Sunday, September 28, 2014

Forever Unsolved

     Twenty-nine years after attorney Maud Crawford disappeared from her home in Camden, Arkansas, actress-author and Camden native Beth Brickell undertook to investigate the unsolved mystery. The Arkansas-Democrat Gazette (formerly the Arkansas Gazette) published the resulting nineteen articles despite the threat of a lawsuit by the family of a former police commissioner implicated in the disappearance. (No lawsuit came about.) Ms Brickell later published a book, The Disappearance of Maud Crawford.
     The first article details how the desire for a huge fortune and the fear of exposure in its pursuit may have been the motive behind Mrs. Crawford’s disappearance. In 1969, the state declared her legally dead and pointed to “foul play perpetrated by a person or persons unknown”.
     Ms Brickell will be at the Garland County Library in Hot Springs AR on Sunday, September 28, to speak about her sixteen-month search (2 PM). Apparently, even in 1986, there were still those with a ‘stake in the game’ which led to threats on the author’s life.
I definitely won’t miss this event!

     And I didn't! I sat mesmerized for over an hour while Ms Brickell presented an overview of the case and her findings when she took a closer look at this unsolved mystery. Having sold out of all her books at a previous speaking engagement, she took orders, and I'll be anxiously awaiting my copy. 
     Meanwhile, I happened on this website which discusses nine other unsolved Arkansas mysteries. There's a story in each of them! 

(Photograph from The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Recycled and Repurposed: A Blog from the Past

     Recently I read a great article about recycling older blogs, so I found this one and updated it with information about my latest publications. I hope you find something useful here for your own work!   
      Maybe you’re familiar with the gangster terms bump off  (to kill), big house (prison), rod (gun), but do you know the meanings of bench boy, badger, and Big Cough? Check then out at Gangster Talk.
     In the 1800s, you might visit an Irish Shantee, have some Nokum Stiff, and eat Goober peas. See more at Just a Few Words TheyUsed.
     If you’re a fan of hard-boiled detective stories, you might have run across dipped the bill or tracked down a can-opener.  Moreat Twists, Slugs, and Roscoes: A Glossary of Hard-Boiled Slang.
     If you lived in 19th century Britain—and were of the ‘lower class’, you’d know what a swell, a tooler, and ruffles were. Check out BritishSlang: 19th Century Lower Class and Underworld.
     A biker, such as Tiny Sam in the Penelope Pembroke Cozy Mystery Series, would know what he could find in the bone yard, the importance of a lid, and approach twisties with caution. But Sam wasn’t a biker, so he might need some help from The Dictionary of Motorcycle Slang,Biker Terms, and Jargon.
     And, of course, today we all need the Slang Dictionary - Text Slang,Internet Slang, & Abbreviations to interpret meh, ukwim, and bbilb. (Warning: you’ll find some things here you don’t want to know!)
     Finally, just for fun, if you’re hunting an appropriate character name, you might want to look at Behind theName: the Etymology and History of First Names. Now, I didn’t look first when I was naming Beatrice Collier Blake aka Trixie in The Dreamland Series, but I find it is the Italian form of Beatrix, which comes from the Latin “Viator” meaning traveler or voyager. At the beginning of Meet Me Tonight in Dreamland, we find Trixie traveling toward the hometown she doesn’t remember. And what awaits her at the end of the road may make this her last trip to anywhere! 

Visit Someday Is Here for more information about Penelope and Trixie! Both series are available on Amazon as single books and also as boxed sets. (links only for book 1 in each series as they need to be read in order)
The Penelope Pembroke Cozy Mystery Series
·       TheBogus Biker
·       The Stubborn Schoolhouse Spirit
·       The Feed Store Floozy
·       The Possum Hollow Hullabaloo
·       The Larcenous Legacy
·       Sam’s Last Stand

The Dreamland Series
·       Under the Silv’ry Moon
·       Come with the Love Light Gleaming

Sunday, September 14, 2014

When fiction meets real life, it's a delight!

     When I wrote the character of Danny Jefferson, a young man with Down syndrome, in The Dreamland Series, I wanted to endow him a particular talent and chose photography. When his mentor, retired teacher Hetty Green, gives him a camera, he soon finds that he sees his world through the viewfinder in a unique way. Enter forensic anthropologist Sean Mercer, who introduces Danny to his own state-of-the-art photography equipment and is amazed at the young man’s ability to snap a picture at exactly the right angle to capture the subject  
     Then, believe it or not, after the Dreamland books were up and running, I happened on an article about an eighteen year-old in the UK, also challenged by Down syndrome, who dreams of being a professional landscape and wildlife photographer, and who is mentored by his stepfather, himself a professional photographer!
     Meet Oliver Hellowell here and take a look at examples of his work.
     I love it when fiction finds roots in ‘real life’!
     Why do I include characters with challenges in my fiction? Obviously less than perfect fictional characters and real life folks too often make other people uncomfortable, but they shouldn’t. And that’s why. I’m a believer in the possible—the mountain peak—the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
     In Where Is Papa’s Shining Star? (my first published novel), Alan Ashely has returned from WW I, scarred, blind and embittered. The scion of a wealthy family, he earned a master’s degree in business from Harvard before hitting the trenches of France, and he expects to return to run the lucrative business his now-deceased father established. He also expects to marry his beautiful debutante fiancĂ©e.
     His profligate cousins bring suit to have him declared incompetent so they can take over the business, and Elise informs him she could never marry half a man. Although he wins the right to run Ashley Enterprises, he withdraws into himself, determined never to be hurt or rejected again.
     In the novel I’ve been working on for at least 30 years-and which I may never finish because I’m so attached to my characters  I can’t bear to say goodbye, the plot is awash with challenged characters:
      Vic, son of the town drunk, who earns his college education on the football field with two good legs—and then leaves one of them behind in Germany during WW II.
     Peggy, an orphan, brutally assaulted by one of her aunt’s boarders and left unable to bear children.
     Peaches, beautiful and talented but crippled physically by polio and emotionally by the worst kind of abuse.
     Bix, scarred at an early age by the loss of his father, wrongly convicted of embezzlement and sent to prison where he is killed by another inmate
     If I ever finish Blest Be the Tie, I’ll let you know!.
     Challenges, met with courage, determination, and the love and support of friends and family, are not always stumbling blocks, and the sky’s the limit!
     Now I write with a very personal “agenda” because I’m the proud grandmother of a little boy with Down syndrome. At 2 ½, he’s endured more pain and stress than any child should have to go through, but hopefully it’s all behind him now—and he’s on his way!  
     Too, I think of the adults I was privileged to know at the sheltered workshop where I spent some time in the classroom. So many of them inspired me with their quiet acceptance of their limitations (though often they could do things I couldn't!), their work ethic, and their willingness to be my friends.
     Don’t forget to visit Oliver Hellowell at his website. You can also find him on Facebook. He “only” has 38,348 likes…oh, make that 38,349 since I just joined his fan club!

     You can read more about Alan Ashley and the other characters in the Shining Star Books at my website.

                                                                                                                  Finding Papa’s Shining Star

And remember…it’s a good clean read!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Do you identify with your characters?

Do you identify with your characters? I do, sometimes more than others.

·        Lenore Seldon—trapped by convention and circumstances
·        Annie Ashley—finds what she wanted wasn’t what she wanted after all
·        Jean Kingston—becoming her own person, even thirty years late, was all good
·        Tessa Steele—driven by a genealogical mystery she’s bound to solve, hopefully sooner than later
·        Penelope Pembroke—accepting life for what it is but secretly hoping for more
·        Trixie Collier Blake—can only be pushed so far before she turns and fights

I suppose it’s inevitable that a part of every writer becomes part of every character she writes. Sometimes writing is a way to expose a secret longing or long-buried feelings of rebellion. Sometimes it’s just fun to watch the character evolve throughout the story.
Growing up, I was Lenore Seldon—and perhaps a little bit of Annie Ashley. As I grew older, with an empty nest and older parents no longer alive to care for, I became Jean Kingston. Tessa Steele has always lived in me as I’ve tramped deserted cemeteries, knocked on doors of strangers, and pored over nearly impossible-to-decipher records. Trixie Collier Blake is the caged tiger inside the pussy cat persona.
But the character I like best—the one I’d really like to be—is Penelope Pembroke. She’s got guts—guts to hold fast to what she knows is right—yet enough to step off the beaten path in a pinch and do what she has to do.

Visit Someday Is Here to find out more about all of them! 

(And Trixie, being the new kid on the block, needs some fans!)
·        Under the Silv’ry Moon

View more pictures from The Dreamland Series at Pinterest.