INTERVIEW WITH NATALIE WALTERS
How does your book relate to your spirituality or life path?
One of the themes in Fatal Code deals with shouldering guilt and responsibility for things that were never ours to carry in the first place. Personally, this is something I have struggle within my own life, and I didn’t intentionally start with this theme when I began writing but as I started to see what was holding my character back it became clear and I loved being able to remind myself of the freedom that can come when we hand back to God what was always His.
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
Intially, it was discovering what my bubbly, fun-loving, Hawaiian hero was hiding. His personality didn’t give anything away and I really had to dig to find out what his backstory was. The next hardest part of this story and the thing that gave me nightmares was understanding the science behind pseudocodes, algorithms, cryptology. *shudders* still have nightmares about that.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
I loved being able to share more of Kekoa’s heritage. My husband is Hawaiian, so it was really fun to include some of my favorite characteristics into the story. I also really enjoyed working with my brother and his love of comic books to come up with a top-secret weapon.
In researching this book, did you learn any unexpected, unusual, or fascinating information?
Yes! As I was researching the roles of my Los Alamos Five, I was really excited to learn about the African American contribution to the continued development of nuclear projects for our country. I also discovered that there was a top-secret design plan stolen from the Los Alamos National Laboratory…eerily similar.
Which character from your book(s) is most or least like you?
I’m the least like Elinor. Science was my worst subject in school so I really had to lean into my experts to help me make sure I had all of that correct for the story.
What is something you want to accomplish before you die?
I would love to see the Northern Lights and visit Ireland.
What do you want your tombstone to say?
“Her legacy was that she loved Jesus, her husband, and children more than anything.”
EXCERPT FROM OUTLAW WEST OF THE PECOS
BY PRESTON LEWIS
“We the jury find the defendant guilty as charged.”
“This is the greatest legal wrong in the history of the State of Texas,” I cried.
“Another outburst and I’ll add a second contempt charge to your list of crimes. You best keep quiet for your own good.”
I sat there fuming, but silent.
“Okay, for carrying a concealed weapon, I’m fining you fifty dollars. There’s a seventy-five-dollar fine for contempt of court. I’m tacking on the five-dollar inquest fee I would have received from the county had you fallen from the high bridge.”
“I’ve got the money, so I’ll pay the fine and leave on the next train,” I offered.
“No, sir, I’m also incarcerating you for the next ten days to teach you respect for the laws of this great state. That’ll be another ten dollars a day for a jail boarding fee.”
“What?” I sputtered. “Before I leave here, you’ll have all my money?”
Bean grinned at me. “That’s a good thought, Lomax. Now I want you to strip naked.”
I was as bewildered as a rat at a cat convention. This magistrate struck me as a lunatic, but I jumped down from the keg and unbuttoned my long johns.
The judge slammed his gavel against the bar top. “Not in here, not in front of Miss Langtry,” he shouted. “She’s a lady. Go out in the hall and throw your union suit and socks back in here.”
“Move or I’ll tack another contempt charge onto your bill.”
Bolting out of the room, I did as ordered, standing in the hallway making sure that Lilly’s lifeless portrait eyes didn’t see my nakedness. Now I hoped not only that justice but also Langtry was blind as I questioned my future in Texas. I stood there maybe ten minutes before I heard Bean call me from the front porch. Slipping just my head outside the doorway, I saw him sitting on a burro with a double-barreled shotgun pointed my way.
“Come on out, Lomax. Let’s go for a walk.”
“Where?” I wanted to know.
“To the river to bathe.”
“I need my clothes,” I pleaded.
“I don’t have any shackles,” Bean answered.
“What’s that got to do with my clothes?”
“I’ve found I don’t need shackles for naked men. Now come on out or I’m fining you another hundred dollars.”
Damn if Bean wasn’t right. As soon as I stepped outside, my hands dropped to my groin and stayed there all the way to the Rio Grande. We walked past the tracks and beyond the more numerous buildings on the railroad’s south side, where folks had built their homes and stores to put some distance between them and the law west of the Pecos. As I ambled through town with the double-barreled shotgun pointed at my back, some men and women giggled, but most made the sign of the cross over their breast. “El camino de la muerte,” cried one woman.
Bean translated for me, “The walk of death.”
I suppose it was a half mile or less from his courtroom to the ledge overlooking the Rio Grande River, but it seemed like forever, me being naked and barefoot and trying to miss the cactus and thorns that littered the trail. At the canyon’s edge, Bean pointed me down a path that led a hundred and fifty feet to the water’s edge below. I followed it and Bean’s instructions to wade out to an island that appeared to be an acre or more in the middle of the river. Bean followed me; the shotgun always pointed at my back.
“This island is neither Texas nor Mexico. Nobody’s certain who has jurisdiction, so if I shoot you, I won’t be prosecuted by me as law west of the Pecos or anyone else. Now if I do shoot you dead, and you float away, make sure you land on the Texas side of the river so I can get my five-dollar fee for handling the inquest.”
I emerged from the water on the island and Bean came close enough that I could’ve grabbed the scattergun’s barrel, but I feared he’d earn five dollars if I did. He reached
in his britches pocket and tossed me a bar of soap.
Catching it, I asked, “What’s this for.”
“It’s soap. Don’t you know how to take a bath?”
“I do, but why do I need one?”
“Every man needs to be clean on his wedding day.”
“You’re getting married when we return.”
Stunned, I looked from him to my naked flesh. At least I was already dressed for my wedding night.
Recipes for foods found in
By Stacy Wilder
Liz’s King Ranch Chicken
1 can cream of mushroom soup 8 oz. (2 cups) cheddar cheese
1 can cream of chicken soup 1 package corn tortillas
1 can Rotel tomatoes 1white onion diced
1 cup chicken stock 1 green bell pepper diced
rotisserie chicken 1 Tsp ancho chili powder
9×12 baking dish ½ tsp garlic salt
Pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Place corn tortillas in a bowl and cover with chicken stock. Soak until soft.
Shred chicken. Fine dice onion and bell pepper. Combine soup and cheese in a separate bowl. Use half of the tortillas to cover the bottom of the baking dish. Layer half of the chicken on top followed by half of the onion and green pepper. Follow with half of the cheese/soup mixture. Season. Repeat. Pour can of Rotel on top.
Bake for thirty minutes.
Liz’s Oops Salad
1 bag of mixed spring greens
I cup of strawberries diced
A few handfuls of blueberries
A few handfuls of raspberries
A few handfuls of blackberries
Wash and dry fresh produce. Toss and serve with your favorite raspberry vinaigrette. Garnish with toasted almonds.
Charleston Conundrum Cookies
This recipe is compliments of Chef Amber Griffin, Vermont. Chef Amber baked these during When Words Count Pitch Week Competition XXI. She is an amazing chef. Thank you Amber for allowing me to share this recipe.
2 sticks butter (softened) 1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup brown sugar 3/4 cup pepita seeds
1 cup white sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt 2 cups flour
2 eggs 1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 bag shredded coconut 1 bag Lays potato chips (crushed)
1/2 bag heath bar bits
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter, sugar, and salt together. Add the eggs. Mix well.
Add coconut, heath bits, chocolate chips, pepita seeds, and vanilla.
Mix and add flour and baking soda. Mix until just combined. Mix in crushed potato chips. Drop on a baking sheet and bake for twelve to fifteen minutes.
Lou’s Favorite Egg Salad
eight hard-boiled eggs
¼ cup mayonnaise
2 Tsp. dijon mustard
4 Tsp. chopped celery
4 Tsp. chopped red onion
2 Tsp. dill
garlic salt to taste
pepper to taste
¼ tsp. smoked paprika
fresh dill as garnish
Finely chop the eggs, celery, and red onion and place them in a bowl. Stir in mayo, mustard, dill, garlic salt pepper, and paprika. Garnish with fresh dill. Serve on your favorite bread. Enjoy!
The Conundrum Cocktail
This recipe is compliments of the team at Hugh O’Connor’s Irish Pub, Houston, TX. Hugh O’Connor’s served the cocktail during the book launch party for Charleston Conundrum. Thank you Hugh O’Connor’s team for creating the cocktail and allowing me to share this recipe.
1 ounce orange vodka
.75 ounces vodka
.75 ounces St. Germaine
.25 ounces Malibu rum
.25 ounces lemon juice
.25 ounces lavender syrup (add more to taste)
Splash of grenadine
Pour ingredients into a martini shaker. Mix, add ice. Shake multiple times. Strain and pour in a martini glass. Garnish with a lemon wedge. Enjoy!
The Charleston Conundrum Playlist
Available on Spotify – Charleston Conundrum Playlist
Fire and Rain, James Taylor
Dancing Queen, ABBA
I Heard It Through the Grapevine, Marvin Gaye
I Second That Emotion, The Miracles
If I Could Turn Back Time, Cher
If I Were a Rich Man, Robert Merrill’s version
Edge of Glory, Lady Gaga
Wanted Dead Or Alive, Bon Jovi
Interview with Dr. Florence Byham Weinberg
Why did you decide to self-publish?
At first, I tried for a major publisher in New York City. My agent worked hard but got refusals mostly on the grounds that my topic was “too local.” That effort lasted over a year. Trying one agent after another, one publisher after another might take many years and still yield nothing. I decided not to wait any longer but to go it alone. Self-publishing has been low in respect and prestige, but I think it is becoming more popular. The public, at least, has realized that the quality of self-published books can be high. It’s entirely up to the author—and the reader’s judgment. There are advantages, too. While the cost of self-publishing is considerable, still it is manageable, and profits from sales are all the author’s, not mostly to the publisher. Whether to publish or reprint is also entirely up to the author. I chose that route and so far, am happy with my decision.
What do you think most characterizes your writing?
I think placing my protagonists in a setting that can be visualized, touched and smelled. My people must move in a “real” world, not in some gray abstraction. Before the Alamo is set in the nineteenth century, when roads were not paved or even graded, where the only floor covering in San Antonio was either brick or tile or none at all, when Main Plaza was a stretch of dust or mud, dotted with piles of manure. Laundry was done by beating clothes against a rock with a stick; soap was homemade, a boiled combo of lard and ashes. The “dryer” consisted of convenient bushes where the clothes were spread to catch the sunlight. Water was carried into the house in buckets. Life was not easy, and my book shows how hard it was. I want the reader to feel those inconveniences as if s/he were there.
How do you decide if your main character(s) will be male or female?
I write from the point of view of either gender. My choice depends on the subject matter. I have written two historical novels about the Franciscans who founded San Antonio by establishing their missions along the San Antonio River, beginning in 1716. Those main characters were, of course, mainly male, although an Apache Woman Warrior plays a major role in Apache Lance, Franciscan Cross. And I wrote four murder mysteries starring a real, historical Jesuit missionary named Ignaz Pfefferkorn, who acts as my detective. I have written three books set in the French Renaissance. I chose to write about Emilia Altamirano in Before the Alamo because I wanted to present a woman’s view of conditions and events in Texas before—and a bit after—1836. Women had to struggle much harder than men to make their mark in the nineteenth century, even into the mid twentieth, when they could exercise the vote. That struggle made writing from Emilia’s point of view much more interesting.
In researching this book, did you learn any unexpected, unusual, or fascinating information?
Yes, two things: María’s story, which is factual, and the Battle of the Medina River in 1813.
The historical María was bought by a Béxar de San Antonio native on the slave market of a border town, perhaps Rio Grande, which no longer exists. She’d been taken from her tribe (perhaps the Otomí) as a baby and raised by a Spaniard as his daughter. She learned to read, write. And learned all the graces of a Spanish lady. When she reached puberty, he could not resist her charms and he assaulted her. He blamed her for seducing him and sold her on the slave market. That is when the scion of a San Antonio pioneer family bought her. She became a slave in his household.
A librarian in the Alamo Library handed me the statement about María, made by a descendant of that family. I at once recognized its importance. María, one of the protagonists in my story, is, of course, Emilia’s mother.
The Battle of the Medina River (or Battle of Medina) took place in 1813. Texas was a late entry in the fight to liberate Mexico from Spanish rule. Texas mustered an army of 1,800 men to fight the Royalist Mexican Army under the command of General Joaquín de Arredondo. They met at the Medina River. The Texas recruits were probably good sharpshooters and hunters, but they had little military training. Arredondo was a brilliant, though ruthless, military tactician. He sent an advance contingent to engage the Texan army. The Texans overwhelmed the Royalists, who fled. They followed in hot pursuit. Meanwhile, Arredondo had arranged the bulk of his 2,000+-man army in a horseshoe formation. When the Texans arrived within the arms of the horseshoe, all hell broke loose. They were mowed down, slaughtered to the last man. The few who escaped were pursued and killed. Arredondo moved on into San Antonio, leaving the corpses unburied. In San Antonio, he executed anyone suspected of independence sympathies. Many families had fled to New Orleans, but those who remained suffered many losses. Arredondo acted as governor of Texas for a while, continuing to kill independence sympathizers throughout Texas. He greatly reduced the male population, which guaranteed that the population in general could not bounce back. This is the main reason why Texas was considered too sparsely populated to stand as its own state when México created the united states of Mexico—it was merged with the state of Coahuila—Coahuila y Tejas. Texas was also open to Anglo immigration, Stephen Austin being the first to move in with 350 families. The Anglo influx became a flood, taking over property belonging to Spanish-speaking citizens, sometimes by force. Thus, Texas became an Anglo-dominated Republic of Texas (1837-1845) then joined the United States of America on December 29, 1845. In Before the Alamo, I maintain that Texas’s history from 1813 on was determined by the disastrous Battle of the Medina River.