Sep 232020
 

As I have said several times here in the blog, it seems that when storms come to our area, they usually split and go just a little bit north and/or a little bit south of us. They can have a downpour two or three miles up the road in either direction, and we’re sitting here with cloudy skies and maybe a sprinkle or two at the most. At least that’s what usually happens. But not always.

We had pounding rains here on Monday that seemed like they might never stop. There was so much coming down that there was no way it was going to do a split, and we got hammered. Not that I’m complaining, our yard certainly needed the water.

Yesterday afternoon I drove down to our fishing dock, 800 yards from the house, to see how things were there. One of the neighbors has a weather station and said that we had gotten over 9 inches of rain here in our subdivision, and the news said a couple of places in our area got over 11 inches.

This is our fishing dock as it normally looks.

This is how it looked yesterday at low tide. The water was right up to the bottom of the dock.

In some places, it was over it. That’s a lot of water! I have not seen it like that since Hurricane Matthew.

I mentioned in yesterday’s blog that I was going to do a Zoom interview with Jim and Chris Gould from the Geeks on Tour to talk about self-publishing. We first met them back in 2006, as I recall. They were just starting out teaching classes in computers and Internet technology at RV rallies, and the first time we met was at an RV park in Casa Grande, Arizona. We chatted a bit in the afternoon, and that night I had a major computer problem. Around 8 o’clock at night, I called Chris to ask if she could help me, and I think she was there until midnight, but she got things working for me.

Since then, we’ve crossed paths at RV rallies and RV parks around the country and always had a good time getting together. It was fun doing the interview, and it’s going to be on their YouTube channel on Sunday.

Next month will be four years since we bought our house here, and as much as we like the area, one frustrating thing we’ve discovered is the lack of service when you call a repair person or service company for something. You’re very lucky if they answer the phone at all or get back to you if you leave a message. If they make an appointment to come out, more times than not they are late or never show up at all. And the chances of them doing a job are about the same as winning the lottery.

For example, in early July, I had someone come to give us an estimate for a project. He looked things over and said he would e-mail a written estimate within 24 hours. I never heard a word from him until Monday, when he sent a text asking if I still wanted the work done. No, you had your chance and blew it.

But yesterday, we had a great experience with a local company. There is a place in Edgewater called the Yard Shop that sells dirt and rock and landscaping supplies. The first time we drove by and saw their sign, I thought it said yarn shop, and Terry being a weaver and spinner, I pointed it out to her. It’s become a running joke between us now that every time we drive by the place, I call it the Yard Yarn Shop.

At any rate, they were supposed to bring some fill dirt to us yesterday at 4 o’clock to level out the area that we lost before we put in the retaining wall along the county drainage ditch. They called about 1:30 and said that they had a cancellation, and would I mind if they came then. I said sure, no problem, and the driver showed up and dumped the dirt exactly where I wanted it to be.

Now the next step is placing a porous ground fabric down and then spreading the dirt to level things up. Once that’s all done, I’ll have the Yard Shop come out again with a load of topsoil to put on top of all that, and then we will plant our groundcover. I really appreciate somebody who does what they say they’re going to do. I will be recommending the Yard Shop to anybody who needs any kind of fill dirt, gravel, or crushed shell.

While all that was going on, besides everything is she does to keep our house running well, Miss Terry decided she needed to make some banana nut bread. I swear, I don’t know how she does it, but everything she makes is even better than it was the time before. I took the small loaf across the street to our neighbors Jesse and Jennifer, only because Terry told me I had to. I was tempted to just go outside and eat it myself and tell her Jesse and Jennifer said thanks, but I figured sooner or later they’d find out about it and rat me out.

Thank you, everybody who has purchased my new book, The Good Years, told their friends about it, and left reviews. Well, actually one review so far, but it was five-star, so it doesn’t get any better than that. Yesterday evening I checked Amazon, and the book was ranked at number 50 in their Hot New Release list for historical fiction. That’s pretty darn good if you ask me!

Thought For The Day – I miss you so much! I wish I could remember where I hid your body.

The Good Years Is Out!

 Posted by at 12:26 am  Nick's Blog
Sep 222020
 

My latest book, The Good Years, book two in the Tinder Street family saga, is now available as an e-book on Amazon. You can find it at this link.

There were a few software missteps getting it ready to go, but my wonderful book formatter, Scarlett Braden, got it finished even though she’s in the process of relocating and had movers coming to her house and all sorts of other things going on at once. I appreciate you, Scarlett.

With the book live on Amazon, I sent my free author’s newsletter out to all of the subscribers. If you’re not yet a subscriber and want to be on the list, send me your email address at editor@gypsyjournal.net

I plan to take a break and do nothing for the next 12 to 24 hours, maybe longer. But don’t worry, within a day or two, I’ll be back at it, working on the next Big Lake mystery novel. The last I heard, they had some wacky stuff going on in that little mountain town!

Usually, when I release a new book, we go out to dinner to celebrate. But since we’ve been doing the self-quarantine thing due to COVID-19, we haven’t been out in many, many months. So, as a special treat to me, yesterday Terry made her delicious overnight yeasted brown butter waffles for breakfast. Those things are so good that there are no words to describe them. I don’t think I ever need to go to a restaurant again.

Speaking of books, I received an email yesterday from a new author who was absolutely offended because her cousin had posted a link to the author’s new book on her (the cousin’s) Facebook page. She told me she was highly offended that her cousin would violate her privacy like that. I wrote back and told her that I wish all of my cousin’s and every friend I had would do the same thing with my books. It’s wonderful free exposure. Anybody who wants to share news about any of my books has my gratitude.

In other news, Chris Guld from the Geeks on Tour wants to do a Zoom interview with me about self-publishing sometime later this week. I get more and more invitations to do things like this or Zoom meetings, and I have been using my phone or my laptop computer. The phone screen is not big enough to show everybody if there are several people in a meeting, and using my laptop involves dragging it out and setting it up. I’m just too lazy for that.

I’ve been looking at webcams on Amazon to put on my desktop computer monitor, and there are about a zillion out there to choose from. But a lot of them are not available because nothing is shipping from China right now. So I’m trying to figure that out. It’s always something.

And finally, here’s another chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Thought For The Day – There’s a fine line between saying too much and saying too little. I walk that line like a drunken clown at the circus.

Sep 212020
 

At one time Fort Smith, Arkansas was a wide open town where gamblers and prostitutes, bootleggers, and Indian traders all flourished on the traffic that came up the Arkansas River and across country headed for the Indian Territory of Oklahoma. This was the last bastion of civilization, the home of “Hanging Judge” Isaac Parker’s Federal Court, a wild place known as “Hell on the Border.”

Any trip into Fort Smith’s colorful past should begin at the city’s historic Miss Laura’s Visitor Center. Built just before the turn of the last century, in 1896, as the city’s unique Riverfront Hotel, the ornate Victorian building soon became widely known as “Miss Laura’s,” the premier bawdyhouse in the rough-and-tumble part of Fort Smith along the Arkansas River.

One of seven houses of ill-repute in the red light district located between the river and the railroad tracks, two important sources of business, Miss Laura’s Social Club was known as the “Queen of the Row” in the wild border town. The building was purchased in 1903 by Laura Zeigler, a prostitute who had moved to Arkansas from Vermont. She raised the money necessary with a $3,000 loan from a Fort Smith bank. It is said that her bordello was so successful that she paid off her debt in a matter of months.

Laura Zeigler turned her business into the classiest house on the “row.” Her working girls were not allowed downstairs unless they were fully dressed, and they received regular medical checkups, the results of which were tacked to the appropriate bedposts. Miss Laura hired only the best looking prostitutes, and charged accordingly. While the competition’s standard price was one dollar, Miss Laura’s girls charged three times as much.

Customers were greeted in the house’s elaborately decorated parlor, where they enjoyed a cigar and brandy while chatting with the ladies, then they made their selection and headed upstairs to the private rooms.

Miss Laura was a gracious hostess, but she did not suffer fools well, and a Smith and Wesson revolver sits handy on the nightstand of her bedroom in her private suite across the hall from the parlor.

Miss Laura’s competition all but disappeared in the winter of 1910 when a fire raged through the row and destroyed five of the bordellos. Flames were licking at Miss Laura’s gingerbread porch when the wind shifted and saved her business.

Miss Laura sold the brothel to Bertha Gale Dean in 1911 for $47,000 and left town. The bordello continued to be known as Miss Laura’s, and even though legalized prostitution ended in 1924, Miss Laura’s stayed open into the early 1940s, doing a steady business with soldiers stationed at nearby Fort Chaffee. Local laws required that every working girl have a monthly examination by a doctor and post her health certificate, just as Miss Laura had instituted from the very beginning.

Following the death of Bertha Dean, in 1949, the building was bought and sold several times and began to deteriorate. It was saved from the wrecker’s ball in 1963 when a local businessman purchased it and remodeled it as an upscale restaurant. In 1992 it became Fort Smith’s Visitor Center, but the building was heavily damaged by a tornado four years later. It has been completely restored to its original beauty, and today Miss Laura’s is the only former brothel on the National Register of Historic Places.

Visitors to Fort Smith can take a free tour of the old brothel and marvel at the handsome wood trim, stained glass windows, and beautiful textured wallpaper. If you did not know it’s history, you would believe that the building had been the home of a prosperous banker or merchant.

Downstairs, Miss Laura’s private suite has been totally restored, as well as the reception parlor across the hall.

Most of the bedrooms upstairs are now used for office space, though one is open and decorated as it was during the brothel’s working days. Above each door the occupant’s name is etched into the frosted glass. Our tour guide told us that since having the glass replaced when a girl left was too expensive, her replacement just took on her working name.

Several showcases display artifacts from Fort Smith’s past, including tokens given to customers and local politicians that could be exchanged for a girl’s services during their next visit to the bordello. Women visitors are given their very own health certificate, a copy of one a working girl was required to post on her headboard back in the day.

Miss Laura’s is located at 2 North B Street, near the U.S. Highway 64 bridge over the Arkansas River. The Visitor Center is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., and is closed on Sundays. For more information, call (800) 637-1477.

Congratulations Julian Banks, winner of our drawing for an audiobook of Big Lake, the first book in my Big Lake mystery series. We had 54 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon.

Thought For The Day – Be careful when you follow the masses. Sometimes the M is silent.

A Launch Is Coming!

 Posted by at 12:05 am  Nick's Blog
Sep 202020
 

No, not a rocket launch at Cape Canaveral. SpaceX was supposed to launch a Falcon 9 rocket carrying 60 Starlink satellites on Thursday but the launch was scrubbed due to strong currents that would make it difficult for the company’s rocket landing platform to hold its position in the Atlantic Ocean. There was talk of sending it up on Friday, but that was delayed, too. They’ll get it up sooner or later, and hopefully I’ll be outside watching.

The launch I’m talking about is that of my new book, The Good Years. It’s the second book in my Tinder Street family saga, and it is being formatted now and should be back to me sometime late today or tomorrow. I’ll give it a look through and make sure everything is okay, and hopefully be able to upload it to Amazon Monday or Tuesday.

I’m always excited about getting a new book out. Yesterday was spent doing the preparations that go along with a new release. I wrote the blurb to describe the book that will appear on Amazon, worked on my author’s newsletter, which will go out as soon as it is live, and did some other behind the scenes promotion efforts.

I’m not the only person with a new book. My dear friend Mona Ingram just released Choosing Love, the eighth and final book in her Love in a Bottle Series, and it is available at all major e-book retailers. Mona is a fantastic author with a dedicated following. I think if you read one of her books, you’ll be a fan, too. Check her out at https://www.monaingram.com/ Mona is also a generous author and you can find many of her books free at this link.

A few months ago I told you about some heavy PVC we were putting in on the canal bank next to our house to hopefully build a type of seawall to keep any more of our yard from eroding away.

Between my bad back and the hot weather, I was never able to finish that project. Talking to a friend who knows a lot more about these things than I do, he suggested replacing the PVC with 4×6” pressure-treated lumber and bolting everything together with stainless steel bolts and nuts. I had a couple of fellows come over to do the job for me, and here it is. Those uprights are in deep enough that they’re not going anywhere.

We will be placing a porous ground fabric down, then will get fill dirt delivered on Tuesday. Once it is raked into place, we will top it off with a few inches of topsoil to bring the ground back up to level.

The county owns the canal, and about once every other year or so they send somebody out to cut the weeds down. As you can see, it’s been a while.

One of the neighbors suggested planting ferns as a groundcover to also help against erosion, but when I called the local nursery yesterday to ask about their availability, they suggested perennial peanut instead. It’s a relative of the peanut family, low maintenance, and does a good job of spreading quickly and providing good groundcover against erosion, and also has pretty yellow flowers. I’ll keep you updated as the rest of the project goes along.

I am trying to build up my presence on the BookBub website, and I would appreciate your help. Please consider going to my author’s page and following me there. It’s quick and easy and there is no cost. And If you have reviewed any of my past books on Amazon, cutting and pasting the review to my BookBub page would help me tremendously. The link is https://www.bookbub.com/profile/nick-russell?list=author_books. Thank you.

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an audiobook of Big Lake, the first book in my Big Lake mystery series. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn this evening.

Thought For The Day – If we are ever in a situation where I am the voice of reason, we are in a very bad situation.

Sep 192020
 

When Helen Keller was born in Tuscumbia, Alabama, in 1880, the world was a very different, and sometimes harsh place. People with physical challenges faced a hard life under the best of circumstances, and a child growing up handicapped often had a very limited future.

Helen Keller was born into this world as a healthy child, but at the age of nineteen months, she became very ill, and though she recovered, the ordeal left her both deaf and blind. Helen was the daughter of a well to do family, and her father, who had served as a Confederate officer during the Civil War and was forever after known as Captain Keller, refused to accept the fact that he would not find someone to help his daughter escape her dark and silent world.

By the age of six, Helen was almost untouchable, described by many as “half-wild.” Her father took her to visit noted inventor Alexander Graham Bell, who helped arrange for a remarkable young woman named Anne Sullivan to come to Ivy Green, the family home in Tuscumbia, as Helen’s teacher.

Anne Sullivan was a dedicated and stubborn teacher, one more than capable of dealing with this undisciplined child. She was also immediately filled with love for her new charge and dedicated the rest of her life to caring for then seven-year-old Helen.

Anne Sullivan’s methods were unorthodox, and there could have been a power struggle between the parents and teacher that might have hampered Helen’s education. Fortunately, Helen’s family was willing to allow the teacher to do what she thought necessary to break through the walls imprisoning their child.

Anne’s first step was to remove Helen from the family home and moving herself and the young girl into a smaller building next door that Helen’s parents had lived in when she was born. Anne pushed Helen in a stroller for hours before finally taking her into the house, convincing the child she was far away from her family and home, and forcing her to rely on her teacher for everything. Then Anne Sullivan set to work to break through the silence.

Working day and night with Helen, Anne tried one method after another to reach the child. The miracle breakthrough came at a well in the back yard, when Anne pumped cool water over one of Helen’s hands, while repeatedly tapping out an alphabet code of five letters in the palm of her other hand. The scene was repeated over and over again as the young girl struggled to escape her world of silence.

Suddenly the signals connected, and Helen understood that the tapped code letters meant the cool liquid flowing over her hand, and remembered water from her first days before illness had struck. “Waa waa” she uttered excitedly. Communication was established, and by the end of the day, Helen had learned an astonishing thirty words!

From that point on, there was no stopping Helen Keller. She quickly learned the fingertip alphabet, and within six months, she knew 625 words. By the time she was ten years old, she had mastered Braille, as well as the manual alphabet, and even learned to use the typewriter. By age sixteen, Helen could speak well enough to attend preparatory school and college. She graduated ‘cum laude’ from Radcliff College in 1904, Anne Sullivan staying by her side throughout her school years, interpreting lectures and class discussions for her.

Once locked in a prison of silence and darkness, Helen Keller dedicated her life to improving conditions for the blind and deaf around the world. She wrote numerous books and became an accomplished public speaker. She lectured in more than 25 countries on five continents, and wherever she appeared, she brought new hope and courage to millions of blind people.

Anne Sullivan, the teacher who would not give up on Helen, became known as the “Miracle Worker” and spent the rest of her life working with her student and friend.

Today, Ivy Green, the Helen Keller home and birthplace, is a museum to the brave young girl who grew up to inspire so many. The simple white clapboard home was built in 1820 by Helen’s grandparents, David and Mary Keller, and originally sat on a 640-acre tract of land. Untouched by the ravages of the Civil War, today the home is maintained to the smallest detail in its original state, and though the grounds have shrunk considerably, several outbuildings still remain, including a cooking shack, the separate small cottage where Anne Sullivan took young Helen to begin working with her, and the famous well pump where child and teacher finally managed to make a connection.

Inside, the house is furnished with many Keller family furnishings and items. Each room holds hundreds of Helen Keller’s personal mementos, books, gifts from admirers, photos of Helen at different stages of her life, and her clothing. One museum room contains books written by Helen Keller, her Braille typewriter, a handsome bust of Helen, and toys she played with as a child.

The grounds at Ivy Green include outbuildings and the Lions International Memorial Garden, which gives some idea of the millions of lives that Helen Keller touched. The estate is nestled under a canopy of 150-year-old English boxwood, magnolia, mimosa, and other trees. Roses, honeysuckle, and other flowers scent the air with a wonderful fragrance.

During June and July, William Gibson’s famous play The Miracle Worker, based on Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan’s lives, is presented on the grounds on Friday and Saturday evenings. Tuscumbia also holds a Helen Keller Festival in June of every year to celebrate Helen Keller’s accomplishments, with children’s activities, a parade, arts and craft shows, an antique show, a car show, vendors, and other special events.

A visit to Ivy Green is a wonderful opportunity to learn more about Helen Keller, her teacher Anne Sullivan, and about the accomplishments Helen made for the benefit of the blind and deaf.

Tuscumbia, Alabama is located about 50 miles west of Decatur, Alabama, and Interstate 65. There is limited room to park a large RV at Ivy Green, so you would be advised to park at a local RV park and drive your tow vehicle. Ivy Green is open Monday through Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, call 888-329-2124.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Big Lake, the first book in my Big Lake mystery series. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – Happiness is a choice. You can be happy at any time, just choose to be.

Sep 182020
 

Traveling around the country in a motorhome for over 18 years, we met a lot of people. Many of them were casual acquaintances, some became our close friends, while others were chance encounters, like ships passing in the night. But the one thing that always impressed me from coast to coast and border to border was how truly nice most people are.

Maybe this was because it was before politics divided the country so bad, I don’t know. But it seemed like whether they were young or old, black or white, or however you describe people, the majority of the ones we met were all open and friendly. I miss that.

When we were building our MCI bus conversion we were in Casa Grande, Arizona for a week or so and I needed to replace the starting batteries. The big heavy 8D batteries that came with the bus were pretty much shot so I went down to Walmart to get some new ones. Since the bus would no longer be used for commercial service and we had removed the original massive air conditioner, I planned to just get two regular size heavy duty batteries.

When I paid for the batteries, the clerk said if I had the old batteries, they would give me $5 each as a core charge. I actually had the batteries in the back of our pickup truck. A friend had helped me load them, hoping Walmart would just take them off my hands and trash them. So I went outside with a large flat rolling cart, put the new smaller batteries in the back of the truck, and tried to muscle the old heavy ones onto the dolly. Each battery weighed 130 pounds and they were way too heavy for me. I thought that maybe with the tailgate down I could slide one end off and onto the dolly and then swing the high-end down.

While I was pondering that, a husky young man in a pickup truck pulled into the empty space next to me. He was a typical Arizona farm or ranch kid, maybe 17 nor 18 years old, wearing jeans, a T-shirt, well worn boots, and a straw cowboy hat. He asked, “Do you need some help, sir?” I told him I sure did, that I needed to get those batteries off the truck and onto the cart, and I would appreciate it if he would give me a hand. I expected that he would take one and I would take the other, but instead, he grabbed one of the big batteries and easily lifted it out of the truck and onto the cart, and then the other one.

“There you go, sir,” he said. I was thinking to myself, what a great kid! We always hear about the lazy kids that are too busy playing video games to get off the couch, and the ones that are out raising hell and spraying graffiti on things, but this nice kid was doing a kindness for a total stranger.

I pulled out a $10 bill and offered it to him as thanks, and he said, “No, sir, I couldn’t take your money.” I told him he deserved it and he said, “Oh, no, sir! If my grandpa was having a problem, I would want someone to help him.” I think I was about 48 years old at the time and told him I wasn’t old enough to be his grandpa, but maybe his father.

The young whippersnapper said, “No, sir, my father’s young. My grandpa’s old like you.” I thanked him for his time and pushed the cart back into Walmart, all the while muttering under my breath about the little smart alec. Grandpa indeed!

But not all young people are that disrespectful. We were in a Kohl’s store in Clermont, Florida and I wanted to buy new shoes. We had been there a couple of weeks earlier and I had seen the shoes I wanted. But when we went back, they had rearranged the store and I could not find the shoe department. It was close to Christmas and the place was busy. Try as I might, I couldn’t find what I was looking for. Then I saw a young man in slacks and a button-down shirt with a tie and said, “Excuse me, can you point me toward the shoe department ?” He took me across the store to the shoe department and I immediately saw the shoes I wanted and picked them up, but they were the wrong size.

He had started to walk away and I called him back and asked, “Do you know if these come in a size 9W?” He looked at several boxes of the shoes and said he didn’t see any, so I asked if they might have some in the back room. He shook his head and said, “I really don’t know. You’d have to ask one of the employees.” I apologized and told him I thought he was an employee, and he said, “No, just a guy waiting for my wife to get done shopping.”

Another time, we were in southern Indiana and left our motorhome at a campground while we went out looking for a place that sold kayaks in the area, as we were just getting interested in them at the time. We tried to find the place, but we couldn’t. It was about 5 o’clock on a summer afternoon, and I pulled into a convenience store and went inside. There was a man in his late 20s working at the counter, and a couple of young women were standing around talking to him.

I asked if he knew how I could get to such and such kayak shop. He told me sure, just go down the road about 4 miles to the Johnson place, turn left down the winding road to the bluffs, whatever that was, then turn right by Jesse Smith’s place. In another mile or so the kayak shop would be on the left. By then my eyes had glassed over and he looked at me and said, “You ain’t from around here, are you?” I admitted that we weren’t, and he said, “Okay, don’t worry. Girls, watch the store.” We went outside and he said, “Follow my pickup.” He led us several miles down a series of winding country roads until we came upon the kayak shop. He made a U-turn, honked and waved, and went back to work. That’s country hospitality for you.

Of course, sometimes those chance encounters can make you laugh so hard you bust a gut. In cool weather, if we’re not going anywhere, I like to get comfortable in a sweatshirt and a pair of sweatpants if all I’m doing is writing. We were staying at The Great Outdoors RV resort in Titusville, Florida and I wanted a new set.

We went to the local Walmart, and while Terry was shopping I went to the men’s department and was looking for sweatpants and a sweatshirt. I couldn’t find any, but I saw a very large African-American woman who looked to be in her late 40s or early 50s wearing a blue Walmart vest. “Excuse me,” I said, “do you have sweats?” The lady put her hands on her hips and said, “Darlin’, I got sweats, I got chills, I got night terrors, and I got hot flashes. Pick whichever one you want.”

I laughed so hard I had tears running down my face. And she helped me find exactly the sweats I was looking for, too.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Big Lake, the first book in my Big Lake mystery series. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – Why am I the only naked person at this gender reveal party?

Sep 172020
 

Many people think that the money from subscriptions is how a newspaper survives, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. At best, subscription income covers the cost of getting the paper delivered, and not always even that. Many newspapers spend a lot of money managing a circulation department. In fact, several of my newspapers were free because it was both cheaper and more profitable to give them away than to sell them. Newspapers survive on advertising. Without advertising dollars, no newspaper or TV or radio station can make it.

Early in my newspaper career, up in Grays Harbor, Washington, there was a man who owned a large mobile home dealership, as well as a lumberyard, building supply store, and other businesses. His name was Bob, and I really wanted his business. In fact, I needed his business!

Bob always advertised heavily on the radio and with the other newspaper in town, but he would shake his head when I would come into his office and tell me, “Nick, I like you, and I consider you a friend, but nobody reads that free rag of yours.”

I never believed in giving up, so I called on Bob every week. In fact, I made a point of calling on Bob every Monday afternoon, sometime between 3 and 3:30. I did this for several months and never missed a week, and I always got the same answer. “Nobody reads that little paper of yours, and you’ll never convince me otherwise.”

Over time I became such a regular at his office that I was running late once because the drawbridge across the river in Aberdeen became stuck in the open position and I couldn’t get there. I finally turned around and went back to my office, and about 4 o’clock, I got a phone call from Bob, asking if I was okay. He was worried that I had not shown up on schedule.

Bob and I became good friends. He was a very successful businessman and a mentor to me in some ways. We would meet for lunch once in a while, and he invited my wife and me to his house for a cookout several times. But try as I might, I could not convince Bob to buy an ad because “nobody read my paper.”

One weekend I was at the grocery store and I happened to bump into Bob’s daughter. We chatted for a few minutes, and she reminded me that the coming Wednesday was her dad’s birthday and I was invited to a birthday barbecue at the family home. I promised her that I would be there.

That’s when the wheels started turning. Wednesday was not only my friend Bob’s birthday, it was also the day my weekly newspaper hit the street. So I decided to convince Bob that people really did read my newspaper.

Now, Bob was a prankster with a great sense of humor, and I had been on the receiving end of his practical jokes a couple of times, so I decided he was due for some payback. I would kill two birds with the same stone by showing him that people did read my paper. I always carried a camera, and I had several pictures of Bob I had taken at one time or another, including one of him sitting in his vintage Cadillac convertible.

This was in the days before cell phones, and most calls to Bob’s office went through the secretary out front. But I had his personal phone number. Not many people had that private number.

My newspaper hit the streets bright and early Wednesday morning, and the back page was covered with a picture of Bob sitting in his old car smiling. The 72-point bold red headline said, “Happy 60th Birthday Bob.” Under that in smaller, but still large type, was the message “Bob doesn’t believe anybody reads my newspaper, so please do me a favor and call him at this number (the private phone number on his desk) and tell him that Nick Russell said happy birthday. A man only turns 60 once, and it’s important to me that you help make Bob’s day.”

It was probably about 10 that morning when my secretary said Bob was on the phone and wanted to talk to me. I told her to tell him I would have to get back to him in a little bit. At 11 o’clock, Bob called again, and I was too busy to talk to him. I finally took his call about two in the afternoon, and Bob laughed and said, “You SOB, you put that in the paper, and I haven’t been able to get a damn thing done today because the phone is ringing off the hook. I finally had to unplug it, and now they’re calling the switchboard!”

I told Bob that I had no idea how that could possibly be happening since nobody read my little newspaper. The next issue, and for all the rest of the time I owned it, Bob always had at least a full-page ad in my newspaper from one of his businesses, and sometimes several.

Oh, and by the way, the barbecue was delicious, and so was the birthday cake.

It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Big Lake, the first book in my Big Lake mystery series. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – I want to be 14 again and ruin my life differently. I have new ideas.

Sep 162020
 

The world exists in many dimensions, limited only by our own imaginations. At the Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures in Tucson, Arizona, the big and the small exist side by side, each a reflection of the other, scaled up or scaled-down, depending on your point of view.

Created from the imagination and dedication of its founders, Patricia and Walter Arnell, the museum is a fascinating collection of miniature buildings accurate to the tiniest detail, a world of whimsy, and a trip back in time and to the land of fairytales, all in one. Male or female, young or old, no matter who you are, this wonderful museum will captivate you.

Patricia Arnell’s interest in miniatures began when she was a young girl in the 1930s and received her first miniatures, a set of Strombecker wooden dollhouse furniture. But it wasn’t until the Arnells moved to Tucson in 1979 that she began collecting in earnest. The Arnell’s became very active in the miniature community, and as their collection grew, they dreamed of a way to share it with more people. They envisioned an interactive space where the entertaining and educational aspects of the collection could be enjoyed by everyone; a place that would be enchanting, magical, and provide a rich sensory experience.

The concept of “the mini time machine” was born out of the notion that a visitor would be seemingly transported to different eras by the stories and history of the pieces in the collection.

The museum’s artifacts are organized into three main areas; the Enchanted Realm, the History Gallery, and Exploring the World.

The Enchanted Realm is a magical place and the pieces displayed in this gallery reflect that. Here you will find woodland creatures, snow villages, fairy castles, and a witch’s compound. If you don’t believe in wizards and elves when you enter, you may be by the time you leave.

The gallery includes a fine collection of Kewpie dolls, the creations of artist and writer Rose O’Neill, who started illustrating for magazines such as Collier’s and Harper’s Bazaar while still a teenager. O’Neill conceived the idea of the cartoon-like dolls for a feature in the December 8, 1908 issue of Ladies Home Journal. She had no idea how quickly they would capture the hearts of the nation. Before long, Kewpies were appearing in comic strips, on postcards, plates, pillows, cereal and Jell-O boxes, and countless other products. The dolls quickly became a worldwide phenomenon, making O’Neill a millionaire practically overnight.

I am a fan of artist Thomas Kinkaide and was delighted to see several of his Christmas cabins in the collection.

The pieces in the History and Antiques Gallery reflect different time periods and have historical value and significance. One of the oldest miniature houses in the United States, circa 1775, is part of this collection.

One of the miniature houses on display is a mansion called Lagniappe, a French Creole word meaning “a trifle extra.” The name is a modest description of this stunning re-creation of the fine homes built throughout the Virginia tidelands during the 18th Century. Each room features a particular decorating style and period, such as the Spanish Renaissance Room, the Ming Dynasty Room, and the American Empire Bedroom. The Brass Room is filled with almost all brass furnishings, and the floor, walls, and fireplace are trimmed in brass.

Master miniaturists use many of the same tools and techniques as craftsmen and artisans producing full size work. Wood is cut with precision saws, turned on lathes, or carved with chisels. Metal is snipped and soldered. Clay and porcelain are shaped by hand and fired in kilns. The only difference is in the scale of the equipment – miniature art requires miniature tools.

Whenever possible, a miniature is made from the same materials as its full-sized counterpart. Wood, stone, fabric, even glass, and precious metals are used in the tiny buildings and their furnishings.

A true masterpiece of miniature art reproduces exactly its life-sized counterpart down to the smallest nail or stitch. Producing miniature textiles requires special care since ordinary threads and stitching often look out of scale when used in a miniature. Miniature rugs that reproduce the patterns and textures of finely woven carpets are especially challenging. Traditional needlepoint typically employs thread counts of anywhere from 5 to 24, while in contrast, a miniature rug might have a thread count of 30 or 40 in order to look realistic.

The Scottish Regency mansion dates back to the 1950s or 60s and is a copy of an earlier miniature on display in an English museum.

Is it possible for a miniature house to be haunted by a miniature ghost? You might think so after hearing the story of the reproduction John Bellemy made of his own stately home on West Newton, Massachusetts in the 1880s. While it’s not known if Bellemy’s actual house was haunted, it seems that the miniature might have its own tiny poltergeist. While in museum founder Patricia Arnell’s original display room, the house was routinely disturbed in the middle of the night. Miniature chairs in the office would be found moved across the room and in the kitchen, a tiny toast rack would be moved from the stove to a spot on the floor beneath the table. How did that happen? Nobody has an answer to the mini-mystery.

Once the purvey of the wealthy, collecting miniatures became popular with people of all social classes by the mid-1800s, with railroads crossing the country and industrialization reducing the price of manufacturing and delivery.

A typical kit for a miniature house would include all of the necessary patterns, colorfully printed paper for interior and exterior walls and the roof, and detailed instructions on the right materials to use and how to assemble everything. While the finished house might not be to exact scale, it didn’t matter to the new miniaturists proudly displaying their first completed projects.

The R. Bliss Manufacturing Company started out making screws and clamps in Pawtucket, Rhode Island and expanded into the toy business. Combining their expertise in woodcraft with new inexpensive lithographic printing, they began creating simple wooden forms into colorful blocks, pull toys and doll houses. Advertised and sold through catalogs, the Bliss toy catalog was considered as important to children of that era as the Sears Roebuck catalog was to their parents. While not to scale and often a hodgepodge of different styles, Bliss houses have a distinctive charm that makes them popular with miniature collectors.

The Exploring the World gallery displays examples of how miniatures are used in other cultures, with items from artisans representing the U.K., France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Japan, Thailand, and Spain, among others.

Miniatures also have practical applications. Architects have used scale models of their buildings to sell their designs to clients, often spending hundreds, even thousands of dollars to produce these small three-dimensional examples of their work. Theater and motion picture directors use miniature models to create set designs and lighting to see how the action will look before cameras and crews are brought in. Occasionally a scale model is actually used in movie and television shows. Special effects artists have used miniatures to stand in for everything from ancient castles to spaceships. Such classics as Ben Hur, Citizen Kane, The Wizard of Oz, King Kong, and Star Wars all used skillfully created miniatures.

If you have an interest in collecting or creating miniatures, the people at the Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures say you don’t have to be a master craftsman or spend years building a huge collection to join the growing community of miniature enthusiasts. The world of miniatures welcomes anyone with even a casual interest in this unique art. One way to get started and meet like-minded people is to visit a local miniatures club or attend one of the many events sponsored by national miniature groups, where you will find workshops and demonstrations, and see a wide variety of tools and miniature supplies offered by vendors.

And don’t be surprised if you do come away from a visit to the museum with a newfound appreciation for and interest in the miniaturists’ art. After seeing the museum collection of over 275 miniature buildings and thousands of finely crafted furnishings and accessories, it would be hard not to be.

The Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures is located at 4455 E. Camp Lowell Road in Tucson and is open Wednesday – Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. The museum is closed Mondays, Tuesdays, and major holidays. Admission is $10.50 for adults, $8.50 for seniors over age 65, $7 for students and those ages 4 -17, and children age 3 and under are admitted free. The parking lot at the museum is not appropriate for RVs, so park your rig at one of Tucson’s many RV parks and drive your tow vehicle or dinghy. For more information, call the museum at (520) 881-0606 or visit their website at https://theminitimemachine.org/

Thought For The Day – Spiderman wears a mask. So can you.

Sep 152020
 

I have a problem with my wife and I just don’t know what to do about it. I know what I should do about it, but that’s not going to happen. You see, my wife is the best cook in the world, and she makes wonderful treats all the time. It’s something she loves to do, and I love to eat everything she makes, as my waistline proves. That’s the problem. I should exercise at least a little bit of willpower, but I have none.

It’s been a while since Terry made some of her delicious cinnamon rolls, but yesterday she decided it was time. Actually, she decided the night before, because she made the dough up and put them in the refrigerator to rise overnight. We had some for breakfast yesterday morning, and I would say they were delicious, but that would an understatement. We did take some to the neighbors across the street, but that still left plenty for me. Cholesterol be damned, I’m going to go have another one!

We go to the grocery store every two or three weeks, and yesterday afternoon it was time because we were out of quite a few essentials, including chocolate milk. We got to Publix at about 3 PM, and it wasn’t very crowded. We were pleased to see that everybody in the store, customers and staff alike, were wearing masks. Maybe people are finally getting the message.

My ego got a little bit of a boost when I smiled at a young woman with a child, and she said, “Even with the mask on, I can tell you’re smiling. You have smiling eyes.” Talk about making an old man feel nice!

Back at home, we carried the groceries in, and Terry put things away while I answered a bunch of emails and looked for a photograph that Elizabeth Mackey could use on the cover of my new Tinder Street book. I wanted something like an old Model T, but the best thing she could find and get the right to use was a 1931 Ford. It was gorgeous, and I loved it, but the book runs from 1920 to 1925, so, unfortunately, it did not fit the time period.

But longtime reader Donald Hann posted a picture of a 1925 car for me and told me where he found it. It was at an antique automobile dealership and museum in Pennsylvania, so I called to inquire about getting the rights to use the photo. The president of the company told me that I was more than welcome to use it, and when I offered to pay him, he said just to send him a copy of the book. How cool is that? So here is the finished cover.

Terry finished proofing the last part of the new book yesterday, and I made her corrections and sent it on to proofreader number two. I’m looking forward to getting this one behind me so I can start my next Big Lake book. I’ve missed Sheriff Jimmy and the people in that quirky little mountain town.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Thought For The Day – If you believe all this will end and we will get back to normal just because we reopen everything, raise your hand. Now slap yourself with it.

Another One Done!

 Posted by at 12:01 am  Nick's Blog
Sep 142020
 

Yesterday afternoon I finished The Good Years, book two in my Tinder Street historical family saga. I started working on it on July 16 and it came in at 103,289 words. Now on to the proofing/editing stage.

Things should go quicker with this book because we tried something different this time around. During the writing process, after every two or three chapters, I would print them out for Miss Terry to proof and edit. Then I would make her corrections and send it on to my second proofreader to do her thing. When she sent it back, I made her corrections and it went to proofreader number three. So, most of the book has already been edited and proofread. Before I publish it, all three will take another look at the final manuscript. However, there should not be too much for them to deal with, so I think it will go faster.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth Mackey, my excellent cover artist, is busy creating a cover for the new book. Unless something totally crazy happens, it should be out before the end of the month.

This is my fifth book this year, and I plan to release another book in my Big Lake mystery series by Christmas. A relatively new author I met online, who is just finishing her first book, asked me how it was possible for me to turn out so many books in such a short time. I told her that this is my business, and I approach it as a business. I usually write anywhere from 4 to 6 hours a day. I also spend another couple of hours a day on promotion, and anywhere from 2 to 3 hours a day on research. That’s seven days a week, and doesn’t count my daily blog, which runs anywhere from 500 to 1,000 words or more.

It’s like any other small business. If you want to succeed, you put your nose to the grindstone and you keep it there. I seldom take a complete day off. Maybe two or three times a month, at most. Between Florida’s hot, humid summer and COVID-19 self-isolating, it sure has made it easy to get a lot of work done!

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Congratulations Tim Miller, winner of our drawing for an audiobook of Dead Letter by Catherine Bender. The first book in the M. Falcon mystery series, it’s the tale of amateur detectives in their golden years with a treasure trove of unexpected skills and unconventional tactics, including a sweet wheelchair bound grandmother type who is a master computer hacker, a semi-retired actress who seizes the opportunity to live her dream of being a super spy, a homeless veteran, and other blue hairs who are not content to rock their lives away in boring retirement. We had 59 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon.

Thought For The Day – I lived on a houseboat for a while and started a relationship with the girl next door. But eventually, we drifted apart.

September Potpourri

 Posted by at 12:45 am  Nick's Blog
Sep 132020
 

Definition of potpourri – 1: a mixture of flowers, herbs, and spices that is usually kept in a jar and used for scent. 2: a miscellaneous collection. The second definition above pretty much describes today’s blog, a collection of miscellaneous thoughts and info that I’m sharing because I don’t have anything else to talk about today.

***

After reading yesterday’s blog, I Played Hooky, two people told me I must be confused because I wrote about seeing dolphins, manatee, and an occasional small shark from our dock on the Intercoastal Waterway. They said in looking at a map of the area, we are on the Indian River, and rivers are freshwater, not saltwater. Not exactly correct. Wikipedia explains it in part by saying: The Indian River is a 121-mile long brackish lagoon in Florida. It is part of the Indian River Lagoon system, which in turn forms part of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. The Indian River extends southward from the Ponce de Leon inlet in New Smyrna Beach in Volusia County southward and across the Haulover Canal and along the western shore of Merritt Island. The Banana River flows into the Indian River on the island’s south side. The Indian River continues southward to St. Lucie Inlet. Brackish water is a combination of freshwater and saltwater, which explains the sea life we have, along with alligators.

***

Something else that comes up now and then on the same subject is that I call it the Intercoastal Waterway, but the correct spelling is Intracoastal. That is true, but around here, the locals say it and spell it Intercoastal, so I do, too. When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

***

Someone who read Tinder Street, the first book in my historical family saga, wrote to tell me that they were disappointed that I referred to a Negro doorman in the book and that I should have said African American. No, that scene took place in 1917. There was no such term as African Americans in those days. That term had not been invented yet. They were Negroes. I write the way it fits the book and the character, and I’m sorry if that offends anyone, but it is what it is.

***

Speaking of books, if you enjoy easy reading mysteries, my pal Donna McNicol has some great deals going on for a short time. You can get all three of her C’Mon Inn mystery books, Paradise Down, Paradise Dead, and Paradise Drift, as well as book one of her Klondike Mysteries, Not a Whisper, and her romance, Home Again, for just 99¢ each today and tomorrow. That’s a lot of excellent reading for next to nothing.

***

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing, for an audiobook of Dead Letter by Catherine Bender. The first book in the M. Falcon mystery series, it’s the tale of amateur detectives in their golden years with a treasure trove of unexpected skills and unconventional tactics, including a sweet wheelchair bound grandmother type who is a master computer hacker, a semi-retired actress who seizes the opportunity to live her dream of being a super spy, a homeless veteran, and other blue hairs who are not content to rock their lives away in boring retirement. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – If these last months have taught us anything, it’s that stupidity travels faster than any virus on the planet, particularly among politicians and bureaucrats.

I Played Hooky

 Posted by at 12:19 am  Nick's Blog
Sep 122020
 

I have been working hard on the second book in the Tinder Street saga and I should be finishing it sometime in the coming week. I thought it would go quicker than this, but as with the first book in the series, there was a lot of research to be done. It’s important to me that if I describe a certain car or a certain business that was in Toledo, Ohio in the mid-1920s, that it really was there. Just yesterday I was researching the qualifications to become a schoolteacher in Ohio in 1925. That took me down a rabbit hole and cost me over two hours of my life!

I love what I do and never really think of it as work, but sometimes I just have to get away from it for a while. The other day was one of those days. I told Terry I needed to play hooky and get out of the house for a little bit, so we want down to our dock and soaked up some saltwater air.

We live 800 yards from the Intercoastal Waterway, and our long fishing dock and boat launch played a big part in our decision to purchase the home we did.

We love sitting out here, just enjoying the views up and down the river.

Not to mention the animals. There are always birds sitting on the pilings, there are usually some pelicans around, occasionally we will see a skate, which is a cousin to the stingray, and we’ve even seen a few small sharks. And that doesn’t include the manatee who hang out here in the wintertime, and the dolphins. It’s very seldom that we go down to the dock and don’t see dolphins playing in the water.

There were three of them out there this time around, and one started swimming toward the dock, but then changed its mind and turned around and went in the other direction. They stayed far enough away that I wasn’t able to get a good picture of them as they rolled up out of the water.

It was a hot day but there was a breeze blowing and we were sitting on a bench with a cover, so we weren’t getting the direct impact of the sun. That’s a good thing because it was somewhere around 90° and the humidity was in the 70% area. That sounds terrible, but again, the breeze off the water made it comfortable.

Because of the manatee, our section of the Intercoastal Waterway is a no-wake zone. I’ve seen what a boat propeller can do to manatee, and it is not pretty. But, of course, there are always people like this jackass who believe the rules don’t apply to them, speeding through the area and totally ignoring the law. Why are people such jerks?

Back home, we had a package from Amazon waiting for us. Miss Terry had ordered a new bed cover, and I think it looks pretty nice. How about you? While the color is right on the bedcover, for some reason, the color of our wall is way too dark in this picture.

I’ll be back at it today. I’m getting so close to the end of this book that I can see it coming at me. It will be nice to get this one out of the way, and then I can jump back into the Big Lake series and knock one of those out before the end of the year.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing, and we’ve got another great prize this week. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Dead Letter by Catherine Bender. The first book in the M. Falcon mystery series, it’s the tale of amateur detectives in their golden years with a treasure trove of unexpected skills and unconventional tactics, including a sweet wheelchair bound grandmother type who is a master computer hacker, a semi-retired actress who seizes the opportunity to live her dream of being a super spy, a homeless veteran, and other blue hairs who are not content to rock their lives away in boring retirement. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – When this virus thing is over with, I still want some of you to stay away from me.

23 Years Ago

 Posted by at 12:51 am  Nick's Blog
Sep 112020
 

I know that today marks 19 years since the terrible 9/11 terrorist attacks on our nation. We must never forget that terrible day, or to honor those who were lost. 9/11 memorials will be all over the media today, and rightly so. But I want take you back four more years further in the past to a day that is very significant in our lives.

23 years ago today, Terry and I had our first official date. We had been casual acquaintances for a long time, since the business she ran advertised in my newspaper for many years, and I always admired and respected her. My marriage had ended and I swore I was never going to get involved with anybody again, telling all my friends that I had been shot twice and married twice, and you can get over shot quicker than you can married. As for Terry, she always wore a big ring on her finger and I just assumed she was married. Well, as it turned out I was wrong on all counts.

I have written about how it all began before, and you can read about it at this link from a blog a couple of years ago. Over time our business acquaintance and a casual friendship began to look like there might be more to it, so I asked her if she would like to go to a movie. Nobody was more surprised than me when she said yes. How could the prettiest woman in Show Low, Arizona, be willing to spend an evening with me?

Over the years I’ve done a lot of things, including being a soldier, being shot at, jumping out of perfectly good airplanes, and winnning my first and only stock car race. But none of that scared me more than the drive to Terry’s house to pick her up that evening. So much so that I had to stop at my secretary’s house, halfway there, to throw up. Seriously, I was that nervous.

We went to a movie, and the instant comfort we had always had with each other was there. So much so that we spent most of the movie scrunched down in our seats, our heads together whispering back and forth to each other. I am sure we must have bothered the people around us to no end.

After the movie, we went to get a bite to eat, and we ended up sitting in the restaurant and talking until dawn. We were both shocked at how fast the time had gone.

Two weeks later we had our second date, and it never ended. We have been together ever since, only spending two or three nights apart, when Terry was in the hospital with radiation implants during her cancer ordeal and they would not allow me to stay with her. And every day just keeps getting better. I love you, Terry.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing, and we’ve got another great prize this week. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Dead Letter by Catherine Bender. The first book in the M. Falcon mystery series, it’s the tale of amateur detectives in their golden years with a treasure trove of unexpected skills and unconventional tactics, including a sweet wheelchair bound grandmother type who is a master computer hacker, a semi-retired actress who seizes the opportunity to live her dream of being a super spy, a homeless veteran, and other blue hairs who are not content to rock their lives away in boring retirement. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – A happy marriage is a long conversation which always seems too short.

Sep 102020
 

Maybe I’m just weird, but while most young boys my age were lusting over Annette Funicello or Sky King’s niece Penny, I was in love with Morticia Addams, the matriarch of the Addams Family, on our old black and white television.

Maybe it was her high cheekbones, or the long black hair, or those octopus legs; whatever it was about the woman, I was in love. Or at least lust. And though she was probably the original Goth girl, Morticia had a soft side to her. Who can forget her lovingly feeding her African Strangler plant, which she named Cleopatra?

I think Morticia would have felt right at home if she were to visit the Darlingtonia Wayside, which is located a few miles north of Florence, Oregon.

The small day use wayside is the perfect example of the kind of surprises awaiting you when you get off the busy interstate highways and travel America’s two lane roads. The wayside has picnic tables and restrooms and a path that leads to an interesting botanical garden that is home to the interesting Darlingtonia californica, also called the cobra lily.

These interesting carnivorous plants have yellow-green hoods and 10 to 20 inch stalks that are hollow tubes. A sweet smelling nectar attracts insects into a hidden opening in the stalk that is bordered by a large mustache-shaped appendage beneath the curved hood. Once inside, the insect becomes confused by transparent areas that appear like exits and moves deeper and deeper into the depths of the plant, where it is trapped by sharp downward pointed hairs until it tires and drops into a pool of liquid at the bottom. Bacteria in the liquid decomposes the victim and it is then absorbed by the plant. Tell me Morticia wouldn’t love these things!

These surprisingly beautiful plants, which are found in bogs in northern California and southwestern Oregon, flower in May and June, with hanging yellow and red blooms. The erect seed pods remain through summer and into early fall.

The next time you find yourself on the Oregon coast, stop and check out the Wayside. It will not accommodate large RVs, but smaller Class C or B vans would not have a problem.

It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing, and we’ve got another great prize this week. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Dead Letter by Catherine Bender. The first book in the M. Falcon mystery series, it’s the tale of amateur detectives in their golden years with a treasure trove of unexpected skills and unconventional tactics, including a sweet wheelchair bound grandmother type who is a master computer hacker, a semi-retired actress who seizes the opportunity to live her dream of being a super spy, a homeless veteran, and other blue hairs who are not content to rock their lives away in boring retirement. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – I bought a new stick deodorant and the instructions to remove cap and push up bottom. I can barely walk, but when I toot the room smells lovely.

Sep 092020
 

I do believe that there are people who have certain gifts that the rest of us don’t have, or at least don’t recognize. I had a friend I worked with at one time who, several times, said he believed something was going to happen to somebody else in our circle, and it did. Two occasions come to mind: Three mutual friends were going fishing on Lake Roosevelt in Arizona, and he told one of them, “I really wish you wouldn’t do that. I’ve got a bad feeling about you being out on the water today.” Unfortunately, that same friend stood up in the boat to reel in a fish and fell overboard and drowned.

The other time I remember, when we both got to work, he asked me in the parking lot if I had seen a female coworker that day. I said no, but I had not even clocked in yet. He said he had a really bad feeling about her. An hour later, when she still hadn’t come to work, he kept insisting that someone go check on her. One of the staff did, and it turned out she had had a heart attack. Fortunately, she survived. Were these just coincidences? I don’t know. Maybe so. Or maybe he did have some kind of special ability, although he never talked about it.

But I have always had a problem with people who run around calling themselves psychics. I put them in the same category as those who have to tell me how religious they are, or what tough guys they are. Are they trying to convince themselves or me? I’m sure there are some of them who really are gifted, but the vast majority I have run into have just been flakes.

Another friend of mine claimed he could predict things with Tarot cards. Every year, in early January, he would call to tell me all of the things that were going to happen to me or someone in our group of friends that year, and he would write it all down for future reference. Usually, two or three, sometimes four of the things would happen. Like somebody would move, or change jobs, or meet a new lover, and Mike would be so proud because this “proved” his ability. But when I pointed out to him that his other fifty or sixty predictions never happened, he would say that nobody’s perfect.

When I was publishing my small town newspaper in Arizona’s White Mountains, an outfit opened up claiming they were the “Psychic Headquarters of Arizona.” They had half a dozen different psychics, Tarot card readers, and such on hand. As it so happened, their storefront was part of a duplex commercial building and a pet store occupied the other side. The pet store advertised with me, so every week, when I went to get their ad, I would see the psychics doing their thing.

They kept insisting I come over and do a story about them but I told them I wasn’t interested. A couple of times I did wander over to their side of the building, just to see what was going on. All it did was reinforce my belief that while there might be some real psychics in the world, these guys were all flakes and fakes. And, being the smart alec I am, sometimes I couldn’t resist jerking their chains.

I made it a point that every time one of them asked how I was doing, I would respond, “I don’t know. You’re the psychic, you tell me.” Other times I was more of a jerk. For example, I was there one day when one of them was going across the street to a fast food joint to pick up lunch for everybody. He asked one of the other psychics what he wanted to eat, and I couldn’t help but respond, “Why does he have to tell you? Can’t you just read his mind?” Another time, one of them didn’t show up for his schedule and the manager said, “I wonder what’s going on with him?” You know I just had to ask, “Can’t you channel him or something to find out?”

I had to laugh out loud when they had a Psychic Fair scheduled one weekend, and it got canceled at the last minute because they had not paid the electric bill and the power company shut off their juice. The next time they were open, I poked my head in to say that I’m no psychic, but even I can predict that if I don’t pay the electric bill, they shut it off.

I have known several professional hypnotherapists, and my favorite cousin is one and she does a lot of good for her clients. But as in everything, there are plenty of charlatans. The “Psychic Headquarters of Arizona” had a hypnotist who specialized in past life regressions. Why do people who do these past life things always discover that they were once an Indian princess or some kind of royalty? What about the streetwalkers and beggars? How come nobody every revisits a past life and finds out they were one of them?

It’s the same with “spirit guides.” Why is it always an Indian named White Feather or Gray Eagle or some such? If I have a spirit guide, I think he’s a drunk named Ernie, who drove a taxicab in Pittsburgh.

Another member of the psychic crowd was a palm reader who called herself Madame Celeste. She wore garish makeup, had her hair piled up high and wrapped in a turban, and wore hoop earrings big enough that I could have put my arm through them up to the elbow. One day as I was going into the pet store next door, she saw me and insisted that she had to give me a palm reading. I told her I wasn’t interested, but she said it was free, and she had a need to do so. I figured what the hell, and I let her look at my right hand. She traced one line in my palm and said, “This line says you will have a prosperous life.” Then she traced another one and said, “This shows that you are going to have misfortune in marriage twice before you get it right.” (I will concede that she got that one right.) Then she looked at two long lines on my palm and frowned and said, “I don’t know what these mean.” I told her they were not lines, they were scars, and they meant I should stay away from landmines because that’s where they came from. My palm reading ended shortly thereafter.

Thought For The Day – Underestimate me. That’ll be fun.

Sep 082020
 

People always ask me where I get the ideas for my books and the things that happen in them. They come from everywhere. Maybe a snippet of conversation I hear someplace, maybe a true crime show that gives me an idea, and sometimes I just listen to the voices in my head. But as I’ve said many times, truth is always stranger than fiction, and if I wrote about some of the things I see on the evening news in a book, people would think I was really stretching reality. In fact, someone once asked me if the stories I share in my Newspaper Days blog posts are true. Yes, every one of them is.

One crazy story happened when I was a single father back in the mid-80s. I had a woman stalker. She was a volunteer classroom mom at my son’s school, and I met her there. At the time, I was working two jobs, one of which was selling cars on the weekend. She bought a new car from me, and we chatted while the paperwork was being drawn up. Then she called me a time or two, asking questions about the car.

The next thing I knew, she called telling me she understood how hard it was to be a single parent and offering to “help me,” whatever that meant. From there, it progressed to her happening to be at a restaurant or grocery store where I was, “just by coincidence.” It ended with her coming to my house when I wasn’t home and grabbing my nine-year-old in a big hug and telling him she was his new mother. It scared the hell out of him, and rightly so.

I put an immediate stop to that nonsense and warned her never to call or come around again. A few nights later she called me and said since I had “rejected” her, she had taken an overdose of pills and slit her wrists. Even if she was a looney tunes, I didn’t want her to die, so I called the police, and they sent an officer to her house to do a welfare check. He called me an hour or so later and said she was drunk, but that was all, there was no suicide attempt. I happened to know the officer, and he stopped at my house a week later to ask if I had heard from her since. I told him no, and he said, “Lucky you. She has called Dispatch wanting me to come by her place at least five times a day since I was there and sent a dozen roses to me at the police station.”

Florida seems to have so many wackadoodles that the term Florida Man has become something of a pop-culture catchphrase. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. A few days ago, the news here had a story about some fool at Jensen Beach who saw a small shark in the water. His buddy dared him to catch it barehanded, so he did. And the shark did what sharks do. It bit him on the arm and would not let go. It wasn’t a big shark, only about three feet long, but that’s more shark than I want biting me! Fortunately, they were eventually able to get the shark to let go of the man’s arm, and it was put back in the water (the shark, not the arm). The bite wasn’t serious, but it just shows how foolish people can be, and how an author does not have to look hard for story material.

Then there is the story about the man who was arrested and charged with assault with a deadly weapon for throwing a live alligator through a Palm Beach County Wendy’s drive-thru window.

Or how about the Florida man who stole a peacock in Coconut Grove and got chased by a flock of pissed off birds? Do you see a pattern here about Florida men and critters? You just know I’ll figure out a way to get some of these stories into a book.

Thought For The Day – If 2020 were a drink, it would be called “Colonoscopy Prep”.

Sep 072020
 

I know that as we get older we all get forgetful. I find it happening to myself more and more often. Just the other day I was working on my new Tinder Street book and I needed to verify when chain safety locks for doors were first available, to be sure I had it correct with the time period.

So I went to Google to look it up. But by the time I got there I forgot what I was looking for so I had to minimize the Google screen to go back to the manuscript, and when I did, I noticed that I had transposed two people’s names, so I corrected that. About then, an Amazon van pulled up with an order so I opened the door and took the box from him and then went back to writing. It was only later that night that I realized I still didn’t know when they first started putting chain safety locks on doors. I guess I’ll have to Google it.

When things like this happen I kind of chuckle about them and move on. But Saturday night I realized it’s official. I have lost it. I was at my desk watching something on the Forensic Files TV show, using the Spectrum TV app on my phone, while Terry was taking her shower just before bedtime. Terry got out of the shower and asked me something and I went to talk to her. Knowing we were going to be going to bed soon, I went back to my office and turned off my computer and checked to make sure the doors were locked and the usual routine.

But when I started looking for my telephone, I couldn’t find it. I went to the bathroom, thinking I had set it down there, but it wasn’t there. Nor was it on the headboard, or anywhere else. Terry asked me if I might have left it by my recliner while we were watching TV earlier, and I went to check. No, it wasn’t there either. She picked up her phone to call my phone, and I started to turn down the volume on Forensic Files, and then I realized I’m standing at my desk turning down the TV show on my phone, so I could hear my phone ring and find it. I’m telling you, it won’t be long now, folks

Besides proofing what I write and taking care of all the thousand other things Terry does to keep our house and business running smoothly, we all know she is an excellent cook. One of my favorite dishes is her pizza, which is always absolutely delicious. One bite of it and my taste buds have an orgasm. The other night she tried something new. Instead of the regular pizza that she has always made, she made a deep dish pan pizza. Think of a pan pizza from someplace like Pizza Hut, then imagine it being a million times better. It was one of the best things I’ve eaten in a long, long time. Considering that we have not gone out to restaurants in months and Terry has been cooking every day, and everything she makes is outstanding, that’s a heck of an accomplishment.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Thought For The Day – Once you understand why a pizza is made round, put in a square box, and eaten as a triangle, then you will understand women.?

Clash Of Cultures

 Posted by at 12:03 am  Nick's Blog
Sep 062020
 

The Whitman Mission National Historic Site near Walla Walla, Washington represents the early settlement of the Oregon Territory and the role Christian missionaries played in our nation’s westward expansion, but perhaps more than anything else, it tells the story of what happens when two very different cultures clash, and when one of those cultures tries to impose their way of life on the other.

Explorers and fur traders had whetted the appetites of missionaries to venture into the vast West for years, but the very remoteness of the region discouraged them until an article in a New York Methodist publication in 1833 told the mostly fictional story of Indians from the west coming to St. Louis seeking teachers and the “Book of Heaven.” A call went out for missionaries to undertake the long and arduous journey west to explore potential mission sites. Marcus Whitman, a New York physician and missionary, was among the first to respond.

In 1835, Whitman and Reverend Samuel Parker made the trek west. Convinced of the viability of establishing missions in the territory, Whitman returned in 1836 with his new bride Narcissa, and a small group that included Reverend Henry Spalding and his wife, Eliza. Narcissa and Eliza would be the first two white women to travel so far west. Spalding established his mission among the Nez Pearce at Lapwai, while the Whitmans settled in the Cayuse territory at Waiilatpu, near the Walla Walla River.

At first, the Indians were skeptical of these newcomers, but the Whitmans were able to win them over for a time. Marcus Whitman learned the Cayuse language, and the Indians appreciated his medical skills. For several years they lived in harmony, and the Whitman Mission became an important stop along the Oregon Trail. It included a large adobe house, a gristmill, a blacksmith shop, and a separate house where emigrants making their way further west could stay to rest up and prepare themselves for the rest of their trip.

The Whitmans were gracious and generous hosts who made welcome all who showed up at their door. Their only child, Alice Clarissa, was born in 1837, the first Anglo-American child born in Oregon Country. Unfortunately, she drowned when she was two, but the missionaries took in a number of orphaned children and treated them like their own, including the seven Sager children, whose parents died along the Oregon Trail. Their story has been told in at least one movie and several books, including The Stout-Hearted Seven: Orphaned on the Oregon Trail.

Over time, the Whitman’s relationship with the Cayuse began to deteriorate for a number of reasons, some real and some imagined. While Whitman wanted the Indians to accept the white man’s lifestyle and settle into farming, the Cayuse were accustomed to leaving to go pick berries when they were in season or to catch salmon when the fish made their annual migrations upriver. This frustrated the missionary, and he began to berate the Cayuse for not giving up their traditional way of life to adapt to his vision of their future.

Meanwhile, the Indians were growing concerned about the ever-increasing number of white settlers coming into their homelands. They had heard from other tribes what happened when these newcomers came and stole their lands away from them.

The turning point in relations between the two very different groups was a measles outbreak in 1847. While the people at the mission were able to survive, the Indians, who had no natural immunity to the white man’s diseases, suffered greatly. At least half of the Cayuse died in the epidemic. Many became suspicious of Whitman and wondered why the whites he treated got well while their people died, believing that he had poisoned them.

On November 29, 1847, a group of Cayuse led by Chief Tomahas attacked the mission, killing the Whitmans and eleven others, including the two Sager boys, John and Francis. 47 others, mostly women and children, were taken hostage and later ransomed. Several of the prisoners died while in Indian captivity, including Louisa Sager.

The incident became known as the Whitman Massacre and touched off the Cayuse War, which ended with most of the tribe dead and their lands confiscated. Two other results of the incident were the closing of the rest of the Protestant missions in the region, and the United States Congress officially creating the Oregon Territory, the first formal territorial government west of the Rocky Mountains.

Today visitors to Whitman Mission National Historic Site can watch a video about the Whitmans and tour a small museum with artifacts from the mission days, including a toy cradleboard and doll that belonged to Elizabeth Sager and Marcus Whitman’s Bible.

A life-sized diorama shows the first meeting between the Whitmans and their Cayuse neighbors.

Outside, a comfortable walking path takes visitors through the mission grounds, where signs point out the location of the various buildings during mission days. On a hill above the mission, a 27-foot high obelisk overlooks the Walla Walla Valley. Built in 1897, on the 50th anniversary of the massacre, the monument honors the Whitmans and others killed during the attack. The victims of the massacre are buried in a common grave near the memorial. The mission grounds also include a picnic area with grills for fires. No overnight camping is allowed.

The 98-acre Whitman Mission National Historic Site is located just west of Walla Walla, Washington, at 328 Whitman Mission Road, just a mile or two off U.S. Highway 12. The site is open daily except for holidays, and the parking lot easily accommodated our 40-foot motorhome and toad. For more information, call (509) 522-6360.

Thought For The Day – It’s probably my age that tricks people into thinking I’m an adult.

A Lot Of Work

 Posted by at 12:02 am  Nick's Blog
Sep 052020
 

My neighbor, Mike Smith, had my computer up and running again after having had to reinstall the entire operating system. I picked it up yesterday about noon.

Fortunately, because I back up everything religiously, I didn’t have any data losses. However, I did have to reinstall all of my programs. Two of them, Dragon NaturallySpeaking and Adobe Photoshop Elements, gave me fits for some reason. I entered the license numbers from the boxes from when I originally purchased them, and with each one I got a message saying that that program was also already licensed to someone else. No, it’s licensed to me. It took a while going back and forth before they finally seemed to get the message that I’m really me.

With those programs and a couple others, as well as my online banking, I had to wait for them to text me a code to enter in before I could go any further. All of that took quite some time.

Then I had to reconfigure my printer, because the computer did not recognize it any longer. And my external hard drive. Same thing. And then I had to reenter the data I use every day, like my current book in progress, the blog, etc. With all of that, it wasn’t any easier than setting up a brand-new computer, to be honest with you.

But just about everything seems to be up and working, except my email. There’s a glitch there, and even though I have it set up and it’s working, it doesn’t show any emails I received in the the last several days. I don’t know why that is, because I get tons of email every day. I also can’t find some emails that I read and saved before the computer crashed. So I’ll have to fiddle with it some more. Otherwise Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?

Some people sent messages wanting to know why there was no contest this week. As I said, my computer was down and all I did was a short blog from my phone on Thursday, the day we normally start the contest. Someone wanted to know why I don’t start it now and change the beginning and end dates. I just have too much else going on right now. We’ll start another contest next Thursday on a regular schedule. I apologize to anybody that’s inconvenienced by that, but sometimes life happens.

In other news, with everything that’s been on going on lately, I forgot that I had set up the print version of Tinder Street on Amazon. Someone asked me when it will come out and I checked. It still shows its status as pending. I contacted Amazon to see what was going on there, and probably among the emails I missed, there was one telling me that there was an error in the formatting. I know what the error is, it’s one I have made before. I chose white as opposed to cream-colored pages, which for some reason changes the dimensions of the cover. I don’t really know why, because either way, they are all 6 x 9 inches. Fortunately, it’s an easy fix, and as soon as I get caught up on reinstalling all of the programs and data on my computer, I will get to it.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Thought For The Day – We’re in September, which for you gamers means we have reached the ninth level of 2020.

Sep 042020
 

For the last month or so, every so often when I would turn on my Dell desktop computer, it would not fully boot up. It would start the process and then go to a blank screen. Usually when that happened it would take two or three attempts before the computer would finally come on.

Then, starting three or four days ago, it would start to boot up and then go to a blue screen that would give me one of several different messages. One message was that there was a Registry Error, another message was that there was a Kernel Security Check Failure, or a Kmode Exception Not Handled message, or a System Service Exception, or an APC Index Mismatch.

When that happened, the computer would automatically restart itself, and more than half the time it would go right back to that same screen blue screen, although always with one of the other messages mentioned. Or, if it did start up, I might be able to work for five minutes to two hours, and all of a sudden I would get a message that said Windows failed to load and I would have to start the process all over again. To add to that, a few days ago when it crashed, it wiped out my email program. When I got the mail set back up, I had lost all recent emails from probably the last 10 to 12 days. They were just gone.

When I got up Wednesday morning, the computer was again playing these silly games, and I fooled around with it for over two hours with no success. By then we had to leave to go to Jacksonville for an appointment Terry had at Mayo.

The good news is, the trip to Mayo and back was easy, as was her appointment. She has to go back in six months for another follow-up, but everything seems to be fine in that department.

We got back home somewhere around 5 o’clock Wednesday afternoon, and for three hours I fought with the computer, trying to get it to load. Only once in all that time did it actually load up and work, and that only lasted for about 15 minutes. By then, if I had any hair, I would have been pulling it out.

Fortunately, one of my neighbors, a young man named Mike Smith, does some computer repair on the side. I texted him, and he asked me to drop the computer off on his porch and he would come out, sanitize and pick it up, then take a look at it. We are both aware of COVID 19 restrictions and we both have some health issues, so we were not going to talk face-to-face. Mike kept the computer overnight and was working on it again yesterday. When I talked to him in the afternoon, he said that it did not seem to be a hardware problem, but rather an operating system issue. He had some other things to take care and then he would start reloading it. I am sure glad I back everything up religiously!

I didn’t post a blog for Thursday because I was just too worn out and frustrated to deal with it. I don’t use my laptop very often, usually just when we are on trips, and when I got it out I could not get Microsoft Word or any of my Office 365 apps to run. They kept giving me a message that my subscription was expired. I knew that was wrong, because Terry and I share a subscription and it still has a year to go. I spent a couple hours trying to find a solution to that problem online and got nowhere. Finally, after being on hold on the computer for close to another hour, someone from Microsoft tech support came on. As it turns out, when I first bought the computer it came with a year of the business version of Microsoft Office, and when that expired, I switched to the home edition Terry and I share. But the business edition never got deleted, which I why I was getting the error messages

The tech very patiently talked me through how to delete the business version and then to activate the home version. When he got that done, I thought I was good to go and thanked him for his time. But then when I started trying to get some work done, I could not get the ribbon bar across the top with all the different tools to appear. Fortunately, I was able to go online and do some research and get that problem fixed.

But wait, there’s more! The next issue was that my Dragon Naturally Speaking program would not recognize my digital recorder. So, I had to delete the program from the laptop and reinstall it.

Long story short, even with all the delays, frustrations, and headaches, I was able to knock out another 2,000 words in my new Tinder Street book by the end of the day, and to write this blog.

Mike tells me that he hopes to have my desktop computer back to me sometime today, and I’m really looking forward to it.

Thought For The Day – It’s finally September. Only 47 more months to go and this year is over!