Season’s Greetings 2017

This post is by me, Abbie Johnson Taylor

 

I hope this finds you well, having had a great year. Mine has been pretty quiet.

 

In January of 2017, I spent a week in Florida with my brother and his family. It was a little chilly, so we didn’t spend a lot of time on the beach, but we went to a party and attended an epiphany celebration at an Episcopal church in West Palm Beach, the same church Donald Trump attends when he’s in town, wouldn’t you know?

 

In April, I attended the WyoPoets annual workshop in Buffalo, about thirty miles south of here. In June, I went to the Wyoming Writers conference in Gillette, about 100 miles south and east of here. Both were fun and informative.

 

In July, I sang with my group, Just Harmony, at the local ball park for a VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) game. We performed “The Star-Spangled Banner” to start the game and “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the seven-inning stretch. This was a lot of fun. I always feel close to Bill when I attend a baseball game.

 

In July, I performed alone and with Just Harmony for two Vaudeville programs. Alone, I shared some of my poems. With the group, I sang several songs. I think both performances brought down the house.

 

In September, I went to Colorado Springs with Aunt Junior and Uncle Roger, who live here in Sheridan. My Uncle Tony and Aunt Kitty live in the springs, and a party was planned for Tony’s 75th birthday. It was held at a clubhouse across the road from their home. Some of the food was catered while other dishes were provided by local folks. There was plenty to eat, and I enjoyed seeing my cousins again and meeting some of Tony’s friends and former colleagues from his law office.

 

For Thanksgiving, Uncle Tony and Aunt Kitty came here, and we had a lovely dinner at Aunt Junior and Uncle Roger’s house, complete with turkey and all the trimmings plus appetizers and pumpkin pie. The day after, Just Harmony performed downtown at a thrift store called The Green Boomerang as part of Sheridan’s annual Christmas Stroll. A week later, we performed at a museum’s holiday open house and a nursing home and at a memory service at a local funeral home. We have three more performances coming up. Tis the season to be singing.

 

Speaking of which, I did plenty of that this year, not only with Just Harmony but on my own, accompanying myself on guitar. Each month, I went to senior facilities here in town and entertained the residents. I think I enjoy performing as much as they enjoy hearing me.

 

On December 8th, Rose Hill, a friend and fellow poet, and I did a program of music and poetry as part of Christmas at the Carriagehouse, an annual variety show that takes place at a local theater. Rose read a story she wrote about how “Silent Night” was written, and I led the audience in singing that song’s first verse. Rose then shared a humorous poem she wrote about Santa Claus being a cowboy, and I finished by reciting a touching poem I wrote about grief and singing “O Holy Night,” the song that inspired it. Here’s the poem. Click on the title to hear me recite it and sing the song.

 

 

 

 

A MOURNFUL NIGHT

 

 

 

I wash dishes, mouth the words

to the familiar carol.

As soap washes away scum

from plates, glasses, flatware,

my tears wash away grief,

leave me at peace.

 

 

 

So far, I have no plans for Christmas. I’ll probably do what I did last year: have lunch at the senior center, then spend the rest of the day watching Christmas movies on my tablet. My favorite is the one about the little boy who wants and receives a Red Rider BB gun, then comes close to shooting his eye out. I hope your holiday wishes and plans don’t go awry and that next year is just as good for you as this one was.

 

**

 

I’m the author of a romance novel, two poetry collections, and a memoir. My work has appeared in The Avocet and Magnets and Ladders. I have a visual impairment and live in Sheridan, Wyoming, where for six years, I cared for my late husband, who was totally blind and partially paralyzed by two strokes. Before that, I worked as a registered music therapist in a nursing home and other facilities that served senior citizens. For more information, please visit my website and blog.

 

 

***

 

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

***

 

 

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Jest and Youthful Jollity

This post is by M. K. Waller

 

Snow fell in Central Texas last week. It caused such commotion, they probably heard us in Canada.

Folks from snow country smile at our foolishness. At the first flake, we burst into

Jest and youthful Jollity,
Quips and Cranks, and wanton Wiles,
Nods, and Becks, and Wreathed Smiles,
Such as hang on Hebe’s cheek,
And love to live in dimple sleek;
Sport that wrinkled Care derides,
And Laughter holding both his sides.

Isn’t that a wonderful image–Laughter holding both his sides. John Milton had more fun in him than he gets credit for.

But I digress.

The first time I saw snow, I was six years old. My perpetual sinus infection/tonsillitis had flared up. Dr. Luckett dropped by to see my mother–I think she was in bed with the flu–and my father asked if he could wrap me up and take me outside for a few minutes. Doctor said no, not a good idea. I spent the rest of the day with my nose pressed against the window pane, watching the lovely white stuff turn to mud.

That is the only time in all the years of our treasured doctor-little kid relationship that I wanted to throttle Dr. Luckett.

Snow didn’t fall again till I was thirteen.

A friend in Fentress sent a photo of the morning after. It’s beautiful, a blanket compared to the thin sheet we usually see.  I forwarded the picture to David, who knows how to transfer it from his phone to his computer to my email.

Below are some pictures of South Austin at noon the day after the blizzard. They explain our outbursts of Quips and Cranks and wanton Wiles.

Snow comes so seldom and so suddenly, and its stay is so brief, we have to roll all our Jest and all our Jollity up into one ball, before the marvel slips away.

*

The excerpt quoted above is from John Milton’s “L’Allegro.” Read the entire poem here.

***

I write short stories and am working on a mystery novel. My stories appear in three anthologies: Austin Mystery Writers’ crime fiction anthologies, MURDER ON WHEELS: 11 Stories of Crime on the Move (Wildside, 2015) and LONE STAR LAWLESS: 14 Texas Tales of Crime ( Wildside, 2017); and DAY OF THE DARK: Stories of Eclipse (Wildside, 2o17). A piece of my flash fiction appears in the Fall 2012/Winter 2013 issue of Mysterical-E.

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Remembering the lessons of Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima

Mike Staton

This post written by Mike Staton.

World War II started for Americans with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and ended four years later with two Atomic bombs dropped from B-29s on Japanese cities.

Not many remain alive from that day long ago – December 7, 1941.

No more than 2,000 veterans who were there on the Sunday morning the Japanese attacked the American fleet at Pearl Harbor, according to the Washington Post. All in their 90s or older.

Soon, all Americans who fought in World War II will join the veterans of World War I and the Civil War, all under tombstones, their personal stories found only in history books and TV documentaries.

battleship sinking

More than ever I think it’s important to remember Pearl Harbor, the start of World War II for America, and the end — two atomic bombs dropped on Japanese cities.

It wasn’t that way in the 1950s and the early 1960s when I was a kid growing up in Wadsworth, Ohio, and then Rialto, California. I knew World War II veterans. Some were family – my dad, in the Army Air Force’s Eighth Army toward the end of the war, an uncle, Jack Kelly who served in the American Army in Europe, and another uncle, Russell Snyder, a sailor in the Navy.

Nowadays, if I asked someone in their 20’s about Pearl Harbor or the Corregidor Death March or the Battle of the Bulge, they’d look at me with uncomprehending eyes. So many are quite content to wrap themselves in a blanket of ignorance.

Arizona Memorial

The American battleship Arizona rests beneath the Pearl Harbor Memorial.

Japan, Germany and Italy are now our allies. The Japanese – as well as the South Koreans – could soon be our allies in a war against North Korea. I fear that such a war could see casualties not seen since World War II. I’ve heard that up to 20,000 South Koreans could die per day in artillery barrages. Nerve-gas warheads on North Korean intermediate range missiles could rain down on Japanese cities. Longer-range missiles with chemical or biological warheads could be targeted at Guam and Hawaii. Even worse, if we miscalculate, ICBMs could hit any cities in city in the continental United States. North Korea is such a closed society it’s hard to tell just how advanced they are with placing working nuclear warheads on ICBMs. If they’re further along than we think, American cities could be incinerated. And even with our ABM technology, can we be sure we can destroy every incoming North Korean ICBM?

war headline

Newspaper headlines tell Americans of Christmastime 1941 that America has been attacked by Japan.

I don’t know about you, but I’m scared as hell. Back during the Second World War, British, German, Russian and Japanese civilians faced death from bombs dropped by bombers. Due to distance, American cities escaped the carnage. I fear we won’t escape it this time.

# # #

I’m an author with four published novels that include a sword-and-sorcery fantasy trilogy – The Emperor’s Mistress, Thief’s Coin and Assassins’ Lair. The fourth novel is a historical romance set during the Civil War. It’s called Blessed Shadows Dark and Deep. I’ve begun writing my second Civil War novel – Deepening Homefront Shadows. All my novels can be purchased via the website of my publisher, Wings ePress, as well as the websites of Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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Nissen

 

cropped_valley_headshot This blog by Cole Smith

Ever wondered how Saint Nicholas, a native of the mild Mediterranean, got his heavy red suit and bright, white beard? And where did those elves come from, anyway? How did they all migrate from warm, sunny Turkey to the barren North Pole?  As missionaries brought the Gospel north to Scandinavia, legends of Saint Nicholas’ kindness and secret gift-giving captured the hearts of locals. The stories were told and retold, and over time picked up a cast of familiar characters, the Nissen, or Tomte.

nisser1

Pre-Christian tradition held that the farmer who first took possession of a homestead, the one who cleared the trees and first broke ground, would continue to watch over the property after his death. He would be buried in a mound somewhere on the farm, and his spirit was known as the “haugebonde”, or “mound-bound”.

 

nissen JPEG         As time passed, the legends evolved, and the farm acquired more spirits, sometimes thought to be several ancestors. These entities would watch over the farm and had an interest in the family. In the case of a move or relocation, the spirits would follow a family to their new home. The collective group of spirits became known as the Nissen, from “niosi” in Norse, meaning “dear little relative”. In Sweden, they were called “tomte”.   Nissen were never more than three feet tall, liked to wear red, and sported long, white beards. Sound familiar?

If you were a responsible farmer, you’d have nothing to fear from these guardians. They liked to see the animals and the land treated well. But, if you were lazy, sloppy, or irresponsible, watch out! The Nissen had violent tempers, and would let you know their disapproval in no uncertain terms. Stories circulated of Nissen killing livestock, whooping up on farmhands, and generally wreaking havoc to show their anger and exact revenge.  On the other hand, satisfied nissen would lend assistance. Mended harness, clean stables, and gleaming, braided horses’ manes were all signs of a helpful community of spirits. Farmers all agreed: it was important to keep the Nissen happy!

The rising popularity of Christmas brought the custom of “discovering” gifts at the front door. In return, families would leave bowls of porridge with a pat of butter for their Nissen. To hide the butter at the bottom of the bowl would risk the wrath of the farm helpers—so don’t forget!

 

Nystrom_God-Jul_10  In 1881, artist Jenny Nystrom illustrated a Christmas poem in the Swedish magazine, Ny Illustrerad Tidning, cementing the image of a white-bearded, red-capped elf into the public consciousness for good. And the Julenisse have been delivering gifts, eating goodies, and watching over good boys and girls ever since.

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Her website Cole Smith Writes

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A Supernatural Follow up

Back in October 2016 I posted about a Supernatural Dream Come True. I was finally going to meet the stars of the show I’d watched for over a decade. When I initially purchased the ticket I went gold because I figured it would be the only chance I had to go to one. At the time of posting the website said they weren’t coming back to Toronto again. With gold came a few perks like autographs from the two major stars which you couldn’t purchase separately.

Two weeks before the convention, auctions went up for meet and greets with the stars. And a VIP pass. Since I probably wouldn’t be going to anymore I figured I should go all out. I wanted to meet the starts but the meet and greets bought separately (if you won the auction) could add up to a lot of money. The VIP pass included meet and greets with all the stars, though only ten minute meetings with each as opposed to the thirty minute ones if you bought a meet and greet. Still, with the VIP pass I wouldn’t have to pick and choose who I wanted to meet. I could meet them all. IF I was one of the winners of the VIP pass. There were ten up for auction. Happily, I did win. A few days later they announced they would be coming back to Toronto in 2019. So if I liked the convention it wouldn’t be my last one after all.

I LOVED it. I don’t know if any others I attend will live up to this one though. It seemed like everything was perfect for this convention. VIP was awesome. I never had to wait in line for my photo ops. One of the perks of VIP was going to the front of the line for everything. One of the other perks of course was the meet and greets. The stars of the show are all so nice. I loved having a chance to chat with them in a more intimate setting than the full length meet and greets.

I will be going back in 2019. And I want to do VIP again. Now that I’ve done it once I don’t think I could do the convention any other way. I loved not waiting in lines. I loved the VIP lounge. I loved hanging out with the other VIPs. They were a great group and I can’t wait to see them again at future conventions. I’m starting to save already because I want to do more photo ops. And maybe even some of the full length meet and greets.

Do you have a favourite show you would attend a convention for?

Check out my website: http://www.cindycarroll.com
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All I Want for Christmas

This post is by M. K. Waller.

PHOTO PROMPT © Douglas M. MacIlroy

I heard them talking.

Daddy said, She wants a pogo stick.

Mama said, She has enough presents.

Santa brought a pogo stick.

Daddy smiled. Sturdy.

We went outside.

Mama frowned. Don’t fall.

She’s fine. Daddy lifted me on.

I bounced. The pogo stick didn’t.

Daddy frowned. Spring’s tight. You’re not heavy enough.

Daddy tried. He bounced down the sidewalk.

Mr. Smith came over. Can I try?

Daddy jumped off. Sure.

Mr. Smith bounced down the driveway. This is fun.

Let me try again, Daddy.

Daddy bounced up the driveway.

Mama brought me my doll.

She’s right. I have enough presents.

***

I wrote this 100-word story for Friday Fictioneers. The photo prompt is a plesiosaurus, but I saw a spring. The PHOTO PROMPT is courtesy of Douglas M. MacIlroy, who holds the copyright.

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One Page

IMGP6507By S. J. Brown

Recently I was reviewing some guidelines from a publisher. They wanted the usual information like my name, contact information, the name of the book I was proposing and the word count. Then I saw it the next requirement was an impossible task, a one page synopsis. I needed to share all the important parts of a 44,000 word book all on one page, all text.

SJBrown1 Goose

To give the publisher a true feel for the book I needed to relay the personalities of the two main characters and a sense of their lives. But there was so much to tell. There are roller skates, a sewing machine, costumes, telephone poles, oh and Betty stepped on a needle that was scary. I couldn’t add photos of the main characters when they were young and innocent, well kind of innocent.

SJBrown2 SistersLittle girls like ice cream, maybe if I took an ice cream break this would flow a little better. I had to remember to mention within the pages there is a race riot, a car crash, a séance, boyfriends, and the police, . Dribbled throughout the book were paper bags filled with mystery. This book is about life, there are airplanes, a hitchhiker, tumbling beer cans, and a circus.

SJBrown3 ElephantAt this point I was half way down the page and there was so much more to tell. This was a bit too long already. How was I ever going to get it all on one page? Maybe if I had a brownie I could figure out how to make this work. Nope, no treats until I am done.
I should have started with the title ”Suburban Sisters.” Did I mention this is a heartwarming tale about two sisters? The girls are good Catholics that attend church. There is a bit of a glitch in their perfect world when stolen money in the collection plate. However I need to let the publisher know that along with the jobs, men in diapers and guns there are touching family moments like Christmas morning, family outings and cute little babies.

SJBrown4 TreesOh crap, I am at the bottom of the page and I’m not done yet, DDELETE, DELETE, DELETE. Maybe a peanut butter cup would help.

The publisher’s guidelines state they respond to submissions in 4-6 months, it may take me that long to get this down to one page. I still need to add details like an ice storm complete with dancing power lines, a truck spewing a chemical fog throughout the neighborhood, fire, oh and a dog that shows up for Thanksgiving dinner. Now this blog is getting to long.

SJBrown5 TurkeyI haven’t even mentioned the girl’s parents yet. So much happens in the 12 years the book covers. Now I needed to DELETE, DELETE, DELETE and DELETE some more. I shortened a sentence here and omitted an event there but I need to add in details about when the girl’s world shatters. So I deleted some more. Two days later it was finished and I celebrated with some chocolate chip cookies.
In closing I will ask how do you tackle a seemingly impossible task. How do you reward yourself when you accomplished your goal?
Thanks for stopping by.

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Visit my website http://www.sjbrown.50megs.com to view more of my images or purchase one of my books.

 

 

 

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You Better Watch out-Not Santa, but Krampus by Cole

cropped_valley_headshot This blog by Cole Smith

My fascination with Christmas legends began at my local library. There, in the new arrivals, was a book of old German Christmas postcards all about the Christmas devil, Krampus.  I know. I had that reaction, too. Christmas devil? Christmas is about the meek and mild baby Jesus, not the devil. Keep the creepy stuff for October, okay?

newspaper_krampus

Yet, a casual reading of Luke 2 reveals one obvious truth.   Santa wasn’t at the manger. No reindeer, no pine trees, no stockings hung with care. All those fun traditions came later – much later! Oops.   What about Krampus? He sneaked into tradition, right along with Santa. Most scholars agree Jesus’ birth took place some time in the spring. (Even those hardy shepherds didn’t like to sleep outside in the cold winter!)

Christmas was moved to coincide with older, pagan winter holidaysGruss_vom_Krampus. Because of this political decision, many old pagan symbols  intermingled  with Christmas imagery and were adopted. In Scandinavia, the ancient pagan horned deity was rolled-over into the Christian celebration. Think the Elf on the Shelf is creepy? Be thankful you didn’t grow up in Victorian Scandinavia! Parents reminded children to be good so Saint Nicholas would reward them with a gift. If they were naughty…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Krampus, St. Nicholas’ sidekick, get them. If they were only mildly naughty, they’d be lucky to only receive a good whipping with a bundle of birch sticks. But Krampus would toss the really bad children into his basket – or maybe bind them with the length of chain he nicholas-krampuscarried – and haul them off to his home. Which was Hell. It was generally understood that there, he might roast the children over a convenient flame and eat them. If he wasn’t that hungry, he would just enslave them. (I’m not making this up. Read it for yourself.) Now, I don’t know about your parents, but mine were squeamish even suggesting Santa Claus might have been real, let alone threatening us with a blood-thirsty, child-eating demon. But the world was a perilous place for headstrong children who disregarded parents’ cautions. It’s hard to stomach, but maybe society was so afraid of the dangers, it was easier to justify terrifying generations of youngsters.

 

Or maybe the ancient pagan deities clung to the collective subconscious, especially during the darkest dImage result for Retelling Stories of Krampusays of the year. One thing’s for certain, in an age before entire families spent evenings glued to electronic devices, Krampus stories would provide hours of entertainment!

 

 

 

As time passed, Krampus evolved into a more benign figure – less evil devil, more charming devil. Postcards showed Krampus trying to steal a smooch from Mom instead of hauling the kiddos off to H-E-double hockey sticks. Eventually, he fell out of favor in many regions, though he’s enjoyed a recent resurgence in popularity.

 

Me? The only Christmas monster I want in my house is this guy:

abominable-snowman

As you count down the month, I hope it’s filled with the things you love most, and the traditions that remind us of the lavish gift of love…even when we’ve been naughty.

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Her website Cole Smith Writes

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What’s Left to Take Away?

IMG_1659aby Neva Bodin

Recently I read a quote in a newspaper, saw it again online, and it created an “Ah-hah” moment in my mind. Seems we could swap “author” for “designer” in this quote: “A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/antoine_de_saintexupery_121910 12/3/2017

In an aside, it seems de Saint-Exupery led quite an exciting life, authoring “The Little Prince” which is still sold today and was translated into 300 languages. He was also poet and famed aviator and is presumed to have died in 1944 at age 44 in an aircraft over the Mediterranean.

I thought his quote is one I should apply to my writing and editing process. I had not thought of it in that way before. My hubby probably wishes I would apply that to my collection of stuff in our household.

It is so hard to edit out my explanations, pretty phrases, etc. One author once told me they kept a file for “pretty phrases” because they liked them and might need them some day. Meaning they had already cut them out of some story.

And sometimes, the need to overload the reader with information is over powering. Now I can look at my work and keep asking, “Is there anything I can take away?”

I also listened to a free Web offering by Jerry Jenkins during which William Noble, author of “Noble’s Book of Writing Blunders (And How to Avoid Them)” shared some tips on writing.  One of the things he said was to always read your book out loud and when reading to someone else, don’t put the drama in. Read without inflection, so the reader is allowed to draw his or her own meaning and catch the nuances, as if reading the book themselves. Hard temptation (putting my spin on my writing) to resist, but sounds really helpful. This will help me know if I have conveyed what’s really happening well enough in my writing.

I have now ordered the book after listening to this gentleman. I was impressed with his presentation. His website is www.williamparkernoble.com.

On the sunny side I have sold 30 of my “Bitzy Bunny Gets a New Mama” books so far which I recently published. This is because of Facebook, a book signing and word of mouth. I need to do more book signings. I haven’t checked the Amazon site. I really haven’t tried very hard to sell any.Bitzy Bunny Book 002

And I am almost done putting up Christmas decorations at my house. I have also designed my Christmas letter. On the down side, I have no room for the Christmas tree this year. Brought an extra rocker from the farm this past summer which occupies that spot now in the living room. But, it’s important to be able to seat my guests when they come. I love guests.

And I sing “Joy to the World….”

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My Life: Humdrum but Useful

 Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, closeupThis post is by M. K. Waller

Where do writers get their ideas?

More to the point, where do I get my ideas?

When I blog, most of them are drawn from my life–things I’ve done, seen, heard, read about, or been told by trusted sources. It may take a while to choose one from the chaos that is my brain–my topic changed four times while I was composing this post.

But experts say, “Write what you know.”

So I do.

I’ve blogged about

a pebble changing the universe

extremism and the cat under the bed

pajamas and the Google fiber men 

Pajamas © Kathy Waller

no-cow branding

the life of an artist, parts I and II

hansel, gretel, cuthbert, and me

a parboiled goose

IMG_2679 (3)

Biting cat © Kathy Waller

a cat bite

eye of tot and toe of tad

feral chickens

my weird husband

Weird husband. © Kathy Waller

petting zoos and Methodists

girdles and teeth

going to Paris

starving in Paris

squirrels and seduction

W. F. Ward

a kiss

Everything on the list comes directly from my life. Humdrum as it is, it supplies little anecdotes I can share–even the errors, falls, parboiling, and girdles.

But my fictional characters are different.

They lurk in trees, find Mama cooking with ground glass, set fire to buildings…

I have never done any of those things, thank goodness.

Where did those ideas come from?

I don’t know. I’ll deal with that in a future post.

As soon as I’ve found the answer.

***

M. K. Waller aka Kathy Waller, writes short stories. Her latest, “When Cheese Is Love”, appears in Austin Mystery Writers’ second crime fiction anthology, LONE STAR LAWLESS. She blogs at Telling the Truth, Mainly.

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