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Caught in the Middle of a Mafia War “Not My Time to Go” by Thornton Cline

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

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Chapter Seven

       If you’ve been following my monthly Indigo Sea Press blog, you’ll know that I have been focusing on stories of my angelic protection from my new ISP book, “Not My Time to Go”. In this blog I will be sharing with you of how I was caught in the middle of an ongoing Mafia war.

       It would be eight years before any more near-fatal experiences occurred in my life. I was accepted into the Ph.D program in music education at the acclaimed, legendary music conservatory, Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. I arrived in Rochester in August 1977 on a Greyhound bus. Rochester, New York was a wonderful cultural arts city and offered me many exciting opportunities in music. But while it was an amazing place to live, there was a downside–crime.  The administration at Eastman School of Music warned the students about the dangers of the downtown area.  They told stories of students being held at gunpoint and robbed in broad daylight. They warned of beatings, murders, rapes and kidnappings that occurred even during the daylight hours. The school advised students to walk together in parties or use a form of transportation other than walking. Most of the students, including me, ignored the warnings and didn’t take them seriously.

Late one night in November of 1977, I was camped out in a practice room, frantically preparing for a violin jury, where I would perform a difficult classical piece memory in front of an entire panel of distinguished judges. I thought that night would never end.  By three a.m. I was exhausted. I had to call it a night and headed home for a few hours of sleep.

         1977 was particularly violent for Rochester. Crime and murders had risen sharply due to a major Mafia war sweeping the city. The war was fought between two Mafia-associated families the Pistilli clan and the Giovanni family. There were numerous reports of deadly drive-by shootings, car bombings and families being sprayed with roofing nails placed inside homemade bombs rigged to front doors of the Mafia family homes. 

       That night in November, I was so exhausted after hours of practicing that I couldn’t keep my head up or my eyes open. I packed up my violin and walked the six flights of stairs to the ground floor.

      “I’m leaving for the night,” I said to the security guard.

     “Be careful,” he replied.

      As I left the school building, I could feel the gentle breeze of the early morning air. It left a cooling mist of dew on my tired face, promising to keep me awake on my long walk home. I was completely alone, with not a single person or car anywhere in sight. The morning was calm and peaceful. I was numb and basically walking in my sleep. As I crossed Elm Street, I passed one of those parking lots where you pay to park for a certain amount of time. Then I saw a lone man walking to his car. It seemed very late for a man to be out doing business. But I reassured myself that the man was probably drunk and had just left one of the nearby bars. As I passed the nearby lot, the lone man went to unlock his car door. Unexpectedly, a colossal, thunderous explosion rocked the streets, forcing me to the ground. A massive ball of fire billowed from the car and engulfed the man, lighting up the dark, peaceful night. I felt glass and shrapnel fall all around me on the sidewalk. I lay there shaking for the longest time, in a state of shock, scared to the death. 

       After awhile, I carefully and slowly crawled on the sidewalk, away from the fire. I felt my entire body to see if I was still alive. The police, firefighters and paramedics arrived shortly after that and began asking me a million questions.

       Needless to say, I completely forgot about getting any sleep. The paramedics checked my vital signs, but couldn’t find a scratch or cut on me. Despite my close proximity to the explosion, I wasn’t injured in any way.

      Some declared that night a miracle. Others said I was lucky to be alive. I knew better than that.  I was definitely protected by angels and the hand of God. Again. it was not my time to go.

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Be the Example by John E. Stack

 

I had a date this past week and my date was one of the prettiest girls there.  I’m sure that every other guy believed the same about their date, but theirs didn’t even come close. She wore an emerald green dress and her hair was fixed just so. She looked good and she knew it – you could tell by the way she carried herself.  She was ready for an evening of partying and dancing.  This date had cost me at least $50 and we hadn’t even dined or arrived at the dance.  Who knew what to expect.

 

When she saw me, her eyes just sparkled.  She told me that I looked very handsome – not something most men hear when they arrive to pick up their dates.  We were running a little behind schedule, but we knew that we would arrive at the Father/Daughter dance right on time. 

 

I decided many years ago, and I was strongly encouraged by my wife, that I would be the first guy that my daughters dated. I hoped that the example I presented would help influence the decisions that they would make in the future.  I wanted them to always believe that they were special and they deserved to be treated that way.

 

My dad taught me the proper way to behave toward ladies, and it is a shame that the dads of today don’t believe that it is important.  I was born in the 50s, 1953 to be exact, and I still believe what my dad said. Too many men, today, believe that men and women should be treated equal. 

 

Dad said to always treat a girl with respect. What does that mean?  First off, when you pick her up for a date, ask for her at the door, don’t blow the horn from the curb. Then open doors – car doors, restaurant doors, any doors. And by all means, don’t use foul language around her. And last of all, be even nicer to her mom (this one will go a long way.) Oh, and one more thing.  Just because you asked a girl out on a date and paid for it doesn’t mean she owes you anything. Yes, the guy should pay for the dates until you both have discussed taking turns paying.

 

Any time I take my wife out, this is how I behave. So, when I take my daughters out I act the same way.  I want to be the example that my daughters compare their dates to.  My opinion is that if the guy doesn’t treat you better than I do, then he doesn’t appreciate you for who you really are.  Therefore, that guy doesn’t deserve to go out with you.

 

Though I would never admit it when I was young, my dad was a lot smarter that I wanted to give him credit for. He gave me advice on a lot of things, but I won’t go into them right now. I need to get back to the story of my date. 

 

She was kind of shy at first, but when she saw everyone dancing we had to hit the floor. We danced several songs and she got thirsty, so we took a break to get food and something to drink.  We were back on the dance floor after a few bites and really had a blast.  It is difficult to slow dance when you are six foot and she is only three and a half feet.

 

I only really embarrassed her once.  I tried to get her to do the chicken dance, but she was having none of that.  So, she laughed at me while I danced.

 

I got her back home before curfew, around 8:30, and right before bedtime.  He mom was happy that we made it home with time to spare.

 

Dads, I challenge you to be the example for both your sons and your daughters.  Teach your sons the correct way to behave when dating, and tech your daughters to except nothing less.  You will seldom be disappointed.

 

 

 

***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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Politics by John E. Stack

I do not like politics.  I do not watch politics. I loathe political hate ads (they are a waste of millions of dollars that could be better used elsewhere.)  Don’t tell me who you are , show me who you are by the things you do.  Don’t tell me what you are going to do, tell me how you are going to do it.  Don’t slam the other candidate, it makes you look bad.  Anyway, I was thrust into this place I do not like by a seven-year-old.

The other day my first grader came home and told me that her class was going to vote for president and she had to decide how to vote. Our conversation went kind of like this:

So, who are you going to vote for?

“I think I’m going to vote for Hillary.” 

“Why?”

It was like I had asked the most difficult question ever.  After a moment, she responded,

“Because she is a girl.”

“Not a good reason. Too many people vote that way.  You need to know something about the person and what they stand for before you make a decision.”

“Oh, okay.”

Suddenly, our conversation was over and she went off to finish her homework.

The next day, when I got home from work, our conversation continued:

“Do you know who Gary Johnson is?

Yes, do you?

“Of course.  He is running for President with Hillary and Trump.  I think I will vote for him.”

“You think so? Why?”

“Dad, have you seen him?”

“Yes, but that is not a reason to vote for him.  Too many people do that already.  You have to look at more than skin color, whether they are male or female, or if they are cute or not.”

“So, how do I know who to vote for?”

“You have to research how they feel about the things you care about.  You are a Christian (her own decision), and do you believe what the Bible says?

“Yes.”

“Okay.  So, as a Christian you should decide if the person you plan to vote for feels or believes the same way you do.  If you believe the same way they do about the important issues, then that is who you should vote for.  If they argue against what you believe then maybe you shouldn’t vote for them.  Let’s get the computer.”

So, we found a web-site that had a comparison of things each candidate said about different topics.  We went through the issues that she found an interest in.  The seven-year-old mind is a strange, but wonderful thing.  It is so full of questions, but has just enough knowledge to analyze some facts to form opinions.

We discussed babies and abortion; we discussed same-sex marriages; we discussed illegals; we discussed guns.  For some reason, she didn’t want to talk about corn subsidies, but we did spend about an hour and thirty minutes talking about the candidates and seeing if she agreed with any of their opinions. 

I reminded her that every candidate was not perfect and each in some way went against the American people.  I think that the most important thing that I told her was to use her knowledge of God and the things that the Bible tells us are right, and choose the candidate that feels the same way she did.

“Dad, none of these people make a good choice for president.”

“I know, honey, everyone has their own opinion of who to vote for and why it is the right thing to do.”

Her response was, “That’s hard, dad.  Who should I vote for?”

“I can’t tell you who to vote for.  That is the best part.  You get to make your own decision and no one has the right to tell you who you should vote for.   No one can tell you that you made the wrong decision.  Just remember, that God is still in-charge.”

She went to school and made her decision.  I didn’t ask the question I so badly wanted to know.

 

*** 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, to be released very soon: Cody and the Great Zoo Escape, and Secret Lives (of Middle School Teachers).

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Cross-pollination Marketing by Christine Husom

The Twin Cities Sisters in Crime put together an Internet marketing workshop for crime writers, which I attended last Saturday. We were able to list ahead of time the various topics we were interested in, ie., websites, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads.

We discussed the value of an effective website, and whether or not to have a blog feature on it. Some authors have a  blogsite, but don’t have an official website. I had read some time ago that the important thing about a blog is to be regular with it–whether it is once a day, or week, or month–something I have failed to do on my own website.

One of the participants said having a particular theme, or subject matter, is a way to bring readers in. Another way is to read others’ blogs and to leave comments. I mentioned the importance of attaching tags to your blog, containing keywords that will be appear on a search of a variety of topics. If you are quoting Charles Dickens, add him as a tag, and someone doing a search on him may visit your blog.

All of us were familiar with Facebook. Of course. Some of us were more active than others. One woman said it was important to change your privacy settings about every six weeks because Facebook is constantly upgrading. The question was, how do we connect with readers? I suggested joining groups of people with common interests. Another way is holding a give-away contest for your books. And share the link to your blog when you have a new post.

I had been at a training session two weeks before and the facilitator said you can post something on Facebook once or twice a day before people start ignoring you, but you can post on Twitter every fifteen minutes because it is so dynamic. People tweet for different reasons, business and personal. As authors, we want to build a readership for our books. So tweet and  retweet others’ tweets that you like.

WordPress is a wonderful place to read and post blogs, and Goodreads is a great site to connect with writers and readers alike. Many authors are active on Gather and/or Crimespace. Pinterest is being used by libraries more and more.

Somewhere in the middle of the workshop, as my head was spinning with information, I searched for a word to describe how authors could connect with readers. It turned out to be two words joined to make one: Cross-pollination. Be active on as many sites, and with as many people, as your schedule allows.

One man (yes, we have brothers in our group, too) came to the workshop later in the day, after he finished teaching a morning class. We summarized the topics we had discussed and he said, “Cross-pollination.” Maybe there was a spirit in that library meeting room who had whispered the word in both our ears that day.

When I got home, I looked up cross-pollination. The basic definition, according to the on-line Free Dictionary is, “Cross-pollination is the fertilization by transfer of pollen from the anthers of one flower to the stigma of another.” The antonym is self-pollination. Hmm. That got me thinking. As authors and readers, it’s a win-win situation to promote the works of other authors along with our own–we want people to continue to read books. We do this when we write reviews, add books and ratings to our bookshelves, or interview others on our blogs. This is certainly not a new concept in marketing, but one that bears repeating. Let’s all practice some cross-pollination.

Christine Husom is the author of the Winnebago County Mystery Thriller Series, Murder in Winnebago County, Buried in Wolf Lake, and An Altar by the River. 

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My Olmec Rendezvous

WordPress is starting an experiment in blogging motivation. A blogger makes a commitment to post for a year, and to help, WordPress will send daily prompts. I considered signing up since blogging is my life (well, not really my life, though I am an aficionado with more blogs than one person can manage in a lifetime). I’d resolved to blog more anyway, turning some of my clogs into plogs. (A clog is an abandoned blog that serves only to clog cyberspace, a plog is a blog where a blogger plugs away at one or two posts a week. For more of my whimsical blog definitions, see: “What Kind of Blogger Are You?”)

I was all set to write my initial blog announcing my acceptance of the challenge, but then the truth hit. Blog every day, without fail? I can no longer commit to eating every day, let alone blogging. Okay, I do eat every day, so perhaps that’s not a good example, but when one’s life is in flux, one needs to be flexible, and a year’s commitment is about eleven months too long. Besides, what do I have to say that hasn’t been said a million times before?

I did sign up to receive the prompts, though. Today’s prompt is: List three countries you’d like to visit, and why you want to go. Great prompt if I had an answer. I have no desire to travel, though there are many places I’d like to see if I could get there without traveling, especially places of antiquity. I’ve always been fascinated with the Olmec heads, and since I never went to see them, they came to see me. That’s a bit fanciful, but the heads did come to a museum about a hundred miles away, so we rendezvoused there. Fantastic! Best of all, I didn’t have to deal with airplane travel, mosquitoes, malaria, and who knows what else.

One country I would like to visit is the United States. I realize I am already here, but it’s a big country, most of which I’ve never seen. I’d like to drive cross-country, visit isolated places I’ve never even heard about, but since I have a 39-year-old-car, I suppose it’s not that great of an idea. For now, at least, I’ll have to limit my traveling to the way I’ve always traveled — through books.

What about you? What countries would you like to visit, and why?

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. All Bertram’s books are available both in print and in ebook format. You can get them online at Second Wind Publishing, Amazon, B&N and Smashwords.  At Smashwords, the books are available in all ebook formats including palm reading devices, and you can download the first 20-30% free!

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How to Get More Readers for Your Blog

Ever wonder why so few people read your blogs? The number of bloggers on WordPress alone is increasing by 900,000 a month. Yep. Lots and lots and lots of blogs.

So, how do you find a place in the blogosphere despite all those bloggers screaming for you to read their bloggeries?

First, write articles that are interesting to you. If you’re interested, there’s a good chance others will be, too. If you’re a published author talk about your book, explaining why you wrote it and how you got the idea. You can tell about the things you learned while researching the book. You can write about your work-in-progress, especially if you are having difficulty with a scene. People love to help, and they will feel they have a stake in you and your work. Write about your daily life or things that make you angry. Write about the books you read. Write about anything and everything.

Second, add a catchy title, something that will attract attention and hook a reader even before they begin reading your post. With so many bloggers, people seldom get beyond a title, so make sure you give them a reason to read further. The title of this post is not very original, but it does tell what the post is about.

Third, add an image. People today seem to be visually oriented, and an image will often catch their attention more than your picturesque prose.

Fourth, add tags that people might Google to get to your article. If you tag add a tag such as “Uncle Bob”, it might end up as the one millionth “Uncle Bob” on Google, and no one will ever find your article. I would have thought tagging an article with “Cheetos” would be the same, but one blogger reported that she got more than a thousand hits because of it. So, be sure to add plenty of tags!

Fifth, link to everything. If you’re an author, link your book title to a site with a buy link. Link to your web page. If you refer to another article, link to that article. (To make a clickable link, select the word or phrase you’d like to contain the link, then click on the icon of a chain on the tool bar — it should be the tenth icon — and fill in the URL of the site you’d like to link to.) The clickable link will look like this: Bertram’s Blog

Sixth, be sure to make use of the social networking tools available on WordPress. To activate these tools, go to your dashboard, and under where it says “Dashboard” click on “my blogs.” Under the heading “publicize”, check whichever sites you belong to, and follow the instructions for linking your blog to Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, and Messenger. Once that is done, you’re set. Whenever you post a blog, WordPress will automatically notify those sites.

Seventh, link your name to your blog. The internet is all about links, and the most important link is the link attached to your name. If you make a comment, and your name is not linked to anything, you become a dead end. To link your name to your WordPress blog, go to your dashboard, and find “Users” on the left sidebar, beneath that you will find “personal settings.” Click on “personal setting.” Scroll down to “account details” at the bottom of the page. In the blank for “website” put in your entire blog address, including the http:// Then click save. Now when you leave a comment on a WordPress blog, and someone wants to know more about you, all they have to do is click on your name.

That isn’t all there is to becoming a major blogger, but it’s a start.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of More Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fire,  and Daughter Am I.

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