Building Blocks & Construction Skills by Sherrie Hansen

We have to build our lives out of what materials we have. It’s as though we were given a heap of blocks and told to build a house. From Emily of Deep Valley by Maud Hart Lovelace

B&W Blue Belle Inn 

I think of this quote often when I’m looking back at my life – and, when I’m starting a new book. My entire life has been a construction project – building up, tearing down, rebuilding, renovating, remodeling and even starting over one or two times when the foundation has been kicked out from under me. As the years go by, I’m getting close to the age when I need to start downsizing, and finding a house / life whose size and upkeep is more manageable.

Another quote from Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy and Joe says, The older I get the more mixed up life seems. When you’re little, it’s all so plain. It’s all laid out like a game ready to play. You think you know exactly how it’s going to go. But things happen…

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Things do happen – in life, and in our writing. Sometimes one mirrors the other. When I start a new book, I begin with a cast of characters who each have their own goals, dream, and motivations. They each have a past made up of previous experiences and encounters, loves and disappointments. More importantly, they have challenges, and problems, and people and things that threaten their well-being and threaten to keep them from their goals. I can plan exactly what I think should happen in a book, but at some point, the characters take over, pick up the building blocks I have strewn about, and write their own story. Ultimately, I can’t predict exactly what kind of house is going to get built in my books any more than I can my own life. It’s a good thing I like surprises, and that I’m a curious sort who loves to find out what lies around the next bend in the road.

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Twists and turns are part of the story. But bringing form and structure, color and life, and artistry and rhythm to the heap of building blocks is what a writer does. In writing, I work through my own problems, calm my anxieties, and find hope for the future. My wish is that you will do the same as you read my stories.

Like Maud said in Betsy’s Wedding,  Good things come, but they’re never perfect, are they? You have to twist them into something perfect.

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In my favorite Maud Hart Lovelace book, Heaven to Betsy, Betsy thinks, What would life be like without her writing? Writing filled her life with beauty and mystery, gave it life… and promise.

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Perhaps the magic of a good book occurs when a writer take an ordinary slice of life and turns it into a piece of art. In Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown, Maud Hart Lovelace wrote, Betsy was sitting in the backyard maple, high among spreading branches that were clothed in rich green except at their tips where they wore the first gold of September. In Betsy Tacy and Tib, It was June, and the world smelled of roses. The sunshine was like powdered gold over the grassy hillside.

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I learned to look for the beauty in my own back yard when I read books like Maud’s, set in small Minnesota farming towns, when I looked at the sunset through the lens of my first camera, and when my hardworking family took time to visit Minnesota’s lovely state parks and campgrounds. I learned to appreciate beauty when we traveled across the United States and experienced the vastness of God’s handiwork.

Maybe that’s why I love what Maud wrote in Betsy-Tacy and Tib:  In silence, the three of them looked at the sunset and thought about God.

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I firmly believe that God is the Master Designer. Not only can God paint an amazing sunset, He knows what will happen in my life – has known all along – and in the books I write, even before I do. He gave me the building blocks and the skills to build a life that I hope will glorify him.

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My nephew, Luke, wanted me to play a game with me last week. We each drew a card which told us what we were supposed to build out of the pile of red, green, blue and yellow Legos in the game box. While I stumbled and fumbled around, and came up with something that only slightly resembled a frog, Luke’s creativity amazed me! It’s not just about the building blocks, it’s about the way we put them together.

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Whether you’re a writer or a reader, a musician, a quilter, a farmer, a painter, a pastor, or a poet, I urge you to thank God for the building blocks you’ve been given, the construction skills you’ve learned and acquired, and the creativity and instincts to build a beautiful house where you can thrive and grow.

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In my new release, Lyndsie thinks she knows how her life will go, when suddenly William comes into her life and causes a minor earthquake. When her carefully constructed house starts to tumble and things go from orderly to confused, she has to decide when and how to rebuild her days, and how and where she will spend them. Things are a mess. Nothing goes right…

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And to find out what kind of house Lyndsie builds – western ranch style or a wee Scottish boothie – you’ll have to read the book.

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Twenty-five years ago, Sherrie Hansen rescued a dilapidated Victorian house from the bulldozer’s grips and turned it into a B&B and tea house, the Blue Belle Inn. Sherrie and her husband, Mark, who is a pastor, divide their time between two different houses, 85 miles apart. Sherrie writes murder mysteries and novels whenever she’s not working at her B&B or trying to be a good pastor’s wife. Her contemporary romantic suspense novels include Night and Day, Love Notes, and Thistle Down, Wild Rose, Blue Belle, Shy Violet and Sweet William, her Wildflowers of Scotland novels. If you hadn’t already guessed, Sherrie’s favorite books (from way back when) are the Betsy Tacy books by Minnesota author Maud Hart Lovelace.

 You can see what’s Sherrie’s up to at: 

https://www.facebook.com/BlueBelleInn

 http://sherriehansen.wordpress.com/

www.BlueBelleInn.com or www.BlueBelleBooks.com

https://twitter.com/SherrieHansen

https://www.pinterest.com/sherriebluebell/

http://www.amazon.com/Sherrie-Hansen/e/B007YXQJ4W/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Sherrie’s new release is Sweet William. https://amzn.com/B01H2TUD3U

He’s a real sweetheart. She’s a wee bit tart. When Minnesota farm boy, William McKnight, and sassy Scot, Lyndsie Morris, are forced to work together in the kitchen of Rabbit Hill Lodge, the atmosphere is as charged as an episode of Chopped. Will someone get cut, or will they find a recipe that works? Things just start to get spicy when an angry bull butts his way into the picture, and Lyndsie has to decide if she loves William more than everyone and everything she holds dear.

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Where Were You When…..?, by Carole Howard

Those of us who were around at the time will always remember where we were when we heard about JFK’s assassination. I was in my dorm room, blissfully unaware of what was going on, until my raucous roommate told me how the universe’s axis had just shifted.  The man who would turn out to be my husband was in a small town in Senegal as a Peace Corps volunteer.  He had to figure out what the kid who spoke only Wolof was trying to tell him.  And it was the same with 9/11.  We were in Paris, in a rented apartment.  TV, yes, but no CNN.  We felt very cut off and extremely American.

I imagine most people don’t feel that way about hearing that Captain Sullenberger landed a plane in the Hudson River. But I do.

My husband and I were in an internet cafe down the block from our apartment in Accra, Ghana. If you’re visualizing a spiffy computer-filled and highly air-conditioned room, stop. There were internet cafes like that in Accra, but not the one in our neighborhood.   This one was very hot and mostly frequented by kids playing video games with very loud rap music as background. Its chief advantage was location.

We went every day after work. On that day, we “opened” the NYTimes and saw the news about Sully. We’re New Yorkers, so it was “our” Hudson River in “our” city in “our” country. OHMYOHMY. We wanted to talk to everyone in the place about it, but being the oldest ones and the only foreigners made conversation difficult. Thank goodness we had each other to share our amazement with.

I just saw the movie Sully, which I liked a lot. Plus I loved my mental trip to “our” internet cafe in Ghana. Without the rap music as background.

How about you?  Is there anything you associate with the particular place you were in when you heard about it?
Our Accra neighborhood

Our Accra neighborhood: This is our end of the street, in the morning, looking down towards “our” internet cafe.

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Carole Howard is the author of Deadly Adagio, a murder mystery set in Senegal, around the corner from Ghana.

 

 

 

 

 

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Interview with Steve Hagood, Author of CHASING THE WOODSTOCK BABY

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Welcome, Steve. What is your book about?

Retired Detroit police detective Chase is approached by a nice old lady who asks him to find the baby she had, and lost, at Woodstock. The search takes Chase to a small town in Michigan that has a secret that it has been hiding for four decades. The man who runs the town will go to any lengths, including murder, to keep the secret.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

I have always been fascinated with Woodstock. When I heard the legend of the Woodstock baby I wondered what had happened to it. Why has nobody ever come forward to claim to be the baby, or the mother? My imagination took over from there.

Tell us a little about your main characters. Who was your favorite? Why?

Obviously, my protagonist Chase is my main and favorite character. A lot of Private Investigators in novels have a sidekick who acts as his foil – dark, mysterious, the guy who does the dirty work – Spenser and Hawk, Elvis Cole and Joe Pike. Chase is both of those guys rolled into one. He is the wise cracking, lovable guy who isn’t afraid to do the dirty work.

Sarge and Sally are Chase’s partners in the bar he owns. Sarge was Chase’s training officer when he joined the Detroit Police. He still acts as a mentor and a steadying influence. Sally is the brains of the operation. She acts as Chase’s de facto research department. She doubles as the female, creating sexual tension between the two.

Did you do any research for the book? If so, how did you do it? (searching Internet, magazines, other books, etc.)

Yes. I had to do quite a bit of research for this book. The internet is a wonderful tool for a writer. It can transport you to any place and any time you want. I was able to put myself at Woodstock through pictures and stories. Hopefully my writing puts the reader there with me.

What’s your writing schedule like? Do you strive for a certain amount of words each day?

I don’t really have a schedule. I have a day job and a family so it’s not always easy to find time to write. I write when I can. I live by the mantra “Writers write” to push myself to write something every day, even if it’s just a few paragraphs or sentences.

What are you working on right now?

I recently finished another Chase novel, titled Cold Dark Places. Hopefully we will see it soon from Indigo Sea Press. It’s a story about a college girl missing in Detroit, and the basketball player implicated in her disappearance.

What was the first story you remember writing?

I didn’t start writing until about thirty. The first story I wrote was a ghost story. I don’t know why. It’s the only ghost story I’ve ever written. It was about a group of friends on a fishing trip who were haunted by the ghost of a Civil War soldier. It wasn’t very good, but it was a lot of fun to write.

Where do you get the names for your characters?

Names are tough. One of the techniques I use is to open up the internet and use the first name that I see, if it fits the character that I need to name. I head up a scholarship given by my graduating class to the high school we graduated from. I offered my former classmates their name in a book in exchange for a donation to the scholarship. I had a couple people who wanted to see their name in a book, so it worked out for me, for them, and the scholarship.

What’s been the most surprising part of being a writer?

The most surprising aspect of writing, for me, is when the story builds upon itself. Sometimes I feel like a stenographer. I’m just the guy typing the words, the story is writing itself. In The Woodstock Baby there is a scene where Chase is questioning a suspect, the suspect denies any involvement and Chase says, “We have a witness!” I thought, “Wow, there’s a witness!” I didn’t know there was a witness until I typed it, and I’m the author! I couldn’t wait to see who the witness was because I sure didn’t know.

What writer influenced you the most?

I actually have two big influences. The late great Robert B. Parker made me fall in love with books. His Spenser stories are still my favorite. I’ve read them all multiple times. The fact that Chase is known by a single name is in homage to Parker and Spenser.

The other writer who influenced me is JA Konrath. I love his books, but it’s more than just his writing that influenced me. One thing the general public doesn’t know is that it is very difficult to get published – “you should publish that” a lot. If only it was that easy. Konrath called himself the king of rejection. He wrote nine full novels in two or three different genres before he got one published. He accumulated literally hundreds of rejections, but he never gave up. He eventually broke through and now has millions of books sold. He inspired me to never give up, to never stop chasing my dream.

What one word describes how you feel when you write?

Joy

If your book was made into a TV series or Movie, what actors would you like to see playing your characters?

Ironically, in Cold Dark Places I make mention to The Woodstock Baby and how some Hollywood people wanted to make a movie about the case. They promised to get Denzel Washington to play Chase, even though Chase is “white, younger than, and nowhere near as pretty” as Denzel.

In “real life” I see Chase as more of a Will Patton type. He has the ability to be caring and tough and make them both authentic.

There’s this other actor who I know named Tevis Marcum who I think would do an outstanding job as Chase. He’s from the Detroit area and has the look. Like Will Patton he has the ability to be caring and tough in the same character.

What is something you never leave home without (apart from keys, money and phone)?

My flash drive. My work goes everywhere with me. I do back it up to my computer however. It has gone through the wash a time or two. There is no terror like the terror of finding your flash drive in the bottom of the washing machine.

What is your favorite place, real or fictional? Why?

Saline, Michigan. It’s my hometown. I moved away for a while and when I returned I thought, “Ahh, I’m home.” When I needed a small town to set The Woodstock Baby in I chose Saline because “there’s no place like home.”

Where can people learn more about your books?

From Indigo Sea Press http://www.indigoseapress.com/Stiletto-Books–Crime-and-Mystery-Authors-A-H.php#Steve and www.stevehagood.com

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A Gigantic Ball of Twine by Christine Husom

There is a lot of pride displayed in the small town of Darwin, Minnesota. And at the center of it all sits the world’s largest twine ball that was rolled by a single person. It is thirteen feet in diameter, weighs 17,400 pounds, and has a circumference of forty feet. It sits in a display case, a plexi-glass gazebo, across from the town park. Plus it boasts its own museum in an old train depot that sits behind it.

I’d seen the twine ball before, but stopped in again this past summer with a few friends. We were admiring the ball when a friendly woman emerged from the museum and invited us in.

She told us about Francis A. Johnson, a man who had lived his whole life on a farm in Meeker County. He started rolling the ball of twine in his basement in 1950. He spent four hours every day for twenty-three days. At some point he moved the ball to his front lawn, and continued rolling. As it got larger, Johnson used railroad jacks to enable him to keep the ball round. Mr. Johnson wrapped for a total of twenty-nine years and built a circular open air shed to house it, protecting it from the elements.

When Johnson died in 1989, the city of Darwin moved the gigantic ball into town.

In the museum there are photos of Weird Al Yankovic who paid a visit to the town and wrote the song, “The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota,” in 1989 as a tribute.

The woman also showed us the ingenious pliers Johnson made from single pieces of wood, without using any glue, or pins to separate the pieces. They open and close, but don’t function as true pliers. He carved the smallest one from a match. The largest is seven feet tall and unfolds to be about twenty feet long. And it has twenty-four more little pliers—the smallest is less than an inch—carved on its handles. Amazing!

If you are in touring through Central Minnesota, west on Highway 12 from the Twin Cities, it’d be worth your while to stop in Darwin and take a long look at the “World’s Largest Twine Ball Rolled by One Man.”

 

Christine Husom is the author of the Winnebago County Mystery Series

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Another Special Day by John E. Stack

Today marks a very special day.  In the doctor’s eyes, this special day was never supposed to happen.  Nor were the six before it.  Today is my daughter’s seventh birthday.  At seven years old, Allie is full of herself.  And, rightly so, because she has come a very long way.

We originally met Allie when she was 4 months old.  We are foster parents and she was in the pediatric intensive care at a hospital over an hour from where we live.  Right after she was born, she developed what is called “short gut” syndrome.  Due to lack of oxygen, her intestines started to die.  Her birth mom smoked a lot so delivery would not be so painful, but it was devastating to the baby.  After several surgeries, the doctors had removed around eighty percent of both her large and small intestines. 

Allie came to live with us at around six months of age.  The doctor at the hospital told us she was very sick and she didn’t expect the baby to live more than three weeks.  I won’t go into what my wife told that lady doctor.  We took her home and treated her as if she were our own – holding, loving, cuddling.

At that time, Allie was on a feeding tube and IV nutrition.  She had not been held or bonded with.  Through time, she has gone through more surgeries for intestinal blockages.   She has gone through occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech therapy.

We quickly fell in love and knew that God had placed her in our lives.  At two years of age her adoption became final.  I became a dad again at the age of 56.

She is now in the first grade (a lot the doctor knew).  She is still in speech therapy but no longer has a feeding tube.  She has always been smaller than her peers, but is now starting to grow and is actually taller than some of them. 

Intellectually, she is doing great. Speech helped her to learn words that she did not know.  She taught herself to read at age three and now is reading chapter books, such as Nancy Drew Mysteries.

Allie surprises us every day with something new.  She is AMAZING.  God has blessed us in our old age with this wonderful little girl.  And, we praise him.   

To Allie:

Happy Birthday, my baby girl.  I love you!

                                                      Dad

***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.  He is also the author of soon to be released Cody and the Great Zoo Escape and Secret Lives (of middle school teachers).

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Subtraction Distraction by Sheila Deeth

The trouble with being a mathematician is you like things to make sense. So spelling’s supposed to be logical. Grammar should have simple rules. Punctuation should be more than vaguely undefined measurement. And what should a mathematician do when tasked with producing an anthology for a local writing group?

The trouble with literary rules is everyone reads and writes them a different way. Some authors never use quotation marks. They get away with it, a) because they’re famous, and b) because they’re consistent. The reader turns the pages and soon works out how those sentences should sound. But when everyone in the anthology uses a different set of rules, the reader ends up with unmeasurably ill-defined noises from each page all demanding to be properly understood. So what’s a mathematician to do?

I got together with my fellow volunteers. We pondered whether ellipses should have spaces before and after. What about m-dashes? Should we get rid of straight quotes and replace them with curly ones. And could we make a cheat-sheet of simple editing instructions? All went well and the cheat sheet’s only one page long. Then we came to that vexing question of usage: m-dash or ellipsis; how, when and where?

Some web-pages told us ellipses are used in dialog; m-dashes in prose. Others said ellipses are for trailing dialog; m-dashes for interruptions. Still others insisted ellipses be used whenever a sentence was incomplete. But I’m a mathematician, and we needed a rule.

In the end, we came up with something moderately mathematical. The ellipsis, we said, is for missing words, whether forgotten, unspoken, left out, interrupted, or just too many to quote. M-dashes are for extra words, where one sentence is inserted inside another, where brackets might be used, where intersecting ideas overlap. It sounded good, but what do we do with this?

“My child… my baby… my heart…” the poor mother cried.

Are the thoughts interrupted, intersected, incomplete, or all three. (Our best suggestion was to capitalize the ms, making three incomplete sentences with ellipses to cover the missing words.)

Then there’s this, from my upcoming novel, Subtraction. A math teacher prepares to treat his students to burgers and fries while pondering “Who am I?”

Voices from the past ushered a host of memories into Andrew’s mind. Amelia was the girl long gone, child of a house whose antique, ticking clock kept perfect time. Amelia was lost under green of trees and the pricking of tangled branches of a place called Paradise—Amelia, Andrew’s parents, Carl… all subtracted like numbers from Andrew’s page. He let his gaze drift to the window, hoping the sky’s bright tones would wash his palette clean again. But who-am-I doubts combined with the whispering of leaves and chatter of children. He couldn’t forget. That long slow walk between Tom’s desk and the classroom door could take a lifetime, waiting for delivery’s knock.

The m-dash leads on from a completed sentence, I guess. And the ellipsis ends a list with names left out; but I’m not sure. Does it look odd to you? Should we add another rule that no sentence include both?

Meanwhile, being a Harry Potter fan as well as a mathematician, I just happened to be reading my (American) copy of The Cursed Child and comparing it with my son’s (English) copy. So there it was, in black and white… a sentence which used ellipses in one edition was punctuated by a comma and an m-dash in the other! Help!

Alas, the trouble with being a mathematician isn’t just that you like things to make sense. You like the rules to be simple and clean as well, with no exceptions please…

i before e except after c? No wonder I always hated spelling.

Sheila Deeth (with an e before the i) is a mathematician and a writer. Her Mathemafiction series of novels is published by Indigo Sea. Divide by Zero and Infinite Sum have already been released, and Subtraction is coming soon. She’s currently working on the fourth book, Imaginary Numbers, and promises to be moderately logical with her punctuation.

 

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I Take The Con by Chuck Thurston

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Every now and then, Captain Kirk orders one of his starship Enterprise crew to “take the con!” as he beams elsewhere to handle other business. It’s usually Spock, but if Spock joins him on his mission, the con passes down to Sulu or Checkov, or…who knows? In a recent movie, so many of the high level regulars were elsewhere, that the duty might have passed down to a surprised ship’s steward, as he delivered coffee to the bridge.

Just what is the “con” and what does one do with it? The expression originated on early battleships and cruisers, and dates as far back as 1840 sailing warships. These ships were built with “conning towers” – a raised platform on a ship, often armored, and usually located as high on the ship as practical, to give the conning team good visibility of the entirety of their own ship, and of ocean conditions and other vessels. The officer could “con” the vessel, i.e., command or “conduct” the operations of a ship during battle by passing orders down to the helm. The Star Trek crew assumed a lot of Naval terminology as they sailed through the stars.

I was always obsessed with airplanes. As a young boy in WWII, I collected books and pictures of the warbirds of that era. I wanted to be a pilot. One of my idols was the lead character in a movie serial, “Don Winslow of the Coast Guard.” Commander Winslow piloted a seaplane on the lookout for spies, saboteurs and other enemy agents that might be threatening America’s Pacific coast.

Some years later, I had the con for a very short time.

I never did get to pilot training, but I did get to fly – and I had the best seat in the house. I joined the Coast Guard, went to Aviation Electronic School and flew as radioman on the principle search and rescue aircraft of the day – the Grumman Albatross amphibious flying boat, military designation UF1G. The radioman’s seat was on the flight deck on a slightly raised platform directly behind the co-pilot – one looked over his shoulder, as a matter of fact.

On one SAR flight, the co-pilot had to answer a call from nature and went aft to the plane’s small head (toilet, to civilians) – smaller than a phone booth, and located in the very rear of the aircraft. As he left, the pilot turned to me and said, “Like to sit up here, Radio?” Did I! I hurried up and strapped myself in before he belayed (rescinded, to civilians) the order. After a minute or so, he spoke again, “How would you like to feel the plane?”

I can’t describe the feeling as I took the yoke and gently moved it up and down just a bit, while watching the artificial horizon gauge on the instrument panel. I had the con!  Of a six ton seaplane! Over the North Atlantic!

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I’d like to say that I spotted something in the ocean below, turned and banked, and roared over the object of our search – a distressed soul waving frantically from a life raft. Of course that isn’t true. Soon enough, the co-pilot finished his business, returned to claim his seat and I went back to mine. My four or five minutes at the con were over.

Chuck Thurston has published two collections of his columns and stories, available from Amazon or Indigo Sea Press. A number of reminiscences of life in a Coast Guard SAR unit are included.  

 

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Wyatt Earp, Gone Again

Did you know the real-life Sheriff Wyatt Earp lived from 1848 to 1929 and was most famous for the legendary “Shootout at the O.K. Corral” in Tombstone, Arizona in 1881? And that some of his authentic escapades were used later in the TV show, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp which ran from 1955 to 1961? This blog post is about and dedicated to actor Hugh O’Brian who starred in the TV episodes. I was saddened to learn Mr. O’Brian passed away on Monday, September fifth at the age of ninety-one. He was in TV, movies and theater, but was also a dedicated and important philanthropist.

Many of you might not know that westerns were huge on TV in the late 1950s and 60s. I was a teenager and my parents and I would watch Wyatt Earp together as a family; something that has been almost lost over the ensuing years. My father was a big fan of westerns and we watched most of those shows and I still remember the theme songs from many of them.

Fast forward to the mid-1980s. I was in a restaurant in Montgomery, Alabama with friends and on my way back from the ladies’ room; I spotted a man I was sure I recognized. I returned to my table and asked my friends if they recognized him as well, but no one did. I couldn’t let it go. I had to find out, so I gathered up my courage and approached the gentleman’s table. Apologizing profusely for disturbing him and his friends, I asked, “Are you Hugh O’Brian?”

He smiled at me and said he was. I remember being very nervous, but I told him what a fan I was, and that my parents and I watched his show faithfully every week until the end. I even told him I remembered the theme song of Wyatt Earp. I could tell, he didn’t believe me, but was hesitant to embarrass me, so I offered to sing it to him, if he would forgive my singing. He, clearly, was enjoying my interruption and said he’d love to hear it.

I summoned up the last of my courage and began:

          “Wyatt Earp, Wyatt Earp,

          Brave courageous and bold.

          Long live your fame and long live your glory,

          And long may your story be told.”

Much to my surprise and shock, there was not only applause from Mr. O’Brian, but also from his friends, and from several tables of people nearby. I’m glad the restaurant wasn’t well lit at that hour (they dimmed the lights for dinnertime), because I imagine my face was appropriately scarlet.

With a somewhat shaky voice, I humbly thanked Mr. O’Brian for allowing me to interrupt him and his friends and went back to my seat. He was so gracious and I think he was pleased to still have fans after all those years. He was a gentleman both on and off the screen. That’s a moment I’ll never forget.

I don’t have a picture of Hugh O’Brian, but if you’d like to see what he looked like, click: his website is:

 

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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PURPOSE by Thornton Cline

PURPOSE
by Thornton Cline

In my debut non-fiction book, “Not My Time to Go” on Indigo Sea Press I devote chapter seventeen to the purpose of living on Earth. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines purpose as the reason something is done or used or the aim or intention of something.
Throughout my true compelling close-call, near-misses with death I gradually discovered my purpose for living on Earth. I once believed that I existed just to eat, drink, and be happy. I didn’t think too much about other people’s lives, but put high value on indulging in worldly pleasures. I didn’t have much concern for my fellow brothers and sisters. Life was all about me. And while I played the violin and piano growing up, I used those talents and gifts for my own self-seeking purposes, not for a higher purpose.
Through all of my self-seeking, I gradually became reckless, taking foolish changes with my life. Many times I felt immortal. I depended only on myself for everything. The Lord was far removed from my life, despite my childhood spent attending church. I had forgotten how to pray, and, in fact, I didn’t feel like I needed to pray at all.
Of course, that was far from the truth. My guardian angel, other angels, and my Lord and Savior have always been by my side. I just haven’t come to that realization yet. All that time when I thought I was doing it on my own, my angel and the Lord were there helping me through everything in my life.
While I was depending on myself, they were what I needed. But no one could tell me. No one could preach that message to me. I had to learn it the hard way.
Slowly but surely, I came to the realization that I wasn’t here on Earth only to take up space and to exist. I also realized that life wasn’t about partying and pleasing myself with selfish ambitions.
Through the near-tragedies that I experienced, I began to conclude that life on Earth was a testing ground for my everlasting life in Heaven. Life was about storing up treasures for the hereafter. It was not about pleasing myself in partying and living it up, nor was it about accumulating riches and wealth while on Earth. I realized that I was constantly being tempted and torn between the invincible greatness and goodness of the Lord Almighty and the dark, evil forces of Satan. I discovered that every decision I made in my life had its consequences.
Life, I finally saw, was about God’s kingdom on Earth, serving God faithfully, and planting seeds by helping others so that the fruits of my labor could be reaped later. My mission was to reach others with my gifts and bring them into God’s fold.
Finally, life makes sense knowing why I am here on Earth and what my purpose is. It took those 11 close-call, near death experiences to help me to discover my purpose and the meaning of life.

Thornton Cline, author of "Not My Time to Go"

Thornton Cline, author of “Not My Time to Go”

Recent discussion about "Purpose" with the Richmond, VA writers group

Recent discussion about “Purpose” with the Richmond, VA writers group

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In Dark We Trust

My relationship with darkness is complicated. Sort of a love/hate thing. I can’t sleep with the light on, but when I wake up in the night and find myself enveloped in blackness, the little girl that still lives inside of me is terrified. She still sees shapes in the shadows . . . my robe is a man in a top hat looming behind the door; the ceiling fan is the grim reaper, arms stretched toward my bed.

Still . . .

My favorite movie is a scary one.

My favorite holiday is Halloween.

My favorite book is a horror novel.

I love the dark. I fear the dark.

Have you ever been to Hobby Lobby? I don’t know why, but in every single Hobby Lobby, the bathroom is shoved in the most isolated part of the store, behind the styrofoam wreath forms and plastic flowers. It’s a dark and lonely place. I find this odd, because a lot of the folks who shop at Hobby Lobby meander. You can’t tell me that a few of them wouldn’t have to cop a squat at some point in time.

It boggles the mind.

I tend to drink a lot of coffee and/or soda.

Which means I can’t spend two hours in Hobby Lobby without my bladder filling at least once.

So I make my way to the back of the store. Back there, the wind sifts through the fake ficus leaves, sending them to rustling. A tumble weed or two blows by. The canned music fades into the distance, sounding a bit like a carousel tune.

The bathroom doors need a paint job. They are covered with that weird, textured paint that likes to 1) chip enough to reveal the previously rejected booger color and 2) absorb and retain the grimy print from every hand that ever rested there.

I always check my shoes for toilet paper when I leave.

Inside, the lights are off.

They are the sort of lights that are motion sensitive. They won’t come on unless you step into the darkness. And not only do you have to step into the darkness, you have to let the door close behind you and take some steps forward in order to trigger the sensors.

In other words, you have to trust that the electricity in the completely isolated Hobby Lobby bathroom with the dirty paint on the door will work.

God, thy name is Hobby Lobby Light Switch. And in thee I have to trust, even if I don’t wanna.

lightbulb

Back in the store again, the music is louder, the colors brighter, and the Halloween decorations are in stock because, hey, it is September 8. In the flouresent gleam of the store, they beckon. I brought a skull and it them on my desk to watch me work.  It seems very amused.

skull

Writing is a scary business.

And mysterious.

Am I afraid of the thoughts will tumble from me onto the computer screen, or am I afraid I’ll produce nothing worth reading?

Could it be both?

Either way I’m going to keep checking my shoes for toilet paper.

 

 

 

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