Stocking-stuffer books for kids

Dr. Suess rendered old-school nursery rhymes practically obsolete with his reinvented use of rhyming verse, and although these four books lack the good Doctor’s edginess, they nonetheless package life lessons for children in delightful rhymes that make them great holiday gifts for kids and grandkids.

By Judy Dykstra-Brown

Sock TalkSock Talk is a Christmas book of rhyming verse that recounts the tale of a young girl whose aging maiden aunt insists on giving her the mundane Christmas gift of socks year after year.   When the child at last musters up the courage to confront her aunt about the practice, the result is predictably unpredictable.  This book contains sixteen illustrations by San Juan Cosalá artist Isidro Xilonzóchitl. Most are colorful full pages rendered in a style that evokes memories of illustrations from children’s books of the ‘50’s and ‘60’s.

The story that teaches children two important lessons.  One is that that there’s more to things than meets the eye, and the other is that a gift horse is not to be looked in the mouth.

The book’s dedication to the author’s niece amusingly hints that the author herself was at one time the sock-giver.

Available not only as an e-book, but as a large-print paperback, it’s a book that begs to be read aloud.  The author recommends it for children aged 6 to 10.

Find it here on Amazon.

Sunup SundownSunup Sundown is the second in the author’s growing series of children’s books.  Like the first, it is a book of rhyming verse, and is also illustrated by local artist Isidro Xilonzochitl.  It’s the story of a day in childhood life filled with descriptions of encounters with the very real animals found both on grandma and grandpa’s farm and in the zoo, as well as animals imagined in storybooks.

It begins with the wake-up greeting “Wake up, wake up, my buttercup, my flutterdown and flutterup, my painter and my cutterup, your sleepy time is done.”

It ends as a bedtime lullaby.   “Humpa, humpa, haravan, the camels in their caravan and puppies on the spare divan are falling fast asleep . . . like the foxes in their lairs, with the fleas down in their hairs. . . . Like your playmates, your teacher, and every living creature.”

It’s a book that young children will enjoy, and that parents will enjoy reading to them.

Find it here on Amazon.

By John Thomas Dodds

A Long Journey HomeA narrative poem, The Journey Home is the story of young Thomas and the urge he feels to explore the world beyond his front door.  He sets off with backpack, and along the way encounters new companions, experiences, and ideas, some of which bring happiness and others which raise fears and doubts.

Each of the fanciful characters he meets teaches him a valuable lesson.  He learns from Grandfather Time teaches him that, “Everything happens for a reason, and in its own time.” The twin apparitions of Danger and Delight show him that “There are two sides to everything,” and that he can choose to follow either darkness or light.   Mr. Crane tells the boy that he has to choose his own path by following his heart as well as his brain.

These encounters plant a recurring question in Thomas’s mind that is finally answered by the Lady with the angel voice, who awakens him to the understanding that life “is all about love,” and that love is always with him, even when he thinks that he is alone.

The author recommends it for children aged 7-10 years.

Find it here on Amazon.

A Sneaky TwitchThe Sneaky Twitch of an Itch is a poem that engages children’s’ imagination by presenting the paradox of something which is as intangible as it is undeniably real.  No one can deny that an itch exists, and yet an itch cannot be captured or chased away.  Sneaky’s impish behavior teaches not only the importance of cleanliness and personal hygiene, but the value of caring relationships.

The author recommends it for nursery school aged children.

Find it here on Amazon.

Browse our complete Author’s Gallery by genre here.

(Posted by Antonio Ramblés.)

LCS acknowledgement





Ajijic’s Grand Dame Neill James

Neill James photo 04
Author/Philanthropist Neill James

Most who live on Lake Chapala’s north shore – and particularly those who frequent the Lake Chapala Society – have heard the name Neill James, but many are unaware of the accomplishments of this extraordinary woman, or the full scope of her contributions to the community.

James was an author, philanthropist, and entrepreneur.  She was also a fearless adventurer who shrugged off the staid social conventions and gender stereotypes of a dawning twentieth century.

Born on a cotton plantation in Grenada, Mississippi in 1895, James earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1918, and – following a brief and childless marriage – began to travel extensively.

Neill James photo 01
Author/Philanthropist Neill James

She was employed at the American embassies in Tokyo (1924-1927) and Berlin (1928-1929), and her work and travel allowed her to meet many celebrities of the day, including Amelia Earhart.  Her travels took her to the South Seas (1931-32), and Lapland (1937-38).

Her plans to return to Asia and travel throughout the Orient changed when James encountered the Ainu people of northern Hokkaido in Japan and became enchanted with their culture.  She lived among them for an extended time, all the while taking photographs and keeping a diary of her experience.

James left Japan just before December 7, 1941 and headed for Mexico, where she was badly injured while hiking the slopes of  Michoacán’s Paricutin volcano during an unexpected eruption. She was brought to Ajijic for a year of recuperation, during which she drew upon her travel journals to complete the “Petticoat Vagabond” series of books on which she had begun work in 1937:

Dust On My Heart coverPetticoat Vagabond among the Nomads (1939)
White Reindeer (1940)
Petticoat Vagabond: In Ainu Land (1942)
Petticoat Vagabonds: Up and Down The World in Asia (1942)
Dust On My Heart (1946)

Dust on My Heart records James’ journeys throughout  Mexico, and includes a chapter on Ajijic that provides rare insight into life in Ajijic during the 1940’s that is well worth the read.

In the years which followed, Ms. James became a beloved benefactress of her adopted Ajijic.

Dust On My Heart - back dust cover Q
James in her garden of exotic plants

She collected rare plants during her travels, and when her attempt to import Japanese mulberry trees in the hope of breeding silkworms was doomed by blight, she converted the silk looms to weave cotton instead, and Ajiic’s community of weavers was born.

A woman of inherited means, James employed her wealth to launch projects focused on improving the daily lives of local people, and on helping them to help themselves.

She sponsored the digging of the area’s first deep water wells, helped to develop a water purification system, and promoted the installation of electricity and phone service.

Neill James photo 03
Author/Philanthropist Neill James

She founded libraries in Chapala and Ajijic, and offered classes in a wide range of academic and artistic disciplines, including art classes for children that the Lake Chapala Society perpetuates to this day.

She encouraged the most talented among her students to pursue art as a career by supplying them with materials, engaging an art teacher, and providing a venue for the sale of their work.  She paid university tuition for the most talented, and several of her original students, including Jesus Lopez Vega and his brother Antonio, still live and paint in Ajijic today.

In 1955 she was among a group who decided that Lakeside needed an organization devoted to the needs of the expat community.  In her final years she donated her home and the grounds upon which it sits to the Lake Chapala Society, but continued to live there until her death in 1994 at the age of 99.  Its gardens still contain over 200 varieties of plants gathered during her travels.

Neill James photo 02
Author/Philanthropist Neill James

James was honored by installation in the American Biographical Society’s Hall of Fame and named to the International Who’s Who of Intellectuals. She is also the recipient of more than 40 citations acknowledging her contributions to the arts.


Only one of Ms. James’ books – Dust On My Heart – is available on Amazon.  Find it here.

Read more about Lake Chapala’s literary legacy here.

Check out the complete listing of RiberasAuthors by genre here.

Posted by Antonio Ramblés.

LCS acknowledgement

Three poets’ takes on Mexico

Three Lake Chapala poets have devoted much of their talent to sharing their love of life in Mexico.  Each writes in a very different style, but each manages to capture in his vignettes of daily life not only images familiar to anyone who lives here, but a sense of place that escapes the camera lens.  These poets manage to say what  we often feel about what we see Mexico, but are unable to express.

Three of Bill Frayer’s four volumes of poetry are devoted almost exclusively to this pursuit, and here are excerpts from each:

Frayer - MigrationMexican Street (from Migration)

Living in the heat
of the Mexican street
I step out into the sun
and smell the carnitas
and peanuts roasting.
and Rosa, Rosa next door
who sells her botanas every night
and watches my basura
every morning
keeping the dogs away,
stands smiling
with her missing teeth
and greasy apron,
but always smiling…

Frayer - Sacred LakeForeigner Walking (from Sacred Lake)

As I navigate the uneven stones
Of our Rio Zula
Past a dark-skinned boy
Drinking Coke and mixing sad
Into cement.  “Hola,” I offer.
And he responds more lyrically.
Mangos fallen to the street
In the overnight rain
A flat-face madre
Picks them up, bruised and unripe alike
Into a faded nylon mesh bag.
Another beautiful “Buenos Dias”
Enunciated slowly, carefully
With a slight smile…

Frayer - Agave BloodAgave Blood (from Agave Blood)

I watch as they squeeze
The baked agave heart
To extract the sweet nectar
Which will become
A fine anejo
How did the Aztecs discover
The secret of this blue  cactus
Which would blunt their senses
Perhaps, and make sense
Of their blood sacrifice?
For this tequila os
The story of all Mexico,
The beauty and the tragedy.

Find these three books and others by Bill – along with his reviews – here on Amazon.

DoddsJohn Thomas Dodds has written novels and children’s books, but poetry is most prominent among his body of work.

In A Stroll Through The Village of Ajijic, he devotes an entire volume to loving verses about his adopted home.


… I am captured under the delicate brilliance of a canopy of bougainvillea the color of my lovers’ lips.
Momentarily and alien on another planet.
Nothing grows that seemingly hasn’t been here forever, with a fragrance of life so delightful as to buffer the external myth of having been trapped in a never ending ascension of regret.

Find this book and others by John – along with his reviews – here on Amazon.

41-vnsNynCLThe late James Tipton introduced many local poets to the short form verse of Japanese tanka, and his book Washing Dishes In  The Ancient Village packs deep insight into a sparse and meticulously crafted phrases.  Here are four selections:

Behind the barred window
the proud mother
holds up her laughing baby

The cart hauling hay
for the horse
pulling the cart

Dirt road at dusk
everything alive whispers
slow down

So close to Heaven
we could smell
the empanadas!

Find this book and others by Jim – along with his reviews – here on Amazon.

Check out the complete listing of RiberasAuthors by genre here.

Posted by Antonio Ramblés

LCS acknowledgement

Four engaging lives remembered

Nussbaum - An H Of A LifeTom Nussbaum’s book An “H” of a Life is a witty, heartfelt account of his life as a special education instructor, a Jew, and a politically active gay man.  The “H” in the title is a nod to the book’s three sections: Hebe, Homo, and Hero.  The first of these begins, literally, with the author’s.own beginning:

“In hindsight, I should have known that my mother was a psychologically complex, complicated, and contradictory woman even before we were officially introduced.  After all, she was a woman whose Jewish ancestry and faith were deeply important to her but who gave birth to her first-born, a son, me, in a Catholic hospital.  I was doomed from the start, it appears, to face conflict and contradiction in my self-image and relationship with my mother.”

Find the book here on Amazon.

Paul - The Secret Wife

Life had a long and rocky start for Janice Campell Paul, and for most of it the prospect of missionary service in Asia was one of the furthest things from her mind.  Her book The Secret Wife recounts how she survived an abusive first marriage only to be stricken during her second marriage with a debilitating case of fibromyalgia that left her wheelchair-bound.  Old friends began to fall away and Janice was in her fifties when her second husband separated from her.

She began chatting online with a man in India, and despite their cultural and age differences – he was in his twenties – the two fell in love. Janice wanted desperately to be with him, but the reality of her illness posed an insurmountable obstacle. At one point she became so despondent that she nearly slit her wrists.

One day at a church worship service she felt a tingling in her feet.  She thought it at first just another symptom of her illness, but she was moved to stand and then, to her surprise, found herself able to walk for the first time in years.  She had no doubt that she had been spontaneously healed, and her religious faith deepened.

Once back on her feet, she traveled to India and married her Indian boyfriend. Their joy, however, turned to fear when she and her new husband were forced to flee to Nepal to escape an honor killing.

This is one of those “you can’t make this stuff up” accounts of an incredible life.

Find the book here on Amazon.

White - Watch Out For TopesHelen Murray White’s Watch Out For Topes is a memoir about travels across Mexico with her husband. It’s a collection of short stories that joyfully unwrap tidbits of Mexican culture.

It’s also an engaging tale of life in Mexico when White and her husband first visited in 1968:

Back in those early days the main roads were two-lane highways with no shoulders, few centerline markings, and no road signs.  Just before crossing the border we purchased Sanborn car insurance and received their road guide.   Not only was the guide necessary to avoid calamities, but it was entertaining, as well, telling us what to look for as we rounded the next curve.  Mr. Sanborn wrote that there would be a burro on the next hill and, yes, it was standing there when we passed.  There really was a Mr. Sanborn; we met him once at a Holiday Inn in Guadalajara.

Find the book here on Amazon.

Rambo - Let My Record ReflectJim Rambo is a retired prosecutor for the Attorney General of Delaware, but his book Let My Record  Reflect quickly dispels stereotypes of lawyers as humorless and long-winded, and the business of law enforcement as cold and unsympathetic.

This book is a collection of reminiscences, anecdotes and poetry that begin with Rambo’s childhood in Wilmington, Delaware in the 1940’s and ’50’s and end with his retirement to the Lake Chapala area.  It is, by Rambo’s own description, a “casual read.”

The courtroom vignettes dispel any preconceptions of legal proceedings as stiff judicial decorum wrapped up in monotonous monologues, and few will be able to read them without a smile.

There are, however, some notable pieces which speak to a life that has not been all fun and games.  Two of the author’s poems address the experience of Vietnam veterans.One titled “A Warrior’s Worry” begins:

The President came to visit last week.
He’s been with me before
And like millions of others who stop by
He doesn’t even know my name.

They pay homage without knowledge
Of me, the man, a devoted husband, once skin and bones.
They prefer now not to know.
It’s easier that way.

No longer a man of ambition, appetites and loves,
I’m a symbol to be honored and cherished instead
As the son of all mothers and fathers, the golden ones
Whose sons’ blood was shed freely from our nation’s veins….

Another titled “Dead Or Alive, Hill 175” begins:

How did I get here? How stupid am I?
I wondered as I heard my buddies cry
Out in the highlands, in Vietnam
The wounded scream “morphine!” Others sob “Mom!”

Sure as hell I’m out here to die
Too late to question when or why.
Men who don’t know me, trying to kill me
Won’t later question “Who the hell was he?”

The crushing noise of bullets and mortar
Suffocate efforts at thought, at order.
My sad life depends on the fetal position
Screw the Marines and this friggin’ mission….

There’s also a story about a 22-year-old whose partner in burglary killed a woman in a 1977 robbery gone sideways, and was tried as an accomplice to the murder.  The young man stubbornly dismissed advice to accept a plea bargain carrying an 11 year sentence and was convicted and sentenced to life.

Rambo was at the time co-counsel for his defense, and in the years which followed spoke regularly with the convict by phone and visited him in jail.  As time passed, he witnessed a metamorphosis marked by the young man’s acceptance of his responsibility for the crime, and efforts to improve himself as a person while behind bars.

It was thirty years later before the young man’s case would come  before the parole board for the first time and Rambo, now a prosecutor for most of that time, nonetheless went to bat for his former client, relentlessly pursuing the case to the highest levels well into his own retirement .  It’s a heartbreaking tale of blind justice, but also a testament to the soul of man who for much of his life was tasked with enforcing law and order, but never lost his capacity for compassion.

Find the book here on Amazon.

Check out the complete listing of RiberasAuthors by genre here.

(Posted by Antonio Ramblés)

LCS acknowledgement

Spotlight: Margaret Van Every

Saying Her NameMargaret Van Every is a prolific writer whose poetry and short stories appear in her own collections, as well as  several anthologies.  Poetry has been her lifelong pursuit (she was poetry editor of the literary journal at the University of Wisconsin).  After moving to Ajijic, Mexico, in 2010, she joined the Ajijic Writers Group and was a founding member of the Not Yet Dead Poets Society.

Margaret has produced four books: A Pillow Stuffed with Diamonds (2010), republished in a bilingual edition in 2011, Saying Her Name (2013), and Holding Hands with a Stranger (2014).

Holding Hands With A StrangerHer work is  influenced by Lakeside poet James Tipton, who introduced her to the Japanese forms of haiku and tanka.  Tanka consists of  unrhymed, unmetered verses of five lines, and is one of the oldest Japanese forms, originating in the seventh century in the Imperial Court, where nobles sometimes competed in tanka contests.

Tanka’s economy of language and suitability for emotional expression made it ideal for intimate communication. After an evening spent together, lovers would often write a tanka as a gift of gratitude to give to each other the next morning.

A Pillow Stuffed With DiamondsA Pillow Stuffed with Diamonds/Una Almohada Rellena con Diamantes is a collection of 116 tanka in English and Spanish showing the quirks of Mexican life. The poems, ironic but sensitive, offer a portrait of life of the inhabitants around Lake Chapala through the eyes of expats.

The following tanka from the book is considered one of the top 500 tanka from among 19,000 published during the year 2010:

Your ring...

The Spanish translations are not literal but attempt to capture the essence of the English original in local idiom of the area. She owes the authenticity of the translations to two native speakers, Andrés Velásquez and Rubén Varela. Although Van Every clearly loves her adopted country, her poems are never sentimental. Her voice is wry but not judgmental.

Her tanka takes its place with major tanka poets like Sanford Goldstein and Michael McClintock. They are filled with energy, wit, and the joy of being alive, originating from her life experiences in Mexico. Her poems appear in the major tanka magazines like Atlas Poetica, The Tanka Journal, and Magnapoets, and they are included in Take Five, which features the very best tanka in English in the world for 2010.

One of my favorites illustrates her sardonic sense of humor:In my wallet





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

Check out the complete listing of RiberasAuthors by genre here.

(Post by Riberas Author Mel Goldberg)

LCS acknowledgement

Roberto Moulon’s magical realism

51dMSzzjMKL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_One cannot help but wonder what Roberto Moulon might have written had he not published his first and only book the year before his death at age 88.  The book is titled The Iguana Speaks My Name, and it is an arresting example of the “magical realism” genre.

The hallmark of magical realism is its expression of a primarily realistic view of the real world within which magical elements are revealed as fables, myths, and allegories.  This is not a work of fantasy, but rather one which seamlessly weaves together threads of the real with the surreal to create something which is not quite either.  Anyone who has spent any time in Latin America’s outlying villages will instantly understand why the genre has its most ardent practioners among writers including Gabriel García Márquez, Jorge Luis Borges, and Isabel Allende.

Moulon’s book is set in his native Guatemala, and is a collection of ten interlocking stories narrated by Quince, a writer living in the village of Panimache, near three volcanoes and a deep blue lake. He reveals himself as a keen observer of people and events in a land that “bled from a war no one wanted to notice.”

Roberto Moulon

Panimache is a town teetering between its Mayan peasant culture and aspirations tied to modernity.  It is populated by a bright mosaic of shopkeepers, peones, government soldiers, and guerillas.  Quince’s friend Uno, a nature photographer, is reputed to be a shaman.  Capitan Lobo commands soldiers waging war on a counterinsurgency.  La China is a whore longing to be a muse.

Moulon’s language is simple and straightforward, yet rich in poetic metaphors that capture subtleties quite invisible to a camera lens.  The narrative is so rich in imagery that readers cannot help but find themselves immersed in the other-worldliness of its setting.

None of this is a secret to the many writers in the Lake Chapala area who knew and still remember Roberto Moulon, but those who never had the privilege of knowing the man behind this work can still find him between its lines.

This book was a 2013 winner of the Benjamin Franklin Silver Award for Best First Book of Fiction, and named one of the top 25 Indie Fiction Books of 2012

Read more about Roberto Moulon, and find links to his work and reviews on Amazon here.

Check out the complete listing of RiberasAuthors by genre here.

(Posted by Antonio Ramblés.)

LCS acknowledgement

Chapala’s unsung bard Witter Bynner

Witter Bynner

Witter Bynner (1881-1968) was an American poet, writer and scholar who, for much of his life, divided his time between homes in Santa Fe, New Mexico and Chapala, Mexico.  While Bynner’s reputation is today eclipsed by contemporaries including T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, and W. H. Auden, he was in his day a literary superstar.

His talent was already evident by the time he enrolled at Harvard, where he was not only invited to join the student literary magazine, but was also published in The Harvard Monthly. He graduated with honors in 1902, and released his first book of poems, An Ode to Harvard in 1907.   The university named him its Phi Beta Kappa Poet in 1911.

250px-SpectracoverIn 1916, Bynner and friends including Arthur Davison Ficke, all writing under pseudonyms, published an elaborate literary prank titled Spectra that was aimed at deflating the self-important poetry critics of the time.  The work was enthusiastically reviewed as a serious contribution to poetry before the hoax was finally unmasked two years later.

A conscientous objector, Bynner was  assigned alternative service teaching Oral English to the Students’ Army Training Corps in Berkeley, CA. during World War I.

51HGG8E024L._SX309_BO1,204,203,200_While there, he met a Chinese professor with whom he began an eleven-year collaboration on the translation of T’ang Dynasty poems.  He  traveled to China in 1920 to study its literature and culture.

In that same year, Bynner was elected President of the Poetry Society of America.  In an effort to encourage young poets, he created the Witter Bynner Prize for Undergraduate Excellence in Poetry, whose later recipients included Langston Hughes.  The Spectra hoax, however had tarnished Bynner’s reputation within the poetry establishment, and his works which followed the scandal received far less attention.

In 1922 a lecture tour took him to Santa Fe, New Mexico.  Exhausted and suffering from a lingering cold, he cancelled the remainder of his tour to recuperate there.  Enchanted by the

Bynner (center) with the Lawrences in Santa Fe.

setting and its artistic community, he returned four months later with his companion to take up permanent residence, and soon after met D.H. Lawrence and his wife Frieda.

514-XmrPHUL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_In 1923, Bynner and his companion accompanied the couple on a journey through Mexico that inspired Lawrence’s novel The Plumed Serpent, which includes an unflattering character based on Bynner.   In contrast, Bynner had high esteem for Lawrence, about whom he wrote three poems and a memoir titled Journey with Genius published in 1951.

Bynner stayed on in Chapala after the Lawrences left Mexico to continue working on his book of verse, Caravan (1925). At the time he noted that several other American writers and painters had already taken up residence there.


Between 1923 and 1929, Bynner penned more than a dozen poems that drew upon his Lake Chapala experience.  Many appear in his collection Indian Earth (1929), which he dedicated to D. H. Lawrence.

Robert Hunt & Witter Bynner

In 1930 poet Robert Hunt visited Bynner in Chapala.  They would become companions for the remainder of their lives.

Arthur Davison Ficke, Bynner’s friend and partner in crime on the Spectra hoax, spent the winter of 1934-35 in Chapala, and drew upon the setting to write his novel Mrs. Morton of Mexico.

In 1940 Bynner purchased a house in Chapala from Mexican architect Luis Barragán that became the second home to which he would often return over the next three decades.  His acquaintances during these years included  resident writers Nigel Millett and Neill James, and a visiting Tennessee Williams.

Witter bynner Luis Barragan house Chapala B
Former Witter Bynner home | Calle Madero 411, Chapala (Arq. Luis Barragán)

Bynner had a minor heart attack in 1949 and in the following year began to lose his eyesight, but neither infirmity prevented him from travelling with Hunt to Europe, where they visited acquaintances including Thornton Wilder, James Baldwin, and George Santayana.

Witter Bynner

He  was almost completely sightless by 1964 when he lost his Robert Hunt to a fatal heart attack.  The following year, Bynner suffered a severe stroke from which he never recovered, and he died in the U.S. in 1968.

The Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry was founded in 1972, funded by a bequest from his estate. Since 1997, it has sponsored the Witter Bynner Fellowship, for which the recipient is selected by the U.S. Poet Laureate.  The American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters established a Witter Bynner Poetry Prize in 1980.

Witter Bynner’s works can be found 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.

(Posted by Antonio Ramblés.)


Four mysteries with a conscience

Dark Moon Walking cover 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

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

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

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.


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.)