Tag Archives: summer

Pssst, Tell Me Your Story, Mister by J J Dare

Yesterday as I sat in the airport waiting for my oldest daughter and youngest granddaughter’s flight, I entertained myself by writing shorty-shorts about some of the people passing by. The rules were simple: try to keep it less than fifty words, don’t look up until I finish and the next story has to be about the first person I see when I raise my head.

* * *

He dropped the suitcase again, but this time it flew open and spewed the story of his life under the feet of a hundred other travelers. No more secrets. Perhaps it was time to tell his parents he liked to wear pink underwear.

* * *

She was a sharp-dressed woman with a sharp-dressed attitude. Please don’t notice the tremble in her hand or the strain in her eyes or how out of breath she was. One more deal and she could rest. One more meeting and she could retire . . . if she didn’t die first.

* * *

The little boy wearing a Disney World cap screamed at the top of his lungs as he tried to keep up with his mother. She was walking too fast and when he stumbled and fell, she stopped and dropped the burden of half-dozen bags and bundles, and cried with him.

* * *

Scanning the crowd of people, the hunched old woman gave way to confusion. No one was here to meet her. Her eyes filled with tears until she heard the cacophony of her family above the roar of a thousand others. Maybe it wasn’t too late to reboard the plane.

* * *

She waited restlessly at the head of the ramp for the flight to arrive. It had been so long, the baby didn’t recognize her. No matter, she thought, as she picked her protesting granddaughter up; plenty of time to reconnect.

* * *

It was a better than the  people buffet at the casinos.  I believe the terminal at the airport is in the top three places to grab writing inspiration.  I may go back from time to time and just sit and write. I scribbled over thirty stories while waiting. The last story was my own.

J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short stories and about thirty works-in-progress.

Current enthusiasm is co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch

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Tornado in Cullman

The title of this article would make for a good TV movie, but this is real life in a small Alabama town. I’ve been somewhat trapped here for going on five days now. Founded by John G. Cullman in 1873, an EF4 tornado slammed the area April 27th. Two souls were lost.

As of this morning, 655 homes and 87 businesses are completely destroyed. According to the May 5th edition of The Cullman Times, 30 additional buildings have been red tagged to be razed. Work crews have removed more than 1,272 loads of foliage and debris form the city due to this early summer storm.

I’m accustomed to making up my own dialogue—occasionally “stealing” an overheard line from time to time, but the words that have been uttered to me in my short time here is not conjured from my imagination. Words such as:

Amusing: “The cable is out! No TV ’till don’t know when.”

Overheard sadness at Cracker Barrel: “It got our house,” an older man said, wounds dotting his entire face, eyeglasses askew on his nose. The cashier asked if he and his wife were okay. The man replied, “She’s out now.” (of the hospital I can only assume.) When the woman told him to take care, he said, “You should have seen me yesterday.” He gave her a little smile, took up his to-go order bag and limped away.

Heartbreaking: “My house is gone. Everything. Gone.”

A little scary: “I’m sorry, y’all but we’re closed, ’cause of the curfew and all.” I thought, Curfew! Huh? Is this a war zone? Nearly. As we made a slow crawl into downtown two Chinook helicopters flew overhead. Platoons of National Guard were stationed at every intersection in town, Humvies blocking the edge of ground zero where the tornado hit the Historical District featuring buildings over 100 years old.

Above and below is what’s left of the Little Bit of Everything building, 100 years old this year, initially the Fuller Brothers Ford Motor dealership. You can see the original wood where the brick façade literally dropped from the outside walls, steel I-beams bent from the force of destruction.

Here’s a link to more photographs of the tornado’s destruction.

I don’t believe there’s ever been a tornado where I live in the Phoenix, Arizonaarea and I didn’t know what to expect. When we arrived in Cullman we were fortunate to find a hotel room, but could only book lodging on a night by night basis as they needed to free up space for workers making the town safe and getting services back up and running.

Personnel have temporarily relocated in order to get the town up and running again. I spoke with a Verizon worker in town from Atlanta, Georgia, and an AT&T electrician from Miami who said his company sent workers from all over Florida to raise new poles and string fresh power lines.

Two ladies showed me last Sunday’s paper which featured aerial, wide angle photographs. “See that big old pile of bricks. That’s our church.” Then she pointed a shaking finger at another picture, nothing discernable but the street and sidewalks lining an intersection—nothing but bricks, wood and twisted metal, as if the business had imploded where they once stood. “And that picture there . . . right there on the corner is where I had lunch not more than fifteen minutes before the tornado came through.”

Although worries now include looting and price gouging, the residents and business owners of Cullman are focusing on lending neighbors a hand. They will rebuild their homes, cafés and places of worship, fill their shops with new goods to trade.

I won’t forget the devastation witnessed first hand; the unidentifiable smells hanging in the downtown air; the stunned people walking aimlessly, heads shaking to and fro, pointing at what was once there.

Residents of Cullman won’t soon forget the April 2011 tornado, the unfortunate reason that brought folks from all over southeastern states to lend a hand.

As with every small southern town I’ve ever had the privilege to visit, these strong willed people are filled with kindness, merely grateful to have survived—all ready to move forward, their relationships and faith stronger, resilience intact.

Deborah J Ledford’s latest novel SNARE, The Hillerman Sky Award Finalist, is book two of her Deputy Hawk/Inola Walela thriller series. STACCATO, book one of the serial, is also available. Both novels are published by Second Wind Publishing.

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Life Inside the Book

I never really thought about the intimacy of the books in my bookcase until recently. Granted, this epiphany should have popped into my brain after my last post, but somehow, in the chaos of life, it slipped by.

Each and every book carries the author inside. No matter what the subject, there will always be varying degrees of the creator mixed in with the story. I have a host of silent companions waiting for me to open their doors and shares their lives. The most intriguing part is finding the writer hiding (sometimes in plain sight) within the tale.

Some authors purposely reach out to the reader. Like a streaker on a football field at halftime, some writers are so embedded in their own fictional tales I can hear them scream, “Look at Me!”

Others try to steer away from themselves. Those tricky little devils are harder to find, but not impossible. Unless you’re a robot, there’s no way to hide the part of your essence that becomes trapped in what you write.

As I pen this blog, I’m looking at my bookcase. Ernest Hemingway is too easy; he’s entwined in all he wrote (he’s a streaker). John Updike was perpetually wide-eyed in surprise and Dean Koontz adores his dogs. William Porter was constantly searching.

Willa Cather loved. Marlys Millhiser is always alone in a crowd. Carolyn Chute is on every page of her books (another streaker).

Writers pull from life. Joy, sadness, fear, loneliness: our emotions translate into words on the page. The seasons in our lives spring forth with the summer of our youth and the winter of our twilight years. We invest something more, though, as we plug away at the keyboard. A part of ourselves, recognized or not, runs through our stories.

I have no plans to write an autobiography, but I have already started. Every writer does. We put ourselves in our books and it’s sometimes hard to separate fact from fiction. What we write becomes another appendage or, in some cases, a conjoined twin (Hemingway, again). Sometimes, it’s an evil twin, as in the case of James Frey or, in current news, of Greg Mortenson.

It is said we are what we eat. It can also be said we are what we write, we are what we read.

How often have you noticed the personality of the author in his or her books, readers? In the same vein, which book hits closest to home for our writers?

J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short stories and about thirty works-in-progress.

Current enthusiasm is co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch

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Thinking of Summer in the Winter

It’s true. I admit it. I’m not a winter person.

As I write this, schools (and work) have been closed thanks to a wintry mix of snow and ice. When my son wakes, it will be all I can do to find his boots in time before he runs out of the house, pell mell toward the hill with sled at his side. That will be fun for a bit, and the following fire in the fireplace, a lovely bowl of homemade soup with my freshly baked bread, games to play and a book nearby will help us pass the day away.

Still, I dream of summer: hot, sticky afternoons turning into hot sticky nights in the days before air conditioning. I fondly recall time spent in the Severn River swimming, diving, canoeing, or sailing, long before kayaks were all the rage; and I truly dream of the frequent crabbing sessions. We’d lean way out over the edge of a pier to see if the weighted chicken neck attracted the attention of a blue crab big enough to be a keeper, the imprint of the dock’s weathered boards leaving their mark on my t-shirt and mind for years to come.

For what seemed an all too brief time in my life, my family lived in a magical place near Annapolis, Maryland. We referred to it as “the Forest” or “Sherwood” … it might as well been called heaven to a kid, though. When we were summer people, we had a small green clapboard-sided cottage with white trim on Robin Hood Road – it was more of a loop, where we lived with screen doors slamming as all four of us kids ran in and out constantly off to club (they now call it camp), or back in from some waterfront activity. From the breakfast table, we’d call across ravines to friends to see who was going where when; we walked, ran, or rode bikes everywhere (the kids now take golf carts to their destinations); we swam in the river (there’s now a pool – can you imagine?); and when we got older, we visited “The Pit” – a nice name for a place to hang out at night with the same kids we were in club with all day.

The house is still there, but it’s now a three-story, glassed-in, protected-from-the-elements fortress. Hard to recognize, to say the least. There will be no undetected slipping out of those screen windows. When that window opened to the bedroom I shared with my two sisters, we regularly rolled out of bed in shorts and flip flops to meet friends down at the river for a moonlight dip. I’m sure my parents knew we did it, but it seemed like harmless, covert fun at the time.

There were dances in the clubhouse, church services in the fellowship hall, and a ten-pin bowling alley down below where my younger brother earned a little money straddling the alley so he could jump down to reset the pins for the next bowler. It was a coveted job, to be sure. When he finished a shift, he would promptly head over to the General Store, ask Duffy to make something substantial for a snack, and often as not, charge it to my parents’ account. Standing tall in his white apron, Duffy took on many roles: cook, store clerk, postmaster, and stand-in parent to all the kids of Sherwood with a watchful eye and a stern warning for anyone who crossed the line with one too many sweets. The store is still there. It’s a gourmet deli, though, and Duffy is long gone.

We played volleyball, tennis, softball, badminton, golf, and water polo. Archery was an activity for everyone, as was lacrosse. Soccer (in the days before the current soccer craze) and lacrosse were played on the same small field – at least I remember it as small, compared to the mega-soccer complexes of today.

And even on the coldest mornings (and there were cold mornings in Maryland during the summer), if swimming was the first activity of the day, we were in the water, struggling to get warm under the tutelage of Coach Cropp, and battling sea nettles. Swimming across the river was a rite of passage. At the end of summer, as a team we swam across the river en masse to psyche out the opposing time –they swam in a pool, for heaven’s sake. The trick worked well, as I recall – plus, we’d had our warm up on the way. The only down side was we had to swim back after the meet was over, and we were tired and hungry. Or at least I was. But we all made it. We all survived. We all reveled in the days of summer in Sherwood Forest.

The annual end of summer event to top all, the Corn Roast, was something special – so special, I made the trek back to attend one after many years’ absence. Aside from the family grills blazing and a beer truck at the ready, the centerpiece of the event is the definitely the corn. Large ditches are dug, fires smolder all afternoon, and corn—still in the husk—is steamed in metal canoes. Burlap is fitted over the top of the canoe and hosed down from time to time, making the absolute best corn I have ever tasted. Ever. Thoughts of visiting with old friends on Robin Hood Beach, watching the dolled-up girls make their entrance, (many of them are my dear friends’ daughters) bring a smile to my lips on a bitter cold morning. Ah, summer.

These memories flutter in and out of my mind on cold mornings as I begin in earnest my next novel. The characters deal with similar living conditions, though they have far less than we ever did. They just don’t know it. Nobody knew what life would hold. (I’m not sure any of us grownups do now, either.)

The story is set in 1942 in a small North Carolina village greatly impacted by the Great Depression and subsequent war. Summer in this waterside village is very similar in climate to Maryland’s, with sticky days, bugs, and the incredible cacophony of bugs at night where the only protection might be a screened porch – a thin veil separating occupants of home from the incredible outside life. Activities vary, but still focus on water.

While the characters and story are fictitious, the place was at one time very real, very much alive with families. There was a schoolhouse, a store, a church, and homes with gardens. There was a cemetery, which still remains on a bluff overlooking a river.

With the exception of the cemetery, the village doesn’t exist anymore. In many ways, it reminds me of the Sherwood Forest of my childhood. It no longer exists either, though the place is still very much there – just in a different way. Ah, the lens of childhood.

Laura S. Wharton is the Second Wind author of The Pirate’s Bastard and the forthcoming children’s story, Mystery at the Phoenix Festival. Learn more about her and her books at http://www.LauraWhartonBooks.com or laurawharton.blogspot.com.

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RUBICON RANCH – The Suspects are Growing

Summer is over. Fall is upon us. Time for a new project. The second chapter of Rubicon Ranch is now available and I couldn’t be more pleased. I’m thrilled to be one of the writers involved in this collaborative novel. This innovative concept of presenting chapters online, followed by a printed version of the book may very well become a standard, but Pat Bertram thought of it first and Second Wind Publishing is enthusiastically supporting nine of their crime writer novelists in this project.

The first chapter, by Pat Bertram, features Melanie Gray, the recent widow who discovers the body of a little girl stuffed into the console of an ancient television set. Chapter two follows the path of the county sheriff as he begins his investigation. Lazarus Barnhill presents a compelling character who begins to expose the seven suspects living in the upscale California desert community of Rubicon Ranch.

Chapter eight is when you will meet my character, Eloy Templeton Franklin, an 82-year-old ex-military man who acts as sentry of the neighborhood. Riddled with arthritis, all but feeble, he is an outsider who rarely leaves his porch . . . or does he?

Eloy has been a much welcomed break as I toil through the galley of my upcoming thriller in search of dropped words, misplaced commas, inconsistencies, killing passives, all the while doing my best to approach this arduous task as if it is the first time reading this manuscript when it’s got to be the fiftieth.

SNARE is Book Two of my Steven Hawk/Inola Walela series which is scheduled for release in December. Chantelle Aimée Osman has come up with a striking cover guaranteed to entice every suspense lover. Look for “SNARE Uncovered” on this blog December 5th to get a peek at this extraordinary cover and to find out more about the upcoming release.

In the meantime, stay tuned to the Rubicon Road site where a new chapter will be presented every Monday.

 Deborah J Ledford is the author of the debut suspense thriller novel STACCATO, now available from Second Wind Publishing, Amazon and Kindle. If you’re in the Arizona area, STACCATO can be found at Borders Scottsdale Waterfront, The Well Red Coyote, and Changing Hands Bookstore.

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Hot Fun in the Summertime

Summer has arrived.

It’s 106 degrees as I write.

Tommorrow, its supposed to be 109, and the forecast predicts 110 by Friday.

It’s barely summer.

On the plus side, the kids will live in the pool for the next four months.

I may get some writing done

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Cicada Time

Metamorphosis 

Bob was sitting on the picnic table the other morning, smiling and pleased with himself. He’d been out dancing in the moonlight all night. I was sitting on the bench, patting him. He seemed entirely happy, kneading air with his paws and showing me his spotted belly, playing at being a Domesticated Animal. 

The first cicadas are starting in our area, the genetic misfits who awaken on the far edge of their particular Bell Curve. They don’t sing much and flame out early. When one fell from a nearby maple, buzzing like a clockwork toy unwinding, Bob leapt from the table with a bound which would have done a cougar credit and made short work of it.  

(It’s humbling, the way he can tune me out. Snap! Gone on cat business!)  

I suppose he ate the poor confused thing, like he does everything else. Cicadas, with heads that are pure fat, are one of Mother Nature’s most sought-after crunchy snacks. Birds adore them. I’ve even seen squirrels eat them, these winged, green-armored Doritos of the insect world.  I would think the wings and feet would make for an over-ridingly icky mouth feel, but not coming from an insect-eating culture, I can’t really judge. 

I love cicadas. When I was small, some imaginative family member told me that their wings–see-through, gossamer, etched in green–were fairy wings. I guess what I really love is their deafening song, which can be as loud as 120 decibels up close. They are one of the few noisy things in which I take pleasure. They are Nature, after all, like waves crashing on the sea shore. The males on my maples start; the neighbor’s cicadas shout out an answer. With the trees arching green overhead, it’s my favorite sort of chorale.

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