Thursday, December 31, 2009

Bye bye 2009!

Now it´s easier! Just use: to find the video trailer for my memoir, Fast Break South.

There will be fireworks over San Miguel at midnight to ring in the New Year. We have a lot of business in our spa! Yeah! All the tension and desperation I carried around in my shoulders during 2009, due to business being down and our ability to pay bills curtailed, is gone. For this week at least. I hope this bodes well for 2010. My psychic 15-year old daughter says the coming year will be better.

Going to write about the Teen Writers Workshop in Feburary for my Writer´s Corner column for now!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

YouTube Video

It's up! My book trailer video on YouTube! Thanks to Santiago of Zonagrafica. I popped by to see how it was going yesterday and ended up working on it with him for about 4 hours. Take a look.
Just go to YouTube and search Fast Break South. Hope you like it!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Coming Soon!

Santiago of Zonagrafico is going to put up my book trailer video this afternoon. Look for it on YouTube by the end of the day!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Steve Finamore is the coach of Mens Basketball at Jackson Community College in Michigan. His basketball blog is and today it features an interview with me! The coach and I talked about growing up with basketball. It´s thrilling to see my book and my dad´s on the same page! Check it out!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Blog Solidarity

Exciting happenings from bloglandia. My friend Jo Moran, whose first novel, The Wives of Henry Oades will be released in February, asked me to send along a photo of me reading her book from San Miguel, so she could add it to her fabulous website, Check out the site and you´ll see all about her book, a historical novel based on a man who takes a post in New Zealand and moves there with his family, only to have his wife and children kidnapped by some Maori tribal members. That´s me in the photo reading the part about the Maori abducting the family. I´m in front of the Parroquia de San Miguel, the centerpiece of my town, San Miguel de Allende.
After a long search, Henry concludes his family is dead and he sails to California where he marries a young widow. Read the book to find out what happens when Margaret, the missing wife, shows up on their doorstep.
I met Jo online about five years ago when were we both searching for agents. We´ve read each other´s manuscripts through several versions each, and have been wonderful friends ever since.
Then, on Twitter, I met a guy who coaches basketball at Jackson Community College in, I think, Michigan. He writes a great blog on coaching and playing sports at His name is Steve Finamore and he´s a fan of coaches in general, and of my dad, Jack, who used to coach in the NBA. After dialoguing a bit, he asked if he could write a letter to my dad (of course!) and interview me about growing up with basketball. I´m answering his questions one by one, and expect they´ll show up on his blog soon. His blog has lots of observations about basketball on all levels, and reffing and broadcasting. Check it out!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Introducing Alexandra Roman

I am happy to be a stop on the blog tour of Alexandra Roman today! She is a Puerto Rican-born writer whose novel is El Valle de la Inspiracion. It´s about a girl who goes. with an Egyptogolist friend, searching for The Valley of Inspiration. Her goal is to recover her own inspiration, which became lost to her after her father´s death. The novel is a history, mystery and fantasy, exploring the mythological world of ancient Egypt. It was published by Lulu and can be found on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

As a writer, Alexandra enjoys penning fiction, fantasy and poems. Alexandra´s blog is

I was excited to meet Alexandra (electronically) because she is from Bayamón, Puerto Rico, where my youngest brother was born! We lived in Puerto Rico several summers when I was a kid, as my father coached in the island´s basketball league, Baloncesto Superior. There is a story I wrote about that time, and about my brother´s birth, in a tropical hospital staffed with nuns, over on Alexandra´s blog today. It´s called Basketball and Banana Leaves. Check it out!

Here are some questions I asked Alexandra:

S. I don´t know if bilingual people understand what a gift it is to be truly bilingual. My kids, for example, take it for granted. Are you completely comfortable writing in English and Spanish? Which do you prefer?

A. Yes, in my household we speak both languages. My daughter prefers English and she sounds more American than Puerto Rican. When I´m writing a story, it all depends on how it comes to me. Stories talk to a writer and when you are bilingual, it speaks to you in the way it wants to be told. I translate them so they can be enjoyed by those that don´t understand both languages. I don´t have a preference, but for this novel I did. It needed to be written first in Spanish. I´m working with a translator now so it can be told in English too.

S. The Carribean Islands possess a whole culture that fascinates me: part island, with influences from the Europeans and Africans who stopped by in ships. Do you feel connected to the American literary scene?

A. Yeah, it´s part of the cirriculum in English classes, not so much the classics, but we do get to read Edgar Allen Poe, whom I like, and Emily Dickenson. I have read many others in high school and college, but most of the fiction I read, I´ve found on my own. We are connected to the American literary scene in many ways. Right now there is a big demand for everything Twilight, from that American author, Stephenie Meyer. Many of the movies Puerto Ricans enjoy are based on American novels, and most tend to go to the bookstore and buy those novels. Whether we like it or not, the American influence is there, and will be when we go to the bookstores.

S. I myself am trying to connect to the American literary mainstream from Mexico, and am having my memoir turned down by agent after agent. The reason I hear most often is that the only memoirs that are selling right now are those by nationally prominent people. Can you talk about your experiences trying to publish in the US?

A. It´s difficult because America is a big country and the publishing houses have hundreds of manuscripts delivered to them daily. With this economy trying to pull itself out of a depression, the publishing houses will go with the authors who will make them money. I tried with short stories first and it was very difficult even to place work in magazines. Most of them don´t want new or emerging authors in their magazines, and agents are reacting the same way. It has happened to me lots of times. The key is to never give up, and to keep believing in your work. You will find somebody who will back it up.

S. How has your beautiful island of Puerto Rico influenced your writing? Who do you see as your audience? What are you writing next?

A. Nature is my true inspiration. Sometimes, on weekends, I go for drives with my family to the island shores or to the mountains. It is just what I need to recharge the creative batteries. Puerto Rico has lots of magnificent places to visit and admire. From these breathtaking spots, I draw the strength I need to create.

I know my target audience is Young Adult. It is who I go for. They are not easy to target! The Young Adult reader is very picky in his choices and you have to grab his attention with your writing. Mostly, they enjoy fiction, as I do. So far so good! I have worked with a youth group for over fifteen years now. I share my work with them and they give good feedback. Believe me, when they don´t like something, they let you know! That´s why I say they´re picky.

My mind is set on three things right now. One is a continuation of El Valle de la Inspiracion. But that is a long-term plan. For now, I´m thinking of writing a novel based on the women in my life. At the same time, I´m working on a story I´ve been struggling with for three years. It´s fiction. For now it is called, Los Maestros de AldGar. I´m trying to use the taino language. It´s complicated. It´s a work in progress. It´s on hold right now while I promote El Valle de la Inspiracion.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Fast Break South on Amazon

So I reloaded Fast Break South onto Amazon with a new cover. I love the new look. It´s bright and the Mexican flags suggest a celebration of the life I´ve found here. Plus there´s a quote from my wonderful and generous friend, the memoirist Beverly Donofrio. Thank you to Sandra and Mary the designer who helped me get it up there.
Now, I have to get that video trailer about the book finished. Yoohoo, Santiago at Zonagrafica!

I´ve made a couple of sales that I know friends. It´s still exciting. My daughter with the psychic gifts said to me out of the blue about three days ago, "Mom, don´t bother with publishers. Nobody´s interested right now. Just do the book yourself." Interesting, as I hadn´t detailed to her much at all about getting my memoir up on Amazon as a Kindle book. The last agent rejection said publishers are only interested in celebrity memoirs right now. That should take you right to the book on Amazon. Or you can search Fast Break South or Susan McKinney de Ortega.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Fast Break South on Kindle

So Fast Break South has been available on Amazon´s Kindle Store for five days and I have two customer reviews! One is by my mother, who I´ve never given the entire memoir to before. She´s only read parts. The other is by my friend Sandra Gulland. OK, two people who know me, but it´s a start!

My mother doesn´t have a Kindle by the way. She downloaded it through some Kindle/PC feature onto her computer.

People are laughing at my cover! Ahem. OK, it is a bit ridiculous. A girl on a galloping horse (the romance!) to represent a book that doesn´t have a single horse in it. Alright already. I´ll change it.

More news when a new cover is up!

Friday, November 13, 2009


My book is available on! Here´s the link:
Amazon priced it at $11.99 even though I asked for $9.99. O well.
Tell me what you think of the cover!
Thanks for looking.

Publication...of sorts

So my friend Mary the graphic designer worked up a cover design for me and uploaded my memoir, Fast Break South, to Amazon, where it should be available for sale at $9.99 on Monday! I figured I could throw it up there while I continue to look for agents, and maybe make a few sales.

Uploading to Amazon means the book it only available to Kindle readers, a growing population, from what I read. No hard copy. But I did it at no cost, except for exchanging some massages with Mary for the cover.

Has this been done before? Is this OK? Can I similarily upload it to nook and other readers? I have no idea. I´m guessing I´ll find out.

The cover uses a photo that my 14-year old Carla took of herself riding her horse, Lucky. It is actually a crisp shadow of them against a large flat rock. Since Lucky is galloping, the photo suggests movement, going places, travel, which are elements of my story. There are no actual
horses or riders in the memoir, but I liked the visual metaphor. Also Fast Break is a basketball term that means you´ve broken away from defenders and are going at breakneck speed to the basket for a layup. The other idea was a photo of the back of Carla, showing a single braid falling over her back in a jeans jacket embroidered with flowers. I like that too, but decided to go with the motion photo. Does it work? Check is out on Amazon on Monday, read the book and tell me!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

San Miguel Magazine

Hey, anyone checked out San Miguel magazine online this month? Find me woe-is-meing about finding a literary agent. That´s my column about being a writer. Plus, discover other cool stuff like the weather in San Miguel, the story of a trip through other parts of Mexico - is it safe?? (of course) and info about running businesses south of the border.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Teen Writers Workshop

Started signing kids up for the San Miguel Teen Writers Workshop that happens in February in San Miguel today. Interest was immediately sparked among my middle school students by the giveaway of new Acer mini-laptops. Last year, the Workshop raffled off three computers. Apart from the freebies, including pizza, the workshop is pretty cool for teens who like to express with WORDS. Last year, over the two-day session, they brainstormed, then did a mini-graphic novel. It was a collective effort about a gringo who misuses Spanish. It got a lot of laughts.

This year, those timeless teen-pleasing topics - Fantasy and Science Fiction!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

When my writer pal, Beverly Donofrio, announced more than two years ago that she was going to move away from San Miguel and become a nun, I felt, hm, what did I feel? Abandoned, maybe, and trying to understand. Bev now lives in Colorado alone in a cabin in the mountains, as a contemplative, part of a community of like religious individuals. She writes about her life and her relationship with God.

For five or six years, Bev and Sandra Gulland (Mistress of the Sun, the Josephine B. Trilogy) met regularly and exchanged chapters and pages of what we were working on. We met at Bella Italia when it was on Hernandez Macias and had the big parrot in its courtyard. We each ordered the beef filet each time and Bev, a margarita, Sandra, white wine and me, a beer. Every once in awhile, Bev and Sandra would go through a non-drinking period, but I never failed to order my Dos X. Our meetings were sustenance as a writer for me.

So Bev was back last week. Over dinner, I was happy to learn that she still swears like a truck driver, and that she seems pretty darn happy with her life. She came to Colegio Siglo XXI and spoke to my advanced English students about writing and having had a movie made of her life (Riding in Cars with Boys). They were impressed with her candor and willingness to talk about everything in her life. I said that is what makes a good memoir writer.

Bev is on her way back to her beloved cabin now, and on a bright note, writer pal, Sandra Gulland arrives in San Miguel tomorrow!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Book Trailer

I just got back from the radio station where, with the help of Santiago of Zonagrafica, I recorded the track for the book trailer of my memoir, Fast Break South.
I wrote it the other day and then dug out lots of old photos of when Carlos and I started dating, and also old newspaper with headings about my father and his NBA championship teams.
Santiago took a few photos of Carlos yesterday to show him now. He looked good. He´d spilled coffee on his regular shirt and replaced it with a Mexican dress shirt that was just the right color.

Just call me One Take Sue. Ha! I recorded the text in one take except for when I choked on the word ´bus´. I recorded that sentence again. All that practice I got as a television news reporter in the eighties - thank you Jesus - in front of a recording microphone, it all came back.

The video should be ready next week. Santiago will upload it on YouTube. First, I´ll use it to get the attention of agents. Then, as a tool to sell the book, whether it is issued by a publishing house or I do it on my own.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

How To Enjoy the San Miguel Fair

Round up your 14-year old and a friend. Grab a snack by the big stage.

Find your sister in the crowd.

And your sister- and brother-in-law. And watch all their kids jump on the brincolín.

Round up the teenagers. (Jen, my Carla, my Sean, Kayla, Sara)

Wait until the stars come out, so you can jump
up to them.

And say Adios, Feria, until next year.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

5 Ways To Enjoy La Fiesta de San Miguel

Uno: Go to the parades and see the Indian dancers in feathers and conch-shell ankle bracelets.

Dos: Meet your friends at the fountain at the San Miguel fair at sundown.

Tres: Eat tacos and elote (corn on the cob) at the fair.

Cuatro: Pay 15 pesos and get strapped in and bungie-jump at the fair.

Cinco: Hear the free music and plan to return to the fair next year.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Showing an American movie to Mexican Teens

I wasn´t sure if Mexican teens and almost-teens would connect with a movie about boarding school boys in the 50s when I started showing The Dead Poets Society, but they are loving it. It will give us lots to talk about when I bring up Theme next week.

Monday, September 21, 2009

What Ever Happened to Jack McKinney

A massage client who suddenly let me know he was well-versed in my dad´s story and oh, by the way, developed some software that allowed writers to do something that allowed him to read a lot of manuscripts, read my book. He read the entire thing on a Friday night. His poor wife.

But yo, he said he couldn´t put it down. He says I´m doing it all wrong. I need to stress to agents that they will learn What Happened to Jack McKinney. I immediately think of some Manhattan women who have no clue who Jack McKiiney. Those women who work as agents who I have been contacting. Who yawn at my story. So I think OK, maybe this guy, Pat, is right. I´ll try it his way.

To be continued.

Monday, September 14, 2009

I´ve changed the title of my memoir to I Married A Mexican Teenager. My friend, the NY writer Alice Denham, who wrote Sleeping With Bad Boys convinced me I Married... had more of a pick-me-up-from-the-shelf quality. I guess she would.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Dear Annette, I´m writing again...

I wrote a page. I wrote a page. I wrote a page. Twelve-year old Sean is so into her Snoggy, Nuggy Nuggy books about a teenager in England with a nose the size of Jupiter (she read me that part) that I´ve been inspired to look at the YA I started. So I did and then my fingers started flying.

And it was easy.

And it was fun.

And the story is good.

Pant, pant. I´m back.

And it feels good.

PS This space will soon - like when Sean gets home from school - have the correct titles and author named of the abovementioned favorite books. Apologies to the author.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Containing the Jealous Gardener

So my friend Maggi, of Malibu, California built in San Miguel in a gated little plot of ground with a gorgeous view where three homes share gardens, an ancient chapel and a lovely pool. Everything was beautiful until the owners of the two other homes (who happen to be related) had seemingly unbridgeable differences of opinions, and now one or both of the homes are for sale. Maggi wants buyers who will make good neighbors.

Enter Don Jesus.

Jesus identified a spirit or ghost who lived in the area of a mesquite tree on the property, rather peacefully. The problem, he noted, was not the ghost but the manager of one of the houses, whose livlihood would be threatened by a sale. Would he keep his job? Yes, Maggi concurred. Don Mario, we´ll call him, had been less than friendly, since an imminent sale was announced.

Don Jesus´mission was to cleanse the energy around Maggi´s house and minimize the impact of Don Mario´s insecurity. Again, as with the Burch´s house, Jesus opened windows, spread his magic water across the floors and spritzed the air. Then he cleansed all of us inside, including me, so we could spread good energy to the newly uncontaminated space.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

My daughter, Carla turns 15 in December, which in Mexico means a quinceaños party. Traditionally the girl wears a formal, prom-like dress and maybe a crown, and she is escorted into the hall by a line of suit-wearing escorts called chambelánes.
Carla´s idea for her own party is that it will be at the equestrian center where we ride. She will wear riding gear, and when she is introduced, ride into the party on Lucky. Her chambelánes will be the grooms who tack the horses up - Ramiro, Chon and maybe Xavier nephew of the equestrian center owner. The idea started out as a joke but lately I´m thinking it´s not such a bad idea.
For the last couple of years, my Philadlephia friend, Amanda and I have been discussing about doing a double quinceaños party for our girls, Carla and Lily. We started this talk when they were twelve and had similar interests. But this summer, it turns out Lily came down from Philly as a designer flip-flop combined with old basketball shirt sort of kid, while Carla´s favorite story of the summer is how she chased down an escaped bull that was housed at our dressage barn for an upcoming Western event. Carla, in other words, is more of a horse gal than ever.
We have until next summer to plan an event, and I´m guessing formal dresses and a sparkling disco ball are not in the picture. My friend Gina, whose daughter went to pre-school and first grade in San Miguel, jokes maybe drive her dressed-up daughter through their western Massachusettes town in a pick-up as a celebration.
I´m open to all suggestions.

Friday, August 14, 2009

A New Meaning to Summer Cleaning

When one buys a house in San Miguel and wants to do everything in one´s power to assure that the city awards a permit to install a garage in the centuries-old structure, what is the first thing one does? Call the local shaman to give the house a limpia and general good luck shine-up, of course.
The house, with its lovely pepper tree-shaded garden, newly belongs to our Philadelphia friends, the Burches. They asked me to call Don Jesus. I´ve been a client of his for years. I see him when I get loaded up with people´s energy after giving lots of massages. A little copal, some general brushing off with an eagle´s wing, some energy moving with his hands inches from my skin and I´m good as new.
Don Jesus twitched, walking through the kitchen, from all the heavy, old energy left in the house after the previous owner´s months with cancer and her death. He said the house had two spirits hanging around. "Not bad spirits?" Charlie Burch asked. "I mean, like OK fellows?"
"You spend the night here and tell me tomorrow," Don Jesus said. He advised the family to light little alcohol fires at 8 that night in the strategic spots he showed them in the garden to shoo the lingering spirits.
After advising Charlie to open all the windows, he doused the floors with tap water mixed with some water he brought in a bottle, and moved it into the corners with a broom. When it dried, he lit little fires inside the rooms on a circle of rubbing alcohol he had squirted. Then he misted the air with another liquid he´d brought.
"Ya," he said, spreading his hands. All done.
"With all the stale energy gone, now the trabajadores will do better work And your family can move in comfortably."
We´ll see if the new energy helps convince city officials to grant the Burches a garage.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Tuesday is tianguis day in San Miguel. Tianguis is the Aztec word for outdoor market. I went with my 14-year old, Carla to do some back-to-school shopping from the clothing tables.

The best clothes come from the piles that have survived enough End of Season sales in US department stores to be shipped to Mexico at bulk rates. Concentration is required when selecting.

Today, bras were the big item. Did I say big? Doesn´t every gal need a bra with planets on it?

Drug wars? Shootings? It makes me crazy when would-be-tourists from the US won´t come to Mexico because they expect to find a violence-driven soceity. Look at these photos instead of listening to what you hear on the news. Here´s real life in San Miguel de Allende - a man serenading tianguis diners on his violin.

Anyway, nothing like bargain shopping to take my mind off another agent pass. "Couldn´t see a path for the memoir in this grim market." Blah, blah. Somebody is going to see that people LOVE a good romance, and a well-written, literary - not genre - romance like Fast Break South is going to do well. That´s my belief.
I´m thinking of changing the title to I Married A Mexican Teenager, which was the title of a PEN talk I gave a couple of seasons ago. Comments?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Big News, Big Name

Imagine the aroma of a Lavender Festival! Held last week at the Marsh estate in San Miguel and hosted by The Lavender Queen Herself, Jeannie Ralston, author of The Unlikely Lavender Queen, and photographer husband Robb K. to raise money for their lavender project which provides a sustainable business for local campesinos. While sipping a lavender margarita, I was approached by author, Susan Page who heads up the Author´s Sala here in San Miguel.

"I have the best news ever!" Susan gushed.

Can´t be a new baby, I thought. You´re going on a cruise? It´s going to rain in central Mexico soon?

"Guess who we got to keynote at the Writers Conference?" Susan began to hyperventilate.

"Who?" I obliged, but I was beginning to get excited too. Then I thought, nah, with a buildup like this, it´s likely to be disappointing.

"Barbara Kingsolver!"

OK. Susan had me. I was speechless. Then I caught the aroma of lavender on a passing breeze, and breathed deeply.

"Susan. Wow!" This is how you know I am a writer; I use big words.

Barbara Kingsolver! I read The Poisonwood Bible about a year ago, and thought, this writer is a heavyweight.


The San Miguel Writers Conference takes place February 19-23, 2010 in beautiful San Miguel de Allende. For more information, go to

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Afflicted with SBW (Should Be Writing)

Writing an article on the Literary Society for San Miguel Magazine. Remembering the Tom Robbins event, in which the community read Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates, and dressed as characters from the book.

Three agents have asked for my first 30 or 50 pages. So I´m Waiting To Hear. And Should Be Writing. Anybody notice that I´m not?

I wrote a novel before without planning the plot beforehand, and that novel is in a file, suffering from structural problems. I don´t want to make the same mistake again. I´m Thinking...that´s what I´m doing! I am really, and making notes. So that once I begin to write the YA novel I´ve mentioned, I can power ahead.

Anyone ever work in cable TV? Can you describe a cable station to me? As in physically. I worked in local network television (WISC-TV, Madison, Wisconsin) and have a good idea of its layout and workings. Is a local cable station in the 1970s different? Cable TV is key, as I´ll reveal as I get the story going, only to my readers here!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Riquisimos Pollos A La Leña

A new roasted chicken place opened on Calle Codo, only lableled with a hand-lettered sign, Riquisimos Pollos A La Leña $50 pesos. The pollos come dripping in juices from being roasted over a pile of mesquite logs. Carlos bought two a few weeks ago for a picnic at the presa (dam/lake).

When we went for a pollo a week ago, a new hand-lettered sign said the chickens were now $80 pesos. Outraged, we stalked off, and dined on cold cuts that Sunday. By Monday, the chickens were back to 50 pesos.

"What´s the message here?" I asked Carlos. "Tourist prices on Sundays only?"

"Nah," Carlos said. "Es que the owners were probably out of town and the employees jacked up the prices so they could pocket the difference."

Oh, silly me, to not have remembered how absurd and funny life is in Mexico.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Talking About Memoir...

When I am not writing or blogging or working in our spa, I am riding horses or watching my kids ride. Left to right - me, Lucky and Carla, age 14. Carla is Lucky´s rider and my fabulous and talented daughter.

I was invited to speak to University of New Orlean´s Summer Program memoir class today by the teacher, memoirist Kristen Iversen. First everyone spoke about his or her project. Some are just starting the process of writing non-fiction; some are close to finishing and looking at agents and marketing. Seemed like an admirable group who shared a willingness to look at their varied themes head-on.
I talked about how long it has taken me to write my memoir (hm, ten years), the pages I thought were so important that have been cut, the idea of theme. That once you can identify your theme, you can let it guide you about what to include and what not to include in your writing. Hope I talked smart!

Wanted to go to the UNO Open Mike reading tonight, but I´m home watching Wipeout with my kids. I have to cover my eyes for most of it.

Ít´s summer. The summer people are in town, which means I go out a lot with friends who only come in July. It´s fun and exhausting, and my kids need me home sometimes. Like tonight.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Wedding Anniversary and Mom´s Birthday

July 11, 2009 - Carlos and I celebrated fifteen years married. And my mother celebrated her (72nd? 73rd? 74th?) birthday in their Naples, Florida home by making dinner for ten people.

Celebrate is a stretch of a word. Carlos and I planned to see the play Jamaica, Farewell and then go to the after-play reception at the home of the play´s producer and my good friend, Jody. Out without the kids! But Carlos went to the Hyder House and did a million massages late in the day, and had to cancel the play (not regretfully, I suspect). So I took the kids to the play, and we sent some text messages to each other around 10 pm. You are thinking, "I love you honey. I´m glad I´m married to you." It was, "Aqui, con Jody."
"Las niñas?"
"Cansado. A la casa."

On the way home, Carlos ran into his brother, Hector, and wife, Maribel and wouldn´t you know...they ended up going for a beer at Mama Mia. We grunted at each other when he rolled into bed about 1 am.

July 11, 1994 -

My parents speak no Spanish and are wonderously overdressed. Not really, but I have NEVER seen anyone wear a beautiful summer-wool suit in San Miguel. But that´s my father. Handsome as ever, walking me down the aisle with all the Go, Get-em vibe he can transfer to me with his smile. Even though I´m pregnant and marrying a guy without a high school degree or a job.

Then there are my in-laws - my father-in-law pulling at a borrowed sports jacket, my mother-in-law, pretty in a champagne colored dress that she unfortunately has to cover with a jacket because the zipper up the back suddenly broke. Clutching hands with my mom because neither speaks the other´s language. The wedding is detailed in my memoir, Fast Break South, which is presently seeking representation.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Teen Drama

So last Saturday, as most of my friends trundled off, post-barbecue, to a party in one more gorgeous San Miguel house, I decamped with Carlos and our two girls plus my friend, Alex´s three kids to a fiesta de quinceaños at El Ring disco, the site, by the way, of one of my first dates with Carlos, as told in my memoir, Fast Break South.

The honoree was the daughter of a teacher friend of Hector, Carlos´ brother. So Hector and his wife, Mari and their 9-year old made up the rest of our gang, occupying a long table on the second level, the perfect perch from which to spy on the teenagers, once, after the father-daughter dance, and the escort-quinceñera dance, the discoing began. Research, let´s call it, into the world of teens, if I´m going to be writing about and for them.

Alex´s kids are two tall good-looking blondes - Brad, 19 and Chris, 15. After several summers of swimming and outings with them, our girls are a bit immune to their charms. But not all the girls were. One particular 14-year old asked Brad to dance every single dance, and made him pinky-promise to come back each time he went to the bathroom. Another Mexican gal asked Chris, who was stuffing his face with cake, to dance. Chris said, "I´m eating cake."

"Chris," I growled at him.
"What?" he said, through crumbs.
I frowned.
"O.K." he said, and went down to find the girl who had found the courage to invite him to dance.

My Carla, who at age 14, is more interested in horses than boys, was asked to dance by a guy she´s known for awhile, who happens to be a senior in high school. When he asked for the following dance, she begged off, and ran up to me. "My God, Mom," she said. "Once was enough!"

No mean girls or fast boys. A less hurried, less frenetic life for adolescents? I´ve never tried to raise my kids in the United States of America, but I tend to think so.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Dungeons and Dragons

Random throughts on writing and life: First, I thank God and the universe and the Virgen de Guadalupe for a good weekend in our business, a day spa. Just as the last effects of about twelve hours of beer and barebecue were wearing off, ten wedding guests booked post-wedding packages with us. Which meant I had to forego seeing Ice Age 2 (oh, pain, oh, suffering). Instead, I happily spent my Sunday serving up relaxation in the form of massages facials, hot oil hair treatments). My cheeriness came from relief at having clients after a hopelessly dismal May and June, during which business was murdered by pork flu hysteria (manufactured by the Mexican government, in my opinion) and Mexican drug wars, which happen to be occuring at the border and not here in lovely and peaceful San Miguel de Allende.

So I´m thinking of my YA novel, set in 1974. I picked the brain of my friend, Mary, who like me, was in high school in the seventies. She owns Libros El Tecolote, a superb independent book store, here in San Miguel.

Mary remembers Zots candy, smiley face buttons, James Taylor, Jethro Tull and Ozium, which covered the odor of pot. I remembered painter pants, Kool and the Gang and Dungeons and Dragons. Does anyone play that any more?

Friday, July 3, 2009

Agent Search

I´ve been told, by my former editor-in-chief friend that I need a female literary agent, but I just contacted a guy. I can call him a "guy" I guess because he looks really young in his photo.

He loves NBA basketball, he likes Romance and he signed off his last blog post with Que tenga buen fin de semana. What´s to lose?

My 14-year old daughter, who is psychic, says a tall graying man will be interested in publishing my book in July or August. Does that sound farfetched? Down here in Mexico it doesn´t. It´s July already. so i´d like to secure representation pretty soon, so this canoso publisher can find me.

Oh, perfect fit of an agent, please come forward!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Agent Search

Last week, I sent five query letters to literary agents, and three have replied requesting pages, including the Spanish speaker!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Agent Search

So I sent out a few queries to agents earlier this week. I started with those who accept email queries, as it is easier frankly. Received one request already for my first three chapters. Yeah!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Oh True Blue Agent, Where Art Thou?

My writer friend Jo Moran directed me to a great looking-for-an-agent site. It´s It has up-to-the-minute information about whether the agent you are interested in is accpeting queries, and what his/her current interests are. It also include addresses and emails.
I plugged in Memoir, and was perusing the agents who say they are interested in memoir, when all of the sudden one stood out. It´s a gal in New York who SPEAKS FLUENT SPANISH!

Sent my query for my Mexican memoir, Fast Break South off to her today. She studied in Spain. We´ll see if she has an interest in Mexico too.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


First, the second NY literary agent I tried said No to my memoir proposal. She thought it was commercial; she wasn´t in love with it.

Of course I want to get it in the mail to someone else asap, but I am being advised by a published author friend who is in Colorado to wait Mexico, it seems, presently has an unfavorable image in the US. And agents and editors, the reasoning goes, will have a hard time convincing the marketers that they can sell my book.


Wait or don´t wait. Comments?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A Soul Train Soul

Last night, my husband´s snoring woke me up, and while I readjusted my ear plugs, I thought of my YA novel. I don´t want gore or violence or vampires. So, what happens to a 15-year old girl. This is my big question.

Here´s what came to me: Katie is new in school and wants to be POpULar! It´s 1974. (This much I arlready knew.) She´s a Soul Train-loving chick from Philadelphia, entering a conservative school in Wisconsin where kids still go to cotillions (she has to look the word up). She gets pulled into all the geek groups, like the Cable TV Club, while her younger sister´s popularity star shines. I don´t want to give everything away, but let´s just say that she discovers that the very elements that keep her from rising from obscurity, are suddenly the things that rocket her to not just popularity, but fame.

I mean, who doesn´t want to be on TV?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

OK, my dilemma, now that I´ve started my YA novel, is this: I am thinking of so many plots, I can´t decide. I have Katie, which is her new name - when she was in Catholic school, it was Mary Katherine - starting junior year in high school in her Sly Stone platform shoes. Of course this is totally the wrong outfit in the conservative Midwest. She wants to be popular and will give herself Popularity Ratings throughout the book.

Now, she needs a PLAN! What is her plan for becoming popular?

Of course, she´ll misread all the signs (like in the new school, watching Soul Train is not only not popular, the kids have barely even heard of it), and her sister makes all the teams she tries out for and is elected to Student Council, but what about Wanna Be Cool Katie?

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

NY Agent Is Reading My Proposal!

Yesterday I sent a friendly note to the agent to whom I sent the proposal for my memoir Fast Break South. Can you kindly tell me if you´ve received the proposal I mailed three weeks ago?

She replied within 30 minutes that she had; she was reading it and she would get back to me soon.

Fingers crossed!

My memoir is about growing up in an sports-dominated household (my father, Jack McKinney coached in the National Basketball League in the 70s and 80s). That´s the first element. The second element is my romance with a poor Mexican teenager.

If you wonder how the two are related, it´s in the book, and I hope the publishing gods smile on me you can read it some day soon.

Hey, I love to follow writers on Twitter, and you can follow me: mckinneyortega (!)

Monday, June 8, 2009

A Chat About Publishing

On Friday, I gave a massage to a lovely San Francisco furniture designer named Keith, here in our spa. Most people like quiet during a massage, but some people like to yap. Keith was a chatter, which is fine with me.

Keith and I talked about the publishing industry. He said, he never subscribed to a newspaper or read one, but now that he carried an I-phone (or was it a Blackberry?) he reads 30 - 40 minutes of news a day. Because he has access to the internet, he reads! A new reader!

From what I have read on Publishers Lunch and other sources, the publishing industry seems pretty alarmed at what Kindle and on-demand and on-line publishers mean for the future of traditional publishing, but YOO HOO! maybe the worry can be taken down a notch. Does anybody like me, think that new readers is GOOD NEWS for publishers and the writers of books?

I know. Keith was only one example, but I´m betting he stood for many more like him. I think the future of publishing will be different, but not grim.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

I started my YA novel!! THIS is what I want to be writing even though the short story from 1992 and my novel about a shady Mexican lawyer have been tugging on me too.

My writing partners, both published authors - Sandra Gulland and Beverly Donofrio, liked chapters from my novel King of the World when we were reviewing them about two years ago, but the structure needs work and I have to admit, I was disillusioned by the reaction of a famous editor (non-fiction editor, mind you) who read it. He took my $175 US dollar consultation fee, sat back and said, "I hated it." And then offered nothing more.

Putting King of the World aside allowed me to get to the serious work of rewriting my memoir. So that´s done, and the memoir, Fast Break South, is up in NY seeking an agent, and I´ve been in the state of not working on a story, memoir, novel, project ever since I sent it. What anxiety!

Back to the good news. I´ve solved at least a couple of the questions about the protagonist and the young adult story. It´s about a high school junior starting a new school in Wisconsin, having moved from Philadelphia in 1974.

Another sign I´m on the right track: a writer on Twitter asked for book reccommendations for her 11-year old, who didn´t want wizards either (like my girls) but rather stories about real people.

The best news so far: I´ve written two pages!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Short Story as Distraction

Ya, ya, ya on my YA novel. So many things I have yet to decide, like, how confident is my main character? How much does she like herself? Is she a loser in school (not), an unnoticed kid, a popular kid? What do her parents do? How many siblings does she have?

Me puse a clean out some drawers while I tried to channel my main gal and her personality, and what did I find among some old Mother´s Day cards the girls have made, but a short story titled Picarón.

I wrote Picarón in 1992. I was taking a Spanish class at El Instituto Allende, and was interested in (as a character study) and sympathetic to a bulky middle-aged man who seemed to struggle more than the rest of us to learn Spanish.

Picarón means rascal. A salty sort of guy. This is how the character sees himself, as a teasing and romantic fellow, even though the younger people in the class likely see him as inept.

I was surprised to find that I liked the story. Surprised because I think my writing has improved over the years, but here was a 17-year old story that doesn´t need much work. I´m going to polish it up and send it to a contest or literary magazine, and see how Picarón does out in the world.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

What Carla Likes

My daughter, Sean (12) is the voracious reader in the family (besides me). Carla (14) reads horse books. Her bible is Horse, Follow Closely by Gawani Pony Boy. She doesn´t read much fiction, although she did like The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton.

I asked Carla, if she were to choose a novel, what she would look for.

"Something realistic. About real people," she said.

So while the YA market seems to thrive on stories about seers and vampires and teenaged witches, those are not the stories my kids look for. For what it´s worth.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Cooking Up Ideas

The novel for teens. I´m still wondering what to do with it. I thought I´d put some ideas in a word-blender and see what shakes out.
Here´s some elements. Many come, again, from my 12-year old Sean.

* a wierd and funny friend
* the friend is obsessed with a boy and they toilet paper his house
* the friend never eats with her parents, always alone
* the friend, at a school dance, cuts herself with a plastic knife
* the friend wants to go on a show like MTV´s Made and become popular overnight
* the mom is nutty and likes seagulls
* during a sleepover, the friends have a bloody boogie fight

Hmmm. Some of these elements might not fit in 1974. Some might not fit together at all.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Bicentenial Story?

I´ve written two beginning paragraphs on a Young Adult novel. The character is 15 and in a new school because her family has moved from the East Coast to Milwaukee. I´ve set it in 1974 because that´s when I was 15 and I can completely saturate the thing with a coming-up-on-the-bicentenial ambience. But do kids want to read about kids in the seventies? Is setting the story in that decade all wrong? Will they read the jacket copy and put it down? Where´s the book on how to write for teens?

Also, a snappy voice is only going to carry the story so far. What happens? If it is going to be picked up by the movies, what is it´s beginning, middle and resolution? (This helps me structure a story.)

Further burning questions:
1) When are tourists going to come back to Mexico and walk into our business, Jasmine Day Spa, in San Miguel de Allende?

2) Isn´t it time for a haircut?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Teenaged Fish Out of Water

I´m thinking about what to write next, and a YA novel keeps coming to mind. My 12-year old, Sean has become a voracious reader after galloping through the Twilight series. When I take her to San Miguel´s library, I see her pick up and put down book after book. A boy and his dog. No. A kid who escaped evil parents and has to live underground or be found. No. A girl befriends a welfare mom when she babysits her kids. No. So what does she like?

Sean´s recent favorite is I´d Tell You I Love You, But Then I´d Have To Kill You by Ally Carter. It´s about a fancy prep school for girls that´s actually a spy school. These girls can speak twelve languages and dismantle bombs, but still fret about regular adolescent stuff. Sean likes the voice, which is a little bit sassy but not dumb. She doesn´t like overly bitchy voices or characters. In sixth grade, she loved Beverly Donofrio´s Thank You, Lucky Stars because the conflict about what to do when your best friend dumps you was so true-to-life.

I asked what she likes in a book and Sean said, "Funny. Or has a funny friend."

"Do you like fantasy, or super hero girls?"

"No. Just regular kids."

Suddenly I thought of myself at 15, having to move from Philadelphia and all things comfortable - aunts, uncles, cousins, summer picnics, two best friends in high school called Annette and Cheryl, and another one, Meg, from grade school. We moved to a Milwaukee suburb called Whitefish Bay. For the first day of school I polished up my Sly Stone platform shoes and pulled on my wide jeans, ready to conquer the halls of Whitefish Bay High School. But I walked into a school where the kids had walked right out of the Preppy Handbook. They went to cotillions. I didn´t even know what a cotillion was!

So I´m playing with this idea. The teenaged fish out of water. I think I´m going to get an outline together and then, later, have Sean read my first chapter.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

I Wanna Be Latina

Over on Twitter, I´ve begun following Latino writers and writing groups.

I´m a white-as- tropical-beach-sand Philadelphia Irish Catholic. Married a Mexican. My name: McKinney de Ortega. Can I be considered Latina?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Good News Despite Mexico´s Disfavor

An agent who has a "special interest in Mexico"! Just when everyone is advising me to do nothing until Mexico gains favor in the world again. How Mexico can be blamed for this flu is beyond me. On to my cover letter...

Monday, May 18, 2009

Jack and Magic´s First Year

Here´s another basketball story:

When my dad, Jack McKinney, first started as head coach of the Lakers, he walked into one of the first practices, where passes were going everywhere, and Kareem Abdul Jabbar´s skyhooks weren´t going through the hoop, and said, "It looks like LAX in here." The balls stopped bouncing; everyone grew quiet. Nobody talked to Kareem that way.

Then Kareem picked up a ball, and continued shooting. So the other players did too.

It was Jack´s first year - his first few days, actually - as an NBA head coach. He took rookie Magic Johnson aside and told him he wanted him to play guard, and he wanted him to be the floor leader. My dad knew Magic´s unique spirit and enthusiasm could really spark the team.

"Coach, I don´t know if I can do that. You want me to tell Kareem what to do?"

"Kareem told me he´s looking for leadership from you.¨

"All right, Coach. If Kareem says so," Magic said, wide-eyed. "I´ll do my best."

That was in 1979. By the end of that season Magic was a media star, the Lakers had won the championship and my dad was looking for another job. But that´s another story, one told in my memoir.

Years later, Jack interviewed Magic Johnson for a pre-game show, and reminded Magic of how
he´d agreed to lead the team at Kareem´s request. "Magic, Kareem never said that," Jack admitted.

"Coach, you got me!" Magic laughed. And the two retired basketball legends laughed, knowing it had all worked out for the best.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

John Wooden, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Bill Walton and Who?

Who, besides UCLA´s John Wooden, is the only other sports figure to have coached both Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Bill Walton?

Jabbar and Walton are two of basketball´s most famous centers. Both played at UCLA for John Wooden and, then, during different years in their NBA careers, under Jack McKinney. There´s your answer.

Jabbar was a member of the 1974-1975 Milwaukee Bucks, where McKinney was assistant coach. McKinney was also the assistant coach to the 1977-78 championship Portland Trailblazers, which featured Bill Walton at center.

When the Los Angeles Lakers were looking for a coach in 1979, it was Jabbar who suggested McKinney. McKinney was lured away from the Trailblazers, and began the 1979-80 season as the Lakers head coach, but he didn´t finish. Does any sports fan out there remember why?

I know why, of course, because Jack McKinney is my father. That´s a photo of us up on the left at my birthday party in December. Jack fell off my brother´s bicycle and ended up in a coma. The story of that year with the Lakers is told in my memoir, Fast Break South, which is presently looking for representation.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Mexican Family

Here´s what it´s like to have Mexican family: After three weeks of earning nothing in our spa because every hotel reservation, home rental and wedding has cancelled for the month of May due to flu hysteria, and thus we have had no clients, I was close to a breakdown. I have children, dogs, cats and horses to feed, and no money was coming in.

I cruised the web for writer jobs, knowing that wouldn´t really help. I needed immediate cash. I needed food in the fridge. Plus, Universidad of Leon was going to kick my husband, Carlos out in his last year if he couldn´t pay May tuition.

As I was figuring our phone service in the business (Jasmine Day Spa) would last through May 16th, but that after that, we could use our cell phones, my mother-in-law called. “Ven. I made albondigas for mis muchachitas.” My mother-in-law´s albondigas, or meatballs, are favorites with our girls. Carlos went over and picked up enough meatballs and rice to feed us for days.

My sister-in-law called next. “I want to buy your Pointer. Want to sell it? I have $10,000 pesos in cash now. I´ll give you the rest later.” Carlos raced over and sold our second car to his sister and came home with a pocketful of bills. His nephew, Cruz, gave him a ride back into town, and handed Carlos a pot of his mother´s rice to take home.

Carlos´ brother, Hector was the next to call. “Use our Land Rover to get to school,” he said. "We never use it during the week." He took Carlos out for a few Victoria beers before he gave him the keys.

My mother-in-law, sister-in-law and brother-in-law, Hector all appear in my memoir, Fast Break South. When Carlos and I went out in our first year together, Hector usually came along.
Fast Break South is looking for a home with a literary agency right now. I´ll let you know if it finds one.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Nicest No

The top shelf New York literary agent has replied! With about the nicest no anybody´s ever received. She said. "How I wish I could help you! Your story is amazing and so moving. Your material is well written and engaging."

On to finding someone else. Unfortunately, a large part of my story takes place in Mexico, and psychologically, the idea of Mexico is hitting people´s fear button right now, because of the flu.

I´ll probably try an agent I met two years ago at the San Miguel Writers Conference. She at least has experienced San Miguel´s charms.

I´m encouraged to have a couple of heavy hitting cheerleaders - my historical novelist friend, Sandra and Fred Hills, former Editor-in-Chief of the General Books Division of McGraw-Hill and former Vice-President and Senior Editor of Simon Schuster. Fred says he wishes he were still in acquisitions at S&S to have a chance at buying it.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

First Date

My memoir, Fast Break South tells about my romance with the totally wrong guy - a poor Mexican teenager. I was 33 and college-educated; he was 19 and hadn´t finished high school. But he was so cute! And decent. The Prologue includes a snapshot from our first date:

October, 1992: San Miguel de Allende

It is an October night in 1992 and, despite the chill in the air outside, I am wearing a sleeveless powder blue velvet top with front darts atop my low slung black jeans. My clothing choice would be vintage and hip in downtown Philadelphia where I routinely roamed four months prior, but here in a discothèque in the heart of central Mexico, the irony is lost and I suspect I even look a bit old-ladyish. Around me, Mexican adolescents dressed in shiny pants, short skirts and high heels shimmy to the disco beat but I have stopped noticing the teens because I am kissing one with my eyes closed.

His name is Carlos and he is my 19 year-old student and I have tried to resist him because I am the teacher, but not really. I haven’t been trying to resist him at all; I’ve only told myself so. If I had, I wouldn’t have agreed to come out with him on a Sunday night, when the disco closes earlier than other nights so it seems more innocent. I have brought along my teacher friend, Gussie to pretend to myself I am not going out with a student but the ruse is rapidly falling away. Muted squares of light from the disco ball above fall across our faces and Cristian Castro is singing, “Babe, I love you so. And I want you to know. That I’m going to miss your love, the minute you walk out that door.” Then he sings, “Please don’t go. Don’t gooooo. Don’t go away.” And there is a deep sadness to the words already because I have been asking myself in the cooler days of October why I am still in Mexico. I am a 33-year old coach´s daughter, teaching English a few hours a week for less than minimum wage and it is something, but not much, so I also ask, not only for how much longer will I stay, but what would be my destination should I leave. And now I am kissing my student and the questions will never be asked in a carefree way again.

But tonight, under the glittering disco ball, shuffling in a small circle on a wooden floor, one arm delicately around Carlos’ shoulder, the other hand clutching the too-long sleeve of his paisley button-down shirt, realizing his lips are so soft because he has almost no facial hair, I am not thinking of my life’s direction or lack thereof. I am just una muchacha besando a un muchacho, not wanting the song or the kiss to end.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Got Over Whining, Plus, My Memoir

I was sitting around whining on Facebook about having no business and no money due to having a totally dead tourist-based business which has no clients presently due to the Mexican flu hysteria. And my friend Sarah Hoch of San Miguel´s Expresion en Corto commented from, oh, um, CANNES that now was the time to be blogging. Wise Sarah!

My memoir is called Fast Break South and the proposal for it has been at the office of a top New York literary agent since late April, if I can trust Mexpost. She just got back from the London Book Fair and has lots of catching up to do no doubt. Do you think if I offer $20 bucks, she´ll take it home and read it this weekend?

My father, Jack, coached basketball at St. Joseph´s University - a school completely nutty for its basketball - in the 70s, and then coached in the NBA in the 8os. Part of my memoir is about being the coach´s daughter. The other part is about how I came to San Miguel one summer, flipped over a 19-year old kid from a poor family, and never went back to my life in Philadelphia.

Wouldn´t you like to know how those two elements relate? Wanna know if we´re still together?
Hope so, because that means you´ll probably like reading my memoir!