To Emilia:  I will be in Tucson for the Book Fair, signing on March 15 and being on two panels March 16.  I don’t have any plans to go to Phoenix.  These days I tend to hide out in Portal (also known as the Bubble by residents) where it’s still 1951.  To Maddie:  Thank you for responding to my note on the dire situation in Mexico.  There are many charities out there, but I don’t know them well enough to recommend one.  What the Mexicans need is a stable government that protects its own citizens and only they can achieve it.  There was a big shoot-out in Agua Prieta a few days ago.  That is on the Arizona/Mexico border just south of Douglas, and about sixty miles south of us.  We think it was a battle for control of the plaza between the Sinaloa and possibly the Zeta cartels.  This is bad news because our part of the border was quiet so long as the Sinaloas ran the show.  “Control of a plaza” means control of a town.  If the residents resist the cartels have been known to literally destroy a town to put fear into everyone else.

On to my main topic, GRAVEYARD.  I am writing a new book for ages 9 to 12+ called Fifteen Miles to Snockum Town.  The title is based on a game my brother used to play when we were young and stuck on a long car trip.  All cars then were black and had no air conditioning.  In the Arizona sun they heated up like ovens.  Our car had a top speed of 50 mph, but usually went 30.  The water in the radiator used to boil every few miles, slowing us down even further.

We kids would go nuts after the first few hours.  My brother and sister were a lot older than I was, so the game involved them.  Lee invented a place called Snockum Town.  It had ice cream and cold drinks.  It had a swimming pool with a waterfall you could sit under, and so forth.  He built up this place until my sister was almost rabid with the desire to get there, but unfortunately Snockum Town was always fifteen miles away.  No matter how fast you travelled, you never got there.

My book is placed in a valley between the Peloncillo and Chiricahua Mountains.  Harold and I went out to explore the Peloncillos to describe them, but unfortunately there are almost no roads there.  The roads that do exist are somewhat dangerous.  We went through a small cemetery to get close and were stopped cold by a grave site.  It was for a baby girl called Angelica Gomez who only lived for eleven days seventeen years ago.  Most parents grieve for a while when this happens and go on with life, but not these parents.  The grave had a stone angel, flowers, a bookcase full of toys, a tricycle, a wheelbarrow and a wagon for the child to play with.  There was a tiny Christmas tree and a cell phone to call home because this angel is now seventeen years old and would want a cell phone.  The photos were taken last year by a friend of mine, Alice Newton.  This year statues of three children reading a book have been added to provide, I would guess, playmates.  Someone visits this grave regularly.

When we saw it, all thoughts of exploring the Peloncillos went out of our heads.  The grave is now included in the new book.

This is an answer for Lalin.  Mexico is indeed dangerous and that’s why people leave.  Please read  The country has been carved up by drug cartels and the government is no longer capable of protecting its own citizens.  This has lead Mexican citizens to form vigilante armies, and who can blame them?  The cartels demand bribes from school teachers, from nurses and doctors, from ordinary workers.  They have destroyed entire towns.  Thousands of people have “disappeared” (i.e. been murdered) and the police don’t ask questions.  The families are too frightened to even identify the unclaimed dead.  You are lucky to live in safe, sleepy Phoenix.  Harassment?  I used to live in a country where you got five years in prison for making a joke about the president and where the secret police showed up at midnight to beat up political enemies.  Harassment is nothing.  Many who cross the U.S. border are not poor people trying to feed their families back home.  They are drug mules and armed halcones.  They are members of the Zetas or the MS-13.  Groups of them prey on coyotes and their groups.  They rob and kill the very people you are sorry for.  They rape the women and hang the women’s clothes on “rape trees” to brag about what they have done.  I have seen these trees.  Your anger should be directed at them.