Earthquakes, Bandits, & Romance in Old California

Writing is a calling. Even when words dangle just beyond reach like the old phonetic combinations that hung on wires stretched across the front of my first grade classroom, phoenetic th’s, ing’s and ght’s waiting to be mastered. I’ve been a writer for as long as I can remember, and a prolific talker before that, as my mother is fond of reminding me. And I’ve been a listener to old timers’ stories.

Now it’s time to celebrate. April 1stmarks a monumental event in my life, the day Cholama Moon, my first novel, is released by Oak Tree Press. Already I have a review on Amazon—five stars and the stark truth, priceless. (Relax, there’s no way to mispronounce Cho-lam-a. Tourists do it all the time.)

The novel is the first in a series about the lives of two families, a white girl and her father, and an Indian girl born before the secularization of the Spanish missions on the Central Coast of California, when the Franciscan padres were back to Spain. The times were turbulent, the Spanish driven out first by by the Mexicans and then by the Americans in a series of quick and efficient revolutions. Lives were ruined in the process. Blood was spilled, especially the Indians.

I’m gratified by the support I’m getting from readers for this series. The PasoRobles Historical Museum is hosting my launch. Buzz is building on Facebook. My launch will take place on Sunday, April 6th, 1-3 PM. Already people are curious to see what I’ve written about the area where they live, where I lived for fifty years. Paso Robles is a small town in the heart of the vineyards and a few miles from the epicenter of the San Andreas Fault, a seam in the earth where it is possible that one day California will split and drift off into the sea. San Luis Obispo is a beautiful county on the edge of the Pacific, the perfect setting for a historical novel.

It’s an honor to bring something to the table to share, but I’ve only prepared the salad from fruits that others brought me, stories and events from old timers and their local histories. Granted, I’ve done my homework. I attended Indian concerts in the Missions, made adobe bricks to repair the earthquake damage at Mission San Miguel,
tasted authentic Alta California banquets and danced the quadrille to the music of fiddle, guitar and bull kelp shakers, but all of this was produced by the people who have kept the history alive. I only tasted of the fruits of their labor.

I hiked the ancient trails and entered the sacred caves where the pictographs are protected from vandals. I visited chert piles at Montana De Oro and brought my project to the Salinan Indian Tribal Council to get their help. My husband and I were early and enthusiastic students of California history and now I’ve written a series that speaks to the heart of the facts I’ve gathered.

The second book is already finished. Maria Ines, the Indian girl’s story, will be released later in 2014. I’m already planning the third, the story of her very angry son Miguilito, who survives in a hostile world not of his choosing.

It’s a pleasure to write western historical fiction, combining elements of make-believe grounded by true events and setting. I invite you to drop by Amazon and read the first three pages. If you like what you read, the book is available there or on Kindle sometime in late May.

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