Difficult Moments

As an earthquake survivor it has been hard for me to read the news this week. In so many ways I was lucky – I survived, and I got out after twenty-four hours. But even though my trauma is so much less than what anyone in Nepal is going through this week, my mind creeps to the limit of memory remembering the destruction and fear in Ica eight years ago, and then it shuts down as if to protect me from it.

The pictures we are seeing on the news are horrific, but the reality is much worse. I know that, because it was the same for the Peru earthquake.

My heart goes out to everyone in the disaster affected area.


One thing that I have always loved about Perú: the food! So I was interested to see this article on npr.org.

There are several references to Peruvian food in all versions of my MS (no longer The Shattered Swan – tune in soon to find out the new title!), and the new version is no different. Please read the first chapter and like or comment on Facebook and Twitter!

And if your city has a Peruvian restaurant, try it out! You’ll love it.


Light Bulb!

The journey continues! Tamara has gone through so many changes over the years but I like this one the best! She is now me – or rather, “I”. I have evolved my POV and I think this makes her a stronger and more interesting character. Please comment, it would really help me!!

Chapter One

This party should never have happened. I was standing at the far edge of my aunt’s spacious lawn, gripping the grass with my bare toes as if that would secure me to the ground. My friend K’antu came up and handed me a drink. I took a sip and glared at her.

“Hey, if you wanted it spiked, you should have gone yourself. The bartender told me to get real. No alcohol for the employees,” K’antu said.

But I wasn’t about to go myself. That would have meant passing half a dozen people that I did not want to talk to, including my aunt. The bartender probably wouldn’t have given it to me either. I look even younger than I am.

We were outside, so technically I wasn’t actually in a corner. I walked out from under the canopy and flung the pineapple juice, cup and all, at one of the bushes by the swimming pool. K’antu came up behind me and put a hand on my shoulder. Her touch was light and her hand was bony. She had lost a lot of weight since last summer – too much – and she looked bad. I hadn’t told her that yet.

“Tamara, I know you don’t want to be here in Manchay. But nothing bad is going to happen this year. I promise. And this is your aunt’s birthday party. You should be with her. Your aunt gave me the day off tomorrow. If… if I… we can go out on the dune buggies and have some fun. Just you and me, getting away for a couple of hours… getting away from it all…”

Turning back, I looked past her at the party. The DJ was playing old Afro-Peruvian music. I didn’t usually listen to that kind of music, but when I was in the right mood I really liked it. I wasn’t in the right mood. What was K’antu stammering about anyway? If she what? Getting away from what? A dune buggy could not go far enough to take us away from my fears. I wanted to ask her what she was talking about, I really did, but I was too absorbed in my own thoughts. I’d ask her later.

“You can’t be sure it won’t happen again. Hasn’t it been happening all year?” I shivered. Even thinking about it made me nervous.

K’antu pursed her lips and looked up, “Well, yeah…”

I stepped away from her and started pacing.

“But they are getting more infrequent now.” She said quickly, “And they were never as strong as the first one. I am sure there won’t be one while you are here. And… well if there is, Laura’s house is different from your aunt Ada’s. Nothing happened to Laura’s house last year, and since you are staying with her, you will be safe.”

Every year in the summer I come to Perú to visit family, staying half the time with Laura and the other with my father’s sister, Ada. Ada is a nurse. She doesn’t make much money, and her house is – or I should say was – a lot smaller than Laura’s. My father’s family lost over two hundred acres of land about twenty years ago under a government that was trying to be communist. Epic fail. But even so, the land had never been returned.

Since then the family has been struggling. Ada’s house was made of slapped together adobe bricks. She had finished construction on the third floor a few years back, but the entire thing was basically a pile of crap that no inspector had ever set foot near, never mind signed off on. One day last summer I chose to stay with her an extra day – and that choice had almost killed me.

The last night of my visit an 8.1 earthquake hit the coast of Perú, and Manchay was the epicenter. The only thing left of Ada’s house was the front room on the first floor. We were inside that room during the disaster. I still had nightmares. So K’antu was right. I definitely did not want to be here this year. I was afraid of the aftershocks – or worse, what if another earthquake hit? But my mother forced me to come, and now that I was here, her sister Laura was just ignoring my fears. According to her I was making a big deal of nothing. It’s all right for her to say, she didn’t have a house collapse on her. And now she was throwing this lavish party for herself with all of her cronies – political big wigs and wealthy landowners – while my aunt Ada continued to suffer from last year’s disaster. I love Laura, but how is that fair? She should have at least toned it down a few notches. The cake alone probably cost her a couple of hundred dollars.

To be honest, I didn’t know exactly what was happening with Ada even though I was always in regular contact with my cousin Elías. The week I had gotten back to Chicago he had given me a virtual tour of the ruins of his house over the phone. He and I had both cried so much that for the rest of the year we had avoided talking about it. We had discussed stuff about my life, and him – he is a glass blower and he had just moved into a new workshop, which he was excited about – nothing else. And that had been fine with both of us.

“None of us are safe if another one hits.” I said, replying sourly to K’antu’s assurances. “Even this house – that earthquake probably loosened the foundation…”

“Oh Tamara.” K’antu laughed. “That’s ridiculous.”

I gave her a dirty look. She sounded like Laura – overly optimistic and unwilling to face the potential dangers of another natural disaster. What is wrong with these people? I guess you can’t live in constant fear, but at least have a little respect for my feelings. I heard my name being called.

“Tamara, there you are. I have been looking for you. You remember Rodolfo Alvarez, don’t you?” My aunt Laura was coming up to us with two men beside her. She indicated the tall man standing to her left. He was tall and stocky, with dark blond hair that was greying now. His face was not traditionally handsome, but it was one that showed confidence and power. I remembered being afraid of him when I was a child. His family owned the second most successful vineyard in town. My mother’s family owned the first, run entirely by Laura. Even though Rodolfo and my aunt were in direct competition, they were also good friends. He smiled at me and ignored K’antu. It wasn’t entirely his fault. My aunt had not bothered to introduce her.

“And Tomás Romero?” She continued, indicating the short man with heavily lidded eyes and a politician’s smile standing on the other side of Rodolfo. He was the magistrate of Manchay. I had heard a few things about him from my cousin Elías. Nothing complimentary.

They both gave me the obligatory kiss on the cheek and complements on how I had grown into a beautiful young woman. “And I am sure you both know K’antu,” I replied, raising my hand and wiggling my fingers to where she was standing. “Tía, you forgot to introduce her. I know she’s just the help, but –”

“Don’t be silly,” my aunt’s tinkling laughter filled the air. It was irritating. She was as good a politician as anyone. She never let me see her get angry or frustrated, even when I pushed her. “K’antu isn’t even here. But if she were, I would be happy to introduce her. Such a delightful girl, gentlemen. She is my party planner – she did all the work on this lovely party.”

I spun around. My aunt was right. K’antu had disappeared. I started to go after her, but Laura grabbed my arm and squeezed it. Hard.

Cariño, Rodolfo has good news.” She said to me. “His son Mario is here in Manchay. Or rather, he has been. He left for a few days, but he’ll be back tomorrow. And he can’t wait to see you. Isn’t that wonderful?”

My memory conjured up a chubby boy with overly large glasses and short, thick black hair with a cowlick right at his temple. We had played together on the rolling lawns and shady vineyards of our families. I had not seen him for many years. His mother had left and taken him away. No one had ever explained to me exactly why, but one year I had overheard the servants talking about her taking Mario and going to Spain with one of Rodolfo’s clients. I had not understood the actual meaning of that at the time, and I had put it – and him – out of my mind. Until now.

“Yeah, sure.” I brushed off her enthusiasm about a boy I barely knew, focusing my attention on the little man whose responsibility it was to run the town. “Señor Romero, since you are here, maybe you wouldn’t mind, I’d really like to know when my aunt Ada can rebuild her house. Isn’t she supposed to be receiving some money from the government?”

“Not at my party, Tamara.” Laura said between her teeth. She beamed at the two men.

“What do you mean, Tía?” I squirmed around trying to release her grip on my arm. “Why shouldn’t I ask him now? Señor Romero will be going back to his house to sleep tonight, right? It is probably a beautiful house isn’t it, no cracks or collapsed walls? It isn’t a tent like at Ada’s house? Maybe he can explain how he feels about his people living in tents a year after –”

“You are right, Tamara.” Tomás said, showing his teeth. They were crooked. “I will be going home. I will sleep in my beautiful bedroom. And if I’m not mistaken, it is very much like the room you will be sleeping in tonight.”

We locked eyes. There was a flash of triumph in his. I looked away. He had hit a nerve. I felt pretty guilty that I had not gone to stay with my aunt Ada – and didn’t plan to at all on this trip. That had been a purposeful choice. Never mind that my visit was mainly because of Laura’s birthday party, there was no way in hell I was going back to Ada’s house. In fact, short of inviting her to Laura’s, I didn’t see how I would see her at all this visit. I never wanted to go to the center of Manchay again. Never.

When I said “Ada’s house” now, I used the term loosely. During the virtual tour Elías had given me I had seen the shell of what had been their house. An aid organization called People Help had donated a bunch of tents right after the earthquake. Ada and Elías had set up theirs in what had been their living room. It was still there. That was where they slept. They had lost almost all of their furniture and at night they had no heat and only canvas walls to protect them from the wind. Manchay is in the desert. It is hot during the day and cold at night.

The day before I came back I had called K’antu, who had told me that Manchay had barely changed at all in the past year. The private school and some homes had been rebuilt, but otherwise – no reconstruction on anything, including Ada’s house. So I had told my mom and dad that I would be staying exclusively with Laura on this trip. I hadn’t talked to my aunt Ada at all yet because I did not even want to give her the opportunity to offer her house to me. I wanted to feel safe, so I was blowing them off completely.

“Yeah, you are right, I will be sleeping in a nice place. But what about my aunt Ada?” I insisted. Maybe getting some answers from him would help alleviate my guilty feelings. Perhaps I could call Ada with some good news. But he went on to crush my tiny glimmer of optimism.

“Yes, of course you are concerned about the rest of your family.” Tomás Romero said, his eyes disappeared under the hooded lids and he made conciliatory gestures with his hands.  “That does you credit, my dear. But you don’t understand. These things take time. My administration and I have been working closely with People Help, the aid organization that has come to help us. Also, my deputy or I go to Lima every week to raise money. Believe me, Tamara, we are doing all we can. Your family should have patience. Good things are coming.”

He patted me on the arm and turned to Laura, babbling something about dinner.

“I wonder if you’d have patience if you had to live in a tent, you pompous pig.” I muttered under my breath.

“It takes a while to raise money to help these people, Tamara.” I jumped. It was Rodolfo talking. He had heard me. “We are all doing what we can to make our town better. In fact that is what Mario is doing here –”

This was useless. I tuned him out and scanned the room hoping to find K’antu. I had made friends with her a few years ago when she came to work for Laura. At first my aunt tried to keep me away from her because she was an employee. But that only made me want to befriend her more. Over the years the fake friendship had turned into something real. To give my aunt credit, she had learned to accept it. She was actually very good to her employees – relatively speaking.

I saw my aunt Laura talking to a tall man with huge eyeglasses. All of a sudden she keeled over and would have fallen on the ground if the man had not lunged forward to grab her. Several people saw her collapse and the crowd behind them began to notice something was wrong. A few people screamed, and there were restless shuffling sounds coming from several areas under the canopy.

I rushed over and grabbed at the man’s shirt. He was on the floor now, my aunt lying in his arms. “Tía? Tía! What is wrong with her, Señor?”

My aunt opened her eyes, waved her hand at me and said in a weak voice, “Tamara.”

“I am here Tía.” But it had not been me she was talking to.

“You are Tamara?” The man’s glasses reflected lights from the roof of the canopy when he looked up at me. “I was asking your aunt about you. You are friends with K’antu right? Where is she?”

“Yes, I am friends with K’antu. But I don’t know where she is. What about my aunt –”

“I need you to go get K’antu. Now.”

“But – why?” He was making me nervous.

“Just do it. Please.”

I looked at my aunt. A woman had taken over for the man, sliding a pillow under my aunt’s head and putting a cup of water to her lips. The man stood up and faced me. “Please, go get K’antu. Her husband has been murdered.”

No Eating of Uncovered Edibles

That makes about as much sense as anything in life, doesn’t it? My family and I found that gem on a poster in the children’s museum section of the Deutsches Museum in Munich. My kids and I often share laughs at life’s little absurdities, of which there is never a shortage. This is one of the many favorites. Judging by the picture (attached), it means that one should be careful not to eat fly-ridden food at a picnic. Good advice! And the new title to my most recent series.

So speaking of my kids, they are teenagers now, and sooner than I can blink I will be an empty nester. That thought fills me with dread. Not because I am nothing without my kids. Let’s face it, although at times they suck your personality out of you until you think of everything but yourself, when you live with two teenagers, occasionally the thought of them flying the coop can actually put a smile on your face. Of course I love my kids. But what I am most concerned about is what I will do when I no longer have to cook, clean and chauffer people around. When my days aren’t filled with juggling schedules, doctor appointments and swim meets.

I do have a job, actually. I am an adjunct at a local community college. It is part time. It will probably never be full time – although if my boss is reading this feel free to offer!!! Recently the internet and radio have been full of feel good stories on job growth. Ooh, job creation has grown – Ahh, more people back to work.

I personally am not believing what I am reading. What about you?  Which jobs are growing? I think in this game show, the prize goes to part time and temporary work. [insert optimistic voice here] “You have just won a step up from poverty! Collect $200 on the way out – and don’t come back.” There is no way the media and the government is manipulating the good news is there? They wouldn’t do that to us…

So just so no one can say I’m a complainer with no solutions, I have decided to make up some jobs that I think would make sense for those of us who have been out of the workforce for so long that we have a panic attack every time we think about trying to go back.

Before I get started, a message to all the trolls out there: please hunker back down in your caves where humor goes to die.

The first installment of what will be a weekly series, if I am as inspired next week as I think I am this week, is a job description I like to call Delegation of Moms to Oversee Congress, or DOMOC-racy (oh come on critics, lighten up. Have some fun with it.)

So these moms, ideally, are mothers of high schoolers or older children. Not to exclude those moms of younger kids, it’s just that I know you are busy running around right now.  The idea is to set up shop in Washington D.C. to force organization on a very dysfunctional group of people – ladies, you do this often at home, am I right?

We’ve all had – or heard – that idea of making the people in Congress take the health care we have and seeing how quickly they reform it, right? Well why not take that a step further? Sometimes it seems like with every single issue they need to address they bicker like two-year olds (or teenagers, take your pick).

Debate: Now, while sometimes it is good to step back and let the kids argue it out themselves, there come those moments when a mom knows the situation will not resolve itself. America, we have stepped back long enough. It’s time to grab Congress by the ear and give them an ultimatum: clean your room now or no dessert for you.

Procrastination:  It is excruciating to watch as Congress drags its feet deciding things. Aren’t they paid to give us results? Don’t we send them our e-mailed complaints only to receive a form letter referring to a completely different issue? Make a decision for goodness sake, or no allowance.  Compromise is key in family – and in society.

Blimps and brothels: Our budget – your kid wants to buy the latest silly trend? They’d better make a pretty good case for it. Down to your last five dollars this week? Maybe a crap load of candy bars isn’t the best way to spend that money at the moment. Shouldn’t the government think the same way? Funding research on ketchup viscosity? On a football field sized blimp? Say what? (Hey, maybe they’d be willing to pay us out of work moms to tell them a few things about ketchup)

Now, the question is, how to fund DOMOC-racy? I mean the idea is to turn it into a full time job with benefits for many people, right? Sadly, I have no idea. Hey, if I did, don’t you think I’d already be in D.C? You would have heard of the crazy lady and her cronies getting RESULTS. Ha ha. But ladies (or guys), surely if Congress can pay itself there is an answer out there.

Tune in next week for the latest round of brilliant job ideas.





Game change, Name change – watch out, you might lose your lunch!

Hello all,

I’ve decided to change my blog’s profile name from my intended pen name to my real name, since I’ll be using Cristina if my new manuscript becomes a book (cross your fingers for me!!!!!)

I just got back from another trip to Peru – no earthquakes this time thank goodness! What was new, you might ask? Well, an attack of tiny gnats that put me in a wheelchair at the Miami airport on the way home (extreme allergic reaction), and a trip up the Andean foothills that might have me converted into a vegetarian. :-)

Warning: if you are actually a vegetarian, or you have small animals as pets, you probably want to stop here.

I watched my family eat cuy (guinea pig), a typical food of the highlands. They are high in protein and low in fat (low in meat also I would guess…) I couldn’t bring myself to eat it – would you?

If you’re up for it, here’s a link to the guinea pig festivals in Peru, and below, a picture of my family’s meal: http://www.viralnova.com/guinea-pig-festival/


I’m back…

Hi Guys, I’ve been working with a professional editor to make The Shattered Swan into a completely different book! Persistance and self awareness – never give up!  It’ll be YA now, still a mystery and still set in LOVELY PERU with a running earthquake theme. Here is the first chapter. I’ll be sending it out soon to see if I can get this version published so any comments would be really welcome!!! Would you keep reading if you could? Let me know!

Chapter One

The vast expanse of sandy dunes at the foothills of the Andes never changed. Tamara sat in the passenger seat of her Aunt Laura’s bright blue Kia Rio sedan, determined that this trip to Peru would be different.

“I can’t believe I’m here again, Tía,” Tamara said. “And I really can’t believe that you’ll be sixty years old next week.”

“For you, cariño, I suspect that anyone over the age of twenty-one is ancient.”

Every time she visited since she started middle school, when her Peruvian parents decided that she should be in Peru more than just for those two weeks per year; that she should improve her Spanish and get immersed in her second culture—driving along the Pan American Highway after the ten-hour flight from Chicago, Tamara felt that she might as well be on the moon. Yet it also felt like she was coming home. She marveled at the rocky coast, the dirty, dusty little towns, the small groupings of beach houses that gleamed white in the sun, the small lakes surrounded by leafy palm trees and sandy desert.

“You know, K’antu simply can’t wait to see you,” Laura went on. “She seemed even more excited than me. It was all I could do to keep her from jumping in the car this morning.”

“I can’t wait to see her either. Why didn’t she come with you?”

Laura didn’t answer right away. “She’s, ah. . .she’s dealing with some other things at the moment. I’m sure she’ll be at the house when we get there.”

It wasn’t like Laura to be so uncommunicative. The last time Tamara had heard from K’antu she was planning her marriage to Eduardo. Had something happened?

“But there’s someone else who’s anxious to meet you.” Laura said, quickly changing the subject.


Laura sighed. “A boy.”

Tamara laughed. “It doesn’t sound like you want me to meet him. What is he—a troll?”

“Of course I want you to meet him. And no, he’s not a troll. He’s actually quite good looking. It’s just that, well. . .it’s nothing for you to worry about. It’s just that his family…”

“Oh Tía, that again?” Tamara’s family, including Laura, was from the small town of Manchay, located 246 miles south of Lima, a place with strict, old-fashioned ideas about societal rank, and society in general. Tamara had no patience with these traditions. In fact, her friendship with K’antu had initially been her way of rebelling against them. K’antu’s family had come from the mountains and were relatively poor. Laura and Mariana, Tamara’s mother, came from old money. The family owned a prosperous vineyard and exported their high priced wines all over Latin America.

“It’s not what you’re thinking, Tamara. You’ve actually met him before. You played together when you were toddlers.  It’s Mario—Rodolfo’s son. You remember Rodolfo, don’t you?”

“Your competition?” Tamara opened the window a crack. The wind blew in, but so did the dust. Coughing, she shut the window.

“Exactly. I don’t know if you remember, but Mario’s mother divorced Rodolfo when Mario was eight. She moved to Spain and took him with her. But, coincidentally, he’s here now visiting, and wants to see you again. At least, that’s what Rodolfo says. I think he gets some kind of enjoyment throwing his son in my face.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I have a niece in the United States, he has a son in Spain. Somehow his connection to the outside world is better. But never mind, it is just a stupid little game he likes to play. They’ll be at the party tomorrow, so you’ll get a chance to see them both.”

Tamara thought back, trying to conjure a memory of Mario, but without success. Despite Laura’s assurances to the contrary, Tamara envisioned a fat boy with glasses and pimples. Laura would never say anything bad about anyone.

Tamara looked out the window and saw that they were getting closer to town. Laura lived in a large house on the property that included her vineyard, located right outside of town off of a small private road to the west of the Pan American Highway. To the east a few miles out was the Pacific Ocean.

A shiver ran through Tamara’s body when she glimpsed a small, nearly dilapidated shack on the side of the road. A crude, wooden sign said, “Fresh Figs.” She remembered this place. The ramshackle building looked exactly as it had after the 8.1 earthquake a year and a half ago during her previous visit. She turned her head away, and breathed deeply. In and out. In and out. Her yoga instructor had showed her this technique to calm her fast beating heart. She was determined to feel happy on this trip. After all, despite the tragic events of that horrible day and everything that had followed, she’d been able to return to the safety of Chicago. She had fared far better than anyone in Manchay.

Tamara hoped that Laura didn’t notice her distress. She was here for her aunt’s birthday party, a time of celebration. She didn’t want to ruin things with any PTSD about the earthquake. That was in the past. It was over.

“We’re almost there, cariño,” Laura said, smiling. “I hope you’ve saved some room for your favorite lunch.”

Tamara’s taste buds tingled. Deep fried balls of cheese and yucca with huancaina sauce. Peruvian-style rice, cooked in beer with finely chopped spinach and cilantro that made the rice green, with a piece of fried chicken breast.  Sweet, juicy plums. And granadilla –  passion fruit. She envisioned cracking the hard orange shell, the luscious pulp oozing out, the sweet flavor exploding in her mouth.

Yes, this trip would be different. These would be happy times. It would be wonderful to be back “home.”

They got out of the car. Immediately a blur of energy whizzed out the door and accosted Tamara. “Amiga, I cannot believe it! You are finally here. It is so good to see you.”

It was K’antu.

Tamara, squeezed like an orange by the other girl, managed to choke out a greeting too, “It is really good to see you too K’antu.”

K’antu let go and held Tamara at arm’s length. She chuckled. “Ah, the good American greeting. But enough of that, you are here in Peru now. Give me a big hug and kiss.”

Tamara giggled. “I couldn’t hug you, silly. You had me in a bear hug. My arms were pinned.”

The girls both laughed. Laura had disappeared into the house. Soon the two teenagers also made their way towards the house, arms linked. K’antu chattered on about the plans for Laura’s party.

“We couldn’t ask you for your opinion because you were not here, Tamara. I hope that you like the arrangements…”

“Why wouldn’t I? I know the party will be a blast. What do you have left to do? I will help.”

“No, amiga, you rest and eat. Everything is done. After dinner we will talk and catch up with things. You will speak some English to me and tell me all about school. You will be off to college soon, right?”

“Not soon enough,” Tamara smiled, “I am just starting my last year of high school.”

“Yes, I forgot about the opposite seasons. But that is great! You can still party and have fun. You Americans are always in such a hurry to leave your family.” Since Peru is in the Southern hemisphere, their winter is during Chicago’s summer. August is not the time for summer vacations for Peruvian students. K’antu, seventeen years old like Tamara, had graduated from the Peruvian high school system six months previously.

“So how is everything…?” Tamara asked, opening the large, wood door. They went in. The foyer was a large room with doors on each side and a wide staircase facing the door.

K’antu looked away, “Things are Okay.”

Tamara narrowed her eyes.

“Really,” K’antu insisted.

“How can they be, K’antu? Every time I FaceTime you from Chicago I get the same “things are great”, but they can’t be… not what’s with –”

“Seriously, Tamara, they are. Of course, things aren’t perfect, but when are they ever? Hey, would you excuse me a minute, Tamara, I need to go to the bathroom.” K’antu disappeared into the house.

Tamara stood staring after her friend with a frown on her face. She sat on the wooden bench located by the door and looked around. The house had not changed much through the years. It was now as it had probably been in Tamara’s grandparent’s time, and even before that. On the walls hung faded color tapestries with scenes from the Peruvian mountains. The floor tile was a dark red, almost brownish color, and shiny from daily cleaning. Tamara’s eyes fell on a small crack in the wall by one of the doors. That particular imperfection had definitely not been there long…

Despite her resolve to put it behind her, her mind went back to last year. Her hands gripped the seat of the bench as memory flooded back; the small, dark front room of her aunt Ada’s house, laughter and happy sounds of glasses clinking as people welcomed Tamara back, K’antu appearing unexpectedly at the door, not wanting to wait another minute to see Tamara again, then the sudden rolling motion of the ground below her, the side-to-side shaking, the pitch-darkness when the electricity went out, the roaring in her ears, the cracking of the wall behind her…

“Tamara.” She came out of her trance. K’antu was shaking her shoulders. “What is the matter?”

She opened her eyes and stood up, pacing the floor in small circles. “K’antu, I don’t know if I should be here. Maybe I will just go back home.”

She looked around as if searching for her suitcase.

“Sit down, amiga. Calm down. Tell me what happened.” K’antu’s eyes were wide. There was fear in them.

They both sat down. Tamara’s leg moved up and down in a series of quick motions. “The crack… Oh my God, it was the crack.”

“What crack?”

Tamara waved vaguely toward the wall. K’antu turned and squinted over to where Tamara had indicated.

“That little thing?”

“It… it just reminded me…”

K’antu looked at Tamara. She rubbed Tamara’s arm and said in a low voice, “I know, Tamara. I remember too.”

K’antu had been standing in the doorway when it had all started; the strongest and most destructive earthquake Manchay had ever seen. Tamara had felt, rather than seen, K’antu fall to the ground. She had rushed over to help her friend, and at that moment the wall behind her had collapsed, burying Ada and two of Tamara’s second cousins.

Some of the debris from the fallen wall had hit Tamara in the back, knocking her to the floor also. She had tried to breathe and get up to continue helping K’antu. Dust filled the air, choking her. She had not been able to move. A large piece of adobe had caught her left foot, and she could not slide out from under it.

K’antu, on her hands and knees and relatively unhurt with minor scratches and a few future bruises, had quickly realized that Tamara was stuck. The house shook and there was a rumbling sound. Both girls worked frantically to get Tamara unstuck, scratching at the brick with their fingers, ripping nails and bleeding. Only a few seconds had gone by, but both of them cast periodic glances upwards as if they would be able to assess their safety and how much time they had left to free Tamara.

At one point Tamara had tried to scream out to K’antu to leave her, to just get out and save herself. K’antu either had not heard, or had acted as if she had not heard. She stayed with Tamara until they finally got Tamara’s foot free and stumbled outside just as two of Tamara’s older male cousins rushed in to help the others that had been buried. Ada had survived the night, as well as one of the rescuers and one of the buried cousins. The others had perished. Tamara had gone back to Chicago with a temporary asthma-like condition from breathing in so much dust and fine particles of rubble that floated in the air of Manchay that night and the next day.

“I could have died that night, K’antu.”

“Yes,” K’antu shivered. “If you hadn’t come to help me, maybe you would have. But you didn’t. So be happy.”

“Then you risked your own life when I got stuck. And then what did I do the next day?  I just left. I couldn’t stay and help anyone – you, my family… But it is more than that, I didn’t want to. I wanted so badly to just get the hell out of there. So I just went home. I –”

K’antu put her hand up in protest. “Hey, if you had not gone, I would never have forgiven you. It was the right thing for you to do. Remember, the looting came only a day after you left. We didn’t have much food. With you around, we would have had to split the rations up even more, and God knows, I would have hated to share my butter beans with you…”

For days after the earthquake it had been impossible for reinforcements to get into Manchay. People lived on whatever they could find. There was only one major road running down Peru’s coast, and it was destroyed both to the north and to the south of town.

K’antu grinned. Tamara looked at her and grinned also. “You are crazy, K’antu.”

“But I’m right.” She was serious, “Honestly, it really was good that you left. You come here all the time, but you don’t live here. You aren’t used to dealing with tremors and other disasters. We are.”

“How can I ever repay you, amiga…?”

“There is no need for that, Tamara. So don’t worry about it. And don’t worry about that little crack, this house is safe. That’s all that happened to it after all, right? It’s not like your aunt Ada’s house.”

Tamara smiled at her. “You are right.”

K’antu gave her a hug.

“But you are not right in keeping your problems from me. Please, K’antu, tell me what has been happening since I left last year.”

K’antu sighed, “It is not worth talking about. When I am with you I just want to feel happy.”

“But –” Tamara stopped talking at the sound of a man’s voice calling K’antu’s name. Tamara was still looking at her friend, whose face turned an ashy gray color.

“It’s Eduardo. He sounds mad.”

“Why would he be?” Tamara asked.

“I… I don’t know. He’s been so strange lately… I had better go.” K’antu stood up and walked over to the door. She opened it, revealing a young man, tall, wiry and muscular, with thick black hair that hung over one eye.

He pushed his hair out of his face in an almost feminine gesture and stopped short as he realized who had opened the door. “K’antu. What the hell? I have been looking for you all over. You’ve made me wait, and now I can’t go see Sergio. Let’s go.”

He grabbed her arm and pulled her outside.

“Eduardo, stop. Tamara is here. I was here to see her. Don’t you want to say hi?”

Tamara started forward and opened her mouth to greet him, but he did not even look back. He continued to drag K’antu away. She stumbled and had to grab onto him to recover her balance. She looked back at Tamara, tried to grin but ended up grimacing, and turned back to keep pace with Eduardo.

Tamara stared after them.


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.