Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Year's End

The end of the year is always full of mixed blessings. This month has been fuller than usual of transitions with the unexpected death of a close friend, a need to change my volunteer activity due to limitations of mobility, the loss of another volunteer opportunity as the organization phased-out and the rejection of an article for publication. As a consequence, I feel depleted in so many ways, maybe the New Year will provide some rejuvenation.

At year's end, there's always the retrospective view to asses the year just past. This year, I seem to be focussed on losses as my mental meanderings examine the past months. I do not use this process to make myself feel worse, but to look for the gift that comes with each of these changes if I only consider each one carefully. When I review the events from the past twelve months, I look for the positive development that came with each change; there always is something. I first learned to examine losses in this way in 2000 when I was diagnosed with idiopathic progressive peripheral neuropathy which in a nutshell means that I'm gradually losing the use of the nerves in my arms and legs. Prior to the situation that brought me to the 8-hours of gruelling outpatient tests, I had always lived and worked giving 110% to everything. With this diagnosis, I found out that I would not be able to work again. Both job loss and physical losses were a terrible double blow because this was not how I envisioned my life unfolding. The gift that came with this undesired change was the opportunity to move to Taos earlier and to learn about writing which resulted in three published novels.

Christmas gift-giving is past, I'm looking for different gifts that 2009 offers for 2010. I wish you a wonderful 2010 with all of the gifts from 2009 to guide your living of this year.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Several days ago I composed a blog in my mind, but never got around to posting it. Now, I have the time and can't remember a thing I wanted to and it was so profound at the time that it scares me.
In our Sunday morning book group we were discussing the closing chapters of C.S.Lewis's Mere Christianity. If you read it, you must bear in mind that he was talking to people just after WWII in the mid-1940's. Despite the fact that it is written using the male pronoun throughout, much of what he has to say is relevant today. We ended up talking about the 'elect' and predestination. My view, and that of some other theological scholars, is that we are all elect or predestined for heaven---many people just don't know it. Those who don't have this perspective include the churched and well as the unchurched. What difference does it make--- knowing that one is predestined for heaven? I think it makes it possible for us to be open to God, Allah, All-that-Is or whatever term you use for the Ultimate. We don't have to worry about what others think, but how to live in sync with The All. We are never forgotten or discarded or too bad to be included---The All is always with us and able to help us through. I didn't plan to get theological, but the lingering conversations from the morning seem to be resonating through the day so I decided to share them with you. May the hole within you, which some call the "God Hole", be filled in a reassuring way.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

You've gotta laugh

Sometimes you've got to laugh. I had composed a blog and was basically whining about a change in my physical abilities. Since I'm using my laptop, not my desktop to compose this post, I decided to see if I could access photos from my desktop files to insert here. I found the photo I wanted and inserted it into a blank space ---the previous blog had not been saved. Fortunately, you have avoided the annoying experience of reading my complaint. Cyberspace just wasn't up to it today.
The labyrinth shown here is at the Casa del Sol on Ghost Ranch just north of Abiquiu where I attended a retreat for women. Labyrinths are wonderful opportunities to address issues, search for peace and/or talk to God. I first walked a labyrinth when I was in a position with heavy responsibilites in Baltimore. Walking the labyrinth didn't always give me insights to solve work or life problems although that happened on occasion. The experience often gave me a sense of peace that carried me through the day. I hope that you have one near you. It's worth the time.
May your day be filled with joy,
May you find the strength you need to deal with life's challenges, and
May you find peace.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Human Connections

Over the last two weeks I've become much more aware of basic human connections. While there are heights and terrible lows inherent with these relationships, they are essential to us for growth and maturation.

I've pondered the joys of connections and rediscovered how integral they are for the affirmation of my sense of who I am. There is delight in recognizing myself as I hear others talk, regardless of age. It's not an age 'thing', but a state of being the person I am and finding a kind of unity with another.

There is also the opposite; the absolute rift in effective communication with another as if we're broadcasting on completely different frequencies and unable to receive messages from the other. There has to be a willingness on both sides to bridge the chasm. Alone, one person cannot build a bridge. As I reflect on these failures, I often gain new insights about why the communication doesn't and possibly can't work now. If I'm honest with myself, I often recognize something of my weaknesses in these failures because they also reveal my faults.

It is an element of relationship, not defined by blood, but by a desire to learn and understand more about the other. It entails risk and adventure because the very nature of true communication is that both will be changed in some way, even when the connection cannot be made.

Does this make sense to you? I hope so. And if not, maybe I did not write well, or I just have more to learn.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Discovering how to blog

Finally, I'm beginning to figure out this blog business. It took a retreat for women to connect with the friend who explained this to me. Of course, it helped to look at her blogspot too. Many thanks, Susan.
This photo is of a rock formation on Ghost Ranch; the one that greeted me every morning as I woke up. We were studying the desert mothers from the first centuries. While I'm not ready to write about the mothers yet, this was a very good experience for spiritual growth as many of their teachings resounded deep inside.
It also gave me courage to continue a writing project that I call Unheard Voices, about women in the Bible who's names may not be known and only fragments of their life experiences. Written by men, these stories focus on how the women affect male lives and leadership rather than what it was like to be the woman involved. Their voices beg to be heard and so I write their stories as they come to me.
What was it like to be that woman?
How did she manage to live through the dire situation that confronted her?
None of the stories are like what you may have heard previously from a pulpit or read in church literature. My hope is that eventually there will be a book for women from all walks of life to read and ponder. In the meantime, I'm trying to get some published and have sent them to short story contests.
If you are looking for a good book to read, I suggest The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery ISBN 978-1-933372-60-0 This is a wonderful work of fiction that explores social categories and communications from a concierge for an apartment/condo with the residents. It's also a coming of age story for a twelve year old girl. Beautifully written with surprises.
Although it's Halloween, we've had temperatures in the teens and a dusting of snow. For some, this is a 'thin' time of the year when communications with the spirit world is easier. Enjoy this season and pay careful attention to all that is around you.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Exploring New Options

The last few weeks have been difficult since I am still recovering from the latest flare-up of peripheral neuropathy. Since the nerves in my legs are affected, it's hard to rest them. I don't want to come to a full stop as there are so many things to do.
Autumn is always a busy time of year with our fruit trees and care of the pond and gardens. We're making apple butter and applesauce using winesap and golden delicious apples from our trees. Yesterday, a neighbor gave us peaches so we'll be freezing them, making pies and possibly peach butter. Preserving the fruit in various forms gives me a deep sense of satisfaction. Of course, there's always the fun of eating the sauces, jams and butters later.
At Outskirts Press's suggestion, I created an author center on Amazon. I'm not sure who benefits from this, but it is free for the authors who have books listed on their website. My writing projects are playing second fiddle to the autumn chores, but I hope to get going soon.
Until next time, enjoy the changes of the season --- we had snow on the mountains this morning.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Great Summer

Our pond in the spring.

The summer has been great withwonderful flowers and a tremendous yield from our fruit trees which will continue into the early autumn. Another factor was the open house that we held on July 25th to celebrate the release of my most recent book, Unpredictable Crossing. It has been getting some good reviews and some of them are posted on

Now I'm taking some time to analyze other novels and study some of the books on writing that I have. My future projects challenge me to try new approaches in writing stories. In a few months, I hope to return to a more regular schedule of writing to get these works ready for publication.

Enjoy the change of seasons.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

All Publishers Are Not Equal

Some one has asked about print-on-demand publishers. Using a POD publisher means that the author shares part of the risk in publishing her/his book by sharing the financial burden of its publication. I've had experiences with three POD publishers and a small independent press.

Of the three POD publishers,my best experience has been with Outskirts Press. They maintain a high level of contact with the author both during publication and after the book has been released. They first review the manuscript to see if it is one they want to publish and if it is ready for publication. They give the author comments on the manuscript and suggestions for improving it, if needed. I was very pleased with my experience, both during the approval process and getting the book printed and released.
My book, UNPREDICTABLE CROSSING has been out for a few weeks and I receive almost daily messages from Outskirts Press with suggestions for effective marketing. I read all of their messages and chose to pursue some of their suggestions very closely.
Some of you may be looking at Dog Ear Publishing. I have published two books with them. They are very hard to reach and have no support to guide you in selling your book post-publication. When I asked them questions, they generally responded to some, but not all. It's a difficult process.
I have worked with other POD and small independent publishers. My best advice is to research the business well before going with a small press. There is a website for Writers Beware and they will do the reasearch for you.
Similarly, all POD publishers are not equal. Order one of their books and look at the final product. Look at the publishing package they offer and compare it with others. Lastly, do as one of my readers did---he asked me about my experience. I wish all of you writers the very best and if you choose Outskirts Press, tell them I sent you.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


I thought that I previewed and editted the blog that follows. Despite all that as soon as I posted it, I found a mistake. I apologize and will try to make sure it doesn't happen again.
Happy summer.

It's here!

When a book is finally published, it always feeks as if I've achieved some major accomplishment and this one is no exception. Finally have the book in hand and I've ordered copies for a book signing and to sell.
This book was a struggle because it's completely fiction which is different from the first two books which had a very definite storyline to follow since they were based on the lives of real people. There were editors who refused to work with the concept and others who were dubious. I knew that if I just worked hard enough, the story would tell itself. I hope that you find the story engaging.
Wokring with a new published has offered me other options to make my book available so this time, it's also available in e-book and Kindle. I'm sure this will offer me another adventure. Now another phase of work begins as I try to let people know that the book has been 'born.'
Maybe next time I can tell you about my new writing project.
Until then,
Enjoy the summer.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Latest Book

Things are getting exciting since I've reviewed and approved the galley proof and the cover for my next book, UNPREDICTABLE CROSSING. Working with Outskirts Press has been very pleasant. I recommend them to anyone who is looking for a way to publish her/his book.While you can't read the text from what will become the back cover, you can see what the front of the book will look like. There will also be a Kindle version available through Amazon.
This is the last book to involve Mozambique. I originally wrote these manuscripts very close together and had them ready for publication a few years ago. It took a couple false starts to determine how to get them published.
UNPREDICTABLE CROSSING is a shift from the rather straight forward description of missionary life in Mozambique. The first two books were based on true lives of real people. In contrast, this book is fiction. It does use some characters from the previous book, Unspoken Farewell. (Amanda Bechtel is now married to Jeffrey Allmond.)
Unpredictable Crossing is based on the premise that there was a single survivor from the massacres of entire villages that occurred during the Mozambican war for independence. (These true events are documented in the book by Adrian Hastings, Wiriyamu, My Lai in Mozambique.) As an adult that person encounters the man who ordered the destruction of her village and family. Their paths cross on a transatlantic voyage from Miami to Lisbon. As the ship makes it transit, the man's past as a perpetrator of crimes against humanity is revealed.
The book should be available in the next 3-4 weeks. Please contact me through my website if you would like to know when you can order it.
Enjoy a wonderful spring.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

PS Book Reviews

The event in Santa Fe taught me a lot about marketing books. One thing I noticed was that authors print out their reviews from and use them as handouts at book fairs. If you have read Malarial Fevers and or Unspoken Farewell please take a moment and write a short review on
Thank you veery much.
Happy Spring!
Although it's snowing today, we've got daffodils, crocuses, and hyacinths in bloom. Hopefully this storm will not do too much damage to our fragile plants. The fish are quite active in our pond and I even fed them when the water temperature was warm enough.
Back to writing. I'm pleased to let you know that the third book, Unpredictable Crossing is being considered by a publisher. If they decide to proceed with publication, the book should be available this year. I've also been working on some short stories for submission to a contest. They have the potential to become a book, if I write a few more. Last Saturday, I participated in a book fair in combination with a literacy event in Santa Fe.
May spring time bring you delights as the flowers bloom and trees dress themselves in their finery.
Please send me a note whenever you can.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Unpredictable Crossing

My husband and I just returned from a Panama Canal cruise. The photo to the left is our ship Regatta of Oceania Cruises at dock in Punta Arenas, Costa Rica, a favorite port of ours. The time on board was a welcome opportunity to think through several issues involving my next book which involves a cruise ship.
My intention was to have it published this year, but with the economic changes, I've decided to wait another year and possibly move to another publisher. While I was on the cruise, I discovered new insights and segments of dialogue from the characters that I would like to incorporate in the finished manuscript.
Let me tell you a little bit about how this book idea came to be. Years ago, we were on a cruise ship off the coast of South America. Many of the crew were Portuguese and had fought in the army to prevent the African colonies from gaining independence. I was seated in a lounge one afternoon when two Portuguese dining room waiters entered in the middle of a heated argument. They paused at the door near my chair and continued their quarrel with the assumption that their Portuguese conversation would be safe as few know the language. Whenever I hear Portuguese being spoken or sung, however, it penetrates my consciousness and interrupts whatever I'm doing. While I had no interest in the content of their discussion, it did plant the seed for this third manuscript, UNPREDICTABLE CROSSING.
The basis for this novel is that horrible massacres occurred in Mozambique during its war for independence from Portugal. Since the U.S. was preoccupied with the Vietnam War and the massacre at My Lai, few knew what had occurred in Mozambique. My imagination began asking questions. What if there had been a lone survivor of the massacres? What if years later that person encountered the captain who ordered the massacre on a cruise ship? These two questions form the foundation for the manuscript. I chose an Atlantic crossing so that the two people would have a chance to encounter and recognize each other.
Research for this manuscript involved interniewing staff captains, security personnel, and directors of childrens programs on cruise ships. I also reviewed the new Portuguese constitution in Portuguese and then in English. The process of dealing with crimes against humanity was another topic meritting careful review.
The research was easy as I could draw on my professional skills prior to retirement, but bringing these characters to life is the challenge. I'll keep you up to date on my progress to have this story published.
In the meantime, enjoy the season, find pleasure in simple things and revel in life itself.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Happy New Year!
Now that thte holidays are over, it's time to get back to you. A few people have asked how I came to write UNSPOKEN FAREWELL so it's time to give you an answer. When I first came home from Africa in 1974, several friends asked me to write about my experiences, but I was too busy getting adjusted to life in the US and finding a job. The requests continued, but I never had the time until 2000 when we moved to Taos. Then, I took several writing courses and began to pull bits and pieces together. My mother had saved all of my letters in shoeboxes and had them numbered in sequence as they were received. This was a great help for me and served as a sort of outline. I wrote A GOOD-BYE NEVER SAID, but had a lot of difficulty with the editting process, especially Portuguese words. I finally decided to cancel that contract and start over with a new book.
UNSPOKEN FAREWELL is 95% true and tells nearly everything that happened to me, I'm Amanda.
Have a wonderful 2009!