Hold My Calls

Hold my calls

I made an announcement a few days ago that Deputy Ricos Tale 5, “A Reasonable Explanation,” will be released in August. Somebody asked what happened to “The Hardest Word.” Good question. That was a working title and in the end it didn’t make sense for this novel. My publisher liked the title and so did I, but I can’t write to fit a title. It doesn’t work like that.

“A Reasonable Explanation” is the same novel I started, but it didn’t go where I thought it was going because Deputy Ricos kept taking it other places. The plot I had in mind would have made sense for the former title, but it wasn’t to be. One thing is clear to me: the deputy no longer cares what I think.

The imagination that brings forth fictional works also brings all the bugaboos you can imagine. As I write on the next Tale, I’m sometimes gripped by panic. What if my readers don’t like the new novel? What if I never finish another one? What if? What if?

“So what if they don’t like it?” counters Deputy Ricos with a lot of attitude for a woman I could erase with a tap on the delete key.

The problem is that I won’t/can’t erase her and she knows it. She is in me and I am in her. If she and I never wrote another tale, she’d still be with me as long as I live.

I think I struggled to write about 80,000 words before my character took it away from me. “Good grief,” I could hear her say, “You have no idea what you’re doing. Go read or something. I’ve got this.”

It’s with you, Deputy Ricos. Please hold my calls.

A New Year, Crazy-Writer Style

bookLast year was difficult in many ways, but writing-wise it was amazing. I got a tiny taste of what it would be like to be famous…very tiny, mind you, but it scared me to death. My overriding thought: I don’t have what it takes for this.

“Don’t you think you’d better figure it out?” snapped Deputy Ricos from inside my head. “You can’t just walk away!”

I told her to hide and watch me. She didn’t like it, but what was she going to do about it, write herself? That was what I half-expected. Anyway, I ignored her. What did I care?

Then I got a call from Front Street Books for more books. When I delivered them, someone asked, “When is your next Ricos novel coming out?” Ricos novel? La, la, la, I can’t hear you.

Whether I was ready or not, 2015 slid in. Even from a state of denial, I could feel the sizzling excitement and potential of a brand new year. What was I going to do if I didn’t write? Lie around?

After a couple of days of pathetic procrastination (Netflix, Pinterest, whining to friends), I rethought the whole writing thing. Forget fame and fortune (neither of which I have), the truth is I’m driven to write by a force I don’t understand. Deputy Ricos was correct that I needed to figure some things out, but the first thing for me, always, is to write.

Once I shoved away my doubts and fears and gave myself over to it, my muse came. I don’t even know what that is exactly, but when it comes I feel as though I’ve been zapped; I’m wired. I was held captive for two weeks and voila! My novel is finished. It needs polishing and tweaking, but the most painful part is behind me.

If you didn’t miss me while I was gone, that’s okay. I didn’t miss me either until I “came home.” This sounds crazy, and I know it is, but when I say I was “gone,” I’m not kidding. I was living the wrong life, at the wrong age, doing things I can’t do; everything was wrong, but oh, what fun! I returned to my “real” life a little disappointed that I had to return at all…not to mention I felt lost. Huh? What’s going on? Where is everybody? Today I went grocery shopping (don’t ask me what I ate for two weeks because I have no idea) and Alpine is still here.

No matter what else you can say about me, I’ve proven that I can start something and finish it. Now, if I could just apply that to housekeeping and staying organized. ¡Ojalá!

Typical of “the way things go” I’ve returned, but The Daily Planet is leaving. It’s going on “retirement mode” so Mike and Cindy can travel and have time to do whatever they choose. More power (and all good wishes) to them!

Without doubt, I will continue to be my opinionated, outspoken self on my blog here and also at this location: www.elizabethagarciaauthor.com  I’m not promising to post weekly. The only thing I can promise is to write.

Adiós, friends and Happy Trails! Thank you for the time you spent with me.

Thoughts on Thanksgiving

photoI came to my computer to write something special about the holiday, but I think every day is a day for thanks. Why limit it to one?

I am in awe of what life brings. I’m speaking in general of the good things/interesting things/fantastic things. I know that we all get our share of loss, sadness, heartbreak, and illness, but there is so much to be thankful for.

Right now my heart and head are full of Artwalk 2014. This was my first time to participate fully. I was signing books last year, but an ice storm froze out the event before it really got going, so I didn’t get a feel for the busyness or the excitement of it. Many people who had planned to attend didn’t get to, and the ones who made it to Alpine were staying inside because of the cold and slick ice.

This year’s Artwalk was a “wow” for me from beginning to end. My newest book was featured by Front Street Books. Who would’ve imagined that was possible back in 2005 when I pulled out my laptop to tell a story by writing it down? The first words of the original “One Bloody Shirt at a Time” were: “The woman was lying in a pool of her own blood.” There lay a person I thought I wanted to kill and oh, the power in that! She asked for it and by God, I gave it to her. So then a lawman had to show up, right? Not a lawman, a woman! A woman deputy!
I felt the tingle of a new challenge, an adventure. Truthfully, I couldn’t have dreamed what was headed my way, and you already know I have quite an imagination.

Here is the real truth of her name. My own precious daughter is named Margarita, so that was a no-brainer of a first name. I decided on Ricos because it means “riches.” Some part of me must have known she was going to bring me loads of them, and I’m not talking about money.

I’m talking about these kinds of things: “Dear Ms. Garcia, I just love you!” “Dear Beth, you have brought such joy to my life. I love your deputy!” “Dear Elizabeth, I wish I would have discovered you sooner!” “Dear Ms. Garcia, I think your columns are outstanding!” “Dear Beth, you are so awesome I just want to hug you.” Bring it on.

How about: “I came to meet you today because I love your books. Can I give you a hug?” Oh baby.

Saturday night someone special said, “I’ve been to nearly every book reading you’ve ever had,” and she has indeed. It does my heart a world of good to look up and see her and her husband there.

People have come across crowded restaurants to ask, “Are you Beth Garcia?” Sometimes (often) people who know me only from my columns will walk up and introduce themselves and hug me. You want to talk riches, I have thousands of stories.

How about this private Facebook message regarding my first book? I have shortened it slightly. “Beth, I went to Chaco Canyon and had to sleep in the back seat of my truck because (1) the space we rented did not allow tents to be set up where the RV’s were due to flooding and (2) no room in the RV for me and (3) it was 27 degrees the 1st two nights, then warming up to 32 the third night….I had purchased a 700 lumen flashlight and I employed it while sandwiched between two sleeping bags. Well, I figured a way to have it set up so I wouldn’t have to hold it, so I could turn the pages. It only took 2 nights to read most of the book.” This message was received a long time ago. I finally got to meet this loyal reader last night. What a treat for me. Thank you, Deputy Ricos!

At the end of the evening a teenager came up to me. I was sitting at the back of the store signing their stash of my novels. He said, “Are you somebody famous?” I replied that I wasn’t. His eyes widened. “Then how come you have so many books?”

“I wrote these books.”

“Oh my goodness! You must be the smartest person in Texas!”

You know it, Kid. We talked about how reading books will make you smarter by taking you places and introducing you to new people and ideas. I expect great things from that young man.

I would not trade ANYTHING for these experiences.

Speaking of giving thanks, on the Wednesday before Artwalk, I had an appointment scheduled with my pulmonologist in San Angelo. After undergoing an extensive breathing test, I received the most fantastic news. I have not gotten any worse! All the statistics on this disease are against me, but I am a still-breathing anomaly. I marveled on this all the way back home. I don’t care if I’m living on “borrowed” time; the important word here is “living.”

As I was giving my great news to one of my sisters, I had an epiphany. I believe I’ve not gotten worse because of the gargantuan amount of love that is poured onto me, much of it by people I don’t even know. Not to belabor last week’s message, but LOVE is everything. It’s powerful beyond measure and the only thing that really matters.
So a little Latina deputy has innocently brought more fantastic things than I can ever tell you. She has truly earned her name.

Thank for “hearing” me in what I write. I love you too.

Knocking Out a Wall, Part Two

My final Avalanche column ran a few Thursdays ago and on the same day, my ex came to Alpine. When I opened the door, I gaped. It took a few seconds before I could speak. How long do you think he’ll be able to pull off timing like that?

He invited me to lunch and of course I accepted. I broke the news that he could relax; there wouldn’t be any more columns about him. The look of disappointment on his face almost made me laugh.

His response: “Good. Now you’ll stop calling me a liar in public.”

Yeah, right.

Then he said, “I told you that people don’t want to hear those stories.”

Al contrario, Cowboy. It seems they do.

I tried to work a few more stories out of him, but he’s wise to me now. So I have to go with what I know. And I was there for this one.

What we didn’t know at the time was that the Border Patrolman who had taken such a dislike to us was a vindictive man, and he was the boss. Before I continue, I want to say that this is about only one man, not the Border Patrol in general.

The cowboy had been picked up on numerous occasions and was returned to the border each time. He’d worked at the fluorspar mine in the Christmas Mountains, on Terlingua Ranch, and in Odessa, Midland, and Lajitas. He said he’d never been mistreated once by any Border Patrolman and he never feared them. My point is that in any profession there can be one who gives the whole bunch a bad rep.

I could tell you the man’s name, but it doesn’t matter. He’s long gone from the job and also the planet. Suffice it to say that the night of the murder, which was later determined to be an accidental shooting, he let personal hatred supersede his professional duties.

Lajitas was similar to a large plantation during the days of slavery. In the Big House, some inhabitants were “less than” others. The workers, no matter our background or color, were in it together. We were tight. At the Big House they professed, “But we love our Mexicans.” Read, we love our cheap labor.

Border Patrol raids were common, but back then it was like a big game. A few green-uniformed men would show up in town. Radios, walkie-talkies, and telephones would hum with the news. La Chota!

The Border Patrol only came because they were supposed to and they sometimes took men away if they were slow enough to get caught. Or if the officers managed to surprise them. On raid days we hid people in all the nooks and crannies of the resort while the outside workers ran for the hills. I said it was like a big game, but I didn’t say everyone enjoyed it.

Four times they came in succession and it became evident they were after my cowboy. They asked about him at the Big House and they chased him. He escaped into the mountains or to the Rio, and he was fast. This became a rock in the boot because the boss was telling them to get That Mexican.

The manager of Lajitas called me in to say that this problem with the Border Patrol was disrupting the work schedule. I asked what I was supposed to do about it. Did he expect me to tell him not to run? No. He was one of the best workers. What, then? He didn’t know.

The Border Patrol figured it out pronto. The next day they returned with the boss and he caught my cowboy himself. He yelled to stop or he’d shoot him. That was a tactic they hadn’t used on him before and it worked.
I was at home and received this call from the front desk: “They have him in front of the hotel.” Nobody had to tell me who had nabbed who. I ran as though they were chasing me.

They had put him in back of a Suburban that was barred. There were a few other stricken-faced guys with him. It was a sight that tore at my heart. I was about to start sobbing, but he gave a tiny grin and shrugged. He believed he’d be back in a few days. I knew it would not be that simple.

What followed was a long, drawn-out mess. He was prosecuted because he’d run away and in doing that, he had “endangered” an officer of the Law. The game had reached a new level and the opponent held all the pieces.
I was forced to hire an immigration attorney. He said if I intended to marry the man, and I did, I had gone about it backwards. He explained that you’re supposed to get a “Sweetheart Visa” first. Great. Everywhere but within the law, falling in love comes first. The bottom line, law-wise, was that he should have stayed in Mexico until we were married. I didn’t bother to point out that if he’d stayed there I would never have met him.

The cowboy was jailed in Alpine, then Pecos, and was later moved to a big holding facility in El Paso. He was formally deported and then came back on a provisional visa. Doing it the wrong way cost us plenty. They slammed door after door.

The great news is that love won. We made it through the wall.

* * *

We saw our Border Patrol nemesis a year or so later when we were eating in the Badlands Restaurant in Lajitas. My husband was holding our tiny newborn daughter and the sun was shining brightly on both of them.
The Bad Man came in with two other men and they all glared at us.

My wise cowboy said, “Don’t look at him, Honey. He’s too small and sad to be part of our world.”

That was true; I knew it was, but I was not so forgiving. I said, “I wish I could hurt him.”

“You already did.”

Gratitude

ophone 021

This morning I needed to write. I also needed to walk, and it seemed as though I couldn’t get it in gear to do either thing. I opened the windows and heard the birds, busy and joyous. My guilty conscience thought all their songs were about lazy female procrastinators.

When I went to bed last night, I was writing a scene that takes place at the picnic area in the mountainous pass between Alpine and Marfa. I can’t hike in the mountains, which I would dearly love to do, but I can look at them and climb them in my head. And for my own sanity, I need to write about them. So I drove to the place I wanted to describe.

It was early but the sun was bright and warm. There was a cool breeze that rippled through the trees and caused the wildflowers to bob their heads up and down as if saying an emphatic “yes!” to the glorious day. It didn’t even take ten seconds for their enthusiastic mood to rub off on me.

I’ve driven through that pass so many times I couldn’t say how many, but I’ve never stopped at the picnic area—or never stopped for long. I changed that today by spending most of the morning there taking notes and studying a landscape worth writing about, although I will never do it justice.

I love the severely eroded mountains that surround us. Imagine how many years they’ve been standing there and the things they’ve seen and the extremes of weather they’ve endured. They were there when Native Americans roamed the area and long before that. The exposed stone makes them appear rugged and, at the same time, somehow vulnerable.

All the mountains and hills in the Big Bend Country are unique. Some have boulder-littered sides; some have craggy outcroppings or wear jagged crowns; some are tall and some short; some have a lot of plant growth while others have little; some are ridges or bumpy humps more than what you would call mountains.

After I fulfilled my walking goal, I sat on a bench in the sun and spent a long time studying the scene in pieces instead of trying to take it in all at once. For some reason I thought that would help me describe it. Directly across the road was the “back” of Twin Peaks. The sun was high enough in the sky that I had to concentrate on the lower reaches because of the glare at the top. The places closer to the ground were in shadow, which made the colors muted and the landscape more sharply defined. There’s a deep canyon back there that begs exploration, not to mention every other inch of that location.

Like the rest of the mountains throughout this region, Twin Peaks is not what it seems from a distance. Our mountains hold surprises for those who venture close. They have secrets. Often, they’re not one formation at all, but are layers of them, along with canyons and mountains within mountains. Sometimes they hide springs, waterfalls, ruins, or rare plants and animals.

Twin Peaks’ backside slopes down to a ridge that is topped by a long, wall-like structure called a dike. Dikes are the result of magma being injected into the fractures of rocks. When the surrounding rock is eroded, dikes are exposed and often appear as dark walls of rock. They give our landscape its sharp, jagged, crumbling features. I’m a writer, not a geologist, so what this boils down to is that they make our scenery stunning and no two places are the same. Add to that the sun and shadows, and it’s also ever-changing.

Across the highway from Twin Peaks is a giant rock wall that sits on top and slightly in front of a different mountain. I stared at it a long time trying to determine if it’s a dike or something else. For my purposes, it doesn’t matter. I can make geologists, biologists, and even sheriffs roll their eyes. I get things wrong all the time, but I try hard to capture the essence of them.

While I was resting in the sun, feasting my eyes, writing in my head, and with my imagination running off in all directions, I thought about gratitude. How fortunate I am to be alive right now in this place. Every single morning when my eyes open, I think, “Thank you.” I get to live another day. And not just another day, but a day in Big Bend.

“I See Witches”

When we married, of course it was about being in love. But it was also a merger of two stubborn storytellers, an English-speaker and a Spanish-speaking champion of the art. For his part, read “liar.” I couldn’t trust him for a true take on anything. I couldn’t even ask him what the weather was doing. I had to go look for myself.

One time we were bouncing along beside San Carlos Creek (in Mexico at a pueblo of the same name) in our old Jeep Wrangler. The top was down and the staticky music from the Ojinaga radio station was blasting. The sun was warm but not hot, and it was one of those “you can see Guatemala from here” types of days. Our children were safe at his sister’s, and we had the world to ourselves.

Our trip had started out a little rocky because the liar claimed he could take me to see the entrance of Santa Elena Canyon without going on the river to get there. I had only visited the exit of the canyon, so I had no clue his statement was true. Also, I hadn’t fully grasped the concept of the land on both sides of the river being interconnected in every way except legally. The river had carved its way through the desert, but I’m firmly convinced it was showing off, not trying to start a war.

The point is this: when the liar said he could take me to Santa Elena by driving, I said, “Prove it, because I know you’re lying.”

Game on.

The road was sometimes little more than a path but the countryside was picturesque to the nines. We had to move slowly because of the occasional cow crashing out of the brush, herds of goats crowd in front of us, or squawking chickens crossing the road. Meeting another vehicle was a tight squeeze.

We came to an overlook under a majestic cottonwood. The liar pulled the Jeep up to the edge of the arroyo and said, as if reminiscing, “I’ve seen witches in this creek.”

What? That did it for me, but I played along. “When was that?”

“The first time it happened I was a kid,” he said. “Some other boys and I were playing in the mud and we saw three witches. We thought they were chasing us.” He laughed as though it had been no big deal, silly boys.

I was speechless. I didn’t know if he was pulling my leg or if he believed his nonsense. His expression said he believed it, and I’d heard some weird things from his mother and, well…from the whole family.

I should’ve known better, but I couldn’t help but ask, “You said the ‘first time.’ Have you seen them other times?”

“Oh sure, I saw them again, but it was scarier when I was a kid.”

I was married to this man. That was what was scary.

I’ll say this, though. He did prove he could take me to Santa Elena Canyon by road. And by hiking, but he had failed to mention that part.

As the years passed, he stuck to his witch story. I felt him out about it now and then to see if he’d admit he was pulling my leg. My nieces and nephews, and even my own children, backed him up. My daughter never claimed to have seen witches, but she took it in stride that others had.

I always tried to give her the straight scoop, and I told her as firmly as I could that there were no flying witches in San Carlos or anywhere else, no matter what anybody said. She would roll her eyes, shrug, and run off.

A few years ago we were in back San Carlos, and I made a sarcastic comment to her about the possibility of us seeing “the witches.”

My daughter said, “I doubt it, Mom. The weather is wrong for them.”

Aye Dios. Her whopper-telling dad had passed the lying gene on to her.

“I don’t see what seeing witches has to do with the weather,” I snapped.

“Mom, you do know that ‘witches’ are what the old-timers in Mexico call ball lightning, don’t you?”

Sure. I knew that.