Saturday, April 19, 2014

Lifelong Friends

Those of you who have read my book will remember this remarkable woman.

A lifelong friend is a treasure. One who usually knows more about you than your family; including your mate and children. Experiences are shared that come from the depths of your souls, things that the oneness of such a friendship form into an eternal bond. Loss of a friendship like this gouges a hole in the gut of the remaining friend that nothing can repair. Recently, I lost my friend of over fifty years.

Ann Eunice called out to me from her home, on a blustery winter's night, as I was walking home from the  corner store. "Come on in and have a brandy to get warm." We were strangers, yet I didn't hesitate. I was not just cold, I was lonely, newly moved into a house down the block in a small beach town on Long Island.

We talked for hours as if we'd always known each other. She had three kids, I had four. Her husband was killed falling from a high-rise apartment in Manhattan where he worked as maintenance engineer. Mine was bartender for a local well-known restaurant and worked long hours. Ann Eunice, never shortened to just Ann, was twelve years older than me and filled with innate wisdom that I soon came to rely upon. On that bleak night she became my mentor, my sister, my friend.

We spoke and saw each other often, getting involved in each others lives for over twelve years. She and her second husband, Johnny, were godparents to my fifth child. The following year she bore a late in life son who thought he was a cousin to my own six kids. 

My family moved out west and then to Pennsylvania, trying to find a safe place to raise our children, and Ann Eunice moved out to Arizona for similar reasons. Long distant calls weren't free then, so we communicated by letters. How grateful I am to have saved all of hers. 

She called when my daughter, her godchild, was killed by a drunk driver--but we were unable to speak--our fierce love for Noelle rendered us both mute. Instead, she prayed. Eventually, we both moved back to New York, but hours apart by car. Yet we were always there for each other, visiting now and again, and still writing. We attended our children's weddings together and were together again when Johnny died.

Ann Eunice moved back to her beloved Arizona to live near her oldest son, while I stayed in New York. We could make free calls now and talk for hours, which we did; sharing the ups and downs, the large and small tragedies of our lives. I had heart attacks, she had a stroke. We were both survivors, but she was the one I went to for comfort, for love and advice.

Now she's gone--suddenly--from a hospital infection that went septic. She took a part of me with her when she left this world--a part that I'll never get back.  And I don't think I want it back, as all we shared is forever etched upon my heart. Fifty years of memories are stored within my mind and soul--to be taken out and relived, wept over and placed gently back until needed again. These memories ease my sorrow and comfort me when I reach for the phone to call her . . . then remember that she's no longer there. 



Monday, March 17, 2014

You Don't have to be Irish to love St. Patrick's Day

Friday, January 3, 2014

Not Your Odinary Detective Story

Det. Lupee: THE IMPOSSIBLE CASES




By James Secor



Amazon: Not Your Ordinary Detective Stories







Author James Secor’s unusual detective short stories are captivating, due in part, to seemingly mundane suicide and murder cases. His talent lies in his unique ability to show scenes in artful description with few words. Combined with action to move his tales, the reader is drawn quickly to his eclectic style.



Most of the stories take place in Liverpool, England, a perfect setting for his bizarre cases; most with no solutions, yet a testament to “ man’s inhumanity to man”, (Robbie Burns). Jim Secor writes “ out of the box”, a pleasant change from today’s typical formula detective stories with few surprises.



He outdoes the witticism and parody of Sherlock Holmes while maintaining a highly Poesque satiric thread woven throughout his work. Author Secor leaves a message in his stories reminiscent of Jonathan Swift, a satirical essayist, ( A Modest Proposal, 1729), addressing the societal ills during the potato famine in England.



Detective Lupee, (Loopy) and Sgt. Cassandra Dumqick ( Dum-chik ), pun intended, spend hours at a favorite pub, along with fellow detectives, discussing their odd cases, most with no conceivable answers. In these seven versatile, yet individualized stories the cases give thought to the premise that the true perpetrator is society--past and present--until humanity evolves into a higher plane of compassion and morality.



Reading the “ Afterlude “ before the stories will better enable lovers of mysteries, and all other readers, to observe the hidden agenda which flows throughout his work. This is no ordinary book, rather one that intellectuals and those who love a challenge, will cherish and be left wanting more.



Author James Secor succeeds in presenting a collection of short mysteries that are layered with suppositions and theories to boggle the most supple minds. His stories stretch the imagination in diverse directions . . . Leading readers to recognize the real solutions to his tales . . . or perhaps not.



Micki Peluso: Writer, Journalist and author of … And the Whippoorwill Sang

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

NEW YEAR - NEW BEGINNINGS

Musings on the coming New Year with all it's promise.

The beautiful, lighted ball in Times Square has dropped, slowly, elegantly, a second at a time. A new year begins. I wonder how it would be if our lives were lived in the absence of structured time. There would be no past, or future, just the "now". Instead, we are subjected to the rhythms of time, living according to its laws.
ne thing we learn as children is that time seems to take forever, as we crave to grow up and test the waters of our future. Time appears to slow throughout young adulthood, then picks up speed aroung the age of fifty. It zooms forward just when many would prefer to slow down and savor the lessons learned.
It is either an enigma or cosmic joke that the huge tortoise can live one hundred and thirty years or more, with little purpose, while human life stops just about the time we gain the wisdom to enjoy and benefit from it. The Creator has a penchant for supreme irony. A tortoise gets one hundred and thirty years to munch on lettuce while humanity has about eigty or so years to begin to grasp the meaning of existence. Given a choice, I would probably not opt to chew greens for over a century, yet the tortoise aggrevates me--so much time to do nothing while I have so little time to do so much!
Each new year is magical in that it offers new beginnings, a chance to correct past mistakes, make resolutions for future projects and dreams. Resolutions, made in earnest, are not always kept, but it is important to make them for it proves the incredible ability of the human race to believe it can better itself. The tortoise just keeps looking for the next green leaf. Successful or not, the attempt to improve, correct, or make better choices is a good thing. It shows that we have not lost our inherent ability to dream, hope and attempt to perpetually improve our lives.
The year 2014 is upon us, a blank page waiting for us to write a new and exciting story. Let the first chapter begin. And let it be a best seller!!

HAPPY NEW YEAR

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Witching Hours

This is a story of the origins of Halloween from olden times up to the present.

THE WITCHING HOURS

Strange shadows dart stealthily across sparely lit streets, as dusk settles heavily on quiet neighborhoods of tree-lined sidewalks and cheerful well-kept homes. The eerie scream of a screechowl,more likely the brakes of a passing car, echoes deep into the night. Looming ominously from nearly every window is the menacing glare of smirking Jack-o-lanterns, while the often nervous refrain of "Trick or Treat" rings out in repetitious peals. Halloween is here, and with it the shivery remembrance of things that go bump in the night.

Halloween, a holiday once favored second to Christmas, is not as much fun as it used to be. The last few Halloweens have brought tampering scares, such as finding razors in apples and poisoned candy. A sick segment of society has forced many parents to hold neighborhood parties, instead of allowing their children to trick or treat. The tricks have been turned on the children, ruining an a once magical evening.

Gone are the days when children, dressed up hideously, or gaudily beautiful, could enter the home of a stranger, and be offered chilled apple cider with cinnamon stick straws, and homemade gingerbread, or cupcakes with orange icing and candy corn faces. No longer can mischievous children creep up on neighborhood porches to toss corn kernels against the front door, or generously soap window panes, without triggering house alarms and angering guard dogs kept behind locked fences. The mystical lure of Halloween is becoming a commercial interprise for the sale of candy, costumes and decorations.

Halloween is a Christian name meaning All Hallows, or All Saint's Day, but the custom of Halloween dates back to the Celtic cult in Northern Europe. As the Roman conquest pushed north, the Latin festival of the harvest god, Pomona, mingled with the Druid god, Samhain. Eventually, the Christians adopted the Celtic rites into their own observances.

Halloween signified the return of the herds from the pasture, renewal of laws and land tenures, and the practice of divinations with the dead, presumed to visit their homes on this day. For both the Celts and the Anglo-Saxons, Halloween marked the eve of a new year. The Britains were convinced that divinations concerning health, death and luck, were most auspicious on Halloween. The devil, himself, was evoked for such purposes.

The Druid year began on November first, and on the eve of that day, the lord of death gathered the souls of the dead who had been condemned to enter the body of animals to decide what form they should take for the upcoming year; the souls of the good entered the body of another human at death. The Druids considered cats to be sacred, believing these animals had once been human, changed into cats as punishment for evil deeds.

The Druid cults were outlawed by the Romans during their reign in Great Britain, but the Celtic rites have survived, in part, to the present day. By the time these ancient rites migrated to America, the mystic significance was lost, and all that has remained is an evening when children can dress in outrageous costumes, and collect candy from obliging neighbors; yet a tiny part of every child still believes in witches, ghosts, and the nameless entities that creep about on Halloween, relatives, to their young minds, of the monster that lives under every child's bed.

In the ancient days, it was believed that Halloween was the night chosen by witches and ghosts to freely roam, causing mischief and harm. Witchcraft existed before biblical times, believed in by ancient Egyptians, Romans and American Indians. The Christian Church held varying opinions on witchcraft, at one time accrediting it to be an illusion, later accepting it as a form of alliance with the devil. As late as 1768, disbelief in witchcraft was regarded as proof of atheism.

Halloween customs varied from country to country, but all were related to the Celtic rites. Immigrants to this country, particularly the Scotch and Irish, introduced some of the customs remaining today, but there were many more that are unfamiliar. On Halloween in Scotland, women sowed hemp seed into plowed land at midnight, repeating the formula: "Hemp seed I sow, who will my husband be, let him come and mow." Looking over her left shoulder, a woman might see her future mate.

Apples and a six-pence were put into a tub of water, and whoever succeeded in extracting either of them with his mouth, but without using his teeth, was guaranteed a lucky year. In the highlands of Scotland in the 18th century, families would march about their fields on Halloweem, walking from right to left, with lighted torches, believing this would assure good crops. In other parts of Scotland, witches were accused of stealing milk and harming cattle. Boys took peat torches and carried them across the fields, from left to right(widdershins), in an effort to scare the witches away.

The Scots strongly believed in fairies. If a man took a three-legged stool to an intersection of three roads, and sat on it at midnight, he might hear the names of the people destined to die in the coming year. However, if he tossed a garment to the fairies, they would happily revoke the death sentence.

Scotland's witches held a party on Halloween. Seemingly ordinary women, who had sold their souls to the devil, put sticks, supposedly smeared with the fat of murdered babies, into their beds. These sticks were said to change into the likenesses of the women, and fly up the chimney on broomsticks, attended by black cats, the witchs' familiars.

In Ireland, a meal of callcannon, consisting of mashed potatoes, onions and parsnips, was solemnly served on Halloween. Stirred into this concoction, was a ring, a thimble, a coin, and a doll. The finder of the ring would marry soon, the finder of the doll would have many children, the thimble finder would never marry, and the one fortunate enough to find the coin would be rich. Jack-o-lanterns originated from Ireland, where according to newspaper editor and writer, George William Douglas, " a stingy man named Jack was barred from Heaven because of his penuriousness, and forbidden to enter Hell because of his practical jokes on the devil, thus condemned to walk the earth with his lantern until Judgement Day."

A more serious custom was the holding of the General Assembly(Freig) at Tara, in Celtic Ireland, celebrated every three years and lasting two weeks. Human sacrifices to the gods opened the ceremonies, the victims going up in flames.

England borrowed many of the Scotch and Irish customs, adding them to their own. Young people bobbed for apples, and tied a lighted candle to one end of a stick, and an apple to the other. The stick was suspended and set spinning, the object of the game being to bite the apple without getting burned by the candle. This custom was a relic of the fires lighted on the eve of Samhain in the ancient days of the Celts.

The only customs bearing no relation to the ancient rites is the masquerade costumes of today, and Halloween parades. But the custom of masked children asking for treats comes from the seventeenth century, when Irish peasants begged for money to buy luxuries for the feast of St. Columba,a sixth century priest, who founded a monastery off the coast of Scotland.

From the north of England comes the activity known as "mischief night", marked by shenanigans with no particular purpose, or background. Boys and young men overturned sheds, broke windows, and damaged property. Mischief night prevails today, but is mostly limited to throwing eggs, smashing pumpkins, and lathering carswith shaving cream. The custom of trick or treat is observed mainly by small children, going from house to house. The treat is almost always given, and the trick rarely played, except by teenagers, who view Halloween as an excuse to deviate from acceptable behavior.

Children today, knowing little or nothing of the history and myths behind Halloween, still get exited over the prospect of acting out their fantasies of becoming a witch, ghost, devil, or pirate. It is still pleasurable for an adult, remembering Halloweens past, to see the glow on a child's face as he removes his mask and assures you that he's not really a skeleton. Watching the wide-eyed stares of young children warily observing flickering candle-lit pumpkins, is an assurance that even today, thousands of years beyond the witch and ghost-ridden days of the Druids, a little of the magic of Halloween remains. Children need a little magic to become creative adults; adults need a little magic to keep the child in them alive. So if, on this Halloween, you notice a black cat slink past your door, trailing behind a horde of make-believe goblins, it probably belongs to a neighbor. And the dark shadow whisking across the face of a nearly full moon is only the wisp of a cloud, not a witch riding a broom... probably.





By the pricking of my thumbs,

Something wicked this way comes.

Open, locks,

Whoever knocks!

-Shakespeare


Friday, October 11, 2013

My Shadow

This poem is a prompt contest poem--the prompt being, "My Shadow".

The shadow followed me all day
Glimpsed in farthest corners of my eyes
Each time I turned, it sped away
Wherever Shadows run to hide

It took not shape, nor any form,
At least from what I briefly spied
It seemed a darkly presence at my back
I hurried home, and ran inside
Would its blackness fade with sunlight's lack?

No, it hovers just beyond my view
In darkness shows its wicked might
Taught me terrors I never knew
I reached quickly for some light

Each click, each lamp,
brought no flare, no brightness
To turn away the dark
Which made the Shadow more aware
That I could feel its evil mark

Do I deserve this dreaded fate?
My sins crossed o'er my mind and soul
Must I now pay the devil's toll?
Or be redeemed too late?
Only my Shadow knows



 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Introducing Nancy Jardine, from Scotland

I'd like to introduce Nancy Jardine, a writer from Scotland, to tell us about her writing experiences. Welcome, Nancy, I'm happy to have you as my guest and I find your publishing career interesting from the point of view of a writer from another country.and being Scotish myself, even more so.
 
 
 
Dipping in a toe and using what I know….
It’s fantastic to be hopping across the cyber Atlantic, from Scotland, to visit with you today, Micki! I’d love to tell you a little about my writing though I don’t fit into the category of one particular sub- genre since I’ve written non-fiction and fiction. I relish the challenge of trying something different.
To date my published career is a mishmash. In 1999, I produced a pack of historically based non-fiction teaching materials for my teacher colleagues in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, volunteering my time and effort to that non- profit making venture.
A walk of a few hundred yards from my house in the village of Kintore, Aberdeenshire, will take me to something that’s been there for a very long time. It may be the nearby ruins of Hallforest Castle, built in 1296, a square keep which had six floors and is now the most fantastic crumbling shape. Alternatively, it could be one of the Bronze Age standing stone circles that can also be found just up the hill from my home… or the remains of Ancient Roman marching camps - though admittedly they are underground!
In 2002, my village school was housed in a Victorian-built granite building which was deemed no longer suitable for the purpose. A brand new school building was to be erected directly behind the Victorian school, on what had been a sports field. From Victorian times, it was known that there had been a Roman Marching camp (possibly Agricolan and dated around AD 84) on that site. Thorough archaeological digs were undertaken, over the years 2002-2004, and the findings were astounding!
Instead of the possible 4,000 soldiers being camped 200 steps from my front door, the conclusions were that there may have been as many as 10,000 Romans encamped there, during three possible uses of the site. I was SMITTEN. I’ve always loved history; it was my favourite teaching subject; and I was inspired.
The kids in my 2004 class, (Did I say I also taught at the school across the road?) wrote fantastic stories about Roman soldiers invading Kintore - the local Celtic tribe battling against the Roman Empire. Not to be outdone by kids, my 2004 summer vacation was spent writing my time-travel novel for 10 -14 year olds, in which 3 kids time travel back to Roman Kintore. (That novel, after revamps and rejection slips, is currently with an Edinburgh publisher)
My 2005 summer vacation was spent writing a non-fiction history book of Kintore School since no-one had ever created one. Not from Aberdeenshire, I had to learn a lot in a short time. An OPEN day in Sept 2005, while we still inhabited the old school building I researched, was planned. I wrote furiously that summer and produced ‘a skweel at Kintore fir monie a year’: the first recorded school dominie of Kintore teaching a class in 1574! My colour plated book (old photos and illustrations) was professionally published. Around 400 copies were sold; all profits going into school coffers since I had volunteered.
My 2007 summer vacation (YES- I was a vacation writer) was spent writing a historical romantic adventure, set in Celtic/Roman times. That story became my published novel, The Beltane Choice (Crooked Cat Publishing) which has gained mostly 5 * reviews- though it was not published till August 2012.
In 2008, I cut back from full-time class teaching and began write more fiction. I decided to try contemporary romance. The Wild Rose Press gave me contracts for my contemporary novels: Monogamy Twist (published Aug 2011) and Take Me Now (published Aug 2012). Monogamy Twist is a sensual ancestry based mystery and Take Me Now is a corporate sabotage mystery. The former has an updated Dickensian style weird bequest of a dilapidated English manor house. The latter is set on an island castle off the west coast of Scotland, the main characters zipping around the world in floatplane, jet and catamaran. Take Me Now is also sensual, like Monogamy Twist, but is my first attempt at marrying an element of suspense with humour.
Topaz Eyes (Crooked Cat Publishing Dec 2012), my second ancestral mystery, has a complicated ancestry based plot. Third cousins who have never met before are brought together in Heidelberg, Germany, to solve a family mystery. Their quest to find a set of long lost Mughal jewels takes the main characters to Vienna, Amsterdam, Duluth and Rochester (Minnesota) and New York. Not all is rosy in the family, though. The sub-genre of Topaz Eyes overlaps mystery, suspense, intrigue, and a little romance – death, danger and mistrust abounding.
During 2013, I’ve completed two follow on novels to my Celtic Britain novel, The Beltane Choice. They’ve now been submitted to Crooked Cat Publishing. It’s a nail biting time waiting for a decision on them! I’ve started a three book family saga set in Scotland which starts in the Victorian era. Yet a different sort of writing and time frame.
Thank you so much for inviting me to enthuse about my writing career, Micki. Any questions from you or your readers I’ll be delighted to answer.
Bio:
Nancy Jardine lives in the fantastic ‘castle country’ of Aberdeenshire, Scotland, with her husband of many years. She spends her week making creative excuses for her neglected large garden; doesn’t manage as much writing as she always plans to do since she’s on Facebook too often, but she has a thoroughly great time playing with her toddler granddaughter when she’s supposed to be ‘just’ childminding twice a week. Her writing is peppered with history whenever possible, and those lovely locations she’s visited around the world- too good not share. Blogging takes up a good slot of her writing time, covering this and that topics!
 
Find Nancy’s writing at her Amazon.com author page; http://amzn.to/RJZzZz

Thanks, Micki