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Albuquerque, a City Defined by Geography, Cultures, and History

After moving to the high desert city of Albuquerque, I learned that writers who live here tend to set their novels here. It's easy to see why. It's a beautiful area with an interesting blend of people and cultures, and the environment and residents and history all work together to make Albuquerque unique and wonderful.

hiking in the Sandia MountainsAlbuquerque's dominant geographical feature is the Sandia Mountains to the east of the city. Sandia is Spanish for watermelon, and when the mountains catch the last angling rays from a setting sun, they do indeed reflect the colors of a watermelon. The sky is another dominant feature. The sun shines something like 310 days a year, and the sky seems to be a deeper blue than any other place I've lived, perhaps because Albuquerque has one of the highest elevations of any major city in the United States, higher than the mile high city of Denver. Or maybe it just looks bluer in contrast to the sandstone buttes and mountains. The air is dry and often scented by sage and piñon, the land rugged and varied, a high desert city divided by the Rio Grande River. 

The population is split roughly in thirds: Native American, Hispanic, and Anglo. Surrounding pueblos hold tight to their traditions and history, and they influence about every aspect of life in Albuquerque, from cuisine to the pace of life andStruck cover appreciation of our natural beauty. 

I'd lived here about a year when I started a new novel, Struck, and I already knew it would be set in and around Albuquerque. I just didn't know exactly which part. The city is so diverse. Then I went hiking on the western edge of the city near the Albuquerque Volcanoes, along a volcanic escarpment where hundreds of petroglyphs had been pecked into the lava rocks by the ancestors of today's Pueblo Indians. I decided that was where my novel would open, and then I let the novel lead me to nearby pueblos and to the Anasazi ruins in Chaco Canyon, near the Four Corners area. 

After writing one novel set locally, a novel that required me to research the area and its history more than I have for any other novel, I love Albuquerque even more. Now Struck is published, and I'm working on my next paranormal thriller. Guess where it's set.

4 Comment count
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I understand

Hi Keith,

I just spent about four days in Albuquerque last month on a press trip. Wow. What a beautiful and evocative place. Thank for the prosey postcard!

Chris R.

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You bet

"Prosey postcard." Ha. It's a great city to live in. I'm glad you enjoyed the visit too. Seems to inspire writers. We have many per capita. I've been quite active in SouthWest Writers for the last 5 or 6 years, and since my first novel was published in late July, I've spoken to several other local writers' groups. Writers a'plenty here. Another nice quality for a city.


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Petroglyph Hike

Hi, Keith. I'm quite familiar with that petroglyph walk, as I took it myself when I visited in 2006. What a beautiful location, and so interesting. (I also had quite the sunburn -- on the left-hand side, which was in the sun while the right-hand side was in teh shade during my walk.)

Thanks for bringing back a wonderful memory of my trip with your evocative post.

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Thanks, Sharon

I appreciate you commenting. Yes, the sun can be quite intense here. I've had half-burns before, usually from driving though.

I took that walk often. We lived 2 miles or so from it for a couple years, and we always took visitors there. My author's picture on the back of Struck is of me in Rinconada Canyon beside the petroglyph of a warrior that launches the novel in the first scene.

Good memories. And if we're lucky, the memories will fade much more slowly than a sunburn.