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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Two Sources

In my novel, Legend of the Lonely Hart, the historical chapters include letters from the main character, Maggie, to her sister.  I love reading letters and journals by women writing about a place and time.  Their concerns and observations are often so different from that of the men, and I can feel what their lives were like.  Maybe it's the voyeur in me, but I knew I had to include letters in my book.  My favorite journal was by Susan Magoffin who travelled on the Santa Fe Trail in 1846.  Here's a link about her:

Susan Magoffin

I also found some great books that described early white women's experiences in the southwest.  One of my favorites was No Life for a Lady, by Agnes Morley Cleaveland.  She was born on an isolated New Mexico cattle ranch and her stories about growing up are so descriptive, you can practically smell the sagebrush.  Here's a link about her book if you're interested in New Mexico during the 1800's.    

No Life for a Lady

Thursday, July 7, 2011


Yes.  There are poodles living at the Lonely Hart Ranch.  See, I grew up with a poodle named (of course) Fifi.  She was the smartest dog I ever owned.  Fifi figured out how to open the refrigerator door.  She also knew that she should only open it (and take a few morsels) when my family was not home, and it took us quite a long time to devise a sneaky plan to catch her in the act.  Obviously she was a lot smarter than we were.

When I first moved to Santa Fe, I noticed poodles here and there and I thought, what an incongruous place to have such dogs.  It's dusty and rugged here, and the poodles would get very dirty.  Even their dainty toes would be caked with dirt.  Then I found out how tough they are, and why they have such silly haircuts.  I liked the idea of an outward appearance hiding an inner strength and the story of their ancestry.  Great metaphor for the theme of my book.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Lonely Hart Ranch

As you travel south from Galisteo, you enter a vast plain of grasslands and volcanic rock where you can find large ranches.  Pronghorn antelope graze on this plain, along with the occasional cattle herds that wander throughout the area.  In the midst of this plain is the village of Stanley, home to the King family ranch.  I used parts of this setting for the Lonely Hart Ranch.

Stanley has an old cemetery with an arched iron entrance, which I turned into the cemetery in Prado Viejo.  It's a barren place, with a few pine trees and a flat, dry expanse with sparse clumps of grass here and there.  So, I added a few cottonwoods and a small stream nearby to freshen the place up a bit.  Writers are natural decorators!

Sunday, July 3, 2011


I wanted my novel to have a strong sense of place.  I like to read books that make me smell and feel a place, and I hoped I could do that with mine.  So I cruised around Northern New Mexico looking for places that would help me create Prado Viejo - and make it feel real.  A few miles up the road from me is the village of Galisteo made up of adobe homes, a few tiny shops and an old church,  Iglesia Nuestra Senora de los Remedios, that was once the site of a pueblo.

Galisteo is a tiny village that sits in the Galisteo Basin, a huge bowl of fertile grasslands and volcanic rock that was home to nine ancient pueblo communities. The village is an artist enclave now, but before the artists moved in, it was better known as a farming and ranching community.  I created the village of Prado Viejo with Galisteo in mind.  But the Lonely Hart Ranch itself was set further south, by the village of Stanley (more on that later).

If you haven't been to Galisteo, it's worth a trip.  And don't forget to bring your camera.    

Saturday, July 2, 2011

On to Novels

I spent quite a lot of time in 2010 working on one of my true family stories, which I posted here.  Many of you sent me emails and posted comments during that time, and I loved reading what you had to say.  Then I went quiet because I began spending all my time finishing my first novel.  Well, now it's done, so I'm ready to start posting again.  But this time I'll write about something different.

While I was writing my (recently published) novel, Legend of the Lonely Hart, people asked me a lot of questions about it.  Where did you get the idea?  How did you find out all the historical information?  Where did the characters come from?  So, I have decided to dedicate some of my posts to answering those questions and telling you about some of the real characters and incidences that happened along the way.  Kind of a "making of . . ." series.  I hope you have fun reading my posts.

Why was it called The Poodle Ranch, and why did you change the title?
That was my working title, and lots of people wanted to know why I changed it.  Originally, the novel was supposed to be about the changing culture of Northern New Mexico - and there are poodles in the book.  So the title made sense.  But then the characters starting taking over, as they so often do, and they decided the book was also going to include another high-profile theme: how legends (and secrets) shape a family.  Legend of the Lonely Hart described the book much better, and I liked the wordplay.

If you have read my book, let me know what you think about the title.