Category Archives: story

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

What’s 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 Mazatlan’s 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. Mazatlán’s 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 buried—sort of. The unearthing was described as “a 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

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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 


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

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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.

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

recently released in all e-book stores.

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.

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

recently released in all e-book stores.

The Dark Side

 Images from

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!

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

recently released in all e-book stores.

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.


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



Image modified from

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.


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


Ungrounded: Moving Forward When Nothing Holds


Inspired by the latest ”must read” blog of PJ Reece, I decided to share my reaction to an image of a compelling protagonist in the kind of story we humans are craving. Why? Because we will all—one day—“run out of geography.”
Layered over and under my mind, is an image I once saw.
Years ago in a far off land, I caught my breath and stopped to wonder at a painting. Surely it is a very famous work that I can find again, I thought. Yes, I find the painting over and over, for it is hanging in my mind.  Almost every day it surfaces, wanting to be seen and shared.
Imagine the scene with me.
A sphere fills much of the canvas, darkness all around it—a planet laced about with a trail through forests, over hills, lost in canyons, tracing seas; clearly it shows the way traveled by an old man who has come to world’s edge (oh see, his eyes shine with visions as he looks forward) bent with age and the trials of blazing his path— and he is about to step off the earth. Indeed the ground is falling away under his cane, as he hobbles onward.
I feel I could paint this scene. It is that vivid. The man speaks these words to me:
Another step— I must now take.
Hear the call?
What is solid, is no more,
Crumbling away beneath me.
Feel the rumble of stones rolling whence I came,
Taunting me with echoes of, “Go back.”
Still I go forward through delicious fear
To what I do not know.
Behind me —behold my path
Twisting up mountains, climbed —but never high enough
Plunging down valleys, fertile, scented with life, and tasting of abundance —that never satisfies my hunger
And the rivers, the oceans, with my track running alongside and over, Living waters that break against my still thirsty heart.
My tortured trail marks my legacy, and ends —
With the step—
I must now take.

Have you ever been in this place of needing to go forward, yet not knowing how  to do so in this world—in your world—in what in the world, for nothing holds.   And if so, can you write about it? If you are a writer, does your protagonist come to this place in your story-this place PJ Reece calls—the dark heart of the story? Clearly, it requires stepping through a “magic door.” Please comment.

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


Out of Hand

Center image @

There is allot of common sense that comes from horseback riding: pretty is as pretty does. Be sure you can stop before you start. Remember horses run fastest toward the barn so slow your speed toward home. Know your horse and let him know you. Power without trust can get out of hand!

I asked if I could ride him. He was a striking black gelding with white stockings and big white spots that frosted his sides; his mistress had named him Sheik. She rode him with a light hand, jingling a little chain, and speaking sweet words while he curled his neck and obeyed her every wish. She didn’t say, “Watch out.” Guess she didn’t know Sheik was a one woman horse. She didn’t say, “Hope you live through it,” she said, “Fine.” So, me who had always admired the handsome figure they cut, thought I could just get on and ride pretty. Well-horses are different beings. You don’t master them because you are rough and tough, they accommodate you because they submit to serve and there is love in that. So, when I mounted-up—a stranger and a fool,—so began a ride to remember.

Thinking back on it, images come to mind. Just as I hit the saddle, Shiek snatched the bit and spun. Instantly we were streaking along an iced-over snow-packed road glowing silver(the sun had came out to shine it “slippery”) and a quarter mile ahead, in horror, I saw the long driveway angling away at 90 degrees, ending at the barn. I remember it was fairly cold—maybe plus 15 degrees F.— but I got considerably warmed up ratcheting a rein, trying to pull his nose around, all the tricks I knew to stop Shiek.  Much like the Flying Goddess hood ornament, he charged forward, like he was out to win the derby. We were closing fast on disaster. It would be like expecting a run-away train to make a square corner. There was just no way. I figured to go loop-de-looping into the ditch and be killed. (Was this his special way of getting rid of strangers?) but Sheik didn’t want to end up in the ditch with me, and I wasn’t going without him, so, in spite of gargantuan efforts to buggy rein him right, he executed at top speed, an impossible turn left, and zeroed in on the barn. Thankfully, the door was closed, but next to the barn was an open gate framed with logs calculated to sweep a rider off a horse should one try to go through. Sheik was in full stride (the better to be rid of me he thought) so I flung myself down indian style, flattened against his outstretched neck, prayed to be thin, and then we were plunging in great leaps and bounds into huge drifts of snow so deep, too deep, until finally Sheik stopped just short of the river.
Horse rider fall stopI thanked God for snow as we turned back around. There she was—my girl friend standing in the gate waiting for us to high-step our way  out of the field—and she was smiling. “Can’t get to the river this time of year, too much snow,” she informed me. We didn’t talk about it again.

Order the Historical Novel by S.K. Carnes,  The Way Back, recently
cover of The Way Back
New novel: The Way Back

released in all e-book stores.     To find it on Amazon, go to