and a few classmates had spoken to him. Maybe talking to an orphan was harder than talking to a normal kid.

Purchase Links:

Mirror World Publishing


Barnes & Noble


“If you’ve forgotten the magic that lives in a child’s heart, this book will remind you. Black Lightning is a rare and beautiful mythic journey about one boy’s struggle with paralyzing grief and the powerful bonds that can carry a person through this world and beyond...” W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O’Neal Gear USA TODAY and NEW YORK TIMES bestselling authors of People of the Thunder

Meet the Author:

Karen (K.S.) Jones grew up in California, but now lives in the beautiful Texas Hill Country northwest of San Antonio with her husband, Richard, and their dogs Jack Black, Libby Loo, and Red Bleu. Black Lightning is her first middle-grade novel. She credits her love of fantasy to the early influences of authors J.R.R. Tolkien, Jules Verne, and H.G. Wells. Her award-winning first novel, Shadow of the Hawk, a Young Adult Historical, released in 2015.

Visit K.S. Jones:

0 Comments on Book Blog Tour and Guest Post: Black Lightning by K. S. Jones... as of 5/23/2016 3:58:00 AM
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2. May Shows Recap

We started off May with one of our best shows, Texas Frightmare Weekend in Dallas, Fort Worth. One of my all time favorite Horror Conventions, Frightmare did not disappoint. Sales were a little down from last year, but still above average.

2 Weeks later, we were off on our 2 week long trip to the Midwest. Denver Comic Con and Phoenix Comicon. Driving through Utah to Colorado was beautiful trip. I love to show rather than tell, so here are a bunch of photos from the road:

twisted_tree scenic_oc2 scenic_oc rainbow_co

And our table and booth Setups at both shows:

denver_table phoenix_booth


At Phoenix Comicon I got to work on quite a bit of commissions. These were drawings of some of the TV actors that were guests at the show. Summer Glau as River Tam from Serenity, Lexa Doig from Andromeda , Alyson Hannigan as Willow from Buffy, Katee Sackhoff as Sarbuck from Battlestar Galectica, Charisma Carpenter as Cordelia Chase from Buffy and Danielle Panabaker as Caitlin Snow from The Flash:

Caitlin cordelia Lexa river_tam starbuck willow

The post May Shows Recap appeared first on Diana Levin Art.

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3. Gina’s Team gives me reason to hope (and live)

I’ve thought about giving up. No longer creating. No longer caring. It’s on these, the darkest days, that I end up at Perryville Prison or on a road trip to Prescott or, say, to a sober-living halfway house in downtown Phoenix. It’s on these darkest days that Gina’s Team has saved my life.

Gina’s Team was named for Gina Panetta, a young mother who died while serving time in an Arizona prison. In her memory, we actively promote education and self-sufficiency for incarcerated women and men in Arizona at no cost to the prisons.

My title at work is “Book Nerd,” and this title has perpetuated through my time with Gina’s Team. At first, it was a monthly book club at Perryville Prison. I am now expanding to start a book club for former inmates and recovering addicts in downtown Phoenix and also at Mingus Mountain Academy—a safe haven for troubled teenage girls.

One of my dark days occurred last Wednesday, when I woke at 6 AM and knew I had to head to Prescott to judge a poetry slam at Mingus. My anxiety was off the charts, and I had trouble remembering how to dress myself. Then, we—Gina’s Team—arrived at Mingus, and the slam began.

One girl’s name was called (coincidentally, Sarah), and she covered her face. She ran up to us and said she couldn’t do it, couldn’t read in front of a hundred of her peers. She looked to me for some nod that would allow her to sit down and give up. Instead, I pulled her aside and said, “I’m terrified to be here today. I’d much rather be under my bed, but I got up on that stage earlier. You can, too. Now, go read.”

skype-stay-together-ad-two-girls-huggingShe did. An excerpt from Sarah’s piece, written for the founders of Mingus, Bill and Pauline: “I didn’t care about my life, and I wanted to die. I fought every day and held in my pain. I was stuck on alcohol and self harm habits. I hit rock bottom, then one day, a staff sat me down to tell me the story of Bill and Pauline. I didn’t want to accept that someone once cared about girls lonely and scared.”

Sarah won third place. I have her judging numbers on the wall in my office as a reminder of that day, and I like to think Sarah looks at her third place certificate and thinks of Gina’s Team. I hope we did something for her that day.

Gina’s Team has had a huge effect on my life. I’ve met beautiful, broken women who I have helped to heal—at least a wound or two. Now, we’re expanding, reaching out to more women, more volunteers. So now, I need something from you.

Behind the scenes is a team of web masters, volunteer accountants, organizers … you name it, someone is doing it. The bad news: one of our computers just died. We are in desperate need of a new Mac, so we’ve started a GoFundMe campaign. In order to continue serving women at Perryville and young girls like Sarah at Mingus, we need efficient access to technology. Please consider giving just five bucks, ten bucks, something.

When I have my darkest days, Gina’s Team pulls me from my shell and shoves me into situations that should be scary. Instead, my experiences with Gina’s Team have left me enlivened and hopeful for the future. I will not give up, no matter my personal darkness, because there are women who need me. Gina’s Team won’t give up either. Please help us in our continued mission to change lives for the better.

Head to GoFundMe now and donate, and please spread the need to your friends, family, and social media circle. Thank you!

0 Comments on Gina’s Team gives me reason to hope (and live) as of 1/1/1900
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4. Gina’s Team gives me reason to hope (and live)

I’ve thought about giving up. No longer creating. No longer caring. It’s on these, the darkest days, that I end up at Perryville Prison or on a road trip to Prescott or, say, to a sober-living halfway house in downtown Phoenix. It’s on these darkest days that Gina’s Team has saved my life.

Gina’s Team was named for Gina Panetta, a young mother who died while serving time in an Arizona prison. In her memory, we actively promote education and self-sufficiency for incarcerated women and men in Arizona at no cost to the prisons.

My title at work is “Book Nerd,” and this title has perpetuated through my time with Gina’s Team. At first, it was a monthly book club at Perryville Prison. I am now expanding to start a book club for former inmates and recovering addicts in downtown Phoenix and also at Mingus Mountain Academy—a safe haven for troubled teenage girls.

One of my dark days occurred last Wednesday, when I woke at 6 AM and knew I had to head to Prescott to judge a poetry slam at Mingus. My anxiety was off the charts, and I had trouble remembering how to dress myself. Then, we—Gina’s Team—arrived at Mingus, and the slam began.

One girl’s name was called (coincidentally, Sarah), and she covered her face. She ran up to us and said she couldn’t do it, couldn’t read in front of a hundred of her peers. She looked to me for some nod that would allow her to sit down and give up. Instead, I pulled her aside and said, “I’m terrified to be here today. I’d much rather be under my bed, but I got up on that stage earlier. You can, too. Now, go read.”

skype-stay-together-ad-two-girls-huggingShe did. An excerpt from Sarah’s piece, written for the founders of Mingus, Bill and Pauline: “I didn’t care about my life, and I wanted to die. I fought every day and held in my pain. I was stuck on alcohol and self harm habits. I hit rock bottom, then one day, a staff sat me down to tell me the story of Bill and Pauline. I didn’t want to accept that someone once cared about girls lonely and scared.”

Sarah won third place. I have her judging numbers on the wall in my office as a reminder of that day, and I like to think Sarah looks at her third place certificate and thinks of Gina’s Team. I hope we did something for her that day.

Gina’s Team has had a huge effect on my life. I’ve met beautiful, broken women who I have helped to heal—at least a wound or two. Now, we’re expanding, reaching out to more women, more volunteers. So now, I need something from you.

Behind the scenes is a team of web masters, volunteer accountants, organizers … you name it, someone is doing it. The bad news: one of our computers just died. We are in desperate need of a new Mac, so we’ve started a GoFundMe campaign. In order to continue serving women at Perryville and young girls like Sarah at Mingus, we need efficient access to technology. Please consider giving just five bucks, ten bucks, something.

When I have my darkest days, Gina’s Team pulls me from my shell and shoves me into situations that should be scary. Instead, my experiences with Gina’s Team have left me enlivened and hopeful for the future. I will not give up, no matter my personal darkness, because there are women who need me. Gina’s Team won’t give up either. Please help us in our continued mission to change lives for the better.

Head to GoFundMe now and donate, and please spread the need to your friends, family, and social media circle. Thank you!

0 Comments on Gina’s Team gives me reason to hope (and live) as of 10/22/2014 11:12:00 AM
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5. Lesson Learned

A week ago today, my short story, “Don’t Ball the Boss,” was published in one of my favorite literary magazines, Stoneslide Corrective. I’d been waiting months for the big unveiling, and when I saw my story (mine) flash across the homepage, I was thrilled. Then, something unexpected happened.

Well. I mean, nothing happened.

I don’t know if I expected a call from Stephen Colbert, inviting me to be on his show. Maybe a couple literary agents on my front stoop, begging to sign me? Helicopters circling my house?

Nope. Nothing. Radio silence.

I thought publishing was supposed to make me happy. Getting my work out there was supposed to make me complete. Instead, despite the honor of publication, I felt empty.

The next morning, my Aunt Susie and I headed to Prescott, where we wandered the streets and ate too much food. As we passed through the center square, a young woman in a woolen cap asked me if I had any cash. I lied and said “No, sorry,” but I did give her a cigarette, which made her smile.

Susie headed back to our hotel for a nap, and I made a sudden decision. I found the young homeless girl (along with her husband) and said, “Can I buy you guys a beer?” They wouldn’t have been more shocked if I’d offered them a mansion in the Hollywood Hills.

Beverly and Josh took me to the Whiskey Row Pub: a great dive with tons of TVs and pool tables. Once there, I bought us a round of PBRs. Beverly and Josh explained that they’d both lost their jobs as bartenders and were currently sleeping behind a dumpster—hiding as best they could to avoid a police fine (because it makes so much sense to fine people who can’t afford to sleep indoors).

Nightlife_0000_Whiskey-Row-PubWith wet eyes, Josh kept saying, “You’re so cool.” I slipped Beverly as much cash as I could afford, and even though she refused a couple times, she eventually accepted when I told her, “You have to eat.” Last I saw them, we were hugging on the street, and they were headed to Vegas to seek greener pastures. I wish I had taken their picture.

I haven’t stopped thinking about Beverly and Josh. I gave her one of my business cards, but did I do enough? They reminded me of the hitchhiker I picked up weeks ago who couldn’t afford a ride to Perryville Prison to see her incarcerated daughter for her thirtieth birthday. That woman, Karen, got in my car and couldn’t stop crying, saying, “Thank you, thank you,” until I thought her vocal chords might give out. I had to calm her down before she could go into the prison, because the officers aren’t really fans of hysterics.

In church yesterday, my pastor talked about the story in Luke of the four friends who carried their paralyzed buddy to the roof and lowered him into a crowded room just so Jesus could touch the guy—which sent me into a complete panic because again, I thought of Beverly and Josh: Did I do enough? Did I do enough? God, I didn’t do enough.

I’m sorry to say work has taken a back seat the past couple days. Although I’m still thrilled to see my name on the Stoneslide Corrective website, the past week has made me rethink what matters. Do I want to be interviewed by Stephen Colbert due to my obvious literary genius? Of course. But as I’ve learned, the buzz of celebrity lasts about as long as a mug of PBR.

The ache in my chest for Beverly, Josh, and Karen has lasted for days and shows no sign of ceasing. I might pick up hitchhikers. I might hang out with the homeless. I might run a book club at Perryville Prison. But I’m not doing enough, not enough lasting good. Not yet.

I will seek ways to serve people and not my ego, because serving my ego makes me feel nothing but a short-lived bump. Our egos cannot be filled. Our egos are bottomless pits that consume and consume. But doing something for someone in need? That feeds the divinity in all of us, and if we do enough, maybe the hunger—the constant striving—will cease. Maybe we will feel whole.

For now, my thoughts are with Beverly and Josh as they travel north. I know they got to take a shower Friday, and this thrilled them when we spoke Tuesday afternoon. I hope they’re all right. God, please let them be all right. I’m sorry I didn’t do more.

9 Comments on Lesson Learned, last added: 10/8/2014
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6. Don’t Slack on Setting

I picked up a book recently because it’s set in New Orleans. The plot sounded okay, but really, New Orleans. As someone who used to live in the American Lowcountry, I miss the South. As an Anne Rice fan, I feel I’ve visited New Orleans many times, even though I haven’t.

I was excited to start this book, escape the desert for a while, and be lulled into a sensuous stupor by the sights, sounds, and smells of what many consider the most beautiful city in the world.

To say I’ve been disappointed is an understatement. Here’s what I’ve gotten so far: “There was something about New Orleans—something about the air itself—a certain sultriness found nowhere else, that silky touch of humidity on skin like fingertips dragged slowly over your flesh.”

Great! And that was the first line. Since that first line, nothing, nadda. The author could be writing about Wall, South Dakota, and I wouldn’t know. Where is my French Quarter? Where is the overwhelming, sweet scent of magnolia? Where are the horse-drawn buggies for tourists?

ef5f114d06dfe0799832eb2df94d3424I’ll tell you where: in New Orleans. But not in this author’s book.

As a writer, setting is important. In my novels (even in my short stories), the city becomes a character. When I wrote Life without Harry, my readers rejoiced over places they recognized and couldn’t wait to visit places they did not. Same goes for Something about a Ghost, set in Phoenix. You know damn well you’re in Phoenix. You feel the dry heat and smell the spring-blooming orange blossoms. You see the purple-red sunsets, because Phoenix has a persona. Setting should have a persona.

As I mentioned, I was once lucky enough to live in the American Lowcountry. I lived in Charleston, South Carolina (aka “Heaven on Earth”), and the novel I’m writing at present takes place there. An excerpt:

“The air felt crisp, clean, light, and although most of the flowers were long dead, the air still smelled like some sweet bloomer over the usual scent of saltwater and wet sand. He clunked down the metal stairs that led to the ground floor and paused as his boat shoes met grass.

“He walked through the yard and its overabundance of dormant gardenia plants, their waxy leaves still green and lush despite the chill. The Crepe Myrtles at the end of his sidewalk were almost bare, beyond a few dark orange leaves that clung. He pulled a leaf free and held it between his fingers as he took a left and walked down Church Street toward Battery Park.

fbe2a39fb38fcb522ed53d63611ecbd2-3“He passed the houses where rich people lived, passed their well-kept gardens, their BMWs. He passed over brick roads, beneath the sprawling, wicked arms of Angel Oaks. He paused at Stoll’s Alley, a tiny walkway of brick, overwrought with climbing ivy—one of his usual short cuts—and kept moving until he entered Battery Park, the very tip of the Charleston peninsula.

“He stayed on the edge of the Battery. He stood on the walkway overlooking the harbor with his elbows leaned against the cold metal rail. The sky was cloudy, so the water looked dark green, tumultuous as though a storm would soon arrive. In the distance, he could see Fort Sumter and an American flag that flapped in the wind. There was a wind, a slight one that brushed softly over his face and brought with it the smell of dead fish.”

Do you smell the smells? See the sights? Feel the air? I hope so. I worked hard to take you to Charleston, even if you’ve never been there. This is setting, and for some reason, we’ve forgotten it. We’ve gotten so caught up in plot, character, conflict—but what is a story without a world, a sense of place?

This is a reminder to writers and readers alike: don’t let books get away with weak settings. Don’t be lulled by pretty people. People are but a thin pie slice of what is really happening in a story. Don’t disappoint me. I’ll find you and write about you on my blog.

10 Comments on Don’t Slack on Setting, last added: 3/18/2014
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7. Love for Kings of Leon

Jake and I saw Kings of Leon last night. I love them. I listen to them when I’m sad, angry, happy, when I want to dance. I listen to them always. Instead of doing a full concert review, I offer you my favorite of their kick-ass rock songs. And they played all of these last night at the Ak-Chin Pavilion.

1. Charmer
They opened with this ditty, hiding behind a curtain that made them look like ten-foot-tall ghosts. A creepy girl shouted from a huge TV screen. Warning: one of their wilder songs that showcases “the scream.”


2. Closer
An extremely sexy song I think is about vampires.


3. Molly’s Chambers
From their first album, back when I first fell in love with my boys. (Look at their hippie hair!!) Now, this is a dance song. This is a sexy woman power dance song.


4. Pryo
A melancholy tune that Jake occasionally does for karaoke. They rocked it last night, surrounded by images of flying flame.


5. Arizona
Well, it’s called Arizona. How cool is that? I like driving through the desert at night to this song, especially when the stars are out.


6. Back Down South
I want to move back east when I hear this song. I want to move back to Charleston and have an oyster roast.


7. Wait for Me
From the newest album, this one always strikes a chord. I scream the words … and try not to tear up. An affirming song about love and patience.


8. Cold Desert
Save the best for last. When they played this last night, a wave of fake snow fell on the crowd. Talk about theatrics. I might have sobbed a little. I get emotional around music I love, okay?

1 Comments on Love for Kings of Leon, last added: 3/21/2014
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8. Finally!

Hey, I’m back. It’s only been . . . well, months.  Have been struggling with getting “Buried Alive!,” John Victor’s second adventure, edited and published. It’s available–right now!–online at Create Space’s Book Store.  Finally! But, before I get into that, there’s something exciting (at least for me and possibly for any of you who suffer with insomnia):  Over the counter medicine, prescriptions, and the usual suggestions have all failed me. But, there’s a cure that actually works for me!  Finally! My long-time friend, Erna D, told me about it on the telephone. You simply need a banana, a small saucepan and some water.  Cut both ends of the banana off. (I’m not sure why, but perhaps they’re bitter?).  Then place the banana–skin and all–into a saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil.  Let it simmer for ten minutes.  Then, use the water like tea (I add lots of cream and a little sugar).  Tastes great that way if, like me, you like a little bit of tea with your cream and sugar.  Anyway, drink your tea that tastes slightly like banana, and eat what you can of the banana–skin and all according to Erna–but with my stomach troubles I don’t bother with the skin.  I even mash the banana and add a bit to my tea. Reminds me of the consistency of extra pulp in OJ.  I end up falling asleep within half an hour, instead of struggling for two or more hours.

Getting back to “Buried Alive!,” the scene is set near Tucson, Arizona.  Our intrepid hero is literally buried alive in a crude cedar coffin somewhere beneath the Sonora Desert. And to make it interesting, his “coffin” is digitally connected to a live radio show. The radio host invites a bevy of professionals to communicate with John Victor, in an effort to pull elusive clues from his memory. Professionals like detectives, profilers, scientists, etc.  So they can find him before it’s too late.  An endangered plant is the basis for his being found. There are bits of trivia about the Tucson region, and most importantly of all, there’s information about the Bible. Between John Victor and one other character, bits of Biblical information is revealed, including info about prophesies that have actually been fulfilled–the chance for them being fulfilled is astounding–and about faith in its various forms.  Like with “The SEED,” John’s first adventure, “Buried Alive!” has intrigue, humor, a touch of romance, and faith-based information.  Speaking of “The SEED,” have I mentioned at least a hundred times that it was nominated by a professor for inclusion on Green Mountain College’s required reading list? And that it placed as a top-ten finalist in a national contest?  Well, right now, you can find “Buried Alive” by Ann Rich Duncan by Googling Create Space Book Store.  It’ll be available thru Amazon.com after April 10.  By the way, the ISBN #s are:  13:978-1496055538 and 10: 1496055535.  Here’s a pix of the cover:


0 Comments on Finally! as of 4/1/2014 1:31:00 PM
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9. The Chicken Incident (I Don’t Like Blood)

I am not amused.

“I am not amused.”

You know that scene in Clerks where everything goes to hell and the guy shouts, “I’m not even supposed to be here today!” That was me yesterday.

I flew home from a wonderful vacation in Florida Tuesday night knowing full well that my husband would be slaughtering chickens all day Wednesday. Jake has been raising Cornish Cross chickens for months now, and it’s a cool endeavor. They’re pasture raised, healthy chickens, fresh from farm to table. (You can buy one here.)

I’m proud of his project, but I told him, several times, I wanted nothing to do with kill day. I told him, “If I see any blood, we’re going vegetarian and you won’t eat meat for the rest of your life and you’ll be miserable.” I’m threatening when I’m terrified.

My mistake was taking him lunch. I went to Papa John’s. Jake’s pizza was ready, but when the guy pulled it out, he realized he’d forgotten the cheese. This should have been an omen, because what kind of idiot forgets the cheese? Well, what kind of idiot brings her husband lunch when she knows he’s murdering poultry?

I arrived, and Jake asked me to help out—just for a second. He needed my help bagging and labeling seven or eight cleaned carcasses. Clean? Sure, okay. He led me through his processing line like a horse with blinders: “Don’t look over there. There’s blood in the buckets. … And that trashcan is filled with heads. Don’t look in there. … Actually, just stand at this table and stare at the dirt.”

I could hear the living chickens nearby. They clucked and made strange sounds reminiscent of “No, no, no.” I focused on my task at hand. Cleaned chickens were placed in front of me, and I put them in plastic bags. Behind me, I heard Jake’s helpers taking chickens to the kill cones where I knew they would soon have their throats slit.

(“No, no, no!”)

I focused on my bagging, because I’m a good wife. I’m a good wife.

(“No, no, no!!!!!”)

Then, I hear this weird sound behind me, and Brandon (Jake’s pal) cusses. I’m worried Brandon has just cut his finger off. Nay. A chicken has escaped the cone but its neck has already been slit, and it’s flapping and bleeding all over the mother-trucking place.

I drop the damn cleaned chicken I’m bagging and start screaming, followed by unintelligible mutterings and sobs. Jake has to comfort me. He keeps saying, “That’s never happened before.”

The Mexican helpers are looking at me like I’m a crazy white girl. Well, I am a crazy white girl! I didn’t grow up on a farm! I don’t know how to “eviscerate” anything (except maybe a bottle of vodka). I was upset upset UPSET!!!

I left. I went to the grocery store and bought rice, beans, and green vegetables—nothing with meat and nothing red. I was utterly wrathful with my husband for even putting me in the position to see a flapping, screaming, bleeding chicken.

(“No, no, noooooo!!!!”)

Okay, so today, I’m laughing. I told this story to my father earlier, and he was so hysterical with sick amusement, he couldn’t talk. When he could finally breathe again, he said I had to document the chicken incident. So documented.

I keep looking at our egg-laying chickens in the backyard. They’re assholes who peck my toes, but I hope they know how lucky they are, little bastards. Daddy is a chicken killer, but he has spared their scrawny necks.

2 Comments on The Chicken Incident (I Don’t Like Blood), last added: 4/13/2014
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10. Catching Up with Blogging

peggy sue diner

We ain’t afraid of no dinosaur!

I realized that I have not posted in a while. With all the shows I have been traveling to, I barely had time to keep up with my blog. Since I have posted, I was writing about the Wild West Fest at the Calico Ghost Town in Yermo, California. All around it was a fun show; we stayed with my in-laws at a nice hotel in Barstow for the weekend of the show. It was also my birthday so we all went out to eat the legendary Peggy Sue’s Diner on Sunday night.

Then it was off to Seattle again for Emerald City Comicon.  It was an amazing show, with wonderful people. I have to give a big thank you to Sarah for the help at my booth (allowing me a few moments of rest to stretch my legs). The atmosphere was electric and everyone has my gratitude for making me feel so welcome up there. One of these days I will get Shawn up there so that I can leave him at the booth and go explore the city hehehe.

But that will only happen if the infamous Monsterpalooza does not fall on the same weekend as ECCC, like it did this year. Here is Shawn to tell you more. Shawn here and I have three words: It… was… awesome! I had a great time, though I wished Diana was there so that I could have walked around to check out more things. Oh well, there is always next year. All the fans were amazing and thank you to everyone for supporting Diana. Now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Beware the Gotham Bunnies

Beware the Gotham Bunnies

Thank you Shawn, so following those two shows was Wondercon. Oh how I love this show and it is one of my favorites. Not only did I get to see all my regular fans from SoCal, but Shawn being there allowed me to leave my booth from time to time to browse the artist alley. I got to catch up with some friends and meet some amazing artist for the first time. This was also the debut of my latest in the Terrible Trio series… the Gotham Bunnies, so cute, yet so evil.

Then I had a rare weekend off, and then it was time to get ready for Texas Frightmare Weekend. I was excited as I had never been to Dallas-Fort Worth, so this was a great opportunity to reach a new fan base. After a less than sterling start of the day (looking at you American Airlines) I made it to the show with only a half hour to set up. But after that it was one of the best weekends I have ever had at a show. It was intense, amazing, overwhelming at times and I can’t wait to go back next year. I may even bring Shawn along for this trip, I think he would enjoy the show very much.

Back to Southern California the following week for the Bat’s Day in the Park Black Market. This is always a fun show to do where I tend to pick up some great little pieces. It is only a one day show, so a bit more laid back and relaxing compared to the multi-day shows. Though being so close to Disney makes me want to go buy a ticket and go on some rides.

Finally last but not least was another trip up to Seattle (seriously, maybe I need to rent a room out there) for Crypticon. This was a great little horror convention with some pretty cool guests. I am starting to recognize a few people that have seen me at some of the area shows and meet some new fans. Thanks once again to Tamara of The Mystical Apothecary for being my traveling buddy once again.

Whoa, I was a bit more behind on this blog than I realized. Mid year resolution, I shall be better about updating my blog in a more timely manner. I have four more shows to do before I take some time off to do some more art and work on some upcoming projects, one of which is a book.

Keep on creating and have fun–


The post Catching Up with Blogging appeared first on Diana Levin Art.

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11. Arizona Face of Foothills 2015: VOTE FOR ME

I entered this model search on a whim. I got an email about it, and thought, no, thanks. Then, I looked at the past winners … and none of them looked like me. In fact, most of them were about nineteen and blond. For shame! So I entered. I like to think I represent the over thirty, non-blond, quirky demographic.

Now, I made one mistake. I didn’t realize there was an open casting call where you get 1000 free votes for just showing up. This means I’ll come nowhere close to winning, which is fine. I’m just glad my face is up there in the running, looking different. Different is good.

If you’d like to give me your vote, please do! Head over to the AZ Face of Foothills site and vote here. If you’re up for it, there are some other over thirty folk and some MEN, which is cool. Vote for them, too. Spread the love of different.

Oh, and PS: You can vote as many time as you want, so if you’re bored at work, keep pushing that button.


2 Comments on Arizona Face of Foothills 2015: VOTE FOR ME, last added: 7/5/2014
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12. I Am a Farmer’s Wife


I take all the credit for my husband realizing his dream. No, but really, I met this lovely girl named Kate through prison book club. She was not an inmate but a volunteer. I met her for coffee to prep for her first steps into Perryville Prison, and she mentioned she worked at an organic farm.

My husband, Jake, was totally into farming at the time. Well, I mean, he liked growing things in our backyard. I even bought him a couple classes at Desert Botanical Gardens just so he could see, for sure, what he thought of this whole planting things in the ground thing.

I asked Kate if I could bring Jake by to see Blue Sky Organic Farms, just for a visit. Jake started volunteering out there: Jake, the nuclear engineer who worked at a huge facility called Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station. The reason I have power to use my computer? Yeah, Palo Verde.

Jake was Navy for nine years. Then, he came to Charleston, South Carolina, met me, and um, married me. (Grin.) We moved together to Phoenix, because he got the job offer at Palo Verde, and he seemed fine, for awhile, until he found Blue Sky.

Blue Sky Organic Farms is a family-owned small business in the West Valley of Phoenix, right at the base of the beautiful White Tank Mountains. Jake loved volunteering out there. He loved his coworkers: David, Sara, RJ, and of course, Kate—the one who opened the door in the first place.

It took several months for total discontent to set in. My husband, who had done the same thing since the age of eighteen, suddenly didn’t want to be in the nuclear business anymore. He wanted to be a farmer.

We started small: five chickens in our backyard. Veggie garden. Then, he took the leap and, while still working at Palo Verde, raised and slaughtered over a hundred pasture-raised, organic chickens. (You may recall this, via The Chicken Incident.)

The talks began soon after, the questions for me: What if I quit my job and become a farmer? What if we sell our huge, unnecessary house? Do you think your parents are going to freak out? Yadda yadda yadda … until it became real.

Sunday night was Jacob Bauer’s last night at Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station. Our house is under contract, and we’re looking at rentals near Blue Sky. His first official day as “Farmer Jake” was Monday, and I’m thrilled that my husband has finally found his dream. He not only found it, but he is going after it.

People ask me if I’m nervous: less money, less stability, my loving husband possibly infringing on my OCD writer routine. Yes, I’m nervous. I’m a depressive introvert with an anxiety disorder who needs structure. (Wow, embarrassing when I write it out like that.)

There are times when everything is fine, when I have complete faith that God is running things and I have nothing to worry about. There are nights, though, when I can’t sleep. There are days when I feel like I can’t breathe.

Then, I remember: I’ve had the pleasure of spending most of my adult life living my dream, being a writer. Jake has been trapped in a job out of habit. How amazing that he has finally, at thirty-three, found exactly what he wants to be. He deserves this, and this brings comfort, because when I see Jake smile, I smile, too.

Will there be the occasional panic attack from his dear wifey? Yes. This is huge. This is terrifying. Still, Jake has felt all along that God was leading him. God is leading him; it’s what God does. Jake and I just have to have faith and love each other.

Whatever happens—however many meltdowns I may have—I am now a farmer’s wife, and I have never been more proud of the man I married.

3 Comments on I Am a Farmer’s Wife, last added: 8/2/2014
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13. I take the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

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14. Molotov Cocktail features “You Need My Shit”

The Molotov Cocktail is self-described as “A Projectile for Incendiary Flash Fiction.” Understand I don’t usually write flash fiction, but something about the magazine: the look, the content, the attitude … I had to be part of it.

The perfect opportunity arrived when we had a garage sale two weeks ago, and I realized I hate garage sales. While sitting there, watching people dig through my belongings, I wrote an essay with only Molotov Cocktail in mind. Blessing of blessings, they accepted it.

For your deviant enjoyment, The Molotov Cocktail presents “You Need My Shit.” (Oh, you really do.)

You Need My Shit
by Sara Dobie Bauer

My husband suggested I keep my revolver in a little box during our garage sale just in case. It never occurred to me to be worried about people robbing my African statue that looks like it’s taking a shit.

Seven AM in Phoenix feels like living in a stove set to three-fifty. People show up and dig through piles of clothes I used to wear. Strange the things you remember, like how I once posed for a female friend’s camera in that corset with the red skull on the front.

There’s this one guy who shows up in a suit and tie. He laughs when I tell him he’s overdressed. He’s too friendly. I think about my revolver in the little shoebox at my side. Then, he goes into his Jehovah’s Witness spiel, and I think about the gun even more.

(So do I really get to shoot anyone? Read on at Molotov Cocktail‘s website, Volume 5, Issue 11.)

Photo credit: Boise Daily Photo

Photo credit: Boise Daily Photo

2 Comments on Molotov Cocktail features “You Need My Shit”, last added: 9/3/2014
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15. Skydiving and/or “Why would you jump out of a perfectly good plane?”

A friend of mine was a pilot who served his country well. Due to his experience, he never understood why someone would pay to go skydiving. In his words: “Why would you jump out of a perfectly good plane?”

My tandem mate Tod asked me this same question last week at Skydive Phoenix as I prepared to do just that. Why? Why would I choose to jump out of a plane at eight thousand feet? I wish I had a good answer, but as I told Tod’s nifty video camera, “I was bored.”

Now, I realize most so-called “normal human beings” wouldn’t get bored and decide to plummet toward Earth with a bag on their back, but you know me: I’m the girl who swam with sharks in Belize; who loves haunted houses and cemeteries at night. I’m the girl who likes to be scared.

When I arrived at Skydive Phoenix Thursday morning, I felt immediately at home. I was surrounded by people younger than me who seemed to be having a damn fine time just hangin’ together. I met Tod, who reminded me of a rock band roadie mixed with a Southern Florida surfer dude. Turns out he was from Ohio. As I chose my Ohio University “House Beer” t-shirt for my jump, we hit it off immediately.

There was little prep work. Sure, I signed all the paperwork that said Jake couldn’t sue anyone if I ended up a pancake. Then, I put on a harness, and we walked to a plane the size of an SUV. The video camera (strapped to Tod’s wrist) came along, and Tod kept asking, “Nervous yet?” Should I be concerned that I wasn’t?

The itty-bitty plane climbed to eight thousand feet. Tod and I were strapped together as we slid to the open door. My last moment of clarity: With my left foot outside the plane, I stared down at the desert below. Then, we jumped.

I can’t say the free fall is clear. I don’t exactly remember the way my body felt, and my mind was blown blank by adrenaline. I think I was screaming (we’ll see once I get the video tape back). What I can say with assurance: the free fall was over much too fast.

As we swung above the earth, tethered to our parachute, the first thing that came to mind: “I need to do this again.”

I had a perfect landing (thank you very much), and I felt like my spirit was still eight thousand feet high. The cool chick at the Skydive Phoenix office confirmed my belief that after skydiving, there are two things that should happen: a cigarette and sex.

I have to thank the team at Skydive Phoenix for making my experience so easy, enjoyable, and fun (including the guy who said he was going to undertake his hundredth jump nude. Now, that would be something to see!). Tod was the perfect crazy person to be tied to, and I already have intentions to do a thirteen thousand-foot jump in the near future.

There’s something about doing irresponsible things that makes me feel alive. Since my jump, all sorts of people have called me crazy for doing it, but I think they’re just jealous they don’t have the balls to let go. Do something that scares you. Do something that makes you freak. Stop working and wake up for a second. Find your own “plane,” and make the jump.

0 Comments on Skydiving and/or “Why would you jump out of a perfectly good plane?” as of 1/1/1900
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16. Indigenous SciFi. Best Gift Shopping in LA. Second toughest job in Poetry.

Review: Walking the Clouds. Tucson : University of Arizona Press, c2012.
ISBN: 9780816529827 0816529825

Michael Sedano

A few columns in the past, Rudy Garcia and Ernest Hogan exchanged thoughtful columns about speculative fiction and raza writers and characters. Both Hogan and Garcia are accomplished writers of genre imaginative fiction that some might call science fiction or speculative literature.

Something Hogan said turned me on to this useful anthology. It's part college textbook and part top-drawer introduction to speclit written by  indigenous-other-than-Mexican gente. In addition to US Indians and Canadian North American Indian writers, a Jamaican, New Zealander, and a couple Australian indigenous writers are included.

What Hogan and Garcia are specializing in is a most challenging literature to craft. Charged not simply with describing quotidian settings but with added responsibility of posing arresting drama against plausible futures or fantasy origins, to people scenes with actors and languages fit to the time and place. Do it well and you have Hogan’s Smoking Mirror Blues,  and Garcia’s Closet of Discarded Dreams. There’s also Lunar Braceros on the Moon.

Mostly, though, they do it in obscurity. Vampires, werewolves, or wizards pretty much define the limits of most readers’ familiarity with speculative literature. But there’s a wide variety of stories within the umbrella term “scifi” or "speclit". That’s why the sweep of this anthology is so useful. If the limits of one’s language are the limits of one’s world, so too one’s literature. Hence, this collection of indigenous literature written in English can widen one’s perspectives on colonialism, conquest, and liberation.

The textbook element grows out of editor Dillon’s organization, dividing the selections to encompass a division of species within the science fiction realm. These include Native Slipstream, Contact, Indigenous Science and Sustainability, Native Apocalypse, and “Returning to Ourselves.”

In addition to sharing the indigenous perspective, the anthology offers a worthwhile introduction to the field of science fiction writing. The science species of writing is Dillon’s specialty. She notes, “One aim of this book is to distinguish science fiction from other speculative writing typically associated with Native thinking, such as the time-traveling alternative worlds in Native slipstream and contact narratives.”

Coming away from such a rich collection of disparate elements, I’m left with a sense that many of these indigenous writers share a pessimistic outlook on native prospects. The premise of dystopias is they arise out of defeat and cataclysm. Dystopia is a shared trope of scifi, such pessimism is not new from indian brothers and sisters. It would be new to have these writers contribute something unique to the conversation implicit in scifi.

Chicana and Chicano writers can take a lesson from the way many abjure simultaneous translation of non-English phrases. The words stand on their own; if you don’t understand they aren’t meant for you. One lesson I hope writers don’t pick up on is dialect writing. Fighting a writer’s aural scribbles makes reading a story an exercise in impatience.

In many cases, the snippets herein will lead curious readers to the whole works and onward into the writer’s oeuvre, so the anthology achieves its end. Walking the Clouds makes one of those cool stocking stuffers to thrill the hard-to-please readers in the familia.

The Best Gift Shopping in L.A.

Chimaya's sale was last week.
Tempus fugit worries the last-minute holiday shopper. The months of November and December teem with fabulous craft and art sales. Beginning with Dia de los Muertos events and continuing through the Christmas season, every weekend brings the best gifts that week.

The weekend of the fifteenth is truly the final leisurely shopping day of the season, and it brings the always heroic--for quality and quantity--Avenue 50 Studio Holiday Sale.

This is the eighth time up for Avenue 50, which this year combines the artful awesomeness of Two Tracks Studio, and She Rides the Lion.

The party and sale take over two days in northeast Los Angeles, Saturday, December 15th from 7:00pm to 11:00pm, and Sunday, December 16th from 12:00 noon to 4:00pm

The out-of-the-way location inevitably means museum quality work at neighborhood gallery prices. In this instance, the Avenues neighborhood: 131 N Ave 50, Los Angeles CA 90042.

The direct-from-the-artist sale includes a who's who of accomplished and up-and-coming artists. It's a sale not only of what's on the walls but entrée to the artist's portfolio and commissioned work.
Alfonso Aceves
Anna Alvarado
Gloria Alvarez
Rafael Cardenas
Mita Cuaron
Jack Fenn
Sergio and Diana Flores
Emilia Garcia
Rosie Getz
Cidne Hart
Kevin Hass
Yolanda Gonzalez
George Labrada
Ronald Llanos
Pola Lopez
Jose Lozano
Heriberto Luna
Oscar Magallanes
Leticia Martinez
Lynne McDaniel
Lara Medina
Stephanie Mercado
Robert Palacios
Beth Peterson
Jose Ramirez
Tina Rodas
Nancy Romero
Sonia Romero
Jaime Sabatte
Stormie's Art
Marianne Sadowski
Hector Silva
Cola Smith
Roderick Smith
Raquel Soto-Escobar

On-Line Floricanto From the Moderators
Francisco X. Alarcón, Odilia Galván Rodríguez, Andrea Hernandez Holm, Hedy Garcia, Treviño, Elena Díaz Bjorkquist, Carmen Calatayud

I watched the interpreter signing Sharon Olds' poem and thought to myself, "Self, that has to be the toughest job in poetry."

The second toughest job in poetry is moderating a public poetry site and selecting up to five for submission to join an upcoming weekly La Bloga On-Line Floricanto.

All that reading and selecting, and have opportunity to write their own poetry.

Moderators of the Facebook group, Poets Responding to SB1070 Poetry of Resistance, read the dozens-to-hundreds of unrefereed postings. Poets must engage the Notes feature of Facebook software to share a poem to appear on the Facebook page.

Moderators read every posting then each rank orders personal picks. Poems that stand out garner near-unanimous votes from the panelists. When votes are close--chacun a son goût, sabes--senior moderator and group organizer Francisco X. Alarcón conducts a second vote or applies alternative filters to break ties and ultimately limit the submission to five poets.

This second-in-December La Bloga On-Line Floricanto is exceptional not only in bringing six poets to the limelight, but because the six include the founder and the five moderators of Poets Responding to SB 1070: Francisco X. Alarcón, Odilia Galván Rodríguez, Andrea Hernandez Holm, Hedy Garcia, Treviño, Elena Díaz Bjorkquist, Carmen Calatayud.

"Nochebuena | Christmas Eve" by Francisco X. Alarcón
"Her Mother’s Travels" by Odilia Galván Rodríguez
"In December" by Andrea Hernandez Holm
"She Rides the Sky" by Hedy Garcia Treviño
"Growing Roots" by Elena Díaz Bjorkquist ©2012
"Moving to the Land of the Dead" by Carmen Calatayud

Nochebuena | Christmas Eve
by Francisco X. Alarcón

This poem by Francisco X. Alarcón, with illustrations by Maya Christina Gonzalez, is from their bilingual book, Iguanas in the Snow and Other Winter Poems / Iguana en la nieve y otros poemas de invierno, now availabe though Lee & Low Books. It is included here as as a celebration of the upcoming holidays. Feel free to share
--Francisco X. Alarcón

Poem by Francisco X. Alarcon; illustrations by Maya Christina Gonzalez, from iguanas in the Snow and Other Winter Poems (Lee & Low Books)

Her Mother’s Travels
Odilia Galván Rodríguez

her mother never traveled
except in books
she never visited exotic places
no Eiffel tower or Egyptian pyramids
her mother never got to fulfill dreams
of playing tennis professionally
or of spending long summer nights
in the company of a lover
in that place where two rivers meet

her days were filled
with the push and pull
of assembly lines
of dealing with tired people
who didn’t want to do their jobs
hers to motivate them
to produce for management
by threatening or cajoling
this meant she was always
the witch, or worse

her mother never had real friends
yes, some long ago acquaintances
whose names are remembered
while fingering yellowed photographs
stuck on pages of mildew stained
photo albums
names of women long moved on
or gone to the next world
women who didn’t care for her much
because she was so hard to love

her mother never had
kind words to say about anyone
her compassion was limited
to faraway orphans
she would send five dollars a week
to keep in clothes and shoes
give them a cup of milk
the ability to stay in school
she had their pictures
taped to the refrigerator


that place where two rivers meet
is a special place
is not from a book she read
but rather from a real place
a special one she still holds dear
she saw it once from a car window
on her journeys as a child
from state to state
her family following
the migrant stream

a place of many willows
of grass tall, a whisper of green-yellow
that reached up on toes to kiss the trees
grass so soft, not hard to navigate
lush enough to be pushed down upon
open enough to lie in
belly to belly
touching the bones of earth
red like the blood of ancestors
soaking up Iná MaKá’s power

most days she is lost
stuck in her oldest memories
mostly the unpleasant ones
but there are times
she travels to that place
a motion picture camera
playing inside her skull
when she sleeps
awake or in the state
brought on by purple pills

there she is held
as she lies in that tall grass
embraced by her lover
there she can remember
all the life she longed to live
all the love she wanted
to give and to receive
but never could
there she is healed

In December
Andrea Hernandez Holm

The sounds of a conjunto
Bring me comfort.
I gasp with delight
When I hear el acordeón exhale
Songs from my childhood.
In December
I find solace in the memory
Of family love
And energy.

She Rides the Sky
by Hedy Garcia Treviño

Dressed in amber shades of moonlight
She called upon the morning star
Forget not yet my name
Forget not yet my name
For I will come again in springtime
And ride upon the wings of hummingbird dressed in turquoise, red and purple robes
She rides the sky
She rides the sky
She left her dreams
In spirit boxes buried on the left side of the mountain
And scattered stardust in the wind
She rode the sky
She rode the sky

And promised to return in spring
Disguised as Little hummingbird
In turquoise red and purple robes
She rode the sky

Growing Roots
by Elena Díaz Bjorkquist ©2012

Red sky, red earth,
A sunset after monsoon
Blessed the land

“Spread your roots here
I will nourish you,”
The land called

I knew then
This was the place
I was meant to be

I walked the land
The desert claimed me
Welcomed me home

Here I will grow old
Watch the ravens
Fly overhead

Be visited by hawks,
Deer, javalina, quail,
Roadrunners, snakes

Listen to coyotes
Singing in the wash,
Mourning doves cooing

Be sheltered by saguaro,
Mesquite, palo verde,
Smell the creosote

Here I am growing roots
Finding peace
Feeling at home.

Moving to the Land of the Dead
by Carmen Calatayud

Where the dead loiter and eat blue tulips
is the land I’m attracted to.
Where green grass is purple
and the sky a convoluted rainbow,
where rest is redundant and the sun
is all that’s needed to lift our lungs
for another breath.

Where the dead play for hours
and drink lemonade is the place
I’m drawn to. Where orange lips hang
from trees and bottles of singing potions
are left open till morning comes.
Where hibiscus is chewed like
bubble gum and the raucous pink petals
stain our hearts for the rest of heaven’s time.

Where the dead still use ashtrays as
décor is the home I want to live in.
Where doves as white as a blizzard
fly in and out of windows to laugh
arguments away. Where sugar sprays
like gunshot stars so children
awaken to sweetness. Where peace
resides in the bark of trees
and the leaves never drop.

Where the dead weave silk for pajamas
they wear all day is the town I’m moving to.
Where sheep sleep all day and drink rioja all night.
Where poems by Bukowski pour out of angels’
mouths and torch the campfire that melts
every disease of the soul.

Originally published in In the Company of Spirits (Press 53)

"Nochebuena | Christmas Eve" by Francisco X. Alarcón
"Her Mother’s Travels" by Odilia Galván Rodríguez
"In December" by Andrea Hernandez Holm
"She Rides the Sky" by Hedy Garcia Treviño
"Growing Roots" by Elena Díaz Bjorkquist ©2012
"Moving to the Land of the Dead" by Carmen Calatayud

Francisco X. Alarcón, Chicano poet and educator, is the author of thirteen volumes of poetry, including, Snake Poems: An Aztec Invocation (Chronicle Books 1992), recipient of the 1993 Pen Oakland Josephine Miles Award, From the Other Side of Night: Selected and New Poems (University of Arizona Press 2002). His latest book is Ce•Uno•One: Poems for the New Sun (Swan Scythe Press 2010). His most recent book of bilingual poetry for children is Animal Poems of the Iguazú (Children’s Book Press 2008). He teaches at the University of California, Davis. He created the Facebook page, POETS RESPONDING TO SB 1070: http://www.facebook.com/PoetryOfResistance

Odilia Galván Rodríguez, poet/activist, writer and editor, has been
involved in social justice organizing and helping people find their
creative and spiritual voice for over two decades. Odilia is one of
the original members and a moderator, of Poets Responding to SB 1070 on
Facebook. She teaches creative writing workshops nationally,
currently at Casa Latina, and also co-hosts, "Poetry Express" a weekly
open mike with featured poets, in Berkeley, CA. For more information
about workshops see her blog http://xhiuayotl.blogspot.com/ or contact
her through Red Earth Productions & Cultural Work 510-343-3693.

Andrea Hernandez Holm is a graduate student in the Mexican American Studies Department at the University of Arizona, and holds an M.A. in American Indian Studies as well. Andrea's primary research interests include indigeneity, identity, and the intersection of identity with creative writing. She is an Instructional Specialist, Sr., in the University's Writing Skills Improvement Program where she provides tutoring services to undergraduate and graduate students and teaches writing workshops for high school students, graduate students, and the general Tucson community. She has also taught Mexican American Studies, American Indian Oral Traditions, American Indian Literature, and American Indian Religions at the university.

Andrea has worked as a research/publications specialist, a freelance writer, editor and writing consultant. Her most recent projects have included working as an editor for Veronica E. Velarde Tiller's book, Culture and Customs of the Apache Indians (Greenwood Publishing Group, 2010) and serving as the Project Researcher/Writer of the award-winning Tiller’s Guide to Indian Country: Economic Profiles of American Indian Reservations published by BowArrow Publishing (2005). Her essay "Prayers and other Ofrendas" appeared in Wisdom of Our Mothers (Familia Books, 2010). Andrea is also a published poet with works appearing in The Blue Guitar, La Sagrada, Tribal Fires, Collegiate Latino Underground, Red Ink, and the Cuentos del Barrio II art exhibition of the Tucson/Pima Arts Council. Two of her poems were selected for the 2010 commemorative issue of El Coraje, a Chicano Studies student publication produced for the Conference Combating Hate, Censorship and Forbidden Curriculum held in Tucson.

Andrea is currently a member of the moderating panel for the Facebook page "Poets Responding to SB 1070". She is also a member of the women's writing group, Sowing the Seeds de Tucson. Her poetry, fiction, and non-fiction essays appear in the group’s anthology, Our Spirits, Our Realities (2011).

Read interviews with Andrea:
"The battle over Mexican American Studies" by Chrissie Long, University World Newshttp://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20120824101851900
"Does Tucson need Three Poet Laureates to bring it back from the brink of censorship?" by Jeff Biggers, The Huffington Posthttp://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeff-biggers/tucson-poet-laureate_b_1396176.html

Hedy M. Treviño’s poetry has been published in numerous journals and other publications. She has performed her poetry at numerous cultural events. She continues to write poetry, and inspires others to use the written word as a form of self discovery and personal healing. She is one of the Moderators for the Facebook page, Poets Responding to SB 1070

Elena Díaz Björkquist. “After living in California for 36 years, my husband and I decided to leave our beloved redwood forest and move to Arizona, the state of my birth, the state where my parents lived, the state where one of our sons lived with his daughters. It was with trepidation that we arrived in Tucson after a monsoon rain and were greeted by a gorgeous sunset. The move from redwoods to saguaros was blessed by that sunset and we made an easy adjustment to living in the desert.”

A writer, historian, and artist from Tucson, Elena writes about Morenci, Arizona where she was born. She is the author of two books, Suffer Smoke and Water from the Moon. Elena is co-editor of Sowing the Seeds, una cosecha de recuerdos and Our Spirit, Our Reality; our life experiences in stories and poems, anthologies written by her writers collective Sowing the Seeds.

As an Arizona Humanities Council (AHC) Scholar, Elena has performed as Teresa Urrea in a Chautauqua living history presentation and done presentations about Morenci, Arizona for twelve years. She recently received the 2012 Arizona Commission on the Arts Bill Desmond Writing Award for excelling nonfiction writing and the 2012 Arizona Humanities Council Dan Schilling Public Humanities Scholar Award in recognition of her work to enhance public awareness and understanding of the role that the humanities play in transforming lives and strengthening communities.

Elena is one of the poet moderators for the Facebook page “Poets Responding to SB1070” and has written many poems published not only on that page, but also on La Bloga. She was recently nominated for Poet Laureate of Tucson. Her website is at http://elenadiazbjorkquist.com/.

Carmen Calatayud's first poetry collection In the Company of Spirits was published in October 2012 as part of the Silver Concho Series by Press 53. In the Company of Spirits was a runner-up for the 2010 Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets. Her poetry has appeared in journals such as Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Cutthroat: A Journal of the Arts, Gargoyle, La Bloga, PALABRA: A Magazine of Chicano and Latino Literary Art, Red River Review and the anthology DC Poets Against the War. Calatayud is a Larry Neal Poetry Award winner and recipient of a Virginia Center for the Creative Arts fellowship. She is a poet moderator for Poets Responding to SB 1070, a Facebook group that features poetry and news about Arizona’s controversial immigration law that legalizes racial profiling. Born to a Spanish father and Irish mother in the U.S., Calatayud works and writes in Washington, DC.

6 Comments on Indigenous SciFi. Best Gift Shopping in LA. Second toughest job in Poetry., last added: 12/21/2012
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17. Joy and Fear

Family Fun World, c/o Joe Orman.

Family Fun World, c/o Joe Orman.

For the past three years, whenever we visit Jake’s family in Tucson, we drive past what appear to be pastel bird cages off the 1-10. For the past three years, I’ve said to myself, “I wonder what the heck is up with that” but done nothing. This year, on our trip down for Christmas, though, it came to my attention that my husband now owns a smart phone, and voila! Family Fun World.

Family Fun World was one man’s dream to bring an amusement park to Eloy, Arizona. Richard Songers was a construction worker with a dream—to open a park on the land he purchased outside of Eloy in 1995. Initial plans included a drive-in theater, wild animal zoo, race track, and concert venue. Songers apparently ran out of money before the park could open, and well, Family Fun World became a skeleton of unfulfilled dreams. Nothing remains, beyond these bird cages (originally part of a ride called “The Galaxy” from the Magic Mountain Amusement Park in California) and, from what I’ve read, a very angry guard dog.

A bird cage at Family Fun World, Eloy.

A bird cage at Family Fun World, Eloy.

What became of Richard Songers? I guess he still lives near Eloy, since one Family Fun World visitor claims to have met the guy. What does he do with his days, I wonder? Has he moved on to the next dream, or does he mourn the loss of the dream unfulfilled?

It’s a new year, 2013. I’m not going to get into my goals (they’re not “resolutions;” they’re goals). I look toward this new year with joy and excitement, because so much can happen in a year. So much can happen in a month! However, there’s been an unfamiliar feeling, too—an invisible finger itching the back of my brain. This feeling woke me up almost every morning when I was home for Christmas in Ohio. This feeling wakes me up at 2 AM sometimes, too. The feeling is fear. Now, I love horror movies. I love haunted houses. I love dark walks with no flashlight. Fear is a feeling I usually embrace, because, like the time I swam with sharks in Belize, fear makes us feel alive. This fear is different. This is the fear of never amounting to anything.

This is the curse of the “artist.” I’m not talking about the movie, The Artist, although the theme fits, as we watch George Valentin sell off his possessions and sink into anonymity. Fear of failure is the curse of anyone with a dream, although artists generally are more susceptible, because we rarely have anyone tell us “good job,” “here’s your promotion,” or “you need a raise.” I live behind a computer screen in pajamas, and although I have a couple essays published, the accomplishment is not enough. I want my novel published, and as I try to sell the one from last year, I work on a 2013 manuscript and hope, because the doubtful voices get louder every year.

What if your book is never on a shelf at Barnes and Noble?
What if you never become that smiling author on The Daily Show?
What if professionally, you never become anything but a marketing copy writer?
What if? What if?

By Kelly Rae Roberts.

By Kelly Rae Roberts.

I have crushing days of failure. I have days when I pay my career no mind at all. I have days when I don’t want to write and days when I can think of nothing but writing. So here we are, in 2013. What will this year bring? Will that long-awaited call from a literary agent arrive, or will I be crushed beneath the weight of my own terror?

I bought something while we were in Tucson, after passing Family Fun World and spending a good half-hour thinking about poor old Richard Songers. My recent purchase was an ornament from a coffee shop: a painted picture of a skinny girl like me with three words: “create (tell it).” The ornament sits on my desk, because that is what I do. I create and I tell it like I see it. I can acknowledge my fear, but I must also acknowledge a tireless drive to dream. Not even fear can blow that candle out.

6 Comments on Joy and Fear, last added: 1/3/2013
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18. On the scene: Amazing Arizona Comic Con kicks off 2013 on the right foot

The only cons I like better then ones that I can ride my bicycle to are cons that only take an hour and a half  drive.  Sometimes the commute is intimidating and it's much easier to just stay home.  Amazing Arizona Comic Con gave me too many reasons to not miss this event.

1 Comments on On the scene: Amazing Arizona Comic Con kicks off 2013 on the right foot, last added: 1/31/2013
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19. I’m a Princess

The Narrows, Zion National Park.

The Narrows, Zion National Park.

Our last week was spent hiking and camping, immersed in nature. Joined by two of our best pals from out east, Jake and I trekked through Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, and the Grand Canyon. We survived two nights of camping at Zion, the first of which involved a bear scare (turned out to be nothing). The second night, the apocalypse descended by way of a thunderstorm that could wake Rip Van Winkle. There was very little showering, less sleep, and miles—hours—of hiking.

I grew up hiking. Every summer, my family would travel to a number of national parks. I recall one particular trip when my dad and I decided to hike a mountain and ended up going off-trail, getting lost, and wandering for much longer than we should have. Yet, back in the day, this didn’t bother me. Back in the day, I could hike for days and days and never tire of the beauty of nature. So now, at thirty-one, what have I come to realize?

I don’t like hiking.

This may come as a shock to those of you who remember the Sara of her early twenties. As a college kid at Ohio University, I used to skip class to drive to Hocking Hills and hike strenuous trails by myself. I couldn’t be stopped. So what happened over the past ten years?

Arguably, I have finally become over-saturated with the hiking experience. Maybe I did too much hiking as a kid, and now, I just don’t want to do it anymore. Or even worse (gulp): I have officially become a city girl.

The view from our campsite.

The view from our campsite.

I might have done better if not for the camping and the utter disgust with my own stink. Jake has often asked about my family vacations from my youth, and he doesn’t understand why my family never camped. We stayed in hotels. I never had a for sure answer to our lack of camping either, but I do now.

First of all, nobody sleeps well when camping. It’s very hard to hike for six hours when you haven’t had a good night of sleep. My parents understood this, which was why we stayed in places with beds and running water. More importantly, after a long day of hiking, I want a shower, a beer, and ESPN. These are behaviors learned from my father, because after a long day of hiking, this is what he did on our family trips.

Don’t get me wrong: I had a fabulous time this past week with our friends. We hiked the Narrows, which is my favorite hike, like, ever, because the whole time, you’re walking through a river. Yet, by the time we were finally driving home on Tuesday night, I was so, so done. I was ready for a shower, my bed, my dogs, and yes, my computer. I missed feeling like a girl, so yesterday, my gal pal and me got mani/pedis and went to Ulta for new makeup. I wore perfume. I shaved my legs. I went out in high heels. I was a woman again.

I’m not embarrassed to admit it: I’m now a city girl. I love nature, but I’d rather see it from the porch of a furnished cabin as opposed to through the zipper of a stinky tent. And I’d rather be in a pretty dress at happy hour than on a hiking trail. Ten years ago, I never would have seen this coming, but I now must admit: I’ve become a princess.
2013-09-02 07-02-02 -0700

7 Comments on I’m a Princess, last added: 9/15/2013
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20. The Soundtrack to “Life without Harry”

Do you listen to music when you create? As a writer, I must say I do not, but I know Stephen King has a penchant for hard rock and metal bands when he writes. What about painters? Sculptors? Dancers don’t count, because you obviously listen to music when you create.

Artists out there: what does music mean to you?

I only ask because I’d like to know I’m not alone. See, every time I start a new book, I slowly develop the movie soundtrack. I’m a geek, right? Like, totally, but for real: every book I have ever written has a playlist in iTunes, complete with the book title and a full list of songs that inspired the project.

Sometimes, the list is built before the book even begins. Other times, the playlist grows as the book grows. Generally, there is a main band that frames the novel. I swear, each time I start a new novel, some band out there releases an album that fits perfectly with my project. Very cosmic, yes? It goes back to the theory that we’re all connected: artists and non-artists alike.

What we do inspires other people even if we aren’t aware—which is, I suppose, why we should be cautious of what we create. There’s a lot of pressure, putting something new out into the world. You never know what effect you might have, which is part of the excitement and part of the danger. But I digress …

This blog post is actually a playlist for my first completed novel Life without Harry (available in eBook). I started writing Life without Harry during the summer of last year, and it just so happened that Florence + the Machine released Ceremonials around the same time. Voila. Soundtrack created. But as the book grew, so did the songs.

I’d now like to share the very special, very personal song list that went along with the writing of Life without Harry. I can even tell you the specific scene where each song belongs. Enjoy some good music today and realize how much music affects you, your life, and your art.

Official Soundtrack to Life without Harry

We Are Young – Fun (Movie Trailer)
Prologue – John Williams (Just because.)
Only If For A Night – Florence + the Machine (Opening Credits)
I Won’t Let You Down – Alex Clare (Kissing in the Fireflies)
Heartlines – Florence + the Machine (Running from Cops on Camelback)
Transatlantic – Silver Rocket (Anywhere. This song fits anywhere.)
Between Two Lungs – Florence + the Machine (Sam Begins to Write)
Arizona – Kings of Leon (Paul Takes Sam Broom-Flying)
Never Let Me Go – Florence + the Machine (The Haboob Chase)
Soon or Never – Punch Brothers (The Final Goodbye to Sig)

Thanks for reading … er, listening. In the future, I think I’ll always include a playlist in the content of my novels. It seems to make the experience so much more personal, for me and my reader. We can not only share words and images but sounds, as well, no matter the distance between us, and I like that.


2 Comments on The Soundtrack to “Life without Harry”, last added: 9/13/2013
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21. The Suicide Girls and Blackheart Burlesque

Suicide Girls. Blackheart Burlesque troupe.

Suicide Girls. Blackheart Burlesque troupe.

There is something really hot about a chick with black lipstick and tattoos. I’m fake punk; I know this. I wear dark lipstick, makeup, and tight t-shirts with snarky sayings. However, I also clean up well and look very nice in a white dress. Oh, and I only have one tattoo. I couldn’t be a Suicide Girl, but oh, how I would like to be!

I attended Suicide Girls’ Blackheart Burlesque at the Marquee Theater in Tempe. Initially, I bought tickets because I love burlesque. Only secondarily did I look into the Suicide Girls, although as I understand it, the majority of my male friends knew about them already.

Suicide Girls is a website, created by two Portsmouth, Oregon, folk who wanted to see “hot punk rock girls naked.” To be a member of the website, you must pay, and it’s become an international phenomenon, now based in Los Angeles. There are books by the Suicide Girls, as well as movies and a tour.

Priddy Suicide. Pardon my drooling.

Priddy Suicide. Pardon my drooling.

The Blackheart Burlesque show is a little different than the tour, because not all Suicide Girls can dance—and the BB girls … they could freakin’ dance. The lead cast of the show was only four ladies. I could have gone for more, but the four did not disappoint—Priddy Suicide, in particular. Talk about a hot chick. Yipes. Each of the four women was different: different colored hair, different tattoos, different body shapes. What did they have in common? Severe confidence and an edge.

The Blackheart Burlesque was very much about nerd love. Since I’m a nerd, I appreciated all the cultural references. This wasn’t a stupid strip tease. This was everything from The Big Lebowski to Planet of the Apes to Star Wars. True, Star Wars in g-strings with duct tape over nipples—but Star Wars!

I was about six rows back, but the front couple rows got covered in everything from fake blood to whiskey. And how could I forget the birthday cake? At one point, the MC covered her breasts in birthday cake and let the audience lick frosting from her fingers. Priddy Suicide even poured whiskey into her own mouth and then spit liquor into the awaiting, open mouths of her fans.

Half the troupe was British (hot). But of course, Priddy, the whiskey-chugging, foul-mouthed, ample-breasted redhead, was American. Thank you.

The Suicide Girls are not about dotting letters with little hearts. They aren’t about being sweet or shy. Although burlesque is the art of tease, this was teasing with a fist to the head. Whenever you open a show with Bjork’s “Army of Me,” what can you expect? Nothing less than one kick ass performance from four kick ass women who chew men up and spit ‘em out like bad sushi.

The Suicide Girls do Star Wars.

The Suicide Girls do Star Trek.

7 Comments on The Suicide Girls and Blackheart Burlesque, last added: 11/11/2013
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22. Time with Troubled Teens at Mingus Mountain Academy

Ask a person with social anxiety to speak in front of one hundred teens about social anxiety, and the irony is all too apparent. Still, when Gina’s Team asked, I said “yes,” and immediately asked myself WHY? What was I thinking? I’m terrified of speaking in public, but I resigned myself to my fate.

Gina’s Team is an organization founded by my friend, Sue Ellen Allen. Gina Panetta died while serving time with Sue Ellen at Perryville Prison. She died because of ignorance—Gina, a young woman with children who loved her. Now, Gina’s Team works to promote education and self-sufficiency for incarcerated women and men in Arizona.

Mingus Mountain Academy.

Mingus Mountain Academy.

Wednesday, a group of us from Gina’s Team traveled to Prescott to visit the Mingus Mountain Academy. Mingus is a safe place for emotionally and behaviorally at-risk adolescent girls. The girls there are victims of abuse. Some are suicide attempt survivors, drug addicts, and criminals. Others have escaped sex trafficking and unsafe home environments. All in all, they are broken and in need of healing.

Upon our arrival, I was surprised at the attitudes of these young women. They approached us immediately, shook our hands, and introduced themselves. These are teenagers with a healthy respect for their elders and confidence not mustered by most adults. Impressive.

We congregated in the gymnasium for the speech segment. Three of us offered our input. Lori and Diana (both ex prison inmates I was blessed to work with at Perryville) told their stories of missing fathers, drug abuse, rape, and prison. When Lori broke down in tears, the girls of Mingus cheered her on and shouted, “We support you!” Some of them even joined in her tears, because they related—they understood.

As I mentioned, I was invited to speak about social anxiety and depression. I gave the narrative version of my life—from my days of black hair, cutting, and an abusive relationship to now. I told the story of meeting Jake, and the girls gave a standing ovation when I told them I’d been married two whole years. They were just so thrilled to hear I’d found someone—someone who loves me for who I am, who doesn’t hit me, who lets me be me.

Mingus-bell-girlsAfterward, during the Q&A, they asked me to sing for them, which I did (another standing O). One girl was brave enough to ask how I stopped cutting, since she is a cutter herself. I channel my depression, anxiety, and rage into writing, so I told her she needs to find her cutting replacement, too. Another girl asked how to get over losing someone. The only thing I could tell her was time.

As we got ready to leave, young women ran to me to give me hugs and read me their poetry. I was amazed again by their self-confidence but also by their talent. The girls of Mingus can write!

On the drive back from Prescott, we read their comments. A repeated theme: “You give us hope.” I received a personal note, as well: “Sara, you inspire me to move on with my life.”

During my speech, I talked to them about a lot of things—about escapism, how to cheer up when in a funk, and how to be strong, especially in a world dominated by men. I also talked to them about God and how He gave me depression and anxiety for a reason: so that I could relate to others suffering from the same diseases and let them know life is never without hope.

I completely crashed after my trip to Mingus. I felt the lingering nausea, which always follows public speaking. As an introvert, my body was sapped of all energy. Yet, I basked in the images of my day—all those beautiful, broken girls and the way they cheered for us outsiders, strangers. They enveloped us in their love, despite perhaps feeling unloved themselves.

I hope to return to Mingus in September for their annual poetry slam contest. I can’t wait to hear more of their written words, their form of artistic escape. Until then, the girls will be in my prayers because I want the best for each and every one of them. They deserve the best.

10 Comments on Time with Troubled Teens at Mingus Mountain Academy, last added: 2/24/2014
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23. Chicanonautica: Still Weird in Arizona

by Ernest Hogan

Arizona is weird. People ask me why I live here. I just dig that weirdness.

I also found my wonderful wife here. She digs the weirdness, too. She took the pictures that decorate this post. Ah, the romance of decaying cacti! So freaking beautiful! Beauty should be strange or not at all.

So no one should be surprised that the Arizona state legislature came up with a not so beautiful monstrosity like SB 1062, that expands “exercise of religion” and “state action” to protect businesses, corporations, and “people” from lawsuits after denying services based on a sincere religious belief. Like, if you happened to believe that homosexuality is an abomination, and some sodomites wanted pay you for whatever you do for money, you could tell them to go take a hike. What ever happened to good old-fashioned capitalism? I wonder what such an entity would think if they knew that I’m an all-purpose heathen devil who practices creative blasphemy?

Governor Jan Brewer vetoed SB 1062. These times they are a-changing. She hasn’t hallucinated about human heads being found in the desert lately, and she told CNN: “I think anybody that owns a business can choose who they work with or they don’t work with. But, I don’t know that it needs to be statutory.”

Believe it or not, there are gays in Arizona. A lot of them work in service-related industries. Couples are making wedding plans, and going to California to get married. 

There are also a lot of Arizonans who have trouble with people who are different from them. That’s why all the English Only, and anti-immigrant noise. These same people interact with and are served by gays every day, but they can’t tell.

These are the folks who came to Arizona to get away from it all. And they haven’t escaped, they’re just in denial.

Meanwhile, three mountain bikers reported seeing a reptilian humanoid near Tucson: “all of a sudden we see this long figure walking across the trail. He is maybe about 6-foot tall, very very skinny, and it had an awkward gait, like a monkey . . . or a man with a disease, almost robotic, kind of.”

But the creature may have not been male. There are species of lizards that are all female, reproducing through parthenogenesis. Like the New Mexico whiptail lizard who “performs a type of pseudocopulation where two females will act out having sex as if one was a male.”

So, look out Arizona, there is no escape. The lesbian lizards of Aztlán are out there, heading for your place of business, seeking your services.

Ernest Hogan is La Bloga’s Arizona correspondent. He also writes science fiction. Sometimes it’s hard to tell which is which.

0 Comments on Chicanonautica: Still Weird in Arizona as of 2/27/2014 10:11:00 PM
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24. We’re Going to the Gay Bar

Last week, we celebrated the veto of a ridiculous discrimination bill (SB 1062), which means (yay) I don’t have to leave the state. On a personal note, I received word that my first published work of 2014 will be my short story “Don’t Ball the Boss”—an audacious gay romance about a celeb and his PA.

1899875_10152200791602159_367601999_nFinally, though (and come on, most importantly), last Thursday was Dallas Arizona’s birthday. I met Dallas a couple years ago. He’s probably the most famous gay guy in Phoenix and not only because he’s hot but because he’s sweet and he can dance. He dances often, all over the city, but my favorite venue for a good old Dallas time is at Ice Pics Video Bar on McDowell.

The place looks scary from the outside because there are no windows, and the front door is sort of hard to find. Whenever I’ve gone there, I’m one of the only chicks; seriously, you can hear crickets singing when I walk in the front door.

Ice Pics is dark on purpose. Inside, there are TV screens everywhere, playing clips of old musicals and current music videos. There’s a dance floor and stage. They have indecently cheap drinks. And despite the fact that my girlfriends and I are usually the only chicks, we feel welcome.

The thing I’ve realized about Ice Pics: you have to come prepared. The friendliness of its clientele can be truly overwhelming. Case in point: Thursday, Dallas’s birthday. As soon as I saw Dallas (who was wearing nothing but fluorescent yellow underwear stuffed with dollar bills, of course), I was wrapped in a huge hug and my picture was taken. I was introduced around, hugged some more.

I'm in there somewhere ...

I’m in there somewhere …

I soon had gay boys circling me like friendly, smiling sharks. They wanted to talk about my outfit, my hair, my body, my lipstick. If you don’t take a complement well, do not go to Ice Pics. You will shrivel and pass out under the adoring scrutiny of the men inside.

When I go to Ice Pics, I feel like I’m on vacation—and, it seems, so does everyone else. There is long, loud laughter and sudden, unexpected stage performances by Dallas and his crew. One second, you’re outside talking to a strange, tall boy in multi-colored skivvies. The next, you’re inside, and Dallas is in a wig and glitter, dancing to the Bee Gees. Next, you’re on stage, too! You just never know.

Last week, we in Arizona celebrated the epic failure of a disgusting piece of legislature, but we also celebrated Dallas. I’m happy to know him, and I’m happy to live in a place with a pretty rocking gay scene.

3 Comments on We’re Going to the Gay Bar, last added: 3/4/2014
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25. Chicanonautica: Strange Dogs of Aztlán

It sounds like the scenario for a pre-apocalyptic horror/comedy: abandoned chihuahuas breeding out of control, terrorizing part of Arizona. The fact that I first ran across it on a Pocho.com story didn’t help my credulity -- this could be the stuff of satire. But I found the story in other outlets, local television, and even Time.

Some people I told about it laughed, and doubted that tiny dogs could be a real threat.

This brought back an unsettling memory. 

Once upon a time, my wife and I worked for a cleaning service. We’re both writers, so getting money can be rough. In this job we were sent to homes and never knew what we’d find. We learned a lot about the private lives of folks who can afford to hire help . . . like the mysterious Mr. Lopez.
Chihuahua skull:
His condo was gigantic and looked like it had been the location of month-long drug orgy. We dutifully scrubbed the cocaine/snot residue off of the glass tables, emptied all the ashtrays and hash pipes. Did I mention that Mr. Lopez was a lawyer?

He left instructions for us to clean  the sliding glass door, inside and out. The problem was we would have to open it. That would expose us to Mr. Lopez’s dogs.

They were smaller than chihuahuas, and fluffier. We never got a good look at them. They were in constant, rapid motion in that closet-sized yard -- two blurs of long hair and sharp teeth.

The tree trapped out there with them had all the bark chewed off it.

When they saw us, they launched themselves at the sliding glass door slamming into it at face-level. Arf! THUNK! Arf! THUNK! Arf! THUNK! And they did not stop all the time we were there.

The outer side of the door was a thick smear of dog saliva. Yeah, it needed a good cleaning, but no way were going to open that door. And we didn’t.

Mr. Lopez, who neither we nor our boss ever saw in the flesh, was not pleased. He did not pay for our services. He was a lawyer.

Emily and I still wonder what the hell those dogs were, and where he got them.

But then, this is Aztlán, and we have some strange dogs here, like the chihuahua, and the xoloitzcuintli.

Diego Rivera holding a xoloitzcuintli:
The English-speaking world calls the xoloitzcuintli the Mexican hairless. They still have trouble wrapping their tongues around Nahutal. It may be a while before the xoloitzcuintli becomes as popular as the chihuahua, since it’s not what Western civilization considers beautiful.

Granted, the Nahuatl name translates to monster dog -- so the Aztecs didn’t think it was cute either. You mostly see it in  news stories about ugly dog contests.

Something I’ve found interesting is a resemblance to the chupacabras, or at least the Texas blue dogs that in the last few years have been photographed, killed, and called chupacabras. It has the same purple-grey, hairless skin, though it's bigger, with larger fangs. The news stories keep coming in, but what are they, and where did they come from?

Stuffed chupcabras:
Once again Pocho.com put me on the trail to a possible answer via the Houston Chronicle: Houston animal control officials said they have heard of people trying to breed dogs that look like so-called direwolves from the TV show Game of Thrones.” 

Homegrown mad scientists are out there, doing their damedest to make sci-fi into reality. Some of them probably live in the barrio.

Meanwhile, in my neighborhood, there are más y más badass chihuahuas strutting the streets.

But then, Aztlán is the land of the Chichimec -- a generic term the Aztecs used like barbarian that literally translates to dog people, the strangest dogs of all.

Ernest Hogan is proud of his Chichimec heritage.

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