21
Sep

Guest Post - Vidya Shergil - A Day at the Beach

A Day at the Beach -                Vidya Shergil

My friend, Vidya, grew up on the island of Fiji in the 1950’s. She attended a private girl’s high school. She is working on an autobiography. This is one of her memories and an essay she wrote about her experience.

 

For our annual hostel picnic, Miss Hodge, and the team, took us, by the bus loads, to Saweni Beach. Nothing like a day on the beach with 50 or so girls. We had only a few hours, but we made the most of it. Any amount of time by the ocean is a treat. The simple peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a banana, and water on the beach seemed like a gourmet feast.

Another time, they rented a flat-bottomed freight boat called a barge to ferry us across the shallow waters to a nearby island. Our music teacher played the tapes of ‘The Viennese Waltz’ for us. ‘The Blue Danube,’ which is the English title of a waltz by the Austrian Composer Johann Strauss, takes me to that trip every time I hear it.

Just imagine listening to those beautiful waltzes while gently gliding through calm and serene waters. Heavenly!

That island, like many others, is small, low lying park-like and generally not habitable because there is no fresh water source. If you try to drill a well you simply get salty sea water. But these islands are great for a day’s outing.

Again, we asked for and got the peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a banana and plenty of water. The sandwiches were made from thick slices of crusty, sourdough Fiji-bread.

In the few hours there, we were able to walk around, barefoot on the sandy island many times. It was practically all beach, but ringed by many coconut palm trees. After lunch, a bunch of us lay around under a cluster of these trees and snoozed away.

In one of my college English classes, we were asked to close our eyes, to visualize a special day from our childhood, and write about it in a timed assignment. I recalled those two high school picnic days on the island and here’s what I wrote:

 

SEA OF LIFE

When life’s hurried pace gets you off track and you feel caught up in a whirlwind of strife, what could be better than a leisurely stroll on a wide expanse of a sandy beach? Better still would be lying on that beach napping lazily as the sunbeams melt your cares away.

You slide into a delightfully hypnotic state, listening to the endless breaking of the waves on the shore, centered and completely at ease. It’s time to relish the fact that solitude is not synonymous with loneliness.

Intermittent sprays of briny mist coupled with sea-kissed breezes cool and soothe both mind and body as you watch the delicate swoops and dives of the seagulls, the living kites, playing out an improvised ballet on the coast below.

You sit up for a moment to gaze at the ocean, an implacable azure entity, heaving and recoiling tumultuously as if to flex its impressive muscles in arrogance. Surely, a subtle reminder from the mighty Neptune of our place in the hierarchy of things.

A day at the beach is all one needs for a renewed zest for life. The seemingly endless ocean could well be a testament to man’s mortality. A feeling that life needn’t be simply about existing, but rather about filling one’s sails with enough passion to successfully navigate the ups and downs of life’s temperamental seas.

 

 

Isn’t it fun to look back on the thoughts of a teenager raised in a different culture than our own? Perhaps I’ll publish some of her other experiences as a teenager in Fiji during the 1950s. (Elaine)

 

30
Jul

The Restoration Project

My husband, Leland, likes to tell one of his favorite adventures as a boy scout. In 1953, Leland was about eleven years old and lived in Satsop, Washington, with his uncle, Frank, the Scoutmaster for the local Boy Scout troop, That summer, the eleven Boy Scouts made a two-day trip into a nearby region to reforest a field with tree seedlings given to them by a local Forestry Agency.

The boys rode to the planting site in the back of the assistant Scout leader’s truck along with their camping gear and 3-4 flats of pine seedlings in little cups. They set up camp near a river and prepared for the project at hand.

First the restoration site had to be cleared of natural brush or branches, which was gathered and stacked on the far side of the planting site. Leland also remembers picking up litter, bottles, and refuse left by previous campers.

The Forestry Agency provided the scoutmaster written directions of exactly how the tree planting process should take place. The scoutmaster used pre-measured strings to measure approximately 15-20 feet and drove a stake into the ground to indicate where each seedling should be planted.

The scouts followed behind across the grassy field. Natural grass and weeds was cleared about 15” around each stake. This allowed the sunshine to warm the seedling and prevented weeds from encroaching.  The scouts dug a hole with a hand spade and tapped in the seedling, then progressed to the next stake. Over the next  two days, the scouts planted several hundred trees.

Prior to the trip, Leland’s Aunt Emma had made a batch of homemade root beer for the scouts’ camping trip. Not having enough coke bottles to bottle the root beer, Leland and his cousins approached a local tavern owner, who loaned them a case of brown stubby beer bottles, requesting the return of the bottles after the camping trip.

During the bright summer evening following a hard day of planting trees, the boys sat on the side of the hill above the road, laughing and joking and drinking Aunt Emma’s root beer bottled in the brown stubby beer bottles.

Drivers on the road below saw the Boy Scouts, still in their uniforms, laughing and rolling around on the hill, apparently drinking beer. One driver called the local authorities when she got home, scandalized that the local Boy Scout troop should behave in such an unseemly manner.

As the case of root beer dwindled and the boy’s behavior became more rowdy, the sheriff drove up, responding to the call of drunk and disorderly Boy Scouts drinking beer up on the hill.

The scoutmaster explained that the root beer was bottled in borrowed stubby brown beer bottles. The explanation was sufficient to send the sheriff on his way. However, it is unlikely that the jubilation that followed was the satisfaction of the scouts' hard work planting trees, or their amusement at the sheriff thinking there was real beer in the brown bottles. More likely, their hilarity was the result of Leland’s cousin adding raisins to Aunt Emma’s crock of homemade root beer, making it a light alcoholic drink. The following year, only soda bottles were used and Aunt Emma kept a closer eye on her crock of root beer.

The story of the tree planting and the homemade root beer was a closely guarded secret, told only around subsequent campfires where bottles of store bought root beer was the only type of soda allowed.

If you enjoyed this story, please share some of your own childhood memories that resulted in misunderstanding or humorous outcomes.

 

 

24
Jun

The Spirit Woman of Lockleer Mountain - Cht. One

(This is an edited scene from chapter one of Spirit Woman.)

"I’d just stepped away from my rig when I heard a noise behind me.” Lou spread her arms wide as she continued. “Not thirty feet away, a black bear stood on a large boulder. I heard its claws click as it scrabbled across the rock, dropped into the grass on all fours, and lumbered toward me.” She wrinkled her nose. “It was so close, I could smell it. I thought I might be the bear’s main course that night and headlines in tomorrow’s Lockleer Mountain Gazette.” Lou winked at her friend.

“Lulu Jane Shoemaker! Is this a true story, or are you telling tall tales? What happened? Tell me!”

“Obviously the bear didn’t eat me.” Lou folded her arms and leaned back. “It’s true. The bear roared. It gave me the chills. Instead of thinking about how not to be eaten alive, I thought, ‘Think fast or die. Wow! That would look good on a bumper sticker on the back of The Pooper Scooper.’”

“Lou! You’re killing us! Get to the point. What did you do?”

“I slowly stepped back toward my truck. With each step backward, the bear advanced. Me─one step back. Her─one step forward, as if we were playing a game of Bear Eats Camper chess. I pivoted, grabbed the lever on the side of my sewer truck, and flipped the switch. As soon as the pump kicked on, the bear turned and scrambled back into the woods, lickety-split.”

“Lou Shoemaker,” Judy said. “I don’t believe a word of it. I think you made up that whole story to get attention.”

“I did no such thing. It’s the God’s truth, every word.”

“Lou, only you would name your sewer truck business, the Pooper Scooper.” Judy reached across the pub table and patted Lou’s hand. “Honey, why don’t you sell that truck? That’s no business for a beautiful woman like you. It’s too dangerous. That bear could have killed you. How can you pump out septic tanks every day? It’s so nasty.”

Psst. Don’t look now,” Judy jabbed her finger toward the door. “Look who just walked in. Col. Ralph Ramsey. Is that his wife with him? She used to be on the Animal Rescue Committee with me. About three months ago, she said she was too busy to take a litter of puppies found beside the road. You remember when Nate’s twin sister, Suzanna, went missing? Apparently, she spotted a black garbage bag that looked like something was wiggling inside. She found five puppies inside. She called to see if our rescue group would take them. When she didn’t show up and didn’t answer her phone, I called Nate. He drove down the hill and found her car over an embankment and blood on the window. The pups were in the back seat, but Suzanna couldn’t be found. They don’t know if someone picked her up or if she wandered away.”

“The town swarmed with FBI for days. Offering a reward didn’t do any good. I haven’t heard anything about it for weeks.”

Lou stood and walked past Col. and Mrs. Ramsey’s table.

Col. Ramsey nodded as Lou passed. “Evening.” Lou guessed his septic tank needed service again. Perhaps he hoped she would respond favorably should he give the Pooper Scooper another call. She grinned and promised to think about it…not.

 

(You can purchase this book (e-book) at Amazon for $3.99.  hppt://tinyurl.com/y7rp7f3x

Or contact me for an autographed paperback book for $13.00 (free shipping) at Elaine.Faber@mindcandymysteries.com

13
Mar

Mrs. Odboddy and the Famous Picture of Christ

Bernhard Plockhorst (March 2, 1825 – May 18, 1907) was a German painter and graphic artist. In Germany, Plockhorst is mainly known only to experts today, whereas his pictures are still very popular in the United States and reproductions can be found in many American homes and churches.

Bernhard Plockhorst’s painting of The Guardian Angel(1886), showing an angel and two little children close to an abyss, was reproduced as a color lithography in thousands of copies and greatly influenced the later pictures of guardian angels.

"The Good Shepherd" showing Christ caring for his flock, graces the stained glass windows of several U.S. American churches; the First Presbyterian Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma; and in the Zion Lutheran Church, in Baltimore, MD., as well as in thousands of copies in churches and homes. To this day, Plockhorst’s painting of Christ’s face has become the most acceptable version of Christ’s face.

In my next Mrs. Odboddy novel, Mrs. Odboddy and the Devious Doctor, TBP perhaps later this year, Agnes learns that her doctor’s Hippocratic Oath becomes hypocritical when she believes he has stolen an early lithograph of The Good Shepherd from her church. When she tracks the suspected doctor to a mansion in San Francisco, she very nearly loses her life. Mrs. Odboddy and the Devious Doctor is the fourth Mrs. Odboddy adventure.

In the first Mrs. Odboddy WWII adventure, Mrs. Odboddy Hometown Patriot, Agnes attempts to locate thieves stealing ration books from mailboxes in her hometown. As she volunteers to serve the troops, she is determined to expose sleeper Nazi agents she believes invade her small town. When Mrs. Roosevelt comes to town, Agnes is called upon to be a hometown patriot and save her life. http://tinyurl.com/hdbvzsv

Agnes’s second adventure takes place on a train from California to Washington, D.C. as she carries a package to President Roosevelt. In Mrs. Odboddy Undercover Courier, Agnes is sure the package contains secret war documents, and is just as sure that Nazi spies will attempt to steal the package along the way. The characters she meets on the train are diverse and intriguing. A WWII wounded veteran helps her in her journey as adverse events almost derail her along the way. http://tinyurl/com/jn5bzwb

Mrs. Odboddy and Then There was a Tiger has Agnes back at home, falsely accused as a burglar and a thief. Her hysterical antics as she attempts to clear her name will keep you in stitches. And, yes, when she becomes involved with a county fair performing tiger, she learns more than she bargained for about tigers as she attempts to save his striped hide and bring miscreants to justice. https://tinyurl.com/yx72fcpx

 

29
Jan

Review of The Spirit Woman of Lockleer Mountain

The Spirit Woman of Lockleer Mountain - My latest mystery novel.

I started out thinking this would be a humorous cozy, but the characters are much more serious in their attempts to resolve conflict. Nate is quite distraught, believing the woman in the woods with the mountain lion is his sister, Suzanna, who mysteriously disappeared following an MVA 3 months prior. The Native Americans believe the legendary Spirit Woman ‘protects the community.’ When Govt. demands create social unrest in a small mountain town, and drugs threaten the lives of their youth, the Spirit Woman and her mountain lion companion come to their aid. So, is the woman in the woods Suzanna, or the Spirit Woman?

THE SPIRIT WOMAN OF LOCKLEER MOUNTAIN brings a Native American legend to your mystery.  Though there is a Native American reservation near the setting of my story, I made no attempt to make this an accurate depiction of a specific tribe or legendary figure. Native American culture includes spiritual beings felt to aid in daily life. These are sometimes represented by Kachina dolls given to children. However, my legendary Spirit Woman is completely fictional.

Was there a specific inspiration for this story?  I intended to create a humorous cozy mystery regarding Lou’s sewer truck, The Pooper Scooper. Eventually her septic tank service would lead to the discovery of some crime when she pumped out a septic tank. I also planned a mysterious government facility nearby. Beyond that, I just started to write and before long, an owl crashed into Lou’s kitchen window and the legendary Spirit Woman came to play when she wonders if the Spirit Woman sent the owl. Nate explains that ‘seeing an owl during the day means someone is going to die.’

Authors are required to do a lot of their own marketing, especially for a new release.  Under normal circumstances, my favorite way to market is to be out and about selling my books directly to the public at craft fairs and Writer events. That hasn’t been possible this year which saddens me. I love to talk to customers about my books and see repeat customers who are anxious to read the next book.  

What comes next with the Spirit Woman? I’m currently working on the sequel. Though the Spirit Woman brings about some resolutions to the problems in the current story, of course, things change and new issues arise. In the sequel, the winner of a million dollar lottery ticket brings challenges and murder to Lockleer Mountain. The Spirit Woman and her mountain lion will return to assist in the new problems facing Lou and her friends. Look for this novel in 2022.

All my books are available at Amazon for just $3.99 in e-book.

My other Mystery Series'

Black Cat Mysteries: With the aid of his ancestors’ memories, Black Cat helps solve mysteries and crimes. Partially narrated by Black Cat. Who knew that a cat could bring such insight into a novel, from a cat’s often humorous and poignant point of view.

Mrs. Odboddy Mystery/Adventures: Elderly, eccentric Mrs. Odboddy fights WWII from the home front. She believes war-time conspiracies and spies abound in her home town. Follow her antics in these hysterical, historical novels as a self-appointed hometown warrior exposes malcontents, dissidents and Nazi spies…even when she’s wrong. Watch for the fourth Mrs. Odboddy adventure novel later this year.

 

Black Cat’s Legacy    http://tinyurl.com/lrvevgm

Black Cat and the Lethal Lawyer                   http://tinyurl.com/q3qrgyu

Black Cat and the Accidental Angel http://tinyurl.com/y4eohe5n

Black Cat and the Secret in Dewey’s Diary   NCPA Cover and Interior Design Silver award 2019 http://tinyurl.com/vgyp89s

All Things Cat (anthology of short stories)   http://tinyurl.com/y9p9htak

Mrs. Odboddy-Hometown Patriot     NCPA 1st Fiction 2017   http://tinyurl.com/hdbvzsv

Mrs. Odboddy – Undercover Courier            NCPA 3rd Cover and Design 2018  http://tinyurl/com/jn5bzwb 

The Spirit Woman of Lockleer Mountain   http://tinyurl.com/y82t4xs

 

 

 

14
Jan

Mrs. Odboddy - A Serialized Novel Experience

Like newspapers and magazines of old, I'm going to post weekly installments of my unpublished Mrs. Odboddy book, Mrs. Odboddy and the Devious Doctor. Each week, there will be a brief recap of the story to date.  Let me know what you think of this concept.

To set the scene. Story takes place in 1944 in small CA town.  Elderly Mrs. Odboddy, a former govt. secret agent from WWI, now fights the war from the home front. In her last book, Mrs. Odboddy And Then There was a Tiger, she rescued a displaced carnival tiger, now temporarily housed in his traveling carnival cage at a friend's farm.

Chapter One

Agnes slung her leg over a limb in the apple tree and reached for a grip on a higher branch. “Hang on, Ling-Ling. Mama’s coming.”

“Meow.”

The cat’s piercing shriek expressed displeasure that her itinerary at the top of the apple tree should be questioned. Godfrey, Agnes’s boyfriend, came around the corner of the house and peered into the branches. “Come down from there this instant. What in tarnation are you doing?”

Agnes pulled her skirt down over her rump, revealing a chubby thigh in flannel stockings. “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that I’m rescuing Ling-Ling. She’s been up here since breakfast and she won’t come down. If you’d have come when I called an hour ago, I wouldn’t need to–”

“I came as soon as I could, Lambkins, after I called the fire department. They’re bringing over a ladder. Now, come down before you fall and break your noggin. Leave the climbing to the firemen. They rescue cats every day.” The sound of a siren shrieked in the distance.

“No need. I’ve almost got her.” Agnes loosened her grip on the branch and reached for the Siamese cat, who had climbed higher with each of Agnes’s attempts to reach her. “Just a little more. Come to mama, baby.” Wasn’t that just like a cat? “You rascal. I have half a mind to leave you here, and let you starve. Come here before I…” Crack! Agnes gasped as the branch under her foot gave way. “Saints preserve–”

Godfrey sprang toward the tree just as the branch broke. Agnes flung out her arms and grasped at branches to break her fall. Pieces of twigs and leaves broke loose as she plummeted toward the earth. Godfrey’s image flashed in and out of her thoughts, intermingled with her little ward, Maddie, and her granddaughter, Katherine. What about her attempts to save Shere Khan, the displaced carnival’s tiger? Would he find a home without her help? It’s true. Your life flashes before your eyes just before you die.

Agnes hit the ground with a thud. Her head flung back and thwacked against the apple tree. Then everything went dark.

A voice from far away called her name. “Mrs.Odbddy. Can you hear me?”

Ow.” Her cheek smarted. Had someone slapped her? Her opposite cheek smarted. Another slap? Near dead, and now being attacked? What was the world coming to when an old woman couldn’t fall from an apple tree and die in peace? Agnes opened her eyes. Ling-Ling leaped from branch to branch and dropped lightly beside her hip. “Meow!

Agnes’s head lolled back against the tree. Now she comes down, after I risked my life to… Her dizziness cleared. Godfrey’s face hovered over her, and two others. Firemen? What? Why?

Katherine knelt beside Godfrey and took her grandmother’s hand. “Grandma. Are you all right?” She turned toward the men in heavy overcoats. “Is she okay? Did she break anything?”

“Hard to say, ma’am.” Barnaby Merryweather, the older volunteer fireman, touched the lump on the back of Agnes’s head. “She has some scratches and a sizable bump on the back of her head. Her doctor should check her over to be sure. She took a pretty good whack. Agnes? Do you know what day it is? Who’s the President?”

Ow!” Agnes swatted at the fireman’s hand. “Of course. It’s April 26, 1944, and Franklin D. Roosevelt is the President. Now, help me into the house.” Her hand dropped onto Ling-Ling’s back as she nuzzled under her arm. “I see the wretched cat managed to rescue herself

“If you’d asked my opinion before you risked your fool life, I would’ve told you she’d come down on her own, Grandma.”

“I called Godfrey. When he didn’t come, I thought I’d better get her down.”

“And, just see how well that turned out,” Katherine said, patting Agnes’s cheek. “You could’ve killed yourself.”

“It takes more than a bump to kill an old bird like me.” Agnes touched the lump on her head and twisted her neck from side to side. “Ow.

“Give me a hand, Barnaby,” Godfrey said. One could always count on Barnaby Merryweather, a volunteer fireman for the past twenty years, always the first on the scene in any emergency, whether a kitchen fire or a cat up a tree. Godfrey put his arm under Agnes’s shoulder. “Do you think you can stand, sweetkins?”

“I think so. Let’s give it a try. You’re probably right. I should have called the fire department in the first place.”

 

 

 

 

9
Jan

The Spirit Woman of Lockleer Mountain

MY LATEST PUBLISHED NOVEL:

After four cozy cat mysteries and three Mrs. Odboddy adventures, I was ready to try to write something different.

 

I set about to write a humorous cozy mystery starring Lou Shoemaker, the young, widowed owner of a sewer truck called the Pooper Scooper. She attempts to comfort her best friend, Deputy Nate Darling, who grieves for his sister, Suzanna, who mysteriously disappeared following a minor motor vehicle accident. Fully intending to make this as funny as heck with stopped up toilets and overflowing septic tanks.... the characters took over...as they often do with my writing.

 

Before I knew it, a white owl crashed into Lou's kitchen window. Despite the town's displeasure and without consent, the government began planning a mysterious military facility and big box store, sure to destroy the town's economy. During several chaotic events, a mountain lion and a woman in a long green skirt are sighted, resulting in positive outcomes .

 

Immediately the townsfolk determine that the Native Americans' legendary Spirit Woman, said to 'protect the community,' and known to travel with a mountain lion and a white owl, had returned with the intent to aid in the town's misfortune.

 

Oh my! Where did that come from? I've never written paranormal before.

 

Oh, sure, in my cozy cat mysteries, the cat's talk to each other and affect incidents to help solve crimes (see Black Cat's Legacy and Black Cat and the Lethal Lawyer)... and in my WWII humorous mystery adventure series (Mrs. Odboddy Hometown Patriot) we have to suspend disbelief at some of her antics... and maybe there was an angel in Black Cat and the Accidental Angel, but we never dealt with a Native American legendary spirit woman who may or may not be real.

 

And I've never written a male main character before. As the story progresses, Nate becomes more of the main POV character as a couple of suspicious deaths occur while Lou is out emptying septic tanks for local citizens and attends the nearby Native American Pow Wow on the reservation.

 

I could go on, but why spoil the entire story? It's just $3.99 for the e-book at Amazon http://tinyurl.com/y82t4xsh

 

or you can contact me directly and I'll send you a signed paperback copy for $15. (free shipping), Elaine.Faber@mindcandymysteries.com

I guess the point of this post is to say, that in spite of my intentions to write a humorous mystery about stopped up toilets and  overflowing septic tanks, instead, a legendary Native American Spirit Woman demanded her story be told, so that's what I did. It's a change of pace for me, but, when all was said and done, I'm pretty pleased with the story.

 

Check out The Spirit Woman of Lockleer Mountain. I promise you won't be disappointed. http://tinyurl.com/y82t4xsh (Amazon link)

 

 

 

17
Nov

Strawberry Roan - Interview with Author Judy Vaughan

Readers: Judy Vaughn's book, Strawberry Roan, is a collection of stories starting from her childhood on  a New Mexico horse ranch where she trained horses . As an adult, she became a wife, mother, and a neurologist! She shares interesting events throughout her life in college, traveling through Mexico with an infant, and as a neurologist in a state mental hospital. Once I started reading Strawberry Roan, I found her book fascinating and hard to put down . I think you will enjoy reading my interview with Judy. (Elaine)

"Share something about yourself:"

I’m now into my third generation of a life bubbling over with three adult children and six grandchildren. Strawberry Roan, my memoir, recounts the part of my life spent in New Mexico (as well as several temporary absences for education and service) that too place from the 1950s to the 1980s.

"Tell us about your writing."

After I retired from forty plus years as a physician, I began to write the story of my beloved New Mexico youth. As I wrote, I studied the craft of writing for ten years. I wanted to write the best memoir I could.

I began writing short vignettes of my life in no special order. Once I had the story I wanted to tell, I arranged them into a loose chronology. Slowly I was able to show the roller-coaster of  happiness and disappointment of my life, and how that was shaped into resilience and peace

"Who is the prime audience for your book?"

Horselovers! It's a horse story. Much of it involves the day-to-day details of caring for horses. There is both  joy and sorrow. It will inspire any woman determined to balance an intense hobby, a family, and an unusual care-giving profession.

"Do you have  other books published?"

Not at this time. I plan to publish another collection of stories, including a true family story from Tristan da Cunha, the most remote island in the world.  I wrote A Quiet Little Civil Rights Project in 2013; it's no longer in print. I describe it in Strawberry Roan, Ch. XXI. " Beatrice Made Me Do It”

"How could you recall all the past details from your life, particularly conversations?"

Our brains reconstruct the details if we give them a hint. Most memoirs emphasize story over exactitude, emotional truth over facts. I frequently discussed my recollections with my sisters and others, and wrote the story that reflected our shared truths. Where facts seemed important, I sought documentation in newspapers, hundreds of photos, programs, directories and historical documents.

I sought to speak a child’s voice or a teen’s where needed and to show the author’s own opinions and feelings, both contemporaneous and in reflection,.

In my writing, dialogue was exact when I had a source, such as a letter, otherwise it was reconstructed. Sometimes I consolidated several true events for the sake of story interest.

I show that life was different in the last century. I trained horses with almost no help when I was very young. That was amazing, even to me. Reflecting on that, I recall Mother worrying about me alone at the barn, but I don’t see her jumping in the car to see if I was okay.

The take-aways in Strawberry Roan are often lessons in well-earned humility. The  struggle for understanding continues.

"Where can your book, Strawberry Roan, be purchased?"

Amazon, and Barnes and Noble, Capital Books on I Street, Sacramento, CA., OP Cit Books, Sante Fe, New Mexico, Paper Trail, LasVegas, New Mexico.  It includes over thirty personal photographs. . Also available at Amazon in paperback at  https://bit.ly/StrawberryRoanBook

"Thanks for sharing your stories in your novel, Judy."

I'm sure my readers will enjoying reading your memoir and the interesting aspects of your life.

 

18
Oct

Midnight Madness

Based on true facts regarding a FULL MOON on Halloween...a fiction story. Midnight Madness

Even six weeks after the World Trade Center attack on September 11, 2001, the nation continued to mourn the loss of over 3000 innocent victims when two airplanes crashed into the towers.

Several days ago, the editor of the Sacramento Daily Sun editor burst into my office. “Clive,” he said. “Pack your bags. You’re going to Salem, Massachusetts, to cover their Halloween celebration. Let’s give the subscribers something to think about besides the 9/11 tragedy.”

He had me at, ‘pack your bags!’ With yet another gut-wrenching editorial in my computer about the 341 firemen lost in the Towers, I was up for anything to get away from the twenty-four-seven news cycle.

October 31 is big news in Salem. Every year, 250,000 visitors swarm the city to experience haunted houses, costume balls, live music, dances and holiday parades. This year, due to a full moon scheduled on October 31, the first full moon on that date since 1974, Salem planned even more spectacular events. Apparently, the occurrence of a Halloween full moon happens only four or five times each century! The next one isn’t expected for another twenty years─October 31, 2020!

Entering Salem, I was impressed by the witches and goblins, pumpkins and ghouls decorating houses and businesses, much like we decorate for Christmas back home. Witches are big in Salem all year long, due to the history of the Salem witch trials, but this year, even more so, what with the full moon phenomenon. Apparently, Salem’s city fathers thought the citizenry had grieved the 911 tragedy long enough, and should get their minds back onto business as usual. Let the nation grieve if it must. Salem would strike while the moon was full!

Cornstalks lined the streets. Jack-o-lanterns hung from each lamp post. Shopkeepers dressed in witch and warlock, ghost and vampire costumes, hawked merchandise. Every shop window displayed witches and cauldrons, spirits and ghouls. Tourists clamored through the town atop horse drawn hay wagons and carts.

I ate lunch at a little diner and delighted in the attentions of a charming waitress with long black hair, sparkling gold eyes and fluttering lashes. With a glance, Jenny churned up feelings I hardly remembered, being a widower well past middle-aged, and an almost regular church goer.

Imagine my surprise when she handed me a napkin with a message inside. Meet me outside tonight. 11:25 P.M. Come alone. I must see you.

I left my lunch half-eaten and stumbled outside to ponder the situation. With her charms, she had the pick of any young man; what could she possibly want with me? I interviewed shopkeepers and snapped photos of the holiday events that day and well into the evening. Even knowing it was a fool’s errand, at 11:15 P.M, I was drawn back to the diner like a moth to a flame.

****

At 11:20 P.M. Jenny wiped down the last table, flipped over the CLOSED sign and locked the café door. She had nearly given up hope of finding a middle-aged man with silver-white hair and mustache. What were the odds that Clive should walk through the door at the last possible moment to change her destiny?

Jenny wrapped her cape around her shoulders and stepped out the front door. There Clive stood, as she had hoped! She was blessed with a sixth sense about the future, knowing when the phone would ring or a visitor was at her door. An oppressive spirit had even settled on her the morning of September 11, feeling something evil on the horizon. She had powers over men, but on this night of night, with the full moon overhead on this auspicious date, her fate lay in the hands of this stranger. Without his cooperation, she could not escape the family curse.

“Hello. Thanks so much for coming.” Jenny placed her small white hand on Clive’s arm, hoping to bend his will to her own needs. “You’re the only one who can help me.”

“I’m happy to oblige. But, why do you ask a stranger? Don’t you have family or friends who could help you?”

Jenny lowered her head, brushing her lashes against her pale face. She allowed her lip to tremble as a tear trickled down her cheek. A white curl tumbled on her forehead, seemingly out of place among her mass of black curls.

“Here, here, now. None of that.” Clive brushed Jenny’s hair back into place. “I’ll help you if I can, my dear. Don’t cry.” He tipped up her chin and dried her tears with his handkerchief. “Now, give me a smile and tell me all about it.”

“I fear you’ll think me crazy, sir, but I swear I speak the truth.” Jenny sat on a bench and began an inexplicable tale.

“I am a descendent of the judge who unjustly hanged Sarah Good as a witch in 1692, right here in Salem. Since Sarah Good’s death, the judge’s descendants have suffered a terrible curse. Upon the rare occasion, only about four or five times each century, when the full moon is overhead on All-Hollow’s Eve, any female descendent between the age of 18 and 29 is in grave danger.

“As the full moon is upon us this night for the first time in 27 years, and to avoid the curse, I must find a middle-aged man with long silver-white hair, who resembles the judge who sentenced my poor ancestor, Sarah, to death. Before midnight, a drop of this man’s blood must be placed on a particular stone that stands at the edge of town.” Jenny’s pale lips trembled.

“Would you shed a drop of your blood on Sarah’s commemorative stone to save me from the curse?”

“What kind of curse, my dear?” Clive raised perplexed eyebrows.

“It is so terrible, I dare not speak it aloud.” Whispering these words, Jenny clung to Clive’s shoulder and wept piteously. Would it be enough to convince him to go with her to the stone? And, once there, could she muster the courage to do what she must do to stave off the curse?

****

Clive was speechless. Never had he encountered such a stunning creature that so captivated his heart within minutes of meeting. Never has such a ridiculous tale so captured his imagination. He was inclined to leap from the bench, take her by the hand, and race to the stone in question. Only with great difficulty did he pummel his rash impulses into submission and sit back on the bench, staring into the starry sky.

The full moon hung blood-red over the city, casting an orange glow across the sidewalks, still churning with costumed tourists, jostling and laughing, their joyous songs of nonsense carried into the black sky on the night wind.

The young woman stirred in his arms, her sobs finally ceased. She dashed tears from her cheeks and looked up at him. “You will help me, won’t you? I’m so desperate. We only need a teeny-weeny drop of blood, really. I’d be ever so grateful.”

If she truly believed her outrageous tale, considering the unusual request, even a gentleman couldn’t help wondering, how grateful? On the other hand, just exactly how much was a teeny-weeny drop of blood and just how crazy was this charming girl?

Clive shivered. A wind rustled the corn husks tied to the lamp posts. A thin cloud crept across the center of the moon, seeming to cut it in half.

Clive glanced at his watch. 11:40 P.M. “Well, let’s get on with it. Can we walk to the stone?” He would humor her and see where all this would lead. His hand rested around a small penknife in his pocket. If a tiny drop of blood is all it takes to satisfy her fantasy and win her gratitude, I can do that.

The wind whistled overhead as the cemetery loomed into view. Groups of tourists ambled amongst the grave stones. Raucous laughter burst from the direction of Bridget Bishop and Martha Corey’s graves, also victims of the 1692 Salem witch trials. One would think it was an amusement park rather than a cemetery from the sound of merriment coming from the shadows.

Jenny squealed as a man dressed as a vampire loomed from the bushes.

Clive put his arm around her shoulder and pulled her close. She was really a dear little thing, and his heart stirred. He wanted so to calm her fears. Perhaps he’d bring her coffee in bed tomorrow morning…

Sarah Good’s commemorative stone gleamed in the moonlight.

Jenny ran her fingers over the grooves in the stone forming the letters– Sarah Good 1653 – 1692 “Poor thing. I’m so sorry, Sarah. Please forgive my ancestor.” Jenny glanced at her watch. “Are you ready?” She drew a huge serrated bread knife from her purse. “We don’t have much time. I only have two more minutes. Clive?” Jenny’s beautiful smile, only moments ago holding so much promise, faded, replaced by a fiendish leer. Only his blood splashed across the accursed stone would make her smile now.

At the sight of Jenny’s wild eyes gleaming in the moonlight, Clive stepped back. The thrill of the lovely lady and moonlight adventure faded and common sense finally prevailed. Jenny had no intention of settling for a pricked finger and a drop of blood. With the knife in her hand, she crept closer and closer with murder in her eye.

“Hold on, there, young lady.” He backed away, glancing left and right. Where had all the costumed tourists gone? The witches and ghosts and even the vampire had disappeared at the first sight of Jenny’s knife.

In the distance, the town clock began to strike. Twelve o’clock…the witching hour. Bong…bong…bong. The hour that a real witch, if there was such a thing, might easily murder a stranger to thwart her twisted notion of an imaginary family curse.

Bong…bong…bong. Clive’s dull life suddenly held a great deal more appeal. How he wished he was back in New York, playing cards with a neighbor, and had never heard of Salem. Bong…bong…bong.

Bong…bong… Jenny shrieked and rushed at him, the knife raised...

Paralyzed with fear, Clive put up his hands, closed his eyes and held his breath, waiting for the death blow. Bong! Midnight!

Seconds ticked by. Clive ran his hands up and down his chest. “I’m still alive?” He opened his eyes.

Jenny’s cape and the bread knife lay on the ground, but… Where was Jenny? She had waited seconds too long past the stroke of midnight and the curse had taken her…but where? How?

Sarah Good’s gravestone gleamed in the moonlight. A small black cat hunched beside the stone, her tail whipping around her black toes. A white blaze crept over her nose, across one golden eye, ending beside her ear. She stared up at Clive, terror in those golden eyes, such as to soften the hardest heart.

“Jenny?” Clive walked closer to the stone. Wasn’t there a fable about witches turning into black cats? He’d never believed such tales before, but... He stroked the little cat and peered into her eyes. “Jenny?” He gasped. Jenny’s golden eyes stared back. The curse! It was true. Poor Jenny. “She needed my blood to protect her from the curse. She still needs me.”

He would write his 2000 word newspaper story about Salem, about the haunted houses and the costume ball and the decorations and the Halloween parades. The story would be colorful and for a few minutes the Sacramento Daily Sun readers could forget the tragedy that took almost 3000 lives on September 11.

He would write about tonight being the first full moon on October 31 for the last twenty-seven years, but, he would not write about a 300-year-old curse that turned a Salem witch into a little black cat. Who would believe it?

Clive cradled Jenny in his arms as he walked back to town. “Don’t worry, Jenny. You don’t have to worry ever again. I promised to help you, and I won’t abandon you now.”

1
Oct

Interview With June Gillam - Thriller Author - House of Hoops

 

Today, I welcome my author friend, June Gillam to my site with an interview about her latest novel.

Welcome, June. With the launch of your fourth thriller novel, can you share a few ideas about your writing journey?

"Why do you think someone would enjoy reading this particular story?"

I’m hoping all mothers, grandmothers and basketball fans will enjoy House of Hoops because it’s a many-layered suspense novel set in 2019 between Halloween and New Year’s Day, 2020, before Covid-19 changed our world. So in that way, it’s a sort of escape back to better, or at least more normal, times. Hillary Broome is the mother of a twelve-year-old basketball phenom named Claire, and is set in Sacramento, where Hillary handles public relations for a still-under-construction community center near the NBA basketball arena downtown, the site of continuing controversy among Sacramentans.

"Is this is a series? If so, tell us about the other books. "

In House of Cuts, the first book in the series, young reporter Hillary Broome’s article on a grisly murder catapults her byline from California into the national limelight and threatens to expose a shameful secret that could ruin her career—as well as bring her to the crazed killer’s attention. Hillary teams up with a lonely detective in a race to catch the cutthroat before he can get to a woman who's begun to fill a void in Hillary's heart left by the mother who abandoned her years ago.

A powerful California developer collapses at a funeral in the second book, House of Dads, which throws reporter Hillary into a network of jealousy and greed. In the midst of a new romance, she's forced to investigate foul play from disgruntled home-owners, mortgage bankers, and her own family members spiraling into homicidal madness.

In House of Eire, Hillary flies to Ireland on a family vacation and digs into her Irish roots, but finds herself uncovering deadly secrets in the land of a thousand welcomes, secrets that put at stake the lives of friends and family, including Hillary’s six-year-old daughter Claire.

By Book 4, House of Hoops, Hillary’s found a niche working public relations for a soon-to-open community center near Sacramento’s downtown Golden 1 Center as she aims to be a good mother to her volatile twelve-year-old basketball phenom daughter. Her attention is diverted by a former professor who’s determined to demonize the community center as symbolic of gentrification in need of destruction.

"Where do the ideas for your books come from?"

Mostly from problems I see in our culture. For example, House of Cuts came about when my husband was forced to take early retirement from the L. A. Times due to their financial strategy. This just about killed my husband because he so identified himself with his job. I wondered what if it was a butcher whose little shop was forced out of business by a big superstore moving in. What if he was bent on revenge at losing his identity? That was the origin of Melvin the Butcher.

"Where can we get your book?"

The eBook is $3.99 and paperback is $10.99 for now and later will join the other three Hillary Broome novels on Audible. https://amzn.to/34h2IZd It is available on Amazon and other outlets on its Halloween and basketball-themed launch party over my  Zoom launch. (see below) Zoom launch purchasers of House of Hoops will get a chance to name a character in Book 5 of the series, House of White Crows.

June Gillam's Book Launch
Time: Oct 7, 2020 05:00 PM Pacific Time (US and Canada)
Link to Join from PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android:

"Give us your brief bio."

Sacramento native June Gillam started out as a poet before realizing her poems wanted to become stories. Her Hillary Broome novels resist placement into traditional genres and are like the proverbial Box of Chocolates: June says her work best fits into “the social problem novel,” in which various characters personify issues around region, class, race, gender, or economics to form an important part of the plot. Mostly, June loves exploring what can transform a normal person into one mad enough to kill. Her books are published by her Gorilla Girl Ink imprint, and the story of how she got that name is on her website. She has taught English at San Joaquin Delta College since 1990 and is happily involved in several Northern California writing groups, one of which she thanks in House of Hoops Acknowledgments as Elaine’s Lunch Bunch.

 

 

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