Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Reflections on the Frankenstorm and the Perfect Storm


It was a Thursday night in 1991 and I was living in Marblehead. I stopped at a friend's house on the way home from work and she said, “You live right on the water, don't you? Are you going to evacuate?” I didn't know what she was talking about – I had been at work all day and hadn't heard the news – a big storm was headed our way. I stayed in the house that night and it shook so hard that water sloshed out of the toilets and, by morning, our dock was gone and there was a 35 foot cabin cruiser on the lawn. Two days later I was in a restaurant in Gloucester when I heard a man say, “They say the Andrea Gail is missing.” It was a time I never forgot.

I had been through bad storms while living in Texas. I remember one that left the weeping willow trees in the courtyard of our apartment in the swimming pool and another when the hurricane barreled right through downtown leaving shattered glass hip deep in the streets and beds hanging out of the windows of the Sheraton. I do not like storms and am always nervous when one is on the way.

For the last few days I've received lots of emails a calls from friends in other places asking how we in Gloucester fared through Sandy. I tell them we are fine. There was not much to complain about but the pictures of other parts of the country make me sick to my stomach. How do people recover? I know that New Orleans recovered and Houston recovered but when I look at these photos I just want to cry. Maybe because I have recently been working on my Halcyon Beach stories the one below affected me very deeply – an amusement park roller coaster washed out to sea.
 An amusement park roller coaster taken by the storm.
 In West Virginia, Sandy created three feet of snow.
 On Lake Erie, waves battered a lighthouse
 Much of Atlantic City has been washed away
 Too late to call a cab in Hoboken
One of the saddest loses, the HMS Bounty sinks to the bottom of the sea taking her captain with her

Good Harbor Beach at high tide. The bridge held.


Eastern Point Light in Gloucester
All that remains

I just do not have words to express my shock and grief and sadness. New York. NEW YORK! How can this happen to New York? All these pictures do is remind me – like I need reminding – of how small we are in the face of the natural world and yet how large we can be in helping one another. Some meteorologists say that violent storms are becoming the new normal. As the polar ice caps melt and the seas warm and rise our shores will recede and storms like Sandy will increase. The one thing I keep thinking over and over is, “We've got to take care of our planet. Even if climate change is inevitable what is wrong with doing everything possible to protect our planet?”

Last week I was sitting at my desk writing when the whole house began to shake and the windows rattled strong enough to make the wind chimes ring. It was an earthquake that measured 4.0 on the Ricter scale. 

A few days later on a cold, brilliant day, the sky was filled with rainbows – Sun Dogs (above) on either side of the sun and a Circumzenithal Arc (below) – nature at its most beautiful. 

I have no words of wisdom here – only humble wonder at the world in which we live. We need to take care of it. We need to realize we are dependent on it for our continued existence. We need to understand this before it is too late.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Mermaid's Tale Awarded Indie Book of the Day

I confess I am not familiar with this web site: IndieBookOfTheDay.com but this morning I received notification that The Old Mermaid's Tale has been awarded their daily award for independently published books. They sent me a very nice badge to put on the books web page and a lovely certificate.
I am very pleased that my book was nominated and chosen. Considering the thousands of indie books that are being promoted these days, I'm grateful for this recognition. It is also a good time to let readers know that a boxed set of my three novels -- The Old Mermaid's Tale, Each Angel Burns, and Depraved Heart -- is now available from Amazon for $8.99 which is a 30% savings over buying them individually. This makes a nice gift!

You can find it at Amazon or Barnes & Noble:

Thank you to IndieBookOfTheDay!

Monday, October 29, 2012

SampleSunday: REVENGE is Free for Halloween

Ever dreamed of getting even? These two short stories are filled with quiet horror and the desire for revenge. FREE now through Halloween: Home-made Pie & Sausage / Killing Julia Morris.


Two short stories (6K words, total) - Two short crime stories about revenge:

Home-made Pie and Sausage (crime/horror): Sometimes the most ordinary things in life can turn out to be the most horrifying - especially if you're the sheriff of a small town who didn't pay attention when he should have.

Killing Julie Morris (crime/murder) - Julie Morris was beautiful, rich, spoiled and used to getting her own way -- until she wanted the wrong man. This "chilling" story proves it's not a good idea to take people for granted.



from Killing Julie Morris

"I meant what I said," he calls to me. "You don't have to take the long run every time."

I turn and shade my eyes looking up at him. "I know that. I like it."

He shakes his head, jumps down, and walks closer. "Look, just because you're my sister doesn't mean you have to keep proving yourself to these guys here. We all know you're tougher than the rest of us." He's grinning but his eyes are serious. "Manny said you haven't been getting back until after dark every night. That's nuts. The other drivers can swap off, no need for you to always be the last one in. Give yourself a break. Have some fun."

I look down at our work boots. Toe to toe Vinnie isn't much taller than me. Being big and muscular and tough is good in a man. He's never realized it's not the same for a woman. Vinnie has a wife and four kids. My last tank of fish died from neglect. He doesn't see the difference.

"I like driving up the coast," I say. "I never get tired of it. I'll try to go a little faster and get back earlier."

Vinnie puts his hand on my shoulder. "That's not the point. I don't care when you get back. I just hate seeing you work longer hours than the rest of us."

"You work all the time, you just do it at home. Josephine said you were working on plans for that fountain all weekend."

Vinnie sighs. "Yeah, well, that was a waste of time. Looks like I'll be working on it again tonight."

"When's the party?"

"Not until June but you know Julie Morris -- you can't start too early to make plans for one of her parties."

"Why baseball bats?"

He laughs. "She said it's her kid's birthday and she's inviting his Midget League team but I think she's just sucking up to Henry Crane."

"Henry Crane?" I stare at him.

"Yeah." Vinnie taps the toe of his workboot with the ice bat, keeping his eyes lowered. "He's the coach this year and she wants to make sure her kid gets to play a lot." He shakes his head.

I take a deep breath. "You could tell her to get lost."

He nods. "Yeah, I could."

But he won't. That's how Vinnie is.

I take the ice bat from him and, with a grin, pretend to swing it toward his head. "Well, the party isn't until June. Maybe you'll get lucky and somebody'll shoot her and put her out of her misery."

He laughs out loud. "We can only hope."

He is still laughing as he turns and walks back to his ice plant. He got a kick out of the idea of Julie Morris being put out of her misery. Good. Because I've been thinking about ways to do that for years.


I've been driving this ice truck since high school and I've learned some real useful stuff. One is that you can watch what is going on all over the place. You drive the same roads every day and you have plenty of opportunity to watch people - it's amazing how predictable most folks are. The other thing is you become invisible. I bet it's the same for all delivery people but folks get so used to seeing you and your truck making your rounds they stop seeing you altogether. I like that.

__________________________
from Home-made Pie and Sausage:

     Cletus Wilkes has a smooshed up, squashy kind of face that looks like someone punched him real hard up under the chin making his whole face sort of scrunch up and jut out. If that's what happened it happened a long time ago cause now he's got so many chins a punch would just sort of bounce off. Right now his chins are wobbling as he chews and a fine sheen of grease pools up on one chin before slowly sliding down to the next one finally dripping lazily onto the big paper napkin tucked into his collar to protect the light tan of his uniform shirt.

      "Damnation, honey, I believe you make a better smoked sausage than your old man done," he says grinning at me as he licks a slick of ketchup off his thick, rubbery lips.

      "There's still two more in the pan, Chief Wilkes," I tell him smiling. "No sense in them going to waste."

      "Well...," he pretends to think about this even though I know good and well he's been eyeing them all along.

      "An empty frying pan means a sunny day tomorrow."

      He laughs and his belly rattles the dishes on the counter.

      "Well, I'll just eat them as a community service then," he says. "Effie Parnell likes to hang her wash out on Thursdays and gets damn cranky if the sun ain't shining."

      I carry his plate back into the kitchen. The bell on the back of the door jingles and two city hunters in neon orange caps and camouflage jackets head for the beer coolers.

      "So, what's Old Bruno think about this being a cyber-cafe now?" He raises his voice so I can hear him even though I'm not ten feet away and the kitchen door is standing wide open. He pronounces the word "ka-FEE".

      I pretend to think about it as I spoon the sausages onto his plate and add another scoop of baked beans.

      "I don't think Pa has any idea what the internet is," I say putting the plate down in front of him. "He just knows it makes money and that's good enough for him."

      As though on cue I see the hunters settle into the folding metal chairs at the two work stations tucked between the camping supplies and the display of sweatshirts, baseball caps, coffee mugs, and other junk with the words Pine Creek Gorge, Pennsylvania's Grand Canyon on them. I glance at the clock but those two have been in here before and never argue when I tell them what they owe for on-line time.

      "How's the old reprobate doin, anyway?" Cletus says spearing the sausage with his fork sending a spray of hot grease in my direction. I jump back.

      "Not good." I grab a dishrag and wipe the counter around his plate. "He hasn't been downstairs in weeks now. I keep telling him he should see a doctor but you know him." Cletus laughs while he chews, his cheeks puffing out like a blowfish.

      "I sure do. All Bruno's problems can be found in one place - the bottom of a rum bottle."

      "You could go up and see him," I offer. "Might do him some good to talk to someone besides me." Like that's gonna happen. The last thing Cletus Wilkes is likely to do is haul his fat ass up two flights of steps to the rooms above the store.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Sleep. Drink water. Work with your hands.

The other night on NBC there was a segment about a school in Boston where people are learning new artisan skills that involve working with their hands. It was an inspiring piece and I loved watching it. I grew up upstairs from a woodshop and nothing makes me feel more nostalgic than the smell of sawdust. I remember night after night of laying in bed listening to the sounds of my dad sawing wood, hammering nails, rubbing sandpaper. By day he built houses. At night he made beautiful, hand-crafted cabinets.

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My mother wasn't particularly crafty though she did go through a long period of making covered coat hangers. She would put 2 wire coat hangers together and then weave two colors of yarn over them to make a sturdy coat hanger that nothing ever slipped off of. She'd give a few as gifts and everybody loved them. After she died when we were cleaning out her closets all five of her daughters were hoarding her hand-covered coat hangers and we even started squabbling about who had the most. I started laughing because the thought of all five of us – grown women – bickering over who had the most of Mom's clothes hangers cracked me up. I still have a lot of them in my closets. 

 My Gram Werner was a wonderful seamstress who could also crochet and embroider and a lot of other things. I've been doing needlework since I was old enough to hold a needle. I can remember spending much more time making clothes for my dolls than actually playing with my dolls. All of my sisters sew or knit or crochet or quilt. All of my brothers can build about anything. It's just how we were raised. 

Consequently I have been thrilled and delighted by the resurgence of knitting, sewing, etc. Every time I go into a yarn or fabric shop I love seeing how enthusiastic all the shoppers are. Every time I attend a needlework group I'm dazzled by the variety of projects people are working on. It just feels good to make things. 

Years ago a woman was telling me about how she and her husband had bought a baby grand piano for their daughter who decided she didn't want to take it with her when she married and moved in with her husband. “What happened to the piano?” I asked. The woman said she was sad to say it was in the basement of a friend's house where it was never used. I had taken piano lessons for a few years and the idea of a baby grand going to waste depressed me so we worked out a deal for it. My brother Wayne and some of his friends picked it up and delivered it to me. It was in a sad state – the keys were fine (no one ever opened the lid on the keyboard) but it was banged up, chipped, stained and had huge white rings on the lid where beer kegs had sat during parties. I decided to refinish it. It took nearly a year to do everything that needed doing – taking it apart, sanding it, staining, repairing, oiling, polishing, even polishing up the harp inside. But when it was finished it was beautiful. I had it tuned and it was a very lovely instrument. That was one of the most satisfying things I've ever worked on. You can see it in the picture below – that's my niece Emily and my nephew Adam in the picture, both of whom are grown, married and raising families of their own now. 

There is something so soul-satisfying about using your hands to make things. Through all the tumult of the last few years I have focused on four things: getting enough sleep, drinking lots of water, eating locally-grown produce as close to its natural state as possible, and keeping my hands busy. It is a good way to live – it helps keep the boogeymen at bay. 

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Interview on Naomi Blackburn's Blog: A Book and A Review

Yesterday book blogger Naomi Blackburn interviewed me on her blog and reviewed my new novella, Ghosts of a Lighthouse in Autumn. Here is part of the review. You can read the rest on her blog plus comment to win a paperback copy of my novel, Depraved Heart:


NB) Although it isn’t a series in the traditional sense, with Ghosts of the Lighthouse in Autumn and Ghosts of a Beach Town in Winter, the Halcyon Beach Chronicles focuses on eerie incidents in a small village. Will this series continue past the 4 seasons? Would you ever consider writing a “true series” with recurring characters and setting?


KV) When I wrote Ghosts of a Beach Town in Winter I had no intention of it being a series but so many people told me that they loved Halcyon Beach that I decided I wanted to write more about it. I had two other ghost stories in the back of my mind so I thought why not write them set in Halcyon Beach? Ghosts of a Lighthouse in Autumn was based on a murder/suicide I read about a long time ago and, since all I needed for it was a lighthouse, it was simple to put that lighthouse in Halcyon Beach. The next one in the series is going to be called Ghosts of a Dancer by Moonlight and is based on a shipwreck I read about that happened in Maine but I'm putting it in Halcyon Beach, too. I'm not sure what will happen after that. 

I'm also writing a sequel to The Crazy Old Lady in the Attic. It is called The Crazy Old Lady's Revenge and it takes up where the last one left off but this time from the POV of a woman who grew up with Mattie and often played with her in GrammyLou's house.

As to a “true series,” well, the eleven stories that make up The Whiskey Bottle in the Wall are all in the same town, Marienstadt, and all contain the same characters. I am releasing it in three volumes but when the three volumes are out in digital then I'll do a digital“boxed set” and a paperback containing all the stories. Each story can stand alone but they do build to a conclusion. The last three stories, which will come in Volume 3, I think are very poignant. If you have read The Reluctant Belsnickel of Opelt's Wood, you have a hint of what is going to happen with Gretchen and Oliver. In the next story, Wapiti, their story continues. In the final story, A Long Day's Journey Into Light, Henry, the gorgeous but womanizing chief of police, comes to terms with his love for a woman that he has hidden since he was a boy and finally we learn his story. The whole thing wraps up very nicely.


NB) Normally we see if an author writes full length novels, they have difficulties writing short length novels due to the special “needs” of these little gems. I have told you frequently that I am amazed at your ability to not only write dynamic short stories, with Arthur’s Story still having the ability to make me tear up when I think about it, but you pen full length novels that suck in the reader, as well. How do you think you have done that? Does it come naturally to you? Have you trained yourself? Read the rest.....

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Civil War from a Unique Perspective: Kiana Davenport's The Spy Lover

Winston Churchill said that history is written by the victors. Because of that we too often suffer from the delusion that our side (whatever side that is) were the good guys and their side (whoever they are) got what they deserved. This is rarely true. Ever since I discovered Kiana Davenport's writing back in the early 1990s I have been mesmerized - sometimes painfully so - by her writing and her new novel, "The Spy Lover," epitomizes that experience.

Though I am not particularly interested in Civil War novels, I've read my fair share from "Gone with the Wind" to a few of Bruce Catton's novels. I recently read James Lee Burke's "White Doves At Morning," a stunning story about the war and its aftermath for a small group of people from New Iberia, Louisiana. The story is based on two of Burke's ancestors and, like all of Burke's writing, the story is good but the characters are superb. For The Spy Lover Kiana Davenport uses the same inspiration, the experiences of her ancestors, but because her ancestors come from another culture we are offered a perspective on the atrocities of war that has long gone unseen and is shattering in its brutality.

Johnny Tom is a Chinese immigrant who escaped the horrors of drought and famine in his country to come to the United States. He escapes the slave auction-blocks and the vigilante "yellow dogs" who hunt down immigrants to sell into slavery that is even more brutal than that of plantation black slaves. After losing his first wife Johnny marries a Native American - Cree - woman and fathers a daughter he calls Era. Then the War Between the States begins and Johnny is conscripted by the Confederacy. He manages to defect to the Union where he is promised citizenship in exchange for fighting for the Union Army but soon winds up in a prisoner of war camp where conditions are horrific.

Era, now eighteen, has trained as a nurse and she agrees to act as a spy while working in Confederate hospital encampments in exchange for news of her father. In one of these camps she meets Warren Petticomb, a handsome cavalry officer who lost an arm at Shiloh. Their love affair begins.

Ms Davenport's writing is both glorious and shattering in its brutality. She does not back down either from the horrors of war or the even greater horrors of human cruelty. Most of us have heard stories and read books about the atrocities of slave-owners but the cruelty endured by those of other races, including the Chinese and Native Americans, is equally relentless - sometimes more so because they were not offered the protections of a master with an interest in safeguarding valued property.

I have to confess that some of the battle scenes were nearly more than I could handle and yet I read them because I could not help but think, "This is important, we live in perilous times and we need to remember what people are capable of." Her description of the Battle of Gettysburg is heart-breaking. But through the blood and gore and gunpowder there is always the endless love of a daughter for her father, a man for his lost wife, a young man for a woman he has betrayed. Their love carries them through horror after horror in the search for the beloved.

I will be honest, this is not a story that everyone will be able to handle, but it is a story that many need to read. We need to be reminded not only of what evil we are capable of but also of what lengths people are capable on behalf of those they love. Kiana Davenport has created an extraordinary epic about people forgotten by, or overlooked by, the history books. Her novel serves as a reminder that the history books don't tell the greater story.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Guest Blogger - "Picky Eaters: 26 Kids Recipes That They'll Actually Eat"

Today we have a guest post from G.B. Davies who is the mom of some picky eaters and has written a cookbook for others in the same situation!

Picky Eaters: 26 Kids Recipes That They'll Actually Eat
Author: G.B. Davies


I’m a mom of 3 boys, 2 of whom are picky eaters (the other is only 7 months old, so time will tell!). I also run a food blog, The Gourmet Mama, and spend a lot of my time coming up with new recipes. As you can imagine, it gets to be a bit of a struggle to balance new meals with stuff my kids will actually eat. And thus Picky Eaters was born.

The cookbook is a collection of some of the not-so-average foods that my kids enjoy and that other kids have tried and liked, as well. The bonus is that they are all pretty healthy. Since my oldest son has an intestinal disorder, he has to follow a healthy diet and avoid processed foods. We try to use mostly whole grains and limit sugar. When I looked around for ideas on what to feed my kids, I found a lot of processed stuff, with hot dogs and cheese and white bread as the base, not to mention sugar. That just didn’t appeal, so I have been working on coming up with my own recipes and adapting others.

Some of the ideas are pretty standard for kid food, like dipping food or “hidden” foods like pizza pockets, but I like to put a healthy twist on these. As long as it tastes good and doesn’t look undesirable, kids don’t care if it has whole wheat flour or white. Probably the least healthy recipe in the book would be for Eggplant Fries, because they are fried. But they’re also eggplant, so there’s that!

My other criteria for coming up with good recipe was that it be easy for a mom (or dad!) to make and appeal to adults, as well. There’s nothing in this cookbook that I wouldn’t eat myself at a meal. All too often, we cater to kids’ tastes and make something else for ourselves. I think it’s important they learn to eat as a family and seeing Mom and Dad eating the same foods is a good stepping stone to moving on to more varied foods.

I have to admit that I do tend to sneak good stuff into healthier foods sometimes, though that is not the focus on the recipes in the book. There is a recipe for pizza sauce that involves chickpeas and spinach, though. I always say that chocolate can hide a lot of green, so you’ll find me putting pureed spinach in anything chocolate. It’s not a secret though, and my boys see me putting it in, but they don’t mind because they already know the finished product is going to be delicious.

In short, Picky Eaters is the culmination of many hours in the kitchen and just as many around the kitchen table with my mini taste testers who aren’t afraid to tell me my food is disgusting if that’s the way they feel. So you know the recipes here are definitely good and picky eater taste approved!

Visit her web site: The Gourmet Mama!

Monday, October 15, 2012

"Mesmerizing" Ghosts Are Live on Kindle & Nook


"Mesmerizing!  Much more than a ghost story...." This is what distinguished author Kiana Davenport, had to say about Ghosts of a Lighthouse in Autumn which will be available for Kindle and Nook this week! She said it has  "Many psychological layers  and reflections." 

FOR KINDLE     |     FOR NOOK
This novella of 25k words is a sequel to last October's Ghosts of a Beach Town in Winter. This is how it begins:

Ghosts of a Lighthouse in Autumn
See that cottage over there, the one with the wooden fence and the climbing roses? That was Cicely Walcott's cottage. Maybe you've never heard of Cicely Walcott but everyone who lives here in Halcyon Beach knows her story. It's a sad story but then Halcyon Beach is a sad town. Don't let the bright colors and the amusement park atmosphere fool you. That's just for the tourists who come in the summer. Those of us who live here year round know differently. Strange things have happened here. Ghosts linger here. People go mad during the long, cold winters. The smartest guy in town doesn't even live here. Old Fitz Connolly owns The Snuggle Inn and Pub which is one of the few places that stays open year round and Old Fitz makes a killing because around here there's not much to do during the winter but drink. The Pub is where most people go to do that.
I've heard stories about Old Fitz for years. He used to spend a lot of time here but he's real old now and stays down in Boston. They used to say he was “connected.” That's what people say. They don't say he was in the mob or anything like that. They just say he was “connected.” I've heard that one of his wives went crazy living here and that she's in a loony bin somewhere but that happened long before I was even born. Just like Cicely Walcott's story did.
I wasn't born in Halcyon Beach. I was born and grew up in Sommerville but when I was a little kid we came here every summer for a week. My mother never liked it. She said it was shabby and cheesy but my dad said it was also cheap and with four kids he was big on cheap. Us kids didn't care – we loved it. We loved the beaches and the amusement park and the arcades. Dad saved all year for the week we spent here. We'd get a suite of room in The Oceanview Inn, an old hotel on the Promenade. Mom would sit on the balcony overlooking the Promenade with a book while Dad took us to the beach every morning. She didn't care for the beach and that was okay with him because he said she worked hard all year looking after us so this could be her vacation, too. Now when I think about it, I think how kind that was.
When we'd had enough of the beach Dad would take the boys to the bath house to shower and he'd put me in charge of getting my younger sister showered and shampooed.
Make sure to get all the sand off, Fleur,” he'd say, “you know how your mother hates getting sand all over the place.”
Dad always called me Fleur. My real name is Felicia but he said I was his little flower and the name stuck. Everyone still calls me Fleur even though Dad died when I was in high school. I miss him every hour of every day. Maybe that's part of the reason I decided to live here, because it is so full of happy memories of him.
After we were cleaned up, and in shorts and t-shirts, Dad would take Alan, the baby, back to the hotel for his nap. He'd give me money, because I'm the oldest, and set us loose on the Promenade. That was the best part of the day. There was everything a kid could want, arcades full of games, and stands for every kind of crappy junk food imaginable. My sister Lauren and I got hot dogs from The Dog House. I liked mine with chili and onions. She got pickles, ketchup, and cheese. Our brother Kyle always got a deep-fried corn dog from To Fry For. We'd get sodas and sit at one of the picnic tables in the middle of the Promenade below the balcony where Mom sat reading. After Dad got Alan to sleep he'd get a bottle of Sam Adams and come out to sit with her and keep an eye on us.
Once we gobbled down our lunches I'd divide up the leftover money and we'd take off. We were allowed to go into any of the arcades and playhouses that opened onto the Promenade. The amusement park with its gigantic Ferris wheel and wild rides was off limits until the evening when our parents would go there with us. Mom said we were safe in the places around the Promenade during the day but once it started getting dark we had to stay with her or Dad.
Kyle and Lauren liked the games in the arcades but I liked to wander in and out of the souvenir shops. I especially loved the little snow globes that featured tiny replicas of Halcyon Beach landmarks – the amusement park, the big Dreamland Ballroom on the beach, the lighthouse on the headland. They were submerged in water with plastic snow that swirled around and around when you shook them. Every year Dad let us buy one thing as a souvenir and I always bought a snow globe. I still have all of them. They sit on the windowsill over the sink in my cottage and when it is snowing here I sometimes think those snow globes conjured my destiny.
It was in one of the shops that I found the book about Cicely Walcott. It was called The Lady and the Lighthouse-keeper and was illustrated with lurid watercolors. Of course the characters in the book had different names. It was written in the 1970s when bodice-ripper romances were all the rage. Cicely was called Dominique in the book and the lighthouse-keeper, who was her lover, was called Antoine. His real name was Lester Geary. The picture on the front of the book showed a muscular brute, his shirt open to reveal his manly chest, on the balcony of a lighthouse. He looked out over the ocean, all moody and scornful, as a beautiful blonde, whose enormous breasts were puffing up out of her lacy bodice, clung to him with tears in her huge blue eyes. It was very romantic and, considering that Cicely and Lester were lovers in the 1950s, totally in the wrong century. But I loved it anyway.
I think I was thirteen when I bought the book. Normally I would never have given it a second glance but there was a hand-written sign on the table where the books were displayed, “Based on the notorious murder-suicide at Halcyon Beach Lighthouse in 1953,” it read. I had never heard about a murder-suicide in Halcyon Beach but I knew the lighthouse well. It was a tall white tower perched on the edge of a cliff on the headlands just north of town. Every summer we, like many other tourist families, had a picnic there and then Dad took our picture posed on the grass in front of it with Mom's arms around us. Even back then the lighthouse was automated and the keeper's cottage, attached to it by a covered walkway, was empty. Then the town got the idea to renovate the cottage and rent it out to summer people. Now it is booked solid from Memorial Day to Labor Day but in the winter it is empty unless the town can find someone to stay there.

It will be released this week through both Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Please check back!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

SampleSunday: "Mesmerizing! Much more than a ghost story...."

This is what distinguished author Kiana Davenport, had to say about Ghosts of a Lighthouse in Autumn which will be available for Kindle and Nook this week! She said it has  "Many psychological layers  and reflections." This novella of 25k words is a sequel to last October's Ghosts of a Beach Town in Winter. This is how it begins:


Ghosts of a Lighthouse in Autumn
See that cottage over there, the one with the wooden fence and the climbing roses? That was Cicely Walcott's cottage. Maybe you've never heard of Cicely Walcott but everyone who lives here in Halcyon Beach knows her story. It's a sad story but then Halcyon Beach is a sad town. Don't let the bright colors and the amusement park atmosphere fool you. That's just for the tourists who come in the summer. Those of us who live here year round know differently. Strange things have happened here. Ghosts linger here. People go mad during the long, cold winters. The smartest guy in town doesn't even live here. Old Fitz Connolly owns The Snuggle Inn and Pub which is one of the few places that stays open year round and Old Fitz makes a killing because around here there's not much to do during the winter but drink. The Pub is where most people go to do that.
I've heard stories about Old Fitz for years. He used to spend a lot of time here but he's real old now and stays down in Boston. They used to say he was “connected.” That's what people say. They don't say he was in the mob or anything like that. They just say he was “connected.” I've heard that one of his wives went crazy living here and that she's in a loony bin somewhere but that happened long before I was even born. Just like Cicely Walcott's story did.
I wasn't born in Halcyon Beach. I was born and grew up in Sommerville but when I was a little kid we came here every summer for a week. My mother never liked it. She said it was shabby and cheesy but my dad said it was also cheap and with four kids he was big on cheap. Us kids didn't care – we loved it. We loved the beaches and the amusement park and the arcades. Dad saved all year for the week we spent here. We'd get a suite of room in The Oceanview Inn, an old hotel on the Promenade. Mom would sit on the balcony overlooking the Promenade with a book while Dad took us to the beach every morning. She didn't care for the beach and that was okay with him because he said she worked hard all year looking after us so this could be her vacation, too. Now when I think about it, I think how kind that was.
When we'd had enough of the beach Dad would take the boys to the bath house to shower and he'd put me in charge of getting my younger sister showered and shampooed.
Make sure to get all the sand off, Fleur,” he'd say, “you know how your mother hates getting sand all over the place.”
Dad always called me Fleur. My real name is Felicia but he said I was his little flower and the name stuck. Everyone still calls me Fleur even though Dad died when I was in high school. I miss him every hour of every day. Maybe that's part of the reason I decided to live here, because it is so full of happy memories of him.
After we were cleaned up, and in shorts and t-shirts, Dad would take Alan, the baby, back to the hotel for his nap. He'd give me money, because I'm the oldest, and set us loose on the Promenade. That was the best part of the day. There was everything a kid could want, arcades full of games, and stands for every kind of crappy junk food imaginable. My sister Lauren and I got hot dogs from The Dog House. I liked mine with chili and onions. She got pickles, ketchup, and cheese. Our brother Kyle always got a deep-fried corn dog from To Fry For. We'd get sodas and sit at one of the picnic tables in the middle of the Promenade below the balcony where Mom sat reading. After Dad got Alan to sleep he'd get a bottle of Sam Adams and come out to sit with her and keep an eye on us.
Once we gobbled down our lunches I'd divide up the leftover money and we'd take off. We were allowed to go into any of the arcades and playhouses that opened onto the Promenade. The amusement park with its gigantic Ferris wheel and wild rides was off limits until the evening when our parents would go there with us. Mom said we were safe in the places around the Promenade during the day but once it started getting dark we had to stay with her or Dad.
Kyle and Lauren liked the games in the arcades but I liked to wander in and out of the souvenir shops. I especially loved the little snow globes that featured tiny replicas of Halcyon Beach landmarks – the amusement park, the big Dreamland Ballroom on the beach, the lighthouse on the headland. They were submerged in water with plastic snow that swirled around and around when you shook them. Every year Dad let us buy one thing as a souvenir and I always bought a snow globe. I still have all of them. They sit on the windowsill over the sink in my cottage and when it is snowing here I sometimes think those snow globes conjured my destiny.
It was in one of the shops that I found the book about Cicely Walcott. It was called The Lady and the Lighthouse-keeper and was illustrated with lurid watercolors. Of course the characters in the book had different names. It was written in the 1970s when bodice-ripper romances were all the rage. Cicely was called Dominique in the book and the lighthouse-keeper, who was her lover, was called Antoine. His real name was Lester Geary. The picture on the front of the book showed a muscular brute, his shirt open to reveal his manly chest, on the balcony of a lighthouse. He looked out over the ocean, all moody and scornful, as a beautiful blonde, whose enormous breasts were puffing up out of her lacy bodice, clung to him with tears in her huge blue eyes. It was very romantic and, considering that Cicely and Lester were lovers in the 1950s, totally in the wrong century. But I loved it anyway.
I think I was thirteen when I bought the book. Normally I would never have given it a second glance but there was a hand-written sign on the table where the books were displayed, “Based on the notorious murder-suicide at Halcyon Beach Lighthouse in 1953,” it read. I had never heard about a murder-suicide in Halcyon Beach but I knew the lighthouse well. It was a tall white tower perched on the edge of a cliff on the headlands just north of town. Every summer we, like many other tourist families, had a picnic there and then Dad took our picture posed on the grass in front of it with Mom's arms around us. Even back then the lighthouse was automated and the keeper's cottage, attached to it by a covered walkway, was empty. Then the town got the idea to renovate the cottage and rent it out to summer people. Now it is booked solid from Memorial Day to Labor Day but in the winter it is empty unless the town can find someone to stay there.

It will be released this week through both Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Please check back!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Crazy Old Lady 2 is off to a good start...

A couple days ago I wrote about doing a sequel to The Crazy Old Lady in the Attic. I've been a little obsessed with it and have begun hammering away. I think I have a decent concept going so, because I am a visual person, I mocked up a cover to inspire me. Below is my cover mock-up and the opening. What do you think?




Body Recovered from Beacon Hill Garden Interred at Forest Hills
BOSTON – City officials say that a body buried for close to twenty years under the terrace of a Beacon Hill townhouse has been removed and buried at Forest Hills Cemetery. Officials learned of the grave, which had been covered by a flagstone terrace, earlier this year from an heir of the recently deceased owner of the townhouse. When the new owner learned of the grave shortly after the death of Mrs. Kingsley (Louise) Thorndike, who passed away in May of this year at the age of ninety-one, she notified authorities. It is believed that the remains are those of Britta Falk, a Swedish immigrant who was a servant in the Thorndike household for many years. Why she was buried in the garden is unknown. Police had the body removed earlier this month and transported it to the City Morgue where an autopsy was performed. Despite being in a state of advanced decay Falk's death appeared to be the result of natural causes.
Mrs. Thorndike's heir, Matilda “Mattie” Thorndike Michaud, of Truro, Massachusetts, assumed the cost of a proper burial for her grandmother's former servant.
Now I wish I had never seen this article tucked in a corner of the Boston Herald. Now I wish I had never noticed Mattie Thorndike's name. We hadn't seen each other in decades, not since we were classmates in that little private day school in the Back Bay. Now I wonder how many more deaths it will take to avenge that one – that one that should have been kept a secret forever. I should have minded my own business. It's not like I don't have enough problems of my own.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Falling in Love with Doc Holliday


John Henry "Doc" Holliday
Mary Doria Russell is one of my literary goddesses so when I saw she was writing a book about legendary gunslinger Doc Holliday I thought “hasn't that been done to death?” I've seen all those movies and loved them (I'll watch ANYTHING with Kurt Russell in it – I wonder if they are related.) I have a very vivid memory of going to the drive-in theater with my Dad and brother when I was little to see Gunfight at the OK Corral. But that was over half a century ago and I didn't think there would be anything new to say. I was wrong.

Her book, Doc: A Novel, has a story to tell, of course, but more than that it is packed with glowing, fully-realized people that are so interesting, so charming in their individual ways, and so real that I felt like this was the first time I'd met the people – I'd known the legends all my life but the people were completely new. John Henry “Doc” Holliday is known as a dentist, as a legendary gunfighter, and as a man who fought and eventually lost a battle with tuberculosis but thanks to Russell's intensive research and masterful story-telling, readers will find him a man they could know. He is a well-educated and refined gentleman who has both a dark side and a tender side which are sometimes at odds with each other.
Wyatt Earp

The book is packed with names I've heard all my life – Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Morgan Earp, Eddie Foy – and the women who loved them or put up with them. Russell does a wonderful job of developing the relationship between Holliday and Kate Harony, the whore who was his long-time companion. Kate emerges as a fascinating woman, educated and born to royalty, but reduced to harlotry by her circumstances as an exile. Doc is drawn to her extensive knowledge of literature, music and languages, despite the way she earns her living.

Morgan Earp
Wyatt Earp is an equally fascinating guy. Both he and his brothers Morgan and James are fully realized and believable. Wyatt is the sober, self-contained, righteous widower who ultimately becomes, reluctantly, involved with Mattie Blaylock and eventually comes to care tenderly for her. Morgan is not as sober and straight-laced as Wyatt. Their relationship as brothers is so real and believable. Their brother James, who was badly wounded in the Civil War, and his wife Bessie operate a whore house – and both the brothers rely on him for steadiness and support at times. I particularly loved the scenes when Doc lent Morgan books, encouraging him to read, and then discussed Dostoyevsky and Dickens with him. Russell's ability to imagine those conversations is just delicious.
James Earp

And then there is Bat Masterson who comes across as something of a dandy and a pompous ass at times but you still have to like him.

I have often written about being sick of books populated with unlikeable characters. If I am going to spend 15-20 or more hours with fictional people I want them to be worth spending time with, all of the people in Doc are well-worth it. Wisely, Russell respects the fact that most readers know a lot about these people already and she lets the known facts of their lives linger in the background while she draws us more closely to them as real people with real faults and virtues.

Bat Masterson
I have to be honest, I fell a little bit in love with John Henry Holliday. Nothing makes me happier than falling for a character and it's been a long time since I've felt that way (one of my earlier literary “crushes” was Fr. Emilio Sandoz in Russell's gorgeous book, The Sparrow.) I understand Ms Russell is working on a new book that includes the Clanton brothers and the events that lead up to the notorious gunfight. I absolutely cannot wait to read it.

Thanks for reading.  

Thursday, October 11, 2012

It's A Sign: Missy Fillion

Continuing my series on interesting coincidences that writers experience this story comes from Missy Fillion:

A worn-out mom of young children goes on a women's retreat and meets Jesus in Retreat to Folly. I was a worn-out mom of young children who loved going on retreats and loved reading about people's visions of Jesus. I was particularly drawn to regular people's interactions with Jesus, not just saints though I enjoy those too. I decided to combine my place in life, struggling in motherhood, with my fascination of people who talk to Jesus and actually hear back from him. I could process my journey through motherhood and think about what Jesus might say to someone in my shoes and set it all at my favorite place in the world, Folly Beach, South Carolina.

Several years into the writing of Retreat to Folly as I was closing in on the finishing line, I read about a healing retreat being offered at our local monastery, my second favorite place for a break. I called to reserve a spot thinking the retreat would be wonderful since so much of my book was about healing. The retreat was full, so I was put on a waiting list. As time passed without hearing anything, I knew I wouldn't be going.

At 9:00am on the morning of the retreat, the monastery called with a spot which had just opened. I quickly packed and raced out there. The kids were so happy to see me go. They have lots of fun with Daddy when Mom goes on retreat. It kind of hurts my feelings to see them so eager to get rid of me, but I enjoy my time alone too much to let it hurt for long.

At one point during the weekend I was eavesdropping, as all authors probably do, on a woman who was talking to the retreat leader. I spoke to this woman afterwards because the Holy Spirit nudged me. This woman I met on a retreat I almost didn't attend later introduced me to a woman who talks to Jesus, just as my character does on the beach in Retreat to Folly.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B006W1EE5I

www.facebook.com/MissyFillion

Missy Fillion is a native of Charleston, South Carolina who currently resides in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and two beautiful children.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Revenge of The Crazy Old Lady?


I've mentioned before that my characters have a habit of bossing me around and pestering me to spend time with them when I am busy doing other things. Sometimes this is really aggravating and sometimes it is really interesting. In my experience characters are much like children – they get really sulky and whiny when they feel like they have not been given enough attention. It gets exhausting.

For the last few weeks I've been completely absorbed in the sequel to Ghosts of a Beach Town in Winter but now Ghosts of a Lighthouse in Autumn is off being reviewed by a couple people and I have been doing things like sketching out ideas for new stories and also for a novel I have in mind. And promoting – endless promoting, a thing I do not have enough time for. Then last night some old characters started chattering at me and, oh dear, they brought up some interesting questions. What, they waned to know, ever became of GrammyLou's house after Stan forced Mattie to leave it and go back to Cape Cod.

I asked them what they thought became of it and they said they were pretty sure it was haunted and that the new people who bought it were having a hard time. They also mentioned that before Mattie sold the house she had that body under the back porch dug up and properly buried. They reminded me that when bodies like that are dug up they can unleash unforeseen forces that do not bode well for peace and serenity. I forgot about that. It's a good thing I have bossy characters to remind me of these things.

As we were discussing this one of the characters said it seemed awfully suspicious that Digger up and died about that time because he had always been quite healthy. Another character mentioned that they had heard about a couple of other people from that story meeting untimely deaths. They thought it was too strange to be completely coincidental. They expressed the opinion that it was my responsibility as their author to look in to all of this. I mentioned that Stan had vowed never to let Mattie go back to Boston and that she was close to an emotional breakdown after everything that occurred. They said they thought it would be good for her to man-up and do something about the godawful mess that GrammyLou created.

Well, I guess I have my marching orders. The Crazy Old Lady in the Attic has been my most successful book to date but, as the characters point out, it left some strings dangling. Is the literary world ready for The Revenge of the Crazy Old Lady or The Crazy Old Lady Rides Again? I don't know but I have a sense I'm not going to get any peace until I at least look into it.

More to come and thanks for reading.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Searching for Halcyon Beach


Some years back I was driving back to Gloucester from Maine on a gray and windy November afternoon. I stopped at a small diner near Salisbury Beach, Massachusetts, for lunch and, at a table near mine, four old guys in heavy plaid jackets and warm hats were having coffee. Their conversation was loud and impossible to ignore. All four of them owned, or had owned in the past, businesses in the area which is known for its arcades and amusement attractions drawing thousands of tourists all summer long. One of their group had been made an offer for an arcade he owned and he was trying to decide whether to take it and retire.

They were pretty funny to listen to. They offered their friend suggestions on what he could do if he retired but he said he had visited Florida and hated it and was afraid if he sold out and had nothing to do all day he'd wind up a drunk. It was a very amusing conversation and it stayed in my mind for years. Last autumn when I started writing Ghosts of a Beach Town in Winter I remembered those guys and they became the “Geezers” in that story.

This past week I finished the second draft of the sequel, Ghosts of a Lighthouse in Autumn, which is also set in Halcyon Beach and features the Geezers, as well as the flamboyant artist Darby McMahon. I sent the story to two of my best readers and so far the feedback is encouraging. I hope to have it up for Halloween.

So, on Saturday, because it was a beautiful day and I wanted to go out and do some leaf-peeping, I drove up the coast to Salisbury Beach and spent some time wandering around with my camera. It was a good day and I wound up taking over 120 photos. It was just as strange as I remembered it all these years later. The contrast of colorful amusement businesses and dilapidated, run-down properties creates a distinctive atmosphere. I don't know what this bright blue building once was but its location directly on the beach amazes me.

Only a few yards farther down the street is the back of an arcade:

And a bar with a dancing monkey wearing Lolita-style sunglasses and a hula skirt. There is a billboard advertising karaoke and men sat in front with bottles of beer.

When I had enough of this atmosphere I drove a little farther north to Hampton Beach in New Hampshire where the contrast was also glaring. Oceanfront restaurants, casinos, and tourist shops were open and there were plenty of people but there were also buildings like this dilapidated restaurant called Mangia – Italian for “eat:”

From there I went down to Plum Island looking for the kinds of cottages tucked in the dunes that I imagined my artists living in and I was not disappointed. I can easily see Fleur Laighton, the heroine in my new story, living here.

I made a gallery of my discoveries and posted it to Flickr.com. You can see if here: Halcyon Beach Inspiration. I hope you enjoy it and I hope you'll check back for the launch of Ghosts of a Lighthouse in Autumn, a story that grew out of a murder-suicide at a lighthouse that I read about years ago. It's pretty spooky and has a very vengeful ghost in it.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Guest Blog from Ray: Memories of Being a Paperboy

Our good buddy Ray Beimel in Pennsylvania wrote about being a paperboy for the St. Marys Daily Press in his youth. I hope that you enjoy it.


Delivering the Daily Press
In 1962 I got a paper delivery route. It was Route 13 of the Daily Press, the local newspaper. I had about 135 customers on the route that served George, West Oilwell, Benedict, Charles, Church above Benedict, Walburga, and School Streets. When school was in session I would walk home from St. Marys Parochial School, change clothes, and then walk down to the Daily Press building on Brussells Street. Papers were stacked on tables and the route number written on the top one. We carried the papers in a canvas bag that we got from the Press, a new one every 18 months. There was a trick to getting a stack into the bag that involved unclipping the flap, folding it back, setting the papers on top, and then pulling the flap over and out. Most days the Daily Press had 8 pages, as this was the capacity of the big letterpress style printing press. More about that machine later.

Most of the paper carriers showed up about the same time and like any group of boys, the bigger ones were a group apart from the younger. We tried to get in and out without getting any attention from any of the big guys. It was a long walk from the Press building to the first house on the route. Often enough I would stop at Widdie’s for an ice cream bar. I started at the bottom of George Street and worked my way up using the same pattern every day. It was necessary to cross the street several times and there was a side trip on West Oilwell Street. Benedict Street was the same way. But once at Charles Street, I went down one side and up the other. Back up on Benedict there was more street crossing and the same continued up Church Street. From Walburga on up, it was one side of the street at a time. The farthest point on the route was just shy of St. Marys Catholic Cemetery. I came back down Church to Walburga, went along that short street to upper Charles on the west side, and back down the east side. Thus Mrs. Opel, my great great aunt was the last customer. She did not like that. But somebody has to be the last one.

It was an interesting route through one of the older parts of town. There were lots of old German names. But it also included one of the few Jewish families, the richest man in the county, the owners of the Pepsi bottling plant, an eccentric “mad scientist” from Germany, at least 10 relatives from either Mom or Dad’s side, the legendary “Bulleye” Lenze, and a half dozen really cute girls I was way too shy to talk to.

Every house had its own place to put the paper. Most were between the screen door and the main door. But others had me put it on the rack below the mailbox, or in the mailbox. Dogs were a problem because there was only one on my route that liked paperboys. Leo Schneider’s big old collie would fetch the paper. He was cool. Ted Brunner’s Chihuahua would try to bite my ankles if he was on the porch. Annie Werner’s big German Shepherd tested the strength of her door every day. One day I opened her screen door to put the paper in and I realized that the inner door was open. The dog saw me and charged. I slammed the screen door and leaned against it, holding it shut in case the latch gave way. LeGrys’ little dog Clyde really hated the paperboy and would attack on sight. I left their paper at the next door neighbor’s house. The worst was Wittman’s German Shepherd named Herman. I left a big stick under the shrubs at Harvey’s and picked it up before approaching Wittman’s. I only needed it once but I was glad I had it. It was winter, the snow was deep, and for some reason I was trudging through the snow in the yard instead of taking the sidewalk. Herman was at the far end of his chain when he saw me. He ran and when he got to the end of the chain, his rotted leather collar snapped. He charged toward me. I whipped out the stick and fended off his attacks. My defense was aided by the deep snow which slowed him down a bit. Mrs. Wittman came to the door and yelled at me to not hit him. That admonition only got Herman a few more blows to the head. Somehow, someone got him restrained and I continued on my way. I was told later that Herman had bit 6 kids before they put him down. When I came down the other side of the street, I made sure I put my stick back into its hiding place. I never needed that again but it was good to know it was there.

Paperboys did their own collecting in those days. Some customers paid weekly, some bi-weekly, some monthly, and a few yearly. It was 42¢ a week. Many of the older customers paid that way. Old widows would leave a quarter, a dime, a nickel, and two pennies and their punch card on the steps or inside the door. They never missed and they never tipped. The ones that paid in person would give me two quarters and wait for me to hand back a nickel and three pennies. The more generous weekly payers gave me an 8¢ tip by saying “keep the change when they paid with two quarters. Depending on how many Fridays there were in a month, monthly paying customers gave me $1.68 or $2.10. These customers were more generous and most of them tipped. Each customer had a card to punch for their payment. Thus we had to carry a punch and a duplicate set of cards. Collection day really slowed down the process.

Saturday was the day we paid our reckoning at the Press office. Once you paid your bill, you could sign the paper that determined the order in which carriers got their papers. Thus it was desirable to get there early but the papers weren’t ready until later. The Daily Press at the time was an afternoon paper so it was nearly noon before you could start deliveries. Thus we had time to kill. Often we would stop at Rollick’s for a burger and fries. But that would not take up the whole morning. So there would be a bunch of boys hanging around waiting for their papers to be printed. There were the expected hazings, pranks, fights, and such. It was always a blessing when one of the older guys “retired” and we all moved up a bit in the hierarchy.

To get to the press room we walked past the offices in front into the composing room. It always smelled of paper, ink, and hot metal. There were 3 (I think) linotype machines and in summer we got there early enough to watch the operators at work. They typed the text on a keyboard and then by very intricate mechanisms, brass molds were lined up and then molten type metal was poured to make the lines of type, hence the name of the machines. They were fascinating to watch as they were dozens of moving parts, a pot of hot metal, a moving arm that returned the brass molds and lined them up for the next line. It was all cams and gears, not a bit of electronics. There was one that could read the punched paper tape that came from the Associated Press teletype.

On the other side of the room were the composing tables where the type was lined up and inserted into the big trays that went into the flatbed letterpress. The stereotypes for the ads and photos were put in their places. They were inked by hand with a roller and a proof was made that was checked for errors. If all was correct, a dumb waiter lowered them to the press room in the basement. After an issue was printed, the plates were returned to the composing room where type was removed and dumped into bins at the end of the table for melting again. Those of us who made lead soldiers would grab a handful every day. Type metal was a little different from lead, a little harder since it had antimony and tin in it. It was still mostly a poison though.
The press was a fascinating machine. It could print 8 pages at a time. At one end there was a big roll of paper four pages wide. After it passed over the type it was cut and folded and stacked. The papers were counted into piles for each route and set on tables. It was run by a large electric motor of the manual start variety. When it was time to start it up, Fatty Rebic the pressman, pulled a long lever toward him and the motor slowly wound up to operating speed. When it was running fast enough, he pushed the lever forward and the press would start turning out papers. By today’s standards it was very slow and it took a couple of hours to finish the press run.

Every once in a while, the paper would run out or would break. George Wegemer was the guy who was in charge and I remember him swearing at the breaks. After putting a new roll of paper it had to be fed slowly over a number of rollers before the press was ready to print again. We watched as Fatty jogged the press slowly while others fed the paper into all the right places. One day we were sitting there waiting and all of a sudden George yelled “Fatty, stop the press! Stop the press!” Once it was at rest, he jumped up onto the printing plates, ripped open the paper, loosened the key that held the type in place, and started tearing out a column, flinging the type every which way. Lee Gabler came down the steps carrying a new column and George put it in place. He climbed down and told Fatty to start it up again. I don’t remember what the breaking news was and I don’t remember what they did with the papers already printed. But I did get to see that in real life as in the movies, someone did yell “stop the press.”

The press was reminiscent of a steam engine as big rods run by two big flywheels provided the reciprocating motion to pull the paper over the type beds. It was fascinating to watch and I wish I had paid even more attention to it. Since the press was only capable of printing 8 pages at a time, the larger ad filled issue that came out on Thursdays had to be assembled by hand. All the employees that could be spared would be sticking the inserts in the day’s issue. These extra pages made the papers half again as big and that really strained the paper bag on Thursday. My route of 135 or so papers was one of the five biggest but it paled compared to Eddie Young’s route of 168 papers. His route started somewhere up on South Michael Street, so he had to hump the full bag up the hill before he could start lightening his load. We all hated Thursdays.
Of course, the paper came out 6 days a week, winter, spring, summer, and fall. No weather condition ever kept the paper from coming out and thus the paperboys showed up every day. Keeping the papers dry in a pouring rain was hard. Icy sidewalks, deep snow, bitter cold, dark of night, none of these deterred the paperboys. I know that sounds like the Post Office motto but it was true. In deepest winter, it was dark when I finished the route. In summer there were the distractions of kids playing wiffle ball, baseball, and other things. I would stop for those sometimes. And of course, being an avid reader, I would read the paper while I was walking. I was not a fast paperboy. I was reliable but slow. To alleviate this problem, my Dad came up with the idea of having my sisters do part of the route. Ginny and Sharon rotated which days they carried. We would meet on Mrs. Horvatin’s porch and split up the papers. The idea of a girl delivering papers was new in those days. The customers seemed to like the girls and I think they got bigger tips than I did.

One day in early September of 1963 the weather was particularly foul, rainy and windy. As I worked my way up George Street the wind got stronger and at every house the porch furniture was coming to greet me. The sky turned a strange looking yellowish gray and then the wind really picked up to the point where it was hard to walk. I didn’t know until later that a tornado had hit the northern part of town. Had I been walking faster and made it to the north end of the route near the cemetery, I would have seen the funnel cloud pass.
I can’t remember any of the linotype operators anymore. Lee Gabler and Tom Miller worked in the composing room. Fatty Rebic, George Wegemer, and Jim Anderson ran the press. Mary Gerg handled advertising, Babe Gerg collected our money. Jim Dippold and Jack O’Brien were the mysterious guys that never dealt with the paperboys. George seemed to be our boss and we were all pretty much afraid of him. We could watch the teletype machines clacking out the news, we could watch the linotypes in action, and we would be perched wherever we could in the press room and watched that machine running. On warmer days we would hang around outside, sometimes going down to the Elk Creek to get into mischief. One day a deer strayed into that part of town and we had “fun” chasing that around. Now I regret not exploring more because there was an old railroad siding there that led into the back end of the Jacob & Keller building which was Goetz Feed Store at that time.

On collection day there would be maybe a dozen and a half young boys walking around town carrying bags of cash with fifty or a hundred dollars in them and nobody thought this an odd thing at all. I can’t say it never happened but I never recall hearing about a paper boy getting mugged. We were totally unsupervised while roaming around the Press building or the neighborhood there on Brussells Street. We were given two extra papers each day and once in a while someone would stop me on the street and buy one. Often enough such a person would hand me a dime and expect three pennies back.

Years later I got to know Jim Dippold as I wrote a lot of press releases for United Way and articles for the Historical Society. Jim once told someone in my hearing that he liked my writing style and that I “could write for them anytime.” I was flattered by that but since he neglected the important part about the paycheck in return, I didn’t take that seriously.

Being a paperboy is very different today. The Press is a morning paper now. Not everyone gets home delivery like they did back then. The routes are smaller, often enough less than 70 papers. Of course, given all the advertising inserts in the paper today, a guy like Eddie Young would need a small truck to move 168 papers up South Michael Street. There is no collecting anymore. You get a bill from the Press once a quarter. Since I get home from work at 5, I only see a paper boy or girl delivering to the house once every 6 weeks or so. But it’s still winter spring summer and fall, rain or shine, walking the same route 6 days a week. But where we got 21% of the price of the paper, the carriers now get less so in effect we got paid more in the old days.

I did that for around 3 years. I learned a lot of things, including some insights into human nature that proved useful. I learned to be responsible with money, how to fit into a peer group, and when to beat a dog with a stick. I met a lot of interesting characters, got to see a lot of sleepy women in nightgowns when I collected on Saturday mornings. All these years later I can mentally walk the route and remember all the names and who paid how and where I was supposed to put the paper. I would call it a good experience. And I wish I had some video of that big press and those linotype machines.

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