It makes me smile
Today’s topic is cherished childhood memories. I have a few, but the one which always comes to mind is the year 1954 and the showing of “White Christmas” at the Texas Theater on Twohig Street.
In those days, you could send your children alone to the movies with the price of admission—thirty-five cents under age twelve—and enough for some popcorn, Junior Mints, and a Coke. Even in the heart of downtown, we were secure in the darkened theater for an afternoon of cartoons, newsreels, and the main feature.
That afternoon, my parents dropped a friend and me in front of the theater to see Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera Ellen in the Irving Berlin Musical “White Christmas”. Safely ensconced with our snacks, we watched the stars dance, sing, fall in and out of love, and finally come together in a happily-ever-after glittering finale.
Bing slid open the back doors of the stage, and the long-waited-for snow drifted down as if by magic. And then—believe it or not—when my friend and I exited the theater, it was really snowing! Snowing in West Texas! Not much, just a few flakes, but it was happening.
My daddy waited for us and escorted us next door to Cy Elliott’s Drugstore where we ordered hot chocolate and sat by the window watching the glittering white flakes drift onto the sidewalk where they melted away.
The memory of that special afternoon has stayed with me for the rest of my life. It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime coincidences—or maybe it was just meant to be. Whichever it was, I wouldn’t take a million for the safe warm feeling which lingers even sixty-five years later.
~~Posted October 27
Five Places I'd Like to See Before It's Too Late...
Getting behind on blogging seems to be my downfall these days. On October 12, I wrote about five websites I frequent, so staying consistent with the ‘rule of five’, here are five things I’d like to see or do before it’s too late.
Arlington National Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
In 1960, Quentin Reynolds wrote a short book Known But to God telling the story of several hypothetical and totally fictional men who might be one of the Unknown Soldiers. There are three crypts: WWI, WWII, and Korea. The fourth now lies empty because the remains of the unknown from Viet Nam were identified and returned to his family.
In 1965, actor Jason Robards narrated the television production The Unknown Soldier which profiles six very real soldiers and sailors who lost their lives and whose remains are some of the approximately 79,000 never recovered and/or identified.
The Rose Window of Mission San Jose in San Antonio, Texas
While I’ve visited the Alamo countless times, I’ve never been able to get out to the other missions around the city.
Tuskegee University in Tuskegee Alabama
While I got a very quick look years ago, I’d love to go back and spend unlimited time visiting the exhibits honoring George Washington Carver, who has been one of my enduring heroes, and also the Tuskegee Airmen who not only fought the “shooting war” but had to come home and fight for their rights in the United States.
The Smithsonian in Washington, DC
What can I say?
Everything I didn’t see in Natchez, Mississippi, on my first visit
I purposely paced myself so I’d enjoy/learn from the places I did visit—so now I need to finish the tour!
~~Posted October 20
What websites do you frequent regularly?
Always on the lookout for blog topics, I recently stumbled on an article with something like 130 gems! While I prefer to “write about writing” at The Word Place, some of these ideas can be spun into writing-related pieces—so here goes.
All of us have websites we visit regularly for one reason or another. I usually place a short-cut to those I open daily or at least weekly. Here’s a short list with at least one reason why I go there.
The daily obituaries in my hometown newspaper. I read somewhere that obits are the “Facebook for geezers”. But by our 50th high school reunion—almost 10 years ago—over 25% of us were gone. It’s natural to want to keep up—to call up a fond memory and to say goodbye even at a distance.
Speaking of Facebook, let’s get that one out of the way. I have three pages there: a personal page for keeping up with friends far and near, an author page, and The Grace Place where I share inspirational posts. We all need some inspiration and encouragement these days!
One America News Network (OANN)--about the only place left to get news without being told how to interpret it—and spared the exalted opinions of the mainstream news media!
Amazon—if I’m tracking an order or Amazon KDP to check on book sales
Email—if one wants to count that as a “site” and for obvious reasons
I long since ditched Twitter and Linked In. I do have some Pinterest boards which I try to keep updated—ditto my website.
Next blog: 5 places I want to see before time runs out!
~~Posted October 13
Thanks to those who weighed in on what to do about making Susanna’s Secret long enough for print. For now, I’m going to leave it as a Kindle book and work on the print edition toward the end of the month. First, though, I have someone who offered to “beta-proof” and will go that route before clicking “publish”.
Meanwhile, I’m working again on The Legacy of Diamond Springs, a novel-length romantic suspense which has been bandied about for over two years now. I’ve seen some definite flaws and think I’ve figured out how to fix them.
Mainly, I’ve had an epiphany of sorts the last few weeks. Suddenly I’ve realized (after 13 years) that I really am retired and can do as I dirty-darn well please! The girls are growing up, and my role as a caregiver has diminished. I’ve had the satisfaction of seeing my books and short stories in print, both traditionally and independently. Suddenly I don’t feel driven to produce and get things “out there”. Now I can write just for the sheer joy of writing. Of course, that’s probably how it should have been from the beginning.
These early fall days have brought me a renewed feeling of peace and contentment, as Paul said, “in whatsoever state I am”. My days are full.
Life is good.
~~Posted October 6
What do you mean, it's
too short to print?
While formatting Susanna’s Secret for publication, I ran into an unexpected problem: it is too short for a print book! I really want a print format, so there are a couple of options, which is add a second (surprise) book at the end. I have a book of short stories and poems which I’ve taken down, so I could add some of those to bring me up to 100+ pages. Or, I could string out the Other Books by the Author section by adding excerpts from 16 books now in publication.
So I’ll make this short and sweet (and find out if anyone is actually reading this blog!) by asking a simple question:
As a reader, would you rather
A. have half a dozen extra stories in the back or
B. read excerpts from 16 different books?
An excerpt isn’t a full chapter but rather part of a chapter—a teaser to get someone interested in reading the whole book.
Leave me an A or B answer on the post here.
Meanwhile, don’t forget Showboat Reunion is available for Kindle or in print at Amazon.
~~Posted September 30
Well, the launch party for Showboat Reunion basically flopped, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. I planned to run it through the three remaining days of the month this week but decided with one regular participant it wasn’t worth the time it took to post in two places everyday.
However, there’s always a silver lining. I learned some new skills using Canva Pro to make my graphics for the party-that-wasn’t, and new skills translate into more in my quiver.
Another plus came about when I decided not to continue this week and began to work on some other time-consuming tasks like updating my marketing plan and formatting another new novella, Susanna’s Secret, for publication. I’ll be proofing that ms this week and publishing for Kindle in October. Unfortunately, it won’t make a print book due to the short length...unless...I go to Plan B. But that’s tomorrow’s blog.
Also, the one person who did play will be receiving a print copy of the book and a sterling silver showboat charm. Just waiting for those items to arrive on my doorstep.
It took hours of time to prepare all the graphics, but they won’t be wasted. They comprise a new page on my website and will find their way to Pinterest.
Would I do another “launch party” for another book? No. It’s a venue I tried and can cross off the list. But I’m not sorry I gave it a whirl. Could I have done something differently to make it fly? Who knows? Like I said, it was a learning experience.
Posted September 28
The term “PTSD” is a familiar one, and I want to make it clear from the outset that I am not a medical professional and cannot write as one. What I want to do is just provide some basic accepted facts and links to read more.
The character Col. Sid “Bull” Bullington (USMC, Ret.) got the double whammy, so to speak. His childhood was traumatic, and he left home after managing to skin through high school and joined the Marines. As he tells Gail, “I guess the Marines kept me out of prison.”
Two tours of Viet Nam and countless other deployments in a thirty-year career left their mark on him, but he has resisted all help to deal with the demons of war and his previous life. He keeps to himself so no one will notice the most obvious symptoms:
flashbacks and nightmares
drinking too often and too much
guilt and depression
thoughts of ending his life
In World War I, the term “shell shock” came into use; in World War II, “combat fatigue” took its place. Today, 3.5 per cent of adults in the United States will be affected with PTSD. One in eleven people will receive a diagnosis at some point in their lifetimes.
I often hear spots on the radio talking about people recognizing these and other symptoms in friends and loved ones and urging them to get help. Most of us, even in far less dire circumstances, resist admitting our need for help, much less asking for it, and believe we should be able to handle things ourselves.
None of us walks away from anything unmarked and unscathed. In Sid Bullington, I have tried to create a character—a decent human being who retains his gentle spirit however deeply wounded—but he can’t recover alone. He, like the rest of us, is not an island alone.
For more on PTSD, visit these sites:
Download a free ebook on PTSD from Mighty Oaks on this page.
~~Posted September 17
My characters with disabilities—which they don’t let get in the way of a full life:
I often write characters with some degree of disability which they have successfully overcome.
In Where Is Papa’s Shining Star and Finding Papa’s Shining Star Alan Ashley, has become a successful businessman despite the loss of his sight in World War I.
The Dreamland Series features young Danny Jefferson who has Down Syndrome buy is a valued employee and talented amate photographer.
“Cart” in Four Summer Days was born with severe mental impairment about which there was little knowledge in the mid-1800s—yet as a beloved son and brother, he exhibits a talent for woodcarving.
In Ruthann’s War, much-admired school superintendent, poet, and artist Drew Mallory has lived with a worsening leg injury he received in World War I and now faces the loss of his leg.
Gail Calloway and ataxia
Now, in Showboat Reunion, ex-Marine Sid “Bull” Bullington lives with severe PTSD, and Gail Callaway was diagnosed as a child with a form of ataxia.
A basic definition of “ataxia” is “the loss of full control of bodily movements” and also “impaired coordination”. She is 31 years old but already must use a cane for balance and is often mistaken for having had “one too many”.
Ataxia can be hereditary (genetic) or acquired. The National Ataxia Foundation has more information about the various kinds. It’s official definition (copied from their site) is
The Mayo Clinic also has an overview of the difficulty.
I hope that even my limited knowledge of many of these difficulties with which my characters deal courageously will lead us all to be part of their struggle.
~~Posted September 16
Almost one hundred years after the first showboat set sail, novelist Edna Ferber published her book about a floating theater called the Cotton Blossom. A year later in 1927, Showboat came to life on the stage at the hands of Florenz Ziegfield (of the Follies fame). It contained many firsts:
1st linking of plot and music
1st serious theme (alcoholism, miscegenation, desertion)
1st black actors in major performing roles
It was a sell-out wherever it played and was followed in 1929 by a silent film starring Laura LaPlante and Joseph Schildkraut.
In 1936, Irene Dunne and Alan Jones reprised the roles of Magnolia and Ravenal. Helen Morgan sang the tragic Julie LaVerne, and Paul Robeson’s magnificent rendition of Old Man River has never been rivaled.
In 1950, Kathryn Grayson and Howard Keel starred with Ava Gardner as Julie. William Warfield sang the signature song Old Man River.
Due to copyright concerns, I’ll just post a link to the many beautiful posters which have heralded this story over the years.
I saw the 1950 version as a five or six-year-old and have never forgotten it. To this day, if I feel the need of a “good weep”, I put it on and cry buckets of tears over Magnolia and Ravenal’s love story and Julie’s tragic destiny. I’ve also seen the 1936 version, which has a slightly different story line, but the 1950 movie is my favorite.
When I was working in Ft. Worth, I took a visiting 19-year-old friend with theatrical aspirations to see the stage performance at Bass Performance Hall. It satisfied her soul—and mine as well. We need more stirring music, more happily-ever-after, more dreams.
It’s a story of life. And life is what it’s all about.
~~Posted September 9
Showboats, also known as floating theaters, floating operas, or boat shows, appeared on the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers in 1831 and lasted until the 1930s or 1940s (depending on the source). There was a hiatus during the Civil War, but by the late 1870s, music and drama once again entertained folks along the waterways.
The first showboat was launched by the English Chapman family in Pittsburgh. The last, the Goldenrod, docked for the last time in 1943 in St. Louis MO. Though there were efforts to preserve this monument of history, it flooded in 2015, after which many artifacts were removed such as tin ceilings, stained glass, and chandeliers. Then in 2017, it burned.
The drama and romance of the people who lived and worked on showboats has been carried on in countless versions of movies and stage plays. More about those later this week.
Meanwhile, if you’d like to know more, go first to the Online Steamboat Museum for authentic photographs and stories about the real showboats.
There are a couple of print books about the history of showboats listed at Amazon. One looks enticing but isn’t an expense I’m up for right now. Here Comes the Showboat by Betty Bryant on Amazon is worth a look, and you might even find it at a library. I just ordered a used copy of Showboats, the History of an American Institution by Phillip Graham.
And in October I’m headed from my third dinner cruise on the Branson Belle in Branson MO. I’m too old to dream of romance, but I can stand at the rail and live vicariously through Gail and Sid in my newest book Showboat Reunion. (Release date October 1) Have a preview on Pinterest.
~~Posted September 7