5
Jun

REPRINT Our Honeymoon Story (58 years later)

With our 58th wedding anniversary next week, I thought it was time to share our honeymoon story again. Hope your honeymoon wasn't quite as eventful, but still filled with love and good memories.

While sorting through my cedar hope chest recently, I uncovered my wedding gown and honeymoon nightie. A few shreds of rice still clung to the polyester material. I thought back on the days of our unusual honeymoon as I folded and smoothed the purple nightie.

June 17, 1962 was a perfect day. The sun beamed through the stained glass windows. The scent of flowers and music filled the auditorium.

“With this ring, I thee wed,” and we were man and wife, twenty years, and eighteen-years-old respectively.

Following the reception, consisting of wedding cake and fruit punch, we raced through torrents of rice, eager to reach our secret honeymoon motel in a nearby lake resort town. That night, we planned to celebrate by having dinner at a real restaurant.

While dating, we had eaten at hotdog stands, drive-in movie snack shacks and BBQ’s with family, but we had never gone to a real restaurant. A candlelight dinner at a restaurant was a rite of passage, signifying that we were now married adults. It would be a cherished memory, a perfect beginning to our wedding night.

The sun shone hot on our heads as we drove with the top down on our 1958 MGA.   The excitement of the day took a toll on my young husband. His head began to throb and maybe “nerves” played a role as well. In our day, “the wedding night” created some anxieties than many young grooms don’t experience today.  Several hours later, we reached our honeymoon cottage on the shores of a sparkling lake. My young husband threw himself on the bed, head pounding, eyes aching, a wet cloth held to his forehead, and begged to be allowed to die in peace. He wasn’t up to dinner at a fancy restaurant.

“Tomorrow, honey,” he promised, “just let me go to bed.”

A brand new blushing bride, I pushed a grocery cart through a tiny grocery store in the resort town on my wedding eve, and selected spaghetti, hamburger, tomato sauce, lettuce, and salad dressing. I soon found myself in front of a tiny stove in our honeymoon cottage, cooking spaghetti on my wedding night while my husband groaned on the bed.

“I hope this isn’t a sign of what’s ahead,” I thought, as I added a pinch of salt to the boiling water. “This is NOT how I planned my wedding night.”

Monday dawned bright and clear, a hot and perfect June day and we slept late, lulled by the lapping waves on the nearby shore, headaches and anxieties of the day before a forgotten memory. We spent the afternoon in the park in the shade of a willow tree, watching the squirrels. We kissed and spoke of where we would have our special dinner that night, a celebration of our one-day anniversary. We swam and frolicked in the lake. My new lord and master climbed a nearby diving board.

“Hey, Hon, look at me,” he shouted, spreading his arms and launching himself in a perfect swan dive into the sparkling water below.

Somewhere between “Look at me,” and the sparkling water below, something went dreadfully wrong with his perfect dive. He hit the water with a resounding “kersplash.” Breaking the surface of the water, he held his hand to his left ear.

“I think I broke something.” The local emergency room confirmed, indeed, a broken eardrum. The doctor advised bed rest and a quiet night…

As a recently married woman, I pushed a grocery cart through a tiny grocery store in the resort town and selected hamburger, tomato sauce and French bread. On my one-day anniversary, I stood in front of the tiny stove, my young husband sleeping off the effects of pain medications.  The water lapped onto the shore next to our honeymoon cottage as I sighed and heated  spaghetti sauce.

Tuesday dawned bright and clear, and we slept late, being lulled by the lapping waves on the nearby shore. All afternoon we streaked across the beautiful waves in a rented speedboat, churning up the water. We looked forward to a romantic dinner that night to celebrate our two–day anniversary. The sun shone deceivingly on my young husband’s bare legs and they changed from white, to pink, to bright red.

My young husband moved slowly toward our car, each painful step tugging at his sunburned legs. He tried to pull on his trousers but the effort was too painful. My young husband lay on the cool asbestos tile floor (who knew?) of our honeymoon cottage, moaning.

“I don’t think I can put my pants on. Sorry, Hon. No fancy dinner. Maybe tomorrow.”

A fairly jaded wife, I pushed a grocery cart through the tiny grocery store in the resort town and selected hamburger, tomato sauce and cookies. The storeowner smiled. After all, I had shopped there three days in a row and was his newest most-frequent shopper. I vowed to speak to mother about marriage. If this were going to continue, I would need to learn to cook something besides spaghetti.

Wednesday dawned bright and clear, we slept late…  We spent the afternoon driving around the lake. In the late afternoon, we stopped at a nice restaurant before any further calamity. We celebrated our three-day anniversary. It was as romantic as I had imagined. My husband’s head didn’t ache, his ear didn’t throb, his sunburn had faded to a dull pink, his pants were on, we didn’t eat spaghetti and I didn’t have to cook.

After dinner, at a drive-in theater, necking in the front seat somehow didn’t have its previous pre-marriage appeal. We determined it would be best to leave when the movie was only half over. It was getting very late, you see, nearly 9:30 after all, and we were anxious to return to our honeymoon cottage

Thursday dawned bright and clear, and we slept late, lulled by the waves…

By late afternoon, we thought about the events of the week so far. A migraine, a broken eardrum, a sunburn, and it became clear that we should cut our honeymoon short and return home before any further disaster occurred. I felt the need to speak to mother about marriage in general and recipes in particular.  By early evening, we bid the honeymoon cottage farewell and started for home.

We were both eager to reach home and resume…what honeymooners resume. The air was warm and balmy as we left the resort town. A crooked road down the mountain would take 30 minutes off our travel time. Driving the mountain road was difficult, with switchbacks and no roadside safety rails. Slowly maneuvering hairpin curves, eyes wide, we saw broken, twisted cars in the canyons below. Had they run off the road or were they shoved into the canyon to dispose of them?  At the bottom of the mountain, the valley stretched before us, and the terrible ordeal was finally over.

My young husband shifted gears and revved the engine. Nothing happened. He shifted to another gear and stepped on the gas. Nothing happened. The car coasted into a convenient gas station. He crawled under the car, and found….a broken axle. Sweat beaded on his forehead as he thought about what might have happened if the axle had broken at the top of the mountain on the winding road. We were safe, thank God, but how would we get home, 80 miles away?

As a mature, experienced wife of four days, able to handle any emergency, I dropped coins into the telephone. Daddy answered, and I said, “ Daddy, come get me….” whereupon, Daddy exploded,

“What’s wrong? Where are you? What has that beast done to my baby girl?” I explained that the beast had done nothing that I didn’t want done, but never the less, the axle on the MG was broken and we needed a tow.

Daddy drove for an hour and a half, rescued his baby girl and towed the car 80 miles unceremoniously at the end of a rope; a discouraged young bride and disgruntled half-frozen groom.

If we had seriously analyzed the disasters of the week, and felt them to be prophetic of our future life together, we might have applied for an annulment the next morning.  Perhaps we were too naïve, too inexperienced, or too much in love to realize the pitfalls that lay ahead.   58 years have passed and my husband’s hair is gray and my face is wrinkled. Through our marriage, we have encountered sickness and health, success and failure, joy and sorrow, but we continue to face life’s challenges together.

I placed the nightie back into the hope chest.  The pungent aroma of cedar clung in the air as I closed the lid.  I closed my eyes, thinking for a moment of those exciting, wonderful days and relived the thrills, frustrations and romance.

Returning to the kitchen, I put a pinch of salt into the spaghetti bubbling on the stove. Like a pinch of salt, it takes a touch of adversity to enhance the flavor to appreciate the fullness of life.  I smiled at the memory of a honeymoon cottage by the shores of a sky-blue lake, and a tiny stove, where another pot of spaghetti bubbled three nights in a row. Despite the unusual circumstance we shared that week, it was the most wonderful, exciting, perfect honeymoon a woman could ever experience, because I was with the man I love.

 

27
May

Three Elements For a Great Reader Experience

– Black Cat and the Secret in Dewey’s Diary

A reader wants to feel she is personally experiencing or observing the events in the story, therefore, the  author must write the story in such a way to allow the reader to experience the story in this manner.  So, have you ever wondered why you've read some books that create this feeling and others that are just...ok?   To successfully create such a scene, it must include the following three elements.

  1. What does the character see? (The setting seen through the character’s POV)
  2. What does the character think or feel? (How does the current situation personally affect him?)
  3. What does the character say or do about the situation? (Dialogue or action, or both.) I will use a condensed/edited scene from my latest novel, Black Cat and the Secret in Dewey's Diary to illustrate.

What does he see? Setting: Black Cat watched as a woman wearing dark glasses and a large black hat that shaded her face crept through the gate. Rosebush stickers on the fence caught at her sleeve. She paused, unhooked the thorns and then, tip-toed down the sidewalk toward the house.

Black Cat lowered his ears and crept past the corner of the house. What was she up to? His gaze swept toward the Wisteria vines where Angel’s golden tail swished back and forth beneath the hanging purple flowers. Angel!

What does he think (or feel?) Perhaps this woman intended to steal something from the front porch. He crept closer. It was his duty to protect the family’s belongings. He could almost see tomorrow's front page headlines in the Fern Lake Gazette. Plucky Local Cat Foils Attempted Grand Larceny. Despite overwhelming odds, the daring and plucky feline protected his master’s valuable rhododendron plant from the clutches of a 200 lb. female assailant determined to…so forth and so on…Maybe his photo…

The portly woman dashed the last few steps up the sidewalk, leaned down, and yanked Angel by her tail, out from under the bush.

Meow!

What does he say or do? Dialogue or Action: Black Cat raced across the lawn. Angel! He leaped at the woman’s arm, teeth bared. The woman jerked away. His fangs caught the edge of her sleeve and ripped through the material. Having missed to connect with her arm, he tumbled to the grass with a shriek. “Brett! Brett! Help! Help!

The thief waddled down the sidewalk with Angel, desperately thrashing against her hip. Still grasping the thrashing cat, with one hand, the woman struggled to open the front gate . “Stop fighting me, you little…”

Not my Angel… Black Cat sprinted through the gate, leaped over the hood of the car, and scrambled around the open car door.

Once she reached her door, the woman flung Angel onto the passenger seat, and flopped into the driver’s seat. Before she could slam the door shut, Black Cat leaped into her lap. She grabbed her purse and struck at his head, knocking him sideways. His head struck the dials on the radio and he fell to the floor, momentarily stunned. As though through a haze, he heard Brett yelling. Angel huddled on the front passenger seat, her nails clinging to the vinyl seat, frozen with fright, mewing pathetically, Black Cat! Black Cat!

****

 

To learn what happens next, you can purchase Black Cat and the Secret in Dewey’s Diary for $3.99 at Amazon https://tinyurl.com/vgyp89s

Let me know your thoughts regarding this writing process. What thoughts to you have regarding how authors create a more satisfying read?

3
Apr

Mrs. Odboddy And Then There was a Tiger - Excerpt Scene

Mrs. Odboddy and Then There was a Tiger

In this edited scene, Agnes, Godfrey, Vincent and Katherine are locked in a library on the third floor of a San Francisco mansion. A gas leak in the house is in danger of exploding and burning down the house. How are they to escape?

“Well, I don’t intend to sit here and wait…” Godfrey picked up the desk chair and flung it against the window. With a crash, shards of glass burst out and tumbled to the ground. He went to the window. “Help! Somebody. Call the police!” A few cars passed by the house, but none appeared to see the broken glass. “They can’t hear me. We’re going to have to get out by ourselves.”

Vincent unzipped his pants and slid them down his legs. “Serious times call for serious actions. Katherine? Take off your dress.”

Katherine’s cheeks burned. “Really, Vincent. I realize this is a life and death situation, but we can’t… I mean, my grandmother is standing right here. I love you and even though you say we might die, this isn’t…” She glanced at Agnes and Godfrey. He was sliding off his trousers and Agnes was unbuttoning her dress. “Grandma! You, too? I can’t believe you would…”

Grandma pulled her dress over her head and handed it to Godfrey. “Oh, hush. Don’t be such a prude and take off your dress. Can’t you see he means to tie our clothes together to make a rope so we can climb out the window?”

“Oh!” Katherine ducked her head, unzipped the side zipper and slid it over her head. She handed the dress to Godfrey and stepped behind the desk. Godfrey pulled down the drapes, tied their two pairs of trousers together end to end, and added Katherine’s dress to the end of the clothing rope. “It’s still not long enough,” he said, adding Agnes’s dress to Katherine’s. “We’re going to need your two under slips. Ladies? I’m sorry, but this is no time for modesty.” The noticeable smell of gas crept ominously beneath the door. “And, you’d best hurry if we’re going to get out of here alive. The slightest spark and this place will blow.”

Agnes peeled off her slip and stood in her rubber corset and stockings with the patriotic holes.

Chill bumps raised on Katherine’s arms. The faint scent of gas made her nauseous. She stepped over to the window, stripped off her slip and stood in her brassier and panties. Elastic bands on her upper thighs held up her less than perfect nylons. Her face flushed when Vincent’s gaze traveled from her face to her knees and back again. His cheeks pinked up and he jerked his head away. His voice trembled as he knocked out the remaining window glass. “Katherine? You’ll go first. You’re the lightest. Take off your shoes. When you get down, run to the nearest house and call the police.”

Godfrey had removed his undershirt revealing a clump of grey hair clustered on his barrel chest. He attached his undershirt to the end of Katherine’s and Agnes’s slips. “I think it will reach pretty far down. You may have to jump the last few feet.” He had tied a small loop in the end for her foot and tied his undershirt to the radiator beneath the window.

Vincent placed the pillow from the office chair over the edge of the windowsill. “Up you go, Katherine. Sit on the edge and put your foot in the loop. As soon as you safely can, jump, so we can get Agnes down next.”

Katherine followed his instructions and climbed out the window. What would people think, seeing a woman, dropping from a third floor window on a rag rope wearing nothing but her underwear? She held tight to the clothing as the men lowered her over the edge and down the side of the building. First she was facing the wall, and then the cloth rope swung and spun her around so she faced the street. She heard material ripping when she was about seven feet above the ground. Lest the material should tear and prevent Grandmother’s escape, she pulled her foot from the loop and tumbled to the ground. Pain shot through her hip and she felt the breath knocked from her. She glanced up in time to see Agnes appear in the window as Vincent pulled the rope back up the wall.

****

The third Mrs. Odboddy adventure, Mrs. Odboddy And Then There was a Tiger is FREE at Amazon until 04-26-20, and then is just $3.99 in e-book. Mrs. Odboddy Hometown Patriot, and  Mrs. Odboddy Undercover Courier are books one and two. Read all three Mrs. Odboddy mystery/adventures for a hilarious WWII historical fiction treat.    http://tinyrul.com/yx72fcpx

 

8
Mar

Exceedingly Handsome

Just for  Sunday afternoon fun, I'm presenting a short story, obviously written by a CAT, telling his family history to readers willing to suspend disbelief... and smile. Let me know what you think.

Until my father’s death, my family lived on a profitable little farm in Killarney, Ireland. Though I knew that an enchanted magic spell had changed me from a boy into a small cat at the time of his death, Mother would never discuss the details. Even as a cat, she loved me as a son. As time passed, Mother grew frail and I grew into a fine tabby-striped tom cat with four white feet and a fine reputation as a hunter.

One day she called me to her bedside. “Tabkins, I can no longer provide our bread and cheese. You must restore our good fortune or surely we will perish.” And so she began her tale of trickery and enchantment, deviltry, and a magic spell that had plagued our family since my father’s death.

 

Some years ago, our farm possessed six orange trees, three cows, and a potato patch, all sufficient to meet our needs. A wicked green leprechaun from a nearby mountain-top coveted, and tried often, to obtain our land by trickery, but father repeatedly rebuffed his guiles. In revenge, the evil creature fogged Father’s mind with a magic spell, causing him to fall into the river. To thwart my efforts to save Father’s life, he waved his magic wand again and changed me from a good-looking youth of comely bearing into a tabby-striped cat. Though the world profited by the addition of an exceedingly handsome cat, my father drowned. The leprechaun then cast a spell upon the three cows, causing them to give no milk. The orange trees ceased to bear fruit and the potato patch gave us only scant potatoes.

 

“You must seek out the leprechaun,” Mother said, “and retrieve the magic wand. Perhaps it will restore you to a human lad and our land into a profitable farm.” The tears in her eyes wrenched my heart, and yet I trembled in horror at the thought of facing the evil creature.

 

She lifted her frail hand. “Make your way to yonder mountain. High on the top beside a river, you’ll find the cave where the wicked leprechaun dwells,” she said. “Go, now, Tabkins. Our future is in your paws.”

 

I set out as she bid, knowing that facing a leprechaun, no matter how exceedingly good-looking I might be, my feline cunning would be sorely tested if I was to fool the evil leprechaun, steal the magic wand, and live to tell the tale.

 

With every step up the mountain, I cast about in my mind how to dupe the leprechaun into reversing his magic spell or stealing his wand. I came at last to the river.

 

“Halt. Who goes there?” The wicked leprechaun called from beneath the log that spanned the stream. “Answer, Cat, or I’ll turn you to stone.”

 

Panic seized my heart. An idea popped into my furry head. “I’m just a harmless pussy-cat out for a stroll. My, what a lovely river you have here, Sir Leprechaun.” A little honey-talk is always good to sooth a malevolent spirit. I sashayed across the log, humming, Katie From Killarney, and bowed low. “My name is Tabkins. Pray tell, what might your name be, kind sir?”

 

The leprechaun’s eyes narrowed. “My name is Merichandrick. What do you seek?”

 

“Perhaps a spot of tea? I’m weary from my travels.” I looked wistfully toward the cave, conveying abject vulnerability and friendliness.

 

“Come on in and I’ll light the fire,” said he, his green mouth atwitch, his brain surely swirling with some deviltry.

I followed him into the grotto, wary of any trick up his sleeve, sure that he had thoughts of tossing me into his stew pot. I scanned the cave, searching for the wand, keeping one wary eye on my host.

 

“Sit over there.” The imp pointed toward the fire.

 

“Oh, what a lovely bird,” I posited, sidling closer to a green and red parrot, its cage hanging from a golden hook, all the while seeking the hiding place of the magic wand. In a chair near the back of the cave, I spotted a pot of gold. Something long and thin poked from beneath a nearby red blanket. Aha! It must be the wand I seek.

 

The little man turned. “Will you be after spending the night?” said he, with a wicked glint in his eye.

 

“If I’m so invited,” says I with a yawn, patting my paw to my mouth, “Let us drink our tea and I’ll curl up for the night just yonder on your wee red blanket.”

 

He shook his mop of green curls. “Not there,” he shrieked, panic shining from his wicked eye. “Best you should sleep closer to the fire where it will warm your exceedingly handsome fur.”

 

“As you wish, and I thank you kindly for the hospitality,” says I. Oho! Once the little man sleeps, I’ll snatch the magic wand from beneath the blanket and skedaddle.

 

My host poured two mugs of tea and shoved one toward me. Expecting a trick, I sneezed, and as he reached for a handkerchief, I switched the mugs. Indeed, the mug was drugged. Soon after the evil goblin drank, he fell into a stupor.

 

Without further ado, I grabbed the magic wand, wrapped in a paper containing the magic spell, and hurried back to the farm.

 

Mother waved the wand, read the magic words, and the spell was broken. I was instantly changed back into a young man, even more comely than before. Soon, thereafter, the cows began to give milk, the orange trees blossomed and bore fruit, and this spring, we had a bumper crop of potatoes.

 

The leprechaun still lives in the cave with his parrot, but without his magic wand or his evil spells, his complexion has turned from green to a sallow yellow, and, embarrassed by his looks, he rarely leaves his cave.

 

As long as fortune smiles, we’ll leave him be, but if the cows go dry or the potato crop should ever fail, I happen to know where I can find an exceedingly ugly yellow leprechaun and a pot o’ gold.

Leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy of All Things Cat ...Twenty-one short stories all about cats or....

 check out my book of short stories, All Things Cat, on Amazon in e-book for just $2.99.  http://tinyurl.com/y9p9htak  

3
Mar

Advice on How to Write a Short Story

The ideal short story contains the following elements: A compelling title, interesting characters, an unusual setting, an intriguing goal or situation, and a good conclusion, perhaps with a twist.

Suppose there were two short stories in a magazine. Both stories are about women who have an unexpected event occur in their lives. Which of the two titles below would get the most readers?

The Mall Purse (A housewife finds a purse at the mall)

The Abandoned Baby on the Doorstep (Fortune Teller finds baby)

Although the housewife may have a fascinating tale of how she reunites the purse with the owner, unless we added the words, “bloodstained purse” to the title, it is likely that the most read would be the one about the character with a diverse job, setting and situation. The reader would want to know–what exactly does the fortune teller do with a baby left on her doorstep? If she’s a real fortune teller, shouldn’t she have known the baby would be there? And, for that matter, wouldn’t she know who left it on her doorstep in the first place. Just sayin’…

Once an unusual character, setting and goal are chosen, an author begins the body of the story. He must identify the main character, the problem he faces, a conflict or two along the way that threatens his solving the problem, and the solution, all within the limit of 1000 to 2500 words. There is no room for backstory, character development, personalities, subplots, red herrings, and minor conflicts along the way, misdirection of the culprit, conflicted romance, or intrigue. All those story details can only be explored in a novel.

From time to time, it is helpful for authors of full length novels to enter contests and submission requests for stories of limited word counts. Without the luxury of75- 80,000+ words to ‘make it work,’ the author must make the short story compelling, outline the problem and bring about a convincing solution in short order. The process or writing a limited word story sharpens and challenges an author to make each word count, yet tell a story with a fun plot and a satisfying conclusion, in a very limited space.

My book of short stories, All Things Cat, includes 21 short stories, all related in some way to a cat. I’ve incorporated both past and present times, unusual locations, situations and circumstances. Some stories are self-narrated BY the cat. Some are stories from my personal experiences, but most are fiction based on ideas taken from holidays, story prompts, contest submissions, and even a couple excerpted scenes from my full-length novels. I’ve introduced witches, poker players, burglars, and members of the First Family, to name but a few. I’ve tried to incorporate all the aspects of a good short story into each tale.

When an author of full length novels publishes a short story, we demonstration our storytelling abilities, style, and writing skills. Like tasting samples at the grocery store, in hopes the customer will buy the product. With a short story, the author hopes to encourage the reader to travel on another journey with the characters we create in our full length novels. My main goal is to share my make believe world, and bring a bit of fun and laughter into the reader’s life. Hope you’ll travel this journey with me.

All Things Cat is available in e-book at Amazon for $2.99. http://tinyurl.com/y9p9htak. What a fun book for the cat lover or as a gift for the cat lover in your life.

 

15
Feb

The Elevator Pitch

 

The blurb on the back of my cozy cat mystery reads something like this. ‘While Black Cat narrates his own challenges back home, his mistress, Kimberlee, follows a clue to a lost treasure she found in a WWII soldier’s diary. It sends her on a treasure hunt to Austria. Little does she know she is on a collision course with a stalker determined to steal the diary and reach the treasure…blah…blah…blah...’

The back of the cover cannot explain the plot’s humor, drama, intrigue, or the battle on the beaches of Normandy and the friendship struck between Dewey and a German soldier recorded in the diary, or the beauty of Austria, or the intrigue as Kimberlee matches wits with the stalker.

When I first starting writing years ago, no one told me there was more to ‘being an author’ than plots and dialogue. In these days of limited acceptance by traditional publishing houses unless one has achieved personal fame or fortune and a platform of 10,000, an author must resort to Indie Publishing and be a jack of all trades.

Beyond writing talent, one must master the skills of publicist, bookkeeper, full time blogger, cover artist, and skilled orator, always keeping an eye and ear open for opportunities to participate on author panels and speaking engagements. Though not necessarily a ‘master’ at any of the above mentioned skills, I’ve become somewhat competent in most. Now, I’ve learned I must master one more skill... Memorize an ‘elevator pitch’ on the off chance that, perhaps in a coffee shop or the dry cleaners, I should run into a literary agent sipping a Carmel Macchiato or picking up dry cleaning.

It is imperative to command the agent’s undivided attention with an opening hook, and define my scintillating plot’s originality. I must convince him everyone from a cowboy in Texas to a stock broker in Hollywood would buy my book with his last green dollar, and how it will become a Best Seller…and accomplish all this in sixty seconds or less.

I have practiced my ‘elevator pitch’ in front of a three-way mirror and perfected where to smile, when to pause for special effect, and when to use hand motions to emphasize the final sentence. It has become second nature and the words now roll off my tongue like scotch tape at a Christmas party.

Unfortunately, in my case, I fear if I should ever be fortunate enough to find myself on that much discussed elevator with an agent, in spite of my good intentions and hours of practice, I expect the conversation would more likely go something like this.

Uh… You’re that Zondervan guy, right! Wait. Let me push this button and stop the elevator. I never thought… I have some notes here somewhere. Where is that paper? Well, never mind. I wrote a book, see? You’re not going anywhere special right now, right? About that book I wrote… You’re gonna love it. I called it Black Cat and the Secret in Dewey’s Diary. Do you like cats? It’s narrated partly by the cat. At least half of it. The other half is in Austria. There’s a stolen treasure, see and Kimberlee…that’s the lady, not the cat. She finds a clue in a diary. Well, you have to read it. So, there’s this cat…see….

****

Black Cat and the Secret in Dewey's Diary is available on Amazon for $3.99  https://tinyurl.com/vgyP89s

 

 

29
Aug

Camping With Kids - A true story

‘Camping with your children brings families together.’ The full magazine article went on to describe the family sitting around a roaring fire, making S’mores, roasting marshmallows, and making memories to last a lifetime. That’s what my family needed. More bonding and less bickering. I tossed the magazine and phoned my husband. “We’re going camping with the kids.”

By the time he got home, I had I borrowed a tent, a kerosene lantern, sleeping bags, a campstool, camp cots, cooking gear, kerosene cook stove, and an ice chest from friends and made arrangements for the neighbor to feed the cat. Hubby capitulated with arm-twisting and the promise of a fishing trip later that summer. It took the promise of a Barbie doll and roller blades to gain the children’s cooperation.

The smooth-talking Outdoorsman salesman persuaded sold me dehydrated ham and eggs, powdered potatoes, canned beef stew, dried prunes, beef jerky and powdered applesauce. He guaranteed I had enough to cook, stew, puree, and heat over a cheery campfire and create gourmet meals for a family of four for two days. The picture on the dehydrated ham and eggs showed a mom on a hillside with the breeze blowing through her hair. The canned beef stew can showed Daddy snoozing in a camp chair with his dog at his feet. The brochure promised memories to last a lifetime. It had to be true; it said so, right there on the front label.

We set off for a campground in the redwoods, about an hour away. The drive was punctuated by my son’s fingers in his mouth, eyes crossed, and tongue protruding while his sister screamed, “Make him stop looking at me!” Precious kids!

With no guardrails on the steep, winding road to our campground, rocks rolled over the canyon edge as the car wound around hairpin curves.

We found our assigned campsite one-half block from the outhouse and 200 feet from a pipe with a faucet on top, surrounded by 263 bees. Thus, an explanation of the phrase–dry camp. No running water, no electricity and the aforementioned outhouse.

After pitching our tent, hubby started to assemble the camp cots, only to find the poles on the end of each cot were missing. Our sleeping bags would now lie on the hard ground. My thoughts strayed to my own bed with fourteen inches of cotton batting, memory foam and bedsprings. Ah, well, I reasoned, the promised family togetherness would be worth it.

The children chased around the camp, and then my 7-year-old daughter requested I accompany her to the facilities. We walked past other campsites and noticed folding chairs, down comforters, portable record players, and Porta Potties. What did they know that I didn’t know? The answer soon became clear. Within fifteen feet of the outhouse, all that we had previously thought we knew about outhouses didn’t hold a candle to the reality. An indescribable smell hung overhead like a cloud. The outhouse door hinges defied latching. Holding our noses, we rushed the door. The sight inside took away all bodily urges and we raced back to our campsite. The bushes held more promise.

We learned that up the road was a washhouse with real toilets. We made a plan to do a bathroom run after dinner. Also, no open fires were allowed in the fire pits. No problem. We had the little kerosene stove to cook our instant and dried foods... Hubby unpacked the stove. Flip this, fold that, click in the burners, attach the kerosene tank, pump it up and light with a match. Easy-peasy! He pumped and pumped vigorously–it would not light. The sssssssssheoshee emanating from the kerosene tank could only mean…a minute hole in the tank. Thus, no hot water for a dried, vacuumed-sealed, gourmet meal.

“Don’t worry,” I assured my disappointed family. “We can eat the canned beef stew cold.” I reached for the can opener. “It must be here somewhere.” No can opener. “Um…I must have left it on the kitchen counter.”

Like all survival conscious men, Hubby always carried a pocket knife. He attacked the can with a vengeance. The children sat with tin plates in their laps, like the hungry waifs from a Charles Dickens novel, waiting for their daily gruel.

My daughter’s shriek interrupted my fascination with the jagged hole Hubby was gouging into the beef stew can. She danced around the cold campfire, beating her chest and tore at her tee shirt, which I pulled over her head. A flattened kamikaze bee dropped to the ground, twitched and lay still. Several inflamed bumps swelled on her chest. Of course, the first aid kit was likely lying beside the can opener on the kitchen counter. We painted her upper torso with a mud poultice.

By now the ragged hole in the top of the stew can revealed its contents. Unfortunately, it was all too reminiscent of the contents in the outhouse. The anticipated hopes of the family gathered around the fire, eating a gourmet meal tumbled into the dirt next to the stew. The children tossed their tin plates beside the mutilated can and ripped open a bag of dried prunes.

Ah well,” I mused, as I bit into a dried prune, “family togetherness….”

Shortly thereafter, the sun disappeared behind the towering pine trees and darkness crashed around us. It was 5:45 P.M. “We can sit around the fire pit by lantern light and pretend we have a roaring fire. We’ll tell stories,” I cheerfully suggested. (You can see this coming, can’t you?) A few pumps on the kerosene lantern should have blossomed into a soft and romantic glow…but didn’t. “Please don’t tell me the tank is empty,” I squeaked, barely able to distinguish the features of my amazingly quiet children who were holding hands in the darkness.

My long-suffering husband pumped furiously on the lantern, to no avail. That family memory joined the beef stew, oozing into the mountain dirt, casting an ominous green glow.

I munched on another dried prune as we visited the washhouse where we thankfully used the facilities. Returning from the washroom, Hubby turned off the headlights and we sat in total disillusionment and despair for about five minutes, staring at the sagging tent, dark fire pit and useless accouterments. Should we give up and go home or stay? Going home meant driving down death hill, at risk of plunging over the canyon, or going to bed at 6:30 PM in the hot tent.

My husband wanted to chance the hill and sleep in his own bed. I insisted it was only twelve hours till dawn when we could strike the camp and get out of this hellish nightmare.

From the barely discernible expression on Hubby’s face, I knew he would never forgive me.

Our four sleeping bags touched on the canvas tent floor. An enormous lump pressed into the small of my back. Why hadn’t we cleared the rocks off the ground before we set up the tent? We could only wiggle and squirm and try to sleep. Blackness...hot air...kids snoring… Was that a bear? No clock... I heard a mosquito. Mosquitoes find me the way bears find honey. I had to get inside the sleeping bag or be eaten alive…. Oh Lord, what time is it? I poked my husband. “Honey, what time is it?”

He groaned and looked at his luminous dial. “9:30,” he growled.

I would not survive the night. I would go insane before dawn. The strains of Kum-By-Yah drifted faintly from another campsite. I hated those well-prepared campers.

Within a few hours, the unbearable heat turned into a freezing mountain chill. 895 hours later when I could faintly see Hubby’s scowling face, I punched him. “Are you sleeping?”

“You’re kidding, right?”

We struck the tent, wadded and pitched it into the station wagon. We tossed our still unconscious children on top of the tent. The sun cast a faint glow across our neighbors, dreaming of last night’s gourmet meal cooked over a functional camp stove and story time, having bonded with their kids beneath the lantern light. We roared out of the campground and hurtled down the hill, spewing rocks over the canyon wall. We did not look back.

By 7:45 A.M. we were at our kitchen table eating bacon and eggs. We laughed about the camping disasters until the tears rolled down our faces. It became a memory that will last a lifetime.

 

16
Jun

57 Years Ago Our Honeymoon Story!

 

While sorting through my cedar hope chest recently, I uncovered my wedding gown and honeymoon nightie. A few shreds of rice still clung to the satin material. I thought back on the days of our unusual honeymoon as I folded and smoothed the purple nightie.

June 17, 1962 was a perfect day. The sun beamed bright through the stained glass windows. The scent of flowers and music filled the auditorium. “With this ring, I thee wed,” we each stated, and we were man and wife, twenty years and eighteen-years-old respectively.

Following the reception, consisting of wedding cake and fruit punch, we raced through torrents of rice, eager to reach our secret honeymoon motel in a nearby lake-resort town. That night, we planned to celebrate by having dinner at a real restaurant.

While dating as teenagers, we had eaten at hotdog stands, drive-in movie snack shacks and BBQ’s with family, but we had never gone to a real restaurant. A candlelight dinner at a restaurant seemed to be a rite of passage, signifying that we were now married adults. It would be a cherished memory, a perfect beginning to our wedding night.

The sun shone hot on our heads as we drove our 1958 MGA with the top down toward the lake. The excitement of the day took a toll on my young husband. His head began to throb and maybe nerves played a role as well. The expectations of “the wedding night” created some anxieties for him that many young grooms don’t experience today.

Several hours later, we reached our honeymoon cottage. My young husband threw himself on the bed, head pounding, eyes aching, a wet cloth held to his forehead. He begged to be allowed to die in peace. He wasn’t up to dinner at a fancy restaurant. “Tomorrow, honey,” he promised, “just let me go to bed.”

A brand new blushing bride, on the eve of my wedding, I pushed a grocery cart through a tiny grocery store in the resort town and selected spaghetti, hamburger, tomato sauce, lettuce, and salad dressing. I soon stood in front of a tiny stove in our honeymoon cottage, cooking spaghetti while my new husband groaned on the bed with a migraine headache.

“I hope this isn’t a sign of what’s ahead,” I thought, as I added a pinch of salt to the boiling water. “This is NOT how I planned my wedding night.”

Monday dawned bright and clear, a hot and perfect June day and we slept late, lulled by the lapping waves on the nearby shore, headaches and anxieties of the night before a forgotten memory.

We spent the afternoon under a willow tree in the park, snuggling on a blanket, watching the squirrels. We spoke of which restaurant we would choose for our special dinner that night to celebrate our one-day anniversary. We swam and frolicked in the lake. My new lord and master climbed a nearby diving board. “Hey, Hon, look at me,” he shouted, spreading his arms wide and launching into a perfect swan dive into the sparkling water below.

Somewhere between, “Look at me,” and the sparkling water below, something went dreadfully wrong. He hit the water with a resounding kersplash. Breaking the surface of the water, he held his hand to his left ear. “I think I broke something.”

The local emergency room confirmed, indeed, he had broken his eardrum. The doctor advised bed rest and a quiet night…

As a recently married woman, I pushed a grocery cart through a tiny grocery store in the resort town and selected hamburger, tomato sauce and French bread. On the eve of my one-day anniversary, I heated canned spaghetti sauce and listened to my young husband snore as he slept off the effects of prescribed pain medication.

Tuesday dawned bright and clear, and we slept late, being lulled by the lapping waves on the nearby shore. All afternoon we churned up the beautiful waves in a rented speedboat. Tonight was the night! We would have a romantic dinner to celebrate our two-day anniversary.

The sun shone deceivingly bright on my young husband’s bare legs and before we noticed, they had changed from white, to pink, to bright red.

My young husband moved slowly toward the MGA, each painful step tugging at his sunburned legs. He tried to pull on his trousers, but the effort was too painful. By evening, my young husband lay on the cool asbestos floor tiles (who knew?) of our honeymoon cottage, moaning. “I don’t think I can put my pants on. Sorry, hon. No fancy dinner tonight. Maybe tomorrow?”

A fairly jaded wife, I pushed a grocery cart through the tiny grocery store in the resort town and selected hamburger, tomato sauce and cookies. The storeowner smiled at me. After all, I had shopped there three afternoons in a row and had become his newest frequent shopper. I vowed to speak to mother about marriage. If this were going to continue, I needed to learn to cook something besides spaghetti.

Wednesday dawned bright and clear, we slept late… (you get the picture…) We spent the afternoon driving around the lake. In the late afternoon, we stopped at a nice restaurant before any further calamity could strike. We celebrated our three-day anniversary. It was as romantic as I had imagined. My husband’s head didn’t ache, his ear didn’t throb, his sunburn had faded to a dull pink, his pants were on, and we didn’t eat spaghetti.

After dinner, at a drive-in theater, necking in the front seat somehow didn’t hold its pre-marriage appeal. We determined it would be best to leave when the movie was half over. It was getting very late, nearly 9:30 after all, and we were anxious to return to our honeymoon cottage.

Thursday dawned bright and clear, and we slept late, lulled by the waves…

By late afternoon, we thought about the events of the week. A migraine, a broken eardrum, sun-burned legs… It became clear that we should cut our honeymoon short and return home before any further disaster occurred. I felt the need to speak to mother about expectations of marriage in general, and recipes in particular. By early evening, we bid the honeymoon cottage farewell and started home.

Instead of taking the freeway, a crooked road down the mountain would take thirty minutes off our travel time. We were both eager to reach home and resume…what honeymooners resume.

The air was warm and balmy as we left the resort town. Driving the mountain road was difficult, with switchbacks and no roadside safety rails. Slowly maneuvering hairpin curves, eyes wide, we saw broken, twisted cars in the canyons below. Had they run off the road or shoved into the canyon to dispose of them? Nearing the bottom of the mountain, we saw the valley stretched before us. The terrible ordeal was nearly over.

My young husband shifted gears and revved the engine. Nothing happened. He shifted to another gear and stepped on the gas. Nothing happened. The car coasted into a convenient gas station. He crawled under the car, and found….a broken axle. Sweat beaded on his forehead as he thought about what might have happened if the axle had broken just ten minutes sooner on the treacherous road at the top of the mountain. We were safe, thank God, but 80 miles from home. What to do?

As a mature, experienced wife of four days, able to handle any emergency, I dropped coins into the telephone. Daddy answered, and I said, “Daddy, come get me….” whereupon, Daddy exploded. “Where are you? What has that horrid beast done to my baby girl?” I explained that the beast had done nothing that I didn’t want done, but never the less, the axle on the MG was broken and we were in trouble.

Daddy drove an hour and a half, rescued his baby girl and towed the car 80 miles at the end of a rope; a discouraged young bride and disgruntled half-frozen groom.

Perhaps it was a test to see if our commitment was real. If we had felt the disasters of the week predictive of our future, we might have applied for an annulment the next morning. Perhaps we were too naïve, too inexperienced, or too much in love to fully realize the pitfalls of married life that lay ahead. Suffice it to say, we stuck it out.

Fifty-seven years have passed and my husband’s hair is gray and my face is wrinkled. We have endured through sickness and health, successful and business failure, the birth of children and the loss of loved ones, but we continue to face life’s challenges together.

****

The pungent aroma of cedar clung in the air as I placed the purple nightie back into the hope chest and closed the lid. I closed my eyes, remembering the thrills, frustrations and the romance of that week.

Returning to the kitchen, I dropped a pinch of salt into the spaghetti bubbling on the stove. Much like a pinch of salt adds a touch of flavor to a desired recipe, it takes a touch of adversity to appreciate the full flavor of life. I smiled at the memory of a honeymoon cottage by the shores of a sky-blue lake, and a tiny stove, where another pot of spaghetti bubbled three nights in a row.

Despite the unexpected events that occurred that week, it was the most wonderful, exciting, perfect honeymoon a woman could ever experience, because I was with the man I love

 

11
Jun

Preview from Black Cat and The Clue in Dewey's Diargy

If you've been following my blog you know I have another novel coming this Fall - Black Cat and the Clue in Dewey's Diary - a dual tale of adventures in Fern Lake with Black Cat and Angel, and Dorian and Kimberlee as they ,pursue a lost treasure   in Austria and Germany. Kimberlee's adventures in Austria mimic my own experiences in 1987 when I visited the area. The church pictured IS the Hopfgarten church in the story. Here is an excerpt with Kimberlee, the day she leaves Dorian at her conference and strikes out on her own.

*****

On the outskirts of Salzburg, Kimberlee stopped at an endearing pension. She followed the path to the front door and rang the bell. A stout, older woman answered. “Wilkomen! Kumm in! (Welcome. Come in).

Kimberlee held up her overnight case. “Do you have a room?”

The woman smiled. “Ya. I hef nice room. This way, please.” She led Kimberlee to a room next to the garden filled with pink and yellow tulips and tall gladiolas. The room contained plain, solid wood furniture. A thick feather comforter and feather pillows lay atop the double bed. A vase of fresh flowers adorned the nightstand. French doors led out to the garden. “Is good?”

“Yes, it’s lovely. How many Euros?” Kimberlee pulled out several bills.

The hostess took two bills. “Is enough. Breakfast is 7:00 A.M.”

“Thank you. That will be fine.” Kimberlee set her overnight case on the floor. She opened the French doors, stepped into the garden, and was immediately enveloped by the scent of flowers. A green, carved wooden bench sat beside a fish pond where red and black koi fish bobbed. How she wished Brett could see this. Wouldn’t it have been better to wait and share this beautiful experience with a loved one? Her first day in this beautiful country had already presented so many wondrous sites.

She sat on the bench and watched the koi glide back and forth across the pond, nibbling at a mossy rock, pausing to bask in a ray of sunshine. Would she have experienced the day the same way if Brett had been with her?

The spacious, green, lush meadows, the sense of oneness created by the similarity of the houses, the tinkle of the cows’ bells and the serene agelessness of the castles high atop the hillsides. The way the church bells rang every hour. How the peaceful countryside had affected her! The violinist’s song had touched her heart. The fairytale town transported her to another time and place. In truth, the day’s events left her feeling as though she had stepped into another dimension. Her soul felt refreshed and her faith reaffirmed.

A sudden thought! Spending the day alone had provided such unexpected reactions. As pleasant as it would be to share with a loved one, would she have experienced it the same way? Perhaps, a day spent in solitude was as rewarding as when shared by another.

She revisited the events of the day, from meeting the little cat, to the musician on the church steps, to the castle on the hill, to the mists in the meadows and the cows in the field. And, finally, to a bench beside the koi pond, remembering each beautiful moment in the beauty and stillness of the garden.

She closed her eyes, breathed in the scent of flowers,. In the distance, a church bell chimed. Resolved not to forget a minute of the day’s events, Kimberlee picked up a pen and filled her journal with all she had seen and felt this wondrous day.

*****

Black Cat and the Accidental Angel is Free at Amazon June 12, 13, 2019.     http://tinyurl.com/y6vhxncq

 

30
May

CREATING A BOOK COVER

 

 

 

There are as many ways to design a book cover as there are books. Nonfiction book covers, particularly political books seem to lean toward THE TITLE against a plain background and the author’s name. Many cozy mystery novels present an artist’s rendering of a scene, often including a dog or cat. I prefer using photographs on my book covers and believe the book cover should suggest the plot of the novel. There should be a consistency in the design of a series. Using the same color and size font for the title and a similarity in design helps readers recognize a particular series.

This fall I will publish a cozy cat mystery, the fourth in the Black Cat series. Black Cat and the Clue in Dewey’s Diary is a dual tale that takes place in California and also in Austria. While Black Cat and Angel are embroiled in village intrigue and riveting drama along the shores of a No. California resort town, Dorian and Kimberlee attempt to find a long-lost treasure they believe is still hidden in the small Austrian town of Hopfgarten. The story moves back and forth between Black Cat’s wisdom and Angel’s snarky wit, and Kimberlee unexpected challenges in a foreign country.

It all started with a message written in a WWII diary from a soldier who befriended a German soldier during the battle of Normandy. Following the war, Dewey records in his diary, a mysterious message he receives from his friend… The treasures is in Hopfgarten….touch the feet of the babe…

Kimberlee reads Dewey’s diary just before she and Dorian embark on an Austrian vacation. Of course, they must go to Hopfgarten to follow the clues written in a diary more than 50 years before.

Kimberlee’s Austrian adventure includes many of my 1987 personal experiences when I traveled through castles and villages, saw cows with bells around their necks, visited 1000 year old churches in Salzburg, and finally into Hopfgarten. It was there I encountered many of the events included in Kimberlee’s adventure, and first imagined the story of a missing treasure and Dewey’s diary.

The novel is currently being edited with an expected publishing date this fall. So, finding the right photographs for my Black Cat mystery was very important. I wanted the photos to suggest both parts of the story. It had to include a cat to represent Black Cat. I wanted his foot on a diary to suggest that important plot point. It must also suggest the other half of the story in Europe. There are plenty of Europe pictures, but the search was on for the right black and white tuxedo cat.

I requested photographs, from an online cat group, of black and white cats with their paw raised so a diary could be photo shopped under it. I received over 100 lovely pictures. Sebastian, pictured above, was the closest to my need. However, another picture was eventually selected from Shutterstock. The cover will include the cat with his foot on a diary and a shadowed castle behind.

I’m looking forward to publishing Black Cat and the Clue in Dewey’s Diary. I think my readers will enjoy this new and exciting dual story. Let me know how you feel about a book with basically two stories interwoven throughout.

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