A Little Help From My Friends

My previous work week at the observatory got off to a “wonderful” start when, after uploading a couple of anthologies to my Kindle e-reader, I unplugged the USB cable, fumbled the reader, and slam dunked it against a counter top. I discovered that’s a great way to damage the e-ink cells and it was pretty clear that my Kindle was dead. The Kindle was used when I got it and I received it in exchange for a signed copy of my novel The Solar Sea. I was heart-broken, more because of the sentimental value than for any physical value.

The Pirates of Sufiro

As it turns out, the fellow who gave me the original Kindle, stepped forward and offered me a new Kindle in exchange for some help at his small observatory in Benson, Arizona. I can’t say how special this is, because not only do I have a new device, it also comes with a new dose of sentimental value. Back at the beginning of my writing career, my benefactor, Jeff Lewis, helped out with the first audio production of The Pirates of Sufiro. He was the voice of the Legacy’s first mate, Carter Roberts. Jeff also provided some helpful digital editing advice in the days when few people had even heard of digital editing. Remember, you can download The Pirates of Sufiro absolutely free from Lachesis Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.

Perhaps befitting this gesture, this past week, I’ve taken a short break from my steampunk-novel-in-progress to work on a new short story which features Roberts along with his captain, Ellison Firebrandt, and their fellow crewmember, Suki Mori. I won’t say too much about the story at this point other than to say that it does address friendship and its benefits and challenges. It also features giant squid. I’ll be sure to keep you posted about when and where this story will be appearing. If nothing else, it serves to add another chapter to my somewhat back burner project of compiling a collection of stories about my space pirates before they were stranded on the planet Sufiro.


Needless to say, I feel pretty blessed this week by the good things that have happened to me, but I’m also blessed by an opportunity to give back. I’ve just learned the cookbook Cauldron of Love published by Writers Unite to Fight Cancer in Arizona has just come available for pre-order. Contributors to the cookbook include Brenda Novak, Margaret Larsen Turley, Marina Martindale, and many others including myself. 100% of the proceeds from this cookbook will be donated to cancer research. This book features eighteen categories with international family favorites, remedies, delicious gluten free and dairy free cuisine, comfort food for patients battling cancer and other tantalizing morsels. Visit http://writersunitetofightcancer.org/cauldron-of-love/ to order or get more information.

Atole for an Autumn Morning

About midway through Chapter 2 of my novel Owl Dance, you’ll come across the following passage:

The dip in the hot spring after a long day of riding let Ramon sleep very well, but he still woke up sore the next morning. He dragged himself out of bed, washed his face in the basin of water that was in the room and dressed. Ramon could smell coffee and something else, a blending of chocolate and cinnamon he hadn’t smelled in many years. He followed the smells and sat down at the kitchen table. Alicia placed a bowl of chocolate- and cinnamon-spiced atole in front of Ramon along with a cup of coffee. “I haven’t had atole since I was a kid,” he said as he dug in. “I’m not going to want to leave.”

One comment and question I’ve already received about the book is that atole sounds really good. What exactly is it? Well, depending on how you look at it, atole is a thin porridge or a thick drink made from masa (the corn flour used to make tortillas or tamales). The atole that Ramon has is “atole de chocolate” or “champurrado”.

I was first introduced to atole about ten years ago by a wonderful storyteller named Greg Pedroza. One of his specialties is telling alliterative stories and many of them are inspired by his family traditions. You can learn more about Greg here: http://gpedroza.com.

Here are the ingredients I use when making atole de chocolate:

What you’ll need is about a half cup of dried masa, a 3-ounce tablet of Mexican chocolate, about half a 3-ounce piloncillo cone and some water. All of these are readily available in my local grocery store in Las Cruces. Outside of New Mexico, you may have to go to the “international aisle” or whatever they call it to find the masa and the Mexican chocolate. The piloncillo cone may be the hardest thing to find. If you can’t find it, you can substitute a scant quarter cup packed dark brown sugar and a teaspoon of molasses. Mexican hot chocolate tablets are already cinnamon spiced, so if you use some other chocolate, you’ll need to add about a quarter teaspoon of cinnamon.

To make the atole, break up the chocolate tablet and the piloncillo cone and place them in a blender along with the masa and about two cups of water (for a thicker, more porridge-like atole) or about four cups of water (for a thinner, more hot-chocolate like atole). Blend until will mixed. Pour the mixture into a saucepan and bring to a simmer for five minutes. Once done, pour into bowls or cups and serve. I like to add a little milk when I serve the atole.

This is a good way to start a day. Also, atole is a great accompaniment to fresh tamales for supper.

Owl Dance is available at Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and direct from the publisher at: http://flyingpenpress.com/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=49