Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Recharging your batteries...

Carola

Every morning I walk along the bike path by the Willamette River with my dog, Trillian, whatever the weather: sun, rain, fog, snow, wind, anything but ice. The fresh air, the sounds of birds, the exercise, all give me energy that takes me through the day. I'm very lucky to have such a beautiful place to walk so close to home.

Here are some recent pics taken along the way.

Willamette River
Camas



Fawn Lily

Grasses--the reason for the sneezin' season
maple

vulture--fuzzy because I'm not a very good photographer






There's the occasional mystery, such as, who built this?

















 And one happy dog:




I get home ready to start the writing day.

How do you recharge your batteries?
 

















Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Tribute to Peggy Moss Fielding-Teacher and Writer

Jackie King and Peggy Fielding

Peggy Moss Fielding has taught a multitude of Oklahoman’s how to put words on paper in order to create articles, short stories, essays, and books. She didn’t stop there, she also taught those of us who were lucky enough to be in her classes, how to sell what we wrote. I was especially blessed to become more than her student. I also became her friend and colleague.
~~~~~
Life as I knew it came to a grinding halt in the late 80’s when I was faced with an unexpected divorce. After taking stock of my circumstances, I decided that what I wanted to be when I grew up was a writer. Our local community college offered writing courses and I noticed that a woman named Peggy Fielding taught most of them. So I enrolled. That day was one of the luckiest days of my life.
 Set in 1889 Oklahoma Territory
Romantic adventure set in 1889 Guthrie

This woman taught me the craft of writing and consequently she changed my life. I will forever be grateful. She was first my teacher, then mentor followed by friend. In 2006 we became colleagues with the publishing of CHIK~LIT FOR FOXY HENS, an anthology of novellas. Both of us told true stories based on our unexpected divorces. (Except for the perfect heroes that we made up to complete the required HEA (Happily Ever After) ending. Most perfect men in our age bracket were already married. When a good man was widowed, I never dared be interested for fear of being killed in the stampede of single women who seemed to appear out of thin air.)
Romantic Adventures for Women of a Certain Age

My tongue-in-cheek novella in this anthology was titled FLIRTING AT FIFTY. Peggy called her story, GIVING UP PANTYHOSE. You can tell by the titles that these were humorous tales. There is nothing quite so healing as laughter.

This is my only published fiction without someone being murdered in the story. Mysteries have always been my favorite read, and that’s what I write.
~~~~~
Peggy Fielding is now in the hospital with heart and other problems. In the past when she was hospitalized, she spent her time handing out bookmarks and flirting with any man who came into her room. The whole staff has always been charmed by her effervescent personality.

This time things are different. She’s annoyed that dying is so hard. “I’d just die, if I knew how,” she told her daughter Suzy.
This is so like Peggy. I’m surprised she didn’t say, “I’m no longer well enough to write or to teach. Not even to read. It’s time to move on and see what’s on the other side.”
~~~~~

The medical team says she will probably go into hospice when she is stable enough to leave the hospital.

I don’t know how many days she has left on this earth, but one thing I do know. During her 86 years on this earth, she taught a huge number of people to write and sell their books.

She will be missed. Most of all by me.
Adventure, Mystery and Romance

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Even crime writers write for children

By Bill Kirton

My attention seems to have shifted onto children’s stories. Maybe it’s because I  had to spend time getting Rory the Dragon and Princess Daisy ready for publication. Whatever the reason, though, my thoughts have gone back to Stanley, my misanthropic fairy, of whom more later, and a short novel I wrote for children many years ago. It’s called The Loch Ewe Mystery and it’s an adventure story. I entered it for the Kelpies Prize, awarded by Floris Books. It didn’t win but the publishers asked if they could keep the MS because it was a possible for their lists. In the end, nothing happened but that told me that it was worth hanging on to it.

It’s for and about kids but some of the events in the story are taken from my own experiences. An editor expressed doubts that anyone would ever build a sailing dinghy in a study. But that’s something I did and the characters here have the same anxieties as they wonder whether the finished article will be too big to get through the door. They also sail on Loch Ewe, which is one of my favourite places on earth. I spent many summers at cadet training camps there teaching sailing. We sailed 27 foot Montague whalers and it’s hard to convey the magic of sailing those lovely old boats surrounded by those wonderful mountains. I sailed through a shoal of mackerel and was caught in a squall like the one that hits them in the book, the only difference being that my dinghy was dismasted while theirs got to the island. That particular trip was the one where the friend who was crewing for me rediscovered religion – if only briefly.

Updating and rewriting it for publication now (on Kindle and in paperback) meant that I had to revise some of what I wrote to match a world in which mobile phones have made it almost impossible to cut people off from help, advice and the rest. At several stages in the adventure, access to a cellphone/mobile would have resolved the difficulties very quickly so, while I acknowledge they exist, I make sure the adventure happens in an area where reception’s terrible. (Sorry if I’m maligning you, Ross-shire. Please forgive the poetic licence.)

As promised, back to Stanley. The interesting thing there (to me anyway) is that my nephew Joe’s ideas of how he’d draw him have made me rethink some aspects of him and invent others. I’ve grown to like the blue, dome-headed version a lot and now Joe’s adding accessories that suggest extra details and idiosyncrasies that need explaining.

For instance, Joe liked the idea of him wearing football boots. That would never have occurred to me but now I face the challenge of finding out why that’s what he has on his feet. I’ve got a sketch of him in a Noel Coward type dressing gown and another where he’s wearing a bright flowery shirt and smoking a cigarette (obviously a no-no because of the cigarette but mainly because he’d NEVER wear a bright shirt, certainly not one with flowers on it).


We haven’t yet decided which publication route to take. I have to investigate whether it’s possible to format text and illustrations in a way that’s compatible with Kindle and other e-readers but, mostly, I want kids to have him in book form. It still seems to me the more natural way for them to enjoy stories. But then, I’m from the pre-computer age.

Monday, April 7, 2014

A Lesson in Humility





By Mark W. Danielson
 
I recently underwent hand surgery to repair a trauma injury.  The surgery went fine, the pain was manageable, but the lessons learned will always stay with me.

Being right-handed, losing use of this hand posed many challenges, and throughout each of them I kept thinking about our wounded warriors.  Of course my situation was temporary, but for them, getting by with missing limbs became their new reality.  Throughout my experience, the simplest tasks such as showering, combing hair, flossing and brushing teeth, buttoning pants and shirts, slipping on coats and shoes were extremely challenging, especially since I had a club hand.  Surprisingly, putting socks on was one of the most frustrating events.  Wearing boots eliminated any troubling shoe laces.

My wife constantly offered her assistance, but each time I thanked her and reminded her that this was a great lesson in humility.  It was important for me to bear with my struggles to get a smidgen of understanding about how difficult it must be for these young kids and their families when they return home mangled from a futile war.  Yes, our wounded warriors are the forgotten ones.  They don’t get counted in death tolls, and wait months or years to get benefits while our government throws money at foreign countries and illegal immigrants.  No doubt some will say these soldiers knew the risks when they signed up.  I say they deserve far more respect and financial aid than we give them.

I have had the privilege to hear some of these wounded warriors speak and am always impressed by their dignity and pride.  They do not whimper publicly or place blame.  Instead, they speak of being lucky to have made it back alive.  Most take accept their condition and take on new challenges.  Some even learn to fly specially modified airplanes to free them from their bonds.  Don’t feel sorry for them.  Embrace them and learn. 

I salute these veterans and wish them my best.  Each and every one of them faces tough battles ahead.  Please remember them, and consider donating to the Wounded Warriors, USO, Homes for Heroes, or other worthy veterans organizations before they are forgotten.


USO:

Homes for Heroes:

Friday, April 4, 2014

Mark W. Danielson's Spectral Gallows



Mark, how did your latest novel come about?


Oddly, this story was never envisioned, but rather came to me in my sleep.  What kept me awake was the paradox of how people accept drunken behavior, but shun the notion that the same mental state exists when you have been denied rest.  Exploring this notion gave birth to a down-and-out Vietnam Vet whose haunted past keeps him from sleeping, and has no credibility because of his drunk-like state.  His inability to persuade a friend that the actor who died in 1970 in the basement of Fort Worth’s Scott Theater was hanged, rather than the suicide the police claimed it to be, infuriates him to no end.

Enter Homicide Detective Maxx Watts and partner Blain Spartan where they are instantly drawn in as the two men argue over murder.  Further eavesdropping compels them to visit the Scott Theater where an unexplained voice whispers murder.  Other oddities convince them they must look into this case and resolve the question of murder once and for all.

Not being a paranormal or Quantum Theory expert, I solicited help from real ones.  Their expertise ensured my story was accurate while playing believers and non-believers against each other.  And rather than give the story away, I’ll leave you with some spectral thoughts.  Although I have never experienced anything paranormal, my wife has.  And by coincidence, I received the following from a dear friend who is also one of the most credible people I know.  Read his words carefully, and then try to sleep without thinking about who might be watching.   

“When the grandkids come over, I get turfed into the guest bedroom. There, I have witnessed three magnificent apparitions walking through the walls, completely benign and, in fact, kindly.  They are of Civil War times.  I think they had a house on this spot where our subdivision house is.  They wander around looking puzzled.  A housemaid with ironed folded linens across her arms (you can smell the warmth), she wears what I'd call a little Dutch linen headcap, kind of like the Amish.  She has a spotless apron and red dress.  She goes into the closet and disappears....  There is a boy about 16 years old, wearing a long leather apron that makes me think of a butcher's apprentice.  The apron is workmanlike, with half inch stitching along its edges, I think its cat gut.  Then there's the guy I want to tell you about.

I was again banished to the guest room when I awoke suddenly, sensing someone was there.  It did not bother me, for it had already happened a few times since we moved in.  I opened my eyes and looked where "something" had made a depression in the bed.  And then there he was, this bald man with a rim of spotless white hair, the loveliest blue eyes one could see anywhere, wearing a three piece suit with a watch fob on his waistcoat, a couple of buttons loose for comfort over his paunch.  He was looking at me, puzzled, like, ‘What are you doing here?’  No malice, just bewilderment.

This time I was prepared.  I closed my eyes, slowly counted to ten, and then opened them again.  This time I was spooked as the old chap was still sitting there looking at me!  After that, he literally dissolved, vanishing from sight.  Neither my wife nor I have seen any of them since.”

The above implies that my wife and friend are better spirit mediums than I, but since I cannot explain how Spectral Gallows came to me, wouldn’t it be ironic if the Scott Theater’s spirit subliminally planted it?  After all, the Scott Theater is only an hour away . . .   
_________

Mark W. Danielson is an international airline pilot and novelist.  Spectral Gallows is his fifth published novel, and second in the Maxx Watts detective series.  I encourage you to visit his web site at MarkWDanielson.com for information on his writings and worldly travels.

You can learn more about Mark Danielson and his books at:


http://markwdanielson.com and
http://murderousmusings.blogspot.com


Excerpted from Mysterious Writers blog.
Submitted by Jean Henry Mead

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Left Coast Crime


by Carola

 I was lucky enough to be on a wonderful panel in Monterey, all of us with names people hesitate to speak aloud...
photo by Robin Templeton
Manors and Manners: GM Malliet (Gin), Me (CAH-rull-ah), Catriona (CatREEna) McPherson, Rhys (REES) Bowen.

It was supposed to be something about Downton Abbey, but as I've never seen the show, Catriona, as moderator, forbade everyone to mention it more than once.

I didn't go to many panels, but I had lunch with my editor, helped man the LCC 2015 booth (It's going to be in Portland next year, quite close to home) and hosted a table at the banquet. And of course I talked to dozens of people I only ever see at conferences or on Facebook.

A friend and I went to the Aquarium to see a fabulous display of jellyfish. She took lots of pics which she'll send me eventually, but these are borrowed from Wikipedia. Both were on show.
Moon jelly & sea nettle
(The Aquarium would be a great place to stage a murder!)


 Even better was a free show put on for us by a wild sea otter. We stood on the end of the pier for ages watching him dive for shellfish, then float on his back bashing them on a stone balanced on his belly until they cracked. A seagull floated in close attendance, waiting for scraps.
Sea-otter-morro-bay 13.jpgThey are adorable!!










Thursday, March 27, 2014

Sharing A VALIANT LEGACY

When I read the following essay, A Valiant Legacy written by Mark Darrah, tears filled my eyes. The theme is so touching that I wanted to share this story with our readers. 

Everyone I know is sad and ashamed of what happened in  1921 on the north side of Tulsa, Oklahoma.  Many of us who are both Christians and patriotic are ashamed of what happened in the 1950's in the name of Christianity and patriotism . There's nothing we can do to change history, but we can learn lessons from past mistakes and try to build a better future for everyone.

A Valiant Legacy will be included in Mark’s next book, A COLLECTION OF COMMON PEOPLE, which will soon be available in print and in e-book form.

Mark Darrah is a mystery writer, essayist, and attorney in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He has published articles, and short stories. His commentaries can be heard from time to time on "Studio Tulsa" at KWGS 89.5 FM.

I’ll let you know when his collection of personal essays, A COLLECTION COMMON PEOPLE is available.

A VALIANT LEGACY
BY MARK DARRAH

The year is 1966.  May.  The place: Taft Junior High School in Oklahoma City.  The seventh grade social studies teacher has spent the first two-thirds of the hour talking about Communists. Then, she says, "And we have Communists right here in Oklahoma City..." And she lambastes as Communists a group of ministers who have signed and presented a petition to the local school board demanding that the U.S. Supreme Court ruling prohibiting children from being forced to say government required prayers in public schools be respected.

The filing of the petition made the headlines of the front page of The Daily Oklahoman. The Court's ruling had already been demonized by its shorthand summarization as "prohibiting prayer in school." In this Cold War time, when billboards read "Impeach Earl Warren," this act of courage by this small group of ministers constituted for many -- the social studies teacher included -- not only apostasy but also treason.

At the end of the hour, a seventh grade boy walked to the front of the room, looked the teacher in the eye, and said, "My father signed that petition and he's not a Communist."  He turned and left.

The boy's father was reprimanded.  He lost his church.  His family was uprooted from their home. This father was by no means a radical. He had voted for Richard Nixon in the 1960 presidential election. He worked hard, paid his bills, tried to be a good citizen. He simply believed that compulsory prayer is no prayer at all, that prayers required by the government profane the sacred.

Later in his new residence as his family mourned the loss of familiar surroundings and friends, that father sat in the dark and wondered whether he had done the right thing.
***
Fast-forward to the present time.

"The building had just been completed the month before," my friend Dean says.  He and I stand on the bottom floor of the Mount Zion Baptist Church in the Greenwood District of Tulsa, Oklahoma. "The church had taken out a loan and then it all went up in flames except this basement.  Let me show you something."
Mt. Zion on fire during 1921 Race Riots

Dean leads me into a recessed area and he points to black scars on cement walls.  "You can still see where the fires burned. The insurances wouldn't pay because they said it was caused by a riot and they didn't have to. The church members met in this basement for years until they were able to pay off the debt and build another building."
The ruins of Mt. Zion Church
Like other public school students of my generation, I had to take Oklahoma history in eighth grade. My textbook had been silent about this. The most devastating racial violence in American history had taken place within walking distance of where my junior high school teacher taught a saccharine version of my state's past.

That official story also left out the chapter on the Ku Klux Klan's domination of my state in the 1920's. During this decade, the KKK was strong not only in South, but also in the Midwest where it had the largest number of members. It was vigorously anti-African American, anti-Catholic, Anti-Semitic, and anti-immigrant.  According to its literature of the day, this secret fraternal order was committed to protecting the "purity of white womanhood" and to organizing "the patriotic sentiment of native-born white, Protestant Americans for the defense of distinctively American institutions."

The Klan recruited heavily from white Protestant churches and civic orders such as the Freemasons and the Knights of Pythias. Over thirty-five thousand people attended a Klan induction in Oklahoma City in 1922. One year in the 1920's, all five of candidates for Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives were members of the KKK. Church ladies formed auxiliaries to support their husband's nocturnal activities and to restore and preserve traditional values and morality.

Klan members, disguised in white robes and hoods as the ghosts of the Confederate dead, abducted and physically punished those whom they believed engaged in public indecency, drug use, immoral behavior, wife beating, bootlegging, and other assorted sins.

In Oklahoma, martial law was declared to stop the Klan's vigilante beatings, whippings, and castrations. In the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921, thirty-five square blocks of the African-American community were destroyed, over 100 people were killed, and an estimated 10,000 were left homeless, the result of white mob violence. The governor who declared martial law was immediately impeached.
***
When I wrote a family history for a college class in the 1970's, I asked my living grandmothers and grandfather this question: What was the most significant event of your lifetime?
Each answered: World War I.

Each thought this war had forever corrupted the morals of the country.

My sister, brother, and I these days go through family heirlooms accumulated by my parents and their parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents, and great-grandparents. Many were Masons and members of Eastern Star. All were devout white Protestant Oklahoma Christians.

I wonder how close I get to touching the robes of the Ku Klux Klan.
***
I remember a discussion I had with my grandfather during the latter years of his life. He had come of age in the 1920's and had political ambitions like his father before him. By the time of our talk, Grandpa had had a stroke. He didn't get animated much anymore, but when I asked him whether he had any dealings with the KKK, he lurched forward and said, "They were all a bunch of cowards. They tried to get me to join. I told them I wouldn't have anything to do with them."
***
The wonderful thing about learning is that you deprive no one else by taking what you learn. The wonderful thing about teaching is that you don't lose what you give away. Teaching is also the only gift you can give that will live on into eternity. Something you teach becomes another's who teaches it to another and to another, and on and on and on.

You see, my grandfather had a son who signed a petition demanding that the Oklahoma City School Board respect the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court prohibiting government-mandated prayer in school. And, that son was a minister, who was reprimanded, who lost his church, whose family was uprooted, who later sat in the dark and wondered whether he had done the right thing.  But let me ask you today, would my brother -- that seventh grade boy who told his teacher that his father was not a Communist -- have had the courage to do so had he not been taught by example?