Valentine’s Day by John E. Stack

Today is Valentine’s Day.  The day for expressing how much you love your husband, wife, children, mom, dad, significant other, grandchildren, best friend, classmates, etc.  I think the list could go on and on.  On Valentine’s day you can pretty much express your affection to anyone.  Yet, there are some that refuse to celebrate, saying that it is all hype and profit for many businesses.  I try to view it from both sides of the fence.

Here are some facts that I found.  Most came from Research Brain.

1)      Over $13 billion will be spent on candy, cards, jewelry, food for this one day.

2)      Stores will sell over 180 million cards

3)      198,000,000 roses will be bought

4)      On average, a person will spend $116 on Valentine gifts

5)      53% of women would end their relationship if they did not receive something on valentine’s day

6)      11,000 children are conceived on Valentine’s day

7)      Candy (of some type) makes up half of gifts given where one third will receive flowers. 

We are really unsure of where the holiday began, but researchers say it is of Roman origin.  Some say it came from the Roman festival Lupercalia which was celebrated om February 15th.  Others say it was in memory of Valentine, a Roman priest.  He was executed for performing marriages for Roman soldiers after Emperor Claudius II forbade his soldiers from marrying.  But, does it really matter?

I’ve pitched in and done my part and over the last four and a half decades I’ve spent plenty of money.  I remember the first time I bought my wife (then girlfriend) a heart shaped box of chocolates.  She seemed so excited.  In order to not hurt my feelings, she didn’t tell me that she really didn’t like candy, especially chocolate.  I didn’t find this out until a couple of years later when I was helping her clean out her closet.  We found that box of chocolate and she had punched holes in the bottom of each just to see what was inside.  I believe that she was packing to go off to her first year of college, but that was so long ago that I don’t remember for sure.

Since then, she has received a variety of gifts.  One year, long ago I cross-stitched a set of covered buttons. The diagrams looked like pieces of chocolate, and were very detailed.  Yes, there was a time covered buttons were popular.  I even wrapped them in a small Whitman’s sampler box.  I believe these were the only chocolates that she ever enjoyed.  I did put a lot of time and effort into them.

Over the years, we progressed through flowers, jewelry, clothing (not a good idea), and gift cards.  Over the past few years (we’ve been married for 41) we decided to settle on just buying cards for us and we now spend money on our six-year old and our grandchildren.

Personally, I try to show Suzanne that I still love her, not just on one day of the year, but everyday throughout the year.  I often send messages throughout the day just telling I’m thinking of her and that I love her.  I try to help out around the house and lighten her work-load by folding clothes and washing cups/bottles (for our little girl and foster baby).  I do floors and I vacuum carpets.  I even like going to the grocery store with her.  Do I always get it right? Not in the least, but I still try.

Why do all this?  I still like spending time with her and years ago I made a commitment to love her.  And I still do with all my heart.  Happy Valentine’s Day!!

***John E. Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the Zoo, Cody’s Rescue Adventure at the Zoo, and Olivia’s Sweet Adventure.

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K-9 at the Courthouse

I’m a volunteer for the Pasco County, Florida Sheriff’s Office in the West Pasco Judicial Center along with partner, Bob Warms. We work at the Information Desk in the front of the building, just inside security and when Deputy Cheryl Hazelton and her canine (K-9) partner, Dobies, came in, we had a “front row” demonstration of how those two partners work together. What a treat.

Before the doors opened for the day, Deputy Hazelton introduced her partner to us and said Dobies is a “Meth Lab.” Of course, it was a play on words for a very real job they perform for Pasco County.

Deputy Hazelton told us eighteen-month-old, Dobies, a Black Labrador Retriever, was a Christmas present this year and she is in training. Both partners were full of energy and smiles. Dobies warmed up a bit by chasing and retrieving a ball thrown by her partner down the hallway several times before the doors opened and they got down to business.

A class from a local high school was coming to the courthouse for a tour and the drug sniffing dog was part of that experience. Another part was a visit to Judge Declan Mansfield’s courtroom. In fact, Judge Mansfield came down and watched as the kids filed in through security before being introduced to him.

I’ve been to several K-9 demonstrations at writer’s conventions that were put on by FDLE agents and I graduated from the Citizen’s Police Academy of Pasco County and have seen the various ways canines help officers of the law, but today’s experience had a little more of a personal touch, and especially because it was unexpected.

The Canine Unit is assigned to patrol sectors and assist uniform operations by responding to routine calls for service when they are not providing search assistance. Canines are trained for area searches, article searches, and evidence recovery, building searches, tracking criminal suspects, locating missing persons, narcotics and bomb detection. The Canine Unit is also involved in public education, performing demonstrations of canine ability and uses to Pasco citizens.

There are several myths and misconceptions about K-9s, says Jim Weiss. One is that K-9s are kept in kennels. Actually, they are kept in their handler’s homes, but trained in a Sheriff’s training class.

Another misconception is that K-9s can’t pick up scents from metal objects, concrete or water. Not true.

The bite sleeve isn’t being used as much as it used to. Now, full body bite suits have been found to be more natural, because the dogs learn they can bite anywhere.

Myth: K-9s are only good for five years. Pasco County generally gets seven to eight years’ work out of their dogs before they retire them.

Myth: K-9s are robots. Like people, dogs have good days and bad days. Unsuccessful searches can happen to both dog and handler.

Myth: K-9s are expensive. Actually many K-9 programs have a lot of community support that keeps the costs down. Area veterinarians often provide the dogs treatment at their own expense. Charity fundraisers help with costs, as do community leaders. Many people are supportive.

Most of the dogs in the Canine Unit are German shepherds, but there is a bloodhound also, along with Dobies. These dogs risk their lives every day, just like their human partners. I tip my hat to these officers, both human and canine. Their motto: “We serve as one.”

Below is a photo of Dobies at the security scanner.

Pasco Sheriff's K-9 Assoc. Post

 

Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set primarily in Scotland. Join her here each 11th of the month.

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Love This Weather

So far we had a mild winter.  Yesterday, we hit over eleven degrees Celsius.  The snow had melted with the previous day’s rain.  I went outside, looking for crocuses that I planted in the front yard last fall.  Didn’t see any; which is probably a good thing.  They are calling for more snow next week and a drop in temperature.

I love winters like this.  this way I don’t have to drive through blizzards to get to work.  Unlike some of you who are reading this.  I know that the people who suffered through the worst winter in decades are probably swearing at me right now.  I sympathize.  I’ve been there.  But it seems to me that the weather patterns are all screwed up.  People who have never seen snow before are getting two or three feet of it.  Hurricanes and tornadoes seem to be more violent, and more frequent.  The oceans are rising, causing flooding in new areas.

The last two winters we had been hit hard, with tons of snow.  Blizzards and so forth.  It makes this one a blessing.  But as I look out my window at the spring-like day, I can’t help but wonder what is in store for us later down the road.  Sure, this winter is what I would order, if I had the power.  (There I go again, probably upsetting avid skiers, snowmobilers, and snowman builders.)

Wiarton Willie predicted six more weeks of winter.  If the rest of the winter is like this, then I wouldn’t mind.  But, he is the only one.  All the rest of the groundhogs say that we are in for an early spring.  Either way, I can’t wait to get out into the garden.  The last couple of days has given me spring fever.

For those of you who are buried under a mountain of snow, just keep in mind that your groundhog said that you’ll get an early spring. And that our forecast is calling for snow squalls for the next three days.

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Can you tell a book by its cover?

Indigo Sea Press is re-releasing girl with a new cover

Determine what the cover tells you about girl. Then read the book. See if you were right. Huge prizes!

Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee, Linsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, George Pataki and Martin O’Malley have two things in common: they all had to drop out of the 2016 presidential race and none of them read girl. A coincidence? Clearly no. Do you want to be a loser like them or would you rather read girl?

If you’re skeptical and chose to ignore girl’s extraordinary reviews girl has received (http://www.amazon.com/girl-Robert-Chan/dp/1630660957) then read it while having an MRI scan of your brain. The scan will show extraordinarily high levels of upbeat activity. Can’t argue with science—unless maybe you’re Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee, Linsey Graham, or Bobby Jindal—can you?

I apologize for the hard sell, but unlike the politicians in Washington and the accomplishment-challenged candidates striving to be politician-in-chief in Washington, I’m deeply and passionately committed to increasing your level happiness and satisfaction.

 

 

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Change…

I often pride myself on being one of those people who actually enjoys change.  For instance, when at work, I’m normally the person who suggests we try things a bit differently.  I figure, if it doesn’t work better, we can go back to the way it was.

Want to try a new software system?  I’ll try it.  How about a new route to work?  Sure.  Bring it on.  Pinterest recipe?  I’m on it.

What’s interesting is that despite my genuine love of change, I tend to be unwilling to try to change things in my personal life.  I have stayed in relationships that I knew were going nowhere, stayed at jobs I was miserable at, and spent time with people I knew to be a bad influence on me. It seems that in my personal life, I’m unable to make the most important of changes.  Often times to my own detriment.

It seems that somewhere in my mid-forties, I got over this reluctance to make big changes in my life.  I pushed the self doubt and fear from my mind and took a huge risk.  Now, that being said, I did so only after doing much research and determining the best possible path to make said change.

Let me explain:

For the better part of my adult life, I, like most of you, have worked for someone else.   I’m an accountant.  Always have been.  It’s like, the most conservative field there is.  I was comfortable there, so there I stayed.  Day in and day out.  Working for someone else.  Knowing that no matter how hard I worked, my salary and success was based on someone else’s perception of me and my performance.  And quite frankly, normally I worked for people who didn’t know anything about accounting.  Yet these were the people I needed to impress with my knowledge of debits, credits and financial statements!

This past fall, I’d had enough. Like most people who make the change I was thinking about making, I realized I was working too hard for too little money and not nearly enough recognition.  I was coming home each and every night completely and utterly exhausted.  The slightest thing would upset me and I would take out my frustration on my children.  I couldn’t muster the energy to do much of anything in the evenings and if asked to drive one of my children anywhere, it was all I could do to haul myself off the couch and make my way to driver’s seat of the minivan.

I had to make a change.  I had to take control of my life.  But what to do?  I had an accounting degree, which was marketable, but changing jobs would only put me in the same place – working for someone else.

Then I began to think about what made me happy.  What did I enjoy doing?

Well, I’ve always enjoyed crafts, but I’m no Martha Stewart.  I’m an animal lover but I wasn’t about to walk dogs for a living (Not that dog-walking isn’t a very respectable job; it’s just not for me).

Then it began to dawn on me.  I was an HGTV addict.  Every night, I came home and would watch HGTV.  It didn’t matter what was on.  As long as there was something on the channel, it was on at my house.  I’d pick up those free magazines that were located at the exit of grocery and convenience stores.  You know, the ones that list all the houses in the area that are for sale?  I’d peruse them contantly, despite not being in the market for a new house.

I’d had a listing book account for the better part of fifteen years and would peruse that website just to see what homes were on the market. That was when it hit me.

I was going to get my real estate license.

The decision was the easy part.  The work that followed was the challenge.  Research, research, and more research.  I called real estate firms and other real estate agents to find out what was involved, what the costs were, how you got started in the business, and anything else I could think of to ask.  Once I felt as though I had enough information, I registered for the class and picked up my textbook.

I read many of the chapters and took the sample exams at the back of each chapter before continuing on.  I felt confident.  While I wasn’t getting perfect scores, I found the material easy to understand.

Then I got to class.  It was filled with people who had taken the class before and were taking it again for the second or even third time.  My confidence began to wane.  Instead of backing away from the work, I pushed harder.  I did every thing the instructor said to do.

If he said read each chapter three times, I did that.

He told us to take each exam countless times.

I did that.

By the end of the three month course, I felt as though I’d done nothing but study!

Thankfully, all the hard work paid off.  I passed my class exam, took the state exam the following week and passed that as well.  I was now a licensed real estate broker!

It was only one week after passing the exam that I was approached by another real estate agent who offered me a position with her company.  After meeting with the recruiting manager, I decided it was a good fit.

Then the full impact of what I’d done hit me.  I was about to embark on something that, while exciting, was fraught with challenges.  For I was about to leave the “security” of working for someone else.  A position where vacation, sick and holidays were given to me.  I had health insurance.  A pension plan.  Benefits that most people desire and strive to obtain.

And I was actually thinking about giving it all up.

But then I thought about it and realized that this would be the opportunity of a lifetime.  While the path I’d chosen had its challenges, I knew I’d be much happier in a position where the only one I was accountable to was me.

I made the leap.  I embraced the change and took a chance on myself.  And honestly?  I’m thrilled about my decision.

And the best part?  I think I’ll be great to work for.

 

Donna Small is the author of Just Between Friends, A Ripple In The Water, and the forthcoming Through Rose Colored Glasses.  She lives in Clemmons with her two daughters and their pet menagerie.  She is desperately trying to start her real estate business while writing her next novel. 

 

 

 

 

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Mary of the Sun

mary sampas (smaller)My Aunt Mary wrote for The Lowell Sun for seventy-six years. She started while still a high school girl… under pen names… looong before women commonly reported for newspapers. She and my Uncle Charles G Sampas, a mild mannered news editor from a great historic city’s newspaper, were my God Parents. Often glued to Mary’s side, I recall The Sun as a chaotic place full of screaming, sweaty reporters desperate to read ribbons spewed forth from the wires. I still smell the ink and burnt coffee, and hear the deafening noise of the printing machines. “It’s a lot of work to bring news to the people,” she told me.

And remember those phones that had wires attached to walls? Mary Sampas was attached to one of those… always tucked under an ear, scribbling notes and trading in gossip and fact as she covered the glamorous stars of old Hollywood, Lauren Bacall, Cary Grant, David Niven, many others. Mary and Charlie even accompanied the Kennedys on their Paris trip with Charles de Gaulle and then off to Vienna for the Khrushchev talks. Even Jackie called on Mary for the inside scoop.

She slept late… till the calls began… then the typing would start. Evenings were usually spent socializing with those who were known to be in the know. Hers was a world of endless working parties with artists, writers or prominent Democrats. With non-stop, indefatigable charm and the brain of a word processor she would pursue secrets, discover, verify. What was show and what remained hidden in the backroom smoke?

She brought me to my first ballet when I’d just turned eleven. After the captivating magic and beauty on stage I decided, right there, that I wanted to be a ballerina when I grew up. She asked me if I’d like to see the ballerinas up close. I thought I was the luckiest girl alive as we sauntered behind the curtains with press pass in hand. But I was struck by the naked authenticity of costumes tossed, the smell of sweat, cold cream and wilting rose. This was typical Mary, don’t get lost in this dream, this takes a lifetime of hard work and practice. Search for the story behind the story, find what’s real.

It wasn’t that she set out expose the chaotic core trapped in the center of every bright star; she just sought truth and didn’t treat children like babies. I don’t think she could have read a fairytale without somehow exposing the dust between pages. Even during the Camelot sparkle of the Kennedy years I knew about the telling fingernails, bitten down to the quick and smartly hidden under Jackie’s gloves.

She loved the famous, the talented, and the informed. She filled her life and home with them yet she intellectually cartwheeled over most. The glamorous and entertaining Mary possessed the most astute mind in the room and damn if she didn’t know that it was true. I went to some of those parties full of important people but I, too young to know that this wasn’t normalcy, usually fell asleep in her bed.

Aunt Mary’s last party was her grand finale. Kidney failure and she’d refused treatment. Saints Medical Center in Lowell gave Her Majesty the largest possible room where she was surrounded by friends, loved ones and family, where fans came to pay their respects to a most beloved woman, toasted the One who had provided a lifetime of the beautiful usage of language. From her hospital bed she wrote her last piece for the paper.

She called to say good bye. I could hear Frank Sinatra music playing faintly behind her. I, unwilling to let go, asked her if she thought dialysis would really be so terribly bad.

“Yes it would,” she said, yet another truth. “They say it won’t hurt but it always does.”

She told me how much she loved me and I, with tears welling, tried to convey to her what she meant to me and what an honor it was to have her in my life. I wanted to be there with her but there was a Nor-eastern blizzard in the forecast. I had a sprained ankle and my car needed breaks.

It was Classic Mary and the last truth she told me before she died. “You know,” she said, “you were always an awful lot of work.” I was, indeed, and smiles still linger on the tears of my memory. On January 12th, 2011, just over 5 years ago and at age 93, the Great Woman passed onward.

 

Whatever we were to each other, that we are still. Call me by the old, familiar name. Speak of me in the easy way which you always did.

                                                                                                Rosamunde Pilcher

 

                                                January 8th, 2016

Dear Auntie Mary,

You know… you could be a lot of work too,

But I would change nothing… because I had you.

Love,

Jonna

PS: You always loved my bad poetry.

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ELECTION YEAR – One Person’s Struggle with Heart and Mind

They say a person should follow their heart.  As a natural born idealist, my heart tugs at my mind. My heart has good intentions.  It knows what it wants.  My mind warns me that, at least in some cases, the heart has a tendency to ignore reality.

I have been an idealist for a very long time.  My favorite song is John Lennon’s Imagine.  I can imagine; and, more, I want to imagine.  However, I see caution signs all around me.  The biggest sign is the one that says humans are not even close to the idealism of a world imagined by John’s poignant lyrics.

I grew up in a family that was not only run by a militarist dictator but one who was also a criminal.  He ruled over his realm with an iron fist and demanded everyone acquiesce to his commands.  The partner in his parenting relationship was a weak individual who would rather hide her eyes than stand up for what was right.  She had her mind and idealisms yet it was easier to do as she was told and allow her dictator spouse to rule with impunity, regardless of the outcome.  Having been the one subject in his realm who experienced all his authoritarianism, including his secretive propensity for criminal behavior, I retreated into my mind.  That is where I began to listen and lean to the left of politics.

When I left home and moved to Washington, D.C. in 1970, it was an easy choice for me to embrace the anti-war movement, feminism and every single anti-establishment sentiment that rippled through the environment of that movement.  Later and as a liberal arts college student in the midst of an institution that taught idealism, I flirted with socialism.  At one point I even joined a young socialist group.  It was there, at the meetings, that my idealism got its first taste of reality.

The group’s ideology was one that tugged at my heart; but, the political structure of that ideology forced me, for the first time, to question the reality of that ideology.  The structure dictated that I behave according to the group thinking.  I was back where I began under the roof of a dictator who wished to own both my soul and body.  So, one evening, as we all sat around a huge table, I spoke my mind.  I questioned the political structure of the group and asked why I should allow them to tell me how to live, but more, how to think.  I never returned to that group, but went my way knowing that I needed to gather more information before I committed to any one humanly orchestrated ideology.

Election year, 2016, finds me back at the crossroads of ideology vs. reality.  There is no doubt that my heart and mind still exist on the side called liberalism.  I am an ardent liberal.  However, my 68 years of real world experience cautions me to weigh all the information before I commit to who I will cast my vote for now and in November.  There’s one more element involved.  One of the two opposing candidates is a woman.  I have never given up my feminist affinities.  I know that part of me is solid because it is always weighing all the information.  My father ensured that part of me would stand vigilant at all times.  Nevertheless, there is still the matter of my heart.

It would be so easy for me to feel the bern.  John Lennon’s Imagine and Simon and Garfunkel’s Looking for “America” pulls me to that side of the spectrum.  I want to imagine.  I want to believe.  I want to follow my heart.  Alas, my mind and its wealth of learned knowledge won’t allow me to slip silently into the slumber of the song the siren sings.  I know too much.

I am 68 years old.  I am a recipient of Medicare.  Before making the decision of how I wanted to have my Medicare administered, I joined an organization and sold Medicare to people who were first time recipients and those who were existing recipients, but had never been exposed to the different insurance choices within the system called Medicare.  I demanded of myself to know my choices.

Medicare in its purest form is not all it’s cracked up to be.  Medicare in its purest form means a recipient is subject to pay 20% of all medical costs.  At first blush, that doesn’t sound all that foreboding.  However, when one weighs the medical institution that currently exists in the U.S., for a typical human recipient, financially, Medicare is a prohibitive system.

Imagine the typical full-blown hospital bill for one hospital stay.  Such a bill includes copious fees for, e.g., doctors, tests, and procedures.  They also include facility usage fees which include those $100 Kleenex boxes.  Fact:  given the evolved and complicated medical institution, based on one hospital stay, a person on straight Medicare could easily go bankrupt.  It would take much more than eight years to rein in that system, and it wouldn’t go quietly.  The party on the right, lobbyists, the drug companies, doctors, et. al would fight tooth and toenail for the status quo.

I recall the McDonald’s guy, Morgan Spurlock, currently with CNN, did an investigation on the cost of getting a colonoscopy in the U.S.   During his one-hour report, he broke down the history of our medical institution which is the elephant in the room.  It’s big, complicated to the point of incoherence, and has one goal in mind.  Profit.  Through hours of research, Morgan could never lock down a cost for the procedure.  What he did discover was that in the U.S, without insurance, this procedure would be too costly.  Instead, he opted to go to Thailand for a vacation/procedure holiday which cost him less than what the procedure less the vacation would have cost him in the U.S.  In other words; the medical institution has had years to become what it has become.  One man named Sanders is not going to have the time to rein in that system in four or even eight years.  Bernie Sander’s call for 100% Medicare for everyone is a pipe dream.  The siren is singing a myth.

Medicare for everyone?  I sure as hell don’t want to be put on pure Medicare.  Having had dual knee replacement surgery, I would have already experienced bankruptcy at the hands of the medical institution.  With a Medicare Advantage plan, I had to know all my plan co-pays to monitor the bills mailed to my home by the sub-contracted medical industry called Medical Billing.  If I didn’t know my plan co-pays, I would have wound up paying, at least, five times what my co-pays were.  In reality, the medical system is corrupt.  It complicates its corruption with layers of red tape, hidden information and multiple layers of sub-contractors.  The medical institution is determined to keep the system too difficult to understand.  Had I not known my plan, I would never have made the phone calls I did to verify that the numerous bills that found their way into my mailbox were bogus.  I may have unwittingly paid them.

Okay, you say, there are institutions in place that keep the cost of Medicare down.  Yes, there are, but, guess what?  They are all run by another institution called the insurance industry.  Medicare Advantage insurance companies are the institutions that, just as all medical insurance companies do now, negotiate with the medical profession to keep medical costs in check.  Because I knew my co-pays,  my procedure was well within my budget.  However, reality tells me that most people will not know their co-pays and will fall victim to the crooked medical institution that sneaks bills into the mail that are not owed.  I know this because I sold Medicare Advantage to Medicare recipients, existing recipients.  Most recipients have no clue what their co-pays are.  Thus, they fall victim to medical billers who slip in bills that tell the recipient he/she owes the difference between retail and the negotiated fees for a procedure.  Did I just lose you?  The point, the Medicare system is so complicated that to think of making it available to the masses is pie in the sky.  It will take more than two terms of bern to create a system that could become that ideal system.  Mr. Sanders would have to become a permanent president to make that happen and, the other party would have to cease to exist.  It just isn’t realistic.  It’s the song Imagine in spades.

Yes, there’s another alternative for keeping down cost called Medicare Supplements or Medigap.  Having sold it as well, unless a person was chronically ill, I typically steered people away from it.  For a healthy person like myself, it’s a waste of money.  Where Medicare Advantage is a pay-as-you-use insurance plan, a Medicare Supplement plan is like car insurance.  You pay a high premium every single month whether you use it or not.  Plus, with every birthday, the cost creeps up until the premium becomes prohibitive.

One more thing to consider.  A single payer Medicare type system for everyone means for everyone.  That includes the one-tenth of 1% of the population who are billionaires.  The Donald Trumps of the world would also become beneficiaries of a Medicare system called Bern.

Then there’s the promise of free college tuition for everyone.  Think about that institution and its red tape and hidden fees, etc.  Eight years of one presidency isn’t going to be able to make a single dent in that system.  Plus, even if the presidency became a forever one, 100% free tuition for everyone means the children of the one-tenth of 1% billionaires would also become beneficiaries.  That doesn’t even sound like pie in the sky to me.  It sounds like pie in the face of the 99.9% of non-billionaires.

Well, here I am back at the beginning of my quandary.  Should I follow my natural born idealistic heart and allow myself to feel the bern or do I listen to my pragmatic years of experience in the real world?

I don’t know about you, but I chose to face reality.  The U.S. is not ready for a Bernie Sanders.  There’s a lot of prep work to do before the U.S. can begin to work toward his dream.  There are institutions that must be reined in, some that must be created and some that must be eliminated.  There’re lots to do.  The U.S. is not ready for Mr. Sander’s revolution.  It is pie in the sky and a disaster waiting to happen.

I know who I’m casting my vote for in a few months and in November.  I’m voting for the woman who is still fighting to break through that damned ceiling, the one who has the real experience and fortitude to take on all the big boys, domestic and foreign, the one who will build on all the good that has come about over the last eight years.  I’m voting for the battle worn lady named Hillary Clinton.  She will get us closer to the bern than the Bernie will.

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Three Blind Mice

By Jay Duret

Three Blind Mice

“Charles, you’re late,” Krug said. “We were supposed to get going 20 minutes ago.” Krug was standing impatiently in the driveway in front of his large home. He was wearing a dark blue fleece vest with a Goldman Sachs logo on his breast.

Charles got out of the driver’s seat of the new Audi wagon and came forward with his hand outstretched in front of him like he was carrying a rolled up map. His smile was big and lop-sided, very close to goofy. He grabbed Krug’s hand and gave him a bro hug, whispering even before he left the clinch, “it was Joyce. Couldn’t get her moving. Ha Ha. You been there man, you know.” Charles smiled again as he separated, this time conspiratorially.

Joyce was now out of the Audi too. She was smiling and kissing, her blond ponytail hanging down the back of her puffy Patagonia jacket. She had a Starbucks in one hand and a dog leash with no dog attached curled in her other.

While she finished kissing Krug hello, Charles popped the hatch on the Audi and two Spingers bounded out and began rocketing around the driveway and yard.

“Damn,” Joyce said. She turned from Krug to Charles but he was deep in the back of the Audio, rummaging, rummaging, only his butt visible.

Joyce sighed and headed after the Springers, slightly twirling the leash she was carrying.

Charles backed out of the rear of the Audi and turned back to Krug, keeping his voice low. “Kruger. I need a little cover here. Make sure Joyce isn’t looking. Am I good?”

Krug said, “she’s trying to get your dogs on the leash. Probably take her a week.”

“Great.” Charles reached in the back of the Audi again and held up a gray steel box the size of a shoebox. “Gotta dispose of the evidence.” Another, even more lopsided, grin.

“What the hell is that?”

“It’s a trap. Have-A-Heart. For the mice.”

“What mice? Are there mice in there?”

“Uh-Huh.” “What are you doing with mice?”

“Shhhh. Don’t let Joyce hear you. She is scared of mice.”

“You’re kidding. Joyce is scared?”

“Don’t let her fool you. She can kick your ass but she is the original stand-on-a-chair type when it comes to mice.”

“So why are you driving them around?”

“That’s the point, Krug. That’s the exact point I am making…” Charles stopped the sentence there and completed it without using another word, just with his sheepish lopsided smile.

Krug didn’t seem to understand the point. “Charles.” Krug said. “Let’s start again. Why are there mice in a trap in my driveway?” Krug said.

“It’s Lorie’s fault.”

“Your nanny?”

“Yeah, we have been having a little mouse problem at the house. They are running around the kitchen in the morning when she is making tea and it freaks her out.”

“She doesn’t like to have breakfast with rodents? She must be a real downer.”

“Oh she is nice as shit but she is a Brit. She doesn’t like mice.”

“Neither does Joyce and she is no Brit.”

“Yeah the thing is Lorie sees them more than Joyce cause she gets up so early. They are everywhere in the morning – its like one of those Wild Kingdom videos down there when the sun first comes up. Anyway one morning she gets fed up and tells Joyce that she going back to Sheffield if we don’t get rid of the mice.”

“That sounds serious.” Krug nodded his head slowly.

“So Joyce calls the exterminator. Fortunately I get wind of it, and I cut that off at the nub.”

“Cause you like mice running around your kitchen?”

“Oh the mice don’t matter, I just don’t like exterminators, have you ever seen what they charge for walking around and shooting that shit into your baseboards? Its crazy. And a complete waste. I mean its just mice, Krug. They aren’t very hard to outwit. They are not exactly brain surgeons, you know what I mean?” Charles beamed a broad and happy smile, obviously delighted at the thought of the pitiful size of mice brains.

“So you bought a trap.”

“Hoollian’s Hardware. Fourteen dollars; two for $25. They are indestructible. I bait them with peanut butter.”

Joyce was across the yard and had managed to get one Springer on the leash, but the smaller one was continuing to elude her and his cavorting had encouraged the one she had captured to run in circles so the leash wrapped around her legs like a bolo.

“And so you caught them.” Krug said.

“I have been catching them no problem for weeks. I been getting one or two every night. I used up half a jar of peanut butter so far, Ha Ha.”

“What’d you do with them?”

“Got ‘em out of the house and let them loose down the street. You know over near the Hanford’s where they could run into the arboretum, but after a while I started to suspect that I was catching the same ones over and over again.”

“How did you figure that?”

“They still had peanut butter on their fur.”

“Not the only ones that aren’t brain surgeons. They were probably back in your kitchen before you were.”

“Yeah yeah, you sound like Joyce…”

“I doubt it.”

“…so I decided I should take them further from home.” Charles looked up at Krug’s quizzical expression, coughed slightly, and said, “you know, that way they won’t come back.”

“So you brought them here? What are you smoking?”

“You got the park behind your house.”

“You actually think you are going to let them loose in my backyard? You are frickin’ crazy. I don’t want mice any more than you do.”

“No no, Kruger. It’s not like that. They just know the way to my house. They won’t get in yours.”

“Forget it. Take them down to Valley Green if you want. Or better, just put them in your toilet and flush. Put them out of their misery.”

“You sound like Joyce. There is no reason to be vicious. They are just mice.” Charles lifted the trap to show off the mice and then his expression changed. “Shit!”

“What?”

“They aren’t in there. Shit!”

“Where are they?”

“I don’t know. They must have gotten loose.”

“In the Audi?”

“Oh Shit!”

Across the yard, Joyce had extracted herself from the leash and tied up the other dog.  Now she was coming across the yard toward the car, the two Springers surging ahead of her, pulling the leash taut.

Charles opened the passenger door of the Audi and, as he did, a small gray mouse literally leapt off of the front seat and landed on the driveway directly in front of the two men. There was a short but timeless pause as they took each other’s measure but then the dogs saw the mouse and they began baying and charging forward, nearly yanking Joyce off her feet. The mouse scampered directly into Krug’s open garage.

“Jesus!” Krug screamed. “Charles, get that thing out of there.”

The dogs raced after the mouse, pulling Joyce into the garage. Even from in there, she could be heard yelling, “CHARLES WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?”

“Oh shit,” Charles said,  “Kruger you gotta help me out here.”

“What do you mean, help you out? I have got your goddamn mouse in my house now.”

“No it’s just in your garage. That isn’t the problem.”

“That isn’t a problem? To me,” Krug said, “that is a problem. It’s a big stinking problem. Why isn’t that a problem?”

“Okay, Okay. It might be a problem. But it isn’t the big problem.” Charles stopped and looked at Krug. He wasn’t smiling now. “There’s two more. They might still be in the car. Joyce is going to flip out. You gotta help me here. Just keep her away from the car until I can get rid of them.”

Krug shook his head. He grumbled. He muttered. He shook his head again and he kept shaking it all the way into the garage.

Charles opened the driver’s door and he went around from door to door throwing the contents of the Audi onto the driveway.

Inside the garage, scrambling sounds. Overturning flower pots, falling shovels. Dogs yapping. Krug cursing. Joyce cursing.

After a few minutes Krug came out alone.

“Where is Joyce?”

“She went out the back door. She saw Lyle in the back and she wanted to tell her what you did.”

“A diversion. Great work, Krug.”

“I don’t think she was very happy, Chaz-Boy. You are in deep shit.”

“Yeah, at least she didn’t realize there might still be two in the car.”

“Jesus, Charles.”

“I know. I have looked all over. They are probably gone but I can’t be sure. If you can keep her occupied I will make sure. She is just dropping me off on the way to the mall. Can’t have a mouse pop out while she is at the wheel. This Audi is practically new.”

At that moment Joyce and the dogs came out from behind the garage. She was yelling even before she reached them. “I have seen some stupid things before but I have never seen anything so stupid as this. What are you thinking, Charlie?” She had wrapped the dog leash around her fist multiple times so the dogs were right at her feet and as she walked to Charles they barked and scratched as if they were part of an entourage. “You brought a mouse to the Krug’s? I mean seriously? Are you a moron? WHO DOES THAT?”

“Honey, honey…”

“Don’t you Honey, Honey me. What were you thinking of?”

“I was just going to get rid…”

“In the Krug’s garage?” Joyce focused for the first time on Krug. He was by the Audi, as frozen as the mouse when it jumped off the front seat. “Krug,” She said, “I am so sorry. This is all inexcusable. The moron here will get that mouse out of your garage if it takes him all night, won’t you Charles?”

Krug mumbled that it was all right. He would just leave the doors open and the mouse would let himself out. No big deal.

But Joyce had now noticed that the contents of the Audi were spread out on the driveway. She didn’t say anything. She looked at Charles and gestured to the items with her chin. She raised her eyebrows. She waited.

Charles filled the pause, “Honey, I was just making sure that the mice were all gone.”

“MICE? Are you kidding? There was more than one?”

“Three, but no worries. They are gone. Long gone.”

“You had three mice in the car? While we were driving here?”

“Long gone, Honey, long gone…”

“Did it occur to…” Joyce bit off her response. She gave Charles a murderous stare. She took a deep breath. “Krug would you give us a minute?”

Krug didn’t need any further prompting. He walked swiftly into the garage and then into the house. He slipped into the kitchen and then surreptitiously positioned himself by the side of the kitchen window so he could see into the driveway. From that angle he couldn’t hear but he could see Charles shuffling sheepishly from foot to foot as Joyce bellowed.

There was a Kleenex box on the driveway. Joyce kicked it like it was a football and it sailed up on the hood of the Audi and lingered for an instant in equipoise before sliding off onto the driveway again. Then she pulled out her cell phone and yelled into it for a few seconds and then she turned back and yelled at Charles again. After a few minutes of yelling Charles started to put the stuff on the driveway back into the car.

Krug watched the scene from the window for a few more minutes then another car drove up and Joyce got in and drove away. Charles continued to restore the contents of the Audi.

After a few minutes, Krug went back out to the driveway. Charles was closing the dogs in the hatchback. He gave Krug a sheepish, lopsided, smile. “Don’t even know why she was so pissed. She really went off the deep end.”

Krug was conciliatory. “Yeah.”

“It’ll blow over. I am not worried about it. She’ll get over it by the time she gets back to the house.”

“She was pretty steamed.”

“Oh yeah. I’ll say. Just hope the other mice aren’t still in the car.”

“I thought you said they all ran off.”

“Here is hoping. I can’t really tell. I tried to check everywhere but it’s hard to see under the seats. I guess they did. I mean why wouldn’t they? What a pain.” Charles looked up. “It’s all Lorie’s fault. Those mice weren’t harming anything. And it isn’t like I didn’t step up to the plate and deal with them.” Charles shook his head at the injustice of it all. “Well, Krug, sorry about it. Guess I better go home and make sure that the mice are gone.

“Yeah. No worries. We’ll catch up next week.”

*          *          *

Krug was in his driveway when Charles pulled up. Charles was driving a Toyota with a Budget Rent a Car license plate in the front. The door swung open and Charles started to get out.

“Not so fast.” Krug shouted, “you got any mice in there?”

“Ha Ha. Very funny.”

Krug hummed, “three blind mice, see how they run…”

“Give a rest, Kruger. I am a little sick of hearing about that whole mice business.”

“What, are you still in the doghouse?”

“Yeah ‘fraid so.”

“You are kidding. That had to be three weeks ago.”

“I know.”

“You can’t be in the doghouse that long over a stupid mouse. I mean it was my garage.”

“Yeah.”

“Shit, three weeks is a long time.”

Charles gave his sheepish smile. “There were some aggravating circumstances.”

“Like?”

“All the mice didn’t actually escape from the car.”

“Oh no.”

“Yeah. I mean I was sure they did. I even got a flashlight and looked everywhere.”

“So how did you find out? Did a little bugger jump out while you were driving?”

“Naw. Worse.”

“How could it be worse than that?”

“Trust me.”

“Oh man, you gotta tell me.”

“You know what’s weird, at first I didn’t even think of the mouse. I thought it was my gym bag. I kept meaning to take it out of the car but I was really busy and I kept forgetting.  I could tell it was a little ripe, you know what I mean?”

Ripe?”

“Yeah at first. It was just that sort of smell. But then after 3 or 4 days it got a lot worse. Driving downtown in the morning, I started wondering if maybe I had hit a squirrel or something, but I couldn’t see anything. Then I was coming home one afternoon and it was really hot so I turned on the air conditioning and it was horrible. I mean I had to stop the car and get out…

“What the hell?”

“Yeah, I guess one of those mice crawled into a little duct or hose or something…”

“And died in there?”

“That’s what I am thinking…”

“Oh my god. You have a dead rotting mouse carcass in your air-conditioning?”

“Yeah. I mean, it was wretched. Like make-you-gag kind of wretched.”

Krug looked over at the Toyota. “Let me guess, you had to take the Audi in for a mouse-exhumation?”

“Yeah. It was really bad. Wouldn’t air out. I mean nasty.”

“Can they get it out?”

“They are saying yes, but it’s going to cost a shitload and I don’t know that I believe them. I sure hope so. That car is almost new.”

“Charles, Charles, Charles.” Krug shook his head at the wonder of it all.

“Yeah.” Charles agreed.

“But there is one thing I don’t get.” Krug said. “How come you are still in the doghouse?  Joyce must have felt that you got just what you deserved, having to drive around in your Audi full of dead mouse stink. Perfect punishment. She’s probably laughing her ass off.”

“One problem.”

“Yeah?”

“It’s her Audi.”

***

Jay Duret is a San Francisco based writer and illustrator. He blogs at www.jayduret.com. His comic novel, Nine Digits, is available from Indigo Sea Press.

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It’s Time For the Final Review by L.V. Gaudet

I have some delightful news to share.  I have received the final review file for The McAllister Farm; book two of the McAllister mini-series.  I have also been in communication with the publisher regarding the cover art.  This means The McAllister Farm is very close to seeing publication at last.  I hope I’ll soon be able to reveal what the cover is going to look like.  The excitement it tempered a little, however, by the knowledge that nothing happens very fast in the publishing business.

 

 

*** SPOILER ALERT *** 

The McAllister Farm does contain a big spoiler.  So, if you have not already bought and read your copy of the first book, Where the Bodies Are, you will want to do that now.

 

Don’t worry; the story does not stop here.  I am working on writing the third book, which follows the twisted lives of, well you’ll guess who after you read Where the Bodies Are, bridging the gap between the first two books to bring the stories together in what might just turn out to be an explosive conclusion – either literally or metaphorically.  I haven’t figured that out myself yet.

 

This breaking news brings me to our topic today – doing the final review before publication.

 

What does it look like and what is expected of you?

 

I receive it in the form of a read only pdf file.  That is the file format used by Adobe Acrobat reader.  If you are like me and runner on the free version of Acrobat, there wouldn’t be much more you can do with any pdf file anyway.

 

You get the file as a read only for a very good reason.

 

Before you even query a publisher, you should have already put both yourself and your book through the ringer, tearing down and rebuilding through rewrites and edits, possibly even questioning your very existence.  Your book should be polished to absolute perfection; critiqued, been through the hands of beta readers, and have you feeling pretty darned good about yourself and confident in your book’s chances of success.  (Hint: this is what we tell ourselves, that we should feel confident.  But really, we all have that big white gorilla in the closet that we sometimes aren’t sure we should talk about – the fear that nobody will like our book and everyone will think it is absolute rubbish.)

 

After your book is accepted by a publisher, they will then have their editing/proofreading people take a stab at it.  They may require you to make revisions, maybe little things or possibly entire re-writes. Don’t take this personally.  They just want your book to be the absolute best it can be and have their own ideas of what that looks like.  Unless you too have published hundreds of books, it’s a fair guess to say they have more experience at what sells than you do too.

 

After all that is done and your book has gone through all the edits and revisions, and is polished to perfection once again, your publisher will have their people format it for print, both physical and electronic.

 

Now your publisher sends you that glorious read only file for final review.  This is your last chance to catch any mistakes, both yours and the editor’s, as well as any issues in the formatting.  You get a read only file so your publisher knows that you did not inadvertently monkey around with any formatting.  At this point, your publisher wants to have absolute control over all changes because they are ultimately responsible for the quality of the books they put out.

 

Carefully note any errors or changes, including the page number and location on the page to make it easier for your publisher’s editing people to find, and send that information on to them.  With luck, you will see your new book in print within the quarter. Of course, that all depends on how fast your publisher is, what kind of a publishing schedule they are working on, and about a hundred other factors, not all of which will be in your publisher’s realm of control.

 

Watch for these titles at Indigo Sea Press:

where the bodies are

 

Where the Bodies Are – (Now available!)  A woman is found suffering from a horrific attack.  Kept in an induced coma due to her injuries, both physical and emotional, she is the only known witness.

More women’s bodies turn up, left in places the authorities believe are meant to cause an increasing media frenzy.

Detectives Jim McNelly and Michael Underwood are tortured by their inability to stop the killer, each for his own reasons.  Jim McNelly is tormented by his failure to protect every victim, secretly grieving his wife, and taking each failure personally.  Michael Underwood feels a special connection to the victim, dubbed Jane Doe, her real identity unknown.

Only the killer knows who she really is, and her identity is what draws him back to her, within the detectives’ net.  Will they be able to stop him before he comes back for Jane Doe?  Before he kills again?  Maybe not.

One woman is still missing, her body the second shoe waiting to drop.  Katherine Kingslow is the killer’s best victim yet, aside from Jane Doe.  Held prisoner, Kathy lives in torment and terror, at the killer’s mercy.

Lawrence Hawkworth, a reporter of questionable morals, may just hold the key to finding her and stopping the killer.

There is a much darker secret lying behind the Jane Doe case, one that may ruin the detectives and everyone else touched by this case.

 

Coming Soon-The McAllister Farm - twitter

 

 

 

 

 

 

The McAllister Farm – (Coming soon!)  Take a step back in time and meet the boy who becomes the man who created the killer in Where the Bodies Are.  1981 to be exact.

The McAllisters are a secretive family, and for good reason.  Proud and stern, William McAllister rules both his family and his business with a firm hand and sense of strong morals.  The most important thing to him is protecting his family, second only to protecting the family business.

When William’s son Jason starts getting in trouble and bringing attention on the family, it is the beginning of the downward spiral of their world.  William’s reclusive and eccentric behavior makes him the prime suspect when someone starts killing local young women, guilty in the eyes of every person in the community.

His wife Marjorie, who does not handle stress well, is pushed in the middle of the growing animosity between the community and her husband.  Timid and nervously wringing her hands, she too wants only to protect her family, her children.

Can they keep their family and their secret safe?  They are the keepers of a dark secret that will continue with Jane Doe and the killer in Where the Bodies Are.

 

work in progress

 

Working title: The One That Got Away (title may change)  – This story brings the characters of Where the Bodies Are and The McAllister Farm together in a conclusion that will leave you wondering.

run awayEvents escalate in the search for answers.  Lawrence Hawkworth returns as he searches for answers to his own secret, one not of his making, one that haunted his mentor and likely caused his death.  It is a secret that may bring him closer to the secret behind the Jane Doe case.

Jim McNelly can’t let the Jane Doe case go, nor the bigger darker secret they learned in the woods behind the old McAllister Farm.  He can’t let go of the one who got away either.  Certain that Katherine Kingslow and Jan Doe are dead; he can’t rest until he can recover their remains and bring their killer to justice.

Michael Underwood is chasing down his own murky secret.  He returns to his past, drawn by haunting memories, down a twisted dark well that may lead to a revelation he will not want to learn.

All of these secrets lead towards the McAllister family and the events of 1981.

 

work in progress2

 

White Van – The white van is back.  This is a twisted tale that exists on the outskirts of the McAllister mini-series.  How many have heard real life urban legend tales of the white van?  Everything from missing and murdered victims to stolen dogs, and the always-elusive suspect white van.

white vanWhite Van reveals another piece of the puzzle in the secret behind the bodies in Where the Bodies Are.  A secret you will learn more about in The One That Got AwayWhite Van gives a glimpse into how much larger the secret is than you may have thought.

 

 

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When it all condenses at once

Have you ever had a time when you’ve neglected to read for a very, very long while? Whether you’ve been too busy, too swamped with other tasks, engaged in a different activity or whatever the reason it may be, but you just haven’t gotten around to settling down with a good book.

Well, I went through such a time. Senior year is a busy, busy one. I’ve been too busy with homework, projects and of course the finals (that I hopefully passed, 90% sure I did) for first semester. On top of that, I’ve been busily writing my second book ‘Gates of Destruction’. Whenever I have had time to myself I’ve spent it writing/typing up songs or typing up things I’ve been meaning to type up.

Since we lucky students got an unexpected four days off because of snow (which was a much welcomed mini-vacation) I got around to sitting down with a good book in hand. and it had me hooked.

I could not put it down and even though it was late at night, I could not close it. After every chapter I finished soaking up, I told myself, “Okay, okay, it’s late and I need to go to sleep. I should probably stop here and pick it up tomorrow night.” But what did I do? Instead of listening to myself, I turned the page and kept on reading. The characters felt so real to me that about three times during my reading I nearly flung the book across my room in anger, frustration or sorrow. I couldn’t do that, though I wanted to at the moment very much. Everyone was already asleep and I didn’t want to wake them up.

It was about 4:30 in the morning when I read the last page and stared at the book accusingly, silently scolding it for finishing and not having the next in the series to continue on. When I finally climbed into bed I was itching to have the next one in my hands.

It’s like all that I hadn’t read condensed into that one reading period. I felt satisfied to have enjoyed the book so much. Sometimes, things all condense into one moment.

 

 

 

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Filed under Abigail Hernandez, books, writing