It’s been a crazy summer!  Zombies had to take a back burner.  In the meantime I’ve decided to rewrite the pitch for my first book.  Has anyone else found that this task is daunting in the extreme?  To write a novel: challenging but fun.  To write a compelling short paragraph summing up said novel: near on impossible!!!

If anyone is so inclined, would you comment on the following?  If you picked this book up and read the back, would you think of buying it?  What’s missing?  Is there too much?

Thank you!!

Tamara, a shocked young survivor, flees the site of her aunt’s murder after an earthquake destroys the town.  Her mind tells her to forget the double tragedy, but after being followed and nearly attacked, she decides to find the killer before they find her.  But first she must risk her sanity – and her life – to go back to the scene of the crime.  Once back she encounters cryptic messages from the dead woman, old friends acting suspicious, vanishing objects and dangerous traps set by a shadowy character or two.  If she doesn’t piece the puzzle together the murderer may find her before she finds them.  The Shattered Swan is set on the desert coast of Peru in a dusty town after an 8.1 earthquake.


Writer’s Block or Blocked Writing?

I don’t have writer’s block.  In fact, the ideas flow too much at times.  That’s a happy problem.  Or, as my teenage daughter might say, “Hashtag, happy problem”.

No, my problem isn’t finding the ideas, it’s disseminating them in a financially advantageous way.  The Apple iBookstore would charge me $99 to publish my book.  Amazon doesn’t charge me anything.  So guess where my books are?  But the good news is that there is a Kindle app on iPad for people who want to read my books!

I haven’t been successful (yet) in getting into a bookstore to do a book talk, but I did go to a French Market this weekend and had a great experience (and sold books!!!).

The last few years have taught me to become a better sales person (still working on that skill –  shout out to the guy in the booth next to me this weekend who sells upscale products for pets, and who gave me good advice).  The problem: I’m not writing.  I’m selling.

I suppose it’s also a time management issue – another skill to reflect on as summer begins to hit with full force.

Anyone else share these problems?  Let me know!  Support is always appreciated!!!  :-)

Week of June 17th: intensive work on The Cursed Quechua, 3rd in the Tamara series!

Happy Father’s Day (which should really be Happy Fathers’ Day)!


Imagehere I am at the French Market – 6:30a.m. before customers.

#20 Werewolf Decisions

Water lapped off the oars rhythmically.  Marilu’s face was set in a tight, grim, determined expression.  Occasionally she looked back to see if anything was following her. She thought back to her departure. 

Bokor had been in the shadows of the tree line, gripping Maggie’s arm.  She had tersely promised a full explanation as soon as Marilu left.  All three of them had looked around nervously for other living beings as Marilu made her way to the rowboat.

She had made it without incident – the only damage to her sizzling nervous system.  As she started rowing she heard howling.  But it came from far back into the forest.  Or did it come from her destination – the island not five miles away…?


Ralph and Joel sat on camp chairs around a burned out bonfire.  Their companions were all shouting at the top of their lungs to be heard over each other.  Each one of them in turn looked out toward the water with burning yellow eyes.  The rowboat would be there in a few minutes.  The question was: should they prevent Marilu from visiting the old woman, or should they let her go, and follow her to find out the strategy?

“Let her go,” Joel argued.  “We’ve been banished to this island long enough.  Attacking our main source of information is no way to get back to the main island.  And so far, Ralph has been useless.”

Joel directed a baleful glance at the younger man as the rest of the crowd bayed agreement.

“I can’t fight against Bokor’s power on my own, you idiots!  And I don’t see any of you risking their hides to do what I’ve done – get back to our island.”

“You’re wrong, Ralph.  It’s not Bokor’s power that has blocked your progress.  It’s Zoya’s.  You’re in love with a zombie.”

A shocked murmur rippled through the crowd as the sentiment was spoken out loud for the first time.  Ralph paled.

“Bokor and Zoya are two separate powers which are threatening to divert attention away from us.  If they begin fighting, it will be to our advantage.  I was the catalyst that started that ball rolling.  So stop your assumptions about my relationship with Zoya and do something useful for a change – don’t let Marilu get information from the old woman!”  His voice ended in a shout.  He threw his arms open in a gesture designed to include, reassure and convince everyone.

Joel stared at Ralph.  He faced the crowd and thought carefully before presenting his argument again.


Zoya painted furiously over the canvas.  She was sweating as she sat back and surveyed her handiwork: an old woman and a middle-aged one facing each other.  A gray animal lay in the background, glassy eyes looking at nothing, blood seeping out of its matted fur.

Bokor smiled in the background.

#19 Another Kill


                As Bokor fretted about Zoya, and Marilu prepared for a journey, and Joel sucked lazily on his cigar, the woman prepared for bed.  She sighed as she lay down in bed.  Work had been harder since the elders had been killed and she was tired.  She had done her nighttime rituals of warding off evil spirits so their fate would not become her own.  She was a simple woman and believed in the power of the small, candle-lit, herb crushing, feather brushing ceremonies she had learned as a child.

                But she hadn’t slept the same since that horrible day when the bodies had been found.  So she tossed and turned and slept lightly – until the sound of soft padding of feet sent shots of ice through her nerves.  She opened her eyes but otherwise didn’t move.

                Something was in the room.  She screwed her eyes shut and started to pray silently to her gods – pleading with them – chiding them for not heeding her during the rituals she had faithfully performed.  She felt a brush of air.  Her heart pounded so strongly surely the creature sharing the room with her must know that she was aware of it.  She started to shake.

                Something cold touched her clavicle and she let out a small, involuntary whining noise.  It was a hand.  Her eyes were still shut as the hand slowly unbuttoned her pajama shirt and slid it open to expose her breasts.  Whoever – whatever – this being was, they were surely able to see her chest moving up and down as she breathed fear, her left breast pumping blood from her heart at an alarming rate.  She heard an answering whine come from the creature.

                The hand moved slowly down past her chest toward her belly button and below.  What was happening?  She felt something on her lips and without wanting to, she opened her eyes.  She would have screamed at the sight of yellowish-green eyes staring into hers – if something hadn’t been crushing down on her mouth.  She tried to breathe, but the creature’s lips were on hers, sucking air out of her.  She felt the hand fondling her all over her body. 

                Fondling, or searching?  What was this monster looking for?  The woman continued to struggle for breath.  Then she felt a sharp pain on her side.  Her skin ripped under the sharp claws of whatever was on top of her.  Warmth dripped down to the bed and the pain increased as Zoya – still covering the woman’s mouth with her own to keep her from screaming – reached her fingers into the woman’s side and began pulling out her intestines. 

                Zoya’s glowing green eyes looked up and out the window.  The woman’s eyes – full of pain and fear – followed.  They both saw the outline of a wolf standing staring inside.  Zoya’s fingers pulled harder and she smiled over the woman.  The last thing the woman heard was the mournful howl of a wolf.

                When the struggling subsided Zoya stood up, wiped saliva from her mouth and blood from her hands.  She looked out the window at the human-like figure of Ralph who looked in at her.  She turned to leave the house.  Outside he was waiting for her.  He reached out his hands and took a hold of her shoulders.  But when his hand went down to perform the same action on her that she had just done to her unfortunate victim, she ducked away and disappeared into the night.


                Bokor sat up straight.  Her smile enigmatic smile was back.  Nevertheless, Marilu must leave right away.

#18 Bokor Hatches a Plan

                Bokor slumped in the ratty, cut-velvet upholstered chair with the replacement leg that did not match.  As far as she knew, the students were all still asleep.  There were deep lines carved into her forehead.  She was still worried.  Her clothes hung on her frame, which was thinner than a couple of days ago.  She couldn’t sleep or eat.  The problem seemed to have no solution.

                The crunch of dry foliage and gravel stirred her to sit up straighter and look out the window.  Marilu and Maggie were walking toward the front door.  What the hell was Maggie doing out there with the other woman?  Bokor thought she had counted heads correctly.  But then again, she had been so distracted she really had no idea who was upstairs.  No idea, that is, except she knew Zoya was there.

                Or was she?  Bubbles of panic shot up from the pit of Bokor’s belly into the back of her throat.  But before she could get up and go upstairs Marilu and Maggie were standing before her.

                “Bokor, we need to talk about what’s going on here on this island,” Marilu said.

                The two women looked at Bokor.  She was looking back at them with a thoughtful expression on her face.  She couldn’t leave the island – she had to control Zoya – but what about these two?  No, not Maggie, she was an innocent – or part of Ralph’s world, Bokor wasn’t exactly sure…

                “Yes, of course, Marilu.  But,” she looked at Marilu and did a sideways glance and head tilt at Maggie.  “You and I should talk.  I need you to do something for me.”

                Marilu got it.  She and Bokor had grown up together – cousins who were like sisters.  “Uh, Maggie, would you mind making breakfast?  The others should be down soon and we’ll all be hungry.”

                “But Marilu,  I thought…”

                “Please, Maggie, things will go quicker this way.”

                “Oh, all right.”  Maggie stomped toward the kitchen.

                Bokor would have had a heart attack if she had gone into Zoya’s room.

                Zoya paced up and down the beach, occasionally kicking up sand in anger.  Her options were getting limited – there were fewer people on the island now, and there were some who she knew not to touch – for now.

                But the hunger to kill was there nevertheless.  She needed more than the few monkeys she had slain an hour ago.  She kept pacing until something caught her eye.  A boat.  A rowboat with oars.  And something else she hadn’t really paid attention to before.  Another island off in the distance.  Another island – more people – problem solved.  She ran toward the boat.

                She was almost there when a dark object flew toward her and made impact, knocking her off of her feet.  She fell face-first into the sand, feeling the sharp claws of a large animal pressing down on her lower back.  She turned her head and coughed out sand.  Her nose caught a familiar scent and she knew that Ralph was her captor.

                “Going somewhere?” the shape changer growled, his paws softening into large, male hands.  Then she felt him shift.  He lay on top of her, his stomach on her lower back, other parts hard on the crack of her butt.  He was breathing heavily.

                She reached her right arm up and pulled hard on the nipple of Ralph’s shirtless chest.  He squawked and rolled slightly to his right, giving Zoya space to spring up and away from him.  He looked at her balefully and started to rise so she kicked him hard in the groin.

                The sound of his groans could be heard from the house.  Bokor and Marilu stopped their intense conversation and went outside.  When they saw Ralph rolling on the beach in pain, they ran to assist him. 

                “My God, is anyone upstairs where they are supposed to be?” thought Bokor as she ran.


                Zoya sat in front of the canvas.  A pretty blue rowboat was taking shape under her paintbrush.  It was a simple work – finished in time for her to catch an hour of sleep.  She was dreaming about warm salt water splashing gently on her face when Bokor looked in on her to call her for breakfast. 

Droll Reflections on Writing

I teach English as a Second Language.  I love my job.  I meet people from all over the world and I have fun while they are introduced to, or continue with, their foray into the messed up world of language learning.

I am a native English speaker.  I have a Master’s in Linguistics.  I trained for, and honed my craft for years in order to present the innocents – I mean my students – with a professional view of what they need to know.  So I have often scoffed at those travelers who just “go overseas” and “teach English” as though being a native speaker automatically qualifies you for the job.

And then I wrote a book.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have done a lot of writing in my time.  I’m just not trained in the art, nor have I honed the craft via any kind of writing training.

Be careful how you criticize others – isn’t there a saying that starts out something like that?

Perhaps if I were to have taken creative writing classes in college I would have been guided by my betters to a successful career.

Maybe if I had joined the school newspaper in my chaotic high school experience I might have gone into journalism.

Or, even better, if I had written my first – and needless to say brilliant – novel in the ‘80’s I could have found an agent by now.  Yes, I was alive then. 

But I did none of those things.

I just started typing one day on my computer.

And tried to publish.

And got rejected.

Over and over.

Until I decided to go my separate way – which in reality is many separate ways.

I blog, I Tweet, I Facebook, and I write books which I self-publish and sometimes even sell.  I even write what I like to call poetry. 

Even now, as I avoid writing the next chapter of my zombie stories, I am writing.  That’s odd.  Why aren’t I writing the next chapter of my zombie story?  It’s not writer’s block – I know exactly what I want to write.  But for some reason, Zoya is staying away from me today – the day I decided to get back to her after a couple of weeks off.

Instead I write about not being too successful at writing.

But the reality is that I’m learning as I go – and I’m honing my second craft.  Maybe there was a reason for all the rejections.  I could be in the place I am meant to be in.

So now I can reflect on the possibility that the travelers are, in fact, contributing to the ESL profession.  They must be passionate about it if they go to another country to do it.  Therefore, next time I criticize someone’s effort at a career I’d better swallow my derision, mind my own business – and write. 

 By the way, I just inserted the pic of my peonies for fun.  Beautiful, aren’t they?Image

Cristina Matta

May 21, 2013