and Later Come Alive in Our Stories
by Jackie King
One of my earliest memories is sitting in a circle with my brother, sister and various neighbor kids as my mother told us stories. Delia Hodges Sprague could spin a yarn about any character or characters we might name. Let’s say that I wanted a story about Cinderella, my sister Joan wanted the heroine to be Wonder Woman and my brother J.D., chose Tarzan of the Apes.
No problem to Mother. She’d create one tale using each of these characters. The story would be exciting and it would make sense. At least to kids.
Delia Hodges Sprague was a storyteller, an actress, a teacher and a sometimes writer. This redheaded dynamo was smart, fun and very temperamental. My childhood was sometimes difficult, sometimes frightening and always challenging. But life was never boring.
Mother taught me to read, and when there was nothing to read, to make up stories inside my head and entertain myself with imaginary friends and foes.
Delia Hodges Sprague is often found in my books. Sometimes she’s in the guise of a father, a mother or a best friend. In my latest mystery, MURDER AT THE EDGE OF NOWHERE set in the land of her childhood, the Oklahoma Panhandle, she’s walks and breathes in the character of Winnie Doolittle.
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Delia faced real danger with lionhearted courage: she rode boxcars from Oklahoma to New York state at the age of 20, challenged rattlesnakes in my grandparents pasture and tarantulas in the outhouse of a country school. But small things shattered her: imagined slights, walking into her bank to ask for a loan or having a conversation with her own father.
When I was a child she often awoke screaming bloody murder from recurrent nightmares; battled depression her entire life and fought breast cancer until her death. She was an extraordinary woman of courage. I loved her with all my heart. But she wasn’t an easy mother to have.
To see the best side of Delia Hodges Sprague, read MURDER AT THE EDGE OF NOWHERE, and observe Winnie Doolittle. To see the more complicated side of my mother, notice Emily Ashcroft.
Most everyone loved my mother—especially me. I hope you’ll enjoy her as Winnie Doolittle in MURDER ON THE EDGE OF NOWHERE
Below is a clipping from the end of chapter two after Liz O’Brien and Winnie Doolittle find cousin Christabel in Liz’s garage:
“Help!” Liz screamed. “Oh, my God. Someone. Anyone. Please help.” They stretched Christabel on the grass.
“Won’t do no good to yell.” Winnie’s voice was cold, toneless. “You know how to do that resuscitation thing?”
Liz forced herself to press her mouth against Christabel’s cold lips. Her gut twisted. Why didn’t someone drive by? She alternated the breathing routine with chest compression for what seemed forever, but she knew it was useless. Christabel was unresponsive. Liz felt for a pulse. Nothing.
“You might as well quit.” Winnie pulled at Liz’s shoulder. “She’s dead. We’ll have to call the police and tell them she killed herself.”
“But that’s crazy. Christabel would never commit suicide. Nothing could make me think that.”
“Oh, hell, Liz. Don’t be stupid. I’m not telling you what to think. I’m telling you what to say.”