Saturday, July 3, 2010

Views From The Homefront

Short blogs from two mystery writers caught my eye this week. Marcia Preston, past president of the Oklahoma Writers Federation, wrote about her son who’s off on his third tour of Afghanistan. Mary O’Gara, current president of Sisters in Crime-Internet Chapter, remembered family members who came home safely from two World Wars, offering a meditation that could easily be used as a cure for writer’s block. Together, these thoughtful blogs seem just right for the Fourth of July observance.


I met Marcia Preston in Fresno, California, where she was on the 2001 faculty of the now-defunct William Saroyan Conference. I still have my cassette tape of her workshop on writing a short story. She laid it out so logically and made it sound so easy that I still think “one of these days” I’m going to write a short story.

At the time Marcia was editor-publisher of ByLine magazine and had just written her first mystery, PERHAPS SHE’LL DIE, which was nominated for the 2002 Mary Higgins Clark Award, and for Macavity and Barry awards in the Best First Mystery division.

She has since sold the magazine and (writing as M.K. Preston) published an Oklahoma mystery series featuring Chantalene Morrell, daughter of a Gypsy mother and a redneck father. SONG OF THE BONES won the 2004 Mary Higgins Clark Award for suspense fiction, and also the 2004 Oklahoma Book Award in fiction.

Her most recent novels are general fiction. The latest is THE WIND COMES SWEEPING, set on a wind farm and cattle ranch in Oklahoma.

Marcia earned degrees from University of Central Oklahoma, taught in public high schools for more than a decade, and worked for a time as PR and publications director for the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. There’s more about her and her books on her web site at

Here’s Marcia’s blog.
THIRD TOUR by Marcia Preston

Do you know how hard it is to watch your child deploy to war in the Mid-East – for the third time in six years?

Some of you do know. Many sons and daughters have served even more tours. By the third deployment, you start to wonder how many times the little buzz-haired boy you raised can walk into harm’s way and return safe and whole. I won’t say unscathed, because nobody returns without cost.

Everyone says it’s much safer in Iraq now, but every day we read of deaths from IEDs and suicide bombings. Our son wears body armor under a standard uniform that’s not cool to start with, in summer temperatures that reach 110 to 120 degrees. And I better not find out he ever goes out without that body armor, even though this is a kid who loved to goose hunt in freezing weather and used to suffer in Oklahoma heat.

I can’t know what it’s really like for our military people, how they face their fears or mark the days missing their families, how they cope. I admire them more than I can speak. But I do know what it’s like for the ones left behind.

Think of the thousands of spouses and children, the mothers and fathers, who deal with this every day. They go about their daily lives doing their best to function normally, but a big chunk of their minds and hearts is overseas, sweating out the days with someone they love more than life itself.
They also serve who only stand and wait.


Albuquerque writer Mary O'Gara is the new president of the Sisters in Crime Internet chapter, an online chapter of Sisters in Crime, the international organization for readers and writers of mysteries and crime fiction. She’s also one of the busiest and most generous people I know.

Mary is a creativity and spiritual life coach with an eclectic approach to coaching. She has a lifelong passionate interest in creativity and especially enjoys coaching writers, artists, small business owners, and women over 50 who are creating new ways of living in the second half of life.

She’s also an internationally known psychic and astrologer who has been a professional astrologer since 1976, and it was an astrologer that I met her in 2003. I had an appointment with Mary while I was in Albuquerque visiting a friend and attending a workshop sponsored by South West Writers.

Mary’s bio is longer than my arm, but briefly:
She’s a journalism graduate from the University of Nebraska with both the Ph.D. and the D.D. from the Academy of Universal Truth, Seattle. She writers the Starfire astrology column for Futures Mysterious Anthology Magazine and the Riding by the Stars column for Motorcycle Rider News. She has been offering online workshops on psychic topics for writers for more than a decade.

Mary is the author of short fiction published in Futures Mysterious Anthology Magazine and in two anthologies, Just in Time from eWings Press and The Trouble with Romance from Trebleheart.

The Trouble with Romance was a New Mexico Book Awards finalist. Read more from Mary at her web site:

Mary’s blog was written for Memorial Day but it’s appropriate for any patriotic holiday, and for any writer’s day.
By Mary O’Gara

Today is a fine day for a writing dialogue with someone you loved–or might have loved if he or she had returned from a war, any war–or perhaps for writing a heartfelt prayer for the ones who did come back.

In Red Oak, Iowa, my home town, they still fly the funeral flags of our hometown veterans on Memorial Day. Among them are two men I loved who came back: My father and my grandmother’s brother, who was my surrogate grandfather: Charles Arthur Reese and Philo Douglas Clark.

The stories they told me as a child were wildly exaggerated and made war sound like a great adventure. Today I might dialogue with Uncle Philo about his real memories of World War One. Dialogues aren’t limited to living people.

You could also dialogue with the condition of living in a world at war, and you might be surprised at what you discover for your own life and your writing.

Or this may be a chance to say good-bye in dialogue–or hello to someone you never got to meet.

Dialoguing is simple: Sit quietly and breathe slowly and deeply. Write a name on the journal page and make a short list of up to a dozen milestones in that person’s life, remembering that you are only one of those milestones. Then close your eyes and imagine that person or something representing the situation in front of you.

Close your eyes.
Write: Hello or some other greeting.
Listen and record what you hear or understand.
Write your next sentence. Continue until the conversation drops.
Ask if there’s anything else.
Sit in silence a little longer, waiting.
And when it’s really done, jot down a summary sentence for yourself or maybe a reminder about what you want to take into the rest of your life from this moment.

1 comment:

Mark W. Danielson said...

Interesting people. Thanks for the post, Pat.