August 2, 2015

New Mexico – Glenn Nilson’s Land of Enchantment

I remember the first morning I woke up in our new home in Las Cruces, New Mexico, about forty miles north of El Paso, Texas and the Mexican border with Ciudad Juarez on the other side of the Rio Grande. I had come from Connecticut, and I was seeing to the installation of our pool and a few other things to get our house ready for move-in. My immediate impression was how delightful and inviting the sunshine pouring into the bedroom felt. It was a first, and lasting, impression of life in New Mexico. Outside, the fabulous Organ Mountains loomed above the desert mesa, blue sky opened to the heavens, and the morning sun painted cacti and greasewood in soft pastels. What a wonderful way to start the day!

Down from the mesa lay the busy and growing city of Las Cruces, and over the Rio Grande sat La  Mesilla, a collection of adobe structures around a public square with an ancient church at one end. The stores in Mesilla had discovered the value of selling to tourists. One of them touted Billy the Kid’s presence in the early days of the old west. Las Cruces is not far from Lincoln, where Billy the Kid escaped from jail, and Silver City, where Billy grew up.

New Mexico is a great place to explore old cow towns, ancient Puebloan ruins and abandoned mines. One of the most memorable ancient ruin for me was El Morro. This ancient way-point boasts a deep spring that has drawn desert travelers to its waters for ages. El Morro is a great sandstone bluff rising above the desert floor. Visitors can walk up a trail to the top and view the ruins of Ancestral Puebloans. The most fascinating feature of the walk are the inscriptions, ancient graffiti—petroglyphs left by Native Americans and messages inscribed in the soft stone by early Spanish Conquistadors and later American travelers heading westward. I remember camping at El Morro in a primitive campground, with only twelve campsites. As the sun went down, the soft evening air drifting across the desert seemed offer a tangible connection to El Morro’s romantic past.

Another, and much deeper, spring lies north in Santa Rosa, called Blue Hole. This desert wonder is reportedly connected to an underground labyrinth of caves, inaccessible to the scuba divers who come to enjoy Blue Hole’s depth of more than eighty feet. Santa Rosa is near Tucumcari, the setting for my first novel, Murder on Route Sixty Six.

When I wrote my book, Lesley accused me of choosing the setting to give me another excuse to travel back to New Mexico. I can’t say she was entirely wrong about that. When the book came out, I rode my motorcycle out from New York to do a book tour along old Route Sixty Six. Of course, I had to sneak off the route for a visit with the buddies I rode with when we lived in Las Cruces. I remember a ride where we climbed a twisting road through the Gila National Forest, and another, riding along the Rio Grande on our way to breakfast at a favorite restaurant in Hatch. Hatch is known for some of the best chili in the world, and the thought of breakfasts of sausages and juevos rancheros smothered in green chili and topped with fried eggs still makes my mouth water. 

New Mexico is called The Land of Enchantment, and for good reason. It’s rugged beauty and (sometimes) lonely vistas are steeped in a romantic and colorful past. Sunsets are spectacular, and mornings are fresh and inviting. There’s lots to explore, and much to enjoy, but be careful—you could end up discovering the joy of ice cream with green chili syrup and toasted pecans, and find yourself looking at houses for sale.

Glenn Nilson, Author Of Murder On Route 66,, Mainly Murder Press, LLC, and a native of California. Glenn grew up in the Sierra Nevada foothills doing farm chores, hiking, even panning for gold.  After earning his doctorate, he moved east to teach sociology.  Upon retirement, the West drew him back, this time to New Mexico, the setting for his first novel, Murder on Route 66. Currently Glenn divides his time between living in rural Florida and up-state New York, refurbishing an 1870’s era creek-side cottage and writing.  When he’s not writing, Glenn loves the outdoors, especially camping and riding his motorcycle. He also enjoys cooking. He loves working with sourdough, and has even taken his starter with him on cross-country trips.

Glenn offers people a chance to win a copy of his novel, Murder on Route 66.  Comment here for your chance and leave a contact link so we can find you!
(All Material Provided by Author)

July 26, 2015

America Doesn’t Like New Jersey?- Rabbi Ilene Schneider Disputes!

I recently received a link to an article posted on with the provocative headline, “Bad News for Christie: America Doesn’t Like New Jersey.” (

The salient points in the article: “The Garden State is the only state in the country that more people said they don't like than do like, according to YouGov's recent survey, which says 40 percent of people have an unfavorable opinion of the state while only 30 percent have a favorable one….According to the Washington Post, 51 percent of Republicans view New Jersey unfavorably with only 22 percent having a favorable opinion.” 
And this is news? New Jersey is probably the most denigrated state in the Union and the punch line of innumerable jokes. (“First prize is one week in New Jersey; second prize is two weeks.” “Dump the garbage in New Jersey. No one will notice the smell.”)

I have lived almost half my life in New Jersey. And I love it here.  

Where else can one live within forty minutes from five large malls (I’m within fifteen minutes from three of them – too bad I hate shopping in general and malls in particular); ten minutes from fresh produce you can buy from the back of a farm truck; sixty minutes from the Shore – the nice part; thirty minutes from Philadelphia; two hours from Manhattan; ninety minutes from Cape May; ten minutes from several twenty-four-hour diners; a few minutes from some of the cheapest gas prices in the country (and no self-service allowed);  and no minutes from terrific bird watching (I just look out the windows into my backyard)?

I doubt if I could have made that statement if I didn’t live in Philadelphia, NJ, rather than New York, NJ. South and North Jersey are different states, identified primarily by the sports teams the residents support.

When you ask people to describe New Jersey, most will list attributes which are true for North Jersey: the Sopranos; the Real Housewives of NJ; the Jersey Shore, the show, not the real thing, which is in both North and South Jersey; big hair; Newark Airport; Newark; Trenton; Janet Evanovich, who lives in NH; Bruce Springsteen; Asbury Park; the highest density population in the US; high taxes; high real estate prices; high cost of living; Jimmy Hoffa’s grave under the end zone in the Meadowlands, probably an urban myth, but plausible.

South Jersey has “qualities” it shares with North Jersey: the Garden State Parkway, where you do feel as though you are parked; high taxes, but not as high as in North Jersey; traffic jams, but no George Washington Bridge debacle; malls; discount stores; the ugliest Turnpike in the Boston-D.C. corridor. And we’re the site of Camden, known as the “murder capital of America.”

But those negatives are outweighed by the advantages to be found only in South Jersey: the Pine Barrens, over one million acres of preserved land containing rare and endangered plants and wildlife, sitting on top of one trillion gallons of pure water; the best birding spots anywhere; Cape May, where many of those birding spots are located; the Cape May-Lewes Ferry; the Delaware Bay Shore; Jewish chicken farmers; sugar sand roads; salt water taffy, which may be available, but we had it first; a major bridge named for poet Walt Whitman, who is buried in Camden; wineries; cranberries right from the bogs; corn right from the fields; pick-your-own blueberries; the Jersey Devil, the only official state demon in the US; Steven Spielberg, Bruce Willis, and Michael Landon.

Years ago there was a movement to encourage South Jersey to secede from North Jersey. I don’t know what happened, but the idea seems to have lost momentum. It may be time to revive the concept.

There are some areas of northwest New Jersey, in the mountains it shares with New York and Pennsylvania, as well as the corridor along the Delaware River from Washington Crossing north that rival South Jersey for rural calm and beautiful scenery. Therefore, instead of drawing a line across the state to separate north from south, I would carve out a semicircle surrounding New York City. It's that part of the state which gives New Jersey its negative image. With one swipe of a pen, we could get rid of the area that makes New Jersey the most densely populated state in the country. We wouldn't have to take it personally when sitcoms make jokes about big hair mall rats and Mafia strongholds. We wouldn't become defensive when people say disdainfully, "You live in New Jersey – voluntarily?" We could proudly point to the gardens that give New Jersey its identity as “The Garden State.” We'd no longer have to explain that we come from Philadelphia, New Jersey, but could proudly say, "New Jersey."

And, in the meantime, I’ll continue to set my mystery novels in New Jersey. The Pine Barrens offer terrific hiding places for dead bodies. To find out how terrific it is, I will email a copy of my new short story “Peanut Butter and Glitter,” which features a dead body and the Pine Barrens, to the first five people who leave a comment. 
Rabbi Ilene Schneider, Ed.D. has finally decided what (or who) she wants to be when she grows up. (She lives by the t-shirt logo: “I may grow older, but I’ll never grow up.”) In her current incarnation, she is now devoting full-time to writing, having recently retired as Coordinator of Jewish Hospice and spiritual support counselor for Samaritan Hospice in Marlton, NJ, near Philadelphia. She was one of the first 6 women ordained as a rabbi in the US, back in 1976.
In addition to ordination, she has earned a few degrees over the years, all in different disciplines and none worth much in the market place. (BA in Publication from Simmons; M.Ed. in Psychoeducational Processes from Temple; Ed.D. in Foundations of Ed. from Temple; honorary D.D. from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College for surviving 25 years in the rabbinate).
In her spare time (which she finds by never cleaning the house), she’s a birder and gardener, although her garden’s almost as much of a mess as her house. She believes in benign neglect: she plants it; if it comes up, great; if it doesn’t, she tries something else. She lets nature do the watering, which is why everything in the flower boxes is dead, and refers to the weeds as “wild flowers and decorative grasses.” When the weather’s nice enough to garden, she’s more apt to be birding.
Unlike her protagonist, Rabbi Aviva Cohen, Ilene has been married to the same man since 1976, and has two “millennial” sons, making her part of the trendy group of “older” parents.
(all info provided by author)

July 19, 2015

New Hampshire and Summertime!

It’s summertime and the living is fun!  Welcome to New Hampshire.  I’m Nora LeDuc and your tour guide.  New Hampshire has a rich history as one of the original thirteen colonies.  In addition, our beautiful landscape of mountains, oceans, and lifestyle attract many visitors just like you.
So buckle up. We’re on our yearly Road Trip. 

Today we’re headed to the Lakes Region.  As we drive north on interstate 93, look to your left. You’ll spot an unusual sight, the Tilton Arch. This unique structure is made of Concord granite and stands 50 feet tall by 40 feet wide. It took two years to build and sits on a hilltop in Northfield. 

The monument is a memorial to the ancestors of Charles E. Tilton, who was a wealthy resident of the town of Tilton and donated several statues to his neighbors.

If you forgot your sandals or sunscreen, don’t worry. We’ll detour off to the Tilton Outlets where you can take advantage of tax-free shopping. Then we’re off again.  Our first official stop is Lake Ossipee the sixth-largest lake in the state. Noah Cassidy, who you met in my book Gone Before Goodbye, is waiting for us at the public launch. He grew up nearby and will show us the landmarks. Come aboard. 

We have a beautiful day to cruise. The fluffy clouds reflect in the clear blue water. The mountains surround the lake in various hues of green. Scattered along the shore, we view quaint cottages and contemporary homes. Feel like a swim? We’ll anchor for a dip at Long Sands Beach.

Once we’re cool, we’ll say goodbye to Noah and dine at a local restaurant. After, we’ll hurry to catch a free train ride on the Silver Lake Railroad. Yes, free! The train runs entirely on donations and the time of volunteers. Get ready to sit back and enjoy the scenery the conductor loves to point out.
Next, we travel to Center Ossipee for the mead wine tasting.  You’ll find the perfect bottle for a gift. Then we shoot over to the bakery and pick up a snack for the trip home.

As the sun sets over the lake, we’ll slip into our car, tired but happy.  We’ll chat about the good times we shared and contemplate when we can return again to the Granite State.  

 Nora offers: A copy of her latest: Gone Before Goodbye to one lucky winner who leaves a comment.  Nora will draw a name from the list of people who comment.  Please leave contact info.

Nora LeDuc is that author of twelve published novels set in New Hampshire.  Her latest book Gone Before Goodbye is the first in the Love and Mystery in the 6-oh-3 series.  The Devil Wore Sneakers, book two, will be for sale later this summer.  Visit her on Goodreads, Amazon or FB.  Check out all her titles here:

(Pictures provided by Nora LeDuc)