Joaquin’s Gold is on The Writer’s Drawer


“Joaquin’s Gold” is a western adventure set in 19th Century California. Its main character is Joaquin Murrieta, the famous bandit. It’s based on Central California legends and is set in Pinnacles National Park. I wrote it for my 8th grade students thirty years ago and have rewritten it many times since.  Beryl Belsky has kindly published the story on her Writer’s Drawer website:

I’ve made a common core short story unit for “Joaquin” available on the TPT site:

Joaquin has become one of my favorite characters.  I’ve written eight stories for him and for California long before freeways.  I hope to make them all available for teachers in the next few years!



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Filed under Front Page, Western Tales

Chaos Gate is still good!



Friend Martin Doolan got a chance to read Chaos Gate for the first time recently.  He had this to say:

“It took me a little while to get into it at the start, when I couldn’t see why the events were happening and why I should get involved, but the short, speedy sentences and original turns of phrase and vivid mini-descriptions kept me going.

Then I realized that I just had to hang in and follow the tale, an adventure game where the characters discover a maze and hidden doors and perhaps something beyond the doors. And suddenly the chase was on, first by guards and then by Sweetums, a terrifying character with its purposeful, powerful, dogged, unstoppable drive to kill our heroes.

Then the tale speeds up further, with imaginative and surprising twists and turns coming at increasing speed. As reader, I was now on a roller-coaster. And the ending (before the epilogue to quieten the spirits) is no let-down but an exciting just-in-time culmination.

I thoroughly enjoyed Chaos Gate. I know the genre, but this was a gripping version with, of course, your skill with short, precise ‘action’ sentences (no fat on them to slow them down) and succinct ‘descriptive’ sentences to help us visualize the scene.

I guess it was as much fun for you writing it as it was for me reading it. Some of the adrenalin you must have experienced when coming up with your creative imaginings cross the page to enter the reader’s world and provide an engrossing, entertaining read.”

All of you who don’t know my book, please take note!  It’s still available on Amazon!

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Filed under Accolades, Chaos Gate

Don Francisco Rides to La Paz

Suggestions made by Scribophile members helped me get this story up to speed and encouraged me to share this with the wider world. It requires a leap of faith from readers – and publishers, too. Thanks, Beryl Belsky! You can catch it at The Writer’s Drawer.


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Filed under Accolades, Front Page

Reciprocal Teaching/Learning for “Trick or Treat”


Surface Question:  What was the bad man called?

Answer with a word or a phrase:

Deep Question:  Do you think the ending of this story was a surprise?

Answer with a complete sentence and explain your answer with several more sentences.  Refer to the story’s text to prove your answer:

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Filed under Front Page, Uncategorized

Trick or Treat


This is for Mr. Miller’s class!

Trick or Treat

            Someone is following me.  I’m sure it’s a man, though I haven’t seen him clearly yet.  Perhaps I should duck into the yard now.  Yes, the gate is ajar.  I push it almost shut behind me and turn.

Vast and Victorian, the house looms above me like the prow of a ship.  A window on the second floor is broken, one shutter hanging askew from a bent hinge.  I hear footsteps on the other side of the fence.

The porch is in deep shadow.  I mount its steps, pause and turn.  The gate creaks open and an enormous man dressed in black slides through.  His shaved head reflects moonlight, as do the broken teeth in his grinning mouth.  Also gleaming is the blade of the machete he clenches in his right hand.

Fatso, as I shall call him, believes he has cornered his victim.  Not just yet.  The front door yields to my pull and I enter a hallway.  Shadows dart and skitter as mice flee my intrusion.  A greater scrabbling indicates the departure of a King Rat.  I hesitate, though rodents don’t disturb me greatly.

A heavy tread on the porch steps urges me forward.  I step through deep dust across the hallway and into what must have been a parlor.  Rodent chewed chairs and sofas offer no refuge.  I move past a rickety side table through another door.

Stairs!  An eccentric stairway, narrow and winding, ascends to an upper floor.  I take it two steps at a time.  An upper hallway lined by closed doors awaits me.  A door at the hallway’s end is open and I make for it.

I hear a crash and a shatter from below and then footsteps on the stairs.  I reach the hallway’s end and enter the master bedroom.  Moonlight shines through two tall windows before me.  A massive oak armoire stands against the wall to my right.  A canopied bed rises to my left like a clipper ship under full sail.

Fatso’s heavy tread wrings squeals from the hallway’s floorboards behind me.  He’s faster than I thought.  I turn and face him as he enters the room.

He grins and his teeth reflect moonlight.  “Just stand still, little lady.  It will be over quickly.”

I’m sure it will.  I note the anticipatory bulge of his biceps as he clenches the handle of his machete.  Its blade quivers with his eagerness as he raises it slowly.  He takes a sudden step forward and swings his blade in a vicious arc.

I step inside of his swing, grip his right hand with my left and stop the blade inches from my throat.  His eyes widen with shock.  I smile and murmur, “I’m stronger than I look.”

His muscles flex and he tries to snatch his hand out of my grip.  I tighten my hold.  His hand doesn’t move.  Sweat springs out upon his forehead.

My stature is somewhat variable, but I’m in petite mode tonight – five foot two, eyes of blue – you get the picture.

He gasps, “What are you?  Some sort of vampire?”

I smile sweetly, showing my normal dentition.  “Vampires are a fad, dear.  I’m an old-fashioned ghost and I’ve lured you into my house.”

“A ghost?”

I nod, “A ghost.  I had bad luck with men, you see, and I have unfinished issues.”

Still gripping his hand I step back and inspect him.  “I could use a familiar, a nice black ghost cat.”  I shake my head.  “But I’m afraid you’d make a very chubby kitty.”

He tries to thrust me away.  I lean closer and whisper, “Have you any last thoughts you’d like to share?”

His lips make round gasping motions like those of a beached trout.

“I thought not.  None of the others did either.” I raise my right hand and give it a shake to extend my claws. I turn them and they catch stray gleams of moonlight.  “Do you like my needles?” I flick his right earlobe with my longest claw.

His face contorts.  “Please!” he gasps.

I nod.  “Certainly!”  I plunge my needles beneath his chin, through his throat into his brain.

“Silver is becoming and so lethal.”

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Not far from Van – close enough?

photograph by Jon Walton


Will never again raise his baton, but                                                                                             The orchestra plays Tashkent,Bukhara, Samarkand.

Wind is a thread                                                                                                                                                Hanging from distant mountains.

Steppe grasses hiss                                                                                                                                        And sand, more sand, blows.

A pony waits,                                                                                                                                                      Feet together, head down.

Dusk drifts like a violet scarf                                                                                                                            Across day’s face,

Hush, hush, quiet,                                                                                                                                            Still.

Here at time’s end there is salt                                                                                                                    But no tears.

Borodin composed a wonderful piece of program music entitled “In the Steppes of Central Asia”. I took the liberty of adding some words to the program.  This is one of my favorite poems and the Fictionique site finally offered it a home.

Link to Borodin:

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Filed under poetry

Delay at Cana

IMG_4211Photo by Jon Walton

I wrote this poem some years ago, but, unfortunately, it is still timely.  I hope for a future when young readers will find it only an historical oddity.

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Filed under poetry