Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Long Dry Years: Prohibition


 Prohibition, the legal end to alcohol manufacture, consumption in the United States, also known as the Volstead Act, came into play as the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution  in 1920. For years prior to the enactment of the law, the temperance movement had pushed forward under the auspices of such groups as the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, the Prohibition Party, and the Anti-Saloon League. Several attempts to bring about the end of “demon rum” had failed, but on October 28, 1919, the National Prohibition Act became the rule of law.
     Of course, people found many ways to get around the law, including the sale of malt extract syrup for ‘baking purposes’. Bathtub gin kept the home fires cozy. And, people like Al Capone took advantage of the illicit demand for alcohol to make a killing—sometimes quite literally. Capone controlled the flow of liquor from Canada to Florida and its sale in over 10,000 speakeasies to the tune of $60 million per year.
     Despite the upswing of violent crime, Prohibition continued as the law of the land into the thirties and the Depression but met its end with the ratification of the Twenty-first Amendment on December 5, 1933. States became the authority in setting regulations regarding the sale of alcohol.
     The Roaring Twenties provided fodder for song, dance, stories, and other entertainment. Flappers, speakeasies, and gangster activity pervaded everything. The Prohibition Era lasted only thirteen years, but the changes it wrought have become part of the fabric of the country’s history.
      Al Capone is featured as a (fictional and ghostly) character in the Dreamland Series. A former colleague of Trixie's great-grandfather--whose penchant for illicit dealings trickled down to the second generation--the smoke from Al's cigar wafts through Trixie's legacy, the Quimby Building, and heralds trouble with every breath. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Al Capone, "Inspiration" for the Dreamland Series


 I took this picture of a life-like "Al Capone" enjoying his ease in front of the Ohio Club in Hot Springs, Arkansas. It was here I came up wit the idea for the Dreamland Series.

      Al Capone’s life reads like a crime novel; indeed, he lived a notorious life of crime as a bootlegger and racketeer among other pursuits. Born Alphonse Gabriel Capone to Italian immigrant parents in Brooklyn, New York, in 1899, he succeeded his long-time mentor Johnny Torio as head of a Chicago crime syndicate. The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre of 1929 has been immortalized by Hollywood. He acquired the nickname “Scarface” after the brother of a woman he insulted slashed him in retaliation when Capone refused to apologize. He referred to the resulting damage to the left side of his face as “war wounds”.
     Capone is said to have kept a year-round suite at the Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs, Arkansas, and also frequented the Ohio Club. Both establishments are still in business. Those engaged in not-so-legal schemes found the Arkansas resort area a good place to get away from it all or even hide out if necessary.
     Married once and the father of one child, he was eventually brought down on a charge of income tax evasion in 1931, he served a total of 11 years in federal prisons, including Alcatraz. In 1947 he died in Florida of cardiac arrest following a stroke, but he had suffered from the debilitating effects of neurosyphilis for many years prior to his death. His wife Mae died in 1986.
     Al Capone’s only child, known as “Sonny”, is said to have been born with congenital syphilis. Later, a severe mastoid infection left him partially deaf. He did not follow in his father’s footsteps and later changed his name to Brown—although the name had been previously used as an alias by his father. He died in 2004.

Monday, July 21, 2014

A Brief Look at Danny Jefferson and Down Syndrome

     One of the pivotal characters in The Dreamland Series is Danny Jefferson, a young man born with Down Syndrome. He works for the local grocery market where he is considered a dependable employee. Thanks to a retired teacher who saw his potential and made up for what he didn't receive in the public school system of his day, he gained basic academic skills and learned to shelve books in the local library, where he also became a favorite of the younger clientele.
     Because Danny was born into a loving family who accepted him for himself, he developed the social skills to interact with society. However, to society at large, Danny is invisible as are many people with disabilities. But things going on around Danny are not invisible to him, and he emerges as an important player in the events occurring in Dreamland.
     As a former special education teacher (who suffered the inevitable burn-out and frustration because of stifling rules and regs), I know too well the lost potential when developmentally-delayed children and adults are relegated to the second-class citizen status.
     I enjoy writing about characters outside the mainstream--because, in fact, they should be in the mainstream.
     Read the basic facts about Down Syndrome below. If you don't read anything else, read Myths and Truths About Down Syndrome. And the next time you're out and about and happen to see someone who looks and acts a little bit 'different', smile and say hello, and remember we're all the same deep down under the skin. 

A Brief Overview of Down Syndrome

  • The nucleus of each human cell contains 23 chromosomes, but chromosome #21 is ‘out of whack’, so to speak, a condition known as Down Syndrome occurs.

·        Trisomy 21 occurs when there is an extra #21 chromosome.
·        Mosaicism occurs when only some of the cells have the extra chromosome.
·        Translocation occurs when #21 breaks off and attaches to #14.

  • Trisomy 21 accounts for most cases of Down Syndrome, which was named in 1866 by Dr. John Langdon Down of England. Those with the distinctive facial features, which includes slightly slanted eyes, were once referred to as Mongoloids, suggesting an Asian/Chinese link. Other characteristics may include small stature and low muscle tone. 
  • Some children with Down Syndrome also have medical conditions affecting the heart and/or the endocrine system. Since the beginning of the 20th century, the survival rate for DS children has increased because of improved medical treatment from the age of nine to sixty or beyond.
  • Down Syndrome is not genetic, with the exception of the translocation type in which one parent may be a carrier of a translocated chromosome. Maternal age increases the chance of giving birth to a child with Down Syndrome.
  • Today, with prenatal testing, Down Syndrome can be diagnosed before birth. Tragically, statistics put the abortion rate for babies so diagnosed at between 80-90%.

For more in-depth information about Down Syndrome, visit the National Down Syndrome Organization website.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Post-Launch Thoughts

Come with the Love Light Gleaming 

Yesterday was the day I'd been waiting for--the launch of Book 3 of the Dreamland Series, Come with the Love Light Gleaming, but I had ulterior motives. Last July 18, I launched the Penelope Pembroke Cozy Mystery Series, and it's been non-stop promotion/writing/editing/publishing/promoting ever since. I. Am. Tired.

Now it's over. Well, at least it's all over but the necessary continuous promotion. That's one of those side-effects of publishing! But the writing is on hold until fall--actually until the end of October when I depart for my long-anticipated two week writing retreat!

Until then, here is what I'll be doing:
  • making a video trailer for the Dreamland Series
  • getting the Dreamland Series released as a boxed set
  • making a podcast
  • arranging a blog tour (after the fact)
  • updating all the author sites I'm registered with
  • tweeting daily
  • posting on FB daily
  • blogging at least three times a week
  • working on getting the Penelope books and the new series into a couple of local bookstore
It just doesn't stop. Yes, you can look at the list and say, "She should've done this, this, and this BEFORE releasing the books," and I probably should have. But there is just so much time in a day, and real life creeps in unless one lives in a cave on a mountain top!


Meet Me Tonight in Dreamland

Under the Silv'ry Moon


Friday, July 18, 2014

Happy Birthday, Penelope Pembroke!

One year ago on July 18, I hit the 'publish' button on the first book (The Bogus Biker) of the Penelope Pembroke Cozy Mystery Series. I said to a friend that I would consider the books a success if they sold a couple hundred copies. To date, the numbers stand at over 23,000, and they're still selling!

Taking a bow, I will say they were 'good' books--but so are many, many others out there. Was their success a fluke? I don't know. But Penelope has been good to me, and I appreciate all the readers out there who downloaded and read the six books in the series. The reviews are a solid 4+ stars on Amazon.

Meet Penelope Pembroke

Owner of the best (only) B&B in Amaryllis, Arkansas (pop. 5492), who’s

  • Flirting with fifty (You’re as young as you feel.)
  • Divorced (Travis Pembroke, cotton entrepreneur, had a wandering eye.)
  • Mother of Amaryllis PD Detective Bradley Pembroke  (She wishes he understood her as well as she understands him.)
  • Apple of her father Jake Kelley’s eye (She wouldn’t trade him for two spotted pups.)
  • Best friend of Mary Lynn Hargrove, the mayor’s wife. (They’ve known each other since high school and know each other inside out.)
  • And the only human creature tolerated by Abijah, the 18-lb. orange tabby who stalks the family home-turned B&B.

Penelope keeps her ear to the ground, her eyes open, and her battered heart in solitary confinement. Then one night, while having a beer and a Reuben at the seedy-though-popular Sit-n-Swill, she meets Tiny aka Sam, who’s about as much of a biker as she is a belly dancer.

She insists on dabbling in danger and disaster despite Sam’s best efforts to discourage her. The fireworks begin in Book 1, light up the skies in Books 2,3,4, and 5, and end in one spectacularly explosive display in Book 6.

So today, help me celebrate Penelope's stellar first year with a FREE download of Book 1:  The Bogus Biker.  If you read the series and enjoyed it, pass on the link to a friend. Free is always good,
but it's only for one day, July 18.

And, did you know the series is now a boxed set? The Penelope Pembroke Cozy Mystery Series is priced at $9.99, which is like getting one book FREE. Kudos to graphic artist Jes Richardson for the superb cover.

Monday, July 14, 2014

It's coming!

The Dreamland Series Book 3, Come with the Love Light Gleaming, will launch officially on Friday, although it may be available a day or two earlier.

Scared to death—can it really happen?

Trixie may find out. But will she live to tell the tale?

Just when Trixie thinks her new start in Dreamland AR may be moving on, her mother announces she's returning, too, to open a bed and breakfast in the old family home. Maybe she can deal with Lucy, but she's not even going to try to deal with City Council woman Daphne Carter's toothy son Alan who seems to think he knows better than Trixie what's good for the historic building bequeathed to her by her grandfather. And she's not sure her definition of moving on is what Mitch Langley has in mind. They've been best friends since she arrived, but is she ready to be more?

Between the new police chief, the paranormal team Candace King brings in to hunt for ghosts in Al Capone's old bootlegging tunnels, Danny Jefferson's candid photos which are definitely worth more than a thousand words, and forensic anthropologist Sean Mercer's dogged curiosity, Trixie can't catch a break.

And somebody somewhere has a bone to pick with Trixie's relatives. Most of them are dead--but Trixie's not, and that's enough for that somebody.

Of course, I still have to market the series, but  I have a million other non-writing projects waiting in the wings. Well--non-writing as in no more books right now. In fact, I'm on vacation until the end of October when the much-anticipated Writing Retreat begins. It will have an attendance of ONE (that's me), and for two glorious weeks I'll be reconnecting yet again with the town where I went to college.

"Mimi School" is in session until August 15, after which the small person will return to school as a second-grader. 

I've said before I'm not sure if time flies when you're having fun or when you're getting older, but I qualify on both counts. Meanwhile, check back for more on Friday...