Monday, September 29, 2014

A New Story: "Continental Divides"

I have not been a good blogger lately. I have been writing a lot and designing books for other writers and have found too little time to blog. I have started a new series of Marienstadt stories and already have six stories completed toward a new collection. Over the weekend I read a wonderful book, Fox: Buffalo Swamp To Marcellus Shale: The History Of Fox Township Pennsylvania by Robert Schreiber Jr. and was reminded of something about my home town that I had forgotten--it sits directly on the Eastern Continental Divide. I had an idea and I started to write. Below are a couple excerpts from the new story. I hope you like them.


CONTINENTAL DIVIDES

The Great Buffalo Swamp it had once been called. Back in the early days before the coming of the Europeans not even the native Iroquois Seneca lived in these woods. They used it as their hunting ground because the forest was filled with deer and elk, wolves and bear, panthers and smaller game. But the land was too rugged; the hills too steep; and the tree canopy too dense to make the land habitable. Until the Europeans came, of course. Some days, when Oliver Eberstark ventured alone into the deepest parts of Opelt’s Wood, he daydreamed of what it must have been like hundreds of years ago before the coming of the farmers, then the loggers, then the miners. Oliver loved everything about the woods he inherited from his grandfather. He never thought of the acres of forest land as a possession, but rather a sacred duty entrusted to his keeping.
He had not been born in Marienstadt but in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where his mother’s family lived for generations. His mother’s father, and all her uncles, once worked in the steel mills. When the steel industry died, they stayed and eked out a living as best they could—driving taxis and working as handymen. His parents met when his father left Marienstadt to attend college in Pittsburgh and fell in love with a waitress in a diner where he went to study when his roommates were too noisy. They fell in love, married, and Oliver was born while his father was still a student—a student who, while studying for his final exams, contracted a virus that left him with myocarditis from which he never recovered.
Oliver’s only memories of his father were of a sick, frail man who needed his wife’s constant attention. The few times Oliver saw his father laughing were when his parents brought him to Marienstadt to visit his Grandfather Eberstark. During those rare weekends in Grandpop’s big timber and stone house on the bank of Pistner’s Run deep in Opelt’s Wood his father was a different man. As a little boy Oliver could not believe anyone would want to live anywhere else and every time, when the visit was over and they drove back to Pittsburgh, he prayed the few childish prayers he knew, that next time they would stay with Grandpop. He was convinced that the magic of the deep woods would heal his father’s heart.

Grandpop, whose name was Thaddeus, was a big, hardy, tough woodsman who built clocks in the workshop of his own grandfather’s abandoned sawmill. He loved the woods that surrounded his home and whenever Oliver visited he would take him for walks and talk to him about things that sounded mysterious and wonderful to the boy. Grandpop showed him great boulders with tiny mollusk shells embedded in them from a time long before the dinosaurs lived—when this land was tropical and near the sea. They found fossils with the imprints of ancient ferns and beetles in them. Grandpop told him stories of people and places that had names like Chief Tamsqua and the Chinclecamoose Trail. Those were the happiest days of the boy’s life. 
~~~ 

He skirted around the edge of a swamp with dragonflies flitting over it. The air was filled with the fragrance of blackberry blossoms. Bees buzzed back and forth collecting pollen before the petals fell away and the first green of berries emerged. Oliver climbed a grade to one of the logging paths so long abandoned that it was barely discernible through the vegetation. He remembered the first time Grandpop brought him here.
This is a very important place,” Grandpop had said. “Everything changes just about here.”
Oliver, who was always eager for new bits of Grandpop’s seemingly endless knowledge, looked up at him. “Why?”
Because right along here is the Eastern Continental Divide. Did you learn about continental divides in school yet?”
Oliver shook his head.
Well, a continental divide is a place that separates watersheds. Watersheds are areas of land in which all the water runs in the same direction. Here, I’ll show you. You stand over there.” Grandpop pointed to a rocky outcrop on one side of the path. “And I’ll stand over here.” He walked a hundred feet along the path then stopped and turned toward the boy. “Now, I might not be exactly accurate, but you are standing in the Atlantic Seaboard Watershed, where all the water from all the rivers and streams run toward the Atlantic Ocean. I’m standing in the Gulf of Mexico Watershed where all the water runs southwest toward the Mississippi River and down to the Gulf. Pretty interesting, huh?”
Oliver had turned and looked down into the woods where a small stream glittered in the distance. He pointed to it. “That means the water in that crick goes to the Atlantic Ocean?”
Yep. Come here.”
He joined Grandpop who pointed off into the woods. “On the other side of that ridge is Pistner’s Run.”
And so it goes to the Gulf of Mexico?”
Yep.”
Oliver looked back and forth between the two places trying to absorb what he was hearing. “So right here where we’re standing is where the Continental Divide makes them go in different directions?”
Grandpop put his big hand on Oliver’s shoulder and grinned. “Pritneer. I might be off by a few yards but this is just about the right place.”
Are there other continental divides?” Oliver liked these new words and he was eager to tell Nick and Dan about them.
Sure are. In North America there are six of them. Come on, I’ve got a map at home that shows where the others are.”

Since that day Oliver had often returned to the place where Grandpop told him about continental divides. It was a mysterious concept, he thought. Nothing you could see or examine and, yet, it seemed deeply important. If you knew which side of the divide you were on, you knew where the flow could take you.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

October is Mystery Month on Reader's Rock!!!

My books have been in several issues of Tammie Clarke Gibbs' fantastic Reader's Rock Magazine and they will be in the October issue with the spread below. I love this magazine. Get your free subscription by clicking here:

CLICK TO ENLARGE


Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Stories That Come In Dreams

I have written before about how Arthur's Story: A Love Story came to me in a series of dreams. I have no idea where those dreams came from but I still remember them and writing that story was a pure joy. Lately I have been dreaming again and last night's dream was particularly vivid. I'm writing because I'm still trying to catch it and hold on to it.

There is a very special, brilliant luminous quality to these dreams. This one started out on Thacher Island, a place I have been to and spent a lot of time exploring. The two stone lighthouses are very eocative for me—in fact they are the wallpaper for this blog. Last night I was walking along the stony cliff at the back of the island and was very aware of these huge stone towers looming over me. The sky was very blue and the wild beach roses and grass rustled in a breeze that blew in creating whitecaps on the ocean.

At first I did not know what I was doing there but it had something to do with finding a group of women. At first I thought they were princesses but then realized, no, they were beautiful and seductive but more the lorelei than princesses. I had to find them but then the story changed.

I met a man. He was young and strangely beautiful and he told me that he lived in the keeper's house. He said that the town could no longer afford to take care of the island and so they sold it and he was hired by the new owners to live there and care for it. He did not want to be there alone and so he was walking the cliffs every day waiting for the young woman they were going to send him. He was worried something would happen to her.

There is a lot of story potential in this and I wanted to write it down for two reasons—so I would remember it, and also to illustrate the mysterious nature of the subconscious. I have three stories in various stages of development right now. The Crazy Old Lady's Secret just got good marks from a beta reader and is now off to another reader. I am finishing up a new Marienstadt story called Candy Dippold and the Mail Pouch Barn. I have done a fair amount of work on a new Halcyon Beach Chronicle, Ghost of A Dancer By Moonlight, and have roughed out the beginning of another Pitts Crossing Tale, currently called The Tuesday Night Baking and Assassins Guild. I have plenty of writing to do—including rough drafts for at least four more Marienstadt stories.

I have no idea where last night's dream came from but I have a feeling it will haunt me for a long time—and maybe insist I write about it.


Thanks for reading.  

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Marouflage: The Things That You Learn When You Write A Book

The Crazy Old Lady's Secret is still in process. I hoped to have it out by August but it is looking like it could be October. It is a long story—the longest Beacon Hill Chronicle so far—and it is different than the others in that it is neither a mystery or a horror story but rather psychological suspense. It is not hard to figure out what is going on and, eventually, it is not hard to figure out who is doing it. The question is, why? Why is this happening?

And there is one rather juicy twist in the story that comes about two-thirds of the way through.

The story is mostly based in Boston's art world and one of my beta readers pointed out something intriguing to me. In one of the early chapters, Ramin Aria, the new owner of GrammyLou's townhouse, tells lawyer Cushing Phillips that he is going to have the murals removed and it Matty (GrammyLou's granddaughter) wants them he will ship them to her. This becomes important later on in the story. However, my reader made an interesting observation. She said that she thought murals were painted directly on to walls, so how could they be removed without removing the entire wall? Fair point.

Because I was an art major in college and have worked around artists much of my life, I knew that many murals are painted on canvas in the artist's studio and only affixed to the wall later. This serves several purposes. It allows the artist to work in her studio where the light is probably best. It frees the client from having someone working in their house for days, weeks, months. Plus it allows the mural to be removed at a later date if the owner so wishes to take it elsewhere.

What I did not know is that there is a name for this technique. It is called “marouflage” and is a technique developed by French artists. When I found the word (thanks to the internet) I was delighted because Ramin Aria, despite his Middle Eastern name, lived in Paris most of his life so it would stand to reason he would be familiar with the technique. I was also struck by the similarity of the word “marouflage” to the word “decoupage” which is the affixing of paper or fabric images to a surface and sealing them with a heavy coating.


So, thanks to my very conscientious beta reader, I changed one scene slightly to clarify it for future readers. To wit:

Cushing picked up the pearl-colored embossed business cards. "Mattie was only five when her parents died and she went there to live with her grandmother. It's very kind of you to be concerned."
Aria waved a hand dismissively. “I plan to do extensive renovations. There are a number of murals especially in the second floor rooms. Unfortunately they are not particularly distinguished and I will most likely have them removed. If Madame Michaud would like to have them, I'd be happy to ship them to her.”
"I suspect she doesn't," Cushing said, "but I'll let her know. I'm surprised to hear you say they're of little interest. The Thorndikes collected some very fine art. I remember paintings by John Singer Sargeant and Lilian Westcott Hale in that house."
Aria raised an eyebrow. “Those would be valuable.”
I remember the murals in that house.” Cushing's brows knit, as he probed his memory. “I didn't know they could be removed. I thought murals were painted directly on the wall. Do you have to remove the entire wall?”
Not at all. Many muralists, particularly those who paint finely detailed pastorals, paint on canvas which is then applied to the wall. Actually, the French developed the technique. It is called marouflage.” Aria's face became animated as he spoke. “There were, of course, some great muralists of the period during which my new home was built but the overwhelming popularity of murals at one time led some homeowners to settle for inferior work when a more accomplished artist was unavailable to them. Naturally, one always hopes that there are treasures to be found in these old homes but such is not always the case.”

Friday, September 05, 2014

Guest Post by Ray: Hanging with the Bucktails

Another guest blog post by our good buddy Ray in Pennsylvania: 

Hanging with the Bucktails 

by Ray Beimel

This past weekend I had the fine experience of being present for the 21st Annual Bucktail Reunion. This year it was held in Wellsboro, one of the most pleasant and interesting small towns in Pennsylvania. For my friends who are not Civil War buffs, the Bucktails were three regiments in the Army of the Potomac that wore the distinguishing buck tail on their forage caps. The first unit recruited was the 42nd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, also called the 13th Pennsylvania Reserves or the 1st Pennsylvania Rifles. The initial core of that regiment was recruited in Clearfield, Cameron, Elk, and McKean counties by Thomas L. Kane. He wanted hardy woodsmen familiar with firearms. Fleshed out with men from other parts of Pennsylvania, the regiment had an enviable reputation for marksmanship and prowess in skirmishing tactics. Their success inspired the recruiting of two more regiments, the 149th and the 150th Pennsylvania. These two were called the Bogus Bucktails by the 42nd but earned a reputation as fighters in their own right. Books could be written and have been but that is enough from me to give you an idea of what being a Bucktail was all about.

Many Civil War re-enactors from this part of the state have chosen these regiments as their model. After many years of taking part in reenactments, they thought they should have a weekend just for getting together and sharing their stories and comradeship. This was the 21st year of that event. They were camped in a park, using vintage style tents and camp furnishings. Visitors were free to come by and talk. Down in the beautiful town square there were demonstrations and items for sale. You would see Bucktails in the shops, in the restaurants, sitting in the shade in the square.
The fellow below had a big display of Civil War medical items, including leeches, fake rubber leeches. He was quite knowledgeable and articulate and usually had a fair sized crowd listening to his presentation.

My part in all this was to make some photographs, including the official group photo planned for later in the afternoon. After a few hours of conversation, I wandered down the main street looking for something to eat. A Chinese place beckoned as I had not had any of that in quite some time. After that, it was down to the bookstore. This was a nice independent place with a very large selection, shelves almost as high as I could reach. I found something I had to have entitled Pacific Payback, the story of the dive bomber squadrons on the USS Enterprise that defeated the Japanese fleet at the battle of Midway, the turning point in the Pacific war. Heading back to the square, I stopped in one of the outfitter shops and picked up a guide to the Pine Creek Rail Trail. The trouble with outdoor stores is that I already have all the camping gear I can use and I don’t get to use it often enough.

I hung around the square for a while. I spent a fair bit of time talking to the president of the Clearfield County Historical Society. His organization published a book of the writings of one of the original Bucktails so I had to get one of those. He told me they were moving their records to a different building so we talked shop about moving historical societies. I met his wife and we exchanged anecdotes and would probably still be talking but I had a professional duty.

It was time to do the group photo. The location was an old house right near the courthouse. Now occupied by a law office, it was standing when the Bucktails held their first reunion in Wellsboro back in the 1880s. The group took a long time to assemble. I did some photographer stuff and worked out my location for the camera. The group milled about while the stragglers arrived. They were patient because they had nothing to do talk to other Bucktails. Finally, I turned on the crowd control voice and got everyone lined up. The location was good with only two window air conditioners to mar the period. Those were easily retouched out with a few minutes of Photoshop magic.
After the Bucktail group was finished we invited the ladies in period dress to join the group.
And then smaller groups were formed for photos.

The group was breaking up when one of then told me there was going to be a photo session at the Penn Wells Hotel. This inn was there for the first reunion. Several groups set up in the tavern in front of the same fireplace that was there back then.

I was having such a good time that I decided I would spend the night so I went to the front desk to see if any rooms were available. I was in luck, there was a cheap and yet small room available and I took it. But while negotiating for that, I missed a good photo opportunity. Some of the Bucktails in officer uniforms set up a table with whiskey bottles, much as officers were reputed to do in the Civil War. It would have been a good image but I missed the chance. The next thing happening was a pig roast dinner back at the park. I ended up sitting with some friends from Elk County but we made the mistake of sitting at the last table to be served. Not a lot of pig left by the time I got there. But it was good and the company better.

Then we got into the real part of the reunion, hanging out with likeminded folks in a pleasant setting. There was music from the period done by guys in period costume with banjo and fiddle.
Some listened, others sat around in small groups talking. I tried to do both. One of my old Camp Mountain Run staff buddies was there and I listened to him telling Bucktail stories that I hadn’t heard before. It was quite dark when I was ready to leave so I was really glad not to be driving the 100 miles back home.

I hadn’t planned on staying the night so I was not prepared with clean underwear, socks, or toothbrush. A shower was good and a little tooth scrubbing with a wash cloth got rid of most of the grody stuff. I read for a bit but soon found that the long day had tired me out. I was soon asleep. In the morning I woke up feeling well rested. As long as I was in Wellsboro I was going to have breakfast at the well-known Wellsboro Diner. Several years ago I ate breakfast there with Brad and Chris. We sat at the counter and watched the grill cook at work. Her name was Holly and she was still there this day. She did all the breakfast cooking for everyone, waited on the ones seated at the counter (like me) and kept up running banter with the other waitresses and the regulars. The show was well worth the price of admission. And breakfast was good too.

As I walked back to the hotel, the rain started. It would not stop that day. The Bucktails had planned a church service on the square and then a parade to the cemetery. I took a drive to find the cemetery and walked to the church service. It was under a tent and Reverend Herring was preaching. I waited until the service was over to get my briefing about what was next. Given the rain, the parade down the main street was canceled. The group would assemble at the cemetery and carry on their ceremonies. There were 7 former Civil War Bucktails buried in the Wellsboro Cemetery. Each was marked with a special wreath. The modern Bucktails formed up a platoon size marching unit lead by a color guard. They marched from grave to grave. At each, they stood at ease while someone read the biography of the deceased veteran.
Then the platoon was called to attention and a salute was given. Then the group marched to the next grave site.
Of course, it was raining at every moment and only a very few were wearing ponchos. Their wool uniforms got wetter and heavier. There were others accompanying the group who had the good fortune to use umbrellas. One of them was me. This kept both me and the cameras dry. After visiting all seven graves, there were some final words and then the group broke up and headed back to break camp, pack up, and head for home.

It’s an interesting group to hang out with. Some of them are quite knowledgeable about the regiments’ histories. All are good to listen to. It made for a pleasant weekend even with the rain. And as I close I have to speak again of Wellsboro. It is a town largely given to the tourist trade and they are very good at it. There is much to see and do and the area is well worth a visit whether as a day trip or overnight or several nights. If you want a hotel stay that will take you back to the turn of the 19th to the 20th century you can’t do better than the Penn Wells Hotel. The food is good there as well.
If you want to see more of the Bucktail photos, go to www.beimelphoto.smugmug.com. There they are rendered in the warm tones of Civil War era photography.
Thanks for reading, Ray


Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Marienstadt has a Mayor!!!

In my last post I said that my Pennsylvania Dutch town of Marienstadt needed a mayor and I was open to suggestions. I did not get much feedback on the blog (thanks, Tony Schreiber) but I did get some emails, several suggestions, and we have a winner! The new mayor of Marienstadt is Gilbert "Gibby" Stauffer. He is a forty-something machinist married to Maxine and the father of five grown kids. 

Some of the other characters suggested were so interesting that they may well show up in future stories but right now you are invited to meet Mayor Gibby Stauffer:

~~~
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 Butterknödels, 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 five 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 five was towering three decades earlier 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.
The next thing Gibby knew his name was on the ballot. When election day rolled around, despite the fact that he had done virtually nothing to campaign, he was elected in a landslide. If it could be called a landslide when less than a third of registered voters even bothered to turn out. The few votes his opponent got were exactly the same as the number of adults in his family. Since then, between local fear that the old timers might get back in office and, more significantly, voter apathy, he’d won reelection twice and was beginning to fear he may be condemned to serve as Mayor-for-Life.
“Candy Dippold called three times yesterday,” Max said as she slid eggs onto two plates and arranged buttered toast beside it. His wife, like most woman in Marienstadt was a good down-home cook but he considered her “dippy eggs” to be her finest creation.
“Did he say why?” He picked up a piece of toast and used the corner of it to break through the plump pink yolk unleashing a tiny eruption of glorious, hot, creamy yellow goodness. He stirred the toast around until it was well-coated then closed his eyes and let the delicious flavors fill his mouth with pleasure.
“I’m not sure. He said he’ll be in his store all day if you happen to go by. I’m going over to St. Walburga’s to help in the nursery during ten o’clock Mass.”
“Okay,” Gibby said. “I’ll go see him.”


Saturday, August 30, 2014

HELP!!! Marienstadt Needs A Mayor!

As I work on a new collection of stories set in the town of Pennsylvania Dutch town of Marienstadt, it is becoming increasingly obvious that this town is becoming unruly and it needs a mayor. As readers of this series know, we have a wonderful Chief of Police—tall, blond, and handsome Henry Werner, who is a good person and looks out for his town but is not above overlooking a crime or two to protect his people. We have a judge in pompous windbag, Harrison Buerk, who, for all his pomposity, is always willing to be persuaded to give someone a break—especially when tempted by one of Lola's confections. And we have a town historian, Margaret Simons, who knows everything that has ever happened to anyone and likes them anyway.

So, my friends and beloved readers, what kind of mayor would be best for Marienstadt? Male or female? Young and eager or old and jaded? I am eager for suggestions. Please reply in the comments section of this post or on Facebook. Please give a description of the person you would like to see as mayor and tell me something about him/her. Suggest a name, if you like, too. I am open to any and all suggestions and look forward to your replies!


Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

More About Marienstadt

The other day on Facebook I wrote this status update: Cool, breezy day with lots of salt water in the air. The gulls have been in a big flap about something and carrying on quite loudly. Time to go to Marienstadt for a couple hours--we've got a barn to save.

This morning a guy commented on it by saying. You know, Kathleen, it's kind of cool to read something like this, "Time to go to Marienstadt for a couple hours--we've got a barn to save." and actually know where you're talking about. 

That cracked me up and so I decided to add more from the story I am working on. This one is a lot of fun!

“Mail Pouch Tobacco barns have been a beloved feature of the American landscape since 1890,” Margaret Simons said as she pulled a file folder from a drawer in the Marienstadt Historical Society offices on the third floor of Town Hall. “They used to be all over the place in the mid-west from Wisconsin to New Jersey.” She sat down at a table across from Candy Dippold. “By the mid 1960’s there were at least twenty-thousand of them. I’ve been able to document eight of them right here in Elk County.” She opened the folder and spread photos out on the table. “Unfortunately, Aaron Fledderman’s is the last one that is recognizable. There’s another one in a field out on the Bucktail Trail but it caved in several years ago and you can only see bits of painting on the boards.”
Candy sorted through the photographs, studying them carefully. “This one looks to be in good shape.” He turned the picture toward her.
“That’s in Potter County. The people who own that barn have done a good job of restoring it. I’m so glad they cared enough to do that.” She sighed. “I really hope the Fledderman’s barn can be saved. Aaron’s father built it in the thirties when he quit the Post Office and took up farming. That barn is painted on two sides so it’s especially significant.”
Candy picked up the photograph of the Fledderman barn. Though he had driven past it several times a week most of his life, and had always enjoyed seeing it, he had never thought of it as being anything more than one of the local features. It was a large black building with the traditional gambrel roof and sliding doors along the stone base. On both the front end and the side facing the highway the words Chew Mail Pouch Tobacco Treat Yourself To The Best were painted in white and yellow capital letters. Blue stripes highlighted all three visible corners. The barn was surrounded by elderberry bushes and a three rail fence formed a corral on one side.
“I wonder what shape it’s in?” he said.
“I don’t know but if the money could be raised to purchase the land it stands on we might be able to get a grant to help preserve it. When the Highway Beautification Act was passed in 1965, Mail Pouch Barns were exempted because they were considered historical landmarks.”

“Really?” Candy looked up at her. “You don’t say.”



Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Time to Return to Marienstadt?

Seems like it's a good time to get back to my favorite Pennsylvania community:

Other than the few years spent in the Air Force, Candy Dippold had lived in Marienstadt all his life. He had been lucky enough to serve his country during a peaceful period but, despite that, he came back to Pennsylvania convinced that it was the center of the universe and there was no reason to stray farther afield. He married Eunice Woelfel, who was, technically speaking, his third cousin, and took over the running of his family’s grocery store on Church Street across from St. Walburga’s Parochial School. For decades Dippold’s Grocery had been one of the busiest stores in Marienstadt and, even after the big Bi-Lo market moved into a shopping center out on the highway, Dippold’s continued to thrive. Candy accomplished this by making it his mission to carry as many of the locally produced food products as he could.
Due no doubt to the long-standing tradition of Bavarian thriftiness, Marienstadt was blessed with an impressive variety of unique and exceptional businesses. Kneidel’s Meat Market was one of the oldest in the county and Andy, the proprietor, continued to produce the sausages, scrapple, sultz, and more from recipes that his grandfather brought from the Old Country. Mulligan Wolfe, who owned Stooges Pigs and Kraut, made his own sauerkraut from cabbages he raised himself and cured bacon, jerky, and ham from his own pigs. Lola Eckert’s Strudel Shop was one of the prime gathering spots downtown and her strudels, pies, and pastries were responsible for more than a few locals taking up jogging. And Bearded Lady Hometown Treats, run by Stella Loeffler and Lettie Miller, was becoming increasingly popular for the relishes, preserves, jams and sauces they made from their home-grown produce. Candy was proud to carry as many of their products as they could spare. Plus there was his candy counter—the candy counter that was responsible for him being known as Candy and not his given name, Gunther.
The candy counter was four yards long, covered in glass, and featured every delicious morsel he could find to keep in stock. There had been a time when all the goodies were a penny but those days were long gone. However, because the store was across the street from a grade school, the candy counter was always busy regardless of the prices.
“Candy? Are you back there?”
Candy was in the combination warehouse/workshop behind the store when he heard the bell over the door jingle and a woman call to him. “Coming,” he answered. He put down the photographs he’d been sorting through and went out into the cheerful shop. “Mandy! Did you bring me more goodies.”
Standing at the counter carrying a large cardboard box was Mandy Herzing, a short, sturdy woman with curly blond hair that always made him think of Cupids. She wore jeans and a blue sweatshirt with the sleeves pushed up to her elbows and was, as usual, smiling her pretty smile.
“I did. I have some more of the pint jugs of our syrup and a couple boxes of the maple sugar candy you asked for.” She shoved the box up onto the counter. Mandy and her husband Bob owned Herzing’s Maple Sugar House, a large maple syrup bush and sugar shack. They harvested sap from their sugar bush every spring and boiled it down into syrup that they sold and made into a variety of candies, butters, and creams.
“Great.” Candy lifted out a box of maple sugar candies molded to look like little boys and girls in traditional Bavarian costumes. “I can’t keep these in stock and it isn’t just the kids that like them. Ezra Winter can’t come in the store without buying a couple.”
“Really? I didn’t know he liked them.” Mandy grinned. Ezra, who was well into his eighties, was generally acknowledged as a typical Marienstadt character. “Ezra’s father and my granddad were brothers. I’ll have to take him some. Bob said to tell you we’re getting some new molds so when those candies are ready, I’ll bring some by for you to see.”
“Good. What kind of molds?”
“Bob’s been wanting to do something with a local theme and he found molds that are shaped like elk. Then Father Nick came by—talk about someone who loves our candy—and he suggested we might look for some Belsnickel molds for the holidays.” She laughed. “Everyone always has ideas for us, that’s for sure.”
Candy grinned. “I think those are great suggestions. Father Nick has Sister Hilda at the convent making Belsnickel ornaments in the ceramic shop, too.”
Mandy nodded. “I saw them. They’re very cute.” She leaned closer. “Did you hear that the Fleddermans have put the family farm on the market. It’s been just sitting there ever since Aaron died a few years back. I guess I always knew this day would come but I sure hate to see it.”
“That’s the land right across the highway from you?”
“Yes. Bob said he’s going to talk to Harry Lenze at the real estate office to see how much is involved. Bob thinks there are quite a few acres. We don’t want the whole thing but if the land is going to be divided up, Bob said he wouldn’t mind getting a few acres close to us.”
“No kidding. What does he want them for?” Candy took the invoice from Mandy’s box and reached under the counter for his checkbook.
“He’s been talking to Stella Loeffler about starting an apiary.”
“Bees? Really?”
“Yes, but we want them far enough away from our house. We have three little ones and they play outside all the time. It might be better to keep the bees across the highway.” She took a deep breath and sighed. “I’m just worried about Aaron’s barn. I sure would hate for that to be torn down.”
Candy frowned, trying to picture the barn. “I don’t remember…”
“Candy! I can’t believe you forgot about it.” Mandy put her hands on her hips and gave him a mock scowl. “It’s the last Mail Pouch Tobacco barn in Elk County!”
Candy’s eyes widened. “Oh, that can’t be torn down. We have to save it.”

To be continued.....

Friday, August 15, 2014

Guest Post: Dr. Tiffany Brown

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Dr. Brown will be awarding an ebook copy of Anger: How to Control It So It Won't Control You to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Everyone has experienced it at least once in their life. Some have experienced it at least every day.

I have traveled all over the world and have seen it in every place. I have struggled with it as well. It’s a family problem for generations. It can be your greatest motivator or worst enemy.

Anger. Anger is defined by the Webster Dictionary as a strong feeling of displeasure and belligerence aroused by a wrong; wrath; ire.

I will show you not only how to control your anger from a Christian perspective but also have manage it until it motivates you; not hinders you. Get Ready. Anger is nothing more than manifestation of fear. Once you eliminate fear, the anger will be gone. Become Fearless.

Read an excerpt:

Section 2 - What is Fear and its connection to anger?

Fear is defined as a perceived threat of some type. It can be emotional or physical. When you feel that you’re in some form of danger. This activates your fight or flight response. Most animals respond to threat by either fighting or fleeing. However, we don't always have the option to fight what threatens us. Instead, we have anger. Words are the civilized way that we get to fight threat.

Some of my biggest blowups often involved a fear of being alone. When I have depended on people to reciprocate support for me on various levels, (new venue, in a relationship, or just life) they have disappointed me. I have never felt more rage in my life. It wasn't the disappointment that I was feeling or the feeling of being used. It was the thought that all my hard work wasn't good enough. I was unworthy, not loved, and alone.

Anger is just a manifestation of fear. For some people, when you are fearful of something, the first response that comes up is usually anger. Anger is a mask of fear.

I have learned that despite it all, I must be able to rely on myself and God. People, situations, and organization will fail you time and time again. When God is with you, nothing is against you.

You can do all in Christ that strengthens us (which is my current Church's motto).

Through my personal evolution of how to handle my anger, I have become fearless. I think before I move, I think instead of becoming angry. I am also slow to anger. I have now begun to think about the motivations behind people's actions. Sometimes, the only answer is indifference. Never fight anger with anger. It causes long reaching effects in ways you cannot even possibly imagine.

Fear is nothing more than an illusion of a possible threat. If you can control your response to your fears, then the anger will melt away.

About the Author:
Dr. Tiffany Brown is a native of Atlanta has taken great pride in her education and strives to continue broadening her knowledge. Graduating with a degree in Political Science from the prestigious Spelman College in 2001, a Master's degree in Public Administration from Clark Atlanta in 2004 and also a Doctorate in Public Policy from Walden University in 2009, she earned these achievements through determination and the desire to achieve her goals. She has held positions with the United States Government Accountability Office, Fulton County District Attorney's Office, Georgia Law Center for the Homeless, Georgia Conservation Voters, Supreme Court of Georgia, Equifax, Coca-Cola Enterprises, and Atlanta Bar Association. Upon Graduation from Walden University, she has truly impacted change as an academic and practitioner. She is former 2009 Write-in Atlanta Mayoral Candidate and owner of 3 companies: Tribute Contracting LLC, a minority owned government consulting firm TB LLC; Tiffany Brown Design House; Tiffany Brown Holdings Inc. - Consulting firm that has five divisions: entertainment, vending, radio, food, nonprofit management and book publishing. She is an author of several books: Daily Reflections of Life: A Book of Affirmations for the Ambitious and Prayers of a Faithful Woman. In 2010, She is honored as a Influencer by BOSS Network. The BOSS Network is a women's empowerment alliance dedicated to highlighting women and creating opportunities for growth through networking beyond events. BOSS was named among the top 100 websites and one of the top 10 career sites for women in 2010 by Forbes.com

Goodreads ~ Facebook ~ Website ~ Blog ~ Twitter

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Sunday, August 10, 2014

Writing About Kids

Because I've never had a child of my own, I feel a little awkward sometimes when it comes to writing about children. Of course I've never murdered anyone and I write about murderers all the time so I guess that shouldn't matter. I grew up the oldest of eight and I changed many diapers and spent many hours taking care of kids of all ages. I left home thinking, “That's enough of that.”

In my third Crazy Old Lady book, The Crazy Old Lady Unleashed, there is a two year old named Adam who was great fun to write. He is also in the new one, The Crazy Old Lady's Secret, along with a new character, Veronica, who is Viv and Joe's baby. One of my beta-readers said she wished she could see the baby and I found the picture at left which is close although I imagine Veronica having dark hair and olive skin like Viv. Adam, who is now three, is hilarious in this story—like many three year olds he loves worms, saying bad words, and is fascinated by boogers.

While I was working on the story, I found myself going to YouTube a lot and searching for videos of children of the appropriate ages. That way I could better visualize how children at those ages behave. I've read a lot of books with kids in them that are either totally unbelievable or dull as dirt. I'm trying to avoid that.

In two of my books I have teenage girls—Anjelica, 15, in Depraved Heart, and Charity, 12-13, in TheChristmas Daughter. I found it interesting to write each of these because in some ways they were similar and in some ways incredibly different. Anjelica was raised by her grandmother because her mother died when she was a baby and her father was in prison. But she had every advantage in the world—her family was very wealthy and loving and, though she only saw her father on rare visits to prison, he wrote to her every week, long letters that she cherished. Charity, on the other hand, was raised by a careless, irresponsible, prescription drug addicted mother, never knowing her father, and never having anything at all. In both stories the girls are now living with their fathers. Anjelica adores hers and is very protective of him. Charity is frightened to have no one but this man she has never known and, even though he is endlessly concerned and kind, she has trouble trusting him.

I find all of these scenarios both challenging and sweet. Challenging because I want to get it right. I suppose in some ways all of our characters are parts of ourselves and children are no different. I am grateful to the people who put videos of their kids on YouTube so I can see how a baby changes from two months, to three, to four, and so on. I love the difference between the way a two-year old talks and a three-year old. Without helpful videos, I'd probably forget.

As I await feedback before I can release The Crazy Old Lady's Secret I intended to start a new Marienstadt story but I read through a third Halcyon Beach story I started a couple years ago and seem to be working on that one now. It is called Ghost of a Dancer by Moonlight and it is about a young journalist, Cleo Blair, who goes to Halcyon Beach to investigate a story about a ghostly dancer but finds herself falling in love. A few of the characters from the other Halcyon Beach books are in it—Darby and the “Geezers.” I am enjoying this.

So I write. I write and I write and I write. It's what writers do....


Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Bonus Material for COL4

Now that The Crazy Old Lady's Secret is pretty much finished and is out with beta readers I can relax a bit and think about the next project. I got feedback from the first beta reader who said that the plot twist I like so much was a “bombshell...wow” which is good. His feedback was all good and encouraging so I am pleased by that.
Rooftops along Commonwealth Avenue in Boston

Because this story—like the other Crazy Old Lady stories—is set in Boston it has a lot of local color and, while people around here most likely are familiar with the places that are featured in the story, people in other parts of the country may not be. So I have decided to add a “Bonus Material” section at the end of the book. It consists of 10 photographs of places that are referenced in the books—from Steinert Hall, the fabulous but abandoned concert hall buried four stories under Tremont Street, to some of the houses on Beacon Hill and Commonwealth Avenue that served as inspiration for the locations I created. I hope people enjoy this.
#8 Walnut Street where Doctor George Parkman lived
The one overwhelming passion that has influenced nearly everything I have written in my life is folklore/myths/legends. There is something so deeply visceral about stories that persist through decades, generations, continents, that it leads me to believe that we human share a commonality and we cling to it because it connects us. When I was in college taking some classes in folk literature I was always struck by stories that, with a small amount of massaging, could take place in nearly any country and nearly any century.
The foyer in a Commonwealth Avenue townhouse, cozy, isn't it?
I think there is something that draws all of us to secret places, hidden nooks, mysteries, and dreams. Carl Jung wrote extensively about archetypes and I think that there are not just human archetypes but life-experience archetypes. I think about stuff like this a lot when I write. People often tell me that my people seem so real—I have even heard readers say that they have had dreams about some of my characters. This is such a great compliment because it means I am touching something that is universal and common to their experience.
A Commonwealth Avenue music room for an intimate evening with friends
So, as I am going through the manuscript of The Crazy Old Lady's Secret one more time and picking out material for my Bonus section, I hope I have included stories within my story that will spark curiosity and make readers want to know more about them.


Thanks for reading.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Prejudice and Bigotry Are for Old Folks

Back in May I wrote a blog post about a television series called Twisted that I had become fascinated by. The program is geared toward teens and is about a group of high school kids going through a lot of teen angst and high drama. I loved the program, not for the angst and high drama, but because the cast was about as racially diverse as it could get and the characters in the story held no prejudices along those lines. The were friends and dated one another without any apparent opinions about one another's racial or cultural backgrounds. I found it hopeful.

Today I came across another sign that maybe we are out-growing the foolishness of racial prejudice and bigotry. A study published in the Journal of Applied SocialPsychology found that kids who read the Harry Potter books were far less likely to express prejudice against immigrants and people of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. This is encouraging.

I read all the books and I was very charmed by the attitudes the kids in the stories had to “mudbloods” and toward “muggles.” The anti-bigotry message was clear and, though a lot of the old-folks in the book (mostly the Malfoys) were pure blood snobs, only a few of the kids were (Draco and his pals.)

To me this is very heartening news. If we can't erase prejudice and bigotry through enlightenment, maybe it will happen through attrition—the old bigots and racists will die off and the younger generations will take over. We can only hope.

I am a firm believer that the art of storytelling will triumph in the end. Uncle Tom's Cabin was one of the first American stories to open eyes to the problems of racial prejudice. It helped bring on the Civil War. To Kill A Mockingbird was another and it helped usher in the Civil Rights Movement. Now we have hope that Harry Potter and shows like Twisted will influence a new generation and encourage tolerance and diversity. Kids give me hope for a more enlightened future.


Thanks for reading.  

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Guest Post by Sonia Koso


Smart Blondes
by Sonia Koso
~~~~~~~~~~~~~

BLURB:
Austin socialite Carrie Pryce has no clue her criminally charming husband is carrying on with another woman until she returns home unexpectedly, mistakes the sounds of passion for a home-invasion robbery and accidentally shoots him in the backside. Stunned, Carrie drives all night to her quirky hometown and collapses in a near-catatonic state.

A crew of ladies spanning three generations realize it’s up to them to help Carrie get her life out of the ditch. Known as the “Presbyterian Mafia,” these are not sweet old gals. They have a book club that never reads, a garden club that doesn’t garden, and a bible study class that gossips about the Methodists. They’re known around town for antics including catfights, car chases and Voodoo rituals. The women enlist Carrie’s former childhood best friend Portia (now a lawyer) and her flamboyant cousin Eric (recently returned from New York) in their effort.


While dealing with the after-effects of her imprudent gunplay and managing a hair color disaster, Carrie meets Rhett Richards. He’s an attractive oil field worker who can make women think un-Christian thoughts by the mere act of wearing a pair of tight wranglers. Carrie soon learns that hometowns can be the perfect places to bury old scandals and create new ones.

Read an excerpt:
“Baby, put the gun down,” Jake said in a tone of voice one would use with a naughty three year old. “It’s…it’s not what you think.”

Carrie froze. She couldn’t have lowered her arms if she tried. As she scanned the room, she saw the remnants of a well-planned romantic event including champagne, massage oil, and discarded lingerie.

Jake was slowly moving away from the defiled kitchen island and found a potholder to shield his now deflating manhood.

“I wanted to tell you for a while,” Jake started. “I hate that you had to find out about it this way.” Carrie recognized this as his salesman tone of voice—over-articulated, round tones that were completely full of shit.

“This has been going on for a while?” Carrie asked. Jake looked down and then nodded his head.

He exhaled slowly and gazed downward, his default action before saying something awful. “We’ve been having problems...I’ve tried, but the excitement is gone.”

Excitement? Carrie immediately knew this was man code for I want to trade you in for a new one. She’d seen it many times but never thought it would happen to her. The phrase I’ve tried but the excitement is gone would run through her head in a relentless loop a thousand times.

“I need to be on my own for a while,” Jake continued in round tones. “With you and Kayley around, I can’t figure any of this out. I can’t be a grown man. I need fewer responsibilities…”

“You want me and Kayley to leave so you can figure out how to be a grown man? Jesus H. Christ!” Carrie screamed it more than speaking it. She couldn’t help herself.

“Maybe you need to get a few things,” Jake began, “And I’ll call the Driskill Hotel and get you a suite. We’ll talk in a day or two after we both cool down.”

“Let me get this straight. I walk in on you with your cock in the help… and you think I need to leave?” She firmed up her grip on the tiny Kel-Tec pistol. “I’m not leaving this house, this room or even that damn Aga!” It was an out-of-body experience. She wasn’t sure why she did it but Carrie fired the pistol at the stove.

There was bang followed by a ping and a whoosh and Jake’s scream. The bullet hit the front of the Aga, ricocheted off the cast iron and bounced into Jake’s naked butt cheek.

The next few seconds seemed like a year. Jake’s hand went to his ass then up to his face where he saw blood.

“Holy shit, Carrie!”

AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Sonia Koso grew up in the eccentricity-filled piney woods of North East Texas. She has been writing since an early age and considers it her first love. After receiving a B.A. in English Writing, her life took a drastic turn and she went to law school. Sonia practiced law for over a decade but was drawn back to writing in 2012. Sonia's stories feature strong women, good-looking guys, legal dilemmas and a dose of humor. Smart Blondes borrows many characters from her childhood as well as her legal career.

Sonia does most of her writing at her condo in Austin’s hip SOCO district. It’s in walking distance from landmarks including Lady Bird Lake, the Continental Club, and the Congress Avenue Bat Bridge. When not writing, Sonia divides her time between the live music of Austin and the sunshine of Boca Raton. She loves Tex-Mex food, blue water, cocktails and good friends. Sonia often dreams of a man who can do his own laundry and a walk-in closet with a chandelier…but not necessarily in that order.

Links:
  
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