Tag Archives: Author: Patricia Dusenbury

The First American?

Flames licked the reindeer, fat dripped, and the fire flared up. Startled, Kayla turned the spit. Last year she’d been a child stampeding prey toward the hunters’ ambush. She’d peeked from behind rocks as the shaman released the spirit of each captured animal and bowed her head in gratitude as he dedicated their bodies to feed the tribe. This year she was newly a woman, and …

Don’t think about it.

She gazed around the camp saying a silent farewell to the familiar. Marc, Iro and Rog stood together, far from the fire’s warmth, their breath clouding white in the cold. She watched from the corner of her eye and matched her breathing to Marc’s.

“Daydreaming are you?” Luna took the spit from her hand.

Kayla blushed and stepped aside.

“Ola is waiting for you.” Luna’s frown revealed her jealousy.

Kayla struggled to keep her mind empty while Ola dressed her in fine skins. The old priestess was reputed to see what others were thinking, and terrible punishment awaited those who defied tribal rules.

“Don’t be fearful, Kayla. You are blessed. Tonight, when the moon is high, the shaman will take you to the sacred caves.” Ola’s words, spoken in kindness, fell like stones on Kayla’s heart.

Her father was an artist, one of the few tribesmen allowed in the caves. He’d told her about the pictures, the star map that guided travelers and the animals that beseeched the spirits for a successful hunt. He’d drawn star maps on the ground and showed her the beasts that lived in the sky, but he never spoke of the priestesses who lived there.

When Kayla was chosen, her mother had wept at the honor, but her father showed no joy. The next time they were alone, he’d told her about warm and fertile lands that lay across the great water. Many hunters had set sail, following the star maps, but few returned. The shaman had decided the trip was too perilous, and now it was forbidden.

Ola finished braiding her hair and escorted her back to the fire. Lines of tribesmen spiraled away from the warmth. Flames reflected amber on their hungry faces. Artists came first followed by toolmakers, hunters, women suckling babies, and lastly the other women. Children ate with their mothers.

Kayla took her place at the very front. Moments later, a procession moved down the hillside; the shaman had finished his fasting and prayers. He blessed the roasted reindeer then sliced the smallest with his long blade and offered the choicest part to Kayla. Only after she’d been served did the elders step forward to receive their portions. They carried their food to the sacred table, and the young women served the other member of the tribe.

Kayla ate sparingly. Marc would do the same, and he would hide food in his clothes, as would Iro, Rog and their women. When the bones had been picked clean and the rest of the tribe lay heavy with meat, they would be swift. Later, the meat they’d hidden would sustain them until they reached the great water where fish swam in shoals.

The shaman had finished eating. Ola signalled that it was time. Kayla walked toward the huts where she was to make her final preparations. As soon as she left the fire’s light, she changed direction and began running. Marc met her by the rock where she’d hidden warmer clothes. She changed quickly, and they raced to the river, where the others waited.

“Hurry.” Iro pointed toward the camp. Dots of light spread out from the fire, torches moving up the hillside and down toward the huts but not toward the river—not yet. “They’re already looking for her.”

Nila, Rog’s woman, was with child and would slow them down, but with this head start, they’d reach the boats hidden where the river’s ice became water. The river would carry them to the great water. The star map in Kayla’s head would guide them to the new land.

Eleven moons, two deaths and one birth later, two small boats entered the bay that one day would be called Chesapeake. Gentle waves rocked their boats. The motion soothed Baby Dora, who’d been howling since being removed from her mother’s breast so that Nila could pull in a net filled with fish.

“Do you want your child to be born here?” Rog said.

“Our child will be born here whether Marc approves or not.” Kayla rubbed her swollen belly. Already, it had begun to tense and release in the rhythm of birth.

They beached the boats and constructed a shelter of bent saplings and the skins they no longer needed for warmth. That night they enjoyed the plenty that this land provided. They thanked the spirits for their generosity and asked that blessings in the afterlife be bestowed upon Iro and Joa who’d disappeared when their boat capsized in icy waters. The next day, as the sun poked its first rays into the sky, Kayla gave birth to a son.

Bio: Writing is Patricia Dusenbury’s second career. In her first, she was an economist who wrote numerous reports that peoples’ jobs required them to read. Now, she writes mysteries to entertain readers and, perhaps, atone for all those dry documents. Uncial Press e-published Patricia’s first three books, which are now also available in hard copy. A Perfect Victim was named 2015 Best Mystery by the Electronic Publishing Industry Coalition (EPIC). Secrets, Lies & Homicide was a finalist for EPIC’s 2016 best mystery and a top ten mystery in the Preditors and Editors Readers’ poll. A House of Her Own was nominated for a RONE award and is entered in the 2017 EPIC contest. A member of the Sisters in Crime NorCal chapter, Patricia lives with an aged Malamute on a very steep hill in San Francisco.
More information about Patricia’s writing is on her webpage PatriciaDusenbury.com. She is on Facebook as Patricia Dusenbury and on Twitter as PatriciaDusenbu.

In Praise of Short Stories by Patricia Dusenbury

Reading short stories is like cruising a buffet. Try a bit of this and a bit of that, experiment with new things. If you find something you love, go back and fill your plate—i.e. read a novel by the author. Or keep nibbling on this and that, enjoying the variety.

Just as the buffet—quick and efficient with lots of choices—fits well into modern life, so do short stories. Do you ride mass transit? Look around, everyone glued to their phone is not chasing Pokémon creatures. Do you go to the gym? I’m not coordinated enough to read on a treadmill, but others are. Your colleague, reading while she grabs a quick sandwich at her desk? Could be a short story.

On the other side of the pen, a short story offers writers a chance to try something new and different, to experiment without investing the chunk of time a novel takes. My novels are about mysteries and relationships. My short stories are all over the place. Part 2 of this post is an adventure story inspired by Paleolithic cave paintings. Anthropologists argue about who the amazingly sophisticated artists were and where they went. I wondered if maybe…

Short stories are defined by length (duh) with under 750 words usually called Flash Fiction and over 15,000 words pushing novella. Perhaps the shortest story, certainly one of the saddest is, “Baby clothes for sale, never worn.”

Can you compose a story—mystery, romance, sci-fi, whatever—in ten words or less? Submit your story as a comment and you’re in a lottery to win a copy of Black Coffee, a newly-released collection of twenty-three short mysteries noir. Edited by Andrew MacCrae, Black Coffee includes my excursion into the dark side, Nor Death Will Us Part.

Bio: Writing is Patricia Dusenbury’s second career. In her first, she was an economist who wrote numerous reports that peoples’ jobs required them to read. Now, she writes mysteries to entertain readers and, perhaps, atone for all those dry documents. Uncial Press e-published Patricia’s first three books, which are now also available in hard copy. A Perfect Victim was named 2015 Best Mystery by the Electronic Publishing Industry Coalition (EPIC). Secrets, Lies & Homicide was a finalist for EPIC’s 2016 best mystery and a top ten mystery in the Preditors and Editors Readers’ poll. A House of Her Own was nominated for a RONE award and is entered in the 2017 EPIC contest. A member of the Sisters in Crime NorCal chapter, Patricia lives with an aged Malamute on a very steep hill in San Francisco.
More information about Patricia’s writing is on her webpage PatriciaDusenbury.com. She is on Facebook as Patricia Dusenbury and on Twitter as PatriciaDusenbury.

The Saga of Dr. Hicks by Patrica Dusenbury

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A state line can come in handy. Dr. Thomas Hicks started out in Copper Hill, on the Tennessee side. He sold narcotic painkillers to a returned WWI veteran who turned out to be working undercover for the FBI. It was a criminal act that could also have been one of mercy. Regardless, conviction sent Dr. Hicks to federal prison and cost his license to practice medicine in Tennessee.

Upon his release, Dr. Hicks settled in McCaysville, on the Georgia side. He obtained a license to practice medicine in Georgia and re-opened his clinic, two blocks away from the old one. The Hicks Community Clinic provided basic health services to the people of McCaysville, Copper Hill, and nearby settlements. The good doctor provided free medicine to those who couldn’t pay and made house calls if people were too ill to come to the clinic. He donated money to community causes and to his church.

Dr. Hicks’ generosity was supported by the abortions he provided upstairs from the community clinic. From the 1940s through 1964 when he was arrested again (on abortion charges that were eventually dropped), this medical Robin Hood subsidized health care for poor locals by providing illegal abortions to women able to pay.

The abortion clinic was an open secret. Residents saw the limousines bringing women from Atlanta and Birmingham and Chattanooga, small planes landed on a dirt airstrip outside town, but no one told. Perhaps because Dr. Hick’s illegal activity could, once again, be viewed as merciful. Women desperate to end unwanted pregnancies were risking their lives in alleys and backrooms. Dr. Hicks offered a safe alternative. However, his story doesn’t end here.

Dr. Hicks began selling babies. He convinced some of his would-be abortion clients to carry their babies to term. Or maybe they couldn’t pay, and he offered them an alternative. Regardless, he provided these pregnant women with lodging at his farm or in town and, when they delivered, arranged “adoptions.” Thanks to a cooperative county clerk, the babies came with birth certificates that listed the purchasers as the birth parents.

Couples seeking babies came from an even larger market area than the women seeking abortions, and they paid higher fees. Dr. Hicks charged a thousand dollars for a baby and may or may not have given the mother a cut. Selling babies is tough to justify as merciful—there were alternatives, homes for unwed mothers that arranged legal adoptions—and his black market babies, now called Hicks babies, have brought him posthumous notoriety.

In 1989, an Ohio woman whose parents had told her the true circumstances of her “adoption” traveled to McCaysville, seeking information about her birth mother. Jane Blasio walked around McCaysville and Copper Hill, staring at faces, looking for someone who might be a relative. Her quest led her to Blue Ridge, the Fannin County seat, where birth records are kept. There, Ms. Blasio found an ally in a Georgia probate judge, and the web of lies began to unravel.

According to Fannin County birth records, more than 200 women from cities in Ohio and Pennsylvania, Illinois and Michigan, and as far away as Arizona came to Dr. Hicks’ clinic in the isolated little town of McCaysville to deliver their babies. This phenomenon began in 1951 and ended in 1965. Jane Blasio’s mother was one of those women. The information was all there, it had been sitting there for decades, and it was all lies.

Widespread media coverage brought forth more women who had “adopted” babies from Dr. Hicks and more adoptees who wanted information about their biological parents. It’s not an easy search. The birth records list only the purchasing parents, and no records of the birth mothers, if there ever were any, have been found. Dr. Hicks, his nurse, and the cooperative county clerk are all dead. If anyone still living knows anything, they aren’t talking.

The story continues. A confidential DNA registry has been set up for Hicks babies, Ancestry.com is providing free services, and long-time residents are being asked to contribute samples. People still come to McCaysville/Copper Hill and walk around, looking for someone who looks like family. The most recent reunion story I found was in a newspaper dated less than a year ago. The judge who helped uncover this black market in babies said it best:

”This is just too bizarre for real life,” said Judge Linda Davis of Fannin County Probate Court, who has risked the ire of people in her county to help Mrs. Blasio in her quest through county birth records. ”If I wasn’t so personally involved, I’d think they were making it all up.”

  • The New York Times, August 23, 1997

I grew up in a small town. I don’t think this could have happened there, but I don’t know. Do you think this could this have happened in your hometown?

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Pat DusenburyBefore she became a writer, Patricia Dusenbury was an economist and the author of numerous dry publications. She is hoping to atone by writing mystery stories that people read for pleasure. Her first book, A Perfect Victim, was named 2015’s best mystery by the Electronic Publishing Industry Coalition. Book 2, Secrets, Lies & Homicide, is a finalist in the 2016 EPIC award and was a top ten finalist in the Preditors and Editors 2014 readers’ poll. Book 3, A House of Her Own, released in October 2015, completes the trilogy. It has been nominated for InD’tale’s RONE award. Pat’s newest book, Two Weeks in Geary, is a finalist for the Killer Nashville 2016 Claymore Award.

When she isn’t writing, Patricia is reading, gardening, hanging out with the grandkids, or exploring San Francisco, the fabulous city that is her new home

Special Places by Patricia Dusenbury

 

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Special good or special bad, some places are simply more interesting than others. A unique character makes them tourist destinations—and popular settings for fiction. My first three books are set in pre-Katrina New Orleans.

The Big Easy, The Crescent City, The Paris of the Americas—New Orleans has nicknames to spare, and more than enough personality to support them all. How can you not be charmed by the food, the music, the glorious mix of people, and the easy-going atmosphere? But wander off the beaten path and you’ll see poverty. Don’t go too far or you’ll risk being mugged. Dig a little deeper and see how easy-going can lead to an acceptance of corruption. Put the good and the bad in a pot, stir it up, and you have a great setting for mysteries.

New Orleans also has numerous old houses in various states of repair, which makes it a perfect location for Claire Marshall whose vocation is the restoration of historic houses. Claire loves her adopted city, but she learns that its old houses hold secrets: hidden cupboards, ghosts, skeletons real and metaphoric. People have their secrets, too, things no one wants to talk about, and if you insist …  Well, you get the picture.

After three mysteries set in New Orleans, I wanted a change of scenery. Geary, NC cannot be found on any map, and the imaginary 700 miles that separate it from New Orleans are a chasm. Where New Orleans is a diverse and tolerant port city; Geary is small town Appalachia, homogenous and judgmental. The anonymity that is part of city living doesn’t exist in Geary, but there are things no one wants to talk about.

The new setting gets a new heroine. Older and wiser than Claire, Susan Randolph has been around the block. Her history includes a shotgun marriage to the scion of Geary’s first family, two sons, growing unhappiness, and a hasty departure. That was eleven years ago, and as far as Susan is concerned, Geary exists only in the past.  But then she sees Chris on television. The boy she left behind is now a young man, a suspect in a brutal double murder, and the object of an intensive manhunt.  Susan, who works for a criminal defense attorney in New York City, thinks she knows where Chris is hiding. She knows she can help him. Desperate for another chance to be a good mother, she returns to the town she hates.

I think the right setting adds color to a story, and some settings cry out for a story. Copper Hill TN and McCaysville GA, really one town divided by the state line, are calling to me. For almost a hundred years, they sat in a biological desert. Deforestation and copper smelting had created fifty square miles of eroded red clay and acid creeks where only man, the species that made the mess, could survive. Much has been written about the environmental devastation and the decades of reforestation efforts that, finally, is bringing back plants and animals. What interests me is the people who lived there.  Does such an extreme environment affect behavior?  I’m thinking the answer is yes, and one day I’ll set a book there. Meanwhile, the second installment of this blog will be a stranger-than-fiction true story from McCaysville.

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Before she became a writer, Patricia Dusenbury was an economist and the author of numerous dry publications. She is hoping to atone by writing mystery stories that people read for pleasure. Her first book, A Perfect Victim, was named 2015’s best mystery by the Electronic Publishing Industry Coalition. Book 2, Secrets, Lies & Homicide, is a finalist in the 2016 EPIC award and was a top ten finalist in the Preditors and Editors 2014 readers’ poll. Book 3, A House of Her Own, released in October 2015, completes the trilogy. It has been nominated for InD’tale’s RONE award. Pat’s newest book, Two Weeks in Geary, is a finalist for the Killer Nashville 2016 Claymore Award.

 

When she isn’t writing, Patricia is reading, gardening, hanging out with the grandkids, or exploring San Francisco, the fabulous city that is her new home

 

Family Man By Patricia Dusenbury

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A family man and proud of it, Rick Stelljes enjoyed his kids’ dinner table chatter. Johnny’s class took a field trip to the aquarium; Linda thought she’d aced her geometry test.

“Keep it up, Baby,” he told her. “You’re gonna be the first Stelljes to graduate college, and it’s gonna be a big-name school.”

“Daddy.” She smiled indulgently. “Everyone from Windsor Prep goes to a good college.”

Headlights flickered through the drapes; someone was pulling up in front. Richie went to check – people here parked in driveways – and saw the kid next door getting dropped off. He sat back down.

“I’m going to Harvard,” Johnny said.

“You get in, son, I’ll pay for it.”

No one had ever asked Rick about his day at his stinking dump of a school. The smartest kid in the class, he’d made up for it by being the meanest. He would have been dead or in prison by eighteen if Mr. Dee hadn’t taken an interest in him, hadn’t become like a father to him. He’d been working for Mr. Dee twenty years now. Married to Tanya for fifteen. Every day of his life, he thanked God for his good luck.

Johnny and Linda went upstairs to do their homework, and Tanya asked if he wanted an after-dinner drink.

“Not tonight, baby. I’ve got a late meeting.” He pushed back from the table. “Time for me to go.”

“I wish you didn’t have to.”

Rick also wished he didn’t have to. He liked Billy Balfour, but Billy had crossed a line. “I won’t be late. You make sure those kids do their homework.”

“They’re good kids.”

“I know. And you’re a good mom.” He stood and kissed the top of his wife’s head.

Walking through the family room on his way to the garage, Rick admired the leather sofas and the wide-screen TV. At 72 inches, it really was a home theater. When he got back, he and Tanya could watch a movie, something light. He was going to need to decompress.

The monitor mounted on the garage wall showed multiple pictures of a quiet yard and an empty street. Rick pushed a button and a section of wall swung away, revealing the cabinet that held his guns. He selected a Glock 9mm and an AWC Abraxis supressor. The Abraxis didn’t muffle the noise as well as his Osprey, but it was lighter and smaller, which could be important tonight. After another check of the monitor, Rick slid behind the wheel, turned the key in the ignition, and pressed the garage door opener.

Tomorrow or the day after, they’d find Billy, shot twice through the back of his head. The news would call it an execution, and they’d be right. More important, people who might have been tempted to try some free-lancing would be reminded that Mr. Dee didn’t tolerate disloyalty, and Rick Stelljes would have another $25,000 to keep his family safe and comfortable.

 

 

Bio:  Patricia Dusenbury is a retired economist and the author of the Claire Marshall trilogy, which if it had a name, would be called A Path Through the Ashes. The first book, A Perfect Victim, was named 2015 best mystery by the Electronic Industry Publishing Coalition. The second book, Secrets, Lies & Homicide, is a Preditors and Editors top ten mystery. Book 3, A House of Her Own, was released in October.  This nasty little story was inspired by a conversation with a friend who is a criminal defense attorney.  Are you sure you know where your neighbor works?

 

Web page:  www.PatriciaDusenbury.com

About Music …

Music moves us. Whether it be to make us happy, sad, or (in some rare cases) violent, music affects our emotions. The authors of the Write Room have shared their thoughts and feelings about music and how it shapes our lives. (Dellani Oakes)

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Daddy’s Music by Linda Palmer

I didn’t realize how cool my daddy was until after my mother died and we had him to ourselves for five years. He was very quiet; Mother was the go-between. Yet without me realizing it, he made me who I am today. A huge influence was his love for music. Daddy, who played alto sax in high school, loved the sounds of Lawrence Welk, Paul Mauriat, James Last, Leroy Anderson, and Mantovani. He was also into Broadway musicals, so my sisters and I still know every word of Camelot, My Fair Lady, Oklahoma, South Pacific and a slew of others. Daddy went from vinyls, to eight-tracks, to tapes, to CDs, with quadraphonic in there somewhere. He had great sound systems in his cars, and I loved long Sunday afternoon rides listening to whatever musical score was his favorite at the time. (Can anyone else out there recognize every song from Midnight Cowboy?)

I’m eternally grateful for his eclectic tastes, which ultimately impacted mine. There aren’t many music genres I don’t like, and I’m always up for listening to something new. So thanks, Daddy. You get full credit for the chills I get when music truly moves me. I just wish you hadn’t pawned your saxophone to pay down on a house all those years ago. I’d love to hear you play it.

 

Let the music play on by by Jon Magee

“If music be the food of love, play on”, wrote William Shakespeare (Twelfth Night Act 1, scene 1, 1–3)

Music has the ability to move us—our memories and our imaginations. So many times, I’ve heard a song on the radio, on a commercial, or during a movie, and found myself transported to another place and time. The lyrics and the melody remind me of a moment I’ve experienced, a memory I haven’t recalled for ages, and I’ll feel everything that I felt back then.

I am not musical in terms of having the ability to play any musical instrument, but I do have an appreciation of music and have enjoyed the listening to it from an early age. I have no doubt that music has been a great means of communicating to the world in many ways. When I am writing, I have often used the memory of music and singing as a means of setting the scene for an era, or to bring out the expressions of emotions set in the heart of the characters whether it is the expression of love or the feelings of sadness.

Even the Philosopher of the 1960’s, Mr Michael Jagger, used the medium of song as he shared his philosophy of life with those who supported him. Along with a group called “The Rolling Stones” he sang “You can’t always get what you want, You can’t always get what you want , You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime you find you get what you need”. Clearly that would be true in many other walks of life. Looking back through the ages it was the singing of particular songs that became the heart of the peace movements and many political campaigns too, as well as the religious revivals through the ages. When people recall the Wesleyan revivals they would often equate it with the music of the Wesley brother and Toplady. Likewise the same vein may be applied to the Welsh Revival, and not forgetting how Moody is a name that is still linked to Sankey.

Music is also the great leveller of life too. Our singing abilities may not be as good as others, but the needs expressed will be something that can touch us all in one form or another as we sing or listen. We all identify with the words “all you need is love” as the Beatles put it. Perhaps we can identify with Buddy Holly as he sang of his personal unrequited love experience with Peggy Sue. (Peggy Sue was not a made up name, it was a real person who he knew in his life.) Can we not also sense the heartbreak of the New York mining tragedy as the Bee Gees sang “Have you seen my wife Mr Jones? Do you know what it’s like on the outside?” Music will bring out the cheer and also the tears. In our music will come our humanity and the road many of us take in human life. But above everything, may music be the food of love in our lives!

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Mood Music by Patricia Dusenbury

I listen to music while writing. Jeff Buckley’s audible exhale at the beginning of Hallelujah stops me cold. I hold my breath, waiting for him to begin singing. The line “…all I’ve ever learned from love is how to shoot somebody who outdrew you,” evokes thoughts of love as a power struggle, the things vulnerable humans do to each other. I’m reminded that some things, once broken, cannot be fixed. I’m ready to write about grief and the pain of love lost or, worse, thrown away.

Cole Porter said that Night and Day was about obsession, not love. Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald et al. sang it as a love song, but not U2. Their version captures passion that defies reason. In the video, Bono slides a razor blade across his thumb. I listen and write about physical attraction that overwhelms common sense, love as a form of insanity.

It’s not all noir. I also use music to evoke time and place. My mysteries are set in New Orleans and the bayou country. Jazz, blues, Dixieland or zydeco – it depends upon what I’m trying to write. I put on the music, listen, and I’m back there. Ditto the songs popular when I was in high school and college.

There’s one vivid musical memory I’ve not used – not yet. Years ago, I walked into an ice cream parlor in Palm Springs. Three middle-aged women (younger than I am now) sat at the counter, eating overpriced ice cream. They licked it off their spoons with evident pleasure, while Tom Jones’ What’s New Pussycat played on the jukebox. Whenever I hear that song, I see those women, and I smile. One day, they’ll be in a book.

 

As a child, Patricia Dusenbury read under the covers into the wee hours. Despite sleep deprivation, she managed to get through college and a career as an economist. Now retired, she hopes to atone for all those dry reports by writing novels that people read for pleasure. 

Her first book, A Perfect Victim, won the 2015 EPIC (Electronic Publishing Industry Coalition) award for best mystery. The sequel, Secrets, Lies & Homicide, was a top ten finisher in the Preditors and Editors Readers Poll. A House of Her Own, which will be released October 16, completes the trilogy. http://patriciadusenbury.com/

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Timpani by Kenneth Weene

My Junior High School Music teacher pulled me aside and offered a simple solution to our dilemma. “Kenneth, don’t sing, just mouth the words and I’ll give you a passing grade.”

Thankful to end the embarrassment of all heads turning towards me whenever I hit a “note” that had never been heard before, I agreed to acoustic exile.

In boarding school I tried out for the chorus, which shared concerts and dances with girls’ schools. The chorus director assured me if ever he found a piece of music that included my one note repertoire he’d add me to the roster.

Not being able to sing didn’t dampen my love of music. I think I know when somebody else is on tune. I love the sense of tempo, especially when timpani lead the way, which immediately suggests classical music. Not surprisingly, my favorite composers are from Eastern Europe. Dvořák, Bartok, Scriabin, Shostakovich, and Mahler are my big five. Say Slavic music and I’m ready not just to listen but viscerally take part—feet tapping, hands waving, and head bobbing. Drawing on my Junior High lesson, I sit at the rear of a section where my gyrations won’t disturb others.

Driving is one of the better times to listen to music although I do have to be careful not to take my hands of the wheel and conduct or tap the rhythm on the gas pedal.

Driving through the Rocky Mountain National Park my musical selection was Mahler. Perhaps Dvořák would have been a better choice, The New World Symphony, but I love the sweeping grandeur of Mahler and it went perfectly with the majesty of the mountains. We rounded a bend. Grazing in a small meadow was a herd of elk. The music, the mountains, and the elk came together in the moment.

Without thought or care, I began to sing along. The inhibitions learned in adolescence dropped away and for the moment I was one with the music.

Which brings us to the most important part of that sacred moment. My wife did not cover her ears. She did not stare at me and shake her head. No, she smiled sweetly and said nothing.

Finally, when we had passed the elk and the last notes of that symphony had faded from the CD player, she commented. “That’s a relief. The way you were singing I thought one of those bulls was going to get in the car and try to mate with you.”

 

Writer, poet, and social commentator Kenneth Weene is generally an easygoing fellow, but arm him with an imaginary baton and chaos can ensue. You can find Ken’s books at http://www.amazon.com/Kenneth-Weene/e/B002M3EMWU

 

Transported by Music by Trish Jackson

Music truly is the language of the soul. I can’t imagine anyone in the world not being moved to tears at least few times in their lives by a musical score or a song. Music brings back memories; music calms us; music ignites a flame in us. To quote Wordsworth. ‘Music is the universal language of mankind.’

Music also has a way of transporting us to another place and time. Every now and then you may hear a song you haven’t heard for years, and immediately be taken back to the time when the song meant something to you. You can clearly picture the scene and even smell the scent of it.

I grew up in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) Africa, where every young person in the entire country—or so it seemed—listened to the LM Hit Parade on Sunday nights, broadcast from Lourenco Marques (now Maputo) in Mozambique.

I was a boarder at high school because our farm was too far away from any town for commuting. Like any boarding school, we had to obey some strict rules. Radios were not allowed to be on after lights out, and in those days they didn’t come with earphones. Armed with a flashlight and a sharp tongue, the duty matron patrolled the dorms in the dark, and if a radio was on, it was confiscated for the rest of the semester.

Only the seniors were allowed to have the radio on after lights out expressly to hear the LM Hit Parade on a Sunday night. It took a while, but I finally made it to my senior year. At the time in 1969, songs like Soldier Boy by the Shirelles, Crystal Blue Persuasion and Crimson and Clover by Tommy James and the Shondells, and Touch Me by the Doors were somewhere near the top, and whenever I hear any of those songs, I am back to our dorm in the darkness. I can still feel the excitement as the countdown progressed.

In 1974, the radio station was closed down during the Portuguese revolution, and the facilities were nationalized. I thought that was the end of it, but surprisingly, with the advent of the Internet and Internet radio stations, it has since been revived, and they play all the old songs from their former era. http://www.lmradio.net/streaming.html

 

Trish Jackson writes rural romantic suspense and romantic comedy, which always includes pets. www.trishjackson.com

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Inappropriate Musical Tastes by Dellani Oakes

I have inappropriate musical tastes for a woman my age. There, I’ve said it. It’s out in the open…. Apparently, I should be a fan of Michael Bublé and Harry Connick, Jr. While I like some of their music, it certainly isn’t my favorite, or even in my top five. Okay, let’s be honest, not even in my top twenty. However, women of a certain age, are expected to like certain things, but I don’t fall into that category.

That sort of misconception started in my late thirties. I had to go for an extended MRI, nearly three hours of thudding and clanking, because I’d developed tinnitus in my left ear. When I got there, the young men running the test asked me what I wanted to listen to.

“What do you have?”

They listed off a few albums and I wrinkled my nose.

“Got anything good?”

“We’ve got some Steely Dan,” one remarked, somewhat hesitantly.

“Which album?”

“Um… Aja and Greatest Hits.”

“That sounds good. Anything else?”

They had some Jethro Tull, but that was as exotic as the choices were. Good enough, far better than the other things they offered. They were pleased, because they mostly had to listen to Big Band and Buddy Holly all day.

“It’s good to have someone in here who appreciates good music,” the other told me as he set up the CD player.

However, when I had to go back a few years later, for an MRI on my neck, the girl didn’t even ask. She put the radio on easy listening. Radio in the first place, not my choice. Too many commercials. And easy listening? Do I look like I want easy listening? Where is the Hendrix, the Zeppelin? Bring on the Floyd! A pox on easy listening! It puts me into a pop induced coma in which I shall surely languish until someone plays metal.

I’ve decidedly surprised people with my eclectic musical tastes. On one such occasion, I had to go get my tires rotated. I’d been listening to a Rammstein CD in the car, and had left it cued up to the song I wanted to hear on my way home. I didn’t think about the fact that someone would turn on the car and have it blast from the speakers when they moved it to the service area. I was in the waiting room, reading my book, when the young mechanic walked in, looking expectant.

“Black Kia Optima?”

I stood up and he took a step back, clutching his chest.

“Wow, not what I expected,” he said with a grin.

“Why?” I wasn’t sure if I should be offended or not.

“Well, based on the CD in the car, I thought it would be some guy my age.” He laughed loudly. “You don’t really look the type.”

“Oh, what type do I look?” The challenging tone was unmistakable.

He chuckled, taking another step back. “Not the type to like heavy metal. What band is that?”

“A German group called Rammstein.”

“It’s really good. I hope you don’t mind that I listened to it while I worked on the car.”

“Not at all! I’m glad you liked it.”

“I’m gonna look for more of their music. That’s some good stuff.” He smiled, shaking his head. “Really wouldn’t peg you for listening to that kind of music.”

I took a step toward him, talking quietly. “I also like Jimi Hendrix, Rob Zombie, Metallica, Nine Inch Nails and Iron Maiden.”

“No shit?” I didn’t think I could have shocked him more if I’d put 50,000 volts through him.

 

I wrote this while listening (inappropriately) to Rammstein, Nine Inch Nails, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Tool, The Diamond Light, Pink Floyd, Noah Gundersen, X Ambassadors with Jamie N. Commons, and Marilyn Manson. Would you like a play list?

Dellani Oakes is a (mostly) appropriate author who thinks inappropriate thoughts as she listens to music she shouldn’t like. How do you know when Dellani is awake and working? There’s music playing, (inappropriately loudly).

Life is a Beach: A True Story by Patricia Dusenbury

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I married a man who had always wanted to live by the sea, and in 1995 George and I moved to North Carolina’s Cape Fear Coast. Our front yard ended where a saltwater creek flowed into the Intracoastal Waterway. A mile of marshland and ever-shifting islands of sand dunes separated us from the Atlantic Ocean. It was one of the most beautiful places I’d ever seen, and it was our front yard.

The house was built for the view with living quarters upstairs and bedrooms downstairs. It needed work, which meant we could afford it, and there was enough room for all our children and their children to visit at the same time. It was a lovely spot and a nice house, but, after five years, we moved away. Too many visitors. We enjoyed seeing friends and family, but we hadn’t considered the uninvited guests.

Bertha arrived over the 1996 July 4th weekend. A category one hurricane has maximum sustained winds of 75 to 90 miles an hour, enough to keep the tourists at home, but Hurricane Bertha was more exciting than frightening. People threw parties; we danced in the rain.

Fran came for the Labor Day weekend. She was a more powerful storm, and the state ordered evacuation of low-lying and coastal areas. But we lived in a brick house, built into a hill thirty feet above sea level, and we had a generator hard-wired into the house circuits. It wouldn’t run more than the well, the refrigerator and a few lights and fans, but we could cook on a charcoal grill. We’d be fine. We decided to stay.

That evening, Hurricane Fran made landfall as a strong category three with winds approaching 130 mph and higher gusts. We sat in the living room, watching the storm approach, until a tree bounced off the roof. We decided to stay downstairs. Hours passed and the wind kept roaring. We couldn’t talk without yelling, and it was too noisy to sleep. As time passed, fear morphed into boredom. When the eye came through, we ventured out.

Moonlight revealed a changed world. The marshes and the islands that used to separate us from the Atlantic were gone. Ocean waves crashed halfway up our yard and left behind remnants of other people’s houses. We stared, awestruck, at sections of kitchen cabinets, one with the sink still installed, chunks of walls, doors and windows. Behind us, on the landside, tall pines lay scattered like matchsticks. A big tree had gone through a neighbor’s house.

George went over to see if they were okay and returned with them in tow. They joined us downstairs. The mom tried to comfort her frightened children, who eventually cried themselves to sleep, and we all thanked God no one had been hurt.

The back end of the hurricane wasn’t as bad as the front, but we’d been hit hard. The government declared us a disaster area. The Red Cross converted the local school into a shelter where they fed and housed people whose homes were too damaged to occupy. Three days after the storm had passed, the Marines knocked on the door and asked how we were doing.

Wind had blown off all the shingles from our roof on the waterside, and we’d suffered some water damage upstairs, but nothing we couldn’t live with for a while. Our generator worked, and we had enough fuel. All in all, we felt lucky. Two weeks later, power was restored, and life began returning to normal.

Cape Fear enjoyed a respite in 1997, and 1998 brought only Bonnie, a weak category two, nothing hardened veterans couldn’t handle. Besides, anything Bonnie could have knocked over had been destroyed by Fran. We – and everyone else on the water – lost our dock once again, but that’s a hazard of coastal life.

In August of 1999, Dennis, another category two, slapped us with hurricane strength winds and then lost strength but stayed, dousing us with days of rain. Flooding turned the Wilmington area into an island. The waters had barely receded when, two weeks later, Floyd came up the Atlantic Coast, scaring everyone.

His predicted landfall began in Florida, but he slammed the Bahamas instead. Then, he moved up the east coast, precipitating one of the largest evacuations in US history. We were in the Charlotte airport, on our way home from visiting my father in Arizona, when forecasters made their “final” prediction. Floyd would make landfall in Charleston SC within a few hours.

We flew on to Wilmington, drove home and went to bed. Next morning, the ringing phone woke me.

“Why haven’t you left?” my mother-in-law said.

“Excuse me?” I tried to push the sleep out of my voice. “We got in late last night.”

“I suggest you get out of bed and turn on the TV. “

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Charleston had gotten lucky. Floyd had stalled, strengthened to a category four and turned north. He was headed right at us.

No one in his right mind stays for a four, but you can’t just walk away. For the next two hours, George and I scrambled. We boarded up the windows and doors on the waterside. We brought in the outdoor furniture that hurricane winds would turn into unguided missiles. We pulled our boats out of the water, and filled them with water from the hose, so they wouldn’t blow away. (Small boats) By the time we finished, it was too late to leave.

Thanks to ground still saturated from Dennis, flooding had already begun. The roads north and west of us were underwater and impassable. The TV had not yet gone out, and we watched weather radar of tornadoes dancing back and forth across the road leading south. On the east was the Atlantic and the approaching Floyd. That moment we decided to move. Not right away – we were going downstairs to hunker down, but when it was over and the floodwaters had receded.

Bio

Patricia Dusenbury was one of those children who snuck a flashlight into bed and read mystery stories under the covers ‘til the wee small hours.  After a career as an economist, she has returned to her mysteries, now writing as well as reading. Uncial Press e-published A Perfect Victim in 2013 and Secrets, Lies & Homicide in 2014. A House of Her Own is scheduled for release on October 16, 2015, The heroine of these books rehabs old houses, something Pat learned about as she and her husband rehabbed a series of houses – while living in them. This blog is a true story about the nicest house they ever owned – and why they moved away.  patriciadusenbury.com

Love, Lust and Whodunit

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Love inspires us to be heroes and fools, lust has a long, distinguished role as a motive for bad behavior, but the confluence of the mystery and romance genres is something different, and that’s what we were talking about. Five mystery writers who included elements of romance in their novels shared the stage at the 2015 Left Coast Crime conference. The name of our panel was Guns and Roses.

We were a disparate group. Donnell Ann Bell moderated. Her debut mystery, The Past Came Hunting, was a finalist for the Romance Writers of America Golden Heart Award. Kendra Elliott has sold over a million books of tightly plotted romantic suspense. Yvonne Kohano’s books are heavy on the romance and include a little spice. Carole Price’s heroine is an ex-cop who is romantically involved with a Navy Seal. Each of my three books is a mystery, but together, they describe a young widow’s journey from emotional devastation to a new love – in other words, the trilogy is a romance.

A sprinkling of romance in a mystery novel isn’t a radical change. Maybe Miss Marple simply didn’t – didn’t even think about it, but others did. Nancy Drew had what’s-his-name, although he always struck me as part of the scenery and not a player. Adam Dagleish, PD James’ poet police commissioner, had romance in his life, however, resolving the relationship always took back seat to solving the crime. On the noir side, our heroes were rarely celibate, but romantic love was a faint and usually regretted glow in their rearview. James Bond followed in that cynical tradition, without the regrets, and had more fun.

In today’s mysteries, there are more partnerships and fewer detectives with a little romance on the side. Attitudes have evolved. Calling women dames, as noir heroes did, is not cool. Still, this is evolution not revolution. Mystery writers who incorporate romance in their stories owe a debt to the past and, strangely enough, to a pillar of noir.

You don’t get much more hard-boiled (harder boiled?) than Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade, but Hammett also created Nick and Nora Charles. The Thin Man, Hammett’s last book, introduced this wisecracking married couple who solved mysteries together. Despite The Thin Man’s enormous success, Hammett didn’t write another Nick and Nora novel, but he and others wrote stories that became five more Nick and Nora movies. These immensely popular films led to a radio show, a TV series, even a Broadway musical. I think it’s fair to say that Nick and Nora are the parents of today’s romantically involved detective teams.

It is a proud tradition. Kendra Elliott’s Callahan and McLane series features FBI Special Agent Ava McLane and the man she has come to love, police detective Mason Callahan. I wouldn’t be surprised if a future book didn’t see them marry. In Carole Price’s Shakespeare in the Vineyard series, an ex-crime analyst Cait Pepper inherits a vineyard, two summer theaters and a lot of trouble. Her romance is a bit more tenuous. RT Tanner, her Navy Seal, has an unfortunate habit of being called back to duty just when things are moving along between them. Donnell Ann Bell writes stand-alone mysteries, each with a romantic relationship that enhances the suspense. Because the books are stand-alone, the romance as well as the mystery is resolved at the end.

Plenty of mysteries are still written with little or no romance, but overall, there is a greater emphasis on romance. Among the panelists, this is most evident in Yvonne Kohano’s Flynn’s Crossing series, which moves from one couple to another in a group of long-time friends. Yvonne’s books are on the romantic side of romantic suspense. The relationship is resolved, and a mystery is solved, in that order of importance.

A romantic relationship provides another dimension to both characters and plot. The reader wonders how a budding romance will survive the stress of being involved in a murder investigation. For the protagonists, seeing their beloved in danger raises the ante. There can be conflicts within the romance. The main character in my trilogy is a young widow with two potential love interests. Which one she will choose, if either, adds another layer of mystery to the who-done-it of the central plot line. That question will be answered in the third book, which doesn’t come out until the fall, but readers are already expressing strong opinions as to how it should go. I’m not telling.

Back when books were only on paper and sold from shelves in stores, genres were important. Lines had to be drawn because booksellers had to decide which shelf. Does this book belong on the mystery shelf or on the romance shelf?  (A little off the topic, but funny: one ex-bookstore employee swears that, back in the day, the question of whether a book was “literature” or “fiction” was decided by whether or not the author was alive. You guess which way it went.)

Genre still matters to the brick and mortar stores, and this is among their challenges. Elsewhere, in our electronic age, a book can “sit” on as many shelves as seems appropriate, and the number of shelves isn’t limited by physical space. A reader looking for a mystery with a touch of romance can click on romantic suspense, or mystery, or romance. The same thing applies to science fiction and fantasy, and steampunk and every other genre. The question of what is literary fiction vs. popular fiction will probably remained unanswered forever, but do readers really care?

The name of our panel was Guns and Roses; it could have been Blurred Lines. Genres still exist, and they matter, but the edges are melting into each other. Bits of this are finding their way into books of that. Readers are getting a wider variety of products to choose from. This has to be a good thing – don’t you think? Being on the panel introduced me to four new – to me – authors. I read something by each before our session and recommend them to anyone who enjoys a bit of romance in their mystery.

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Before she became a writer, Patricia Dusenbury was an economist and the author of numerous dry publications. She is hoping to atone by writing mystery stories that people read for pleasure. Her first book, A Perfect Victim, won the Electronic Industry 2015 e-book award for a mystery. Book 2, Secrets, Lies & Homicide, was a top ten finalist in the Preditors and Editors 2014 readers’ poll. Book 3, A House of Her Own, is scheduled for publication in late 2015. All are published by Uncail Press. Pat also writes short stories and you can always find one on her web site, PatriciaDusenbury.com. When she isn’t writing, Pat is reading, gardening, babysitting or exploring San Francisco, her new home. Or, if it is late April/early May, you can find her in New Orleans, soaking up the sounds of Jazz Fest.

www.carolepricemysteries.com