Man, myth, devil, or angel: who or what was Joaquin Murieta?

chelley kitzmillerPetticoats and Pistols is pleased to welcome Chelly Kitzmiller to Wildflower Junction.

Every book begins with an idea-a spark of imagination that excites the writer and makes him or her anxious to pursue the subject, and then to write about it. For me, Finding Joaquin Murieta was the beginning of a life-long romantic adventure. He has taken me on a journey I will never forget and opened door I would have never thought to open.

ChelleyKitzMiller_ElDorado200My new book, El Dorado, was conceived over the kitchen sink. I guess I was day dreaming. I saw alittle Mexican boy in white clothes sitting next to his aged grandfather. There was a small campfire burning brightly and behind them were some hills. Grandfather was telling the boy the story of Joaquin Murieta, California’s Robin Hood Bandit, and at the end of the story, when Grandfather said that Joaquin was no more, a shout was heard from the hills behind them, “I am Joaquin. You will remember my name.” The boy and the grandfather turned and saw a Zorro-like horseman sitting astride a rearing black stallion. Behind them was a full yellow moon.

ZorroNow, it’s only fair to say that I had been planning a driving vacation with my husband and had gotten the Automobile Club book on the Mother Lode, ie. Gold Rush Country. In it is a brief bio of Joaquin Murieta, so I was not unfamiliar with the name. But I was unfamiliar with his deeds.

I couldn’t get the image out of my mind and it eventually became a book, but it’s what happened during the writing of the book that has changed my mind about the paranormal.

I didn’t recognize it first. I didn’t put two and two together until it practically hit me in the face. There were incidents, which at first I wrote off as coincidences. Only now, after much reflection, do I see them differently.

JoaquinThe very first book that I wrote and never completed, took place in 1870 Arizona, around Tucson. I did a ton of research on Apaches and such. Some of that research involved General Stoneman in San Francisco. Once I had the over-the-sink vision, I became obsessed with writing El Dorado instead of the one I was working on. But I really didn’t want to do a whole bunch of new research. I decided to try to use my vision with some of the research I’d already done. Joaquin is a character that you can pretty much do anything with since there isn’t any proof of his birth or death.

According to the Joaquin legends, he was only 18 years old when he died in 1853, not old enough to be a hero in a romance novel. So, I tacked a few years onto his age, which brought the date up to 1870, the year I’d researched for the Arizona novel. There is speculation that Joaquin didn’t die at the massacre on the Cantua (a spot in the road off California’s I-5 freeway) as reported by Captain Harry Love’s California Rangers, but retreated to Mexico and recuperated from wounds there. Picking up on that idea, that Joaquin didn’t die, but did indeed survive, I brought him to the San Francisco I had researched in 1870 and had him looking to get revenge on the men who killed his wife back in 1852 or 1853. And so the book began.

Only after I was half way through the book did I pick up some new research material that casino online speculated that Joaquin eluded the California Rangers, returned to Mexico and found his way to San Francisco in 1870. I was more than a little surprised by this information.

We were living in Placentia, CA when the book was conceived. My hubby was transferred to KernThelateJackPalanceandhishorseFiesta County, CA. Soon after we made the move, I discovered that Joaquin was said to have come through the town of Tehachapi, near Bakersfield. I also found out that Academy Award winning actor, Jack Palance, was convinced that Joaquin had buried gold on his Stallion Springs property. In fact, he hired someone to hunt for it.

A woman who knew me through someone else called me because she was thinking of moving to Tehachapi and wanted to look at property. She asked me to drive her around. She was semi familiar with Tehachapi’s history and had been to Tehachapi a long time ago. I drove her to the end of Stallion Springs and she told me that somewhere in the vicinity there was a tunnel through which Joaquin Murieta and his horse gang used to escape. When she told me this, she had no idea that I was writing about Joaquin.

Joaquin gallopingAfter finishing the book, my agent sent it out to publishers. I got a rejection that clearly stated that Mexican heroes were not saleable. I was shocked. After I recovered, I rewrote Joaquin to be half Mexican and half white. Then more new research material came my way and the author claimed that Joaquin’s mother was a Mexican maiden and his father a Yankee engineer who came to Mexico, fell in love with a young Mexican girl and produced Joaquin.

After a number of such incidents, I planned a publicity trip for a writer friend through the gold rush country and picked up research material along the way. During the trip we stayed the night at a B & B. A guest informed us that the owner read palms and handwriting. We immediately scheduled sessions and during my session she told me that Joaquin had a large ego and that he was sitting on my shoulder helping me. When I finished the book he must have jumped off my shoulder and run away because I never had another incident until…recently, while writing about another real life character, Cochise! Stay tuned.

HappyTo all you pet lovers—My organization, Have a Heart Humane Society, is going to be holding a fundraising auction with Ebay Giving Works Oct. 22, 2014. Our goal is to raise $10,000 for spay and neuter. Please check out our Facebook page and Pinterest to see some of the items up for bid. Here are a couple of examples: a one night stay continental breakfast at the stars’ hotel, Sunset Towers in Hollywood ($500 value), a Prada dress, a Juicy Couture satchel, a Bulova diamond watch, a critique of your first three chapters by Christian Writer Lauraine Snelling and so much more. Please like our Facebook page:

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20 thoughts on “Man, myth, devil, or angel: who or what was Joaquin Murieta?”

  1. Hi Chelley, welcome back to the junction! You were apparently meant to write Joaquin’s story and it’s a great book. I’ve had some strange things happen when working on a story. I don’t talk about it much for fear people will think I’m weird,losing my mind or both!

  2. Hi Chelley! Welcome back. We love when you visit. Congratulations on the new book! I loved hearing how the book came about. It’s always interesting to see a writer’s process. You’re right in that every book starts with a spark of an idea or possibility. I love when one hits me from the blue and burrows into my brain like a determined wild animal. Those sparks sure take us on amazing adventures.

    El Dorado sounds like a must-read. I’ll look for it and also the Cochise book that you’re writing. Long live these bigger than life characters!

    Wishing you much success.

  3. Congradulations on your new book. I am sure it will be a winner. Your post like most of the posts on Pistols and Petticoats was very interesting. PS – I love the cover of your book.

  4. Thanks for sharing with us today Chelly! Congrats on your new release! Hoping your charity does well with your auction!

  5. Jannie,glad you enjoyed the post. I got a late start this morning–too many dogs! Of all the characters I’ve written about, Joaquin was THE special one. I hope to write about him again one day.

  6. Enjoyed reading your post about Murietta…I will for sure read this one. Not too far away from where I live is a small town named after him…Murietta, CA. His legend is well known here..I’m anxious to see what you found about him from your research.

    • Hi Jackie, Many years ago when Murietta was a small town, the Inquirer newspaper came out with a front page picture of the head of Joaquin Murietta pickled in a jar.

      I have that old rag somewhere in my Joaquin collection but haven’t looked at it in years. Kinda disgusting. And really not to be believed, because if he was beheaded, which is the truth according the legend, his head was put in a saddlebag in 110 degree heat and taken from the Cantua to Mariposa. That’s a long horseback ride and a darn hot one.
      I don’t think there would be much left to recognize.

  7. Your story is fascinating. I no longer believe a lot of what I was taught in history class and am so grateful for authors that do research. I’ve always enjoyed stories that have some basis in truth. Congrats on your new book!

    • Hey Catslady, sounds like we have cats in common. There was a lot of conflicting research on Joaquin. So, to this day no one say for sure if he was a myth or a real man. That makes for interesting storytelling. There was also an old old old movie made about Joaquin, which I have in my library and there was a short-lived TV series. I guess a whole lot of folk thought he would be a great character to work with. Viva Joaquin!

  8. Congrats on your book. It sounds really interesting.
    When I was in college, I worked in San Joaquin, CA in the summers sorting melons. Now it is done mechanically. That whole valley produces a great portion of the nation’s foodstuffs. Well, it did before that darn little fish took over! So sad to see the area “dust-bowl like”

  9. I love reading about research an author does for writing a book. It often sends me to more research, but it always sends me to read the book. I can hardly wait!!

  10. Hello Chelley. Very, very interesting. What a story. And I hope to be able to read it at some time. ^here have been some very handsome Mexican men. I wouldn’t choose not to re4ad a book because the hero was Mexican. And, I love all of the stories and movies about Cochise. I also had a horse that I chose that name for. I would be very happy to win this Anthology. And, Joye I agree about the little fish. It is a very foolish thing that they did when they caused all of those farmers to have to quit their farms and all of the produce gone because of that fish. Some people have very poor judgements. That sort of thing has happened way too many times. I’m hoping to be your winner Chelley. Maxie
    > mac262(at)me(dot)com <

  11. Connie, Melanie and Maxie, thank you for joining in. Indeed, it was quite a shock to hear that there was prejudice in romance novels, but alas, there was. Hopefully just that one editor who has since moved on. For me, half the fun of writing is the research. I get so carried away, perhaps too carried away, but oh well. Have a lovely evening. I’ve got to get back to the dogs and cats!

  12. Thank you for an interesting post. Legends make for good stories, but trying to get the truth behind the legend seems a bit tricky. It seems he really wanted his story told and decided you were the one to tell it. I am interested in finding out what Cochise has to tell you. I do believe the essence of those who came before stays with us. When the want to, they allow special people can tape into it. It will be interesting to see who “contacts” you after you finish with Cochise.

    Your Spay and Neuter project is a worthy one. For some, it is a case of affordability, but so many people don’t or won’t make the effort. I hope the auction is a big success.

  13. Hi Chelley! Congrats on ur book. I met u about 20 years ago when u had just finished writing ur first book on Murrieta. Still have it along with close to 50 other books on the subject. I recall that Mona Latta, daughter of historian Frank Latta, who wrote Joaquin Murrieta And His Horse Gangs, considered by many people as the definitive book on Murrieta based on his extensive research, was at the Joaquin Murrieta Horse Ride that year at a Cantua Creek. If u can recall, our group was trying to raise money to do a movie on Murrieta. We did considerable research; even went to Mexico in search of the truth on his story. Later, we were offered $250,000 for our script by a studio in Hollywood that was involved in the production of Arnold’s first Terminator movies. Being idealistic, we feared they would alter our script to fit a different perspective on the subject. So, we turned them down. We also had dreams of producing the movie ourselves. Unfortunately, though we got letters of interest from an A list director, technicians and a popular lead, we were never able to raise the needed funding. Oh well! It is interesting to note that ur editor didn’t want to publish a book based on a Mexican. Things really haven’t change much, have they? Congratulations on ur book! Look forward to reading it sometime!

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