Life in Three Acts, by Carole Howard

Setting: Tanzania.  Photographic safari.

Act I

We were in our jeep, along with a whole lot of other jeeps, watching a cheetah stalk….. something. We didn’t know what it was, but were mesmerized, waiting to see what would happen, hoping for some action.

After some slow-motion ballet-ish moving across the field, the cheetah drifted off. All the other jeeps hung around, presumably hoping the cheetah – or some other predator – would come back. But our guide, who knew a thing or two, said he thought he knew where the cheetah was going. We left the assemblage of vans, hoping we wouldn’t miss the good stuff.

We got to the selected site and only had to wait a little while before the cheetah showed up. We were the only jeep there, with our front row seat. We patiently watched, holding our respective breaths. Maybe we’d see something exciting!

We did.

Act II

The cheetah rocketed out of the tall grass and started chasing two jackals. Just before they reached the safety of their hole, however, the cheetah pounced and started to carry one of them off, wiggling and struggling, by the neck. Within a few steps, the wiggling and struggling stopped. It was over. Poor thing.

Meanwhile, the jackal’s mate emerged from their hole-home, wailing and keening nonstop. Our guide explained that jackals are one of the few species that mate for life. The crying was very anthropomorphic and very sad. And did we hear crying baby jackals too? Immediately, the idea of the cheetah killing the jackal wasn’t exciting anymore. It was tragic. We’d previously been rooting for the cheetah, but our loyalties had been 100% switched. We were now solidly behind the jackal, no longer on the cheetah’s side.

With the sound of the wailing in the background, the cheetah meandered over to a tree where, our guide explained, he would carry his trophy up a ways and make a meal of him.

Oh no.

[Another cheetah, sans jackal.]

 

Act III

The cheetah put the inert jackal down at the foot of the tree. We’ll never know why. And, like a crazy cartoon, off the jackal scampered (that’s really the perfect word). Back to his mate and their hole, into which they both disappeared. Hooray! (We explained to our guide the meaning of the expression “playing possum.”)

We’d seen exactly what we wanted: Action. Tension. Nature being nature. And the good guy winning!

Have you ever witnessed — or been part of —  a 3-act episode of “real life”?   Do tell!

*     *     *

Carole Howard is the author of Deadly Adagio, which tells another sort of traveler’s tale.

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The Idiot-Proof Guide to Being an Idiot- Chelsea Bolt

Capture

What did I do yesterday? I jumped off a rock, flailed for 16 feet, and dove into some (shallower than expected) water. Why? Probably because I’m an idiot. Is that okay? Sometimes. Being an idiot is something that has its benefits and downfalls, like most personality traits. Also, thank God I survived that. Falling with style.

The best way to be an idiot is to be an aware idiot. Own up to it. Don’t try to be someone you’re not. If you know that you’re an idiot, you can choose which idiotic traits are preferable or help you survive the mundane day-to-day we are expected to thrive in. This means that you pick and choose your stupid moves. Don’t jump out in traffic. Do try to wear your Halloween costume the entire month of October. See the difference?

How can you use your idiocy for good and not evil? I’m glad you asked. This has two answers. One is for the benefit of your own happiness and to encourage you to step out of your comfort zone. I would have never talked to a guy about turkeys for ten minutes unless I was an idiot. Maybe that was a bad example, but you get the idea. The other answer is to share some excitement and goofiness with others in an otherwise dreary world. Be that person who encourages others to take that chance and love life a little more.

Chelsea Bolt is an Indigo Sea Press author of the young adult novel Moonshine. For more information check out these sites: 

https://theonlybolt.wordpress.com/

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Chelsea-Bolt/689158317846614

https://twitter.com/theonlybolt

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Selling Books at Art and Craft Fairs by Christine Husom

litchfield 017

~Photo with my friend and supporter, Cathy, on the left. She surprised me by coming to one of the art and craft fairs this summer.

I’d been thinking for a while about getting out to more fairs with my books, and researched all the art and craft fairs I could find around Minnesota during the summer. There must be a thousand of them. I sat down with my calendar early last spring, and started deliberating. I eliminated some because of the cost of the entry fee, others because of known conflicts, and still others because the venue didn’t fit for one reason or another.

I chose six I felt were doable, and consulted with my husband because six Saturdays out of a Minnesota summer is a lot. Plus I have a pretty full schedule. overall. Two of the fairs were over 170 miles away, and I didn’t want to leave at 5:00 in the morning to get to them, so I found reasonable nearby hotels to stay in. I’d hoped to take my granddaughters with me to one of them, and my husband to the other, but neither panned out. I got rained out of one fair and wasn’t able to go, but that’s a risk with selling books at outdoor venues.

At one of the events, I shared a booth space with two of my author friends, so that was nice for two reasons: the cost of the booth was split three ways, and I was able to bring a canopy instead of the umbrella I brought to the others. Setting up a 10 foot X 10 foot canopy takes at least two people, and I didn’t want to chance finding a willing helper at the fair.

My sales booth is made up of a six foot table that folds in two, a folding chair, table cloth, and a table umbrella with a stand that I weight down with down with fifty pounds of weights. I also put bungee cords around the umbrella pole and attach them to the supports under the table. Every once in a while a gust of wind will come up, and the weights are crucial.

I have posters made of my eight books and hang them from the umbrella. Not as classy as against a canopy backdrop, but it works. I display my books on the table, along with bookmarks I give away, and a sign-up sheet for my “newsletter.” I assure people about the only time I send something out is when I have a new book coming out. I have hundreds and hundreds of people on my email list. What a great way to get the word out to a large number of people at the same time.

Another thing that has become more and more important at art and craft fairs is the ability to take credit cards. I’ve sold many hundreds of dollars worth of books because I was set up with a Square on my smart phone. Square takes a small percentage, but if it ensures a sale, it is well worth it.

I’ve enjoyed getting out to different parts of the state and meeting new people. I do my best to invite them to my booth by smiling and saying, “Minnesota mysteries by a Minnesota author.” Some stop, others don’t.  Many like to talk, and ask questions, like, “Oh, are you the author?” Or, “Who is your publisher?” “When did you start writing?” Things like that.

Some fairs were better than others, but I always sold more than the entry fee, although with traveling expenses, sometimes I just broke even. Not figuring in the time factor, that is. I was also on a mystery panel in Wisconsin with fellow Twin Cities Sisters in Crime friends. And I’ll be with them again at the Minnesota State Fair on Read and Ride Day. Seven worthwhile marketing events in three months. I hand sell the majority of my books and it is paying off more and more as time goes on. Selling books is not always easy, but if you first sell yourself to readers, it is a giant step forward. People love meeting authors in person. I know I do.

Christine Husom is the author of the Winnebago County Mysteries.

 

 

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Why Do I Teach? by John E. Stack

As a public school teacher, I take a lot of things personally.  Whether it is hearing how bad our students do on end-of-grade testing, or some bureaucrat stating that paying out teachers more money will not improve achievement, it really bothers me.  Then, you have some idiot that is either a teacher or is someone associated with the school system being inappropriate with a child.  So, all teachers are then identified as being child molesters.  

Most of us really take our jobs seriously, and we work not thirty-five or forty hours a week, but often work sixty to seventy hours a week writing lesson plans, grading papers and attending school functions that many parents are too busy to attend. Why do we do this?  Well, it is not the big bucks that we supposedly make.  We do this for several reasons.  We care about the students and want them to do their best.  We also want our schools to look good.  If our students do well on end-of-grade testing, then our school gets a good grade.  Personally, I feel if they become successful my taxes won’t have to support them.

End-of-grade testing is how the school systems put a value on the teachers.  Teachers do not like giving the tests and students do not like taking them.  Still, we put our all into preparing the students to take the test.

There is also a big push on teacher/student relationships.  It is said that if a student doesn’t like a teacher then they will not do the work.  My dad did not care if I liked the teacher or not, if an assignment was given, then it better be completed.  I raised my girls with the same rule. It was never what did the teacher do, but what did you do?  The teacher was shown respect and looked at as a professional.  It is not like this anymore.

It really starts to weigh on a person when they are told they don’t meet standards, even though they have been doing a great job for years.  Adequate compensation (pay raises) is a thing of the past, which tells us that our government doesn’t respect as professionals.  It is always something that makes many teachers feel inadequate.  Most only want respect and to be treated as professionals.

Our small town publishes a newspaper three times a week and on one day it publishes the court records.  Seldom does a week go by where I don’t read three or four names of students that I taught – drugs, alcohol, assault…  It just adds to the pressure.  You wonder if you could have done something different to change their lives or their decisions.

For me, being told that my scores are not good enough, that I don’t know how to relate to students, plus all of the above really made me want to get out of teaching.  Again, I take a lot of things personally.

Over the last year, things have started to change and my outlook has started to improve.  Over the last year, I ran across a few of my previous students.  One young lady followed some advice and was happy to tell me that she got a book published.  (She started working on it in middle school and talked with me about publishing and what she should do.)  Another was on maternity leave from her corporate job and she just had to show me her newborn son.

This summer I ran across two young moms that I had taught, one of which was a nurse practitioner.  She told me about three other students that I taught that were also in the medical field.  It is so nice and enlightening to see where your kids (yes, my kids – it I taught them then they are mine, no matter how old they get) become successful.  What a breath of fresh air.

Then, my wife went to register our little boy for preschool.  The lady asked if I still taught school and to let me know her son was now a doctor.  Wow.  After eighteen years, the mom remembered I was her son’s math teacher.

Most recently, I received an email from a parent stating her son was going into the military.  They were giving him a graduation/leaving for the military party.  She asked him if there was anyone in particular that he wanted to invite and he said that he would like for “Mr. Stack” to be there is possible.  What a privilege to attend.  I asked him why the Army and he responded that my influence and stories helped point him to what he really wanted to do.  As a middle school teacher I seldom get to hear about the choices my previous students made.  These are some of the bright spots.

Every new teacher goes into the profession just knowing that they are going to change lives.  They are going to give everything they have to try to do this. I have a niece that is a teacher, a niece that is studying to be a teacher, and a young lady that my wife and I mentored that just took a position in the mountains of Arizona to teach in a Christian Indian mission.

Why do I teach?  I feel God put me in this position, but still, I teach to make a difference.  

***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.  Also, soon to be released Cody and the Great Zoo Escape and Secret Lives (of middle school teachers).

    

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Vacation Reading by Sheila Deeth

I started reading The Girl On The Train on a train

On vacation near London, I started reading The Girl On The Train at a railway station.

A London bookstore is surely the perfect location to start Mr Penumbra's 24-hour Book Store

This bookstore, with its horizontal as well as vertical displays, was the absolutely perfect location for enjoying Mr Penumbra’s 24-hour Book Store

These dogs surely dared to dream while I read The Dog Who Dared To Dream

Then I followed some happily dreaming dogs while exploring The Dog Who Dared To Dream.

Surely punting on the Cam is timeless ande English enough to inspire reading The Eyre Affair

And punting on the Cam – a timelessly English pursuit – inspired me to read The Eyre Affair

A wedding goblet accompanies my reading The Daylight Marriage

A wedding goblet in the Victoria and Albert accompanied my enjoyment of The Daylight Marriage.

Then it's off to enjoy the play of the book, The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-time

Then off we went to watch the play of the book, The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-time, at the Gielgud Theatre.

Meanwhile my mum enjoyed Infinite Sum, hot off the press from Indigo Sea

Meanwhile my mum enjoyed Infinite Sum, hot off the press, freshly published by Indigo Sea.

And now I'm home, it's time for those final edits on Subtraction!

And now I’m home. It must be time for those final edits on Subtraction!

Sheila Deeth is the author of the Mathemafiction novels, published by Indigo Sea Press. Find Divide by Zero and Infinite Sum online and where good books are sold. Then watch out for Subtraction, coming soon!

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The Sleep of Reason by Chuck Thurston

 

Many of us believe things to be true that have been proved not – e.g., President Obama is Muslim or Kenyan-born. Many of us do not believe in things that have been demonstrated to be true – climate change is one of the most pervasive non-beliefs.

These positions are part of our personal belief systems. If we disagree with the president’s policies, believing that he has strong ties to a particular religion or country allows us to rationalize behaviors of his we see as suspicious. It confirms our fear, and we tell our acquaintances, “See! I told you so!”

If we don’t believe in climate change, then the dire predictions of what the long term consequences are likely to be won’t worry us.

 

In either case, our beliefs are driven by fear. Franklin Roosevelt took the office of the presidency during the depths of the depression – with turmoil in Europe and the Far East. He quickly realized that many public fears were irrational or unfounded and were keeping the nation from moving toward solutions. He was probably familiar with Mark Twain’s famous quote: “I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened!”

FDR early on told people “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself!”

I recently discovered the science fiction of Alice Mary Norton, who wrote under the pen name of Andre Norton. Female sci fi writers were rarer than hen’s teeth and had very little cred amongst fantasy and sci fi readers in the 50’s and 60’s. I won’t go into a long critique of her work – which I am enjoying – but a particular passage in one of her works stuck with me. Here’s the scene:

A group of space travelers from earth land on a strange planet – almost paradisiac in its beauty, climate and inhabitants – a gentle, handsome Polynesian-type race with extraordinary ESP skills. They can, for instance, communicate with dolphins. In the course of events, the earthmen are following a native girl, guiding them through some very old, dark tunnels toward an old structure that may be frequented by an ancient evil that frightens the natives. At one point the girl says that their “old gods” inhabit these tunnels – they have hundreds – and to disturb them is very dangerous. The girl is terrified and is ready to abandon the expedition.

One of the earthmen attempts to calm her fears. He says, “But they are not our gods! There is no power where there is no belief!” Another adds, “No being without belief!” The girl eventually concludes that she must be safe if she is in the company of those who simply do not believe – and therefore cause the evaporation of the old deities which so frighten her. The troop continues on.

pantheon of the gods

So Norton’s characters are saying that if you don’t believe in these whatevers, they cease to exist. Is it this easy? Over the course of millennia, humans have taken up, worshipped, and eventually discarded – thousands of gods. Most of us don’t believe that Thor or Jupiter have any power to give us strength to meet a particular challenge. We aren’t moved to offer up prayers to Venus or Aphrodite in exchange for help with our love life. Is there going to be an eventual discarding of whatever is left?

Should we consider bringing back a few specialists to handle modern complexities – or does boiling it down to one streamline the process and make it more efficient for the digital age?

Chuck Thurston’s collected columns and essays are available in his Senior Scribbles collections on Amazon. He is currently working on a full length mystery thriller. He is not sure which god he should petition for help.

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My Salesman Dilemma

At each entrance to my neighborhood there are signs posted declaring, “No Soliciting Allowed!”

Of course, we all know those signs become invisible to salespeople. Maybe they don’t know what the word soliciting means, or maybe they think their product isn’t considered a soliciting product. I don’t know, but what I do know is that the signs haven’t been effective at all.

So when I answered my doorbell and saw a chipper young man I’d never seen before standing in my vestibule, I’m sure my face expressed the questions that were on my mind. Who are you? What are you selling? But before I could say anything, he started talking and went on, I believe, without breathing for several minutes. I was more fascinated that he wasn’t breathing than by what he was saying. He apparently believed in his product so much, he wasn’t even going to think about giving up telling me about it until he’d actually shown me how great it really was.

When I finally realized he was, Skip, a salesman selling XYZ vacuum cleaners and shampooers, I very kindly, but firmly, told him I wasn’t interested. I had a perfectly wonderful vacuum cleaner and a shampooer that went with it and I was very happy with them both. That didn’t work. He started his “non-breathing” thing again. I tried telling him, nicely, that our neighborhood didn’t allow solicitors and he might get in trouble, but that didn’t work either. He kept talking. I hate to be mean to people, but this guy wasn’t getting my message, so I backed up a bit so I could gently shut the door in his face.

The door wouldn’t shut. I looked down. I couldn’t believe he’d actually used the old foot in the door trick! I had to admire his tenacity. I told Skip I was not in the market for a vacuum cleaner or shampooer and nothing he said or did would change my mind. He said that was okay, he just wanted to show me. He said there was nooo obligation and he’d vacuum and shampoo an entire room for me at no charge just to show me how wonderful his product was.

At this point I realized he was wearing me down and the only way I was going to get rid of him was by letting him demonstrate his product. So I finally said okay he could demonstrate his product in my living room. He looked beyond me eying my fairly cluttered room with furniture everywhere and probably thought he’d do a small area and then, through his eloquence, sell me his cleaner and shampooer.

I, on the other hand, thought, I might as well get my whole living room vacuumed and shampooed while I had the chance to get it done. Effortlessly and free. So I told him okay. He said it would be a few minutes for him to get all his equipment together and he’d be right with me.

While he was outside, I dashed around and stacked my 5 piece sectional sofa in the adjoining music room along with the coffee table, area rug, two torchier lamps, a folding room screen, an antique chair, two side tables, and an antique brass temple brazier, and two floor cushions.

When he came in the front door with all his equipment, his eyes popped at the sight of the empty carpeted room. Well, he’d said a whole room. So he started vacuuming, telling me and gesturing all the time how well it was cleaning. I was reminded of when my son was small and he would call for me to watch him. “Look mommy, look!” And of course, I’d replied, “Yes, that’s really wonderful.”

When the room was all done, it really did look wonderful and I was happy I wasn’t the one who’d had to do all that work, for a change. I did feel a little guilty that I didn’t buy the vacuum cleaner or the shampooer, but after all, I had told Skip that all along. I wished him much success and told him he was very persuasive and a good salesman, but that I was just not in the market for his product. I think we both felt good when he left.

I’d love to hear about your salesperson experiences.

Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland.

Join her here each 11th of the month.

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Not My Time to Go by Thornton Cline

There is a side of me that most of my friends don’t know. I have rarely shared this side with anyone until now. I am a survivor. My life has been spared. I am not talking about surviving cancer, heart disease or some life-threatening disease. I am referring to the eleven true compelling near-death experiences I have survived since I was toddler.
Long before I lived in Tennessee, my first encounter with death occurred when I was two-years old. I should have died and I should have died many times. But, it wasn’t my time to go.
What I am describing has been experienced by between four and 15 percent of humans, according to the Near-Death Experience Research Foundation. This segment of the population will have experienced a close call with death sometime in their lives.
It never occurred to me until later in my life that there was a possibility that someone or something was watching over me and protecting me from the dangers and close-call brushes with death. Later I came to the realization that there were angels watching over me. They have known me before I was born. They have watched me come into this world. They are looking out for me, watching and protecting me 24/7.
Skeptical? I can certainly understand. I was very skeptical for a very long time until I ran out of reasons and explanations for how my life was spared over and over again—11 times! I am not talking about situations where I was flirting with death, I am referring to miracles where there was no scientific or medical explanation as to why I had survived.
It takes a certain amount of faith to even consider the possibility of the existence of angels, especially for those who have no religious background or do not practice any sort of religion. And without trying to get religious with you all, I did some research from the King James Version of the Bible and discovered that the Book of Daniel (chapters 7-12) lists the names of our guardian angels here on Earth: Michael, Gabriel, Uriel and Raphael. The Book of Revelation (7:1) describes how the four guardian angels protect and watch over the four corners of the Earth.
My eleven near-death experiences read like an Academy Award winner thriller film or a New York Times bestselling book. I have experienced grave illness as a toddler; was nearly decapitated along with my family; was almost killed by a bomb explosion during a Mafia War, was involved in two devastating car accidents, escaped from fire and explosion when my car malfunctioned on the Interstate, was the victim of an attempted abduction at gunpoint when I was a child, faced the near-death of my young 10-year old daughter, was involved in a close-call brush with death on an airplane, and was a victim of a failed car-jacking as an adult.
After much prayer, research and soul-searching, I came to the conclusion that I was protected and spared by guardian angels. Each time a close-call brush with death occurred, it was not my time to go. I concluded that there were reasons why I was spared here on Earth. I now realize that I am living on Earth for a purpose. Every day is truly mission and I am here to help leave the Earth a better place than it was before.

Debut book on Indigo Sea Press

Debut book on Indigo Sea Press

Cline

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Weathermen Lie

This picture was taken in the spring.  See how green and lush the grass looks.  Now it’s brown with lots of bare spots.  The weathermen and women keep telling us to expect severe thunderstorms.  Or there is a 40% or 60% chance of rain.  We do hear thunder in the distance, see the dark clouds to the south of us.  Or see lighting to the north of us.  But ultimately, it keeps missing us.  I bet we’ve only had an inch of rain in the last month.  Everything is so dry—and dying.  Can’t water too much as we were asked to preserve water.  I pride myself in my garden.  Love digging in it and moving things around.  I fear that if this weather keeps up I’ll have to get rid of some of my plants.  Condense my gardens.  But grass is dead and hard to grow here, especially under the trees.  So in second thought, I might just carpet the whole lawn and say the hell with it.

004_Modified

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Getting older? Here’s an App. By Mickey Hoffman

These days I feel like my body has become a foreign entity which does whatever it wants. I’ve almost given up trying to keep control. Bits and pieces, parts and systems go awry without advance notice and seemingly without cause. So I have decided to relinquish my futile attempts at managing these processes. But if I’m no longer going to pretend to be in charge, something has to take over. Hence, the new app. This app is called, “Today’s Body Part.”

After download and installation on your mobile device, the app will run itself beautifully.  Each morning a cheerful message will appear on screen to inform you which of your body parts or systems is going to go wrong.

For example, “Good Morning. This is your lumbar spine and I’m excited to tell you I’m going to be your Body Part of the Day! For more details just watch your finger press the icon and read on. (Since you have allowed us our autonomy there’s no need for you to lift a finger, as the saying goes, hah hah.) Thanks for checking in, see ya Soon.” For extra fun, download the Deluxe app which will allow you to view the message through your cellphone camera as an animated cartoon superimposed on your current location.

Today’s Body Part app will alleviate all the anxiety that comes from trying to keep the aging process at bay.  Download Today!

***

Mickey Hoffman is the author of mystery novels School of Lies and Deadly Traffic. Visit www.mickeyhoffman.com for details.

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