Four mysteries with a conscience

Dark Moon Walking cover 2013
2013

R. J. McMillen’s Dan Connor mystery series is the work of a consummate story-teller.  Their plots are forged around inventive premises and their ever-unfolding riddles keep the reader craving the turn of the next page from beginning to end.

All of these books share an overarching theme of respect both for the environment and for Native peoples whose ancient life lessons often present themselves as startlingly relevant to today’s world.  All are set against the rich backdrop of British Columbia’s islands, waterways, and the wildlife which inhabits both.  Verdant forests, winds, and tides are so seamlessly woven into the plots that they become virtual characters in stories that could have been set nowhere else.

McMillen has the ability to write in a way that resonates for an audience not constricted by the mystery genre.  Readers need not be mystery buffs to appreciate them, but whodunit fans will find them more than satisfying.  Readers need not be seafarers to appreciate them, either, but sailors and fishermen will recognize in McMillen’s descriptions of life on the water the unmistakable ring of authenticity.  These are books that cannot help but seduce city slickers and landlubbers alike with the call of the wild.

Black Tide Rising cover 2015
2015

These books are full of unique and memorable characters crisply drawn, and McMillen works hard to avoid mystery genre stereotypes.  Settings and dialogue are seamlessly interwoven to paint each of the principal characters as complex and colorful mosaics.

Protagonist Dan Connor, retired early from anti-terrorist beat, is guilt and grief-stricken after his wife is brutally murdered in what is hinted at as a consequence of his work.  He’s retreated to life on his boat to salve his grief and sort out his life, but when events return him to informal police work, he finds in it an unlikely therapy for his grief and guilt.  His ongoing quest to exorcise his personal demons compellingly binds these books together, and each leaves the reader craving not only the resolution of the crime-du-jour, but hope for Connor’s emotional rehabilitation.

Walker is a Native American crippled years earlier by a fall in a Vancouver robbery gone bad that ended with his arrest by Conner.  Upon his release from prison, he returns to his ancestral home and lifestyle among the islands, where he reconnects by happenstance with his captor.  The two gradually form an unlikely, yet unbreakable bond.

Green River Falling cover 2016
2016

Many of the revelations drawn from Native culture are presented through Walker’s words and deeds, which run through plot and dialogue like a bright thread.  He is likeable – if often cryptic – and has admirably managed to reconcile himself to life as a cripple without surrendering to his disability.  His wry sense of humor is often driven by the contrasts between his culture and Connor’s, but their banter is always marked by mutual respect.

Walker’s age-old, low-tech resolutions for otherwise unsolvable dilemmas continually call into question not only the limits of technology, but the values which drive today’s techno-focused society.

It hard to imagine two characters more well-suited to engage in such a dialogue, or to guide readers through the discourse more invitingly.

Gray Sea Running cover 2018
2018

These books honor the tradition of the great ’40’s and ’50’s mystery novelists.  In McMillen’s tales there are no psychic profilers, CSI forensics, or electronic surveillance, and yet despite their old-fashioned reliance on little more than intuition and powers of deduction they are as contemporary as the war on terrorism.

The Dan Connor books are more than simple mysteries.  They are odes to the natural beauty and symbiosis of a world unspoiled by modern civilization, and to a Native race that has always respected it and understood its place in it.

Find all four of them here on Amazon.

Check out the complete listing of RiberasAuthors by genre here.

(Posted by Antonio Ramblés.)

 

(Post by Antonio Ramblés.)

Lakeside’s author who never was

silhouette-of-a-man-36181_960_720Dane Chandos is one of Lakeside’s most celebrated writers, but no one has ever seen his photo and no tombstone marks his grave  because Chandos is a pen name that Lakeside writer Peter Lilley shared with two successive collaborators.

Lilley, born in the U.K. in 1913, lived for much of his life in San Antonio Tlayacapan.  His first collaborator was Nigel Millett, who was born in London in 1904 and emigrated to Mexico with his father in 1937.

The pair wrote two books before Millet died in 1946.  (He and his father are both buried in  Ajijic’s Panteón.)  Both stories share a San Antonio Tlayacapan setting and many of the same characters.

chandos-village-in-the-sunVillage in the Sun (1945) tells the story of building Lilley’s house in Mexico and is still treasured as an authentic account of Lakeside life in the 1940s.  Find it here on Amazon.

4049

In House in the Sun (1949) the protagonist has added guest rooms to the house and become an innkeeper of sorts.  Find it here on Amazon.

The year after Millet’s death, Lilley was visited in Mexico by Anthony Stansfeld, a U.K. expat who shortly after emigrated to the U.S.  Stansfeld later became Lilley’s second collaborator, traveling frequently from his American home to Mexico.

The  pair wrote two travelogues under the name Dane Chandos.

downloadThey also created a huarache-wearing Mexican detective who appears in two works written under the pen name Bruce Buckingham.  Three Bad Nights (1956) here on Amazon, and Boiled Alive (1957), here on Amazon.

Boiled Alive cover

Peter Lilley lived in San Antonio Tlayacapan into the 1970s, but returned to the U.K. in his final days and died there in 1980.

 

But there’s a delightful postscript…

Candelaria's Cookbook coverThe new owners of Lilley’s house discovered an unpublished manuscript containing a collection of recipes and anecdotes that they released in 1997 as the bilingual work Candelaria’s Cookbook under the name Dane Chandos.

 

Read more about the Lake Chapala area’s rich literary legacy here.

(Post by Antonio Ramblés.)

Four takes on expat life in Mexico

More than 10,000 Americans and Canadians have chosen to live permanently along the shores of Mexico’s Lake Chapala, begging for everyone else the questions of what motivates them to leave lifelong homes, and what they have sought – and found – in their new lives south of the border.

Fortunately, those who may be considering such a move – or are who newly arrived – can draw upon the experiences and observations of the area’s resident writers for authentic insight.

Presented here are four books chock full of personal accounts written from different perspectives and in different voices.  Some are nuts-and-bolts tutorials on life in Mexico, and others delve into the psyche of foreigners who have chosen to live abroad.  In combination they serve up a full mosaic of expat life in contemporary Mexico.

These are the true stories of real people who have already made the move.


Baby Boomer coverBaby Boomers: Reinvent Your Retirement in Mexico.  This book by Karen Blue is a collection of accounts by expats who have found in Lake Chapala way to fill their lives with passion and purpose, and to cultivate their full potential.

It doesn’t focus on the wheres, the whats and the hows as much as it invites the reader to immerse him/herself in the expat mindset.  Find it here on Amazon.


Head for Mexico cover

Head for Mexico: The Renegade Guide.  This book was edited by Teresa Kendrick, who is also the author of a guidebook to the Lake Chapala area, and Karen Blue and Judy King are among its contributors.  This book offers readers comprehensive information needed to make an informed decision about moving to Mexico.   Find it here on Amazon.


Living At Lake Chapala coverLiving at Lake Chapala.  This guide to everyday living at Lake Chapala draws upon Judy King’s years of explorations, inquiries, and writings about local village life.

She leads readers through the what, where, how and why of everyday life in this part of Mexico.  She offers up tips and advice about how to accept and embrace the many cultural distinctions that make Mexico such a fascinating place.

This is not only a book to read before arrival, but one to keep for reference after arrival.

Find it here on Amazon.


Midlife Mavericks coverMidlife Mavericks: Women Reinventing Their Lives in Mexico.  This book, also by Karen Blue, does not suggest that moving to Mexico is for every woman, but it does present it as a viable consideration for those experiencing or desiring  significant change in their lives.

For some, change means a readiness  to shed the trappings of corporate life and consumerism for a simpler existence.

Others are victims of economic happenstance that has left them no other choice.  And some are simply unwilling to further postpone dreams of a breakout adventure which has sustained them through otherwise uneventful lives.

Find it here on Amazon.

(Post by Antonio Ramblés.)

 

Spotlight: Blossoming Bickmore

Barbara Bickmore mug 2
Barbara Bickmore

Barbara Bickmore lived and wrote in Ajijic from 1990 to 1997.  She recalled writing her first story at the age of seven, but fifty-four years would pass before her dream deferred would reveal itself in a frenetic burst of writing creativity.

Born and raised on Long Island, Bickmore exhibited an interest in literature and theater from childhood and grew up to become a teacher.   She married, and her career was later interrupted for several years  following the births of her three children.

Divorced after 16 years of marriage, Bickmore took a sabbatical from teaching in order to complete her Masters degree, then moved with her children to Oregon in 1973.  When her attempts at farming and shopkeeping failed, she returned to teaching until her employer declined to renew her contract in 1985.

The now unemployed Bickmore was invited to China by a daughter who was at the time working as an English language instructor in Xian.  During the visit mother and daughter befriended a South African couple.  The experience led Bickmore to later choose both China and South Africa as settings for some of her books.

East Of The Sun 1989
Published 1989

Upon her return to the States, Bickmore completed her first novel, East of the Sun, which was published in 1988 when she was aged 61.

The Moon Below 1994
Published 1994

She came to Ajijic in 1990 following publication of her second novel, The Moon  Below, and stayed for 7 years.

During her time in Ajijic she completed five books, including:

  • The Back of Beyond (1994)
  • Homecoming (1995)
  • Deep in the Heart (1996)
  • Beyond the Promise (1997)

Bickmore covers 02

While none of her books were set in Mexico, Bickmore was clearly enamored of the Lake Chapala area, writing of it:


I lived for 7 magical years in a little Mexican village, Ajijic, high in the mountains south of Guadalajara on the edge of Lake Chapala. They were the happiest years of my life.


She returned to Oregon in 1998, where she continued to write and where she remained until her death at age 87.

Bickmore covers 03

The themes of Bickmore’s books are expressions of her personal morality, and she considered her work a form of political activism:

I am against war. I am for a woman’s right to reproductive choice. I believe women should have the same choices, and chances, men do. I am against racism. I believe education can make for better informed choices and can expand one’s view of the world and make for a limitless horizon. I believe friendship is one of the most important things in life and that love is the single most important ingredient.  I believe in kindness and that we are our brother’s and sister’s keepers.

One of the amazing and wonderful, almost unbelievable, things about writing is that people read what I think and feel and perhaps I even influence a few. I’d like to be like my heroines, each of whom makes a difference in their worlds. They look out beyond themselves to help others and hopefully make the world a better place.

Bickmore’s books were at least as popular abroad as in the U.S., and her work has been translated into 16 languages.

Read more about Barbara Bickmore and browse her books here on Amazon.

Read more about the Lake Chapala area’s rich literary legacy here.

Check out the complete listing of RiberasAuthors by genre here.

(Post by Antonio Ramblés.)

Spotlight: Author Joyce Wycoff

Joyce Wycoff mug
Joyce Wycoff

Who among us doesn’t want to perform to their full potential and energize their collaborative relationships?  Joyce Wycoff has authored six books which provide roadmaps to maximizing personal and group productivity by changing the way we think.  And she’s still writing!

Wycoff’s books deliver sophisticated solutions to common problems in straightforward language, and while they’re decidedly upbeat in tone they manage not to devolve into the vacuous cheerleading which characterizes so many books in this genre.   While a few of her books are more appropriate for business organizations, most are as universally applicable to the lives of individuals and the cultural health of non-commercial ventures both large and small:


Gratitude Miracles coverIs it possible that repurposing as little as 5 minutes each day can deliver greater happiness, better relationships and a more fulfilling life?  Gratitude Miracles draws upon recent research which has proven that keeping a gratitude journal makes for better health and fitness, reduces stress, and improves coping skills.

This books distills the research into the quick and simple discipline of a daily journal.  Find it here on Amazon.


Mindmapping coverMindmapping is the application of “whole-brain thinking” to break through barriers that hamper our imaginations.  Mindmapping:  Your  Personal Guide to Exploring Creativity and Problem-Solving plots a course to more creative problem solving, clearer decision making, improved memory and concentration, and better organization skills.  Find it here on Amazon.


Transformation Thinking coverTransformation Thinking is a practical guidebook for anyone in a leadership position who wants to transform the way they make decisions, set goals, inspire productive teamwork, encourage communication, and stimulate generation of new ideas.

It teaches readers how to apply simple tools that expand thought horizons beyond preconceived norms to enhance creativity and effect change within any team, large or small.  Find it here on Amazon.


To Do Doing coverTo Do Doing Done: A Creative Approach to Managing Projects & Effectively Finishing What Matters Most book focuses on the skills required to manage any project without getting bogged down in conflicts or sidetracked by unexpected changes or developments.

The techniques are drawn from Franklin Quest’s Planning for Results seminars, which has boosted productivity of thousands of employees worldwide.  Find it here on Amazon.


Sarana's Gift coverSarana’s Gift: It Changes Everything! challenges readers to answer the question, “What would you sacrifice to have the gift that changes everything?”  Published in 2016,  this is a decided departure from the style of Wycoff’s earlier work; it wraps a spiritual journey in an allegorical fantasy filled with Mayan gods and goddesses.

Sarana’s odyssey reveals her unknown strengths and delivers many gifts, but she ultimately faces the test of whether to sacrifice what she needs most in order to restore the world’s equilibrium.   It’s a timeless morality tale.  Find it here on Amazon.


Wycoff is another of many RiberasAuthors whose creativity spills beyond the pages of a book; she’s also a photographer and digital artist.

Learn more about Joyce, and find links to her complete work and reviews on Amazon Books here.

Check out the complete listing of RiberasAuthors by genre here.

(Post by Antonio Ramblés.)

Spotlight: Author Judy King

Judy King mug
Judy King

Many among Lake Chapala’s colony of English language writers connected with their muses only after retiring in Mexico.

Judy King, though, is one of a handful who have lived and worked in Mexico for much of their adult lives.   It’s no surprise, then, that much of her written work shares knowledge and experience gleaned from nearly thirty years of life as an expat.

Living At Lake ChapalaHer first book, Living at Lake Chapala (find it here on Amazon), is a popular handbook for those making the cultural transition.

Judy bring to her books a craftsmanship honed during her career as a journalist.  Her articles have appeared in dozens of newspapers and magazines in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.  She also published the widely read e-zine Mexico Insights for twelve years and served as Editor-in-Chief at the Lake Chapala Review.

Head For MexicoHer work is featured in  Head For Mexico:  The Renegade Guide (here on Amazon).

She is also one of several local contributors to the award-winning anthology Mexico:  Sunlight & Shadows (here on Amazon). Mexico Sunlight & Shadows

 

Judy is currently working on a new book scheduled for release early in 2019.

Check out the complete listing of RiberasAuthors by genre here.

(Post by Antonio Ramblés.)

The Chapala-Taos Connection

Witter Bynner
Witter Bynner

American poet Harold Witter Bynner (1881-1968), divided his time between homes in Chapala and Taos, New Mexico for nearly 30 years, and had the distinction of introducing both D.H. Lawrence and Tennessee Williams to the Lake Chapala area.   Williams had visited Mexico before Bynner hosted him in 1947, but Lawrence’s trip in 1923 was his first of three visits, and the Englishman might never have come to Mexico had not he and Bynner met quite by happenstance in Taos.

Lawrence and his wife Frieda had left England in 1919 for a self-imposed exile that the Englishman called his “savage pilgrimage”.  Their intended destination was Taos, New Mexico, but their route was quite circuitous, beginning with almost two years of travel through Italy. Malta, Germany, and Austria.  They left Europe early in 1922 and arrived in Taos late that year by way of Ceylon and Australia.

Frieda & D. H. Lawrence
D. H. Lawrence & wife Frieda

Bynner, having met a Chinese professor with whom he had begun collaborating on the translation of T’ang Dynasty poems, had traveled to China during 1920-21 to study its literature and culture.  Upon his return to the U.S. he embarked on an extensive lecture tour which brought him to Santa Fe, New Mexico in February 1922. Exhausted and ill, he canceled the rest of his tour and remained there.

Taos had first come to the attention of the Eastern artistic establishment in 1898 when Harpers Weekly published an article illustrated with work by artist Ernest Blumenschein, who had arrived in Taos while touring the U.S. and decided to stay.   Within a few years other American and European-born artists joined them.  Lawrence had often discussed the idea of setting up a utopian community with several of his friends, and in a 1915 note wrote:

“I want to gather together about twenty souls and sail away from this world of war and squalor and found a little colony where there shall be no money but a sort of communism as far as necessaries of life go, and some real decency… a place where one can live simply, apart from this civilization with a few other people who are also at peace and happy and live, and understand and be free…”

Mabel Dodge Luhan
Mabel Dodge Luhan

Many artists were drawn to Taos by Mabel Dodge Luhan, a wealthy heiress from Buffalo, New York.  She had hosted art salons in Florence, Italy, and Manhattan before settling in Taos in 1917, where she married her third husband and carried on her salon tradition.  Luhan hosted artists, writers, and other luminaries including Ansel Adams, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Alfred Stieglitz in Taos.  Even D. H. Lawrence painted while in Taos, and his work is on display at La Fonda Hotel on the Taos Plaza, signed with the pseudonym “Lorenzo”.

Dorothy Brett
Dorothy Brett

Artist Dorothy Brett arrived in Taos with D.H. Lawrence and his wife Frieda in 1924, sowing the seeds of a conflict that fully bloomed upon Lawrence’s death in 1930.  Luhan, Brett, and Lawrence’s wife Frieda each considered themselves in some way Lawrence’s true muse, and argued over the disposition of Lawrence’s ashes. To prevent Mabel from stealing and scattering them, Frieda had them mixed with concrete and formed into a block which remains to this day on the D. H. Lawrence Ranch above Taos.

Luhan’s salons continued, and in the years following Lawrence’s death her guests included Carl Sandburg, Willa Cather, Igor Stravinsky, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Robert Frost, W. H. Auden, Aldous Huxley, and Thornton Wilder.

Following WWI, a new generation of writers and artists arrived in Taos to turn the page on the town’s artistic heritage, but Lawrence’s works The Plumed Serpent and Mornings In Mexico arguably owe their existence to his Taos connection and friendship with Witter Bynner.

Today, as the Lake Chapala area is poised to celebrate the centennial of Lawrence’s first visit, dozens of writers who call it home carry on the literary tradition.

Browse the Authors Gallery and find links to their bios and reviews of their work here.

Read more here about Lake Chapala’s long-standing literary tradition.

(Post by Antonio Ramblés.)