Friday, May 31, 2013

Celebrating Our Golden Years

Thought for the day:  All the gold which is under or upon the earth is not enough to give in exchange for virtue.  [Plato]

Plato was a smart dude, wasn't he?  Far be it from me to belittle the value of virtue, and there are also many things in nature... like a golden sunset...  that are worth more than mere money could ever buy. But still... isn't it a hoot to daydream about striking it rich? Isn't that why so many people gamble, why they play the lottery, and why they invest in various risky business ventures? We don't do any of that, but we did think it would be a blast to... (ta-DA!) pan for gold.

See? I TOLD ya we'd celebrate our anniversary with some kinda fun adventure!

Did you know there was a gold rush in Georgia... even before the more famous one in California? Yep, the story has it that a fella named Benjamin Sparks stubbed his poor widdle toe on a dastardly rock in Dahlonega, Georgia, in 1828, and after examining that nasty nugget, he decided it wasn't so dastardly, after all. By golly, that rock was gold! Funny thing is, another fella in North Carolina found gold on his property a couple years earlier, but the big difference? He kept his yap shut. Sparks, on the other hand, talked about it. A lot. So, no gold rush in Carolina, and a BIG rush in Georgia. And even today... There's gold in them there hills!

The first mine we visited was Crisson. (And YES, we panned for gems, too! I'll tell y'all about that in another post.)

These troughs of water are in the panning area. We each got a pan of sandy dirt... or pay dirt, as I preferred to call it... and instructions on how to get to the gold in our pans. Because gold is so heavy, the object is to go through a bunch of swishing and swirling and spilling motions with the water to eliminate the lighter dirt, until only the gold remains at the bottom of the pan.

The guy who instructed us said it should take about fifteen minutes to get down to the gold. We, however, took considerably longer. (Hey! We didn't want to miss anything!) My better half even checked out some of the other dirt at the bottom of the trough. As you can see, he was having a blast. Me, too, but I had even more fun watching him have fun, if ya know what I mean.

So, did we strike gold? Of COURSE we did! Sheesh. Wanta see?

See it?  No???

Okay, here, try again...

Look reeeeeally close!

See it NOW??? Then, again, I COULD tell ya the following picture shows the gold I got in Dahlonega...

(And indeed, it DOES!)

Okay, so technically, I bought it in the gift shop. Tough. I did GET it in Dahlonega, right?

Remember when I told ya marriage requires a hard hat, because it's always a work in progress? See? I was right!

We BOTH wore hard hats to tour the Consolidated Gold Mine. Totally cool. Literally. The temperature was about sixty degrees... and damp. LOTS of fun, though. I'll tell you more about it, and about panning for gems... later.

For now, it's time for me to shut up. After all, as they say, silence is... golden.

                                   Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

P.S. Smarticus and I are going to a hamfest tomorrow, but later in the day, our cats will help draw the winner's name for that signed copy of my book. We'll notify the winner this weekend, and will announce the name on Tuesday. Good luck!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

All Gave Some, and Some Gave All

Thought for the day: To those who died, honor and eternal rest; to those still in bondage, remembrance and hope; to those who returned, gratitude and peace. [words engraved on the Vietnam War Memorial in Illinois]

Memorial Day weekend is frequently considered America's unofficial start of summer, so did you have your first big cook-out of the season?  Didja get your white shoes dusted off and bring 'em back to the front of your closet? Were you able to get out and take advantage of all those big sales? Get everything done on your to-do list? Forget anything? Anything at all?

 I hope you took a little time to remember what Memorial Day is all about...

John Moon, the former commander-in-chief of the VFW, said

 Sacrifice is meaningless without remembrance. America's collective consciousness demands that all citizens recall and be aware of the deaths of their fellow countrymen during wartime. Far too often, the nation as a whole takes for granted the freedoms Americans enjoy. Those freedoms were paid for with the lives of others few of us actually knew. That's why they are all collectively remembered for one special day.

 In order to provide us with a convenient three-day weekend, Memorial Day was observed yesterday, but its traditional date was May 30, so with the way my blogging schedule works out, I'm writing about Memorial Day in between the two dates. The 30th also happens to be my brother Ron's birthday. He's a retired Marine, who served multiple tours of duty in Vietnam. So to him, I wish a very happy birthday, as well as gratitude and peace.

Those four simple but powerful words are engraved on the Korean War Memorial in Washington, D.C.  And here is a poem with that same four-word title,  written in 1988 by Air Force ROTC Cadet Major Kelly Strong:

                                              I watched the flag pass by one day.
                                              It fluttered in the breeze.
                                             A young Marine saluted it,
                                             And then he stood at ease.

                                             I looked at him in uniform
                                             So young, so tall, so proud,
                                             With hair cut square and eyes alert,
                                             He'd stand out in any crowd.

                                              I thought how many men like him
                                             Had fallen through the years.
                                             How many died on foreign soil?
                                             How many mothers' tears?

                                             How many pilots' planes shot down?
                                             How many died at sea?
                                             How many foxholes were soldiers' graves?
                                             No, freedom is not free.

                                             I heard the sound of "taps" one night,
                                            When everything was still.
                                             I listened to the bugler play
                                            And felt a sudden chill.

                                             I wondered just how many times
                                             That "taps" had meant "Amen,"
                                             When a flag had draped a coffin
                                             Of a brother or a friend.

                                             I thought of all the children,
                                            Of the mothers and the wives,
                                            Of fathers, sons and husbands
                                            With interrupted lives.

                                            I thought about a graveyard
                                           At the bottom of the sea,
                                           Of unmarked graves in Arlington.
                                           No, freedom is not free.

Vietnam memorial
As an amateur radio operator, I've also had the privilege of serving as a member of  Army MARS. (Military Affiliate Radio Service) For Memorial Day one year, the Chief shared a story with us about a Captain who was stuck in traffic at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. It was pouring rain, and this captain was growing increasingly more agitated because he was running late, and knew he'd never make it to PT on time. Just as traffic was finally starting to move, the vehicle in front of him stopped, and a private jumped out into the pouring rain and ran into the Memorial Grove beside them.

What a bonehead! the captain thought.

Horns were honking, and the captain, as well as everyone else behind him, were fuming. Still, the private kept going, with his BDUs soaked and plastered to his skin. He ran up to one of the memorial plaques, picked up the small American flag that had fallen to the ground, and set it back up again. Then he came to attention and saluted, before running back to his car and driving off.

The captain later said, "That soldier, whose name I'll never know, taught me more about duty, honor, and respect than a hundred books or a thousand lectures. That simple salute - that simple act of honoring his fallen brother and his flag - encapsulated all the Army values in one gesture for me. It said I will never forget. I will keep the faith. I will keep the mission. I am an American soldier."

We may not be soldiers, but the least we can do is remember them, a very small effort for those who are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice.

                                         Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Psssst. Only a few more days left in the month. Every comment you make earns a shot at winning a FREE signed copy of my book.

Today is supposed to be my book's big launch day... woo HOO! The e-version is, indeed, now available on Amazon. The paperback is a little slower to show up for some reason, but it should be there soon. (Nothing like showing up late to its own party. Sorry 'bout that.)

Friday, May 24, 2013

Still Celebrating

Thought for the day:  Our wedding was many years ago. The celebration continues to this day. [Gene Perret]

Yeah, our wedding was a few years ago... forty-four years ago today, as a matter of fact.

I love being married. It's so great to find that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life.  [Rita Rudner]

Lucky me, I found that one special person at a very young age, and have been annoying the crap out of him ever since. Met him at the scabby-kneed age of twelve. (And married him anyway!) Okay, so we looked a little different when we got married in '69. Yeah, yeah, yeah...  he had hair... I had a waist. Lots of ups and downs since then, too, but one thing that hasn't changed? Our sense of humor. We're still laughing. Still working hard to pull the proverbial applecart in the same direction.

Still loving.

A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.  [Mignon McLaughlin]

Of course, if you ask Smarticus how to make a marriage last, he'd probably say what he always says. He says the secret lies in him saying two simple words, whether he means 'em or not: Yes, dear. (He's kind of a smart ass.)

I say a successful marriage requires hardhats, because it's an ongoing project, and never really done. A successful marriage is an edifice that must be rebuilt every day.  [Andre Maurois]

Doggone it, there's no such thing as resting on your laurels when it comes to marriage, is there? Or as Smarticus says, "It only takes one aw sh*t to wipe out two attaboys." (Told ya he's a smart ass.)  Lily Tomlin expressed it a bit more delicately. She said, The road to success is always under construction.  

So maybe a successful marriage isn't something we ever achieve, but if you think about it, that's a good thing, because if we think we've already arrived, we may no longer strive.  Best to keep wearing those hardhats, to keep building that road to success, and to savor every bit of joy and humor we find along the way. Gotta have fun. Gotta laugh.

Talking about fun and laughter, remember Red Skelton? He was a very sweet, very mild-mannered PG-rated comedian. Anyway, he and his wife were married for many, many years, and here's his Recipe for the Perfect Marriage:

  • Two times a week, we go to a nice restaurant, have a little beverage, good food and companionship. She goes on Tuesdays, and I go on Fridays.
  • We also sleep in separate beds. Hers is in California, and mine is in Texas.
  • I take my wife everywhere ... but she keeps finding her way back.
  • I asked my wife where she wanted to go for our anniversary. "Somewhere I haven't been in a long time!" she said. So I suggested the kitchen.
  • We always hold hands. If I let go, she shops.
  • She has an electric blender, electric toaster, and electric bread maker. She said, "There are too many gadgets and no place to sit down!" So I bought her an electric chair.
  • My wife told me the car wasn't running well because there was water in the carburetor. I asked where the car was, and she told me, "In the lake."
  • She got a mud pack and looked great for two days. Then the mud fell off.
  • She ran after the garbage truck, yelling, "Am I too late for the garbage?" The driver said, "No, jump in!"
  • Remember. Marriage is the number one cause of divorce.
  • I married Miss Right. I just didn't know her first name was Always.
  • I haven't spoken to my wife in eighteen months. I don't like to interrupt.
  • The last fight was my fault, though. My wife asked, "What's on TV?" and I said, "Dust!"

No telling what we're gonna do today, but I know it'll be an adventure. When you're married to a smart ass, every day is. I'll be back to you guys... tomorrow.

A long marriage is two people trying to dance a duet and two solos at the same time.  [Anne Taylor Fleming]

Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Oh yeah. Almost forgot... but don't YOU forget! Each comment you leave on my blog this month will earn you another shot at winning a FREE signed copy of my book.

P.S. I didn't REALLY write this post on my anniversary. I wrote it weeks ago. As you read this, I'm out and about with the best and sweetest smart ass I ever knew.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Happy Little Lizard Tail

Thought for the day:  I always keep a supply of stimulant handy in case I see a snake— which I also keep handy.  [W.C. Fields]

I've written numerous posts about dogs, cats, rabbits, and birds, but never about reptiles. Hmmm, I wonder why that is? Okay, so maybe they aren't exactly cuddly critters, but it never hurts to know a little something about them, because ya never can tell when some stray little tidbit of knowledge might come in handy.

I'm gonna share a few of those tidbits before telling you a funny tale.

Did you ever have any of these little guys as a kid? I'm pretty sure red eared sliders are still fairly popular pets, but they have been known to carry salmonella. As far as I know, our sliders never carried salmonella. In fact, they lived very happy little lives in a little plastic habitat, complete with a little plastic palm tree. Until they died of boredom.

I had one of these fellas for a while as a kid, too. Found him. Yep, I went out in the front yard, and there he was. Granted, a postage stamp yard in front of a row home in suburban Baltimore wasn't exactly his natural habitat, but there he was. Just as cute as he could be. I figured he must have been someone's escaped pet, but I couldn't find his rightful owner anywhere. Okay, so technically, I didn't look. So sue me. Wouldn't you have kept him, too? Two things he taught me: horned lizards eat a lot of flies, and I am an extraordinarily crappy fly catcher.

I'm not a huge fan of snakes, but I do admire their beauty. (From a distance.) My brother raises ball pythons, and his albinos are especially beautiful. Know why snakes stick out their tongues? They aren't being rude. That's how they smell. Same for lizards.

When our daughter was growing up, she wanted a pet iguana. Nope, no way, nohow. I didn't have a problem helping our kids care for their menagerie of cuddly pets, but I had absolutely no interest in having a scaly critter that big in our house. Sure, I had chameleons as a kid, but they were little. And cute. Iguanas get to be as much as twenty inches long, by golly, and they have to have those fancy heated rocks, heat lamps, and all that jazz. No thanks.

Instead, in my infinite wisdom, I bought her one of these little guys. Awwwww. He was a little on the expensive side, but he really was cute. Only about the size of a quarter when we brought him home, and he had the prettiest light green eyes you ever saw, and an adorable scalloped shell. Know what he is? An African spurred tortoise. Uh, yeah, matter of fact, that is the kind of tortoise usually seen in an outdoor enclosure at a zoo. See, they're the third largest tortoise in the world, and can get to be up to three feet long, and 200 pounds. Oh, and they also live more than a hundred years. She named him Yoda, and had him for quite a few years. Took him with her when she moved out on her own, and by that time, his habitat filled an entire bedroom. So yeah, he did get a little larger than that iguana she wanted. (Now he lives in a nature preserve with other African spurred tortoises.)

A couple other quick tidbits before we go on to that tale:

  • Most lizards have autonomous tails, which means they can break them off to escape predators.  I must confess, I caught and snapped the tails off quite a few skinks when I was a kid, simply because I thought it was funny as heck to see those detached tails wiggle. Besides, I knew their tails would grow back again. However, now I know the regenerated tails are smaller, boneless, and sometimes of a different color than the original. (So to all those skinks whose beauty I marred, I deeply apologize.)
  • Some lizards can squirt blood two to four feet... out of their eyes!
  • Lizards can conserve water by excreting salt. When water is scarce, they excrete enough salt  to form a white residue on their bodies.
  • Most lizards have suction cups on the bottoms of their feet.
  • The gecko is the only lizard with a true voice, because he's the only one with vocal chords. As anyone who's ever seen those insurance commercials could tell you, they also speak with a British accent.
                                                             Okay, ready? Story time.

Cute little guy, isn't he? And he looks pretty doggone pleased with himself, too. Just picture that expression in the story that follows.

WARNING: This is one of those laugh-out-loud funny stories that went around the Internet without attribution some years back, so you might want to set your drink down before you start reading it.

Just after dinner one night, my son came up to tell me there was "something wrong" with one of the two lizards he holds prisoner in his room. "He's just lying there looking sick," he said. "I'm serious, Dad. Can you help?"

So I put my best lizard-healer expression on my face and followed him into his bedroom. Sure enough, one of the little lizards was lying on his back, looking stressed. I immediately knew what to do. "Honey," I yelled, "come look at the lizard!"

"Oh, my gosh!" my wife exclaimed. "She's having babies."

"What?" my son demanded. "But their names are Bert and Ernie, Mom!"

I was equally outraged.

"Hey, how can that be? I thought we said we didn't want them to reproduce," I said accusingly to my wife.

 "Well, what do you want me to do, post a sign in their cage?" she inquired (I think she actually said this sarcastically!).

"No, but you were supposed to get two boys!" I reminded her, (in my most loving, calm, sweet voice, while gritting my teeth).

 "Yeah, Bert and Ernie!" my son agreed.

 "Well, it's just a little hard to tell on some guys, you know," she informed me (Again with the

By now the rest of the family had gathered to see what was going on. I shrugged, and decided to make the best of it. "Kids, this is going to be a wondrous experience," I announced. "We're about to witness the miracle of birth."

"Oh, gross!" they shrieked

"Well, isn't THAT just great? What are we going to do with a litter of tiny little lizard babies?" my
 wife wanted to know.

We peered at the patient. After much struggling, what looked like a tiny foot would appear briefly, vanishing a scant second later.

 "We don't appear to be making much progress," I noted.

 "It's breech," my wife whispered, horrified.

 "Do something, Dad !" my son urged.

 "Okay, okay." Squeamishly, I reached in and grabbed the foot when it next appeared, giving it a gentle tug. It disappeared. I tried several more times with the same results.

 "Should I call 911?" my eldest daughter wanted to know. "Maybe they could talk us through the trauma." (You see a pattern here with the females in my house?)

 "Let's get Ernie to the vet," I said grimly.

We drove to the vet with my son holding the cage in his lap. "Breathe, Ernie, breathe," he urged.

 "I don't think lizards do Lamaze," his mother noted to him. (Women can be so cruel to their own young. I mean, what she does to me is one thing, but this boy is of her womb, for God's sake.).

The vet took Ernie back to the examining room and peered at the little animal through a magnifying glass.

"What do you think, Doc, a C-section?" I suggested scientifically.

"Oh, very interesting," he murmured. "Mr. And Mrs. Cameron, may I speak to you privately for a moment?"

 I gulped, nodding for my son to step outside.

 "Is Ernie going to be okay?" my wife asked.

 "Oh, perfectly," the vet assured us. "This lizard is not in labor. In fact, that isn't EVER going to
 happen. Ernie is a boy. You see, Ernie is a young male. And occasionally, as they come into
 maturity, like most male species, they um... um... masturbate. Just the way he did, lying on his
 back." He blushed, glancing at my wife.

 We were silent, absorbing this.

 "So, Ernie's just...  just... excited," my wife offered.

 "Exactly," the vet replied, relieved that we understood.

 More silence. Then my vicious, cruel wife started to giggle. And giggle. And then  laughed out loud.

"What's so funny?" I demanded, knowing, but not believing that the woman I married would commit the upcoming affront to my flawless manliness.

Tears were now running down her face. "It's just that... I'm picturing you pulling on its ... its... teeny little..." She gasped for more air, and laughed even harder.

"That's enough," I warned. We thanked the vet and hurriedly bundled the lizard and our son back into the car.

He was glad everything was going to be okay. "I know Ernie's really thankful for what you did, Dad," he told me.

"Oh, you have NO idea," my wife agreed, collapsing with laughter.

Two lizards: $140.
One cage: $50.
Trip to the vet: $30.

 (Memory of your husband pulling on a lizard's winkie: Priceless!)


So what little tidbit of information could have prevented that priceless experience? Simple. Most lizards... lay eggs.

Don't forget: Every comment you make here during the month of May earns you another shot at winning a FREE signed copy of Hot Flashes & Cold Lemonade. Mention it on your blog, and earn TWO shots.

Oh, and guess what? Both the paperback and e-version will be available on Amazon on the 28th!!! That's just one week away... Woo- HOO!

Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

[Images from Wikipedia, icanhascheezburgermorguefile, and seniorark]

Friday, May 17, 2013

Special Delivery

Thought for the day:  The worst feature of a new baby is its mother's singing.  [Kin Hubbard]

And oh baby, am I ever singing. If I weren't afraid of breaking something, (like myself) I'd be doing a lot of  happy dancing, too. And banging the tambourine and yelling OPA!!!!

Ya see, my baby was delivered yesterday.

Wanta see the cute little tyke? Whattayathink?  I think he has my smile...

Here, let's move that blanket out of the way, and let you see his... MY... heart.

Ohmigod, ohmigod, ohmigod, is it? Is it? YES, it is. It's a bouncing baby...  BOOK!!!

Delivered naturally, too. (Okay, so I may have had a  glass of wine... or two... to celebrate his arrival.)

 Psst! Know what happiness is? Hearing my man Smarticus laugh last night... while he was reading  MY BOOK!

Okay, I had a whole 'nother post ready for today, but since the stork the postman delivered my baby yesterday, that means launch day is getting ever closer, so instead of taking y'all on a virtual tour of South Dakota today, how's about a visit to Dundalk, Maryland?

That's a suburb of Balmer. (Or Baltimore, to the uninitiated.) Where I grew up.Where Hot Flashes and Cold Lemonade takes place.

That's Dundalk shopping center in the picture. The picture was taken much more recently than when we lived there, but even though the occupants of those stores have changed many times over, the buildings are pretty much the same. A picture taken in the '30s would show that same string of buildings. However, it's entirely possible the cars would look somewhat different.

In the prologue, Pearl remembers going to Arundel's Ice Cream Parlor with her father. At one time, the parlor was located about halfway down... in that first corner building, if I remember right. Doesn't matter, but I'll bet you can remember a place just like it from your home town. The BEST ice cream sodas, shakes, and sundaes in town. A great place for teenagers and families to hang out. Rich frothy root beer floats, and strawberry shakes so thick with strawberries, they kept getting stuck in the straw. BIG shakes, big enough for two to share. The fella would sit on one side of the table, and the gal on the other. With their knees barely touching under the table, they slurped on their straws at the same time, while making eyes at each other, and listening to the popular music playing in the background. Do you remember a place like that?

The Strand movie theater used to be located at the far corner of the street. For fifty cents, you could escape into the air conditioning, watch a double feature, cartoon, coming attractions, newsreel AND have popcorn and candy. On Saturday afternoons, the place would always be jam-packed with kids. Rambunctious kids. It wasn't at all unusual to get whopped in the head with popcorn or worse... sticky candy. From my experience, I'd have to say wet jujubes and milk duds had the most sticking power, but I'll plead the fifth as to whether or not I ever engaged in such shenanigans. However, I will admit to making obnoxious noises by blowing into my empty milk duds box. (Hey! That's circumstantial evidence!)

Enjoyed many a date at that theater, and quite a few of them were with Smarticus. And very often... the evening would be topped off down the street with a root beer float or strawberry shake.

Now, the movie theater is no more. For a while, it was some sort of sports center, but now, I think it's a Dollar Store. (sigh) Just like the other local theaters. The old Carlton is now a funeral parlor, and the Abbey Lane is a Salvation Army store. Time marches on. Are any of the old movie theaters in your home town still movie theaters?

Here's Pearl's church. St. Rita's. It's located on the opposite end of the street from the movie theater.

It was built in 1922, and is one of the few constants in the area. Which is one of the reasons Pearl loves it so much. Like her, it spits in the face of change.

How about your town? Is there anything left that's been able to hang tough through the years? And you? Is it easy for you to accept change?

Okay, enough. I know what y'all reeeeally want to know. You want to know who the heck won Dianne's book, doggone it!

Inside of that cap (AF4FO is my amateur radio call sign) are little slips of paper. One for each of you who commented on the last post. (Except for those who opted out.) It was my intention to procure some able feline assistance in drawing one of those slips, but as you can see, Dot was a little dubious about the whole thing. Dash? She was busy taking a nap.

No problem. I procured the able assistance of my better half Smarticus.
So without further ado, (insert drum roll here) the winner of the Kindle version of Dianne Salerni's book The Caged Graves IS... (ta-DA!)

                                                                     Beach Bum


Sorry, all you guys and gals who were hoping to win this terrific book. But, hey! You can still BUY it. PLUS, you still have a shot at winning MY baby. (Um, not one of the two-legged ones... the BOOK. Signed, even.)

                                    Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

[Images courtesy of Wikipedia, Morguefile, and the Dundalk Public Library.] [Oh, yeah! And ME!]

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Inspiration Plus Investigation Leads to Publication

Thought for the day:  A smart person isn't someone who knows all the answers; it's someone who knows where to look for them.

And Dianne Salerni definitely qualifies as one of those smart people. She's the kind of person who, when faced with something that piques her curiosity, loves to crawl down the research rabbit hole to explore every little nook and cranny to see where the information leads her. And then, lucky for us, she utilizes that information to write wonderful books.

In January, 2012, I featured a post about Dianne's first book, We Hear the Dead, a really cool historical novel about the Fox sisters, seances, and the birth of spiritualism. During the Q & A session on that post, she stimulated our appetites by telling us a little something about the plans for her next book.  Guess what? (ta-DA!) That next book is being served TODAY! Yep. It's finally time for lunch  launch.

As much as I enjoyed Dianne's first book, I enjoyed this one even more. A quickie review:

Verity leaves the safety and comfort of life in a modern (by mid-1800 standards, anyway) city to move to a podunk town to live with a father she barely knows and marry a man she's never met. There, she discovers the graves of her mother and aunt, inexplicably covered by metal cages, and placed beyond the boundaries of the church's consecrated burial grounds. She wants answers. 

In a skillfully woven tale, Salerni delivers those answers. Verity encounters ugly rumors, malice, and danger, but she also finds her mother's stash of diaries, unexpected romance, and eventually, the truth. 


Reeeeeally good. Lots of intrigue, and a VERY good read.

Psssst! Wanta see pictures of the actual Pennsylvania gravesites that inspired Dianne to write this book? 

     Cool, huh? Gives a whole new meaning to don't fence me in. (The book is even cooler!)

No Q & A this time around. This time, the lovely Dianne has written a guest post for us, and her topic?

                                                         Writing Historical. 

Writing a novel is hard, really hard, no matter the genre. But people often ask me about the research involved in writing a historical novel. Where do I get the information?

I have no idea how writers did it before the Internet. Books? How did they find books that contained the exact details they needed? Historical societies? I imagine authors spent a lot of time poring through aged letters and journals, searching for the everyday aspects of life that are essential for bringing a historical novel to life.

For me – Google is my friend. And so, of course, are the historical societies that post documents and photographs online so I can view them without visiting the archives in person. In writing THE CAGED GRAVES, I read accounts of the Wyoming Massacre (1778) that were written less than a hundred years after the event, nineteenth century descriptions of the history and settlement of Catawissa, Pennsylvania, lists of businesses and a census, diary entries written in the early 1800’s, and photographs of the region taken shortly after the Civil War. All without leaving my home.

Some things were still hard to pin down. How long would it take to travel by train from Worcester, Massachusetts to Catawissa? Which neighboring towns were less than a day’s travel away – and in existence at the right time? I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how someone would acquire ornamental plants in a time when florists and nurseries were non-existent. Eventually common sense prevailed. My main character would acquire clippings from a neighbor who already had those plants. (How the neighbor got them – not my problem!)

One of the most interesting internet hunts I’ve ever done was for a different historical fiction manuscript, (not THE CAGED GRAVES – so no spoilers here). I needed to know how someone would handle an accidental poisoning by arsenic in 1885. Try googling that!  I did turn up a newspaper article describing an accidental poisoning of an entire family in the mid-1800’s. From that article I was able to identify symptoms and recovery rates, but not how they were treated.

Eventually, through Google Books, I stumbled across a 1903 cookbook. (I figured 20 years off was close enough.) In the back of the cookbook, there was a section titled: What to do Before the Doctor Arrives. It listed various types of household poisons and recommended treatment for each. In the case of arsenic, in case you’re wondering, the recommendation was to induce vomiting with salt water, have the victim swallow raw egg whites to coat the stomach, and if the doctor didn’t arrive quickly, make the victim eat rust.

Yes, rust. Iron binds with arsenic. The doctor, when he arrived, would be administering a suspension of ferric hydroxide and magnesium oxide, which is basically … um, also rust. Who knew?


Thanks, Dianne. Guess what, y'all? Dianne is offering a FREE copy of The Caged Graves... yes, that's right, I said absolutely FREE---FREE---FREE Kindle version of her book to one of you fine folks who comments here. With the help of our cats, (They insist on helping with EVERYTHING.) I'll be drawing one of your names out of a hat at 11 PM EST this coming Thursday. (If you'd like to opt out of the drawing, please let me know in your comment, okay?) GOOD LUCK!

                                                                    Thanks, Dianne!

                                        Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Pssst! Every comment left here this month will also earn you a chance to win a free copy of my book. Mention it on your blog, and earn another two chances. (What's a little blatant bribery between friends?)

Friday, May 10, 2013

If It's Not One Thing, It's Your Mother

Thought for the day:  I want my children to have all the things I couldn't afford. Then I want to move in with them.  [Phyllis Diller]

Giving birth is easy. It's like pulling a watermelon out of your nose.
This coming Sunday is Mothers' Day, so what better time to write about mothers, right?

A mother is a person who, seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never cared for pie.  [Tenneva Jordan]

Far beyond the obvious physical changes, there's something about the miracle of having a child that changes a woman forever. Suddenly, a woman who used to be able to sleep through a sonic boom wakes up on full alert every time her baby rolls over or makes the tiniest sound. After having a baby, a woman who used to be a walking fashion plate doesn't think twice about wearing wrinkled clothes stained with spit-up. And holy moley, her capacity to love expands even more than her waistline did. (Good thing, too... if it didn't, no woman would ever have more than one child!)

Suddenly, nothing is quite as sweet as those tiny little baby feet. They're downright kissable, aren't they?

There is an instinct in a woman to love most her own child— and an instinct to make any child who needs love, her own. [Robert Brault]

Then, practically overnight, babies become teenagers, and all of a sudden the little kid who used to be afraid of the dark wants to stay out half the night with his friends. The princess who didn't take her first step until she was almost a year old wants to borrow the car. They will always be the children of her heart, but more and more, they also become children of the world.

The best way to keep children at home is to make the home atmosphere pleasant — and let the air out of the tires.  [Dorothy Parker]

But the truth is, no matter how big her babies' feet get to be, they still belong to her babies. Doesn't matter if those feet belong to a teacher, a doctor, or are ensconced in a pair of combat boots. Babies, one and all.

Grown don't mean nothing to a mother. A child is a child. They get bigger, older, but grown? What's that supposed to mean? In my heart, it don't mean a thing. [Toni Morrison- Beloved]

Of all the things I've ever read about mothers, I think Erma Bombeck said it the absolute best in her essay, When God Created Mothers:

When the Good Lord was creating mothers, He was into His sixth day of "overtime" when the angel appeared and said. "You're doing a lot of fiddling around on this one."

And God said, "Have you read the specs on this order? She has to be completely washable, but not plastic. Have 180 moveable parts...all replaceable. Run on black coffee and leftovers. Have a lap that disappears when she stands up. A kiss that can cure anything from a broken leg to a disappointed love affair. And six pairs of hands."

The angel shook her head slowly and said. "Six pairs of hands.... no way."

"It's not the hands that are causing me problems," God remarked, "it's the three pairs of eyes that mothers have to have."

"That's on the standard model?" asked the angel. God nodded.

"One pair that sees through closed doors when she asks, 'What are you kids doing in there?' when she already knows. Another here in the back of her head that sees what she shouldn't but what she has to know, and of course the ones here in front that can look at a child when he goofs up and say. 'I understand and I love you' without so much as uttering a word."

"God," said the angel touching his sleeve gently, "Get some rest tomorrow...."

"I can't," said God, "I'm so close to creating something so close to myself. Already I have one who heals herself when she is sick...can feed a family of six on one pound of hamburger...and can get a nine year old to stand under a shower."

The angel circled the model of a mother very slowly. "It's too soft," she sighed.

"But tough!" said God excitedly. "You can't  imagine what this mother can do or endure."

"Can it think?"

"Not only can it think, but it can reason and compromise," said the Creator.

Finally, the angel bent over and ran her finger across the cheek.

"There's a leak," she pronounced. "I told You that You were trying to put too much into this model."

"It's not a leak," said the Lord, "It's a tear."

"What's it for?"

"It's for joy, sadness, disappointment, pain, loneliness, and pride."

"You are a genius, " said the angel.

Somberly, God said, "I didn't put it there.”


And just as our mothers always look at us as their children, a certain part of us wants to hang onto them, too. We don't want things to change. We want them to always be there, our home plate in the game of life, our constant refuge. We don't want them to grow old; we don't want them to get sick, and God knows, we don't want them to die.  But even after they do, they live on forever in our hearts.

The heart of a mother is a deep abyss at the bottom of which you will always find forgiveness.  [Honore de Balzac]

Youth fades; love droops; the leaves of friendship fall; a mother's secret love outlives them all. [Oliver Wendell Holmes]

To all of you mothers, I wish you a wonderful Mother's Day. To all of you whose mothers are still with you, cherish them, not just on Mothers' Day, but every day of the year. To those of you experiencing that heart-wrenching role reversal—  taking care of your mothers, essentially mothering your mothers, as they once took care of you, with them depending on you as you once depended on them— bless you. I know how hard it is. For those of you whose mothers are no longer with us, I know you'll be thinking of them. And as long as they live in our hearts, they're never entirely gone.

Whatever else is unsure in this stinking dunghill of a world, a mother's love is not. [James Joyce]

                             Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

During the month of May, every comment you leave here will earn you another shot at winning a FREE autographed copy of my book Hot Flashes & Cold Lemonade. Pssst! Wanta up your chances? All ya have to do is mention my book on your blog, and it'll earn you another two chances. 

(If you're on Goodreads, I'd sure appreciate it if you tagged my book on there as one you'd like to read.)

[Images from morguefile.]

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

You Guys Light Up My Life

Thought for the day:  Even a small star shines in the darkness.

Pretty badge, huh? It's a blog award recently bestowed on me by the multi-talented Maryann Miller. If you haven't had the pleasure of meeting Maryann or of reading any of her many books, check out her blog... and her impressive listings on Amazon. You'll find quite a few books by this talented gal, whose career roles include journalist, award-winning short story writer, novelist, screenwriter, actress, and director. (And probably some others I've forgotten.) Plus, she's really sweet.

At any rate, I'm honored that this talented writer passed an award to ME. Thank you so much, Maryann. I really do appreciate it.

Okay, so the smart thing to do when receiving one of these awards is to follow the rules, right? They're quite simple:
  1. Link back to and thank the blogger who nominated you. (Check!)
  2. Post the badge on your blog. (Check!)
  3. Answer the questions posed to you. (Wilco.)
  4. Nominate five bloggers who shine a little light in your day, and notify them. (I'll do something close to that.)
  5. Ask five questions to nominees. (Uh-huh. See #4.)
So here's Maryann's questions for me:

How long do you spend putting together a blog?
Too long. At the very least, an hour, but that's extremely rare. Most of the time, between researching for information, images, and quotations, and then compiling, writing, and editing, I take the better part of a day. Oftentimes longer.

What other writing do you do?
Now that you know how long it takes me to write most blogposts, you can imagine how much time I've put into writing a book. But in spite of myself and my incessant need to edit and improve, my long-suffering novel Hot Flashes and Cold Lemonade is about to be (ta-DA!) published. I've also had a short story and an article about amateur radio published in national magazines... and even got PAID for them! What a concept. I say that because most of my writing over the past forty-some years has been pro bono. Yeah, I know. I'm an idiot.

Do you blog because you like to, or because you were told you have to by a publisher?
Like many others, I started a blog because literary agents said I should, but I've continued blogging because I enjoy it. To be more precise, I enjoy the wonderful people and sense of community I've found in the blogosphere. (Who knew?)

What is a story your family liked to tell about you?
When I was in school, it was standard practice to observe a minute of silence on certain days of the year...

As a first grader, I sensed the solemnity inherent in standing quietly in honor of Pearl Harbor Day, but was too young to understand the day's significance. That evening, I sighed, and with tears in my eyes, said, "Poor Paul."  Natch, my parents wanted to know what I was talking about, to which I replied, "The Japanese dropped a bomb on his head today." 

When you visit another blog, do you promote it on social media?
No. When it comes to social media, I'm woefully... unsociable.


Okeydoke, here's the part where I'm supposed to select five of you to receive this award. Impossible. Really. How am I supposed to consider all of you, and then pick only five who shed a little light on my life? The truth is, you all do. Every single one of you.

So, here's what I'm gonna do. If you want to take this lovely blog award badge back to your blog and answer all five of my questions in a post, GO FOR IT... with my blessings, and sincere gratitude for how much your posts always brighten my day. OR, if you'd prefer, pick and choose a question or two, and use your comment to answer right here. Easy peasy, right?

Now, all we need are the five questions:
  1. If you could possess any talent for a single day, what would it be?
  2. If you could host any three people (living or dead) at a party, who would you invite?
  3. What motivates you and makes you happy to be alive?
  4. If you could deliver a speech to the world's political leaders, what would you talk about?
  5. Are you a dog person, a cat person, or both? Mutt or purebred?

We all possess certain talents and gifts that are unique to only us. You already have everything that you need to start living an extraordinary life. It's up to you to turn the switch and let your light shine.  [Randa Mannin-Johnson]

                                Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.
                                    Burn brightly without burning out. [Richard Biggs]

                                [Images courtesy of and seniorark]

Don't forget! During the month of May, every comment you leave here will earn you another shot at winning a FREE autographed copy of Hot Flashes & Cold Lemonade. And hey! If you mention my book on your blog, that'll earn you another two chances.