Former LLHS teacher writes fantasy book about former home

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Mixing traditional and contemporary fantasy, former Valencia County educator R.J. Mirabal has released his first novel, “The Tower of Il Serrohe.”

Born in Peralta and a Los Lunas High School graduate, Mirabal also mixes the familiarity of the Central Rio Grande Valley with an imagined place that is very much like, yet a great deal unlike, his former home.

Submitted photo: R.J. Mirabal, author of ‘The Tower of Il Serrohe,’ will hold a book signing on Saturday, Nov. 10, at Hastings in Los Lunas.

A former English teacher at LLHS and now living in Albuquerque, Mirabal says he has always had a love of reading.

“Ever since I was a kid, I’ve liked stories, loved to read — sci-fi, fantasy, thrillers,” Mirabal said.

He tried his hand at writing in the early 1970s, but didn’t have much success.

Several years ago, the idea for the novel came to him, but he found as a full-time teacher, he simply didn’t have time to write.

When he retired in 2008, he began writing.

“I decided to make it a fantasy because you have all the freedom in the world,” he said. “With sci-fi, you have to be careful of the science. In fantasy, you make your own world and own rules.”

Mirabal’s novel tells the story of Don Vargas, an alcoholic antihero, who has been tossed out of his own house by his philandering wife and is living in a dilapidated casita.

The little tumbled-down house turns out to be a portal to another world, the Valle Abajo. Filled with widely divergent races and cultures, the people of the valley have a common enemy, the Soreyes.

The central conflict in the novel comes into play when the people tell Vargas he’s the guy who has to save them. Will he become the hero or fall further into his bottle?

Using the familiar setting of the valley he grew up in, Mirabal combines traditional “sword and sorcery” fantasy with a modern New Mexico setting.

When he began writing, Mirabal says it was “purely for fun,” but as the story progressed, other things started “creeping in. Like the relationship between people and the environment, and relationships among people.

“People tend to put themselves in little groups and the groups come into conflict with each other,” he said.

“I think people from different cultures are a bit suspicions of each other. The clans in the book have some elements of New Mexico, but they are also universal; they could be from any part of world.”

Mirabal began submitting his book for possible publication to independent publishing companies about a year ago, he said, and Texas-based Black Rose Writing decided to publish him.

One important lesson Mirabal learned during the process of becoming a published author was the importance of finding a good editor for his manuscript.

“When you have a story, once you’ve developed it into a manuscript, get an editor,” he said. “No matter how good you think you are, you’re not. Somebody else should look at it who knows what they are doing. You need to have people read what you’ve written, especially people who will be honest.”

Mirabal would like to see local bookstores carry hard copies of his novel, so he encourages readers to request it as a special order.

The book is also available electronically from www.amazon.com, www.barnesandnoble.com and www.smashwords.com.

The author also has his own website, www.rjmirabal.blog.com, and can be found on Facebook.

Mirabal will be signing copies of “The Tower of Il Serrohe” from 3 to 6 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 10, at Hastings Entertainment, 2341 N. Main St., Los Lunas.


-- Email the author at jdendinger@news-bulletin.com.