Saturday, December 19, 2015

Writing Time

All authors seem to have a different method when and how they arrange a time to write. Some write a precise number of hours at a certain time each day. I am not that disciplined, but I can see where this would help a writer to consistently create work. I cannot follow this framework, especially at this time of year. Holidays mean family and friends, visits, long to-do lists, and keeping up at work. Plus, other life events intervene, and these must take precedence.

Besides, I have to have a story sizzling in my mind to stay working on it until it reaches a fairly complete stage. Right now, three are bouncing around in my brain, but my logical and creative viewpoints are arguing about how to make them different, how to make them suspenseful, and how to make them interesting, so the developmental stage is dragging on. Plus, two finished manuscripts are waiting, in need of a final revision. Yet, it seems like I haven't really written in months, and I’m not sure this pre and post-production stuff counts. As of now, actual writing will have to wait until after December 25th, but this time of year is productive in other ways than writing—it does stimulate my imagination.

All this separation from creating manuscripts is useful. As much as fiction writing is all in the mind, the details that make the story connect with readers depend on an author’s interaction and experience with others.

Anyway, I usually write best in summer, so when I'm stuck on details and plot, I can go walk or garden both of which busies my body but allows my mind to zone out and then focus in.

Skye Taylor
Diane Bator
Beverley Bateman
Connie Vines
Anne Stenhouse 
Rachael Kosinski
Marci Baun
A.J. Maguire 
Bob Rich     
Hollie Glover
Judith Copek

Friday, December 11, 2015

Monday, December 7, 2015

To Honor a Pearl Harbor Survivor

Johndean Jacobs
An excerpt from my Dad's account of December 7, 1941. I'm very glad he survived.

Hickam Field -- US Air Force Base, middle of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

Sunday morning, December 7th, I arose early and after breakfast, I went to the orderly room to type some letters. The orderly room was the headquarters of the squadron, one officer for the commander and the Adjutant, another for the 1st sergeant, the clerk typists (me) and a file clerk. I was now officially not going to radio-gunnery school. I got a small promotion and was now a ‘paper pusher.’ I didn’t enlist to push paper. I was going to fly! Ride in an airplane. Be a hero. Boy, was I dumb.

Shortly before 8 o’clock, I heard some explosions and felt the building shake. This was a large building. Living quarters for a thousand men, and a center mess hall for feeding twelve thousand each meal. Believe me, I had spent a solid month on KP, I knew how many men ate there. I ran outside to see what the commotion was, and saw fighter planes buzzing all around, and what sounded like firecrackers. Then I saw the rising sun emblem and realized they were Japanese. My god, they were trying to scare us with firecrackers like they did the Chinese. Ha!

Then I saw some tracer bullets fly across the field and hit the hospital, a quarter-mile away. And, out of the corner of my eye, I saw four or five guys running around the flag pole suddenly fly apart into pieces like ragdolls. I turned, ran inside to alert the guard. The phone was dead but the field phone rang. “This is Colonel Somebody or other, who am I talking to?”

“Jacobs, Johndean, Private, 16012660.” Boy, was I military. Also dumber than hell. “Private Jacobs, this phone is your post. This is war. Leave your post and you will be shot. Orders will follow.”

Suddenly a bomb blast blew in part of the outside wall of the office. I pulled the staples holding the wire to the baseboard around the walls and took the phone outside into the hall. Now I had two walls between me and the outside. I could still hear the firecrackers overhead and decided it was bullets striking the copper-clad cement roof.

Later, while on Guadalcanal, the only notice of bombs falling was the sound of them whistling through the air. I could tell within a small area just where they would fall. I knew if I should roll out of my cot into a slit trench or go back to sleep. One night I stood up and watched one fall, then heard another one close, and I hit the fox hole. I immediately popped out and… all hell broke loose. I slammed back into the hole and then stuck my head out and, low and behold, there was another string of firecrackers floating down with a paper parachute. Ha! Scared me just as they did the Chinese!

I could still man the phone and see out the doors of the building. I saw a fellow running zig-zag across the parade ground holding a World War I helmet full of beer. Seems the Snake Ranch, the beer hall, had been blown up. A Jap plane was zig-zagging right after him. He must have made it. I saw him a week later, still alive; sober, but alive. He was one of the outcasts or one whose parents paid for him to stay in the Army in Hawaii. There were quite a few of them around. They all got a monthly check, with a bonus to re-up when their enlistment was up.

One of the new men ran in one door and a bomb blast blew him across the hall and out the other door. Lt. Workman, the Adjutant, told a couple of fellows to take him to the hospital. He sure looked dead to me, but they picked him up and ran out. Three or four men ran in and wanted mattresses from the supply room that was in the center of the room. It seems they had broken into the armament room and had a 30 caliber machine gun with bullets out on the parade ground. Well, the Japs let them get all set up with the mattresses for protection and blew men, mattresses, and all away. They dropped daisy cutters on them—anti-personnel bombs that exploded just above the ground and either cut you all up or killed you, usually both.

The First Sergeant of the 72nd Squadron ran by pointing and shouting, “Get out, get out, bombs overhead.” Willie Workman made a dash outside and dove under some burning cars in the parking lot. He got shrapnel in the ass and a Purple Heart. Corporal Jack Reynard rushed out and dove behind the bushes next to the building. Shrapnel took off the top of his head. Purple Heart. Posthumously. He had replaced a hot-shot serial gunner as Charge of Quarters that morning. Later, we did get up three of our B-18 bombers and when they pulled up into formation, the hot-shot shot up the tail of one of our own planes. Claimed he saw a Jap plane out there. No one else did. I don’t remember him after this, maybe they dumped him.

The Squadron Commander rushed in and slid down the wall beside me, real scared looking. “Hell, Captain, wait ‘til our fighters from Wheeler Field get up.”

“Oh haven’t you heard? There is no more Wheeler Field,” he sobbed. My, I did, too!

He didn’t smoke, but I offered him one of my Camels. He took it, and between us, we smoked up two packs in about two hours…

The bombing slowed, and he told me that he relieved me of my post and to get out if I could. So, out I went. Across the parade ground, I saw a guy trying to stick an arm back on and an older fellow trying to stick guts back inside his stomach. On the ramp, our pretty line of airplanes was a shambles. One of the new B-17s that had landed from the States during the raid was broken in half. The huge hangers were all wrecked except one that had hardly any damage. The flag on the pole was shredded. Quite a few bodies and pieces were lying around.

Soon a Colonel came by in the sidecar of a motorcycle with a megaphone shouting the Japs had landed in the mountains wearing cotton khaki clothes. Anyone in CKC’s in one hour would be shot. We all had either CKC’s or civilian clothes on. There was a mad dash to get changed into blue fatigue clothes. Another motorcycle, another Colonel: “Japs have landed on the beach wearing blue coveralls. Anyone in blue in one hour will be shot. More than one GI walked around in his underwear. If some hot-shot had of thought of that, bare naked was the only next move. By evening, guns had been set up all around. There was a theory you had to fire a short burst about every half hour to keep the gun ‘cleared.' Everyone did. Shortly after dark, about five or six Navy planes came in across the ramp flashing their landing lights on and off. Some damn fool cleared his gun, sending tracers near them. Then everyone was shooting at them. I doubt if even one of them made it—looked like a solid wall of fire. I jumped under a barracks to protect myself from falling lead.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Demure Miss Manning -- Amanda McCabe

Harlequin Historical
ISBN-13: 978-0-373-29858-7
November 2015
Historical Romance

London, England 1805

Mary Manning is the daughter of one of England’s diplomats. Since her mother’s death, Mary has acted as her father’s hostess, staying in the background, always remaining polite, and helping her father at all the locations he is asked to go. Right now they are in London, where a vivacious friend of Mary’s leads her through society’s gatherings. Here she meets the man being proclaimed heroic, Sebastian Barrett. Upon first meeting this soldier, his demeanor, along with his extreme handsomeness, draws Mary’s attention. Then, at a gathering, he draws Mary to a balcony. They share a passionate kiss that Sebastian’s friends witness. It seems his romantic move was a wager. Mortified, Mary leaves. At home she finds her father packing, and she is pleased to learn they are going to Portugal immediately.

Lisbon, Portugal, and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – 1807

Mary has recovered from her humiliation at Sebastian’s instigation, but she has never forgotten the passion of the kiss they shared. She has sworn never to be so vulnerable again. However, at the moment, danger looms. Napoleon is invading Portugal, and the English delegation of diplomats, including her father, are working hard to convince the monarch to move his dysfunctional family and adherents to Brazil for safety. To her surprise, Sebastian is part of the delegation working with her father. He has left the army and is a diplomat in training, now one with some experience. As the court moves to Rio, Sebastian is a great help, not only to Mary’s father, but also to her. She has hardened her heart to his advances, but every touch, every stolen kiss, weakens that resolve.

While the story is largely from Mary’s viewpoint, the reader learns some of Sebastian’s thoughts. He knows what he did to Mary was wrong, but in London he had just returned from war, from seeing friends and comrades dead and dying. Those memories had affect him. In Portugal, he hopes to win Mary back, but if he can’t, he will still see to her safety in the morass of complications involved in moving the court to Brazil. Although he hopes he takes her to safety, there are those who do not want to leave their home in Portugal, and do not want an alliance with the English.

The historical background of this story is well researched and fascinating, and while it forms the background of the story, it does not overpower the story between Mary and Sebastian, partly because they play integral parts (fictional) in that history. Emotional suspense, suspenseful action, interesting characters, and vastly different landscapes set this historical romance apart; in a word: captivating.

Reviewed for Romance Reviews Today

Amazon link

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Doing Kindness

Bill is usually the one to stop when someone's car is on the roadside and it looks like the driver is having a problem. I've heard warnings for women not to stop, as the problem might turn out to be their own, so I'm always wary. Yet, once last year on the way into a school, I saw an older pickup truck on the roadside with a man and a woman outside the truck. There wasn't much traffic, and it was very cold and gray out. I passed them, and having second thoughts, turned around and went back.

The woman recognized me, and I think she said I had been her instructor. Once students are out of my class, I usually forget their names because I have a whole new set to remember, so while she looked familiar, I didn't recognize her. They were out of gas. I offered to drive her to the party store three or four miles up the road and bring her back. At the store, I went in bought a cup of coffee and told the clerk to ring her gas up on my card. I waited in my car for my passenger to return from inside the store. She said someone paid for the gas and guessed that I had. She thanked me while I started the drive back to the truck. She chatted a lot, and I think I remember her saying her husband was on the way to a job interview or was just starting a job, can't remember, but I was glad I stopped.  I know how upsetting running out of gas can be. Dropping her off, I was soon on my way to work. Hopefully, I helped turn the bad start of that couple's day a little brighter, but I realized that the stop had made my day better just knowing I had made a tiny difference in the world.

With what has happened in Paris this past weekend, and all the turmoil over accepting immigrants, I realized in a world filled with hate, bigotry, and distrust, such simple actions as helping strangers can help alleviate fear and restore a sense that not everything is bad, tiny bit by bit.

Please visit the following blogs relating to other random acts of kindness.

Diane Bator
Skye Taylor  
Fiona McGier
Bob Rich     
Marci Baun 
Connie Vines 
Rachael Kosinsk
Hollie Glover 
Judy Copek 
Anne Stenhouse

Saturday, October 31, 2015

My Fascination with Crows and Ravens

St. Luke 12:24: Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them; how much more are ye better than the fowls? (From The Bible, St. James Version. 1958)

My Dad loved to bake bread, but sometimes the raw dough went wrong (sometimes, I think, on purpose), and he would put it in the backyard where the crows would come and eat it. He would watch their antics, claiming sometimes they became drunk because yeast dough forms alcohol as it ages. Moreover, one ‘boss’ crow seemed to have charge over the other crows. Somehow its mannerisms reminded him of his father, so he called that crow Jake (for Jacobs). The crow crew became Jake and the boys. Dad was known as Jake, too, so when in died on Halloween in 1995, at his funeral someone sent flowers with tiny paper crows in it, indicating he was now with Jake and the boys.

I’ve always found crows and ravens interesting birds. Ravens are largest, the size of hawks; and crows are the size of pigeons, still large birds. When seeing them in flight you can tell the difference in their tails. Raven tail feathers take on an ovate shape, crows more of a fan shape. The raven also has a rounded, ‘Roman,’ nose, and perhaps look a little scruffier. Most are a glossy black, making them look very dramatic in the daylight. They are two different species of the genus Corvus, which in Latin means raven, but are often considered interchangeable in lore and mythology.

Some societies believe them signs of bad luck, others as bringers of goodwill and wisdom. The call of the raven, that deep, gravely, cras-cras sound? It means tomorrow in Latin (crās). So if an ancient Roman were walking and pondering looming events and heard a raven’s call predicting tomorrow, and perchance his thoughts came true, then the legend would arise that ravens were oracles or message carriers from the gods, which is part of the lore.

That glossy black color? When tied to its scavenging nature, it led to some nefarious associations with witchcraft, demonism, and the devil in some societies. We associate the color black with many evil connotations. Maybe because the blackness of night diminishes our vision and is just naturally scary. Therefore, for some, crows and ravens became evil spirits. Yet for others, they thwart evil spirits. Many North American Native American tribes believed the raven was the bringer of light and the world's creator. Isn’t it strange that Lucifer was also a bringer of light before his fall?

The fact that Corvus eat carrion, including human bodies, probably led to their becoming associated with death. Since they most likely settled down to eat after the chaos of battle had finished, they became signs that danger was over, but they also became associated with death. This death affinity might have led to their becoming known as carriers of souls to the spiritual world. For some, if crows and ravens could carry souls to the spiritual world, then they could return with messages from the same realm.

It’s not too far a leap from battle to murder, or for the soul carrier to become the soul, so in some societies, their association extended to murdered persons with the raven becoming the ghost of the murdered person. In any event, ancient warriors didn’t want to see a crow or raven before a battle, as it might predict imminent demise. It also gives an interesting take on Odin’s ravens Huginn and Maninn. Could they have represented mythical Valkyries carrying warriors to Valhalla?

Could this have also led to how they are represented at the Tower of London in England? “The guardians of the Tower: ‘If the ravens leave the Tower, the kingdom will fall…’ Ravens have contradictory lore messages. From the amount of mythology and folklore, it seems these birds have interested humans forever. Perhaps through the eons, humans noticed their intelligence. In recent years, tests for intelligence have proven raven's innate ability to solve simple problems, even that the test birds were capable of using a tool to achieve their aims. Perhaps ancients saw this intelligent bird perform a thoughtful feat to get to some food and named him the trickster believing them some god in disguise.

The Roman gods Athena and Apollo both had raven companions, as did the Norse god Odin. As mentioned, Odin’s ravens were Huginn, meaning thought, and Maninn, with some thinking it meant memory, and others who thought it meant desire. Ravens have respectable roles in the Christain Bible, too. Consider what God told Elijah the Tishbite from Gilead: I Kings 17: (4) And it shall be, that thou shalt drink of the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there. (5) So he went and did according unto the word of the Lord: for he went and dwelt by the brook Cherith that is before Jordan. (6) And the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening; and he drank of the brook. (From the Bible, St. James Version. 1958.)

All in all, crows and ravens are just other inhabitants of our world, living according to their own rules with nary a thought for what humans think of them. That's how it should be. Whatever symbolic signs we accord them belong to us, not them.

After my dad’s funeral, my family flew back to Missouri. Arriving home, I stood in the driveway and looked at a large black silhouette in the leafless, old sycamore tree towering over the house from the backyard. For the first time ever I saw a crow in this suburban area, a rare event. One sat at the very top branch of the tree. I knew he was Jake, and have treasured both crows and ravens ever since.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Benevolent and Violent Spirits

While I love the images of paranormal beings, I do not believe they exist in the physical world; not angels, demons, dragons, ghosts, ghouls, phoenix, mermaids, unicorns, werewolves, vampires, or zombies. If something doesn’t have a chemical identity, i.e. no subatomic particles are involved in a thing’s makeup, then it cannot exist in this universe. Yet, while I do not believe they exist in reality (a whole other kettle of strange concepts), I must also admit in some ways, maybe they do. I think they exist in our imagination, hopping between the brain’s neurons and synapses. Humans seem to need them, and the imagination can be a very powerful and insistent tool. Does that make them real or unreal?

Sometimes these images become so firmly entrenched in a mind that the person believes them real. Certainly, many people believe in them, especially when they are tied to faith. With the changing understanding of the universe by quantum physicists with their theories about how sub-atomic particles operate, with theories of space-time, and with the possibility of multiple universes, an infinitesimal probability exists for their physical reality.

Another interesting link to this idea is that we often identify some people by the characteristics we associate with these beings. Those who suck the life out of their associates are called vampires, or bloodsuckers. Those who are inevitably caring and giving, we know as angels. Those we've loved and have passed will always haunt our memories. Are they any less real to us? These human angels, spirits, ghosts, and demons I definitely believe in. People have done things far beyond angelic and far worse than demonic.

The image of an angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other isn’t about these beings' existence, but about a choice an individual must make and then how they bear the consequences of their choice, which dresses these beings with a moral cloth. Other paranormal characters also deliver messages about choices: dragons are protective or destructive, phoenixes tell us to ascend from failure, zombies tell us to change our lifestyle, werewolves about our changeable nature, and ghouls remind us to be wary. Therein lies the story.

Why do these symbolic personas continue to intrigue us?

Probably because their characteristics are so human, and because they relate such fascinating stories and lessons. Another reason might be that the human imagination is such a resilient and compelling feature of human identity. Minds are capable of creating spiritual voices and internal personages, both good and evil. And if we can imagine our own individual phantom presences, we can certainly identify with those paranormal beings entrenched in history since we have not essentially changed from those long-ago folk. Soul, spirit, inner being, self, heart, or psyche, whatever we want to call it, our insistent inner voices understand these powerful allegorical beings. Each identity symbolizes a message about being human; therefore, I enjoy reading and writing about them while trying to understand their purpose and message.

Please visit these other blogs participating in this round-robin topic:

Marci Baun
Margaret Fieland
Diane Bator
Beverley Bateman
A.J. Maguire
Fiona McGier
Heather Haven
Bob Rich
Anne Stenhouse
Helena Fairfax
Hollie Glover
Rachael Kosinski
Connie Vines
Skye Taylor