Then there was a tiger ….
As every author knows, we, who manipulate the keys on the computer are not always in charge of the words that end up on the page.
This AM, while working on my third Mrs. Odboddy adventure…which I must admit is coming along very slowly thanks to the characters dragging their heels with less inspiration than I’m used to getting from my imaginary crew…
In this final sequel, I had every intention to wind up the series, finalize the romances outlined in book one, bring the culprit from book two to justice, and have Agnes unravel another Nazi-conspiracy.
We were at a crucial point in the story where someone has framed my protagonist for burglary, another character was just whacked in the head, and another couldn’t decide which of two men she loved and … And then…there was a tiger. Literally! A living, breathing striped tiger!
Throw out the rule book. Toss away the outline. Forget the red herring that I was just about to add to page 109, because now…there is a tiger.
Not that this is the first time a character has changed the direction of my story, but I have to admit, this is the first time there was a tiger. Now I have to figure out what to do with a tiger, in small town CA, during WWII.
Really? Come on guys!
I’m sure you’ve all experienced this to some degree. How many of you, while writing your Great American Novel, (or facsimile) have had a plan for where a particular scene should go when suddenly…the character takes over and drives the scene in a completely unexplained or impossible direction?
While writing for my humorous mystery novel, Mrs. Odboddy-Hometown Patriot, I located interesting little- known WWII history. Some events were included in my novel and other information was not. Of interest was the Coast Guard Coast Patrol. More information can be found about this subject at http://www.uscg.mil/history/uscghist/Beach_Patrol_Photo_Index.asp
Pearl Harbor: After the attack on Pearl Harbor in December, 1941, the Coast Guard put into action a wartime beach patrol. Two men teams were dispatched to walk the shores along miles of beaches, watching for any suspicious boats or activity, in hopes of stopping an invasion or sabotage.
In June 13, 1942, a German submarine successfully landed four saboteurs on Long Island, discovered by one of the Coast Guard beach patrol. Four boxes of explosives, detonators, and timing devices were discovered buried at the site. The spies were apprehended by the FBI.
Four day later, four more German agents were landed from a U-boat at Ponte Vedra Beach, near Jacksonville, Florida. Again, boxes of bombs and incendiary devices were found on the beach. The men were apprehended by the FBI. A beach patrol was urgently needed.
Adding Horses: Shortly thereafter, the Coast Guard sought men who knew how to ride and handle horses to perform the coast watch.
Applicants ranged from experienced equestrians including polo players, cowboys, jockeys, rodeo riders, stunt men, horse trainers, Army Reserve cavalrymen and more.
By the end of 1942, hundreds of new coastal stations were established and 24,000 men and 3,000 horses were patrolling 3700 miles of beach on both coasts and the Gulf of Mexico.
Riding horseback allowed patrolmen to carry radios, rifles and side-arms. It further provided an advantage in the event a patrol had to run down a suspect or block an escape.
Dogs Join the Team: In August 1942, the Coast Guard also recognized that the use of dogs, with their keen sense of smell and their ability to be trained for guard duty, could help enhance the patrols. Ultimately, some 2000 dogs were added to the equestrian force.
Mounted patrol teams now included at least two riders, often with dogs working alongside the horses. Dogs added to the patrol’s ability to detect persons or situations that might not be observed by the patrolmen. The use of dogs was so successful, that within a year, animals and their handlers were on duty all along the coastline.
In some areas, canvas boots were designed to protect the Coast Guard dogs from sustaining cut feet from the oyster shells during the long treks along the nation's beaches while on anti-saboteur beach patrol.
California: Mounted horse patrols were instituted in California up and down the coast. Dogs were also used in California, but were not as successful as in other areas because there were so many people on the beaches that the dogs soon became accustomed to people and ceased paying attention to strangers.
More little know WWII events are included in my novel, Mrs. Odboddy-Hometown Patriot. Agnes Odboddy gets involved with stolen Hawaiian money, a black market ration books and a Japanese air balloon attack. Available at Amazon in e-book and print.
Posted on January 29, 2016
JAMES CALLEN WEBSITE POST
Today’s guest is Elaine Faber, the California writer who generally has a Faber-2scat as the chief sleuth. She departs from that to bring us a story centered around World War II in her latest novel, Mrs. Odboddy – Hometown Patriot. (Of course, there’s a cat in it.) Elaine is a member of Sisters in Crime, Inspire Christian Writers, and Cat Writers Association.
While researching California WWII events, the following events became an integral part of the plotline for Mrs. Odboddy – Hometown Patriot.
The government convinced the Americans public that giving up their precious food, clothing, tires, and other goods was not only necessary to win the war, but was patriotic.
During part of 1942-43, coffee was rationed; one pound every six weeks per adult. This was due to Brazil’s blockade of ships bringing coffee to the United States, as well as the need to send much of the limited supply to the troops.
A citizen could purchase only five tires during the entire war. This sounds like plenty by today’s standards, but neither roads nor tires were as good in 1942 as today. People were strongly encouraged, almost required, to car pool or use bicycles and motorcycles.
Sugar and other food items were extremely expensive and required a ration stamp which limited its purchase. Beef was in short supply and costly, as well as eggs, which induced many a chicken to take up residence in the suburban backyard.
To reduce the reliance on purchasing vegetables and fruit, it was considered patriotic to have your front lawn converted to rows of cabbages, zucchinis, tomatoes and carrots. Even Mrs. Roosevelt planted zucchini in the Rose Garden. Any high producing vegetable in a limited space became the focus of the weekend gardener and the mainstay of many Meatless Meals.
Californians and Oregonians lived in fear of Japanese invasion. Volunteers were stationed in watch towers every several miles up and down the coastline with binoculars pointed skyward.
In Mrs. Odboddy–Hometown Patriot, Agnes experiences rationing, volunteering at the Ration Stamp Office, organizing can and paper drives, tending her Victory Garden and cooking meatless meals, fighting the war from the home front. But this eccentric lady also keeps an eye on her nefarious neighbors, some of whom MUST be Nazi spies. She finds herself knee-deep in what is sure to be a black market ration book scam, but when the watch tower burns down on her coast watch shift, she takes the blame to keep a National Security secret.
Toss in the return of an old lover from WWI who wants to re-ignite their romance, chickens in the bathroom and a search for a million dollars in missing Hawaiian money and you have the crux of the story.
When Mrs. Roosevelt comes to Newbury to attend a funeral, and Agnes’s eccentric notions become reality, she must prove she is, indeed, a warrior on the home front.
On Amazon at: http://tinyurl.com/hdbvzsv
Today we are interviewing, Jackson Jackson, the Elevator Man at the Court House, Mrs. Odboddy’s friend. Tell us how met Agnes Odboddy?
Sure can. I works at the County Court house. Missus Odboddy, she come to the Po-lice station most every week to speak to Chief Waddlemucker. She says ‘howdy’ to me every time. She jes’ about drives Chief Waddlemucker to distraction with all her tales ’bout the Newbury citizens, claiming they is spies and such now that there’s a war on.
Can you elaborate about the kind of tales she tells?
Co-laberatin’ would be gossipin’ and it’s not Christian to gossip. That don’t stop some folks from spreading gossip, ya’ know, but I tries my best to follow the teachings of the Good Book.
I’ll bet operating the elevator at the Court House, that you see all kinds of things.
Yessir. Folks is comin’ in every day for licenses and getting’ married and such. Several months ago, Myrtle Nesbitt opened up a beauty shop; Curls to Dye For… kinda’ cute, huh? She come in for a city business license, but she didn’t have enough money, so’s Chief Waddlemucker, he jes give it to her and say, ‘Make up the difference another time.’.
Katherine, that’s Mrs. Odboddy’s granddaughter, works at the Beauty Parlor. Myrtle bought one of them new-fangled curling machine things with all the wires and gadgets. Imagine, gettin’ your hair all hooked up to that thing? It’s a caution what some ladies does for beauty.
So, what can say about Mrs. Odboddy that you wouldn’t consider gossip?
Well, she helps the war effort, doing all sorts of volunteerin’ around town. Some folks says she’s a little off her nut, but I won’t name names what thinks that, ‘cause that would be gossip. Mrs. Odboddy jes’ sees things different than most folks, kind of suspicious-like.
When my wife took sick and went to the hospital, Missus Odboddy’s society down at The First Church of the Evenin’ Star and Everlastin’ Light where she goes almost regular, they brung us dinner every night for a week. One of the ladies even took my little girl to the picture show so I could visit at the hospital one evening after work.
So how come folks think poorly of Agnes? Do you think they judge her poorly?
Yessir. That’s the God’s truth. Once she was takin’ a bath and saw her neighbor, Milton, in her back yard. Chief Waddlemucker arrested old Milton for bein’ a Peepin’ Tom. Seems it turned out he was in her back yard huntin’ for his cat. Mrs. Odboddy says she jumped to a wrong idear. That’s the kinda’ thing gets her in trouble with folks and they talk bad about her. Oh dear, I wonder if telling’ that story amounts to gossip? It’s not Christian, you know…gossip.
You’re right. That’s all for now, Jackson. Thanks. You’ve helped us understand Agnes. I can’t wait to meet her.
As I child of the 1950’s, at Halloween, my friends and I dressed up as ghosts, hobos, cowboys or Cinderella. Properly attired, we escaped out the door as soon as the sun went down. Invariably these trips were made alone or in groups of two or three, but without chaperones, since our parents stayed home to dole out the goodies to other trick-or-treaters.
I recall how we tromped through the neighborhood, knocking on doors. Our decorated brown paper bags were soon filled with cookies, cupcakes, oranges and often, homemade fudge or even a candy covered apple. It wasn’t unusual to be invited in to show our costumes to elderly family members.
Overhead, at least the way I remember it, the moon was always big and round and yellow with the face of the Man in the Moon watching benevolently as we tromped the streets.
Halloween these days? Kiddies are still at the door, but there is always a parent hovering on the sidewalk to keep predators and kidnappers at bay. Good-hearted grandmas can’t offer cookies, unwrapped candy or cupcake treats because any such treat would be thrown away, suspected of Ricin poison or a razor blade hidden inside. Children wouldn’t dare enter a neighbor’s house to show their costume to an aged parent, lest the risk of a depraved, perverted felon lurking in a dark hallway.
Even the custom of trick or treating has come into displeasure and is often substituted with private school parties, church carnivals with tailgate trick or treating and prizes for all participants.
Now, you might think that this article is about Halloween customs from yesteryear, but my main subject is not the practices of Halloween. It's actually about that pesky full moon I thought I remembered shining down on every Halloween trek through the neighborhood. Apparently, my memory was faulty.
While considering a particular topic this week, I questioned how often we had a completely full moon on Halloween. Imagine my surprise when Google research reported that the moon is actually completely full on October 31st only four or five times EACH CENTURY! Whoa! Who knew?
The last time we had such a Halloween moon was October 31, 2001, barely six weeks after the attack on the World Trade Center. The next scheduled Halloween FULL moon will occur on October 31, 2020. What an interesting, probably little known fact and a subject that screamed to be shared on Mind Candy Mysteries blog.
Now, if I knew a whit about the sun, moon and stars, rotation of the earth, planets or the galaxy, I could probably give you a reasonable explanation for such a rare occurrence, but since I don’t, you’ll have to do your own Google research to understand the why of it.
Suffice it to say that the occurrence of the first full moon since 1974, directly following the dreadful 911 World Trade Center disaster gave me just the mystery topic I needed for a blog post and a short story, soon to be posted at Kings' River Life online magazine.
Children will celebrate Halloween this year differently than the Halloweens I remember. as one more childhood memory bites the dust. One more pleasure that our grandkids will never experience, like riding my bike alone to the park, playing outside all day and not coming home until dark, or selling lemonade on the corner. These days, parents would be arrested for child endangerment for the former and a City Seller’s Permit is required for the lemonade stand.
But, there will be another full moon on Halloween in just five more years. That’s something to look forward to. October 31, 2020. How shall we celebrate?
In Black Cat’s Legacy, generations of my ancestors waited for someone to return to the lodge to solve an unsolved murder. When Kimberlee returned to Fern Lake, with the aid of my ancestor’s memories, it was my legacy to help her solve her father’s murder. It didn’t hurt that I knew where the bodies were buried, so to speak.
In the sequel, Black Cat and the Lethal Lawyer So, Kimberlee took me with the family to her grandmother’s Texas horse ranch. That’s where I met my soulmate with eyes the color of mustard and stripes the color of marigolds. It was love at first bite…er…sight!
Kimberlee caught on pretty quickly to the lawyer embezzling Grandma’s money through a fake children’s charity. Could a murder plot be far behind when Grandma announced a plan to disinherit the charity and leave her money to her granddaughter? I, Thumper, being the black cat of the title, had to face a killer to prevent him from murdering her sorry…self.
Which brings us to Black Cat and the Accidental Angel. When I awoke in a busted cat carrier and realized I’d been left behind following an MVA, I had a conk on my noggin and no memory of my former life. The golden striped feline beside me said, “Call me Angel. I’m here to take care of you.” Why did she claim to be my bride? She seemed pretty sure of herself…and she was as cute as a catnip mouse.
Our journey to find home brought us to John’s Emu ranch and vineyard where he and his daughter, Cindy, took us in. John was about one giant hairball from foreclosure and homelessness. As his troubles increased, so did the dangerous pranks endangering Cindy’s safety.
I wanted to head for home, but Angel put her paw down. She insisted divine destiny had brought us to the ranch to help John and Cindy. When she risked everything to save Cindy, I learned the most important lesson ever. If you lose your dearest soul mate, nothing much else matters, not even going home or knowing your own name….
About the title, Black Cat and the Accidental Angel? Well, Angel has a tale of her own to tell. You won’t want to miss our story of thrills and chills, faith, prayer, and love as we tell our truths a different way than you’ve ever heard before…through the eyes of a cat.
All three Black Cat Mysteries are available at Amazon (e-book) for just $3.99. If you have friends who love cats, this would be a nice surprise gift. Contact me directly for an autographed copy for $13.00 (free shipping within USA).
Today, we are talking with Mildred Haggenbottom. As Agnes’s best friend, she’s likely to have a bit of dirt…rather, some information to add to our character analysis of Agnes Odboddy, the protagonist of the upcoming novel, Mrs. Odboddy – Home Town Patriot. Here’s Mildred now. Thanks for your time, Mildred.
“Won’t you sit down? The kettle’s on and I just pulled a fresh batch of cookies from the oven. I saved my last sugar ration coupon, just for such an auspicious occasion as this. Agnes and I are old buddies. What do you want to know about her?”
On a scale of one to ten, how would Agnes rate as a friend?
“Oh, I think she’d be at least an 11. We’ve been friends for over twenty-five years. She’s the cat’s meow…as the young people say. Oops! There’s the kettle now. Do you take milk or lemon in your tea?”
Sugar, please. How did you and Agnes become such good friends?
“In 1919, it was WWI you know, Agnes and I were assigned to a top secret operation in Berlin. A brave local woman working in a German government office secretly photographed documents and then passed the film to us in a hollowed out book. Sure enough, they caught her, and made her talk. Agnes and I ran for our lives. Wouldn’t you know, that night, the Allies bombed Berlin. We spent three days trapped in a bombed-out building with our handler, Godfrey. After our rescue, due to the chaos in the city, we made our escape. Believe me, after being trapped together for 72 hours in a life or death situation, you come out either hating someone’s guts or friends for life. Godfrey and Agnes…well, that’s another story…”
It sounds very exciting. Can you tell us about Agnes’s peculiarities?
“Indeed, after the Berlin episode, Agnes changed. She became a bit paranoid, fanatically patriotic and determined to root out injustice, regardless of the consequences. Thing is, Agnes has an over-stimulated imagination regarding patriotic issues, particularly during a time of war. More lately, her determination to right wrongs has become…I hate to say it…, well-intentioned, but sometimes misguided.”
How exactly do you mean…misguided?
“Let’s just say, Agnes tends to see conspiracies where there aren’t any. She believes Nazi spies have infiltrated Newbury, and she acts out on such notions in peculiar ways. She’s usually wrong, but her heart is in the right place. People have come to believe she’s a bit tetched’ in the head, if you know what I mean.
Does Agnes have a family?
She was married during WWI. She lost both her husband and her son not long after our Berlin adventure. There was a granddaughter, thankfully. Katherine lives with Agnes now. Most of the time, she keeps Agnes on an even keel…. And, they have a very loving relationship. They’re the best of friends, despite the difference in age. Agnes is a wonderful woman despite her peculiarities. She’s a true home town patriot if there ever was one.”
Thanks, Mildred. Any final words?
Just this... Fair warning to the Nazi spies out there. If you really are skulking around Newbury and you’re reading this, I suggest you peddle your papers somewhere else, because if Agnes stumbles onto you, between her and Chief Waddlemucker, your name is toast!
We’re here today, interviewing Chief Waddlemucker of the Newbury Police Department, seeking information about Mrs. Odboddy. Tell me, Chief, what can you tell us about Agnes Odboddy?
Mrs. Odboddy? She’s a kook, but she’s the salt of the earth; volunteers all over town, knitting socks, winding bandages, collecting papers and cans. She even takes a shift out at the ocean, doing coast watch, but, if you ask me, she is a bit of a queer duck. Everyone knows she’s a bit off her nut, quite eccentric and outspoken. Doesn’t give a hoot about what she says or who she offends. Don’t misunderstand me, she’s my dearest friend and I have great respect for the woman. She does a lot for the war effort, but she does test my patience at times. God bless her.
How is that? She tests your patience in an official capacity or personally?
I’m not one to spread gossip, but I swear, Agnes is in my office every week, either accusing someone of being a Nazi spy or talking about the Black Market or some such nonsense. I see her walking through the door and my head starts to ache. Sometimes I even think my ulcer is directly attributable to that woman.
How long have you known Mrs. Odboddy?
Oh, we’ve been friends for years. She moved to Newbury in 1928. Came directly from Los Angeles where she says she worked with Walk Disney at the Disney Studios when he created the cartoon character, Steamboat Willy. Apparently Walt fired her for some reason I haven’t been able to weasel out of her. Now, tell me, can you believe that story? They show that cartoon at the movies every month. But, she tells all sorts of stories, and with Agnes, you can never determine fact from fabrication.
What other kind of stories have you heard? Care to share?
I never repeat gossip, but she claims to have worked for the government during WWI as an undercover agent. Claims she was in Berlin on some sort of secret mission involving German high government officials in 1919. She brags about this all the time, but I don’t believe a word or it.
Sounds like Agnes is quite a character. Does she have any family?
She lives with her granddaughter, Katherine, a lovely girl. Works at the Curls to Dye For Beauty Salon, but I hear she’s going to start moonlighting down at Whistlemeyer’s mortuary, doing hair and make-up on the dearly departed. That should be interesting.
Thank you, Chief Waddlemucker, for talking with me. You’ve given me some great insight into the real Mrs. Odboddy.
Ahem… Well, everyone knows I have a reputation for being the soul of discretion. I would never consider spreading gossip about the private lives of Newbury citizens.
By the way, if you print one word of what was said here today, I’ll disavow it and toss you in the clink for slander and jaywalking. There’s the door. Give Mrs. Odboddy my best regards, won’t you? I’ve always been quite fond of the woman.
Can you tell us a little about yourself, Mrs. Odboddy?
"Mrs. Odboddy sounds so old. I’m only 70. My friends call me Agnes. I live with my Siamese cat, Ling-Ling, and my granddaughter, Katherine. She lost her fiancé on the Arizona, at Pearl Harbor last year and she’s still a little bit lost. She works in a Beauty Salon here in Newbury. My volunteer work keeps me busy, and, as I’m sure you’re aware, every citizen must to be a home front warrior. There are Nazi spies and conspiracies everywhere."
Besides looking for Nazi spies, what kind of volunteer work do you do??
"I volunteer at the Boyles Springs Military Base USO several times a month, just up the Northern California coast. I also roll bandages at the hospital and work on the paper drive. Our ladies’ group at the church knits socks for the military. Probably my most enjoyable service to the war effort is on the coast watch every other Wednesday. As for Nazi spies, I’m sure that Sofia Rashmuller, the new gal in our knitting circle at the First Church of the Evening Star and Everlasting Light is a Nazi spy. Her dyed red hair is a dead giveaway."
But, Agnes…Your hair is dyed red.
"I beg your pardon! I do NOT dye my hair. I may freshen it from time to time with a henna rinse but I would never dye my hair. Fast women and European spies do that. I should know. I saw enough of them during WWI when I worked as an undercover agent for the USA. Of course, I was much younger then, but we saw some action, and I lived to tell about it."
Can you tell us about your WWI adventures?
"Of course not. If I told you the details, I’d have to kill you."
Did you ever kill anyway?
"Don’t be ridiculous… Well, there was that one time… Never mind. Next question?"
Okay. I can see that’s a sensitive subject. Let’s talk about these conspiracies you mentioned. What kind of conspiracies?
"Did I mention that I also volunteer at the Ration Book Center, addressing and sending out the ration coupon books to the neighborhood? Rationing is really terrible. Imagine. Only one pound of coffee per adult every six weeks! And the price of eggs! Actually, I’ve solved that problem."
Agnes? You were telling us about conspiracies?
"Oh, yes. This week, while addressing ration books, I came across a Black Market conspiracy. Someone is stealing ration books from the mailboxes at empty houses. I’ve convinced my friend, Jackson Jackson, to drive my Model A and I’ll bring my Brownie camera. We’ll catch the thief in the act."
I can see how that might go wrong. Are you sure….
"Really, young man! Where is your adventurous spirit? Where were we? Oh yes. Chickens. I’m getting six free chickens this afternoon. I’m not quite sure what we’ll do with them until Saturday, when Jackson is building us a coop. Guess we’ll just have to stick them in the bathroom."
In the bathroom? Really, Agnes. Are you sure that’s such a good idea?
"Why not? I’ll call them Mrs. Whistlemeyer, Sophia, Mildred, Clara, Abigail, and Myrtle, after my friends and associates. They’re just chickens, after all. What could possibly go wrong?"
What, indeed? Thanks, Agnes. We’ll continue this conversation another day.
"Delighted. Would you care for some tea? We’re completely out of coffee until next week."