Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Next new house project: The yard

I know the yard was beautiful all spring and into the summer, blooming with daffodils, peonies, irises, daylilies, and non-stop roses. However, due to several factors, horribleness occurred.

It rained and rained and rained. Weeds loved that. Some of the nicer plants rotted. Poison ivy and poison oak took over the extensive flower beds.

I had to be out of town enough that, well, the horribleness occurred. Something had to be done. For one thing, there are too many trees in the front yard. Some of them have to go. In the flower bed beneath three of them, weeds don’t even grow! Well, except for poison ivy, and it doesn’t thrive there.

For another thing, the flower beds are too large and too many. There’s no way we’ll be able to keep them up. (By “we” I mean “I” since I’m the only one who tends plants in this family.)

We’ve gathered estimates and have hired a landscaper and a tree company. The tree company will take down 3 of the trees and grind out the stumps. Sadly, one of the trees is the weeping cherry that was so gorgeous. The only reason it has to go is that it is dying. The branches are barer and barer every week and the trunk is almost falling apart.

The landscaper has sprayed twice in preparation for clearing most of the plants. The plan is to end up with one smaller flower bed that gets sun. As many bulbs as possible will be saved and moved, and we can always get more.

I’ve tried to give the roses away, but the neighbors don’t want them. Hey, I understand--I’m not a rose person either. And these roses are planted right at the curb where a passenger exiting a parked car will get stuck! Not too hospitable.

We’re not sure how long this will take, but eventually, the yard will be lots more grass than it is now. We hope.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Guest today: J. H. Bográn

I welcome J. H. Bográn to my Travels today. His book, FIREFALL, takes us across the US to Central America on a wild ride. His first statement below is that Spanish is his first language. Don't let this fool you! His English writing reads like an American-born speaker.

Straddling two cultures

My native language is Spanish. I began learning English halfway through high school. I fell in love with thrillers in my first year in college when a friend of mine presented me with a box of old paperbacks where I discovered Ken Follett, Robert Ludlum, and Clive Cussler among others.

So why am I writing novels in English? Easy, because my mind began phrasing stories in that language way before I thought of writing in English. I believe I recognized English as the language to tell stories in a subconscious level.

Now, don’t think I forgot Spanish. I’d never do that. Perusing my website you’d find that I have several projects—screenplays, flash fiction, even novels—that are in Spanish.

In the writing of Firefall, I incorporated bits from the two cultures as I have two main characters, one from each nation, who must learn to work together, not unlike an odd couple of sorts.

Research plays an important role when I’m developing characters that live, and have grown up, in the U.S. For instance, Sebastian Martin from Firefall was born and raised in New York, then moved to Dallas. I had the opportunity to interview people from the two cities, both natives and late-arrivals. I got wonderful material from a newcomer’s perspective of Dallas, as my main character is, thus I was able to add some Yankee flavor to his descriptions. Although I’ve visited New York a couple of times, I must admit I still have yet the pleasure to be in Dallas. I’ve come as far as Houston, where I bought a few state maps and fridge magnets with the Lone Star logo. Hopefully that is enough until I can make a proper visit.

We’ve all heard about how people like to visit exotic locations in novels. Then in hit me, I live in what can be very exotic to people in other parts of the world. Proud as I am of my heritage, and of course, also a bit of “write what you know,” I made a few places in Honduras the main locations for the novel.

The action of Firefall takes place in Dallas, where the main character Sebastian Martin works, but also in San Pedro Sula and most important the port city of Tela. A few scenes take place in New York, Guatemala and Puerto Cortés. Oh, and let’s not forget the erupting volcano of Masaya in Nicaragua!

These days I write in both languages, hoping that they complement each other instead of running parallel, or worse, run interference.

Author Bio and links:
J. H. Bográn, born and raised in Honduras, is the son of a journalist. He ironically prefers to write fiction rather than fact. José’s genre of choice is thrillers, but he likes to throw in a twist of romance into the mix. His works include novels and short stories in both English and Spanish. He’s a member of the Short Fiction Writers Guild and the International Thriller Writers where he also serves as the Thriller Roundtable Coordinator and contributor editor their official e-zine The Big Thrill.

You can find this book at:

Follow J. H. here:
Website at:
Twitter: @JHBogran
Amazon author page:

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Why Are Mystery Writers So Nice?

I was at Killer Nashville, having lunch with Annamaria Alfieri, whom I had just met. We were discussing a session she’d attended about human trafficking (I had not been to it) and why there’s such a lot of it in Tennessee (a very chilling subject). (The main reason is that Tennessee has so many interstates running through it. More miles than any other state, I think I read once.)

Our waiter, however, must not have heard the gist of our horrifying conversation. He noticed our matching badges and asked what our group was. When we told him we were murder mystery writers, he acted surprised. He said we were, as a whole, a very nice bunch of people. He either said or implied that it was an incongruity, asking why that was.

We both agreed with him that mystery writers are a nice bunch. One or both of us answered him that it’s probably because we get all our aggressions out of our systems on the page. After we’ve committed mayhem for hours, days, months on end in a lonely room, we’re able to be bright and cherry when released and out among our own kind.

Both of us agreed that’s the reason. I’d love to hear other thoughts on this.

(I decided not to write anything about today’s anniversary. You’ll find plenty of that elsewhere, I’m sure.)

Image from Wikipedia

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


Are you bad about saying thank you? I regret that I'm not an accomplished thanker at all! If I'm complimented on a new outfit, my first inclination is to say something derogatory about the outfit, like, I got it on sale, or, You like this? I’ve had it for twelve years. Over time, I’ve come to realize that this is a slap in the fact of the person, like saying they have no taste if they like this old thing. What I should say is, simply, “Thank you.”

Then there’s the other end of thanks. I get enjoyment out of helping people out. If a person in the grocery store is riding a scooter and gazing longingly at something on the top shelf, I stop and ask if I can get it down for them. I get embarrassed if I receive profuse thanks for helping with such an easy task as that. I usually mumble something like, “That’s OK.”

I found these synonyms for “thanking”. 
giving thanks

But underneath that are these antonyms:
finding fault

The antonyms are my natural response to being thanked! That’s not good. There are lots and lots of good ways to respond, better than “That’s OK.”:  

No sweat.
No problem.
You're welcome.
Don't worry about it.
Don't mention it.
You're quite welcome.
No, not at all.
It's my pleasure.
It's the least I could do.

Now I need to sit down and go over these--and remember them next time someone thanks me.  Two simple phrases is all I need. Thank you and You’re welcome.