Category Archives: story

Cerro de la Cruz in Mazatlan, Mexico

The Legend and the Promise,

the History, Memories, Science, Tradition, and  an Invitation to See For Yourself!

The Legend of the Enduring Cross From the Sea

There was in Mexico a legend that sailors told about the cross of the sea. It so happened that in the first century AD, a bearded man arrived on a small boat to the coast which now-a-days lies at Santa Cruz Huatulco, Mexico. He was carrying an enormous log that resembled the shape of a cross.

The Zapotec and Mixtec Indians watched in amazement as the foreigner raised the log in the middle of their settlement, and they became grateful as he taught them how to live fruitfully. Long after the mysterious man left in the same small boat he had arrived in, people remembered and told the story, until it became a legend. Quetzalcoatl they called him, while Catholic sources called him St. John the Apostle. But it was later, after the port prospered from his teaching, that the Cross of the Sea legend grew wings. In 1587 the pirate Cavendish attacked, looting the town of all its riches. Only the cross remained. He tried to destroy the sacred log in several different ways with no success. The cross was attacked with knives and axes, but it didnt get cut. It was set on fire, but it didnt burn. Finally, it was tied with ropes and chains to Cavendishs ship, in order to pull it down into the ocean, but the ship stopped, unable to move the cross from its mooring! Over the years the cross endured and the legend also.

The Promise of the Sailor from Mazatlan

(Story often told to explain the sudden appearance of the Cross)

Almost 200 years passed. In 1762 a sailor from Mazatl¡n was caught in a terrible storm at sea. As his boat pitched and took on water, he feared that he would never reach his safe inland harbor for the sea became hungry and began to devour the ship. The sailor fell to his knees and prayed to the gods of sailors. He asked Zeus to quiet the thunder and call in the lightning, and he asked Poseidon to let him outrun the storm. But the howling winds drowned his prayers and the sirens of the sea sang to him of death in their arms.

It was then that the sailor remembered the legend of the enduring cross and in desperation , he cried out to the Virgin of Guadalupe who in 1531 promised a special love for Mexicos people.  Oh Mother, My Mother, Queen of the Sea. Ask God to save me, and I will raise a great white cross on high over Mazatlan. One so big and beautiful that people will remember the spark of divinity that lives in the hearts of all. Even those who do not believe will know that Mazatlan worships more than silver, gold and power and that the devil does not rule over this city, my Mazatlan.” And Mary heard him and whispered her request to God who accepted THE PROMISE. The winds sighed.  A sweet breeze came to blow the sailor safely to Mazatlan Harbor while the storm raged behind him. The ocean  bore her gift of giant timbers, washing them gently ashore at the lofty bluff of Cerro de la Cruz.  Then to keep his promise, the sailor worked his trade.  With mallet and chisel, he shaping  the beams into a cross, painted it white, and used the  pulleys and ropes of a sea faring man to set it up on high. It appeared as if by magic for all lost souls at sea, or blowing in the winds of perdition. It stands today upon Cerro de la Cruz to remind us of hope and the power of prayer.

The History of the Cross on the Cerro

Mazatl ¡n was called the Islands by the pirates because fingers of the estuary ran between the high hills so that Cerro de la Cruz was an island towering above a passage of water from Olas Altas to the inland harbor. Historians say that in the year 1806, this land was no more than a wild and solitary forest, all covered with tall trees, lagoons and marshes. The sea washed onto the beach of Machado square and formed an irregular beach to the current Municipal Market. The cross shining white up top the promontory, was the landmark sailors looked for to find their way to the inner harbor. It was also a vantage point from which to look for warships come to capture the port. At first, there was no land passage to Creston and no El Faro ( built in  1879) up top. The cross  of Cerro de la Cruz was the beating heart of Mazatl ¡n.

A Memory of Growing Up Under the Cross

“We were tough little kids that loved to play war and to do that, in our barrio at the bottom of Cerro de la Cruz we had a gang we called La Padilla. It was not easy to join La Padilla, our gang. We would take little kids who wanted to join and first tie them up and dress them in girly ruffles and make fun of them. Then, we stuffed jalape peppers up their noses and made them slaves. In daytime, we just went out back of my house to play in the rocks. We knew the devil hid out there. We could smell him, especially after a  storm with thunder and lightning.  When we saw an iguana staring out thru the  brimstone, we said the devil was showing his face. It proved you were brave if you dared to go there at night. But if you did, well there was that white cross up high above us in the light of the moon. We all knew that was why it was there, our protection when we were afraid.__Jorge Puente


Being curious, we formed a crew of like-minded adventurers and found our way through various barriers to the top of la Cerro de la Cruz.  Our goal was to determine how the hill was formed and so we asked Mick McCarthy, a geologist to join us. Don Ramon was able to secure the permission to bring us with him. He has been the keeper of  the cross over many years. Plastering, painting, redoing the concrete moorings and steps, all at his own expense.

Typical damage repaired by Don Ramon

A lovely young lady biochemist  came along to see the experiments with acid that Mick used to test the stones, and her mother came to translate and to represent the community of faith that would visit the cross on May 3.

Team researching  Cerro de la Cruz: Roccio, Mike, Mick and Sue. Patricia took the picture and Don Ramon  guided us to the cross above.

Don Ramon is the president of the neighborhood of Cerro de Vigia. He and others of those living so near, have witnessed faint blue light emitting from the rocks on more than one occasion. Mick explained that is indicative of burning sulfur dioxide gas escaping from deep fissures in the lava, most likely along the fault line.  The lady who opened the entrance gate described feeling the earth shudder slightly now and then.  Mick said that animals will exhibit odd behavior before a tremor, like dogs perking up their ears and being a little agitated, or chickens suddenly scurrying around. Horses are perhaps the most sensitive to deep seated movements in the earth that are imperceptive to humans.  He offers details such as rock type and physical description of fault lines to anyone interested, saying that would be his way of adding a grain of sand to the arena of geographical knowledge about Mazatlan. We learned the rocks were colored red by mercury, green by copper, yellow by sulfur, black by lava, etc. The hill was formed like a chimney for molten stone as tectonic plates moved against one another. On close examination, each rock had millions of tiny bubbles that would hold drops of water.  Lightening would be drawn to strike fire and cook the minerals smelling of brimstone. Being a lover of stories, I figured that made it the perfect lair for the devil beneath the hill crowned  by the cross.


There was a time when the traditions of religious processions was ended in Mazatlan. The church bells did not ring. It was forbidden to even use terms like Adios which means Go with God. Worship and prayer was held in secret in what was known as those dark days.But like the lava that boiled up to form the hill, the love and passion of the people seek expression. They want to honor their land and the ways of the heart. So since 2011,  Don Ramn Zamudio,  has worked to bring back the beloved traditions once practiced. He thought even tourists would like to come, see and join in as they do in Europe. And since Mazatlan is the place of parties and fiestas, he reminds everyone that for 200 years people pilgrimaged to the hill, and placed an offering. The religious celebration at the cross ended in a great convivial tamaliza with music, including the blessing of objects held sacred to bring . It is seven years now since Don Ramon began to restore what weather, earthquakes and circumstances have wrought against the white cross. He is a fervent promoter that tradition not be lost.

An Invitation

“Come visit the cross on the hill on May 3rd from the 10:00 hours onwards. Everyone, residents and tourists. Here in Mazatlan where party is king, let us gather together in a procession to honor that spark of divinity that lives in the hearts of all and is symbolized by the shining white cross it is my privilege to tend.

Each time I ascend the Cero de la Cruz and stand looking down at my beloved city, I am filled with love and joy. There is peace here. Shelter from  storms. I feel grateful and more alive than I can tell. I feel one with everything.”

Don Ramn invites you!
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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 Art-walk in Mazatlan. Come to the Quilt show at El Cid.  Click here to read reviews.

Until then, going fast. Call 981-8072.

Other books by S.K.Carnes

ISBN:978-0692-84685-8 Description
Purchase here


Available in paperback, as an audiobook and e-book  Silver Medal from Readers Favorite
Purchase here


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











Early Tourism in Mazatlan: Part 2

This is part 2 of Early Tourism in Mazatlan: A distillation of Henry Edwards remarks about the visit he and his wife made in 1872. Â The English born actor, traveler, entomologist, writer, and founder of the Bohemian Club of San Francisco told his experience in English which was translated to Spanish, which I translated  back to English. I hope non of his rye wit was lost in translation! The pictures are just to jog the imagination. Even in those days there was a variety of bands.

The First Night in Mazatlan

The National Hotel is a large adobe building, with about twenty rooms, built in the shape of a square at the center of which is an entirely open space with curious trees and bushes. In this open square surrounded by lattice is our place to dine along with the mules, and also their owners. The bedrooms in this establishment are about sixteen to eighteen square feet and almost the same height; with brick floors and walls grouted, in whose corners large spiders and cockroaches make their home during the day, to go out at night to hunt what they can find. Spiders, despite being so formidable looking, are harmless; and cockroaches, although they fly in swarms, are terrible only to people who have nerves weaker than ours. In fact, I must say that I liked them since I was able to continue my study of entomology without the usual expeditionary walk, and I am happy to announce that I have discovered at least one new species of cockroach in our bedroom.

It was to this room that we retired to rest after our first long walk through the city (did I say rest?) Oh, how little that word applies. To the lover of a comfortable bed in which the softness surrounds him, that numbs him to the world,  and that the next morning, compels him to doze a little more, emphatically, I would say “Do not go to Mazatlan”. There are no beds, the so called things that deceive you are puny iron cots on which a piece of canvas covered by a simple sheet extends; in that one lies down. Then comes another sheet, a kind of cover that looks more like a curtain than anything else; that rests on one. And that’s it: there is no mattress, no feathers or blankets. The pillows are round and hard as if they had been made from wood, and even for the hardest, most impenetrable head, an impression is impossible to be made.

Then, in addition to this solemn mockery of a bed a resting place for which every tired mortal cries and enjoy son each cot thousands of fleas make their residence, and they sting and bite with fury all night long totally evading vigilance and laughing at your attempts to catch them. These are not like civilized, fat, welcoming, healthy-looking  fleas that grab you honestly and give you a chance to catch them. These are small, vicious and so active that they give you an ostentatious bite and then jump a mighty jump to bite into another part of your body. It is said that an ordinary flea is able to jump two hundred times its own height, but I am sure that these proportions have to be much higher in the case of Mazatlan fleas, since they are smaller and jump much farther than any flea I have seen (speaking as an entomologist and as an adventurer of places unknown).

During the intervals in which these tormentors rested, swarms of mosquitoes gave variety to our entertainment and diverted our attention. These mosquitoes attack without the slightest noise, they land on your face as lightly as a snowflake and suddenly when the beak enters your flesh, then your hand strikes a terrible blow, only to fail,  and then you  realize that in the future you would prefer the mosquito bite. Despite fleas and mosquitoes fatigue finally overcomes you.  Morning brings with it pain in every limb.

The first night in Mazatlan was without a doubt exceptional.


We were condemned to experience so many things: the crowing of roosters, which started from sunset and continued until well after dawn; the dogs began to bark in chorus and did so at intervals all night; even worse, occasionally a man with a barrel organ was hired by one of the porters, and other noisemakers by the residents of the docks, so that for their own special gratification,  they all came to assail us with their miserable notes and even a whole band arrived to serenade some lady on holiday, and rattled until daybreak. For those occasions, it is normal to invite the musicians to the house and have them cheering inside, but if the celebration has begun in the street, that custom is dispensed with and they proceed to greater libations with trumpets and tamborazos until the brightness of the new day sends them to home. These constant interruptions coupled with hard beds and miserable bugs make Mazatlan an uncomfortable place to sleep and justify the warning, which I have given to anyone who loves his bed, to get away from this city. Even more, when we grumbled about our interrupted rest, they always told us:

A band advertising coming attractions
  • “Oh! They will get used to it. We all sleep like this in Mazatlan; It is too hot to sleep on beds or mattresses and, as for fleas, they are not worse than those of other warm countries; They always give problems to newcomers. ”
    And they gave us other comforts like that.

High Culture in Mazatlan

The people of Mazatlan are not entirely lacking in entertainment. There is a small theater, or rather a room with a stage where occasionally dramas and other plays are presented, which audiences greatly enjoy. The theater of Mazatlan boasts of having excellent local artists; The style of acting in vogue is the modern conversational school. The theater is decorated with excellent portraits of some of the most eminent dramatists in Europe, among whom I noticed Shakespeare, Moliere, Lope de Vega, Cervantes and Byron. There are many customs connected with the drama in Mazatlan which are unpleasant for the foreigner. In the first place, all the men smoke during the entire show, wrapping the place in a cloud of that mist that was so offensive to the nose of his majesty Jaime I, God preserve it. Now, the function, which is announced to begin at eight o’clock, rarely begins before nine o’clock, while the waits between acts are simply intolerable. A work of three acts, which could easily end at ten o’clock, in all cases lasts until eleven thirty, and sometimes much later. But Mexicans are never in a hurry, and “only a little time” and “tomorrow” are the words most frequently used in their vocabulary. I should also mention that, except for particular occasions, function programs are not printed. Advertising is done by a band that parades through the streets during the day.

The ladies go to the theater in modern American suits, discarding their own graces, and turning the overflow into a vile imitation of the worst fashion of their neighbors, spoiling the appearance of their long, undulating hair, by those horrible excrescences called chi±ones; moreover, they destroy their characteristic clear olive complexion with paint plasters and pearl powders. The poorer classes are great lovers of the theater and will live from nothing, they will walk barefoot for weeks, in order to save their treasured two reals that will give them access to their favorite fun. They seem to be happy with every joke of the actors, and applaud every point with an infinite enthusiasm and good humor.

One Man Band

We found the nights in Mazatlan a little lonely, and one time when the theater was closed, we visited a Great Panorama that professed to give us correct representations of the main cities of Europe and the United States. Because of the trumpets that accompanied the announcements, we expected something at least tolerably good, but what we saw was a miserable world, lit by two sizzling oil lamps, and consisting of a series of holes with magnifying glasses, through which we saw the wonderful portraits collected at great cost by its owner. The only accompaniment to this miserable scam was a lousy hand organ that, after scenes, from time to time stopped despite the vigorous manipulation of its owner. And suddenly, just as it had stopped, it started again, but six bars in front of where it had stopped. But the worst of all was the view of San Francisco. Well, I’ve never been to Lisbon or Palermo, and therefore could be deceived by the appearance of these cities, but I do know something about San Francisco and when I saw an impossible city in which a large elephant parades in the suburbs while at his side a giant ostrich stalks him, I began to think that the views of natural history of the owner of the Great Panorama somehow had mixed, and I began to wonder what ideas the new generations of Mexico would form about the natural conditions of the golden state. We left the Great Panorama with haste and did not return on our stay.

Keeping Up Appearances.

The streets of Mazatlan are crooked, narrow and poorly paved, but they are, like the houses, kept scrupulously clean. An ordinance of the city obliges each owner to paint the house once a year or at least to clean it and decorate the exterior, which is usually done at the end of the rainy season. We had the advantage of seeing the city with its new dress, whose decorating process had just ended. It is also mandatory that each owner sweep their sidewalk and half the street every morning; every day carts take away dust and trash. It is forbidden to throw dirty water into the streets, under a fine of five dollars. These rules are strictly enforced on the main streets, but not in the suburbs where these sanitary regulations have no effect and dirt accumulates in large quantities.

Watch for more excerpts from “Three Weeks in Mazatlan” by Henry Edwards to appear in later Blogs that deal with the streets, the buildings and the squares of Mazatlan in the good old days.

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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 Art-walk in Mazatlan. Come to the Quilt show at El Cid.  Click here to read reviews.

Until then, going fast. Call 981-8072.

Other books by S.K.Carnes

ISBN:978-0692-84685-8  Description
Purchase here


Available in paperback, as an audiobook and e-book. Silver Medal from Readers Favorite
Purchase here


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

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What’s In a Name: Part 1. Frozen in Time.

What in a name when it is out of context; when populations and understanding has passed it by and the meaning is frozen in time? Historians differ. How can we be sure? Bette Schwarz is consulting five different books for answers, while Cheryl D Angelo is searching the internet,  and the mystery is only growing! But Your Ghost Bustin’ History Dustin’ Team (that’s us)  well, we are digging into the names given to the burial sites of old Mazatlan, and who was buried there. The streets had different names too. And what miracle has given the old chapel it’s name? Ahh-who will know? Who will remember? The ghosts of old Mazatlan!!!!!!!

Chapel Miraculous sits high up on Calle Marzo 21 above Rosales street looking down on what was once the first organized graveyard in Mazatlan. But today, that is hard to believe. Indeed a resident coming out of his house at the junction of Calles Canizalez and Carvahal  shakes his head when we ask if the 4 block quadrant where he lives was once called the Barrio de las Calaveras Who told you that This place could never have been a graveyard, says he, and he walks away shaking his head in disapproval, grumbling about foolish Gringos.  Cheryl and I climb the steep hill up to the church, wondering if we have come to investigate a baseless rumor.  But a man sweeping out front has a different reaction. He smiles knowingly and volunteers-ahh to us Mexicans, the shadows have eyes. He goes on to explain that Mazatlan was called the Islands because of the fingers of water that ran between the hills. They made certain routes a better place to canoe than stroll along. People buried their dead on higher ground with intentions that they would forever enjoy the view. “This is higher ground.  But when the torrential rain water poured off the hills, well.he turns his eyes heavenward.

Certainly Mexicans loved and honored their ancestors, sometimes burying them under their houses. Stones were often set above the graves-the more rocks, the higher the esteem. There were several native sites where people were buried back before recorded history.  A graveyard often grew over top of another.

First the pirates, then the Spanish, held tight to Mazatlan,  but in 1822 (after Mexico’s Independence) the port welcomed international traffic. Most cities in Mexico formed around the government buildings and the church square, but Mazatlan bowed to the god of material gain and for a full half century of rapid growth, it developed around enterprise and the Port.  The discovery of silver and gold that could be exported through Mazatlans great harbor San Felix,  brought entrepreneurs from every nation and  these new  settlers from Spain, France and Germany brought their religion and customs with them.  By 1842, with  four to five thousand people calling Mazatlan home,  the Church San Jose was completed.  There was still no resident priest for this first church. A priest traveled from Villa Union to tend the flock.  But in these troubled times, many people died and needed burial.   Did the deceased travel all the way to Villa Union?  Were they buried in the first organized graveyard at the Barrio, or in the Protestant Graveyard called  the Plaza of the Burros?

Even the term burros is questionable. The name “Burros” was  used to describe the poor people the indigenous, the Totorames, the slaves who worked the mines. The “Burros” may not have been buried in coffins….Thus the  digging up of the skulls and perhaps other bones. Then the plot thickens, for in 1855 Benito Juarez, an enthusiastic freemason, secularized government at least on paper, in the “Law of Juarez. “The term Protestant loosely meant that a Mexican graveyard, called a Panteon was now under government control.

In the mid 1800s, cemeteries were set outside of town for reasons of public health. Mazatl Protestant cemetery was located on the eastern side of the peninsula with the old town on the western side.The graveyard on the Plaza of the Burros became officially the Municipal Panteon No.1. in 1851 when a cholera epidemic killed 2500 citizens, many of them  foreigners, most of which held various religious affiliation or no faith at all.  What Panteon No 1 lacked in supervision, it made up for in body count as an aging population, constant war, the yellow fever and plague epidemics filled it to bursting.  With the expansion of the city eastwards, a second panteon opened on Avenida Gabrial Leyva in 1890.

The city asked families to claim their buried dead for transfer to the new site with a harbor view, but many did not come forward, and  their  loved ones stayed buriedsort of. The unearthing was described as  whole mountain rising up from the entrails of the earth.Afterwards, people forgot. Soon the abandoned graveyard was a grazing spot for burros. Hence the name? With few gravestones remaining, the Donkey Plaza became a sports field in the early 1900s.  The land was donated in 1921 and authorities decided to open a park on the site (1924) but neglected  to remind the public of coffins and the under-ground remains. Finally a concrete floor was poured to cover everything over. Neat. Impenetrable. A way to finalize the past. But did it work?

Drivers complain that,  the pavement sinks in spots. And if that is not distressing enough, there is this from the neighbors: “souls wander between the walls of houses and along the street.Countless stories are told of suspense and mystery, tales of entities in pain, or angry over being abandoned, disturbed and dishonored.  Grandparents, students and teachers tell of ghostly encounters. Basketball players speak of voices and laments they have heard in the “unquiet night.” The clock in the once cutting edge tower of the school has stopped still frozen in time.

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. Watch for news of a book signing.

Until then, going fast. Call 981-8072.

Other books by S.K.Carnes

Click description 
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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Plum Out of Luck

Write to Catch a Dream in a Bubble That Does Not Break

“If you are dealt a lemon, make lemonade,” they say. Well, Kindle Scout decided not to publish my book, so I decided to can plums. This after the racoons descended on our plum trees. Our poor recently rescued German Shephard is suffering from doggy Post Traumatic Stress after treeing all the coons. The racoon in the picture below got treed in plum tree heaven and munched all night to the dog’s bombastic dismay. Bill, having survived combat in Viet Nam, isn’t big at killing things. You can easily see his confoundment in the picture below, especially since he can’t remember where we hid the key to the gun safe.
coondog and Bill
So, instead of lamenting and beating my chest with disappointment and the despair that is oh too common among those of us #rejected by publishers, I have turned to  every day and needful things. The plums had to be harvested to avoid  tempting all our wildland  varmints who love the sweet and juicy. BiIl and I love sweet and juicy. And isn’t that what writing is all about anyhow? Preserving? Harvesting? Besides, I am working on an audiobook and can’t lose heart.
Hoping to get back to peaceful nights, back to sleep uninterrupted by  barking dogs, back to enjoying a yard uncluttered with fallen fruit,  I have “put by” plums in every fashion and in every glass jar. You know, jams, jellies, conserves, meat sauces, whole in honey. Like writing, it is a sticky and messy business. But when a thought or experience is contained,  writing is like catching a dream in a bubble that will not break! And to take the analogy a step further, in the form of an audiobook, it will be tasty on the tongue!
sideways looksm
While I puzzle over how to publish Epiphany. Starting Over in Oregon, please consider downloading The Way Back from any e-book store, written by S.K. Carnes, me. Soon it will be an audiobook as well as an e-book.
Here is a Review:
“The Way Back: A Soldier’s Journey has something to please any reader – romance, history, adventure, drama, poetry, a quietly epic feel, a magnificently rendered landscape, and eclectic characters unlike any of the ‘ho-hum’ heroes of lesser fiction. Having once entered John Chapman’s world, readers will want to linger, holding close one of the most pure-of-heart and earnestly crafted narratives in recent memory.” —Writers Digest
Order the Historical Novel by S.K. Carnes,  The Way Back, recently released in all e-book stores.


Down The Home Stretch

above image at

The Final Kick

Running long races, there is the need to muster a “last surge”. I well remember the end of Grandma’s Marathon– up that last hill in old Duluth and down, painfully down. The knees are gone and going downhill is dreadful, but there ahead, Lake Superior’s waterfront and the finish line is bordered by fans cheering me to cross it “going away.”
There was that time, that euphoric time, when I could catch everyone I could see. Ironically, it came just before what they call “the wall” through which I struggled with pain and flagging energy. Then as now, the shining Bayfront awaits. The end is near, and it is all downhill.
Life is like a horse race: Around the far turn and down the stretch. And that is where it counts. Just do it. Finish the things you have started, and do it with a flourish. With style. With all you’ve got!
I am currently recording an audiobook.  Both of my novels will be available in all formats. I am doing this myself and editing it myself. It is a steep learning curve for me, but it is fun to learn new things. Soon,  Kindle Scout will tell me if they will publish my book, and I thank all of you who thought it might be a good book—good enough to be published. Well, I promise you this. You will laugh and cry and agree that life is about putting it all together for that grand run down the home stretch!
Only 4 days left to nominate Epiphany: Starting Over in Oregon at

While I wait to see if Kindle Scout will publish Epiphany, please consider downloading The Way Back from any e-book store, written by S.K. Carnes, me. Soon it will be an audiobook as well as an e-book.

Here is a Review:

The Way Back: A Soldier’s Journey has something to please any reader – romance, history, adventure, drama, poetry, a quietly epic feel, a magnificently rendered landscape, and eclectic characters unlike any of the ‘ho-hum’ heroes of lesser fiction. Having once entered John Chapman’s world, readers will want to linger, holding close one of the most pure-of-heart and earnestly crafted narratives in recent memory.” —Writers Digest
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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Writing Epiphany

Image:By You Tube-Synthetic Epiphany Feat. CoMa - Icarus

I guess you could say I “struck it rich when I worked  for a school system in Oregon’s Cascade Mountains, so, I am writing Epiphany to  share the gold I found there. To tell my story, I’ve created Lucky Strike, a mining community seeking a school counselor, and Lori,  who applies for the job and lives out life changing experiences with Oregon’s children. This is what it is like to write about this turbulent time,when I lived my dream. Ha. This is what it is like to write about a break through that could be called an epiphany.

Writing Epiphany

Driven by knowledge road-marked with failures, on and on chasing deaththe radiant koan
Around the impasses, still pressing onward, dropping illusions, feeling alone
Upstream to the well-head, the lake that is hidden, the source, the essence the unsullied truth
To once again feel it, with surety, clarity, the rightness, the virtue, the dream of my youth.
Thoughts passing by on a ticker-tape ribbon, concepts, names, words on parade
I reach out and grab some, as they go by me, quick write them down, lest they vanish or fade.
Some stories linger, calling attention, like The Little Prince traveling on home, to his rose.
And I realize this wisdom, grows deep down inside me, waiting for water, and light I suppose.
So I struggle to tell it, to express what excites me, to spell out my towervision, my opinion, my take
What good would it be to leave unspoken, my part in the play, a crime, a mistake!
I want to contribute the best that’s within me, to write something lasting for someone to grasp
To keep them from falling, to pull themselves up on, to step on, to fly from, to love and hold fast
Like Silverstein did when he wrote of what’s missing, the broken place, that lets in the sun.
Like Kesey did when he wrote of the madness, the “Cuckoo’s Nest,” the lobotomy done.
Crashing and burning, losing and grieving, courting disaster with RWS_Tarot_17_Starnary a clue
That the circle leads inward in the grey of uncertain that listens in stillness, that opens the flue
So the smoke can rise skyward from smoldering mindsets, so fresh air ignites epiphany’s flame.
Inspiration fueled by new understandings, transforms, enlivens, leaves nothing the same.

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The Dark Side

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I have mixed memories from my years as a school counselor in the Oregon Cascades. The characters I am writing into the novel Epiphany are made up from actual people I encountered there in the ’90s. I am introducing them in this blog called Portals, because these characters opened doors to new understandings. Your comments can enrich, inspire and make this—my third book—your book too.
The story goes that Lori, the protagonist in Epiphany (loosely based on myself) is hired by a school system in Oregon’s Cascade Mountains. Many families have moved away to find work, and new people have come to make their homes in the back hollows and haunts of the once thriving gold-mining and logging communities—transients, killers, junkies, pushers, abusers and neglected children among them. Lori uses the full force of her personality, along with games, art, music, drama, stories, movies, and her best counseling skills in her new job. She tries to encourage children to be successful and healthy as they deal with good and bad times. But as she uncovers horrible secrets, she comes face to face with “the dark side” in a life and death challenge beyond any she could have imagined. Here is a poem I wrote about the evil hidden behind the words, “Don’t tell.”


Though tender skin and mind
Is ravaged
Deep down the child is bruised
And savaged
Though towering rage strikesdevil
With violence
And brands with “Guilt”
Expressed in“Silence”

Though dreams burn through and turn
To ash
Still children smile and
Let it pass
They fear the devil, but even more,
Disclosure, shame,
And the open door!

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Cast of Characters for EPIPHANY, my third book

Meet our protagonist, Lori Moyer

Lori’s Poem

I hear the whistle calling thru the fog of fear— calling my name. Casey Jones at the throttle,
The City of New Orleans? The Rock Island Line?
I feel the earth reverberating to the beat—the pulse of freedom.
Like a lady, her fingers entwined in the ruffles of her red skirt, teasing.  Showing just a glimpse of skin, twirling, whirling, spinning out my longing, calling me.

Gathering steam now, all aboard now, breaking out now.

Like the wind billowing out the sail
Like prancing horses, eyes crazy-wild
Like a sizzling spark in shredded paper
Like a skier exploding off a jump
Like a kayak shooting a cataract
Yes, I must seize the moment
Weigh the anchor and cast off the line,
Catch the current,
Ride the wave, the train,
Soar on the wings of my dream
To breach this curtain of illusion
And watch fear dissipate into droplets
That vanish in the sun.

What a fool Lori is! I see her now as the wild card (zero in number) of the Taro deck, the innocent believer stepping boldly off the cliff wearing her golden slippers, jumping head-long into an Oregon odyssey. And my dear reader, please comment should you have plunged forward into the unknown, and done so  with abandon!
Who will she meet to inspire, challenge, love and teach her the lessons she needs to learn in her new western life? Next week, I will introduce you to another character in the book I am writing. His promise to our little heroine would tempt any fool such as Lori. See you next week to meet Mr. Oregon himself.

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recently released in all e-book stores.

cover of The Way Back       
New novel: The Way Back. To find it on Amazon, go to



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It came to me in the middle of the night. I couldn’t sleep, stumbling over virtual roadblocks in my mind as I pondered what my next blog might be, alert for the “just right name” for my next book about Oregon’s children, should such a name (all lit up in neon, shining out of the murk) miraculously appear. I had just blogged about being lost. I had quoted the poet Yusef Komunyakaa writing about this miracle—when all seemed lost:
“I knew life
Began where I stood in the dark,
Looking out into the light.”
I remembered another time when I went seeking an answer. It was twilight in Oregon’s back-country where I had almost lost myself, when up ahead, standing in a shaft of last light, stood a magnificent elk, and his name was —Epiphany!
What a pretty name for my new novel; the very idea of such a portal, such a magic door thrills me! This flash of insight, manifests the theme upon which I will hang my story!
I invite you to join me on this journey, join me as, chapter by chapter, I follow my fairy tale to a dead end; agonize and laugh through my emancipation from a dream turned nightmare. Such is the way of an epiphany—like stages of a rocket, what is useless falls away, and we blast forward into the light…but there is that “in between time” when we all must endure being lost in the darkness of night.
So, let’s begin. I’ll start with a poem I dreamed up just now. Please make up your own verse!
Like a glim in foggy-bottom bogs
Like a light thru crystalline
Like fire sparked by ember logs
Like a vine sprung from a bean
Like poppies cover’n killing fields
Ah sweet epiphany
That darkness, lies, wrong-doing yields
When spirit shines through me
Come spirit shine through me.

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

cover of The Way Back       
New novel: The Way Back. To find it on Amazon, go to