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Posts Tagged ‘writing’

A friend reminded me I haven’t posted here in several months, so here I am again. There have been some changes, some sadness, some soul-searching since then. My last post was about springing my 91 year old mother from the nursing home and moving her to my sister’s home. That was almost a year ago. Mother is still with us, but barely. Her eyesight and hearing are pretty much gone, her body is shot, but her mind was strong until recently. When I went to see her at Christmas, though, she didn’t know me. She asked for her sister Frances, who’s been gone for 5 years. They were as close as twins, and the best of friends. We couldn’t get through to her to explain. I wonder if, during all those hours she’s drifting between sleep and consciousness, she’s been making visits to the other side, getting ready for her permanent relocation.  Mother, it’s all right, there are so many of our loved ones waiting for you there, it’s okay to let go.

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March 2012 092

Sadness – my 52 year old niece Becky slipped into a diabetic coma and left us suddenly last spring. She was born profoundly deaf, and with neurological problems, and her life was not easy, but she loved life and her two beautiful children and her cats … sweet girl, I hope you passed into the arms of your Papa who loved you so, and got to meet the grandfather who died so long ago on a mountain in Wales, and all the others we miss down here.

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mem.day2005_0530Image0062  HRHflag

I turned 66 in September and had to face the fact that I’m far beyond middle age now, unless people live to be 120. I started receiving my late ex-husband’s Social Security benefit as a Divorced Widow. It’s a few hundred more than mine. Don, I appreciate the extra $, but I’d far prefer for you to still be here.

Sept. 2, 1967

Sept. 2, 1967

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Do you know Baylor is about to get that Ph.D., and has turned out to be a terrific teacher? And to think we both warned him he was not cut out for the academic life! Guess he showed us! That makes me happy. Our oldest granddaughter just started college. Autism has never stopped her from being a spectacular young lady. She was asked to join the School of Engineering which thrills her engineer grandfather to no end. The twins are almost 17, smart, talented, well-mannered (thanks, Lisa) and total nerds like their dad, and now like me. I came to nerddom rather late, re-discovering Doctor Who a few years ago and falling madly for #10, David Tennant.

Ashley born Sept. 1, 1994

Ashley born Sept. 1, 1994

Amber and Autumn, Jan. 27, 1996

Amber and Autumn, Jan. 27, 1996

Just got back in touch with my dear Welsh friend, Steve Jones. He’s had some experience as a movie extra, and I’m trying to convince him to get a job on one of David’s projects so I can come over and meet him. Come on Steve, I know you can do it! And I am so happy to hear that after all these years the lovely Sabina has made an honest man of you! I do hope to see you both again, even if you don’t come through on my very reasonable request.

Steve Jones and Shirley Wetzel in Wales

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So, after years of counting the months, weeks and days until I reached retirement age, I decided not to retire after all. I’d spent a few months after foot surgery on house arrest, and I actually got tired of reading, watching tv, and doing nothing. I’d planned to write, but just couldn’t make the words flow. Since I couldn’t drive for much of that time, maybe it wasn’t a fair comparison to what retirement might bring, I still fear that if I do retire I will slowly vegetate, accomplishing nothing. More importantly, I wasn’t sure about the economy. I decided to keep working while I can, for another year or two anyway, and save the SS money to make some really nice trips.

Another thing is, if I’m a retiree, that officially means I’m old. I remember my mother, a couple of decades ago, telling a friend that she knew she wasn’t young any more, but in her head she still felt the same as she did when she was 38. Me, my head tells me I’m 43 … my body says otherwise.

Mortality rears its ugly head. I had a health issue last spring that is now under control, but could prove to be a Bad Thing eventually. I am in what, statistically speaking, should be the last 1/3 of my life, but because of that thing, and because I’ve seen so many people my age and younger leave this world too soon – well, we are not promised tomorrow. I wonder if my first-born son will forgive me for whatever it is he holds against me before I’m gone. I hope he does, for my sake and his. I know he will regret it if he waits too late, just as he did with his father. Son, I couldn’t love anyone more than I love you. Parents are human too, and young parents can make mistakes they regret when they become older and wiser. Jeff, my baby boy, I am so proud of you and you are my rock.

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What else? The presidential horror show, where I watched the country I love tear itself apart, with an us and them mentality I can’t even believe. Facebook has been great for keeping in touch with friends and kin and getting to know family I’d never have met in real life. Thing is, we got along fine until this came up, then I discovered that I am a liberal, socialist commie pinko intellectual hippie atheist baby-murdering – oh, the list goes on. Just too sad.

More sadness, 20 little children were cut to pieces in a school massacre called Sandy Hook, and things turned even uglier. The first thought of many of my more conservative acquaintances was “Óh sh–t, Obama is going to take my guns away! “Now I am a mild mannered, laid-back, calm, reasonable, open-minded librarian, but as time went by, I got branded as one of those who wanted to take their guns away, even though that was not what I said, and it is not what the president is saying.  Our country seems to be getting even farther divided and I don’t see any relief in the foreseeable future.

My guru Ma Jaya left her body last spring. I did not get to say goodbye. I have talked to her since then, so that’s okay. In October I went to the beautiful Berkshires for the Guthrie Center church concerts, reuniting with many of my dearest of dear friends in a soul-renewing week. Arlo did three incredible, uplifting, emotional shows, despite, or maybe in part because, his wife Jackie was fighting her last fight. His courage, and that of the rest of the Guthrie family, was indescribable, so I won’t even try to describe it. So much love and grace and strength. Jackie was the heart of the family, but she did her job so well they will be able to go on without her.

My first pictures

Now we’re back to Christmas, You know what happened then. Oh yes, the family home was finally sold, and all the years of memories had to be sorted through, divided up, and given away or, least favorite thing, discarded. No more family photos on the old front porch, but things hadn’t been the same since our own heart, my silver-haired daddy, joined the heavenly band on Dec. 24, 2009. Time marches on. For everything, there is a season …

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Front porch Oct. 2009

Front porch Oct. 2009

And now it’s a new year. Blank slate, fresh start, let’s see what happens next.

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It’s a Mystery to Me

I love mysteries – reading them, writing them, and writing about them. I started ca. age 10 with the classic mystery queen, Agatha Christie, but I’ve gone way beyond her. I still like the Christie-esq “cozy” mysteries, but I also enjoy thrillers, historical, suspense, fantasy, and the occasional hard-boiled. Through all these decades of reading, and for the last 10 years reviewing, mysteries, I’ve discovered some wonderful writers. It has been my good fortune to live in Houston, home of the legendary Murder by the Book. http://www.murderbooks.com/ The good folks there bring in new writers as well as some of the Big Names. I’ve been able to meet many of my personal fav writers, and I’ve developed many “virtual” friendships with others.

Today I’m going to talk about my favorite war mysteries. James R. Benn (www.jamesrbenn.com) has 2 books out so far in his fabulous Billy Boyle series. Young Billy was a Boston policeman when the war rudely interrupted his plans. Through connections he was assigned to a distant relative for what he believed would be a cushy office job. The relative’s name was Eisenhower. Billy is a likeable character with a few flaws, an all-American boy who is able to step up to the plate when the chips are down. I think that’s a mixed metaphor 🙂 but it’s what I mean.

Jacqueline Winspear: http://www.jacquelinewinspear.com/ Jacqueline is English, and her series is about Maisie Dobbs, a nurse in the Great War turned psychologist/private investigator. There are 5 books-the latest is An Incomplete Revenge. Most of the action is set in the 1920’s and 30’s, with flashbacks to Maisie’s wartime experiences. Jacqueline is a lovely and very talented woman and a great speaker.

Thomas Holland is a new discovery: http://www.thomas-holland.com/ He is the Scientific Director of the DOD Central Identification Laboratory, responsible for the recovery and identification of U.S. war dead in earlier wars, through the Vietnam War. His two books, One Drop of Blood and K.I.A., are about a guy who has a similar job. The books are fascinating, poignant, and informative – in a good way, you’ll hardly notice you’re learning new things. He’s a dynamite speaker – lots of practice, he travels around the country to meet families whose loved ones are still missin, updating them on their findings and when possible to collect DNA samples from relatives to compare to unidentified remains. And small world, he studied archeology at U. Missouri with Mike O’Brien, who gave me my first paying job for the Cannon Dam Human Ecology Project in Missouri.

Anne Perry: http://www.anneperry.net/ has 2 series set in Victorian London, but since this is about war today, she recently completed a 5 book series on The Great War as experienced by one English family. I think it’s her finest work Like Jacqueline Winspear, she based much of the work on her family’s experiences and memories.

More on other favorite authors to come.

I decided to make this category about books with a military theme, not just war.  One of my favorite books last year combines WWII and time-travel, and the author is Pauline Baird Jones, my buddy in The Final Twist, the Houston chapter of Sisters in Crime.  http://www.paulinebjones.com.  Besides being a cool story, it has a great cover.

Martin Limon writes a badly underrated series about Army M.P. George Sueno, set in Korea in the early 1970’s.  Mr. Limon spent a lot of years in the Orient and knows Korea well.

Lee Child!  I love Lee Child!  http://www.leechild.com — His character, JackReacher, starts out as an M.P., then leaves the military and travels around slaying dragons and righting wrongs, kicking butt and taking names – not my usual comfort read, but I’m addicted!  Mr. Child is tall, dreamy (sorry, it can’t be helped, I have a big crush – as do many, many of his female fans) gentle, and very generous to new writers.   Reacher is tall, dreamy in a nightmarish sort of way, for the bad guys, and he travels with nothing but a folding toothbrush & buys new clothes when the old ones wear out, and he IS NOT gentle, except to his loved ones and little children and the occasional lady friend.

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I am a writer

I’ve always written, mostly for my own amusement, but I never considered myself a “writer.” That was on my list of things to do in this lifetime. About 10 years ago I decided I’d better get busy. My first published piece was a personal essay in the Houston Chronicle on Memorial Day. It was about Uncle Bill Stewart, my mother’s one and only brother, and his marriage to Aunt Loez. I called it “Two Dollar Wife” because he always said “ “That’s the best two dollars I ever spent, marrying that old second-hand woman. She’s the best thing that ever happened to me.”

(She was “second hand” because she was divorced)

A longer version of the story was published in “Cup of Comfort for Weddings: Something Old, Something New,” in 2005. http://www.adamsmediastore.com/product/808/27?

Pretty soon, I was racking up a clip file. I’ve had a couple of stories in Chronicles of the Old West: http://www.chronicleoftheoldwest.com/

One was about an Indian raid in Montague County, Texas in 1870 that killed some of my kinfolks, including my Great-Great-Great Grandfather, Turbyville Maxey. The other was about the killing of the gunfighter King Fisher. King’s family was friendly with that of my Great-Great Grandfather Elisha Erwin Stewart, a Texas Ranger in the 1850’s. I like to write about history. I like to write personal essays. I like to write about my family history. Most of all, though, I love to write mysteries. My goal is to write at least one published mystery. My work in progress is called A Crime in Comanche. It’s been in progress for more years than I want to say. I’m not giving up, though – a lady named Thayer was 92 when she published her first.

I belong to the national group Sisters in Crime, and the local chapter, The Final Twist: http://www.thefinaltwist.com/index.htm

For several years I’ve been writing reviews of mysteries : http://www.overmydeadbody.com/reviews.htm

I’ve made friends with some great writers. One of my favorites is Bill Crider, who writes like I want to and is a gentleman and a fine mentor. http://www.billcrider.com/

There are many more, and I’ll get to them directly. For now, I need to go back to my day job. What I started out meaning to say is, “I am a writer.”

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