That is the view from my house in Albuquerque.
I grew up in a small town in the big, loving heart of Texas. We didn’t lock our doors, went to church on holidays, and knew the mailman and the ice-cream truck driver by name. Mine was a charmed life—one I have come to appreciate more these days, not so much as I grow older—although that’s true—but as I witness a shift in our culture.
My now-adult children spent their earliest years in the same little town. But morals had already begun to shift, even back then. When crime stats increased, we began locking our doors. When sexual assaults and child abductions made the news, we kept our children inside. And when reports of junior high kids experimenting with drugs became common place, we introduced terrifying topics to young, impressionable minds.
Today, I live in the big city of Albuquerque, home to famous New Mexico cuisine and beautiful desert landscapes. I love our arid terrain flanked by alpine mountains. I enjoy the melting pot of cultures here and the unique architectures that are a nod to this state’s rich and diverse history. These are just a few of the good reasons my adopted state is called the Land of Enchantment.
Sadly, New Mexico also leads our nation in per capita heroin-related deaths. Albuquerque is a transshipment point for heroin destined for the Midwest, the Pacific Northwest, and the Southwest. There are gang-infested parts of this town you don’t take your children to.
So when I started writing Calculated Risk, I wanted to spotlight the beauty of Albuquerque, but also the reality of the drug industry here. One of my grown children is a recovering heroin addict. I’ve lived the devastation that greed-hungry cartels have brought to our cites, our towns, our homes. Our family has walked a path I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
But yet, I wanted to write a book of hope, inspiring readers that the battle of good vs evil can be won … will be won because the battle belongs to the Lord.
The main character (Isa Philipps) is a forensic accountant with the Houston Police Department, and she is looking for answers to her husband’s death. He was supposed to be on an undercover narcotics assignment in Houston. But when his body was found in Albuquerque, she quit her desk job and heads to Albuquerque’s seedy drug underworld to find those answers.
During her journey, Christ and all things grace are introduced to Isa through a quirky, Indigenous American named Awena. From the Navajo tribe, Awena’s faith is couched in the culture of her own upbringing on the reservation.
Having served in both long-term and short-term mission projects, I came to understand that Christianity looks different in the backdrop of other lands. Though we serve the same God, believe in the same Christ, and are filled and taught by the same Holy Spirit, faith manifests itself through diverse cultures differently. While living in the Congolese Rain Forest in West Africa were everything about my life was challenged, I learned that much of my faith reflected American culture instead of Christ. And so it is through Awena’s character that I hope to introduce the idea that Christian fellowship doesn’t have to look like it does in the church building down the street. In a round hut in Africa, it looks like two hours of singing and multiple people sharing testimony and teachings. In the laundry mat in the inner city, it looks like unconditional support, even if you show up smelling like alcohol with your clothes soiled.
Because of Isa struggles with distrust from past relationships, I wanted Awena to be someone that challenged Isa’s logical mind but also offered simple, straightforward Christ-like love. I created Awena to be the home space Isa never had.
While I fear the realities of my own life may make you think this book is dark and heavy, it isn’t! There’s humor, knuckle-headed moves on the main characters’ parts, and a happy ending as long as you don’t expect everything to be completely neat and tidy in your endings.
Hey, I tried to keep it real.
And by the way and just because so many people have asked, a forensic accountant is an accountant who finds court-admissible evidence in white-collar financial crimes. Forensic accountants are those folks who love law and order and spreadsheets. They are nerds with guns. I love that.
Make it brave day and this fun story here: