Monday, October 28, 2013

Interview With San Miguel Resident And Writer, John Scherber

I'm pleased to interview San Miguel de Allende resident and writer, John Scherber. John has written “San Miguel de Allende: A Place in the Heart," “A Writer”s Notebook,” and a murder series set in San Miguel. I started with “Twenty Centavos and my next read will be “The Fifth Codex.” Here’s that interview:

When do you write?

I write every day, since I had writer’s block for 37 years and I feel like I need to take advantage of having the ability to work once again. I usually have more than one project going at a time, since if I hit a bump on the road I can just switch to another manuscript.

How long does it take to write a book?

It has taken me as little as six weeks to a write a first draft of one of the eleven mysteries, and now I’m working on a book about the expat experience in out of the way places and I’ve been on it for 14 months—that’s the longest. But that is a book that has me traveling back and forth across Mexico.

Do you outline the book before writing it?

This book is based on interviews, so no outline was necessary. Each town has its own story. When I started the mysteries I did chapter synopses, running about 5-6 chapters ahead of where I was and I always knew the ending. Now, because I know the characters in these books so well I’m ready to start when I know the first scene, the ending, and three or four high points along the way.

I, also, was a stockbroker for almost 30 years. How long for you and why did you quit?

I was a Paine Webber broker for 3 ½ years in the nineties. I left because I didn’t like the tension between the clients’ interests and that of the company. After that I became an unsuccessful portrait painter, but I had fun doing it.

Tell us what you like about SMA.

I moved to San Miguel in 2007. Nine earlier vacations there told me I loved the weather, the culture, the people, the historical overtones as expressed in the architecture, and the importance of cultural activities. I had always thought I’d end up living in Europe, but it became so expensive that San Miguel seemed like an exotic, but much less costly alternative.

How do you go about marketing your books?

I use Twitter and Facebook to promote titles and stay in contact with fans. I always man a table at the San Miguel Writers Conference to ‘meet and greet’ and sign books. I am currently revising my website to draw more traffic and am about to start using Google adwords.

I love A Writer’s Notebook and I could read it again and again. Why did you write it? What’s the best piece of advice in the book?

That book is really from the heart. I wrote it to help keep people from making all the mistakes I’d made over many years. Writing is a long lonely journey and in that book I tried to be the person I would’ve wanted standing by my side during that process.
Someone to whom I could turn and ask a question. I think the most important chapter is called Voice and Tone: Who is the Writer? Finding your true and confident voice is vital in getting out your message or telling your story in a believable way. People need to see and feel your humanity and vulnerability.

In “San Miguel de Allende: A Place in the Heart," Anna B. speaks about lost teenagers in America. Do you see any evidence of that in Mexico?

I don’t see it nearly as much. The family structure and values here keep the teens more connected through that difficult period.

Tell us a bit about the murder series. I enjoyed the first, but I have so many books to read. Which should I read next? Should I read them as they were published?

They came from my own reading of mysteries, thinking about what worked and what didn’t, and when I had my breakthrough back into writing, it was in thinking about how I would make a mystery for myself. I wanted a main character who had something more going in his life, so I made him a painter. He gets pulled into the mysteries because it’s thought he might ‘see things differently.’ He says that while he can see the color in shadows and the relationship between two curves, he doesn’t believe he can come into a crime scene and see anything that the police missed.

Of course he’s wrong about that. I set them mostly in Mexico because I wanted an exotic backdrop with a lot of color and history. One of the principal characters is Mexican. The villains are flawed people, not demons or monsters. I’m interested in the way they rationalize the crimes they commit.

If you started with Twenty Centavos, you should pick up The Fifth Codex next.

Are you fluent in Spanish? Should one learn the language?

My Spanish could be better. It’s good enough for day-to-day interactions, but if I have to talk to a plumber or an auto mechanic, I need help. Good language skills are a definite plus.

Anything I've missed that you'd like to write about?

I would only like to add that I’m living the life down here that I always wanted to lead.

Thank you so much John. I hope to meet you in San Miguel in February, 2014 during the San Miguel Writer’s Conference. You can read more about John Scherber and his novels and writing at

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Jinx Schwartz Answers Questions About Her Writing

One of my favorite writers is Jinx Schwartz. I've reviewed three of her books on Amazon and just finished "Troubled Sea." I live my secret sailor's life on the Sea of Cortez in Mexico through her books.

I asked Jinx if she would answer some questions about her writing. She graciously consented. Ok here goes:

You got married after buying a yacht and went sailing. What inspired you to write?

Actually I bought my first boat, a 42' trawler, while still single, a condition I hoped to remedy by owning a large yacht. It worked. I met my hubby at a yacht club, and three years later we tied the knot (nautical term), sailed under the Golden Gate bridge, and turned left. The idea was spend time in Cabo San Lucas and be back in three months. What really happened? We stayed in Mexico and still have a boat there after over twenty years. Unfortunately, that 42-footer sank in 2003 in a hurricane, but we have another and spend out winters afloat.

I wrote my first book, "The Texicans," as a result of a genealogical trip back through time. I am a ninth-generation Texan, and stumbled upon history book referring to my ancestors as a 'CONGENIAL SOCIETY FOR EVIL'. I just had to write a rebuttal to that kind of besmirching!

Did you have any writing experience? Do you read a lot? I am a voracious reader and have been since Dick and Jane. I only wrote the occasional technical paper and a few business proposals my employers considered too flippant.

I see you use CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. Does that mean you self publish your books? Do you need a publisher, editor, and agent? Is it easier to go the self-publishing route that seeking the traditional way?

I've been self-pubbed, small press pubbed, audio pubbed, and now I'm totally indie. I parted ways with my publisher three years ago and went on my thing ever for my career. I have new covers, new books, new ebooks, and my latest, "Just the Pits" (book five in the Hetta Coffey series) is all me, KDP Select, and Createspace. I love Amazon! They created a whole new world for writers like me. I will say, however, a new writer without benefit of good editors, and being hit over the head with the craft of writing by a tradition publisher/editor, is in danger of putting an inferior product on the market and will pay the price in reviews. I love that I can do it all on my own now, but the ease of publishing is a two-edged sword, and many writers are able to publish work that needs a lot of work.

As you know, I compare Hetta and her way of speaking to Nelson DeMille; snarky, sarcastic, dry humor but good person and I've read everything he's written. Is that how you see Hetta and are you like that?

And I cannot tell you how flattered I am to be compared with DeMille in any way! He is one of my favorite writers, and yes, I have been known to be quick with a snark. However, now that I have Hetta to do it for me, my friends have all breathed a sigh of relief. My enemies? Still fair game.

"Troubled Sea" to me is more a literary work, more character driven, more political, while the novels "Just add Water, Salt, and Water" were more event driven. I used literary because I highlighted words deuenas, lazuline, arriere pensee.

I wrote "Troubled Sea" before embarking on the Hetta Coffey thing. Who knew Hetta as a single woman would be so popular? I do not consider "Troubled Sea" a part of the series, as it set in the future, after Hetta's antics. Literary? Gee, thanks!

I really liked Nikki in this book. Do you see a series with her as the main character or the two ladies teaming up? Am I correct that Nikki is successful despite working in a man's world, while Hetta just doesn't give a rip about working with men? Hetta and Nikki would make a good team. Or maybe not, since Nikki is the law, and Hetta is pretty much lawless. Both work in a man's world, it's just that Hetta is way past putting up with men she doesn't like or respect, and Nikki, as a DEA agent, is forced to deal with them. However, no bad guy wants to mess with either gal.

When do you write? How can you write a book so fast? Do you outline the book before writing it?

Fast? I'm lucky to turn out a book a year, but I'm working on that. It is getting easier, as a series picks up where it left off, many of the characters make return appearances, and Hetta is...well, Hetta. The difficulty is coming up with new scenarios, and keeping it fresh. Readers expect Hetta to act a certain way, and it is my job to deliver.

I write when I feel like it. When I don't feel like it, I edit.

Not big on outlines, so instead of outlining before writing a book, I outline as I go. I sometimes have an ending in mind, but not always. I come up with an idea for a story, choose a setting, and let Hetta have her head. Right now I'm writing Hetta #6, no title yet, no pub date scheduled. Just as in boating; when we leave the dock we don't have plan, and we're sticking to it.

She's baaaak! Just the Pits, Book 5 in the Hetta Coffey series, is now available And for the other four, get Hetta in a box. Hetta Coffey Collection Boxed Set Books 1-4 in Award Winning Series . ALL other BOOKS just 2.99, including the others in award-winning Hetta Coffey series. Twitter @jinxschwartz FB

Monday, October 21, 2013

If you are going to be an expat, you need to learn the language. has a wealth of information about learning Spanish, both free and not so free.

Global Real Estate: Spotlight on Mexico

National Association of Realtors (NAR) and its members, NAR Global has launched a “Spotlight” initiative to highlight these countries and the opportunities they present for our global practitioners.

Mexico is the number 1 destination for Americans living abroad — especially retiring baby-boomers.
An estimated 1 million Americans are residing in Mexico, and about half of these expatriates own real estate.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Best Places to Spend Christmas

TRAVEL + LEISURE singles out San Miguel de Allende, Mexico


Why Go: The Spanish colonial gem and cultural hot spot in central Mexico is electric at Christmas, with theatrical processions around town, numerous posadas reenactments, and fireworks, live music, and dancing in the main square, El Jardín. Be sure to sample ponche, a kind of Mexican hot toddy made of fruits and brandy, and the sweet bread rosca de reyes.
Where to Stay: Casa Sierra Nevada, managed by Orient-Express, is spread among six renovated 16th- to 18th-century historic Spanish colonial mansions—many with alfresco corridors, courtyards, and small gardens. Rooms feature tile baths, wood-burning fireplaces, bóvedas (curved ceilings), and paintings by local artists. 
Holiday Dinner: With a shaded courtyard and foundtain, Cafe de la Parroquia is a tranquil setting for gathering over a hearty meal beginning with a bowl of sopa Azteca.
—Lee Magill

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Safety Is Used To Scare Us!

"Last year, Lonely Planet US Travel Editor Robert Reid weighed in on travelers' safety in Mexico. Mexico could surely be safer but, as Reid points out, so could America."
What you don't get from most reports in the US is statistical evidence that Americans are less likely to face violence in Mexico than at home, particularly when you zero in on Mexico's most popular travel destinations. 
For me, safety is not something I disregard when traveling to Mexico, but the same goes for traveling in PDX. Would I walk in certain areas, after dark, in PDX? No! Let's use some common sense and not paint PDX or Mexico with too broad of a brush. Driving a car may be more risky than being a tourist.