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Monday, November 19, 2012

A Busy Fall

Okay, I have to admit I've ignored my blog this fall. In the frenzy to get several books to press, I've discovered that I can get overloaded.

This fall we've published Windshift by Joyce Faulkner, The Shopkeeper's Bear by Janie DeVos and my book, Emergence: The John Bax Story.

My latest book, Grand Slam Groomer's Dogs Speak Out! features 37 absolutely precious dogs and will be out in time for Christmas. It's amazing to find out what our pets really think!

All of these books need to be converted to ebooks and iBooks so we're still behind the eight ball.

In addition, we've published An Average American Combat Infantry Soldier by Rudy Rudolph, a WWII ex-prisoner of war. Guam: Returning the Favor by Orrin W. Johnson, a US Marine who served in the Pacific Theater, is at the printers.

I'm working with Dr. Hossein Ghadimi to publish his memoir.

Whew! Just listing them all makes me tired! Seriously, it's been a good year. I enjoy the writing, editing and working with all members of our team. My partner, Joyce Faulkner, is putting her creative energy to good use - creating our iBooks. They are going to be fabulous! IBooks are a new venture for us but they offer greater creativity than ebooks. If you have an iPad or iPhone, you'll want to check them out.

If you enjoy art, check out Rebecca Evan's illustrations at www.rebeccaevans.net. She's our greatest find this year. She illustrated The Shopkeeper's Bear, which is available at Paragraphs on Padre Blvd bookstore in South Padre Island and on Amazon.

I missed Branson Veterans Week this year because I introduced Emergence: The John Bax Story at the RGV Birding Festival in Harlingen. What an interesting group of people! Many of them knew John and birded with him.

I've started attending more events. I have the next four Saturdays lined up for events in South Padre Island and Harlingen. I'm looking forward to some school visits. I love to read my dog books and present Janie DeVos' work.

In the meantime, I wish everyone a happy and blessed Thanksgiving. I'm thankful for many things and I thank God for a husband who supports all my ventures and my crazy life!


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Spruce Pine, North Carolina



Where we stayed


So many places to write about and I’m so far behind. I still had memories of Huntsville, Alabama, in my mind when we visited North Carolina and fell in love with another piece of our beautiful country and fascinating heritage.

Spruce Pine is located about fifty miles northeast of Asheville in the Toe River Valley. Just minutes from the Blue Ridge Parkway, the area offers natural beauty in all directions.

Janie DeVos, resident and children’s author, rated top notch as our hostess. Thanks to her sister, Kathy, for offering us her beautiful vacation home. The house was lovely and the view spectacular. I can’t even count the number of photos I took of the fog nestling in the Black Mountains.

We stayed on a mountain near Spruce Pine. We found natural beauty, fabulous restaurants, friendly residents, and an interest in all forms of art. Joyce Faulkner and I conducted a writers’ workshop at The Orchard at Altapass, gave a presentation at the Rotary Club luncheon, took part in an authors’ event and held a book signing at Mountainside Wine.

View from our back porch
We visited an old house that once hosted a meeting of the Over Mountain Men of the Revolutionary War. The area is filled with rich history from our earliest years to the present.

We spent a day in Asheville but that's another story...

A visit to the area will stretch your diet limits but there are plenty of opportunities to get out and enjoy the area. The downtown has a distinctive mountain flavor, providing a fun shopping experience. You’ll love the chance to meet the locals and learn about the area.

Author event at The Orchard at Altapass
We can't wait to go back, thanks to all the people who welcomed us with open arms.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Military Writers Society Conference

Taking place at the Holiday Inn Dayton-Fairborn, we are filling our brains with all the knowledge shared in sessions and conversations. Together we represent a wealth of experience in writing, editing, publishing and marketing.

I have so much to learn. The longer I live, the less I know. Although I spend most of my waking hours on a computer or my iPad, I admit I only take baby steps in the big world of technology. Scrivener is a well-known writing tool that I have yet to master but I intend to take a class from an expert this morning.

Following that, I moderate a panel discussing primary research tools. I love digging around in archives to discover tidbits that make history come alive. Last night we had a good session on the Special Collections Archives at Wright State University. Archivist Gino Pasi presented a sampling of what we might discover there.

Time to open brain and insert information.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Emergence: The John Bax Story in production


I'm in Dayton, OH, at the Military Writers Society of America conference. Looking at lots of new books and meeting new writers.

I'm waiting for the printer's proof of Emergence: The John Bax Story. It's incredibly exciting to see a project come to life in book form. The book will be available as a hard cover, an e-book and an iBook. The hard cover edition will have a 24-page color insert of birds. Thanks to all the photographers who shared their beautiful photos. They are going to make the book come alive!

The first copies will be available at the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival in Harlingen, TX, in November.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

If you visit Asheville, NC, a trolley tour offers an excellent introduction to the city.

Mixing architecture with nature's beauty Asheville offers Southern charm, warmth and a welcoming attitude. Friendly people and good service everywhere filled our day with even more enjoyment.

Like most of the folks on the trolley tour, I saw Asheville through my camera lens. And like women everywhere, I bought a piece of jewelry to commemorate the day!

Asheville is surrounded by mountains and combines its Cherokee Indian and Appalachian history with diverse architecture and love of the arts. Our guide tossed out famous names like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Zelda Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolfe and Vanderbilt.

According to the National Park Service: There are nearly as many styles of architecture throughout the streets of Asheville as there are buildings. No doubt, Asheville was dubbed the "Paris of the South" in the early 1900s for establishing itself as an artisan city with unique style and architectural talents. Asheville has developed through a history of migration to the mountains of Western North Carolina.

All the photos below were taken from a moving trolley.










Thursday, August 9, 2012

Mar's Surface Captured by the Curiosity

I had an uncle who swore man would never land on the moon. Just half a century later, NASA presents us with the first color photo from Mars. Wish you were here to see this, Uncle Joe!


The Curiosity on Mars - NASA photo


Many of you watched the landing of the Curiosity and have already seen its three cameras. The first photos were taken by the black and white cameras and now NASA has turned on the color cameras. What an awesome sight!

The nuclear-powered Curiosity will begin its exploration of Mar's surface to look for signs of past life, learn about the surface and atmosphere, and try to determine if the planet can sustain life.

Thanks to NASA for share this fascinating and marvelous venture with us.

Lots of wind but little rain

Last night as I attended a class at the Apple Store in the Kansas City area, the skies outside darkened and the wind blew, breaking branches and ripping leaves from trees but producing very little rain. The skies looked ominous but beautiful.

When we left the store, I grabbed my phone and took pictures of the western, northern and eastern skies. Contrast and color created an awesome beauty. I hope, somewhere, it inspired an artist to capture the scenes.

Western sky




Northern sky


Eastern sky

Monday, July 16, 2012

Momma Henry's Trek


Bicycles for Momma Henry's Trek
Saturday at McDonald’s in Louisburg, Kansas, we met four college students traveling cross country by bicycle.
“We’re raising money for charity,” David Henry said. “My mother died of lymphoma last November and the ride is inspired by her and in her honor.” David's brother, Jonathan, is part of the group, along with two friends, Carlos and Guadalupe.
“We left San Francisco 44 days ago and have 36 more days until we reach Yorktown, Virginia, our final destination.”
The four students said they’d met other cyclists and many people at their stopping and resting points. Sponsored by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, they hope to raise a minimum of $10,000 for cancer research. At this time, they are close to that goal. 
Traveling across biking trails and less-traveled highways, they’ve mapped our their route. When they entered Missouri, they planned to cross the state on the Katy Trail, then take Route 66 to Chicago. 
“Utah was the hardest,” they all agreed. With deserts and mountains to cross, it taxed their abilities. One said he’d already lost 25 pounds on the trip.
They are living as cheaply as possible, camping out most nights. They frequently eat and connect to the Internet at McDonald’s. They also discussed the many meals of Ramen noodles.
When they head back to college next month, they should all be energized, in top physical condition and feeling the satisfaction of a job well done. To check on their progress and/or to donate to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, visit www.mommahenrystrek.org.
Other groups of students are making similar cross-country treks to raise money for research. It certainly gave us an appreciation for today’s young people who will be able leaders and responsible citizens in the not-too-distant future.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Tallulah Bankhead




"Nobody can be exactly like me. Even I have trouble doing it."
                                Tallulah Bankhead


On the square in downtown Huntsville, Alabama, we found a sign indicating the site of Tallulah Bankhead's birth in 1902. She left home at the age of 15 and became an actress on stage and in movies and television.

She was a contemporary of actresses Bette Davis and Greta Garbo. One of her most famous film appearances was Alfred Hitchcock's Lifeboat.

Tallulah became famous for her deep voice and flamboyant personality. Although raised in a conservative environment, she made a name for herself with her anything-but-conservative comments and actions.

She was Alabama's first professional actress and was inducted into the Alabama Women's Hall of Fame - http://www.awhf.org/bankhead.html.

To see her in action, watch the YouTube video, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KiCdydG62SA.


Saturday, July 7, 2012

Moments that mold lives


Mike Sweeney and Ben Avery



Moments grasped amid the chaos of everyday living can change and mold us forever. Yesterday such a moment captured our family. 
Eight years ago this month, our grandson Ben suffered a critical brain trauma injury in a car accident. This event that defined our family and most certainly the everyday lives of his parents and brothers brought unexpected and deeply appreciated blessings from family, friends, neighbors and “angels” across our country who prayed for Ben, winged their love and positive energy our way and displayed God’s hand at work.

One such "angel" was MLB's Mike Sweeney, then playing for the Kansas City Royals. In a day when too many sports "heroes" have feet of clay, Mike Sweeney's reputation as a good, kind-hearted man doesn't make the news headlines.

For the true story of Mike's influence on a young boy and his family, read http://http://www.examiner.com/article/a-hero-creates-an-unforgettable-moment-for-a-young-kansas-city-boy?cid=db_articles.



Tuesday, June 26, 2012

MVPA Convention trip

We are attending the Military Vehicle Preservation Association's annual convention in Huntsville, AL. Joyce Faulkner and I will have a booth displaying our books. We actually made it through Memphis without eating BBQ. We drove through northern Mississippi and Alabama this afternoon. Mississippi can boast of beautiful rolling hills and northern Alabama is agricultural with green fields everywhere. We didn't make it to Decatur in time to try Big Bob Gibson's BBQ so that's on the docket for our trip home. We are staying close to the NASA Space Center. Tomorrow is "explore Huntsville" day before the convention opens.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Route 66 in Lebanon, MO

Enjoy Americana nostalgia? Do you remember the TV series, Route 66?

If you answered yes to either question, check out my latest article on Route 66 at http://www.examiner.com/article/experience-route-66-history-lebanon-mo.

For more info on Route 66, visit www.lebanonmo.org. For info on Missouri places to see, check out www.visitmo.com.

Tying Flies at Missouri's Bennett Spring State Park


I took a fly-tying class with Jim Rogers at Bennett Spring State Park near Lebanon, Missouri. I should admit that I know nothing about fly fishing except I l saw the movie, A River Runs Through It, and I love to watch casting fishermen.
Judy Fortner
Luck was with me.  The other five class members knew as little as I. Together we stumbled and fumbled our way through several attempts until Judy Fortner, Director of Tourism in Lebanon, MO, achieved success.

Everett's on the left, mine on the right
Judy listened closely as Jim walked her through the string wrapping, feather fluffing, chenille wrapping, feather wrapping and string tying.

Jim said ties are typically made with the colors of nature to blend with the environment but it's easier to teach someone with the brighter, contrasting colors. However, I'm not sure he thought even neon colors would have helped me.

Once we finished our works of fly-tying art, Jim showed us a tie that won the International Fly-tying Championship. He used deer hide to produce his work of art.
An international champion

We started over, followed directions more closely and produced six totally unique “wooly worm” flies. Believe me, the fish at Bennett Spring would be safe if we cast these flies into their waters.

If you visit Bennett Spring State Park, check if the class is available and sign up. It’s fun. Jim’s a great instructor and you quickly realize it’s not quite as easy as it looks. Check out the website at www.bennettspringstatepark.com.


We then took a casting lesson, but that's another story...





Sunday, June 17, 2012

Americana history in the beautiful Ozarks

I'm off on another trip to Lebanon, Missouri, and Bennett Spring State Park. My plans include a night in an old Route 66 motel, the Munger Moss, a visit to the Route 66 museum, a visit to an alpaca farm, a night at the state park, learning how to cast and tie flies, maybe even trying my hand at some trout fishing, and plenty of good food.

Lebanon is located off Interstate 44 in southern Missouri, in the middle of the Ozarks and offers a great re-connect with both Americana history and nature.

I'll keep you posted...

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

St. Louis World's Fair in 1904


Sometimes by accident – or with help – I stumble across something that fascinates me. When I made plans to visit Jefferson City, MO, this week, Kyle Stewart of The Beender-Walker Group suggested I might enjoy the “Museum after Hours” program at the Missouri State Museum.

Robert Herman
I attended the lecture by Robert Herman, a Jefferson City resident and St. Louis World’s Fair expert.  In 1986, Robert and his wife found a World’s Fair artifact in their new home. Fascinated by the history of the piece, they began researching the fair and developed a decades-long love affair with the event and its memorabilia.

The fair, called the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase. With nearly 20,000 visitors, the St. Louis Fair covered nearly two square miles and became a temporary home to the 20,000 exhibitionists and vendors. The fair opened on April 30, 1904, and closed on December 1.

Billed as the “University of Man,” the fair brought together 50 countries, 44 states and the first Olympics ever held outside Europe. For most Americans, it was the first experience of world cultures. People came from around the world, brought their homes with them, and set up their country’s exhibits.  At the time the fair was planned, St. Louis boasted 600,000 residents and was the sixth largest city in the country.

Robert shared the stories of the edible ice cream cone and iced tea – both popularized at the fair.  His slide show and presentation covered the history and organization of the fair, pictures and descriptions of many of the International exhibits and personalized stories from people he interviewed. One man told him that he attended the fair as a child and remembered his first ice cream cone. He described it as “the ice cream was a little bit soft, the waffle a little warm, and half of the whole thing ended up down the front of my shirt.”

At the time, people were fortunate to have homes with one single light bulb in each room. For the first time, they saw thousands of lights on the buildings at night. The Palace of Electricity showcased such inventions as the x-ray machine, tape recorder and electric stove. Innovations viewed at the fair became the topic at family meals and social events for years to come.

The observation wheel (what we know as the Ferris wheel) was transported down from the site of the Chicago World’s Fair. It took thirty railroad cars to carry it. The axle alone weighed seventy tons. It was destroyed at the end of the fair because of the prohibitive cost to move it.

This is just a sampling of the information that Robert presented in one short evening. He and his wife have donated their World’s Fair collection to the museum which plans to open the complete exhibit in 1914.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

My Jefferson City Trip

Beautiful summer weather should charm my drive to Jefferson City, MO, in the morning. I plan to visit the Missouri State History Museum tomorrow evening and attend a special lecture on the St. Louis World Fair.
Missouri State Penitentiary

Thursday morning I will meet with Mark Schreiber, a local historian, to learn more of the history of the area and state. Friday morning I plan to head to prison again for a 2-hour tour of the Missouri State Penitentiary. Maybe I should clarify that this is a return visit and that's my "again" story.

I will have lunch Thursday and Friday with three super people from a PR/media relations firm. I always learn from them and have a great time in the process. One of the three will be a suspect in the book I'm researching.

Murder Takes No Prisoners, the third in the Hap Lynch mystery series, will take a giant leap toward seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

Saturday I will share a bookselling booth at Railroad Days in Moberly, MO. I'm looking forward to making some new author friends.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Social Media Works

Social media works. Yesterday I posted a blog about my son Mark's KC Royals adventure and today I received a call from him.

"It was an awesome afternoon," he said.

The event, a Royals thank you to corporate sponsors, was like a fantasy baseball afternoon. Invited by corporate sponsor Assurant, Mark enjoyed the opportunity to visit with Jeff Montgomery and Dennis Leonard.

When he arrived, Mark was provided with his own locker and uniform. They took his picture to post on the scoreboard. The participants warmed up on the field before their game - just like the big boys. With an announcer and the scoreboard, Mark said it felt like a real game.

"Amos Otis was our manager," Mark said. "John Mayberry managed the other team. They were my heroes."

I thought about the many childhood conversations when Mark wanted to be like his favorite players. Some days it seemed like every conversation revolved around Royals baseball. "Did you get the chance to talk to them?"

"Not as much as I would have liked. They seemed to be having as much fun as all of us." Mark did talk to Amos but didn't have a chance to talk with John. "I should have spent more time in batting practice instead of talking though," he laughed. "I'm glad Michele and the boys went along. They had as much fun as I did,"

"I'm glad they went along so we have pictures!" I said. "Did you get to keep your shirt?" "Yep. Got the whole uniform."

"Did the other team have a different color," his dad asked.

"No, they were all the same color."

"And everybody got to keep their uniforms?" I asked.

"Yep. It was sweet."

"Wow," his dad and I said almost in unison.

The Royals have played a big part in our family. Not only did Mark and his brother Chris grow up with the Royals but when our grandson Ben was critically injured in an auto accident, George Brett and Aaron Guiel visited him in the hospital. Mike Sweeney became Ben's buddy. For his "Make-a-Wish" dream trip, Ben chose a Royals game and the chance to meet his favorite players. One year after the accident, through Blue Cross' sponsorship, he threw out the first pitch at a Royals game.

It's fun to add another chapter to our Royals stories!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Sons and Mothers

Do other mothers have a hard time keeping up with their adult children? This one sure does.

My son Mark has always loved the KC Royals. He grew up playing in Little League and loving it. However, that paled in comparison to his love of all things Royals. George Brett, Amos Otis, Frank White, Willie Wilson, Paul Splittorff, John Mayberry - these were a few of the guys he loved to watch. As good parents do, we took him to games and attended his games. Life goes on.

Royals Scoreboard

Mark grew up, married and is the father of three boys - who also love baseball and the Royals. He takes his kids to baseball games and watches their Little League games. A couple of days ago I checked my Facebook. Surprise! Surprise! Our daughter-in-law Michele had posted pictures of Mark playing at Kauffman Stadium - in a Royals uniform. No, he didn't get signed. It was some special event. He played second base. I doubt the smile ever left his face.

After the game


I still don't know any details. I texted Mark and asked "What and Why." He answered back "It was awesome. I had an absolute ball." I still don't know the "What and Why."

What does a mother have to do to find out about things? I could have been there, taking pictures, yelling and screaming, a big smile on my face.

After all, I've always been the president of his fan club. Maybe thay's why!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Jefferson City, MO

I'm back to work on Murder Takes No Prisoners, my mystery that takes place in Jefferson City, MO. The state capital, this small town offers a rich variety of things to see and do. It is home to the Missouri legislature and the governor's home. Next to the State Capitol and the Governor's Mansion - both of which you can tour - is a monument to Lewis and Clark.

Not far away, the old Missouri State Penitentiary is closed to prisoners and open to tourists. Home to many infamous characters in our US history, the prison was the oldest west of the Mississippi River. It opened in 1836, the year of the Alamo; one hundred years before the opening of Alcatraz.

The city cemetery is home to graves that date back to the Revolutionary War. Next door is the Jefferson City National Cemetery - one of the only national cemeteries that is the resting place to both Union and Confederate soldiers.

Nestled in the hills of rural Missouri, Jefferson City's natural beauty adds to this friendly destination.

All of these - and more - provide the setting for Hap Lynch and Luke the Detective Dog's latest murder investigation. They are still searching for clues!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Monday morning

It is always great to come home with renewed energy to get work done. I am still working with Rudy Rudolph, a WWII ex-prisoner of war and Orrin Johnson, a Marine who fought in the Pacific Theater. His book is about his Guam experiences. What an honor it is to work with these veterans. Both of them have stories of incredible courage and dedication. I am editing Karen Biery's new book, Chattels. Karen is a gifted writer and artist. I love her work. In addition, Joyce and I have new projects to begin and books to market. Sandy Lawrence of Perceptive Marketing is working with us and we both are slurping up every tidbit she gives us. More to come on this later. Time to get to work!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Another project

Nancy Smith of Stars & Flags Book Awards, joined us in Vandalia. Nancy will be working on the next Role Call book and we're happy to have her on board. The book will focus on interviewing WWII and Korean War veterans. We're hoping for a 2013 release.

We had a delicious lunch at the Old Capitol Restaurant across from the old Capitol. The food was delicious, the atmosphere relaxing and the company excellent.

We loved visiting downtown Vandalia today and spent some time wandering around the Capitol grounds. We learned some interesting Lincoln history.




Wednesday, May 9, 2012

On the Lincoln Trail

Old State Capitol Building
Several times a year, my partner Joyce Faulkner and I get together to work on books and marketing. We are currently in Vandalia, IL, a town new to both of us.

Vandalia is off of I-70, on the Lincoln trail and is home to the oldest existing state capitol building in Illinois. Built in 1836, it is actually the second state capitol. The building and grounds are beautiful and open to tourists.

Mother of the Trail statue
On one corner of the grounds is the "Mother of the Trail" statue, honoring pioneer women.

The town is filled with interesting little shops, beautiful churches and homes showcasing multiple architectural styles.

We ate a delicious dinner at Los Amigos Mexican Restaurant. We loved the chips and guacamole.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Air Fiesta 2012, Brownsville, Texas

Mark your calendar for March 24-25 for the 2012 Air Fiesta. This year's show honors Vietnam-era aircraft and features a vintage Soviet MiG-17F fighter flown by owner, Randy Ball. Vietnam veterans will recognize the plane and remember its superior operational mobility.  Randy will demonstrate the plane's capabilities.

This Air Fiesta marks the one-year anniversary of the crash that took the life of Amanda Franklin and injured her husband, Kyle. They will be in the hearts of the show's team and audience at this year's show.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Wright State University Library

Fascinated by the engineering feats of the Wright Brothers? I am.

Think back to the days before a successful flight and picture Orville and Wilbur Wright experimenting with design, engines and materials. No division of labor, no assembly line, no previous model to follow. With a combination of genius and hard work, they opened the door to the travel we enjoy today.

Wright State University houses the Wright Brothers collection. If you visit Dayton, take advantage of the opportunity to experience - up close and personal - this piece of American history. Located above the Wright State library, the archives are open to the public.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Dayton, Ohio

I am in Dayton, Ohio, with the planning committee for the September Military Writers conference. We toured the Wright-Patterson Air Force Museum and the Wright State University historical archives. Both offer a plethora of information for history buffs. I plan to return to the archives to research a new book. What an exciting day. We actually held in our hands, and read from, the diary in which Mr. Wright recorded the antics of his sons, Orville and Wilbur.

Friday, March 2, 2012

At the February Writers Forum at Paragraphs on Padre Blvd (South Padre Island), writers experienced a lively give and take about their work. Critiqing comments emphasized editing and point of view. Attendees ranged from "wanting to get information" to authors with multiple books.

Paragraphs is a great independent bookstore that fosters writers and readers. The writers' group is unique because South Padre Island is a resort community and writers come year-round, a few sessions a year or while they're on a one-time visit to the island. Whatever a writer's status, it's advantageous to stop by the bookstore and get to know the owners. If you're in town on the 4th Monday of the month, join us from 7:00-9:00 pm.   

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Branson Tornadoes

Tornadoes ripped through Branson, MO, this morning leaving significant damage to the Strip and area homes. So far, I've heard of damage to several theaters including the Americana and Branson Variety. Please pray for the people injured and those left homeless and jobless because of the destruction.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Fun n Sun Writers Group

I met another creative group of writers at Fun n Sun in Harlingen on Thursday. My presentation covered some basics of writing - dialogue, show don't tell, strong leads, nonfiction vs fiction.

The writing assignment produced unique points of view for the same story. It's always amazing how each of us sees an incident or event differently. If you're a writer and you're never been part of a writing group, try it. There's an energy and enthusiasm that's contagious.

People fascinate me more every day of my life. I marvel at the energy and experiences that blend us into one-of-a-kind individuals yet we share the same basic goals in life.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Writing Biographies

Life is both strange and marvelous. When I first wrote Ed Slater's story, I never thought about where to go from there. I loved writing a biography - the interviewing, sharing, researching and taking Ed into my life and my heart.

I find it strange that I've ended up in a place I never thought about going. I love writing and I am forever fascinated by the lives people lead and the decisions they make.

I find life marvelous because our actions always lead to other opportunities and actions. Since I met Ed, I've written about people - many of them veterans. Each person's story has expanded my awareness of the growth potential that is in all of us.

Yesterday I met with a 91-year-old WWII veteran in Harlingen, TX. He's a Marine and served in four major campaigns in the Pacific Theater including Guam and Iwo Jima. I will be working with this charming, articulate man to bring his story to life.

I thank Ed, the Sunchon Tunnel Massacre survivors, the Korean War, WWII and Vietnam veterans who have shared their stories with me. Thanks to Rudy Rudolph - we're currently working on his book - and John Bax who shared so much of his life with me before his passing last November.

I have realized there's always room in my heart for one more person. Each of the people I've interviewed and written about have become a part of me. That's the gift that writing gives.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

I found the parrots!


Thanks to Seth Patterson, I found the parrots in Brownsville. The dreary, rainy night may have hindered good photos but it didn't phase my enthusiasm to see and listen to these marvelous creatures.

They produce their own choir, never out of tune with each other, raucous, loud and absolutely fun! I think I could listen to them for hours.

Their vibrant green is well-matched with the red on their heads. I'm in love with these parrots. Can't wait to find them on a sunny evening with my camera in hand.

Everett patiently listened to my oohing and aahing - I'm not sure he was as thrilled as I but he's good at following parrot music.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Winter Outdoor Wildlife Expo, Kite Fest & Rain

Slow soaking rain today. It's cold in South Padre land (low 50s) but the rain is much needed. At least 50 black-bellied whistling ducks and a dozen white ibis picked clean our backyard this morning but no roseate spoonbill today. I'm working on the John Bax story - looking out as the gusty wind plays with the palm trees.

Yesterday's Winter Outdoor Wildlife Expo once again proved a great way to spend a day on the island. Lee Zieger taught two photography classes and displayed many of his beautiful photos. Seth Patterson gave an interesting talk about his book, El Valle. I've heard him before but each time he presents new information.

Jonathon Wood brought a number of raptors and I, along with many others, loved photographing them. I'll soon have some photos to post. I especially loved a barn owl who displayed much curiosity about all of the folks talking to, watching and photographing him. Would love to know what he was thinking!

If you missed it this year and you're in the area next year, it's definitely worth your time.

We planned the Kite Fest today but I suspect the weather canceled it. We'll check it out and let you know.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Exciting Weekend on South Padre Island

This is a weekend that will guarantee play time instead of work time. We're starting tomorrow morning with the Winter Outdoor Wildlife Event. It's always a fun day with lectures on photography, birding, fishing, and much more. Jonathon Wood always draws attention with his raptor show and exhibitors showcase the area. It's a fun day.

We've never tasted the chili at the Chili Cookoff but this may be the year we do. After checking out the trade show there, we'll head to the flats for the Kite Festival. With huge colorful balloons filling the sky, kite competition or performances, it promises to be a fun couple of days.

I'll let you know!

Parrots, John Bax and me


Green Parakeets
Over the last couple of years John Bax took me on several birding trips to Brownsville - to search for parrots. We saw hundreds of green parakeets every time but we never saw the parrots. I'd go home without a parrot photo. John would call a day or two later and tell me he found red-crowned or yellow-headed parrots. We'd try again the next evening. No luck.

Many members of the Bay Area Birders went "parroting" in Harlingen yesterday. I thought of John the entire trip and wished he were with us. However, like my trips with John, I saw no parrots - although some people in our group reported seeing them. Just the night before, our leader had seen many.

I'm beginning to wonder - are the parrots playing games with me? Is this destined to be a life-long search? Are there really parrots in the Rio Grande Valley? Is it me?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Fun n Sun Book Club

I'm a reader and I love to talk with other readers. As the speaker at the Fun n Sun Book Club in Harlingen, TX, last Saturday, I enjoyed that opportunity. I loved sharing my books with them, answering questions about the people I write about, and talking about books.

I introduced the group to the fabulous ladies from the Sharon Rogers Band and told the story of the Sunchon Tunnel massacre survivors. John Bax, the subject of my current project, lived at Fun n Sun for a number of years. Many in the group knew him and went birding with him.

Glen Hindman said, "John was the Pied Piper of birders. We all followed him and learned from him."

John captivated a lot of people with his beautiful films and passion for his work. There's a lot of interest in his story. I heard new stories that I will include in the book.

An amazing thing happens every time I talk about the subjects of my books. I have the opportunity to re-live the time I spent with them and I fall in love with their stories all over again. Biographies allow the writer an intimate glimpse into another person's life. It's challenging and rewarding work. Through them, I always meet interesting people who, like me, are fascinated by good stories.

Thanks to a fun group of people at Fun n Sun. Marianna, thanks for inviting me. It was a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Happy reading!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Writers Forum Jan 2012

Last night, Paragraphs on Padre Blvd hosted the January Writers Forum. The group is unique because we always have visitors. Winter Texans and vacationers bring new ideas each month.

To start the evening, the Sarah Book Publishing Company from Brownsville presented their publishing program, following by a critique session by attending writers. For all the writers out there, a bit of good news. A young man, Chris, shared his love of reading and his belief that many young people enjoy reading and love to have their own book collections. Good news, right? Chris certainly set a positive tone with his enthusiasm, intelligence and willingness to share.

Several new attendees shared their current projects. From young adult to romance and poetry, writers introduced us to several books in the making. As others commented on each story, I thought of the uniqueness of the reader as well as the writer. In one particular story, we each responded differently.

I realized that an author can never predict how a reader will respond to his work. Since each person responds from his own perspective and experiences, the author simply has to remain true to his story and hope his words and message touch readers.

We also spent time discussing publishing alternatives for new writers. All in all, lots of creativity energy led to a delightful evening.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Texas in WWII

Last Thursday evening I attended an excellent workshop sponsored by the Texas Historical Commission and the South Padre Island Historical Committee at Paragraphs on Padre Blvd.

William McWhorter, Texas’s military historian, gave us excellent information and story ideas about the state’s World War II experiences. From internment camps and prisoner-of-war camps to artillery emplacements and the Coast Guard’s Sand Pounders on Padre Island, he captured the diversity of the war effort throughout the state, and most likely throughout the country.
None of us can imagine the chaos, constant fear and sacrifice of the war years. In today’s world, if a soldier goes to war, it’s far away and truly only impacts the lives of his friends and family. The average American has never known the sacrifice involved.

We’ve never lived through rationing of food and everyday supplies. We’ve never known the real shortages of goods – steel, leather and nylon are only a few - that typified the war years.
The Texas Historical Commission is committed to preserving as much of the history as possible. McWhorter’s challenge is to gather the stories and fill in the blanks of known history. The workshops are one way to encourage citizens to find the stories while the people who lived them are still with us.

It’s an effort that is ongoing across America with various programs. Steve Hathcock, South Padre Island’s own historian, has spent years researching the history of the island and surrounding areas. Visit his website (http://southpadretv.tv/here-lies-red-lady-85/) for more information on the Coast Guard Sand Pounders, the beach patrol units that guarded the island – by horseback and jeep.

When we consider government efforts at all levels, private citizens like Hathcock, WWII-era authors writing their memoirs as well as historians and researchers nationwide, we are making a huge impact on preserving the history. As we all know, time is short for those who lived through the war years.
If you know anyone who lived in that era, please help keep their stories alive. Record their stories. If you need help, there are plenty of us willing to interview and write about the events that shaped today’s world.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Events at Paragraphs on Padre Blvd

Another exciting week. Tomorrow I'm attending a Texas Historical Commission workshop on WWII oral histories. I'm always interested in new people and ways to keep the stories alive.

Saturday is our Mystery Event. Author Bob Doerr and I will be talking about the mystery genre and introducing our books. Tomorrow I will post a review of Bob's latest book, Another Colorado Kill.

Both events will be held at Paragraphs on Padre Blvd. If you're in the area, come join us on Saturday. I'm not sure what other authors are attending. You'll enjoy meeting Bob and being introduced to his action-packed series.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Valley Byliners, Writers Group in Harlingen, TX

Valley Byliners members
Good writing, good folks and willing participants! That’s what I found at the Valley Byliners, the Harlingen, TX writers group, on Saturday. We started our meeting with a writing exercise that quickly showcased the talent in the group.

I had a great time discussing the elements of creative nonfiction. A good writers group can attract people with imagination, enthusiasm and a passion for writing. I sensed those characteristics in the Valley Byliners.
Thanks for the invitation to speak to your group. Keep writing!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Cover for Luke's New Book

I’m finishing one fun project. Luke the Detective Dog’s interviews will soon be available as an e-book, entitled Dogs Speak Out! How appropriate is that!

I’ve had a great time working on the cover because all those different dogs make me laugh. Who can resist the charm of a dog’s expressive face?

Luke has made many new friends. We both look at dogs differently when we’re searching for interview subjects. Well, I look at dogs differently. Luke simply bounces all over friendly dogs and growls appropriately if he thinks a dog looks mean. There have been a few stand-offs but Luke can’t keep the puppy enthusiasm tamped down for long.

We'll let you know when it's available.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Stories, Stories Everywhere!

I'm immersed in stories! I can't keep up with all the wonderful opportunities to learn about people's lives and the challenges they've faced. I received an email from a Pearl Harbor survivor a couple of weeks ago. Yesterday I was asked if I'd like to interview the man who flew the first US plane over Tokyo in WWII - guess what my answer was! I'm working on two biographies - John Bax and Rudy Rudolph, writing two resumes for job seekers and reading three books to review - with another arriving any day.

My head is spinning and I'm loving every minute of it! I hope you have as many irons in the fire in your life. As long as I don't get everything all jumbled up, it's working.

Can you imagine a resume that includes Pearl Harbor, a WWII vet listing of job qualifications or a misplaced mystery? Maybe I can have author Bob Doerr's retired AF Special Agent protagonist, Jim West, meeting the WWII pilot or the lady who grew up in Germany during WWII going on a birding trip with nature cinematographer John Bax.

Maybe I should hope for less-jumbled thoughts.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Write, Read, Write!

“I ponder things for a long time before I write about them,” Joyce told me. “You just write.”

I thought about that statement. She’s right. She ponders for years and produces incredibly deep and well-thought out characterizations to bring her ideas to life.
Me – I just write. My pondering takes place as my fingers move across the keyboard. I make changes, revise multiple times and sometimes throw it away and start over. Joyce thinks it through and starts with a plan. I play it by the seat of my pants. In fiction, I’m not sure what my character is going to do until I feel I’m in his brain and thinking his thoughts. I hear stories and can’t wait to get them in print.

Joyce and I write together and we write separately. As I started on today’s blog post, I thought about the uniqueness of writers – in the way we work as well as in what we write.
People often tell me they want to write but can’t get started. Whether it’s pondering, procrastination or just lack of motivation, it’s an issue that many face.

Are you writing every day? Did you make writing every day a New Year’s resolution? If you answered no to either question, it’s time to get out the wet noodle, slap your hand and get motivated.
The best cure for not writing is writing. I find that when I can’t get started, I just start. I pick any subject that comes to mind and hit the keyboard. If my mind is empty, I check out some blogs and, invariably, I’ll find something to ponder.

Pondering via the keyboard is a great way to get your mind working. Your thoughts might not make sense and you may do a 180-degree turn before you finish, but you’ll find some great material in your own thoughts.
If you don’t have a blog, start one. It’s a great tool to keep you writing and to connect you with others. I don’t know the measure of success in a blog but I’m not sure it matters. Focus on the writing and the readers will eventually find you.

In my I Write My World blog, I chose a format that allows me to blog about a variety of issues. Like most of us, I have varied interests. I love people and their stories, writing, travel, nature and photography. I blog about all of them.
Read other blogs and learn about other bloggers. Other writers can be your best supporters. They understand the writer’s need to be read.

Read, read, read. Reading a great story or blog post will inspire and motivate you. Write, write, write. You might produce a great story or blog post that inspires other.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2012

Luke the Detective Dog took me for a walk on our first morning home. While he sniffed everything in sight, I smelled the Gulf's salty air and felt the morning sun and a gentle breeze wafting across my face.

Sea gulls serenaded us while nearby a silent egret stood in regal stillness. Characters and settings flowed unbidden through my mind.

I am home, it's 2012 and I feel creatively energized.

I wish each of you a 2012 filled with the joy of creativity, the appreciation of the world around you and many productive, fulfilling endeavors.