This page is for other writers out there that are setting their stories in New Mexico. It’s often been said that you should write what you know and maybe you want to write a story in New Mexico, but you have no desire (or opportunity) to come here, and quite often only someone that’s lived here for a while can know the atmosphere to the point that, when they might write about it, they can really sound like they know it.
This is my contribution of my knowledge of New Mexico that will hopefully help you make your stories sound believable. (especially if you set them in the Albuquerque area) If you have any questions, just leave a comment on this page and I will hopefully be able to answer them.
I would like to talk about really random things, the tiny details that make a story sound like the writer is setting their story somewhere real. However, I don’t always know what those details are, but I will do my best. I was going to go into the weather- sense that often seems to be a big part of any place- but you can probably find that out from any guidebook, so I will try to go into the details of weather, as a start.
Leaves. I can talk about that. My Grandmother recently mentioned the phenomena of molding leaves- she lived in upstate New York. Apparently it usually rains enough so that the fallen leaves eventually mold. This doesn’t happen in New Mexico- except, of course, if there are leaves in some place that’s often wet. The leaves just dry up and get crunchy- which is very fun, but the idea of leaves being wet enough to mold was a little surprising, though obviously not unexpected. The leaves just dry up and, due to a slow cooling process in the Autumn, they go on rattling down the street well into December- in fact, possibly even into January.
New Mexico can easily get strong winds and, for some reason Cottonwood Trees, which are hardy, nice trees, lose limbs pretty easily. There are usually only small branches breaking off, but there can sometimes be long branches- thankfully not big branches.
Goat-head weeds- or just stickers- are a pretty bad problem at the moment, especially in Arroyos (we rarely call them ditches). They’re groundcover plants with pretty little yellow flowers. When you get stickers in your shoes, you walk along the pavement with an irritating “crunch-crunch-crunch” that sounds very dry and spiky. When you get them in your foot- well, it basically feels life a needle only bigger, which I actually prefer but it can still be surprisingly painful.
When there is a fire nearby there is quite an unpleasant smell in the air, basically all day, if it’s really bad. You’ve probably smelt a fire before of some kind, but it usually smells drier and more natural. It’s extremely unpleasant- in the same way mildew smells bad, except it’s dry. If you’re out for a long time it gets hard to breathe and your throat is dry and I’ve occasionally had headaches. If there’s a really bad fire, the sunset is more orange than usual, practically unnoticeable, or, if it’s really, really bad then it’s closer to red and you can look directly at the sun.
Going in the opposite direction, rain can be exciting. We can get sudden bursts of rainfall that last 30 minutes or so, along with lightning and thunder. The rain pours down till we have a stream on our street and pools in our backyard. Then the weather can change its mind and stop raining. Recently we’ve been having gentler and longer rainfalls, still with the same results in the street and backyard. At nighttime, it seems that when it looks like it’s going to rain, it clears up and then, after everyone is asleep- or very late at night- it comes back and rains really hard.
We seem to get Robins in the spring, but it’s quite likely we’ll see them in late winter as well as all at once in early autumn. There are a batch of smaller birds, gray-blue sparrow birds, only a little bigger than humming birds, that don’t seem to have any particular season. They often fly in flocks, twittering in tiny voices. We have Canadian Geese in autumn to winter. There are some fascinating swallows that go flying around madly and beautifully just about all summer. Blue jays seem to appear in late Summer/early Autumn, make a few appearances and then go away again. Road Runners especially seem to come out in later Summer. We also have Dark Eyed Junco’s in autumn to spring, they are a regular for Winter enjoyment. I have seen Chickadees in winter, but it’s really unlikely. Woodpeckers make an appearance from time to time. (yes, birds are another hobby)
We have the usual rodents. We also have skunks and raccoons, but I don’t see them often at all. Coyotes are more common. And I have actually seen porcupine, who like to eat tumbleweed.
So I hope this is helpful. like I said, I will be happy to help and I am sure I will add to this page.