Category Archives: song

Mazatlan’s Unsettling Beginnings: The First Street

New Recruit Cheryl the Walker D Angelo and myself are off to investigate the Barrio of Skulls , the Chapel Miraculous, ghosts, rumors and tales. We have our marching papers,  Chief investigator Bette Schwarz has sluiced the Con Agua Report from  the internet in her relentless search for the truth. She also holds dear several books by Oses Cole that are probably priceless by now.

As we trudge along, I explain to Cheryl that me and “Babel Fish” aim to unravel  research written in Spanish in hopes that  our visitors will be dazzled by  “tidbits of history” we extract.  How great to expand the mind!  I’ll say, Guess  what happened here? And everyone will love it. Right Cheryl?

When I use that line with Bette, she scolds me about my ghost book, saying if you torture the data long enough, you can get it to confess to anything! Ghosts even I remind her that I am from Friday Harbor. I grew up listening to Joe Friday. Just the facts Maam.But I say it with a wink. Bette has her eye on me you know, she likes to tell it like it is. And was!

The Grid? What Grid?

Cheryl points out that the streets we are walking along curve, and some of them disappear all together because they are not laid out on a grid but follow the mud line of high tide in the estuaries and the beach.  Never fear, our gal Cheryl has her feet on the ground. She has been reading a fascinating thesis written by Dr. Leticia Alvarado Fuentes and is fast becoming an expert on how the original streets were named.

The Midas Touch Wins Out

Yep-Mazatl  was great for hiding pirates, treasures and a specialized type of antelope called hooded deer almost extinct now. At the beginning 17th Century attempts to settle in however were twice abandoned,  the hills and estuaries dubbed unlivable. Historians say the soil was salty, the water was not acceptable as water goes, lest to ingest it and it smelled bad too. Dangerous bugs, monsters and rats lived in the estuaries. Floods and YEEK! HURRICANES! But in the late 1500’s, silver and gold had been discovered in the foothills to the East. Overland transport to the Port of Acapulco was dangerous and expensive.  Mazatlan’s harbor was world class and deep enough for any boat in the 1600s. The place lacked water but had the “Midas Touch” so of course there was another attempt at settling in, and this third time was the charm.

The Principle Way

We are crossing Calle Belisario Dominguez,  aptly called Principle. This first trail  began with a nascent farmhouse called Puerto Viejo on San Felix Bay (today North Beach)and crossed Mazatlan to the sheltered inner harbor,  where tree trunk boats, each carrying up to 5 tons of fruits, seeds and livestock, plowed the estuary trade routes. Villa Union (where the first would-be settlers had built farms) and many other places where there was good water and rich soil for growing things, supplied food and water to Mazatlan. It was a time when the estuaries were primary routes  for communication and supplies between tribes and towns. Everyone pitched in, the slaves and Indians that worked the fabled mines married in, and the First Town took the name: Mazatl de los Mulatos. In distant Spain, visitors brought alarming news of  disorder, chaos, and terrible living conditions, but like a bad weed, the city sprang up. Urban sprawl spilled fast and faster across flood zones between the watchtower hills manned by the “brown Militia.” It was an out of control race, a material boom-time to “hurry-up” before Mexico thought about regulations and taxes!

Mazatlan! Mexico’s Fabulous Port on the Pacific

People called “mules” were bent double under the weight of precious metals headed out to the world. Every language was spoken except religion.  Not a lot of that. Nor was there reliable water enough to sustain a big brawling city. The early folks were not so interested in planning a great city as they were in “getting rich” and maybe “getting out” if need be, especially those from other nations. San Felix was crowded with ships coming mostly from Europe, Asia, and North America; proudly waving flags of England, France, Italy Holland, Spain, the Americas and Ecuador. Commercial houses spawned fabulous fortunes  from trade in silver and gold, opium and contraband. And the characters that came to Old Mazatlan ? Salty, uncivilized, fearless, heroic and legendary! I remind myself that they walked these very streets and shiver to imagine such ghosts as they would be. By 1855 the very diverse population of Mazatl was 6773 . Regional markets had grown to include the States of Sinaloa, Sonora, Chihuahua, Durango, Zacatecas, Jalisco, Nayuarit, Baja California and Alta california.Until the railroads gave ease of transport to inland cities, Mazatl was Mexicos most important Pacific port.

What’s Next?

Bette Schwarz is researching the water systems that served Mazatl . And the streets? Cheryl says she is On it!” Stay tuned to hear some tales about them as we head for the center of the old city and the Barrio of Skulls. As for me, I aim to solve the mystery of how that neighborhood got that name. Tune in next week for answers. Just the facts. Well, maybe a little fancy to add some flourish.

NEWS FLASH: The City is going to restore Panteon No. 2 to its original glory. Congratulations go to Joaquin Lopez Hernandez for his “Graveyard Tours” (called by fellow historians stupendous citizen efforts) that inspired Gringos, tourists and the Powers That Be!!!!! Hooray.  A city justly proud of Her History!!!!! Mazatl

I have written a song to celebrate!

You Do Not Walk Alone

Along avenues of heros
'N Streets that sing of praise
Watch tall waves on the seaside
Drench the sunset colors blaze

El Faro beams and flashes,
And the moon and streetlights glow
Walk the sacred streets at twilight
Walk deep purple streets at midnight
And you do not walk alone

Rolling echoes of the canons
Searing fire from the shells
Rise up nation bent on freedom
To the tolling of the bells

El Faro beams and flashes,
And the moon and streetlights glow
Walk the sacred streets at twilight
Walk deep purple streets at midnight
And you do not walk alone

The green spark of salvation
Whirling skirts and stamping pride
Fiestas loud and merry
Jest that no one ever dies.

El Faro beams and flashes,
And the moon and streetlights glow
Walk the sacred streets at twilight
Walk deep purple streets at midnight
And you do not walk alone

Buy Now:

Hotel Belmar: the Ghost Has the Key

is available on Amazon in paperback and e-book formats at:

ISBN:978-0-6921 139820

The Author will have books at the First Friday Artwalk in Mazatlan. Click here to read reviews. Until then, going fast. Call 981-8072.

Other books by S.K.Carnes

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ISBN:987-0692-85172-2 Available in paperback, as an audiobook and e-book Silver Medal from Readers Favorite
ISBN:978-0-9718600 2008 Golden Moonbeam Award. Available from author Click description


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ISBN:978-0-9718600 2008 Golden Moonbeam Award. Available from author

Endings and Beginnings

Last night, under a full Mexican moon, I watched lusty waves rise up flaunting emerald throats topped in foam, saw each one in turn roll over and crash spilling frothy bubbles a-shimmer in liquid glass onto Olas Altas Beach, as surfers, laughing children, families and lovers played in the ebb and flow of the great Pacific Ocean. Sort of like life. I thought. This place of beginnings and endings and goings on! And then I remembered a favorite song sung by a favorite singer Harry Chapin.

All my life’s a circle, sunrise and sundown
The moon rolls through the nighttime, till the daybreak comes around
All my life’s a circle but I can’t tell you why
The season’s spinnin’ round again the years keep rollin’ by
I thought about the season of winter spinning round again, remembering what I had accomplished over summer. Yes, I finished my book Epiphany. Starting Over in Oregon. It is out as a Kindle book:
A reviewer calls it ” a story of endings and beginnings, heartache and humor, confusion and enlightenment.”
Over summer I learned how to make an Audiobook of my work of Historical Fiction set after World War I on my homeplace in Wisconsin: The Way Back. A Soldier’s Journey
Listen to a sample
Yesterday, I walked downtown to buy a frame for my latest oil painting. The old frame I found contains a canvas I can use to paint a new picture. I must get out my easel! And, as I trudged along carrying home my find, I thought about a new book rising up flaunting its throat of possibilities in my mind. What will this new season bring? Life is playing in the ebb and flow of beginnings and endings and I intend to jump right in and get into the swim.

What Does It All Mean?

Image is modified from:

Hoorah! I finished the first draft of Epiphany, my third book and second novel.  That was an accomplishment! Granted, it is full of passionate extremes and lush places to wander and wonder, but it’s entitled Epiphany. Does it live up to it’s name? Did I end up where I was going? Should I smooth out the bumps and delete the detours? Was it worth it? What was this journey like, and what will it be like writing it over?

It takes time.

I know I could have written this faster. But, rereading letters, making contact with friends from my Oregon adventures, musing on long walks, and sometimes, sitting at the computer at 4 AM, putting notion and inspiration into words—all of that and more, takes time. Like saddle breaking a horse, like baking a cake, like learning to play the violin, like listening to music.  I listened to Garth Brooks singing The River.

Trying to learn from what’s behind you
And never knowing what’s in store
Makes each day a constant battle
Just to stay between the shores…and
I will sail my vessel
Till the river runs dry…

Yes, trying to learn from what was behind me was worth it. Revisiting the haunting beauty of Oregon, and tying up the strings that brought me through heart stopping fear and mountaintop joy, going crazy, stretching the limits of my creativity, seeing clearly now and then. Wow. What a trip! Now I get to do it again, and find better words to honor all those that I met along the way. BTW, as I struggled through the first draft, I learned new wordplays. Here: I’ll show you. First, a simple poem about what I learned in the

 Game of Love.

Take what you want
And pay the price
Give it a shot Come roll the dice

You play the game
And steal the prize
Dodge the blame And pay with lies

Well, here is news
For when you cheat
Yourself you lose
In troubles deep

At the San Miguel Writers Conference, I learned an old form of poetry called a Villanelle. It is also simple—sort of lilting like the pastoral countrysides of Oregon. I wrote this villanelle about the same subject-love gone wrong.  That sounds “country like” doesn’t it?

“Come, lean on me, and warm—my—bed
Embrace my heart and hold my hand,
I’ll love you—forever,” he said.

“You could be hurt, or even dead
But I’ll keep you safe in this wild land
Come, lean on me, and warm—my—bed.”

“We’ll visit sites of which you’ve read,
Nothing’s too big, nothing’s too grand.
I’ll love you—forever,” he said.

“Abandon fears and take instead
My promised golden wedding band.
Come,  lean on me, and warm—my—bed.”

He filled her hands and filled her head
With all she and her God had planned.
“I’ll love you—forever,” he said.

He lied,  and bitter tears she shed
Ore cherished words, like fool’s gold panned:
“Come, lean on me, and warm—my—bed
I’ll love you—forever”, he said.

Oregon itself begs to be a poem.  Have you been there? Can you dream of such a place?

Lions, bears, possums, raccoons
Ravens, eagles, quails and loons
Mountaintops, valleys, cliffs and caves
Waterfalls, pools ‘n ocean waves

As I rewrite Epiphany, a journey into passionate extremes and lush places to wander and wonder, I want to take you along. It turns out this book isn’t about finding the love of my life-it’s about learning to love.

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Order the Historical Novel by S.K. Carnes,  The Way Back, recently released in all e-book stores.

Together—Hand in Hand

As I write Epiphany, my third book, I think about the children I met in Oregon’s Cascade Mountains where I worked as an Elementary School Counselor. A 4th grader by the name of Fawn comes to mind. One afternoon she was crouched, rocking herself back and forth outside the Principal’s office, wailing like her life was ending. I scrunched down to be on her level, feeling every sob tear at my heart. What could be so wrong?
“I did it to be pretty,” she sobbed. “I wanted to look just fine.”
“Why Fawn, you are pretty,” I said cupping her wet little face in my hands. And you are just as fine as you can be. What did you do that seems so awful? Did you burn down the school?”
“No,” she sniffled.
“Did you shoot your teacher Fawn?”
“No, she shook her head shedding tears all around, with the slightest smile showing that she wasn’t THAT bad.
“Well, what did you do then?” I asked, mopping her face and the collar of her dress with my handkerchief.
“I stole earings from Marsha Jane. She had ‘em hid and was showin’ off to the other girls in the washroom. So when she went out to recess, I stole ‘em— only Judy saw me. And now I have to see the Principal! I needed them earings to be pretty for my Grandpa.”
“Oh— well come on, I’ll hold your hand and we will go together to see our Principal Marshall Wayne,” I said. “Be brave. Let’s own up to this and take the punishment. Are you ready?” And so, I entered into Fawn’s world of fear and doubt, and found out all about needing to be pretty. After the experience —both horrifying and terrifying— I used the song “Where, I Can’t Find” that Lenore, Fawn’s sister wrote. We wrote it into  an original play we put together and performed. It was about feeling powerless, and not knowing what to do, until—well, sometimes being brave, strong, and hopeful comes only with an epiphany. And that is what we can help to happen for one another—together, hand in hand.

 Where I Can’t Find

When I want to feel like I’m pretty
When I want to look just fine
I’ll find my reflection in the eyes of my someone
Who lives only in my mind
In some far-away place I can’t find.
When I want to do great things
When I want to mend what’s broke
Miracles circle  just out of my reach
That call to me in my mind
From some deeper place I can’t find.
When I want to know the answers
When I want to feel like I’m smart
Bright bubbles of knowing blow by in the wind
That burst when I call them to mind
Float off to where I can’t find.

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Order the Historical Novel by S.K. Carnes,  The Way Back,

recently released in all e-book stores.

A Feminine Character in Epiphany: A Womanly Cure For That "Motherless Feeling"

Lori, our protagonist, has enjoyed exploring secret places in the mountains of Oregon. But,  she has been hired to do a demanding job, and with start-time looming, she looses heart and feels afraid. She remembers the song on an old album from Paul Whiteman, “Sometimes I feel Like a Motherless Child.,” (hear it sung here by Julie London) and sinks into depression. But Lori has a friend, the woman Claudia, who can provide solace and guidance for the difficult year ahead.
Have you also found a special person who can bolster your flagging self confidence? Remembering just how it felt for me, I wrote a poem about passing through the portal from melancholy to renewal, under the transformative power of a wise woman.
A Womanly Cure
See—the river goes somewhere,
Moving on.
Watch—the seedling springs up,
Growing in lockstep with the constant march of days,
While I huddle in the grip of doubt,
Wondering if I am lost in time,
Without direction, without knowing,
A student with no teacher.
A motherless child.
Adrift on a moonless night,
The compass has no needle, the radio no sound
The lighthouse has gone dead
In the eye of a monstrous storm circling round me
Set to strike.
It’s then I go to Claudia,
The sheltering wing of the angel
And she hugs me into herself, this woman,
Whispering ancient knowledge I have forgotten
Of Mother nature, fertility and abundance
And of harvest that nourishes the soul.
She holds the looking glass up for me to see my own womanly self.
With intuition as my compass, I hear the fiddler playing my song.
Claudia dowses up an artesian well of prophetic waters
To wash away fear
To shine a beacon of courage
To radiate the light of inspiration
To dissolve the clouds of depression
And I see my path forward
Across the year ahead.

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Order the Historical Novel by S.K. Carnes,  The Way Back,

recently released in all e-book stores.

Epiphany: Meet Mr. Oregon

Characters. As I write this third book, Epiphany, I am beginning to bring in my characters. Already, I have established what Lori, the protagonist seeks. She wants a fresh start, a passionate adventure, the love of her life. The last post featured a poem that described her longing to pass thru a portal from  a hum-drum life overburdened with possessions,  into the life of her dreams full of adventure.
Enter  “Mr. Oregon,” the perfect counterpoint to play with a daughter of the midwest. This magical mysterious man tells her stories, sings, quotes poetry and promises her everything she longs for. He tells her he spends time at the University and in DC. lobbying for the timber industry, but in the time he can steal away from that task,  he wants to show her Oregon as only a timberman can, for Oregon’s rivers and wilderness areas are his stamping grounds. She is smitten. Soon she will know the meaning of every word in the song he has written about himself. He calls it
“A Northwest Timber-beast”
and sings it to the tune of Old 97.RWS_Tarot_01_Magician
A swagger in his walk
Woods-music in his talk
At 14, a whistle punk jack
Up before dawn
All brisk and brawn
Settin’ chokers-while his logs go-devilin’ back
The undercutter sees
While fallin’ skybound trees
On pecker poles  laid down into a bed
That it’s a haywire show
With a riggin’ fit below
And the Bull-O-The Woods-is see’n red
A lone wolf tree
Barber-shops free
Cracks slats n stems, axin’ da  Fallers
The kid steps up
Skookum in his cup
“I’m a Sawyer from hell” he hollers
He hops a lumberjack dance
‘n tin hat and stagged pants
Can high ball on a belly robber’s feast
He’s a gandy-dancin’ fool
Dodges widow-maker’s rule
He’s a bonified Northwest Timber Beast

Ahhhh but more characters are adding to the cosmic soup thickening the plot, for there are other men in Lori’s new life.  Next post,  meet Jubal, a resident of Oregon’s backcountry.

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recently released in all e-book stores. Go to

Blog Tour


TIME OUT! Time to look at how we write, what we write and WHY WE WRITE!  PJ Reece, author, speaker, writer of the Meaning of Life Blog, and inspiration to all of us in the Mazatlan Writer’s Group, writes about his process at   PJ, author and adventurer, uses his Blog  to invite us on a journey led by desire to the heart of the story.  Like Garth Brooks who claims that
Life is not tried, it is merely survived, If you’re standing outside the  fire,”
PJ’s protagonists are those “who have to dance within the flame, who chance the sorrow and the shame, that always comes with getting burned.” 

Garth Brooks and Jenny Yates, December 1993.

But wait. How connected is a writer to his protagonist? Is PJ proposing that author and protagonist enter the dark heart of the story together?  And what about the reader?  Just as my mind opened to the dimension of that idea,  PJ tagged me to be next to answer the 4 questions posed on a Blog Tour—to have the next  dance within the flame.
I worked at accumulating and keeping things most of my life—not at writing. But looking back, I realize there have been moments of transcendence that couldn’t be earned, made to happen, scheduled, or be deserved. Like Magic Doors, they are passed through, perhaps without being noticed. Called “insightful, spiritual, meaningful, transformative, or “peak” experiences, I decided to write about these “watershed moments”-yours, mine and ours, since they cross over the ordinary into another realm. How exciting is that!! Magic! This Blog called “Portals to the Unforgettable” is at .You are reading it now. My other blog is about the healing power of creative expression. Go to to find my paintings, books, and some poetry. If creativity has brought you healing, solace or joy, consider signing up and sharing.
What am I working on?   Leaving my Midwestern farm life behind, I crossed the Continental Divide westward, even as I crossed the boundaries of guilt, shame and fear into a new life of risk. Discovering the pot at the end of the rainbow makes a great story and I am presently writing it. Yes, another novel! Although it is essentially my story and true from my point of view, I do digress, so a memoir it isn’t! But this new historical novel, nameless at present, is aiming at being a love story, a mystery, full of action, danger, regret, joy, you know, all the spices of life presented in my voice which I am presently honing on my blog. Do you like poetry that doesn’t make you feel ignorant, but wiggles in sideways, and calls out your understanding almost by accident? I hope so. I seem to use the Taro archetypes everyone relates to. Also, I am aware of being carried along. Sometimes, I just sit down and the words come. Then I get to rewrite and that is so much fun. It is like painting a picture, choosing the colors by what feels right.

  1. How does my work differ from others of its genre?   I think I have spent so much of my life alone or in the company of animals that I cook up punch that is flavored by the wilderness, impassioned by stallions, mournful as the cry of a sheep stuck in the briars, has a touch of awesome like the Northern Lights, is barren and windswept and sometimes lush as a pool in the rainforest. Of course it is different, for it filters through me, and I am practiced at not fitting in, having long kept my own company. But to my astonishment, when I read my work to my Writers Group, they nod in understanding. Could it be my punch is made from waters we all tap into, like a deep-down brook that runs through us? Listen to John McCutcheon’s “Water From Another Time”, and you will discover this wellspring:

Why do I write what I do?   I have this idea/dream that we are all on this ship together and looking at the passing scenery, but only from our own porthole. Now, when we share what we see, the view gets bigger.  Maybe the word I should use is “compelled.” I am compelled to write it down, to share my view just as Garth Brooks has in this centermost stanza of his hit song, also quoted above. 

There’s this love that is burning
Deep in my soul
Constantly yearning to get out of control
Wanting to fly higher and higher
I can’t abide
Standing outside the fire

  1. How does my writing process work?   I wake up in the night-sometimes at 2:00 sometimes at 5, and instead of going back to sleep, I get up and write. Then with daylight comes chores and obligations, but during the day things come to me and I jot down ideas to chew on. Sometimes, when I am out walking, I get a notion and it sort of marinates, but if it doesn’t go away, I have to write on it. Getting it out in words satisfies the muse, but so far, I hear her calling me onward over a new Continental Divide to the unknown. I have always loved exploring.

An introduction to C.Michaels who joined our Mazatlan Writer’s Group, and soon began sharing her knowledge of self publishing and networking, all the while finishing her three suspense novels.  She now writes a column for the Pacific Pearl along with her blog. Keeping the reader guessing, Michaels is currently writing a smart thought provoking novel, the first of a series, called Casual Women, in which Maddy encounters some merciless characters in Mazatlan, Sinaloa, Mexico. How will C.Michaels answer the 4 questions of the Blog Tour? Ahh-tune in for a revealing session with the empress of intrigue in one of Mexico’s most fascinating cities.

cover of The Way Back
New novel: The Way Back

Order the Historical Novel by S.K. Carnes,  The Way Back, recently released in all e-book stores.     To find it on Amazon, go to

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In the Middle of the Night

In the Middle of the Night
Why the River is Better then Potters Field

 I woke up crying in the night and had to wonder why. I can hear the waves of the Pacific Ocean breaking on Olas Altas beach outside, shifting the sand with the change of season. Nothing to cry over. Yet listen—there is someone deep deep inside, grieving. All I can do is get up and write. Maybe the words will roll out like 30 pieces of silver, the price paid to someone “selling out” and I can use the blood money to buy a Potters Field-and bury my dead.
Did you ever have such a dark thought? It is 2:00 in the morning for god’s sake and all I can think of is how I sold my horses before I left Wisconsin all of 25 years ago. Oh, I still see them running through my dreams—racing the moon. And it wasn’t just horses that I let go of, pushed the door shut and let drive away. It smacks of betrayal to leave family, friends, and even myself behind. Some call it mid-life crisis, and tonight it is guilt for the road forsaken. And hear the ocean breaking over the new shores! Sometimes it gets very crowded here in Potter’s Field with so many ghosts rising up. Damn, why wont they stay buried? Well, we may as well dance.
Is that a crazy idea? What should I do-hang myself with a halter like Judas did? And then what? I doubt that would be the end—maybe just the way to cop out, get stuck in the quagmire of remorse, and not pay the price of change with the seasons, shed the tears of grief for the old shore even as the new one is formed up. Yes, I might as well dance. Dance. Whirl with the memories of the devoted creatures that have loved me and I let slip away; the free spirit that I am and those I set free. Sing. Like Janis Joplin singing of “Me and Bobbie McGee.”
“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”
Damn— these songs take wings and fly right down inside-maybe all the way to that inner-child grieving in the night, and the soul is enfolded in wings feathered with forgiveness, and the dance begins, bittersweet and haunting, like a Fiddler on the Roof is playing to the melody of life the way it is-mysterious, free and ever evolving like a river. Haven’t I always loved the rivers best, because they move on? Yes-dance to Proud Mary-“Rolling—Rolling—Rolling on the river.” And then I remember Billy Joel singing on the album I played over and over to survive the leaving.
“In the middle of the night
I go walking in my sleep.
Through the desert of truth
To the river so deep.
We all end in the ocean.
We all start in the streams.
We’re all carried along
By the river of dreams
In the middle of the night.”
This is the link to the album cover (Featured Image on this page) and the song by Billy Joel that so inspired me:

cover of The Way Back
New novel: The Way Back

Just arrived!
My new novel on the shelves at You can down load it from the Kindle Store.  Here is the information: The Way Back: A Soldier’s Journey. If you like it, please write a review for me on that site. Thank you.
eBook: ISBN: 9781483520735  S.K.Carnes     Editorial Review by Readers Favorite
Soon to be available from all e-book stores.