Friday, August 31, 2012

What Makes a Successful Marriage

 Today's Geezer: Alan Zendell

Are you one of the half-million Americans who know what happened on August 26, 1965?  If you’re reading this, you’re old enough to remember.
At 5:00 pm eastern time, with our involvement in Vietnam growing at an alarming rate, President Lyndon Johnson announced that every man eligible for the draft lottery who was unmarried at the end of that day would have a draft status of 1-A.  Not coincidentally, my wife and I were married four hours later.  About a quarter million other couples did the same thing. 
Last Sunday was our forty-seventh anniversary, in case you were wondering. 
You might ask whether that was a good reason to get married, and you wouldn’t be the only one.  Some people were still asking on August 26, 2000.  A lot of statistics were generated in honor of the new millennium, among which were the results of a study done by one of the major news networks.  I wish I could remember which one, but then, there are a lot of things I wish I could remember.
A producer who was also married on that day convinced the network to let her put together a special report.  She contacted over a thousand couples on what would have been their thirty-fifth anniversaries to find out how things had worked out.  The network gave her a full hour of airtime.
There are many ways to measure success in marriage, or lack of it.  The most obvious is the divorce rate, but people also look at the health and longevity of both spouses, their standard of living, how many children they have, how well they do in school, and so on.  I’d be the first to admit that you can’t measure the quality of a marriage with statistics, but nonetheless, the results of the study were startling.
By every measure available, couples married on August 26, 1965 have had happier, healthier, longer marriages than other Americans, despite the fact that during the period 1975-1990, the divorce rate in the United States was higher than at any other time in our history.
There are a lot of reasons people marry.  We like to think that most people marry for love, but the reality is that people also marry for money and security, because of an unintended pregnancy, or because they’re tired of being alone.  Many marriages are arranged and others are simply for convenience.  But conventional wisdom has always maintained that the decision to marry should never be impulsive. 
How, then, can we explain why marriages triggered by an event like the President’s speech that day were so successful?  There’s no doubt that the sample size was significant. 
When the people presenting the results were asked, they said they didn’t really know.  They talked about how difficult it is to have a successful marriage, and how important it is that couples be compatible before they embark on a life together.  We tend to think of compatibility in terms of age, religion, race, income status, education level, attractiveness, and similarity of likes and dislikes. 
I have my own theory.  I think the success of the quarter million couples who impulsively married on August 26, 1965 demonstrates that opposition to a politically unpopular war and a desire to avoid life in a snake-infested jungle halfway around the world is as good a basis for a successful marriage as any other.
By the way, I’d have married her anyway, and I’m very glad I did.

Alan spent more than thirty years as a scientist, aerospace engineer, software consultant, database developer, and government analyst, writing really boring stuff like proposals, technical papers, reports, business letters, and policy memoranda.  But trapped inside him all that time were stories that needed telling and ideas that needed expression, so with encouragement and cajoling from a loving baby sister he plunged into fiction.
Since then, he has written mostly science and extrapolative fiction, the genre he loved since he was nine.  But his stories are about more than aliens and technical marvels.  He creates strong, three-dimensional characters a reader can care about, because it’s people and the way they live and love that are important.  It’s the things they believe in and how much they’re willing to invest to preserve them that make a story worth telling.  It’s convincing interactions and well-researched credible plots that make a story worth reading.And, of course, like any writer, Alan loves having an audience.

Alan's books may be found at


Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Today's Geezer Deborah Malone

How many of you read Nancy Drew of Trixie Beldon. I did! I did! (my hand waving wildly) I couldn't get enough of them. One year when I was a young teenager I went to visit my brother and his wife where he was stationed at Myrtle Beach, S.C. While he was at work on the base there wasn't much to do (they only had one car, you know, newlyweds) so there was a little store right up the road. They had Trixie Beldon books. I know I read at least three or four during the week I stayed with them.

You're not going to believe this. Well maybe you will, but I'm going to give you evidence by posting pictures. I went to a mall in Alabama and they had a Books-A-Million. I was just going up and down looking at books when lo and behold there was the whole set of Nancy Drew books. I had to have one! On a whim I asked them if they had any Trixie Beldon books and they had two left. Now they only have one:)

I read a few passages from Nancy Drew and it was so funny. We just don't talk like that anymore. I'm not sure I ever did. But when I was young I couldn't get enough of mysteries. I guess it was natural for me to write them. I want to tell you the story of how I got started writing cozies. First,as an adult cozies have always been my favorite genre. One of my favorite writer's was Anne George. She lived in Birmingham, Ala. She didn't start writing until she retired from being a school teacher. She wrote eight books before she died from heart failure. I knew I wanted to write like her.
I finished my manuscript for "Death in Dahlonega" after years of working on it. I had family to take care of while I was writing. I then discovered American Christian Fiction Writers and Margaret Daley. I learned about Christian Fiction and decided I wanted "Death in Dahlonega" to be Christian Fiction. I rewrote my manuscript - didn't have to change too much. There were a few *&^ words from the crusty editor, Harv, that had to come out. So that's what I did. "Death in Dahlonega" is not a young adult book, but cozies remind me of Nancy Drew and Trixie Beldon. My Trixie is named after Trixie Beldon. I want to write a few passages from Nancy Drew's "The Secret of theOld Clock" and see if it brings back any memories for you.

As Nancy drove into the camp, a group of girls gathered around her car. Helen came running out of a cabin to greet her chum.
"Girls, it's Nancy Drew!" she exclaimed joyfully and made introductions. Nancy did not know any of the campers, but in no time they made her feel warmly welcomed.
"Nancy," said Helen, "park your car back of the dining hall, then come have lunch."
"That sounds wonderful." Nancy laughed. "I'm nearly starved!"
First, she was escorted to the main building where she met Aunt Martha, the camp director, and registered.
"May she stay with me?" Helen asked.
"Certainly, dear. And I hope you have a splendid time, Nancy."
"I'm sure I shall, Aunt Martha."
As the two girls walked off Nancy told Helen about selling the charity-dance tickets and gave her the money paid by Mr. Topham.
"He surely was generous!" Helen, commented feeling he did it more for soical prestige than sympathy for the cause."
Nancy scarcely had time to deposit her suitcase under her cot and freshen up after the long ride when lunch was announced by the ringing of the bell. Campers hurried from all directions to the dining hall. The food was plain but appetizing and Nancy ate with zest.
The meal over, she was rushed from one activity to another. The girls insisted that she join them for a hike. Then came a cooling dip in the lake. Nancy enjoyed herself immensely, but the Crowley mystery was never far from her mind.

I'd love to hear from you and let me know if this triggered some memories and if so what were they?

Deborah has worked as a freelance writer and photographer, since 2001, for the historical magazine “Georgia Backroads.” She has had many articles and photographs published during this time. Her writing is featured in “Tales of the Rails” edited by Olin Jackson. She has also had a showing of her photographs at Floyd Medical Center Art Gallery as well as winning several awards. Her debut cozy mystery "Death in Dahlonega", a winner in the ACFW Category Five Writer's Contest, is now available.

She is a current member of the Georgia Writers Association, and a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. Deborah has been nomiated for Georgia Author of the Year 2012. She has an established blog, Butterfly Journey, where she reviews Christian Fiction. You can also catch her at Sleuths and Suspects, where she reviews mysteries


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Growing up as an Outsider

It’s never a good day when you feel those jolts of fear moving up and down your spine like someone’s wired you to an electric circuit. But as she studied my face, I felt them, and I knew without a doubt that I’d done something wrong.

It was Mother’s Day 1967, and the neighborhood kindergarten I attended invited moms to the school for a celebratory program. Each mother received a red carnation to pin to her clothing and then was ushered into classrooms to view some of the best artwork this side of Tokyo. Wearing a floral dress, her carnation, and a hint of perfume, my mother entered my classroom, ready to find the portrait I’d drawn of her.

Removing her sunglasses, she glanced around the walls. She stepped closer in, scanning the heavy oil-based pastel-colored creations. Then with an emphatic sigh, she looked at me. “Alice, where is your picture?”

My picture! We were right in front of it. Could she not see? Although worry clouded my mind, even so, I held it together. Don’t make a scene, never draw attention. Gingerly, I moved toward the wall. Standing on tiptoes, I pointed to the motherly face I had created.

Mom looked at the oval shape that held black eyes, red lips, and locks of black hair.

I had colored a little out of the lines, so there was some pink crayon—the color I’d used for her necklace—rubbed into her collar, but overall, the portrait was one I was pleased with. I smiled at Mom, expecting her to smile back.

There was no smile. “Alice,” she cried, “I don’t have black eyes or black hair.”

With feet now planted on the classroom floor, I avoided her expression. Seeing her every day, I knew what she looked like. But did she think that I was going to use a brown crayon or blue one to draw her hair and eyes when the other children were sharing the popular black crayon? So, I gave her a pair of eyes and hair to match my classmates’ artwork.

Knowing I was a foreigner was as familiar to me as the frequented candy store. Even so, I wanted to blend in. I tried to be inconspicuous, never stand out, or be different, noticed, pointed at, and ridiculed. However, with blond hair, brown eyes, and a light complexion, and even tall by American standards, I was clearly unique in a country where black hair, olive complexions, dark eyes and short statures were dominant.

I was born in Osaka, on a frosty January night in a hospital across from a Hankyu train track. I don’t know if I was born on the right or wrong side of those tracks, but I do know that I had a perfectly shaped round head and was as bald as a snow man. My head was unscathed because I didn’t use it to push through the birth canal. Later, I would realize that I was born lazy and would have to fight that tendency especially when it came time to do my chores or complete algebra homework.

Naturally, my parents gave me a name at birth but the locals called me something else. Gaijin. They called my friends with blond hair the same thing and even that pesky kid who tried to look up my skirt in third grade. (He was cute and gave me a Valentine, but he was still nasty.) My father, mother, and baby brother were also called gaijin.

The Chinese characters for the word gaijin are soto jin, meaning outsider. In Japan this takes care of anyone who is not a native of the nation of Japan, which comes to just about ninety-six percent of the world.

When a small child would see me and lift his finger to point, I wanted to disappear. My mom would sometimes point her finger back at the kids and call them gaijin which only embarrassed me more and made the kids laugh and scream all the louder. Didn’t she know we were to be seen but not heard? Never cause a ripple; be the good American. Besides, they didn’t realize that what she was doing was more than mimicking them; she was calling them foreigners. They didn’t understand that to outsiders like us, even they were soto jin.

One afternoon, young Japanese boys that often slid over the concrete wall from the nearby apartment complex, came to the hospital compound to play. Standing in a grassy field of clover, they saw my little brother by a large oak tree. Picking up stones, one yelled, “Gaijin!” Quickly, in chorus, the other boys followed suit. Stones flew past Vincie, some landed at his feet, while others bounced off the tree trunk. Vincie made his way to our front gate, entered it, and escaped into our home. To his advantage, the kids didn’t have the best aim, and physically, he was unharmed.

Occasionally, the sisters of these boys came over to find me, calling out, “Arisu-chan, asobo!” (“Alice, let’s play.”) Unlike their brothers, they were kind and sat with me in the clover field behind the hospital, weaving crowns and necklaces out of clover for me to wear. Seated beside them in the mass of green, I wanted to play dolls and house as I did with my missionary neighbor Jo Jo. I was weary of being asked the same questions, talked about as if I couldn’t understand, and being stared at.


At the time I had no clear concept of the United States, my country of passport, but one day, I would be reminded of how different it was from this crowded island. In my teen years, I would long for things about it, yet not understand most of its ways, and wonder how I fit in.

Little did I know, but I would have a lifetime of figuring out how to fit in.

~ An excerpt from Alice J. Wisler's Childhood on the Train, a memoir in progress. Alice is also the author of five novels, including Rain Song (Christy Finalist) and Still Life in Shadows. Her devotional, Getting Out of Bed in the Morning: Reflections of Comfort in Heartache is slated for publication in January. Visit her website:

Friday, August 24, 2012

GEEZER GUYS AND GALS: Secret Life of a Town Bum

GEEZER GUYS AND GALS: Secret Life of a Town Bum

Secret Life of a Town Bum

 Back then, everybody in town knew that Jesse and Marshall Truman were recluses and that Jesse was the town's drunken bum. Sure, Marshall had caught polio from one of those homeless kids he was always taking in back in the 1930's. Since he had to struggle getting around on his crutches, no one thought one thing of his staying down on the family homestead on that old back road into town.

 But Jesse was another matter. He wasn't crippled, just in the head. Plenty of young fellows had fought in World War I and came back home, taking up their lives again as best they could. Not Jesse, he came home nutty as a fruitcake. Some folks around town blamed his behavior on all those battles he'd fought in, one after the other. Still, that was not excusing his bad behavior like the time he took his family's old Model T and drove it down the railroad tracks singing "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" at the top of his lungs. A few fellows got Jesse and the car back home where Marshall was waiting for him, worried. He'd been standing there, leaning on his crutches for quite some time and his fatigue showed plainly on his face.

  Or the time Jesse took it upon himself to march in the Memorial Day Parade as it made its way down Main Street. Only problem was that Jesse had draped himself in the town hall flag and was waving wildly to people on the sidelines. The town sheriff was called and got Jesse home to Marshall who was waiting patiently as usual.

  Then there was the time that Madge Bingham had fixed a fancy lunch for her bridge ladies and was looking out on her back patio where she'd set up two tables with nice linens and her best china.  What she saw was Jesse Truman, sitting at one of the places, sound asleep, his head on one of Madge's lovely old luncheon plates.Of course, the sheriff was called and Jesse was driven back home once again.

 Marshall died in the 1950's and so Jesse had to live alone. One of his neighbors used to take Jesse up to town for groceries and, yes, his Jim Beam. The neighbor confessed to having to wash his jeep down with strong soap and warm water afterwards. People around town laughed at Jesse but they pitied him, too. His family all dead and gone, there was no one to keep him company on the holidays or Sundays. Another neighbor went to visit Jesse once a week or so to give him a shave and then heat hot water so he could bathe himself in the old kitchen copper tub. One day he had to call for the local social service worker when he found Jesse slumped at his kitchen table, unable to move around or even talk. Jesse died two days later in the county nursing home where he'd been placed.

 Some distant cousins quickly sold the Truman homestead to folks from Long Island who had great plans of renovating. Jesse's neighbor, the one who'd taken him food shopping in town, went walking along the Truman back acres with his daughter before the new owners moved in and began their changes. In a wooded area near the house, they found the old Model T that Jesse had driven down the railroad tracks. All that was left of it was its metal frame.

  Then, the man took his daughter and they crossed over the railroad tracks and looked down on a pond that they never knew existed. A small rowboat was tied up to a well-kept dock.
  "Daddy is that Jesse's boat?"

  The neighbor smiled at his daughter, put her and their dog into the boat and rowed across the pond to a clearing where a wicker chair nestled against some wild lilacs. Nearby, wooden bird feeders, a salk lick and a feeding trough were still somewhat filled. As the neighbor and his daughter looked around while their dog sniffed here and there, birds gathered at the feeders and a doe and her fawn watched quietly from the woods.

  The neighbor filled the feeders and trough with grain he'd brought from his own house, and then he looked down at his daughter.

  "This is where Jesse Truman really lived, dear. Birds and wildlife don't laugh at a person's foibles".

Alice DiNizo's resume may include entire decades spent as a children's librarian, but the recent retiree's rookie effort as a novelist is anything but PG-rated.

The former South Plainfield resident and ex-Plainfield Public Library librarian is the author of "Imperfect Past," a recently published novel that treads over dark ground such as childhood abuse, racial tension and serial murder. But DiNizo, who goes by the pen name J.B., said her story, at its heart, is a tale of survival and perseverance.
"I survived a very great deal in my life," said DiNizo, 64, "and I think out of that survival came the gift of writing."
According to the author, inspiration for some of the book's first few chapters came from her own experiences of being physically abused as a child growing up in Vermont, during an era in which "they called child abuse "discipline.' "
The novel goes on to chronicle the life of protagonist Annie Phillips Murray, a white woman who falls in love with a black police officer during World War II in a town called North Hadley — which she said city residents instantly will recognize as Plainfield. DiNizo, also a former librarian at Washington Community School on Darrow Avenue, said the choice of setting was easy.
"I've tied everything in the book into Plainfield," she said, citing buildings and street names that only have been altered slightly in the text, if at all. "When I came to this area and first saw Plainfield, I fell in love."
DiNizo said the novel's plot includes three narratives bound together — one detailing the protagonist's checkered youth, one detailing a series of gruesome crimes being investigated by her love interest, and a third detailing the stubborn persistence of the characters' relationship in an era of intolerance.
After writing recreationally for more than 20 years, DiNizo, of Toms River, said she is warming up to the idea of having more novels published during her retirement years. With four more works already completed, DiNizo said she plans on seeing if Eloquent Books, the publisher of "Imperfect Past," is interested in seconds.
As for Plainfield Public Library director Joe Da Rold, he was pleasantly surprised to hear a former employee he said had a connection with the local community now is a published author.
"I had no idea that she was doing some writing," said Da Rold, who added that DiNizo will participate in a December book signing at the library along with a group of other local autho

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Choosing to lose

The older I get, the more things I lose.
My figure.
The ability to stay awake for the 11:00 news.
The ability to sleep in on a Saturday.
My 20/20 vision.
A certain amount of bladder control.
My keys.

So, if I have to face all these losses, I’ve decided there’s one thing I’m going to lose on purpose –
 my insecurity.

When I was in my twenties, The Golden Girls was a popular TV sitcom. Watching those characters gave me a vision for old age that included the freedom to stop censoring my opinions, the wisdom to value the people who stick with you for the long haul, and the joy of leaving insecurity in the dust of the previous four decades.

(Now that I’m in my fifties, it’s funny that the characters on The Golden Girls no longer seem to be in their “old age.”)

Insecurity is understandable in younger people. Insecure young women often invoke a protective reflex in other people, it makes them quirky and endearing.

Insecurity in an older woman doesn’t invoke protectiveness in others; it invokes the gag reflex. It doesn’t make one seem quirky and endearing but annoying and a little pathetic.

One supreme advantage of getting older is enjoying the freedom of speaking one’s mind and expressing confidence in one’s opinions and abilities. I’ve put in the years, I deserve to inhabit what I know and the skills it’s taken me over fifty years to develop.

So, one loss I’m not only celebrating, I’m embracing, is the loss of insecurity. I speak my mind. I own my space. I’m no slave to the mirror or to the social comfort of others. Watch out, baby, this girl is going for Gold.

Lori Stanley Roeleveld is a disturber of hobbits who enjoys making comfortable Christians continually late for dinner. Her articles appear in numerous magazines. She authors the blog, Deeper with Jesus in Rhode Island, She’s seeking a publisher for her speculative Celtic adventure, The Overcomers. Back in the dark ages, Lori earned degrees in Psychology and Biblical Studies and more recently, a black belt in karate. She’s a wife, mom, crisis counselor, and part-time dragon slayer.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Social Media and Polite Society, The Connection You May Have Missed

Social media is a return to a simpler age.

I can see the skepticism on your faces from here, but bear with me. I think you’ll see the connection.

First, I’d like to invite you to remind yourselves of the standards I, and most of you, were taught growing up. We were raised by certain ideas about how to treat others. My mother and grandmother had a name for it—polite society. Here are some of the basics, in case you’ve forgotten: 
  • If someone says something nice about you, thank them.
  • When someone does something nice for you, do something nice for them.
  • Always put others before yourself.
  • If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.

It was a Do unto others as you would have the do unto you world.

These rules guided my behavior in almost all circumstances. And they made the world I lived in pretty easy to navigate. We all operated from a common basis, and everyone knew what was expected from everyone else.

These same basic rules are once again enjoying a resurgence—on the Internet. Stay with me and consider our interaction on social media, specifically Facebook and Twitter.
  • If someone mentions you (which is a nice thing in this new, platform-building paradigm) you thank them.
  • When others do something nice for you online, like telling people you have a great blog post, you tell your friends about their blogs.
  • To keep from becoming a self-centered sounding boor, promote others online more than yourself. I know it’s counterintuitive, but it works every time. Those who promote others are always more popular and have more friends than those who are self-serving and self-promoting.
  • And most important of all, when almost everything ever said online can still be found somewhere online—NEVER share an update that puts someone else down. 

It’s once again a golden-rule governed world.

When I realized the relationship between how I was raised and this new frontier, I also saw that I have a lot of experience I can share with the younger, sometimes more digitally-familiar generation. And this gave me the confidence to embrace this new culture. Because let’s face it, there truly is nothing new under the sun.

Edie Melson is a freelance writer and editor with years of experience in the publishing industry. She’s a prolific writer, and has a popular writing blog, The WriteConversation. In keeping up with the leading edge of al things digital, Edie has become known as one of the go-to experts on social media for writers wanting to learn how to plug in. Her first book, Social Media Marketing for Writers took less than a month to move into the best-seller category on Amazon.
As a sought after writing instructor, her heart to help others define and reach their dreams has connected her with writers all over the country. She’s the co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, as well as a popular faculty member at numerous others. Edie is also the Social Media Coach for My Book Therapy.
Fighting Fear, Winning the War at Home, is Edie’s latest project. This devotional book for those with family members in the military debuted on Veterans Day, 2011.
She’s a member of numerous professional writing organizations, including the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, The Christian Pen, The Christian Writer’s View I and American Christian Fiction Writers. She’s also a regular contributor on, a Writers Digest top 101 websites for writers, as well as a regular columnist in Southern Writers Magazine.
Married 30+ years to her high school sweetheart, Kirk, they have raised three sons.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Missing the Home Place

 by Babs Mountjoy

Ours is a mobile society, which is one of the blessings of living in a country like America. We have freedom to travel and a good number of our citizens have the financial wherewithal to do so. Once I graduated from college, I moved away from home, first out West, then down South, and then back to the Northeast over many years.

All three of my daughters have taken advantage of this mobility, too—the oldest has been a Navy girl, and then a Navy wife, traveling to Japan, Guam, Florida and Washington State. (She even pointed out when she moved to Washington that I had to come visit her now because she’d moved closer—it might have been closer than Guam, but it was still nearly three thousand miles from PA!)

Now daughter # 2 is ensconced with a husband and new baby in Reno, Nevada and the third is in Asheville, NC, working as a pastry chef at the Biltmore Estate. They’re all doing very well. But are they missing out?

Our small town is full up with families who have lived here for generations. Son lives here, his dad and mom live here, his grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, all here too. That sense of home is here, too. A dozen people I could name right off the top of my head could hop in the car and go to grandma’s house within fifteen minutes. That’s a real gift, in my book.

When I was a kid, my parents were divorced, and we spent a lot of time at the grandparents’ homes. Those places were havens of safety and comfort for me, one an Indiana farmhouse, another a small suburban house outside Youngstown. Just walking up the front steps created a wonderful feeling in my heart. I continued to go for years, even after I grew up and had my own family, and the same feeling persisted.

 But one by one, my grandparents passed away. At the farmhouse, my aunt and uncle moved in and took over the property. As of that moment, we have never been welcome in the same way. The same when my father gave up his parents’ home and sold it to strangers.  (They took down the big trees out front and painted it GRAY!) The experience people here in town have, where they can always go to “grandma’s house” because some other family member has it and treasures those warm fuzzies, is something I no longer have.

 The same is true for my girls. My father’s home is gone, and recently their father’s mother gave up the home where they spent every summer of their childhood. So they’ve lost that sweet security as well. Maybe they wouldn’t have visited as often, now that they’re off and involved with their own lives. But now they can't.

It seems that in this freedom we have to travel, we’ve lost something, that feeling of security and always knowing where “home” is. Thomas Wolfe, of course, said we can’t go home again. But I’m not sure he’d say that was a good thing. I’m pretty sure it isn’t. I miss my girls, and I wish we all still had a place to go together that meant “family.” How about you? Is there a home place that your family shares, or have your loved ones scattered to the winds, too?

Barbara “Babs” Mountjoy has written since she was a little girl, unable to restrain the stories that percolated through her fingers onto her keyboard – or, back then, onto the old Royal typewriter. Babs has been a published author for more than thirty-five years, with a number of publications under her belt. Her non-fiction book, 101 LITTLE INSTRUCTIONS FOR SURVIVING YOUR DIVORCE, was published by Impact Publishers in 1999. Her first novel, THE ELF QUEEN, was released under the pen name Lyndi Alexander in 2010. THE ELF QUEEN launched her Clan Elves of the Bitterroot series, under which the second and third titles, THE ELF CHILD and THE ELF MAGE, released in 2011 and 2012.Hydra Publication has just released her latest novel, LOVE ME, KISS ME, KILL ME, a supernatural mystery, available at and Barnes and

 Wild Rose Press released her romantic suspense novels, SECRETS IN THE SAND, in 2011, and, CONVICTION OF THE HEART, in June 2012. Wild Rose Press will also release Babs’ THAT GIRL’S THE ONE I LOVE in September 2012. Zumaya Publications published her women’s fiction title, SECOND CHANCES, in July 2012. Babs is a contributor to two CUP OF COMFORT anthologies. She blogs about autism, writing and life at, and spent seven years of her career as a news reporter and editor in South Florida. Her romances/womens fiction books are published under the pen name Alana Lorens, and her fantasy/sci-fi under the pen name LyndiAlexander.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Dove of Peace

my old bearded self with (from right to left) Brujja, Trigger and Archimeda  
Copyright   Synthia Maes

Feathered Friend. That’s the name I chose for the stray pigeon that one day walked into our stables right between the legs of our horses, looking at me and cooing kwok as if to say: “Is there anything to eat in this dump?” Our two Jack Russell’s Thelma and Louise looked suspiciously at the bird and in their canine brains I saw a resolution forming: will we attack now or will we attack later?
I forbade them to come near when FF appears for her breakfast, supper and diner.
After a few days, the dove and I understood each other perfectly. Kwok meant: “I’m hungry”. Kwok kwok: “I’m starving, get a move on.”

When FF has a full stomach, she spends time eyeing the horses inquisitively and seems to find delight in evading their hooves at the very last moment. They, at their turn, study the bird carefully, their boney heads near to the ground, their eyes full of wonder and a little bit of suspicion. The canines sit on their haunches, looking alternatively at the scene and at me: we understand: no attack. But still we wonder how it would taste, that creature that’s even smaller than we are.
And I watch this tableau with a sense of gratitude and blessing.
It helps me to forget the past.

For thirteen years, as a travelling writer in mostly war-torn countries, I have witnessed how vile this world can be. In those days, I thought I could endure it all: the violence, the tragically wounded, the misery, the suffering. It was only years afterwards that I realized how wrong I was. Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, Iran, Mozambique, Burundi, Liberia, Gaza, Burma, Lebanon, (I could go on) tattooed my soul with deep cuts that took years to surface.
And when they did, I lost the will to live.

My “beautiful girls” Archimeda, a pure bred Arabian roan, Brujja, a coal black Argentine, and the reddish quarter horse Trigger are an antidote against the things I’ve seen and witnessed. I love my horses to death and they trust and cherish me. With their sharply honed instincts, they can feel that something in me is broken. Often, we stand head to head with our hearts open, communicating without holding back anything. They see the tears in my eyes, these honest souls, and if need be they will guard me against my sadness for hours. Just standing there, very close, comforting, sighing deeply now and then, shuddering from time to time as if to say: was it so vicious, the things you saw?

 black and white snapshot from Archimeda performing some hand licking J
Copyright   Synthia Maes

In turn, I open my heart for their grief. Horses can cry. I have witnessed it more than once. At those moments, my whole being reaches out for them and then it materializes: deeply felt contact without words. Archimeda is very sensitive, easily frightened, being elevated by a man who did not understand her delicate character. He thought she was aggressive and could not be handled. How wrong he was. Archimeda is the sweetest thing when being treated with kindness. She weeps for the times that she was out of control with fright and confusion. I have been frightened many times in my life, so I understand, I let her know that, she cries, and afterwards she feels like newborn and we play a game of hoppa, me mock chasing her, uttering cries like I imagine Indian tribes howled when playing with their horses. She absolutely loves that and gets all excited, snorting and showing her strength and agility. Brujja has been a horse ball steed. For a horse, that means being treated roughly with the whip and the reins. Horses that are being forced to “play” horse ball have scars where the reins have cut into their mouth by the brute force exerted on them. I caress these scars and Brujja nuzzles me, bows her head and sometimes sheds a tear. I tell her I have seen many other scars and frightful wounds on humans and that the days of suffering for her are over: no more horse ball, no more whipping. In answer, she sighs deeply, her under lip quivering. And then, precisely then, as if she feels her presence is warranted, young Trigger comes to us and with her reddish eyes and her funny ways she brightens us all. We had Trigger since she was a foal and she has no trauma whatsoever. The only thing she knows is kindness and love, and she returns it royally. She has a sense of humor. When Trigger is frightened by something, which happens rarely, she will plants her hooves firmly on the ground and looks at me as if to say: will we attack now or will we attack later?

On these occasions, I softly say to Trigger, winking at Brujja and Archimeda, FF and my two little rascals Thelma and Louise bobbing eagerly with their heads: Easy, sister, don’t forget we have the Dove of Peace in our midst…

Monday, August 13, 2012

Blank Page Musings

There is nothing quite like staring at a blank page on my 22” monitor. I close my eyes and I start typing whatever comes into my mind. I don’t think about mistakes or grammar errors. I just type. This is what I call a brain dump. I clear my mind of anything and everything that inhibits me from letting the creative juices flow. I block out the world except for the sound of my keyboard and the ceiling fan. I start to see something emerging on the horizon. It is not clear yet, so I keep typing.

Our cat, Blacky, and I were out on the swing on our back patio this morning. He was beside me as I stroked his black shiny fur. He is our mighty hunter. We call him the Black Panther. He has a kingdom of roughly 55 feet by 75 feet that he keeps clear of rodents, squirrels and rabbits. The protector of the six raised garden beds my wife nurses. She is an Iowa farm girl who loves to have her fingers in the dirt. She has a green thumb. I tell her she could throw seeds off our black porch and they would grow.

This summer has been hard on the garden. We are short some twelve inches of rain. The grass crunches under our feet as we walk through the yard. Our tomato plants are withering, after producing a good crop. The winter was so warm that our blackberries bloomed early and were cut short by the heat. Our cucumbers gave out a couple of weeks ago.  This is the first year she planted eggplant. We have a couple coming along. The sunflowers that remind me of my home in Kansas are starting to droop.
We made a trip to Baker Seed Company a few months ago and bought some heirloom seeds. I was amazed at the number of melons, cucumbers and other vegetables. Some I have never heard of. We bought some Chinese beans that grow up to eighteen inches long. They look something like licorice. We cut them into green been size and stir fry them with  homegrown onions, tomatoes, green peppers, summer squash, cucumbers and shrimp( not home grown). We then spoon it onto a bed of whole grain brown rice and sprinkle with soy sauce.. Makes my mouth water just thinking about it.

The strawberry popcorn we planted has shriveled up. We water every other day obeying the city ordinance. The flowers are doing fine. The morning glories and the naked ladies are blooming. I enjoy macro photography so Barbara has planted wild flowers on the west side of the house to attract butterflies.

Tomorrow morning, after church, we will enjoy a brunch with some of our six children and fourteen grandchildren. I do all the cooking—bacon, sausage, eggs, hash browns, coffee and toast. Barbara or one of the grandkids takes the egg orders from fifteen to twenty hungry people. I, Grampa Tom, have one rule—you can order your eggs anyway you want them, but you have to take them any way you get them. This tradition began a while back when we were suffering child/grandchild deprivation.  So operating from that old saw “ if you feed them, they will come” we initiated a monthly brunch. Now they ask, when’s brunch? We catch up with family news, cousins play with cousins and just hang out for a bit. Of course the quiet that descends after is very welcome! It is a great life here in southwest Missouri.

My eyes are open now. I am a writer .My resident editor is my wife, Barbara. My first novel, Night of the Cossack, was published when I was sixty-nine years young. 
Scribbling from the sometimes creative/sometimes scattered mind of Tom Blubaugh

Friday, August 10, 2012

Embrace the Change

  By: Mary Annslee Urban
Not so long ago, I spied a wiry silver sprig of hair, an interloper among my chestnut tresses. After catching my breath, I plucked the little invader out. Meticulously, I ran my fingers through my mane searching for more. A glance in the mirror caught my twenty-one year old daughter standing in the doorway. “Are you looking for lice?” She asked. 

Lice. I wish. “Gray hair.” I showed her my findings. She held the single strand to the light and examined it closely. “It looks highlighted,” she said.
True my hair had highlights. But this was vastly different. “The whole strand is silver.” I pointed out. “And, I’ve found a few more.” 

My daughter shrugged. “No big deal Mom. Even if it is gray, embrace the change.”
Embrace the change? What? Like upgrading your flip-phone to an Iphone? Better technology I can embrace―but gray hair? 
For several days, I dreaded to look in the mirror for fear of finding more daring sprouts. Hundreds maybe, just waiting to be discovered? Or worse, crops of silver bursting through the  follicles of the pigmentless hairs I had extracted?

After a little time, I reeled in my meandering thoughts and realized I was being ridiculous.
I was in fact, getting older. Change was inevitable, I reminded myself. After all, with five kids, hadn’t I lived in a perpetual world of change? From carting them to had to participate in activities, to all night sleepovers and caring for their countless critters. Not to mention, tackling the teen years: student driver’s licenses, first dates, breaking curfew, even scouring cruise ships to make sure they stayed out of trouble. And who could forget the foreign missions trips, choir tours and a study abroad and then trying to sleep at night as the movie “Taken” replayed in my head. And of course, tears of joy at high school and college graduations, weddings, and now keeping up with grandbabies…

Another glance in the mirror and each shimmering strand took on a new meaning. Silver threads of wisdom and grace. Years of motherly love and stress had catapulted me closer to my geriatric era. Years I wouldn’t trade for anything. Years that kept my prayer life soaring and heart grateful. 

Yes, my life has been full of changes. Some easier to embrace than others. But, as far as embracing the gray in my hair, I’m not quite there yet.

Mary Annslee Urban is an author of Inspirational Romance. Her goal is to write stories that stir the heart about love, honor and God's grace! Her debut book, Tapestry of Trust, White Rose Publishing, was released June 2012. Her second book, She Came to See the Snow~A Colorado Christmas Romance, will be released Fall of 2012.
Mary has also been a freelance writer for several local newspapers and has had articles published in magazines as well as online publications. She has served as co-president of Carolina’s Christian Writers and is a member of ACFW. A North Carolina resident, Mary and her husband have five children and 3 grandchildren. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys Bible Studies, cooking, traveling, long walks and all things chocolate!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

You Have a Memoir Within

"Come live with me; the best is yet to be. The last for which the first was made. . ." All you geezer guys and gals know the rest of the poem, or if you don't, you can always look it up on the internet. I would agree with poems if I could get up in the morning with hearing various joints complain, or I didn't take pills to replace essential functions my body used to provide free of charge: thyroid, for example. But there are benefits to growing older that kids don't enjoy or appreciate. 

One is time to reflect if we choose to do that instead of watching TV or surfing the web. Blaise Pascal appreciated the importance of reflection in the Seventeenth century when he said "All of man's misfortune comes from one thing, which is not knowing how to sit quietly in a room." Pascal also invented roulette, so he wasn't an ivory tower philosopher all the time.

    The second benefit of growing older, and it is by far the best benefit, particulary if you are a writer, which I am. That benefit is experience. Fifty-plus years teaches more about relationships and character than all the psychology or sociology ever taught. That's where us geezer writers have it all over those young whippersnappers. We can create well-rounded, realistic characters, whether we're populating our imaginative worlds with lovers, heroes, villians, or, gulp, teenagers, because we've been there, done that, and if we don't have the tee shirt to prove it, we have the physical and emotional scars. 

We have experienced love, death, illness, war, giving birth, loyalty, betrayal, and everything in between. So when someone says he just wrote his first novel at the age of eighty, I want to read it. There may be spelling errors, grammatical goofs, and a few awkward sentences if that person has little practical experience at writing, but what there be in spades is life experiences, richer, more heart-wrenching, more real that what can be imagined without having lived a long life. 

So if you geezer guys and gals are not writing a novel, at least write a memoir. Don't waste all that experience! Get with it!

D. R. Meredith is author of nineteen crime novels and historicals, book review editor ofRoundup Magazine for twenty years, as well as a former contributing book reviewer for the Amarillo Globe News, Texas Books in Review,and Kirkus. She is a speaker at conferences and writers' workshops. She lives in Amarillo, Texas, with her husband of "more years than either of us can count."


Links to Doris' books:, instead I apologize for any inconvenienc