Saturday, May 28, 2016

Meet Henry Werner #ImaginaryFriends

Yes, this is British actor, Iain Glenn but
I think in this picture he looks as much like
my Henry as is possible.
I have a confession to make: I'm in love with Henry. Chief of Police Henry Werner is the central figure in most of my Marienstadt stories in both The Whiskey Bottle in the WallThe Christmas Daughter, The Bucktail Cap in the Trunk, and The Legend. He is a big, blond, handsome man whose rakish behavior hides a broken heart. Henry is essentially a good man but he's not above breaking the law to protect the people he loves. I swear I keep writing Marienstadt stories just so I can spend more time with Henry.

from The Whiskey Bottle in the Wall
Henry Werner knew that being the Chief of Police in Marienstadt, Pennsylvania, was an easy job but any day that started out with a visit from Sister Adelaide, the Prioress of St. Joseph's Convent, and which was followed by a call from the State Police, was off to an unpromising start. Despite the fact that he was close to forty and had been a policeman ever since he left the Marines, one withering stare from Sister Adelaide could reduce him to a single throbbing nerve. The worst part was, she knew it.
“Henry,” she said, looking at him over the top of the half-moon glasses perched on her long, patrician nose, “is it really necessary to ticket the convent's automobiles at every single opportunity? I understand that the sisters need to be more mindful of making sure there is adequate money in the parking meters but, honestly, the time had barely run out when Patrolman Ginther wrote this out.” She waved the bright orange ticket in front of him.
“Give it to me, Sister,” he said. “I'll take care of it.” He knew that by 'taking care of it' he meant that he would pay for it himself but he preferred that she not know that.
“No.” She jerked the ticket back and tucked it into the pocket of the impeccably tailored black wool coat she wore. “We do not expect favors but we would like a small amount of ...” She paused, raised her eyebrows, cleared her throat, and then said, “a small amount of courtesy, shall we say?”
“I'll have a word with Dean, I'm sure he'll be reasonable.” Actually he was quite sure that Dean Ginther would be anything but reasonable. 

from The Christmas Daughter
 “Good morning, Boone.” The door opened and Henry came in, the bright sunlight making his hair glow.
“Hey, good morning. I'd shake hands but...” Boone lifted his, with coffee in one and strudel in the other. “Help yourself. I think we're going to have leftovers today.”
“No thanks.” Henry leaned against the counter. “I got a disturbing call this morning from Grant Caruso at the State Police barracks and I thought I'd better come by and have a word with you before the State Police show up.”
“Yeah?” Boone sat down behind his desk and bit into the strudel. “What did we do now?”
“Well, I'm sure you didn't do anything but it seems one of your guests might have been distributing child pornography from one of your rooms.”
Boone put the strudel down on a napkin and stared at him. “You're kidding?”
“I'm not kidding. It seems Mr. Vickery got himself in some trouble last night.”
“What kind of trouble?” Boone took another bite of strudel.
“Well, that's the thing, nobody knows exactly how it happened but the state police got a call this morning from a truck driver who reported a man tied up in an old green Bonneville that was parked at the Roadside Rest out off Windfall.”
“Tied up?” Boone laughed. “Tied up in his own car.”
“Not just tied up but stripped naked, pretty badly beaten, and wrapped up like a Christmas package with duct tape.” Henry looked at his cousin and suddenly felt an odd but familiar shiver. “His hands were taped to the steering wheel; his mouth was taped shut; and the duct tape was wrapped around his chest, arms, and the back of the seat.”
“Sounds like he pissed someone off,” Boone said.
As they were talking, Lucius came through the door from the tavern, nodded to Henry, and drew himself a cup of coffee.
“Uh-huh.” Henry continued. “On the passenger's seat were a couple computers and an old digital camera with a slide show of naked kids.”
Lucius walked over and perched on the desk. “Sounds like one sick puppy to me.”
“No kidding,” Boone agreed. “Do they have any suspects?”
Henry looked back and forth between them. “Geez, Lucius,” he said. “What happened to your hand? You've got some nasty bruises.”
Lucius examined his knuckles and shrugged. “I whacked it while I was changing out the beer kegs in the bar. I'm not the tough guy I used to be.”
Henry closed his eyes for a second and decided he needed to get going—the sooner the better.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Nothin To It Coconut Pie #DomesticGoddess

I honestly don't know where I got this recipe but it could not be easier to make. I use low-carb baking mix and a sugar-stevia mix but it is delicious.

Nothing To It Coconut Pie
1/2 cup Bisquick
3/4 cup sugar
4 eggs
2 cup milk
1 cup flaked coconut
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tbs. butter, softened
Combine all ingredients and pour into 9 inch buttered pie pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes until custard sets. Like magic it layers into crust, custard, coconut topping. Cool.
make sure you click on share to save this awesome recipe.

Tip: One cup of Bisquick can be substituted by a mix of one cup of flour, 1½ teaspoons of baking powder, ½ teaspoon of salt, and 1 tablespoon of oil or melted butter.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Meet Elizabeth Payne of Damselfly Studio #ArtistLove

I met Elizabeth Ann Payne through a mutual friend on Facebook. I was introduced to her lovely work when I received a set of stitch markers much like the ones shown here. She has two Etsy stores and I know you will love what she has to offer!

I am a Central PA native, a graduate from Endicott College in Beverly, MA, with an AA in Fashion Design, from back in the day when it was still an all-girls school. After graduation, I stayed on the North Shore for five years, designing handbags for a company in Lynn, a cottage industry stuffed animal business in Ipswich, and last, but far the least, a bridal salon in Salem. Through these years I was blessed to live in Beverly, Ipswich, then on Washington Street in Gloucester near Folly Cove.

Fast forward to thirty five years later, my life experiences have lead me to different job opportunities and, with my husband's job, different places to live. Because of my love of fashion history, bridal design was a natural for me. After working years of retail jobs and sewing for other businesses, I finally went on my own in 1993. In 1997 I had the opportunity to join one of the most respected bridal shops in Lancaster County, Classic Weddings. I was the manager, co-buyer, designer, fitter, sales...loving every moment of the non-stop world of retail bridal. There, I began my bridal veil line and a headpiece line made from Swarovski Crystals and Freshwater Pearls. I saw that there were no jewelry lines offered at market that were suitable to be worn both at the wedding and after, so, Damselfly Studio Jewelry was born.

A few years later illness caused me to retire from the retail world and my husband's new job required that we move. While living in Minnesota, I learned the art of bead weaving. Later a dear friend influenced me to start knitting. When we moved to Erie, PA, on beautiful Lake Erie, I was introduced to the world of beach glass. My husband, a native of Gloucester and a natural beachcomber, would hunt glass for me to make into jewelry that I sold at a local gallery. I opened a shop on Etsy, Damselfly Studio Bridals, to sell my couture silk bridal veils, Bridal tiaras and jewelry.

I am knitter who loves to knit lace. Lace knitting can require a lot of stitch markers to divide the stitch patterns as you knit. Having a large stash of supplies from making jewelry, I started making my own. Then one thing led to another. My knitting friends began saying I should sell the stitch markers. After refining the design, I opened a shop on Etsy. This is my second Etsy shop. I have been selling bridal veils as Damselfly Studio Bridals since 2007. My new endeavor is Knitters Serendipity. Currently I sell stitch markers for knitting and crochet. I plan to add shawl pins and brooches at a later time. I also am exploring felting. The world of textiles and jewelry design will always be leading be down one interesting path or another. There are always new techniques and ideas to explore. That is the fascinating thing about art. It is ever evolving, moving, never stagnant. 35 years after I designed my first handbag, I designed, knitted and felted a handbag, using years of combined experiences.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Mystery of the Bearded Lady Continues

In August of 2010 I posted on this blog about a very unusual photograph that I had come across while doing research for one of my Marienstadt stories. It was an old carte de vista from around 1880 of a bearded lady in an elaborate gown with the information that she was a “Mrs. A Myers” from Elk County, Pennsylvania. Since I was born and grew up in Elk County, PA, I was immediately interested and embarked on a quest to see if I could find out more about her. Though I discovered a number of images in which her name was spelled differently she was always referred to as “The Bearded Lady of Elk County.” This was not unusual because if she traveled with P.T. Barnum's sideshow, which several of the web sites claimed, she would be better known by her show name than her actual name.
Mrs. A. Myers, the Bearded Lady of Elk County
In a book about my home town written by Dennis McGeehan, a guy I went to high school with, I found this photograph with the description . “This photograph is certainly and enigma. The 'bearded lady was a popular sideshow attraction at many carnival and traveling shows. When the carnival came to town, everyone crowded in to see curiosities that could not be seen locally. Not much is known about this figure except that “she” received a certain degree of fame and was from Elk County,

I posted it on my blog and it provoked a fair amount of discussion. I repeated the post a couple years later and this time I received a few more photos of the same woman. One of these had the inscription “R.G. Gardiner” and Kansas City on it. I also received 2 more photos of the couple—very obviously the same two people.
R.G. Gardiner, Kansas City
Who was this mysterious lady? No one I knew had ever even heard of them. Naturally, because my imagination works overtime. I began spinning a yarn which ended up being the story Of Beautiful Strangers, Woodchucks, and Bearded Ladies which was published in my The Whiskey Bottle in the Wall. In it I imagined a gay couple in love who chose that one of them live disguised as a woman in order to be together. It was an interesting story to write and I liked it.
Same couple in three different poses
As I persisted in trying to find out more about her I found sites where someone speculated that she might have been Annie Jones, a well known side show performer. Or a Jane Devers, a bearded lady known to have at least two husbands. However I found photographs of both of those ladies and do not think they are my Mrs. Myers.
Annie Jones
I also came across a book called Madame Viola, the Bearded Lady of Elk County which gave her birthdate as June 6, 1854. Unfortunately, no copies of the book, by someone called Damon & Peets, have turned up.
Jane Devers and one of her husbands
Since I first wrote about Mrs. A Meyers or Myers, a number of people have told me they own similar carte de vistas in different poses but with the name Mrs. A. Myers on the back. I have also received messages from a few people from Elk County who had heard stories about her from their elders and the conventional wisdom was that she was, indeed, a gay man who lived as a woman with her lover as her husband. They were said to have left town and traveled for years with various side shows. P.T. Barnum, being a genius at getting publicity, was known to challenge anyone who dared to imply that his bearded ladies were actually men. He defended their feminine honor loudly and publicly, threatening lawsuits and bringing in the crowds.

Whoever she was, I hope her life was as satisfying as it could be under the circumstances. And, as always, I am eager for any additional information.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Meet Tristan Hancock: #ImaginaryFriends

Tristan Hancock is a fisherman who is teaching himself to carve. He's always been known as a loner but when he takes his carvings to Minerva Light, who owns a popular shop on the waterfront, that changes. Tristan and Minerva are two very unique people who are very beautiful together. This is from Sailor's Valentine in Mardi Gras Was Over: Three Love Stories.

The first thing Minerva Light noticed about Tristan Hancock was his hands. She fell in love with them and then began working her way up his arms to the rest of him. The minute he stepped into her shop she knew he wasn't there to buy anything. Though she couldn't remember seeing him around the docks or on the Neck he had the look of the local lobstermen. He was big, maybe a little over six feet but broad with wide shoulders and thickset. He wore a baseball cap and dark glasses and a t-shirt that had probably been green once but that was many months and washings ago. Like many of the fishermen he wore a mustache that drooped down the sides of his mouth and was peppered with gray.
He came into the shop on a Tuesday afternoon with a nylon backpack slung over one shoulder. He looked nervous and uncomfortable which is how most of the local guys looked when they had to come into her shop for some reason.
“Can I help you?”
He turned and looked at her, took a deep breath, and then smiled as though smiling was something he had to prepare himself for.
“Hi,” he said and he slung the backpack onto the counter beside the cash register. “Are you Minerva?”
“Minerva Light,” she said holding out her hand and that was when he took it in his. His hand was huge, twice the size of hers, and square and hard. She stared at it and he let go quickly and she thought he might have been afraid he had hurt her. “This is my shop. But I bet you know that already.”
“Yeah, my friend Geoff told me.” His voice was low and quiet. She found herself leaning forward slightly to hear. He undid the clasp on the backpack and reached inside. She watched his hands moving, big, tough hands but graceful in a fascinating way, deft, accomplished. He removed a package wrapped in brown paper and unwrapped it. “Would you give me your opinion of this?”
What he handed her was a piece of wood that had been carved with meticulous precision in the shape of a stylized lion's head, mane tossed back, teeth bared, eyes wide. It had been carved with attention to the pattern formed by the grain of the wood, sanded to a smooth finish, and oiled to a fine sheen. When she took it from him her fingertips brushed his hand and she noticed he once again withdrew his hand swiftly.
She turned it over examining the swirling mass of the mane. “Very handsome,” she looked up and saw his eyes for the first time, he had removed his sunglasses and in the soft afternoon sunlight, his eyes were a light warm brown like pools of maple syrup.
“Thanks.” He said it awkwardly, uncomfortably.
“Did you do this?” Minerva glanced quickly at those big hands and then back at the carving.
“Yeah.” He opened the bag and began unwrapping more pieces. A dragon snorting fire, a snarling dog, a horse's head with flared nostrils and bared teeth. “I copied them, really. The designs aren't mine. I copied them from a book about ship's carvers I got from the library. What do you think?”
Minerva Light picked them up one by one and studied them examining the attention to detail, the stain applied to emphasize the wood grain, and the careful application of finishing oils. “They're very well done. Your finish work is excellent.”
“Thanks,” he relaxed a little and picked up the dragon. “I kind of came upon the finish on my own.”

“You did a good job,” she looked up into those eyes again.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

For the Love of Rhubarb #DomesticGoddess

I love rhubarb--I always have. My birthday is in July and when I was a kid I'd ask for rhubarb pie instead of birthday cake. My Gram Werner had the best rhubarb plant. She said it was descendant of the rhubarb her father brought from the Old Country and for years when any of us went off to live somewhere new she would give us a rhubarb plant taken from hers for us to plant. I have planted Great-grandpa Wolfel's rhubarb in three different states.

These days I get rhubarb wherever I can--from neighbors gardens, farm stands, the grocery store. And I always make the same thing, rhubarb sauce like Gram Werner's except, once it is cooked, I take a lot of liberties. The basic sauce is simple. Wash, trim, and cut the rhubarb into bite-sized pieces. Put them in a nice heavy pot with a well-fitting lid, or in a crockpot. Add a teensy bit of water--just enough to keep it from burning, and cook on low until the rhubarb forms a sauce. Add whatever sweetener you like and serve hot or cold. The sweetener can be a lot of things. Gram would have used sugar but I don't. Mostly I use a combination of honey and stevia and keep tasting it. It will get sweeter as it cools so don't sweeten too much. My mother used to ad 2 or 3 boxes of strawberry jello while it was still hot--sugar-free or regular. This makes a lovely semi-sweet sauce that thickens up nicely.

Once I had a large jar of strawberry jam that was much too sweet for my taste. I stirred it into sauce made from 3 lbs. of rhubarb and it was perfect. I've also added frozen cherries or raspberries or strawberries. Taste as you go because you don't want to lose that rhubarb tartness.

Rhubarb sauce can be frozen but will also keep in the fridge for quite awhile--assuming you can leave it alone. It is delicious on ice cream, pancakes, pound cake, pork chops, waffles, cheesecake--really just about anything. My absolute favorite way is on graham crackers spread with cream cheese.

In recent years people have been substituting apple sauce in muffins and cakes in place of oil. You can do the same thing with rhubarb sauce and the taste is delicious. I made raspberry muffins with rhubarb sauce and they were out of this world. Rhubarb is also very good for you. It is low in calories and carbohydrates, high in fiber, and has a healthy dose of Vitamins A & C as well as potassium, calcium, and magnesium.

It's almost summer and the rhubarb is growing. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Ulysses S. Grant vs. the Vampire #AuthorLove

This excerpt from Roland Yeomans's The Not-So-Innocents Abroad
 is guaranteed to draw you in! Enjoy!

It is 1867 in an America a layer of existence from this one. General Sherman was denied his march through Georgia by forces beyond his ken. Abraham Lincoln was never assassinated though he wishes he had been killed instead of his beloved Mary. The battered Indian tribes of America have a strange refuge courtesy of the cursed Texas Ranger, Captain Samuel McCord.

A global war of vampire kingdoms is going on beneath the noses of the living world -- and it is interfering with the honeymoon of the alien empress, Meilori Shinseen. She ruled the Aztecs when a political execution took place on Golgotha. Meilori commissioned the Sphinx to take her mind off repairing her star-craft.

The warring vampire rulers have mistaken her boredom with ruling the nations of Man as weakness. They have made a grave error, emphasis on the word "grave."

What is a not-quite-mortal groom to do? Survive as best he can.

Vampires, Vengeful Spirits of the Earth, Aliens Among Us, and a Man with the Blood of Death in his Veins trying to keep it from being spilled before his honeymoon is over.

Come join the maiden voyage of the first Air/Steamship, the Xanadu, where murder, intrigue, and betrayal reign supreme ... and that is just in the newlywed’s bedroom.

Joining the newlyweds are Mark Twain, 11 year old Nikola Tesla, his faithful black cat, Macak, Horace Greely, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ada Byron, daughter of Lord Byron, and the mysterious Greek physician, Lucanus.

Lurking in the shadows, hoping to kill them is the insane Abraham Lincoln, the crippled General Sherman, the vampires, Abigail Adams and Benjamin Franklin, Empress Theodora, ruler of the Unholy Roman Empire, and the vengeful Captain Nemo, following in his Nautilus.

Steampunk intrigue and adventure was never so much fun.

by Roland Yeomans

Consciousness seeped back painfully into my dull mind. Where was I? How had I gotten here? And just where was here? I opened my heavy eyelids.
I swayed slightly as I hung by my wrists linked to a silver chain strung from the ceiling. My nose wrinkled from the stench of sulfuric acid. The interior swimming pool beneath me was filled with it. The diffused sunlight from the shaded windows cast weird reflections on the marble walls from the lethal surface of the rippling acid beneath me.
My wrists were handcuffed with silver cuffs. I smiled bitterly. Someone didn’t know what exactly I was.
That someone spoke gruffly, “The great McCord finally helpless. I have lived to see it.”
I studied the portly man in elegant evening clothes sitting in a white wicker chair beneath me. The chair was far enough away from the pool’s edge that me dropping in would not splash acid upon him. He sipped fine brandy and studied me back. I may not drink the stuff, but I knew President Ulysses S. Grant would not drink any brandy but the best.
He puffed on a Cuban cigar. I heard he loved those … and hated me. But me hanging over a deep pool of sulfuric acid would have told me that even if I hadn’t already known it.
Why, Grant?” I asked. “I saved your life in New Orleans and at Ford’s Theater. Hell, I even took a bullet for your wife.”
My stomach coiled as a familiar voice laughed, “But, Captain Sam, have you seen his wife?”
I flicked my eyes to the right. Damn. Sammy hung from the ceiling over the far end of the pool of acid. I glared at Grant.
I could understand this coming from Sherman or even Lincoln. But you …”
I am the President of these United States, McCord! Did you think I would stand idly by and watch you force that abomination of an Indian Treaty upon me?”
I told you that if you corralled me into shepherding that treaty for you, the Lakota and the other tribes would be treated fairly.”
That is not for you to decide, Texan! With that treaty you neutered Lincoln’s Homestead Act. And you buying both the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific Railroads gutted the Transcontinental Railroad Act!”
Sammy cocked his head at me. “How much money did you bring back with you from King Solomon’s Mines anyway, Captain Sam?”
I brought back saddlebacks that never get empty. I just reach into them, and what I need comes to hand … like controlling shares in those railroads.”
Sammy brightened, “You mean you could give old Weird Beard over there millions?”
He turned to Grant. “You open to a low-minded but high interest bribe there?”
I shook my head. “The things I take out disappear unless I use them for the innocent.”
Sammy snorted at Grant. “Well, that lets you out.”
Grant smiled coldly, “And burns you alive in acid, Clemens.”
Thunder rumbled above the mansion as Grant flicked cold eyes to me. “Any last words, McCord?”

Roland Yeomans was born in Detroit, Michigan. But his last memories of that city are hub-caps and kneecaps since, at the age of seven, he followed the free food when his parents moved to Lafayette, Louisiana. The hitch-hiking after their speeding car from state to state was a real adventure. Once in Louisiana, Roland learned strange new ways of pronouncing David and Richard when they were last names. And it was not a pleasant sight when he pronounced Comeaux for the first time. He has a Bachelor’s degree in English Education and a Master’s degree in Psychology. He has been a teacher, counselor, book store owner, and even a pirate since he once worked at a tax preparation firm. So far he has written thirty-three books. You can find Roland at his web page: or at his private table in Meilori’s. The web page is safer to visit. But if you insist on visiting Meilori’s, bring a friend who runs slower than you.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Erie's #Vampire Crypt: #GhostStories #Paranormal

The story I am working on these days, the third in my Halcyon Beach Chronicles, involves a lot of local legends, something I am passionately fond of. All my Halcyon Beach stories involve ghosts. My ghosts were once in love but they loved the wrong person and, consequently, now, engulfed in longing and regret, they haunt the old beach town in the off-season, seeking the one they desire. It is the passion and the longing that drives them and that makes these stories so delicious to write.
The infamous Vampire Crypt in the Erie Cemetery

Recently a Facebook friend posted some photographs on her Wall that brought back memories of a long-ago legend. In the late 1960s I was a student in Erie, Pennsylvania. Late nights in our dorm rooms we often gathered to swap stories and one of the most popular stories that got swapped concerned the Erie Vampire Crypt. Oooo, thrills and chills.
Entrance to the Cemetery

According to the legend, an abandoned mausoleum in the Erie Cemetery off Cherry Street, was the resting place of a vampire who arrived from Romania in the 1880s and then died from consumption. I didn't know vampires could die of consumption, but I suppose anything is possible in legends. Now the crypt stands silent and forbidding. I could not wait to see it for myself.
The Witches Circle

The day we went to see it was a dark and dreary day in October. There were three of us and we all knew the story of how shortly after the vampire's internment, desiccated bodies began turning up in the area. There were also stories about a boy who broke into the crypt and, in order to prove he did, stole a ring from the corpse he discovered inside. He was found dead later that night in his own bed, his ring finger ripped from his hand.
The tombstone-eating tree

Yet another tale told of boys (it's always mischievous boys) who had climbed on top of the crypt and attempted to set it on fire. You can still see the scorch marks. But his project came to an end when he was mysteriously pitched from the roof to his death on the stone stairs below.
In recent years a coyote has moved into the cemetery

When we arrived at the cemetery we first visited the Witches' Circle which is a group of old headstones arranged in a circle—one of which appears to be half eaten by a tree. There are plenty of stories about this, too. The oddest one being that the bodies beneath these stones had escaped the hanging times here in New England. If that is the case these were very, very, very old witches. From the desk at which I write this I can see the oldest Universalist Cemetery in the U.S. And, though it is close to 200 years older than the Erie Cemetery, it was established too late for any victims of the witch trials. Actually, Gloucester, unlike our neighbor Salem, never had any witch trials. There were a few women here accused of witchcraft, but, Gloucester being Gloucester, nobody cared and they were left alone.
The lintel with its strange ornament

Anyway, we located the Vampire Crypt and it was indeed spooky looking. The name has been chiseled off the lintel and there is a floral emblem in the shape of a V over the door. There are scorch marks to justify the burning story, but I don't recall experiencing anything particularly spooky while there. We walked around it, climbed the hill to look down on the roof, though we didn't climb onto the roof because we'd heard the stories and we knew how that ended.

I'd forgotten all about that day until my friend posted her pictures and reminded me of it. I have my doubts about the supernatural but I love stories like his anyway—I love the quirk within the human psyche that wants to create terrible legends that we can repeat, and pass on, and give ourselves nightmares over. It is deliciously human and there is always the unexpressed desire that one of those lonely, love-sick ghosts will manifest and haunt us for failing to desire them when they were still with us.

Thanks for reading.

Meet Gibby Stauffer #ImaginaryFriends

Gibby is the mayor of Marienstadt. He never wanted to be mayor--he wanted to play professional basketball. In this excerpt from The Bucktail Cap in the Trunk, we see how things went awry.

There were a lot of days when Gilbert Stauffer—known to everyone in Marienstadt as Gibby—woke up wondering how in the hell he wound up as the town’s mayor. Actually, if he was honest with himself he knew how. He was mayor because of his weakness for pork roast cooked with Mulligan Wolfe’s thick cut sauerkraut and Lola Eckert’s delicious Butterkn√∂dels, all washed down with a frosty bottle of Straub beer—or three, or four. As a young man, Gibby dreamed of a career in sports. He might not have been the smartest guy to graduate from Central Catholic High School but he was the tallest. At six foot six he was the star of the basketball team and was quite sure he was destined for greatness. The problem turned out to be that, while six foot six was towering at the time in Marienstadt, it was not particularly tall in the world of professional basketball.

Gibby made the best of the situation. He went to work in a local machine shop and turned out to be even better at turning, cutting, milling, and grinding than he had been at sinking baskets. He married his high school sweetheart, Maxine, and together they raised five kids. By local standards, they had a better than average life. Once all the kids were grown and flown the coop, Maxine assumed the role of grandmother-at-large, devoting as much time as she could to their growing collection of grandkids, as well as to any other little ones in need of extra attention. She volunteered at the local parks teaching crafts and at St. Walburga’s reading to the pre-school and kindergarten kids. Gibby didn’t mind. It kept her happy and he was equally happy stopping at Fred Sarginger’s Snuff Box or the Moose Club for dinner.

It was the Moose’s weekly Tuesday night pork and sauerkraut dinner that cooked his goose. He had been sitting at the bar with Mulligan Wolfe, off-duty patrolman Dean Ginther, and Mulligan’s brother, Augie, as the coming mayoral elections were being discussed. 

“Something’s gotta change,” Augie said, “this town has been run by the same bunch of bullheaded old Dutchmen for way too long. We need a candidate to boot their fat, old asses out.”

“No kidding,” Dean agreed. “The police department can’t do anything without getting called on the carpet. It’s got to change.”

Gibby, who was busy signaling to the bartender for another beer, didn’t notice they were all looking at him.

“What?” he said when he realized no one was talking.

“Perfect,” Mulligan said.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Cheesy Vegetable Patties #DomesticGoddess

Vegetable patties are a delicious way to serve vegetables that even vegetable haters learn to love. These are made with cauliflower but I've made them with all kinds of squash, broccoli, corn, potatoes, asparagus, and vegetable mixtures, too. Be brave!!!

Cheesy Cauliflower Patties

1 head cauliflower
2 large eggs
1/2 c. cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 c. panko (or bread crumbs, or nut meal if you are watching carbs)
1/2 t. cayenne pepper (more of less to taste)
olive oil

Cut cauliflower into florets & cook in boiling water until tender about 10 minutes. Drain. Mash the cauliflower while still warm. Stir cheese, eggs, panko, cayenne & salt to taste.

Coat the bottom of a griddle or skillet with olive oil over medium-high heat. Form the cauliflower mixture into patties about 3 inches across. Cook until golden brown & set, about 3 minutes per side. Keep each batch warm in the oven while you cook the rest.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Help from the Ghost of Wild Bill Hickok #AuthorLove

I first got to know John Hamilton through his book Isle Royale
which I loved. Now he has an exciting new book, 
so I invited him to post a sample here. Enjoy!

Ghost Marshal: A Tale of the Weird West
by John Hamilton

John Hamilton at Devil's Tower
All hell breaks loose when Jessica Parker arrives in 1876 Deadwood and finds her father brutally murdered. Jessie teams up with the cantankerous ghost of Wild Bill Hickok to confront a murderous gang of outlaws in a town gone mad with gold fever. They soon find themselves knee-deep in mayhem, with gunfights, Chinese sorcery, barroom brawls, pleasures of the flesh, giant demon owls, forbidden romance, and a heaping dose of frontier justice. Along the way, Jessie and Bill uncover a bizarre conspiracy that takes them to the very gates of hell itself. From prairie wildflower to badass gunslinger, Jessie Parker is destined to become a rip-snortin’ hero of the Weird West—if she lives long enough to tell the tale!

A blood-curdling scream echoed through the building’s thin walls. After a moment of realization, Jessie cried out, “That’s Annie!” She threw open the door and rushed out of the room, followed closely by Bill.
Jessie ran down the hallway toward Annie’s room. More screams came from inside her friend’s bedchamber. Doors on either side of the hall were flung open as the other women poked their heads out to investigate the commotion.
“Good Lord, what a night,” Jessie said. She grabbed the doorknob and twisted, but it was locked tight. She pounded on the door.
She heard more muffled screams from inside the room, then the sound of flesh pounding on flesh. Jessie threw her shoulder against the door, but it was rock solid, not giving an inch. She banged again on the door with her fists.
She felt Bill’s presence behind her.
“Jessie, get ready.”
“What for?”
Bill moved close to her, inhaled deeply, then stepped forward and merged with her body.
Jessie stood up straight, confidence radiating from every pore. Her eyes narrowed as she gritted her teeth. With a shout, she brought her knee up and thrust outward with her foot, kicking the door straight off its hinges.
Jessie leapt into the room, skidding over pieces of splintered wood. She saw Annie lying naked on the bed, sobbing, two black eyes marring her face.
A man stood next to the bed, hurriedly pulling on his trousers and gun belt. He twisted toward Jessie and they both stopped dead in their tracks.
It was the man with the black eyepatch, the assassin who’d tried to kill her in the street that awful night.
The man quickly recognized Jessie. With a grunt, he leapt forward and tried wrapping his big hands around her throat.
Jessie expertly moved to the side, grabbing one of the man’s wrists and smashing him in the face. Then, she unleashed her full fury.
Jessie snarled and continued pummeling the assassin. Under the relentless onslaught, he staggered backward across the room. The one-eyed man tried fighting back, but Jessie was too quick and too strong. Guided by Bill, she easily slapped away his meager counterpunches.
Finally, Jessie had the man backed up against the far wall, barely able to stand on his feet. She wound up and delivered a crushing blow, sending him crashing through the window. He tumbled down to the back ally below.
With a whoosh, Bill exited Jessie’s body and stepped to the side, into the shadows. Jessie winced and shook her hand, then grinned. “Damn, that felt good!”
Jessie went to the shattered window and looked down. She spotted the one-eyed man staggering to his feet. His face was a bloody mess.
“You folded him up like an empty purse.”
She turned and saw Bill next to her.
“I had help,” she said.
“You’re the one who went running as soon as you heard screaming,” he said. “I swear you’d fight a rattler and give him first bite.”
Jessie grinned at Bill and then looked down again. The one-eyed man spotted her. She saw him struggle to unholster his gun and then shakily aim it upward.
“Back!” Bill cried out in warning.
They both ducked as a bullet zinged into the windowsill. A splinter flew up and struck Jessie in the face.
Down below, the man bellowed, “I’ll get you, bitch! You’re dead!”
Jessie slowly peered through the window again and watched as the one-eyed man staggered off into the shadows. She noticed her reflection staring back at her in a jagged shard of glass sticking up from the window frame. She winced. There was an ugly red mark on her cheek where the splinter had struck.
“That bastard.”
“He’s all gurgle and no guts,” Bill said. “He won’t be back tonight.”

Author Bio:
John Hamilton is a bestselling novelist and author of more than 250 nonfiction books for young adults. An Active Member of the Western Writers of America and the Wild West History Association, his work has received critical acclaim from School Library Journal, Children’s Literature, The Sioux City Journal, We Proceeded On (the official journal of the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation), and many others.
John’s young adult book Battle of the Little Bighorn earned 2015 Spur Award Finalist honors from the Western Writers of America. He is a two-time winner of the Golden Duck Award for Excellence in Children’s Science Fiction Literature, and his epic retelling of the Lewis & Clark expedition, Lewis & Clark: Adventures West, was a Minnesota Book Award finalist for Young Adult Nonfiction.
John has a journalism degree from the University of Minnesota. He has taught writing and storytelling at the university level. School Library Journal said “(Hamilton’s) books present a remarkable amount of information and provide readers with a clear understanding of complicated issues.”
John is also an award-winning photojournalist and landscape photographer. His rodeo photography won an Editor’s Choice Award from the National Association of Photoshop Professionals.
John holds black belts in both Tae Kwon Do and Kung Fu. He loves target shooting, baking bread, and playing with Finn, his trusty schnauzer. He can be found most summers with his family either exploring the American West or hiking along Minnesota’s rugged North Shore.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Great (x7) Grandpa Was A Rebel: James "Long Gun" Harkness

Dagamoc Kirkyard where both James and
Thomas Harkness are buried.
I grew up in a family with a mystery--my Great-grandfather Thomas Valentine was said to have fled from Ontario to this country after a terrible fight in a bar and changed his name from Thompson to Valentine. This story persisted throughout the family--some believed it, some said it was just a family legend. About 15 years ago one of my second cousins decided to investigate and, after many travels, hiring a genealogist, and tons of research, he wrote a paper which he passed on to me. He was convinced the story was absolutely true. What a shock. I was one of the doubters. It just seemed too romantic to have such a feisty great-grandpa.

A few years back I shared his research with another cousin from a different branch of the clan and recently I got to see the massive and extensive research that she did. It's pretty imposing, but it turned up a story that is even more amazing than that of our rambunctious great-grandpa. Great-gramps's mother was one Margaret Harkness who moved as a child from Dumfries, Scotland, to Ontario where she met the son of an Anglican preacher and married him. Great-great-grandmother's family came from a very long line in Scotland and that line included a seventeenth century rebel by the name of Captain James Harkness (1651-1723) who was called "of the Long Gun." Great (x7) Grandpa Harkness was a Covenanter and on 29 July 1684 lead an "ambuscade" at Enterken Pass where he rescued prisoners being taken to Edinburgh for execution. He was 23 at the time. Later he and some of his fellow "ambuscers" were arrested and imprisoned. James escaped, the rest, including his brother Thomas, were hanged.

I found this headstone for Great (x7) Grandpa James "Long Gun" Harkness which still stands in Dumfries. This, as near as I can tell, is what it says: Here lyes the body of James Harkness in Locherlien who died 6 Dec 1723 aged 72 years. Belo this stone this dust doth ly who in dured 28 years porsecution by tirrany. Did him persue with eko (echo?) and cry through many a lonesome place at last by Clavers he was tane. Sentenced for to dy. But God who for his soul took care did him from prison bring Because no other cause the had but that he (ould) not give up with Christ his Glorious king and swear alligence to that beast the duke of york i mean. In spite of all there hellish rage a naturel death he died in full assurance of his rest with Christ eternally.

I love this guy and it's starting to feel like I might have to write about him at some point. But in the meantime, here is an account I found in an old book, thanks to Google books.  One thing is for sure, if Great-Grandpa Valentine was a rambunctious lad who got in a bar brawl and had to flee, he came by his high spirits honestly.

from The Covenanters: A History of the Church in Scotland by James King Hewson:

Ambuscade and rescue of prisoners in Entrikin, 29th July 1684
Lieutenant Patrick Muligan, in command of half a troop of Claverhouse;s horse, escorting the party of prisoners tied in couples to horses led by 'pedees' had safely reached the upper part of the defile at its most dangerous point when he found himself menaced by armed men. On either side there was a party: looking backward he saw in Glen Valentine a third command barring his retreat. The ambuscade was perfect. There was a demand for the prisoners, a refusal, a dragoon's oath, a volley, the unerring shot of Black MacMichael—the fowler of Maxwelton—and the tumbling dead of Sergeant Kelt into the linn which tradition has named after him. The horses bolted, and in the confusion some prisoners escaped. One assailant, or prisoner, Robert Smith, was killed; Grierson was left for dead among the brakens of the Dry Cleuch, into which he was trailed, and from which he was conveyed to the shieling at Thirstown, where nursing restored to him his strength, except his eyesight shot away; MacKechny in a rally was recaptured and taken to Edinburgh, where he died of gangrened wounds. The story soon reached Edinburgh was to the effect that some of the prisoners were slain in the conflict; two of them broke their necks over the precipices and other two were brought to Edinburgh, and one or two of the King's forces were killed. The Council ordered a judicial inquiry and Depute-Sheriff James Alexander of Knockhill, all the lairds of Mid-Nithsdale, the garrisons, and all the parishioners of the vale, were assembled at the romantic Church of Dalgarno to give evidence, on 4th August.

Heroes of the Ambuscade
It was proven then that the rescue was a well-planned affair. James Harkness of Locherben, “Long Gun,” a youth of twenty-three, James MacMichael from the Clachan of Dalry, and John Grier, chapman from Glencairn, were the prime movers in the matter. Their associates were Thomas Harkness, junior, of Locherben--'White Hose,' Adam Harkness of Mitchellslacks, James Corsane, Jedburgh in Glencaird, James Tod, William herries from Kirkcudbright, Gilbert Watson, a spy, and others to the number of forty. On 28th July, sixteen of them met by night in the house of Rolland Thompson in Auchengeith to lay their plans and try their pistols. Most of the rescuers were on the fugitive roll. One witness deponed that he heard that the wife of John Hoatson of Nether Dalveen gave winding-sheets to “the killed prisoners”; another saw the people take away the corpse of Thomas Smith.
Margaret Frissell Harkness in Mitchellslacks, who swore an alibi for her sons William and Thomas and her grandson, Thomas, was retained in custody for harboring and resetting her own fugitive children.

Claverhouse captures six of the rescuers

Claverhouse was soon in the saddle for the southern hunt. In August he appeared only twice in Council/ His usual luck attended him. On 9th August, he stumbled upon six men sleeping in the open in the parish of Closeburn, Dumfriesshire, who defended themselves, three being wounded and all taken prisoners. They were James Harkness, Thomas Harkness, junior; Andrew Clark, a smith, a youth of nineteen from Leadhills; Samuel McEwan, an orphan lad of seventeen from Glencairn; Thomas Wood from Kirkmichael, and another. James 'Long Gun' Harkness escaped, probably out of the prison at Dumfries. Claverhorse escorted them through Annandale of Edinburgh and secured them in the Canongate Tolbooth. On 15th August they were tried before Lord Linlithgow for “being in arms, and that one of them presented a gun to the King's forces, that they had ball upon them, that they conversed with rebels, denied authority, and fled from his Majesty's forces.” They declared themselves innocent of Enterkin. Tried at noon, found guilty, and condemned to die between two and five o'clock the victims had little time to compose their testimonies before they were dangling in the Grassmarket amid drum rolls.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Meet Gwen Webster #ImaginaryFriends

Gwen Webster was the prettiest girl in Pitts Crossing when she was a girl. Her mother thought she would grow up to be the next Shirley Temple and gave her singing and dancing lessons. Alas, Gwen's life did not go exactly as planned and she wound up teaching English in her home town high school. Now a lot of years have passed and every morning Gwen stops by her friend Cece MacGill's house. In this scene from The Monday Night Needlework and Murder Guild (which is on sale for 99¢ through May) there is some tension between the two old friends, the question is why?

I popped out of my reverie with a start. “Gwen, come on in.”
“Where in heavens name were you?” she asked, opening the screen door to the kitchen. “You looked like you were on Mars.”
Gwen Webster has been my friend since we were girls. We grew up a few houses apart and Gwen taught English and drama at the same high school. Now we live a few blocks apart and, since we are both retired, we check in on each other practically every day.
“I was day-dreaming.” I picked up the basket of knitting beside my chair. “Did you bring your knitting? We can sit on the porch.”
“Not today.” She crossed to the cupboard and lifted the tea towel I had draped over a platter. “You must have just made these; they're still warm. You make the best scones of anyone.”
“Thanks. They're buttermilk and huckleberry. Help yourself.”
The last statement was superfluous because Gwen had already taken a plate from the cupboard and plunked a scone down on it. I was well aware that Gwen probably did not need the extra calories—she was always complaining about the weight she had gained since retiring. The way I see it is, we're both so far over the hill what does it matter at this point?
“I only have a few minutes. I told Naomi I'd drive her to the ophthalmologist in Danvers. They're going to put drops in her eyes so she thought she shouldn't drive.” She sliced the scone in half and spread it with butter.
“What are you working on now?” Gwen carried her coffee and scone to the table and joined me.
“It's a shawl for my niece's wedding in October; isn't it pretty?” I held out the piece for her to examine. Nothing makes me as happy as watching the inches of delicate, filmy lace, as fine as a spider's web, tumble down from my needles.
“It's gorgeous.” Gwen stroked one of the balls of yarn in my basket. “So soft. I don't know how on earth you work with such fine yarn. What size are those needles? They're tiny.”
I held up one of the new nickel-plated steel needles I purchased just for this project. “These are double-zeroes. You need a super-sharp point for lace this fine. I don't really like them though. They're too hard on my hands. I read that wooden needles are better for us old, arthritic knitters so I ordered some. I can't wait for them to get here.”
“You amaze me.” Gwen sighed. “I'd go blind trying to knit with yarn that fine.” She finished the last of her scone then pressed her fingertip to the crumbs on the plate and licked them clean. “Cece, that was absolutely delicious. I wish I could stay but I better get going.”
She stood up and carried her dishes to the sink.
“Why don't you take a couple of those scones home with you? Take some for Naomi, too. I'll wrap them up for you.” I started to put down my knitting but she pulled open a cupboard drawer and took out a box of plastic sandwich bags.
“Don't bother. I'll wrap them up.”
I knew she would. Whenever I bake I make more than I'll ever eat. Someone I can give them to always comes by.
Gwen tucked a couple scones in each bag.
I kept my eyes on my knitting and said, as lightly as I could, “And are you doing okay?”
She paused and the silence felt like it could go either way. Then she said, “I'm fine. I started reading the new Cara Black mystery for next Monday. I think it will be a good one.”
“Good,” I said, staying focused on my knitting. “I'm looking forward to it. You always do a great job.”
She stood looking at me for a minute as though she wasn't sure what to say, then picked up the packages of scones and said, “I'll talk to you tomorrow.”
“You bet. Drive safely.”

She let the screen door bang as she left. I wasn't sure if that was on purpose or not, but I wouldn't have been surprised if it was.