J.D.R. Hawkins

One bullet can make a man a hero… or a casualty.

Archive for the month “December, 2015”

Resolutions

 

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For many people, it is tradition to come up with a New Year’s resolution or two every year. Mine includes the usual: lose weight, quit vices, and be nicer (even though I try to be nice already). Next year promises to hold many adventures in store. I will have a new book coming out, we will hopefully buy a house, and I plan on taking more trips, possibly even abroad. These are also resolutions that I intend to keep.

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Making a resolution means making a firm decision to do or not to do something. Another definition of “resolution,” according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is “the act of finding an answer or solution to a conflict, problem, etc.: the act of resolving something.: an answer or solution to something.” I hope that this New Year provides resolutions to conflicts and problems as well, such as terrorism, dependency on foreign oil, racial tensions, and political tyranny. May this New Year provide peace throughout the world, fairness, honesty, and a common understanding amongst all people. In other words, I hope to see “the peaceful resolution of all disputes.”

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I have been writing a lot about the situation with the Confederate battle flag. It weighs heavily on my heart that the flag has been misconceived as something evil. When it was first designed, it was modeled after a Christian symbol, specifically Scotland’s St. Andrews Cross. How a cross can become racist is beyond me. I hope that those who suddenly consider Confederate statues to be a “nuisance” and the St. Andrews Cross to be racist will change their biased way of thinking.

Happy New Year 2016 Quotes

In the spirit of new beginnings, I wish you a very happy New Year full of love, laughter, adventure, hope, and joy. May the New Year hold many pleasant surprises for you, and offer us all an opportunity for creative, constructive communication and compassion. Happy New Year!

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The Hunt for the Irish Connection

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Writing has helped me make some fascinating discoveries over the years. Because I write historical fiction, I have learned to extensively research my topics before delving into a manuscript. Finding little known facts has given me an interest in researching various subjects. My passion lies with the Victorian Era, but I also love writing about the Roaring 20’s and Prohibition, as well as other aspects of American history like the 1960’s and 70’s.

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Through my research, I have uncovered some interesting things. For instance, I apparently have distant relatives living in Alabama that I never knew about. This tidbit would never have come to my attention if I hadn’t been doing research for one of my novels. I also discovered some of my husband’s long lost relatives who lived in Virginia near Chancellorsville. This came to my attention after conducting research for my novel, A Beckoning Hellfire.

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Now I am on the hunt for my Irish roots. After moving to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, two years ago, I learned that my great grandfather lived here once he divorced my great grandmother. I looked through old city and county records, and found out his exact date of birth, death, and the name of his daughter, who would have been my great step aunt. I even learned why his body was sent to Tucson, Arizona. After more research, I learned the names of his siblings and his parents. Now I just have to find out where in Tipperary, Ireland, they came from and which port of entry they came through. I’m hoping that the New Year will provide me with unanswered questions and help me find my Irish connection.

Christmas in the Confederate White House

How the Davis Family Spent the Christmas of 1864

By Varina Howell Davis

The wife of Confederate President Jefferson Davis wrote this article describing how the Davis family spent the Christmas of 1864 in the Confederate White House. It was published in The New York World, December 13, 1896 and has since been reprinted often. This excerpt was obtained via the website “The American Civil War, 1861-1865.”

Residence of Jefferson Davis
Residence of Jefferson Davis (Library of Congress)

…Rice, flour, molasses and tiny pieces of meat, most of them sent to the President’s wife anonymously to be distributed to the poor, had all be weighed and issued, and the playtime of the family began, but like a clap of thunder out of a clear sky came the information that the orphans at the Episcopalian home had been promised a Christmas tree and the toys, candy and cakes must be provided, as well as one pretty prize for the most orderly girl among the orphans. The kind-hearted confectioner was interviewed by our committee of managers, and he promised a certain amount of his simpler kinds of candy, which he sold easily a dollar and a half a pound, but he drew the line at cornucopias to hold it, or sugared fruits to hang on the tree, and all the other vestiges of Christmas creations which had lain on his hands for years. The ladies dispersed in anxious squads of toy-hunters, and each one turned over the store of her children’s treasures for a contribution to the orphans’ tree, my little ones rushed over the great house looking up their treasure: eyeless dolls, three-legged horses, tops with the upper peg broken off, rubber tops, monkeys with all the squeak gone silent and all the ruck of children’s toys that gather in a nursery closet.

Makeshift Toys for the Orphans

Some small feathered chickens and parrots which nodded their heads in obedience to a weight beneath them were furnished with new tail feathers, lambs minus much of their wool were supplied with a cotton wool substitute, rag dolls were plumped out and recovered with clean cloth, and the young ladies painted their fat faces in bright colors and furnished them with beads for eyes.

But the tug of war was how to get something with which to decorate the orphans’ tree. Our man servant, Robert Brown, was much interested and offered to make the prize toy. He contemplated a “sure enough house, with four rooms.” His part in the domestic service was delegated to another and he gave himself over in silence and solitude to the labors of the architect.

My sister painted mantel shelves, door panels, pictures and frames for the walls, and finished with black grates in which there blazed a roaring fire, which was pronounced marvelously realistic. We all made furniture of twigs and pasteboard, and my mother made pillows, mattresses, sheets and pillow cases for the two little bedrooms.

Christmas Eve a number of young people were invited to come and string apples and popcorn for the trees; a neighbor very deft in domestic arts had tiny candle moulds made and furnished all the candles for the tree. However the puzzle and triumph of all was the construction of a large number of cornucopias. At last someone suggested a conical block of wood, about which the drawing paper could be wound and pasted. In a little book shop a number of small, highly colored pictures cut out and ready to apply were unearthed, and our old confectioner friend, Mr. Piazzi, consented, with a broad smile, to give “all the love verses the young people wanted to roll with the candy.”

A Christmas Eve Party

About twenty young men and girls gathered around small tables in one of the drawing rooms of the mansion and the cornucopias were begun. The men wrapped the squares of candy, first reading the “sentiments” printed upon them, such as “Roses are red, violets blue, sugar’s sweet and so are you,” “If you love me as I love you no knife can cut our love in two.” The fresh young faces, wreathed in smiles, nodded attention to the reading, while with their small deft hands they gined [?] the cornucopias and pasted on the pictures. Where were the silk tops to come from? Trunks of old things were turned out and snippings of silk and even woolen of bright colors were found to close the tops, and some of the young people twisted sewing silk into cords with which to draw the bags up. The beauty of those home-made things astonished us all, for they looked quite “custom-made,” but when the “sure enough house” was revealed to our longing gaze the young people clapped their approbation, while Robert, whose sense of dignity did not permit him to smile, stood the impersonation of successful artist and bowed his thanks for our approval. Then the coveted eggnog was passed around in tiny glass cups and pronounced good. Crisp home-made ginger snaps and snowy lady cake completed the refreshments of Christmas Eve. The children allowed to sit up and be noisy in their way as an indulgence took a sip of eggnog out of my cup, and the eldest boy confided to his father: “Now I just know this is Christmas.” In most of the houses in Richmond these same scenes were enacted, certainly in every one of the homes of the managers of the Episcopalian Orphanage. A bowl of eggnog was sent to the servants, and a part of everything they coveted of the dainties.

At last quiet settled on the household and the older members of the family began to stuff stockings with molasses candy, red apples, an orange, small whips plaited by the family with high-colored crackers, worsted reins knitted at home, paper dolls, teetotums made of large horn bottoms and a match which could spin indefinitely, balls of worsted rags wound hard and covered with old kid gloves, a pair of pretty woolen gloves for each, either cut of cloth and embroidered on the back or knitted by some deft hand out of home-spun wool. For the President there were a pair of chamois-skin riding gauntlets exquisitely embroidered on the back with his monogram in red and white silk, made, as the giver wrote, under the guns of Fortress Monroe late at night for fear of discovery. There was a hemstitched linen handkerchief, with a little sketch in indelible ink in one corner; the children had written him little letters, their grandmother having held their hands, the burthen of which compositions was how they loved their dear father. For one of the inmates of the home, who was greatly loved but whose irritable temper was his prominent failing, there was a pretty cravat, the ends of which were embroidered, as was the fashion of the day. The pattern chosen was simple and on it was pinned a card with the word “amiable” to complete the sentence. One of the [missing] received a present of an illuminated copy of Solomon’s proverbs found in the same old store from which the pictures came. He studied it for some time and announced: “I have changed my opinion of Solomon, he uttered such unnecessary platitudes — now why should he have said ‘The foolishness of a fool is his folly’?”

On Christmas morning the children awoke early and came in to see their toys. They were followed by the negro women, who one after another “caught” us by wishing us a merry Christmas before we could say it to them, which gave them a right to a gift. Of course, there was a present for every one, small though it might be, and one who had been born and brought up at our plantation was vocal in her admiration of a gay handkerchief. As she left the room she ejaculated: “Lord knows mistress knows our insides; she jest got the very thing I wanted.”

Mrs. Davis’s Strange Presents

Mrs. Varina Davis
Mrs. Varina Howell Davis (Library of Congress)

For me there were six cakes of delicious soap, made from the grease of ham boiled for a family at Farmville, a skein of exquisitely fine gray linen thread spun at home, a pincushion of some plain brown cotton material made by some poor woman and stuffed with wool from her pet sheep, and a little baby hat plaited by the orphans and presented by the industrious little pair who sewed the straw together. They pushed each other silently to speak, and at last mutely offered the hat, and considered the kiss they gave the sleeping little one ample reward for the industry and far above the fruit with which they were laden. Another present was a fine, delicate little baby frock without an inch of lace or embroidery upon it, but the delicate fabric was set with fairy stitches by the dear invalid neighbor who made it, and it was very precious in my eyes. There were also a few of Swinburne’s best songs bound in wall-paper and a chamois needlebook left for me by young Mr. P., now succeeded to his title in England. In it was a Brobdingnagian thimble “for my own finger, you know,” said the handsome, cheerful young fellow. After breakfast, at which all the family, great and small, were present, came the walk to St. Paul’s Church. We did not use our carriage on Christmas or, if possible to avoid it, on Sunday. The saintly Dr. Minnegerode preached a sermon on Christian love, the introit was sung by a beautiful young society woman and the angels might have joyfully listened. Our chef did wonders with the turkey and roast beef, and drove the children quite out of their propriety by a spun sugar hen, life-size, on a nest full of blanc mange eggs. The mince pie and plum pudding made them feel, as one of the gentlemen laughingly remarked, “like their jackets were buttoned,” a strong description of repletion which I have never forgotten. They waited with great impatience and evident dyspeptic symptoms for the crowning amusement of the day, “the children’s tree.” My eldest boy, a chubby little fellow of seven, came to me several times to whisper: “Do you think I ought to give the orphans my I.D. studs?” When told no, he beamed with the delight of an approving conscience. All throughout the afternoon first one little head and then another popped in at the door to ask: “Isn’t it 8 o’clock yet?,” burning with impatience to see the “children’s tree.”

David Helped Santa Claus

When at last we reached the basement of St. Paul’s Church the tree burst upon their view like the realization of Aladdin’s subterranean orchard, and they were awed by its grandeur.

The orphans sat mute with astonishment until the opening hymn and prayer and the last amen had been said, and then they at a signal warily and slowly gathered around the tree to receive from a lovely young girl their allotted present. The different gradations from joy to ecstasy which illuminated their faces was “worth two years of peaceful life” to see. The President became so enthusiastic that he undertook to help in the distribution, but worked such wild confusion giving everything asked for into their outstretched hands, that we called a halt, so he contented himself with unwinding one or two tots from a network of strung popcorn in which they had become entangled and taking off all apples he could when unobserved, and presenting them to the smaller children. When at last the house was given to the “honor girl” she moved her lips without emitting a sound, but held it close to her breast and went off in a corner to look and be glad without witnesses.

“When the lights were fled, the garlands dead, and all but we departed” we also went home to find that Gen. Lee had called in our absence, and many other people. Gen. Lee had left word that he had received a barrel of sweet potatoes for us, which had been sent to him by mistake. He did not discover the mistake until he had taken his share (a dishful) and given the rest to the soldiers! We wished it had been much more for them and him.

Officers in a Starvation Dance

The night closed with a “starvation” party, where there were no refreshments, at a neighboring house. The rooms lighted as well as practicable, some one willing to play dance music on the piano and plenty of young men and girls comprised the entertainment. Sam Weller’s soiry [sic, soiree refers to a party or reception held in the evening], consisting of boiled mutton and capers, would have been a royal feast in the Confederacy. The officers, who rode into town with their long cavalry boots pulled well up over their knees, but splashed up their waists, put up their horses and rushed to the places where their dress uniform suits had been left for safekeeping. They very soon emerged, however, in full toggery and entered into the pleasures of their dance with the bright-eyed girls, who many of them were fragile as fairies, but worked like peasants for their home and country. These young people are gray-haired now, but the lessons of self-denial, industry and frugality in which they became past mistresses then, have made of them the most dignified, self-reliant and tender women I have ever known — all honor to them.

So, in the interchange of the courtesies and charities of life, to which we could not add its comforts and pleasures, passed the last Christmas in the Confederate mansion.

(Special Thanks to Civil War Trust for this article.)

The Ugly, the Bad, and the Good

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The ugly – It was decided last week by the mayor of New Orleans that three Confederate statues will be taken down. The statues in question are of General Robert E. Lee, General P.G.T. Beauregard, and President Jefferson Davis. They have been in place for nearly 130 years, but now, all of a sudden, they are considered inappropriate. This is just another example of politicians caving to the pressure of political correctness, and in this case, I think it has definitely gone too far.

The bad – The state of Mississippi is under fire for having the Confederate battle flag included in the banner, but citizens are fighting back. On Tuesday, January 19, a rally will be held at the Capitol in Jackson. The event is scheduled to take place from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Even though the people voted to keep their flag, it has recently become an issue again, because the state flag contains the Confederate battle flag in its emblem. I hope the Sons of Confederate Veterans are successful in obtaining enough signatures to petition keeping the flag as it is.

Rally

The good – Another small victory came when the Northeast Independent School District in San Antonio, Texas decided to keep the name of Robert E. Lee High School. Erasing history is an ongoing battle that doesn’t show signs of letting up. Using racism as an excuse for getting rid of all things Confederate is, well, inexcusable.

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In another note, the Civil War Trust sent me a link to this awesome addition to their animated map collection: the entire story of the Civil War in 27 minutes. This is amazing so check it out:

http://www.civilwar.org/maps/animated-maps/civil-war-animated-map/

A Christmas Dance

Christmas is probably my favorite time of year. In honor of the holiday, here is an excerpt from my novel, A Beautiful Glittering Lie. Enjoy!

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The week drifted by, and the weather grew so cold that David could see his breath when he went outside. He wished to travel, but knew he was confined to the farm, so he occupied himself by creating Christmas gifts for his family. His father had taught him how to whittle, and he had to admit to himself that he was getting pretty good at it. The intricate details he included in his carvings were incorporated into his mother’s and siblings’ gifts, consisting of wooden hair pins, broaches, and bangles. For his father, he made a wooden shelf for his musket, to place over the field stone fireplace. That way, when Hiram returned, he wouldn’t have to leave it on the mantel, which was now occupied by a tintype of his likeness in uniform, and a clock gifted to Caroline by her beloved on their wedding day.

Rena found her brother in the barn one evening, diligently working away by the light of a kerosene lantern. The topic came up, and she expressed her desire to leave as well, telling him to keep it a secret from their mother, so as not to upset her.

“Someday, I want to jine a singin’ troupe, like the Christy Minstrels,” she confessed, “or be an opera singer. For now, though, I reckon I’m obliged to stay home and finish school, and maybe go on to college after that.”

“I’d like to go to college myself,” he stated.

“Oh? Which one?”

“I was thinkin’ Auburn. Then I could be a doctor … or a journalist.”

She giggled. “That’s a mighty strange combination!”

“I ain’t made up my mind yet,” he said with a grin. “Maybe I’ll be an animal doctor.”

“Well, you are good with horses,” she observed. “Renegade follows you around like he’s a dog!”

David chuckled. “I reckon Renie jist knows I have sugar in my pocket.”

The following Tuesday, he took Joe Boy over to have him re-shod before the Copeland’s Christmas event. There he found the blacksmith, John Moss, who was busy pounding horseshoes over an open flame.

“Have you heard from your pa?” John asked while prying off one of Joe Boy’s old shoes.

“Not recently. I’m right worried about Ma. She gits too nervous, and she even lost a tooth the other day.”

John threw a glance at him, his blue eyes glistening over his stark white beard. “Sorry to hear that.”

David nodded. “I hope the war ends soon, so she won’t git so upset.”

“Well, I do, too. Say, did you hear about poor ole Senator Crittenden?”

“Who?”

“Crittenden, from Kentucky. My kinfolk live up that way, and told me all about it.” He paused, but hearing no objection, continued. “The good senator tried his darnedest to make those humbugs up in Washin’ton come to their senses.” Seeing David look at him questioningly, he elaborated. “He proposed a bill that would entitle each new state to vote if it wanted slavery, and for the plantation owners to be compensated for their slaves, should their niggers be set free. But ole ‘Rail Splitter’ Lincoln and his cronies in Congress shot down his bill. Now the poor senator has one son fightin’ for the North, and the other one fightin’ for the South.”

“That’s right awful,” David said.

John shook his head, his long beard flowing with his movement. “It’s a wonder what this here world is comin’ to.”

David wondered himself, but dispelled any bad notions, deciding to concentrate on Christmas instead. Things could only get better.

Caroline received another letter from Hiram the following week, informing her that the 4th Alabama had established their winter camp in the Virginia wilderness. He apologized, but didn’t foresee the possibility of returning home for Christmas. Hiding her disappointment, she put on a smile, told her children that their brave father was staying in Virginia for the holidays, and carried on as if it didn’t affect her. Deep down, however, her heart was breaking. She knew that he was defending their homeland, but although it was honorable and noble, she missed him desperately. Every day was more of a struggle, trying to keep up with the farm. She was thankful for her children, and the neighbors who supported her, but it still seemed daunting. Hopefully, the war would end after the first of the year, so that the grand Confederacy would be allowed to secede and become its own country.

The day of Callie’s Christmas party finally arrived. Rena and Josie had primped for a week, repeatedly trying on the five dresses they owned between them, until they finally came to a decision. David didn’t give it much thought, since Callie’s charms had worn off with time, but he did carve a beautiful broach for her.

They reached the Copelands’ as dusk was setting in. It was an unseasonably warm evening, and Caroline remarked about how the weather seemed to be cooperating with the party. Pulling into the yard, they saw several other carriages and wagons parked outside. David directed Joe Boy to an open area. He jumped down, tied the draft horse to a shrub, greeted Percy, who was tending the horses, and after assisting his mother and sisters down from the wagon, he escorted them up the steps to the house. The stylings of festive violin music floated through the air. Caroline tapped on the door. Momentarily, Mr. Copeland answered, dressed in a waistcoat with matching black trousers.

“Why, there y’all are!” he greeted them happily. “Please do come in!”

Extending his hand to David, the two shook and followed the ladies into the parlor, which was aglow with glittering lights. Candles flickered on brass candlesticks, reflecting off blown-glass decorations that adorned an enormous pine Christmas tree regally standing in a corner. The women were attired in festive, colorful dresses, and the men wore fine suits. The entire sparkling room was enchanting.

Josie and Rena saw some friends, so they went off to mingle. Mr. Copeland took Caroline’s arm and led her over to his wife, leaving David awkwardly alone. He gazed around for a familiar face, and finally found one. Jake ambled across the room in his direction, with Callie on his arm. She was radiant in a shimmering, bronze-colored, hooped gown. Her golden hair was drawn up and confined within a snood that matched the hue of her dress. Jake was similarly attractive in his best suit.

“Glad to see you could make it!” he exclaimed, giving his friend a playful punch on the arm.

“Y’all didn’t think we’d miss this, did you?”

“Well, I should certainly hope not!” exclaimed Callie. “Everyone knows mine is the most extravagant party in the county this season. And we have cause for celebration, this bein’ the first yuletide since the start of the war.” Releasing Jake, she clamped onto David. “Jake, would you be a darlin’ and go fetch me some punch?”

“Certainly, Miss Callie,” he said with a smile. Giving David a wink, he strolled off into the crowd.

“Now, Mr. Summers, if you please, I would like you to come with me,” she said, giving his arm a tug, so he obediently followed along like a puppy.

The violinist, joined by a pianist, delved into a tender rendition of “Silent Night.” Callie stopped momentarily to listen, so David took his opportunity.

“Miss Callie, I made you a token,” he bashfully admitted. Withdrawing a small wrapped package from his pocket, he handed it to her.

“Well, I do declare! David, darlin’, you shouldn’t have!” She tore open the wrapping and pried open the box, revealing the broach he had painstakingly carved for her. “Why, it’s absolutely breathtakin’.” She pinned it onto the front of her gown. “I shall wear it always.”

Taking his hand, she leaned over to give him a gentle kiss on the cheek, barely missing his mouth.

He shied away, embarrassed. Clearing his throat while his face flushed, he muttered, “What did you want to show me, Miss Callie?”

“I would like to present you to some friends who are out back.”

He followed her to the garden, but immediately wished he hadn’t, for as soon as they were outside, he saw several faces he recognized.

“David, you know Owen Ridgeway, and his brother, Lemuel.”

“Hey, Summers,” said Lemuel in a friendly manner, but his older brother only glared.

“Hey, y’all,” David responded genially, for Callie’s sake.

Jake arrived, and handed Callie a glass filled with sparkling red fluid. Seeing the tension, he said, “Zeke, go on in and git yourself some punch.”

“Don’t mind if I do,” he said, taking his chance to escape the scene. He knew Callie was unaware of the conflict, but he was riled, and he didn’t wish to spoil her party, so he went inside to the food table.

The spread temporarily distracted him from a possible confrontation. Ham, turkey, stuffing, cornbread, pickles, garden vegetables, bread pudding, and assorted pies were displayed on gold leaf china. His mouth watered as he absorbed the sight.

Rena appeared beside him. “Are you enjoyin’ yourself?” she asked, taking a plate.

“I was, till Callie took me outside. That scoundrel Owen Ridgeway is here.”

“He is?”

“Yeah, and so is his brother. I don’t have a quarrel with him, though.”

“Jist avoid him, David,” she advised.

He looked over to see the seriousness in her gaze. “I’ll be on my best behavior for Ma’s sake, but if he tries to make a fuss, well …”

“Jist don’t.” Rena glared insistently at him before moving on.

Once he had filled his plate, he walked across the kitchen, sat at the table, and began eating. Soon, several guests joined him, and struck up a conversation about his father. Isabelle scurried about to accommodate the partygoers, as did the Copelands’ five slaves, and a few others that neighbors had brought along to help support them.

After lingering for half an hour, David excused himself. He walked into the parlor, where he saw Jake and Callie talking to Alice Walker, so he joined them.

“Oh, David, Miss Alice has jist informed us of the most dreadful news!” Callie leaned against Jake for support.

“What is it, Miss Alice?” he asked.

“We’re movin’ to California,” she announced. A broad smile spread across her young porcelain-like face.

“Californee is a right far piece away!” Jake exclaimed with a chuckle.

She nodded. “My pa has an uncle out that way who struck it rich, so we’re fixin’ to go after spring thaw.”

David smirked through a flash of jealousy. “I wish I could go out to Californee and strike it rich,” he muttered.

Callie smiled at him. “Perhaps we can all go out for a visit later on,” she suggested hopefully. Turning toward the wall, she decided to change the subject. “David, have you seen the paintin’ my ma jist acquired?”

“No.” He drew closer to have a look.

“Pa bought it for her for Christmas. Ain’t it magnificent?”

“It surely is.” He gazed at the landscape, noticing how the bluish-purple colors of twilight were accurately represented.

“My ma says that it’s right fittin’ and all. She says that Twilight symbolizes the transitions we’ve all been goin’ through—the new Confederacy and two new presidents, talk of freein’ the slaves, and the country splittin’ in two. It’s like the dawnin’ of a new day.”

David stared at the painting, reading her description into the swirls left by the artist’s brushstrokes, and reckoned she was right.

Mrs. Copeland’s high-pitched voice cut through the din. “May I have your attention, please?”

Callie’s father tapped on a crystal champagne glass with a piece of silverware, causing it to ring out. The participants grew quiet.

“We would like for all of our guests to please assemble out back in the garden!” she exclaimed, and motioned invitingly, so the partygoers followed her.

As David walked outside, he noticed that the entire backyard had been redecorated. Paper lanterns strung across the length of the yard illuminated the setting, and musicians were gathered on a platform near the back. The violinist had transformed himself into a fiddle player. He was joined by a banjo player and a percussionist, who sat poised atop a stool with spoons in his hand.

“For our first song,” the banjo player announced, “we’re playin’ a fine tune by Stephen Foster, called ‘O Lemuel.’”

Owen guffawed at the reference, jabbing his little brother with his elbow. The music started, and the crowd coupled up. Walking out into the center of the straw-covered yard, they began swirling to the music. The chill in the air seemed to dissipate as the dancers moved in synchronized harmony across the makeshift dance floor.

David watched while a schoolmate, Thomas Halsey, escorted Rena. Jake and Callie took to the floor, as did their parents, even though Mr. Kimball’s injured leg prevented him from dancing with much elegance. Like he usually did at gatherings such as these, David partnered with his mother and younger sister, dancing to the lively melodies of “The Yellow Rose of Texas” and “Jim along Josie.” He danced with Alice, and once, timidly, with Callie, who complimented him on his stylish grace. When the music changed to a waltz, she stated that she thought he would easily fit into high society with his fancy footwork.

After the musicians took a break, he strolled into the house for refreshment. Owen followed, confronting him in the kitchen.

“Think you’re quite the rooster, don’t you? Dancin’ with every gal at the party.” He stared provokingly with penetrating green eyes, his blond hair tussled atop his head.

David whirled around to face him. Owen had always been a showoff, and was constantly a thorn in his side, teasing him because he was left-handed, and trying to outdo him at every opportunity. “That ain’t none of your concern. Savvy?”

Owen snorted. “You’re worthless. You ain’t nothin’ but a weasel. All you can do is hide behind them skirts!”

Rena entered to see her brother bristle at his adversary. “David …” she warned.

“Not now, Rena,” he growled back.

“Recall what we discussed.” She could see from across the room that her brother’s eyes were darkening from hazel to brown, which to her was a bad indication.

“I want to have a word with you out on the veranda, Ridgeway,” David stated.

He tromped off through the house. Owen grinned, traipsing behind. Their voices could soon be heard escalating.

Caroline entered the kitchen. “What’s goin’ on out there?” she asked her older daughter, while Jake, Callie, and several others came inside.

“Dere’s trouble out front, Miss Caroline,” Isabelle explained as she gathered a trayful of dirty dishes.

“It’s Owen Ridgeway again, Ma,” added Josie.

Caroline scowled. “I’ll put a stop to this.” She started for the doorway to the parlor, but Jake intercepted her.

“No, Mrs. Summers. Allow me.” He sauntered through the house to find David and Owen glaring intensely while throwing verbal spears at each other.

“I know it was you who killed my dog last winter!” David roared. “You did it jist to spite me, because you were jealous!”

“Why would I be jealous of you?” Owen mocked a laugh.

“Because I’m smarter than you, and you know it.”

“You cheated on those school exams so you could graduate! You lied about your pa fightin’ at Manassas, too! You’re spoiled and soft!”

“I’ll have you take that back!”

“Now, boys,” Jake interrupted, “there ain’t no need for—”

Suddenly, Owen lurched at David, who threw a punch into his attacker’s face. They were immediately wrestling on the veranda, tumbling over each other while grunting, cursing, and yelling. Members of the party dashed outside, alarmed by the commotion. Jake managed to break the two apart, and held his friend’s arms behind his back. Lemuel seized his brother in the same manner. The two opponents snorted like bulls, their faces red with vehemence. A trail of scarlet blood trickled from Owen’s nose.

“Take it easy!” Jake hollered.

Mr. Copeland stepped in. “What is the meaning of this?! I will not have you two behave this way at my gatherin’!” He stomped over to Owen and took him by the ear. “I’m throwin’ you out, young man! You’re no longer welcome here!” Leading Owen to the steps, he thrust him toward the yard. Lemuel meekly scurried after his brother. “Off with you now, and don’t come back!”

The brothers staggered off toward their wagon, climbed in, and rode off down the lane.

Turning toward David, who was panting to catch his breath, Mr. Copeland sighed. “David, I thought better of you than this.” He walked past him and went inside.

The words stung more than any expulsion could. Frowning, he looked at his startled family, at Jake, who simpered at him, and at Callie, who was scowling. He knew what he had done, although it was unintentional, and he felt deeply ashamed. He had ruined Callie’s Christmas party.

Soon, the family decided it was best to leave. Barely speaking to each other, they returned home and retired to their bedchambers. The next morning, on their way back from church, Josie broke the silence.

“How come Owen Ridgeway don’t like you?” she asked straightforwardly.

David shrugged. “He never has, and I don’t cotton to him, neither.”

She chuckled faintly. “I reckon you would if he was nice to you.”

He shrugged again. It was a situation he assumed he would likely never know.

Operation Phase Out Has Begun

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In various places down South, the Confederate battle flag and other reminders of the Lost Cause are gradually being eradicated, and being replaced with more politically correct symbols. In Richmond, the “Cathedral of the Confederacy” has removed needlepoint kneelers and its coat of arms. St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, where Robert E. Lee and President Jefferson Davis frequently attended services, has decided to shed some images that reflect its historic ties to the Confederacy. The church “voted overwhelmingly to embark on a new journey of racial reconciliation,” church leaders said in a statement. Two plaques honoring Lee and Davis will also be removed.

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In Wichita, Kansas, the Confederate Battle Flag will no longer fly in Veterans Memorial Park. The Board of Park commissioners voted to put up the Kansas state flag in its place. According to a press release, the group behind the push believes the flag was dishonored by the City of Wichita when it was temporarily removed in July amid nationwide controversy surrounding the meaning behind the flag. Several veterans spoke in defense of keeping the Confederate Flag at the park. Among them, one man clarified that the Confederate flag is a battle flag and is a teaching tool of history and a reminder of war’s bloodshed.

“That battle flag means more than just a historical reference. It means divisiveness, it means hatred, it means a whole lot of things that people here in Kansas for whatever reason, don’t seem to understand,” said Larry Burks, a Wichita veteran.

In the criticism of hoisting the state flag at the memorial, some veterans said the Kansas flag is not a “national flag” and does not carry the same representation as the Confederate Battle Flag. Those in support of keeping the Confederate flag down said flying the Kansas flag instead shows that the Sunflower State is an open and welcoming place.

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In Tallahassee, Florida, without a formal vote, the Florida Senate agreed to strip the Confederate battle flag from its official seal, removing one of the few remaining vestiges of the infamous icon in state government. Senators agreed without objection to adopt a new rule removing the controversial emblem from the chamber’s insignia. Approving the change without objection avoided the need for even a voice vote on the emotional issue. Under the rule, the seal would still include other non-American flags that flew over Florida, including the 1513 Spanish flag, the 1564 French flag and the 1763 flag of Great Britain. The United States flag would also remain, while the Florida state flag would replace the Confederate banner on the marker.

“I’m glad that we are taking it down and recognizing the Confederate flag for what it is,” Sen. Oscar Braynon, a black Democrat from Miami Gardens, said after the session. “What it is, is a symbol of a time when this country went to war to keep my ancestors in slavery.”

Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, said he wasn’t aware that the chamber was going to take up the issue during the special redistricting session. Bradley also raised questions about whether the Senate should look at other options for the seal, including an overhaul of the symbol that goes beyond simply replacing one flag. “If you look at all the flags on the seal, I think you would find that there were things that occurred in the name of some of those flags that history has now looked upon as being abhorrent and terrible,” he said.

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And in Natchitoches, Louisiana, the Sons of Confederate Veterans were excluded from the Christmas Parade held on December 5. This was perpetrated with a time frame that kept them from legally doing anything about it this year. The Town of Many, Louisiana, did not participate in the Natchitoches Christmas Parade in support of the SCV and invited the SCV to be in their Christmas parade on December 12.

The Mayor of Natchitoches, Lee Posey, refused to allow the SCV to march in the Christmas Parade as it has done for decades unless the SCV agreed to march without the Flags of the Confederacy. The committee organizing the parade agreed to support the Mayor in this act of politically correct exclusion. Members of the Historic District Business Association and the business owners of Front Street were not contacted when the mayor made his decision. They are outraged over the city’s position and supported the SCV being in the Christmas Parade.

 

 

New Book Embarks on Blog Tour

Dwelling FRONT

I have so much fun featuring new books on my blog, and today’s book promises to be a thrilling (and scary) read. It is titled Dwelling by Thomas S. Flowers. Here is more information about the novel.

DWELLING by Thomas S. Flowers

Subdue Series, Book 1

Publisher: Limitless Publishing

Release Date: Dec. 8, 2015

: : : SYNOPSIS : : :

A group of inseparable childhood friends are now adults, physically and psychologically devastated by war…

A horrifying creature emerges from a sandstorm just before Ricky Smith dies in battle. Forced to leave base housing, his widow Maggie buys a home on Oak Lee Road in the town of Jotham. Maggie is isolated in the historic house…and disconcerted by strange clicking sounds inside the walls.

Jonathan Steele attempts to drink the painful past away…

Jonathan was wounded in that fateful battle and now suffers from PTSD. He wants to put the nightmare behind him, but when Ricky’s ghost appears with cryptic warnings about Maggie’s house, he begins to question his sanity.

Bobby Weeks is a homeless veteran struggling with a lycanthropic curse…

Afraid of bringing harm, Bobby stays far away from those he loves. But after a full moon, a mysterious woman approaches him and reveals a vision about a house with a sinister presence, and he realizes staying away might no longer be an option.

Minister Jake Williams lost his faith on the battlefield…

While Jake will do anything to reconnect with God, he turns to vices to fill the religious void. But a church elder urges him to take a sabbatical, and a ghost tells him to quit the ministry, and his life is more out of control than ever.

When Maggie wakes in a strange subterranean cavern, she can’t deny her home harbors dark secrets. Desperate, she sends letters to her old friends to reunite in Jotham, and events conspire to draw them all to the house…unaware of the danger awaiting them.

The friends have already been through hell, but can any of them survive the evil dwelling beneath the House on Oak Lee?

PURCHASE LINKS:

KINDLE: http://amzn.to/1lVX86K

PAPERBACK: http://amzn.to/1YFDjP5

EXCERPT:

Chapter One

THE BATTLE OF AL-HURRIYAH

Johnathan

Iraq, 2004

Something caught his eye. A glimmer. A shadow in the dark yellow fog.

The fuck? He reached for his binos in the turret. Across the street, Johnathan spied through the dust scratched lens vendors hastily tucking and clutching whatever goods they could get their hands on. Only the most meager of items remained on the street. Even the sound of the Humvees seemed to fade, as if the entire world was holding its breath.

What’s going on? Johnathan shook, his nerves pricked. Hairs stood on-end. His knees locked. He watched, hands resting on the M2 .50-cal. He searched for someone, anyone to put the tightening in his stomach at ease. Where are they going? Shadows snaked in between the empty spaces and seemed to grow larger. The yellow dust whipped the air. Al-Hurriyah was being consumed by it.

Johnathan could feel the lump in his heart become heavy. He pulled his scarf off. He choked on the dust, tasting all the nastiness of the Baghdad ghetto, but paid little heed. The soldier scanned his field of fire. Anticipation boiled in his veins. Then the yellow sand darkened again.

The glimmer returned, taking shape, forming in the dust. His mouth fell agape. “What the fuck is that?” He screamed inside, his mind rattled and confused and terrified.

From the alley across the road the shadows dissolved, giving form to some massive Thing with skin covered in bristle-like hair as black as tar. The bulking torso hissed, and swelled, hissed and swelled. Its thin, but otherwise muscular, fragile-looking legs twitched in the sand, protruding and stretching out, pulling down the tarps of the vender huts near it.

How many legs does this thing have? What is this? I’m dreaming, have to be. This can’t be…

In the dust-whipped wind what looked to be mandibles where its mouth should have been opened and then snapped shut. It was hissing, but the hissing sounded like clicking, the rattle of teeth in a glass jar or a snake poised to strike. On its head was an unmistakable shape, as frightening as it was. Bulging from its head, two swollen red eyes taking up nearly all of the creature’s face glared in the dust, compound, like the eye of a fly, gazing directly at him.

Its antenna drooped low, and then it began talking to him with a wild rush of clicks in its throat. The sound was terrible, reminding him of spring months back home, the swarms of cicadas that blanketed the canopy in his parents’ backyard every few years or so and the eerie sound they made, the clicking, horrible hissing, just like in that one movie Ricky loved to watch when they were kids around the same part of the year, the 1950s atomic-age science fiction flick, the one with the giant ants.

Partially hidden in the dust, the height of the hideous Thing was hard to guess, but whatever is was, it wasn’t possible. None of this was possible. It couldn’t be real, yet there it was all the same, hulking out from across the street, large and hungry looking.

“Are you seeing this?” Johnathan croaked, his voice pained with fear and doubt.

“What?” asked Ricky. He turned in his seat, looking out the driver’s side window. Searching. “I don’t see anything.”

“Are you fucking kidding me!” Johnathan yelled, panic stained in his voice. He kicked the driver’s seat.

“Dude, we’re about to dibby out. Stop being so jumpy,” Ricky scolded. “I don’t see anything, man.”

“Look, you asshole!” Johnathan kicked the driver’s seat again with his boot.

“Dude!” Smith turned fully around and peered in the direction Steele was gesturing. He fell silent for only a moment and then he yelled, “Get down!”

“We need to do more than—” Johnathan had started to say, but was cut short. He looked back to the alley where the Thing had been, but the monster was gone, replaced by a man with a shaved head shouting something terribly familiar and propping an equally terrifying object across his shoulder.

Is that?

“RPG!” Ricky screamed on the radio.

The air sucked back. Johnathan thought he was going to puke as he watched a plume of white smoke rocket toward him. The world was motionless for a second, perhaps less. In that moment he thought of Karen and Tabitha, he thought of his childhood and his friends that filled it. Then the explosion hit, lifting his Humvee upward into the air.

The large metal behemoth came crashing back to earth with a thunderous moan. He fell inside. His head smashed against the gunner’s platform below. He saw nothing, only white, burning light. Outside, he could hear the crackle of gunfire faintly against the ringing in his ears, like fireworks in a neighborhood a block away.

People were shouting. His squad mates, maybe. Language seemed beyond him at the moment. He could smell sulfur and the awful hint of something else…like overcooked meat on the grill, he imagined, dazed and numb. Through the broken window he watched the battle of Al-Hurriyah with disbelieving eyes.

Another explosion struck somewhere nearby. Pebbles or chunks of the police station perhaps rained down on his truck. The radio was abuzz with noise, fire direction, casualties. Someone yelled through the mike, “Death Blossom.” Death Blossom…? Are we under attack…? Yes…Ricky called it out, didn’t he? His head rung with the battle cry.

Johnathan shifted his weight. One of his legs fell from the strap he used as a seat, the other felt strangely dead. He looked. Among the yellow dust and stars that filled his eyes, he could see, though blurred, the gnarled remains of what was once his right leg.

“Shit!” he screamed, clinching at his thigh. I can’t look. I can’t look. Ricky. Ricky? “Smith? Ricky? Are you okay, man?” he winced, straining to get a look at his friend.

No answer.

More rattling pinged off his truck. Someone nearby yelled, “Got you, you fucking bastard!” Another voice screamed in language not entirely unfamiliar.

Must be some of the Iraqi police, he thought vaguely caring. Death Blossom…those assholes are going to ping someone in the back…

Something was pinching his neck. He reached and felt warmth and something hard. He dug whatever it was out and pulled his hand to see. He glared dumbfounded at what looked like a tooth.

Not mine, he thought, testing his teeth with his tongue. He looked at Ricky, but his form was covered in haze.

Gunfire continued to crackle outside, but in the broken and torn Humvee, the world felt like a tomb.

He could see Ricky now, lying awkwardly in his seat, one hand still clutching the radio receiver. Smoke wafted from his body. He didn’t move. And the smell…the smell was terrible.

Johnathan blinked. Not real. Not real. “Ricky, you son of a bitch, answer me! Are you okay?” he yelled. Hot adrenaline coursed through him like a drug, pooling in a venomous sundry of dreadful sorrow and hate, lumping together in his heart, stealing his breath. Maggie’s face flashed in front of him and then Karen’s, but he pushed them away.

Please, God. No.

“Ricky!”

Author-Pic-Thomas-Flowers-400x400

An Interview With the Author:

FIRST BLOOD: War Horrors Most Honest Film

By: Thomas S. Flowers

Understandably, when people hear “First Blood” they initially think “Rambo.” Muscled dude with the red bandana hold a M60, yup, that’s the one. Rambo is a 1980s visage of the ultimate warrior, supreme bad ass, take no prisoners kind of guy. There was a short lived cartoon based on Rambo back in 1986 called “Rambo: The Force of Freedom.” It was a short lived series. There was also a video game, released in 1987 and a sequel, released in 1988. There were also lunch boxes with matching thermos. And let’s not forget the action figures and tee shirts with the logo “No Fear, No Regrets” written beneath these soul-glow wavy haired maniac holstering a very large hunting knife. Because Rambo is very much a pop icon, I often wonder if audiences really grasped the intelligence and emotional rawness of First Blood. Sometimes I feel that folks who adore “Rambo” as the action hero pop star have abandoned, if not totally ignored, the character from the first film. John Rambo certainly does his fair share of ass whooping in First Blood, but ultimately, he’s a tragic character, scarred, not just physically but emotionally. He’s been traumatized and doing his best to live with the memories he carries with him from his service during Vietnam. What kind of memories? Well, consider this little snippet from the end of the film (I know, I know, big bad SPOILERS…whatever, get over yourself, this movie has been out for 33 years!). In this scene, John has pretty much laid waste to the small town of Hope, Washington. Colonel Sam Trautman, his former commander, has arrived to attempt to talk John down. Confused, John tries to make sense of everything. He shares a particular memory with Trautman, who being an officer, was probably removed from most of the violence in Vietnam.

John Rambo says:

“We were in this bar in Saigon and this kid comes up, this kid carrying a shoe-shine box. And he says ‘Shine, please, shine!’ I said no. He kept askin’, yeah, and Joey said ‘Yeah.’ And I went to get a couple of beers, and the box was wired, and he opened up the box, fucking blew his body all over the place. And he’s laying there, he’s fucking screaming. There’s pieces of him all over me, just… like this, and I’m tryin’ to pull him off, you know, my friend that’s all over me! I’ve got blood and everything and I’m tryin’ to hold him together! I’m puttin’… the guy’s fuckin’ insides keep coming out! And nobody would help! Nobody would help! He’s saying, sayin’ ‘I wanna go home! I wanna go home!’ He keeps calling my name! ‘I wanna go home, Johnny! I wanna drive my Chevy!’ I said Why? I can’t find your fuckin’ legs! I can’t find your legs!”

When a quote like this comes out of a guy, covered in sweat, grime, and blood, laying on the floor, half whimpering, half screaming, it’s hard to look at First Blood as nothing more than an exploitative action-violence movie. First Blood is more than that, despite all the lunch boxes and action figures and tee shirts. This movie has substance. First Blood was a movie about PTSD before PTSD was even considered a counterpart with war trauma. First Blood also discusses very “in-your-face” regarding the treatment of Vietnam veterans in America culture. The small mountain woodsy town is called “Hope” for crying out loud. Stallone wanders through Hope finding nothing but hassle and abuse and then rips the decorum off through a series of wanton destruction, almost demolishing the sheriff’s office, the supposed symbol of law and order and justice. This all of course begs the question: What justice is there in any of this?

Janet Maslin from the New York Times reviewed First Blood back in ’82. She said, “The emphasis is clearly on toughness and versatility, as a battered, bloody Mr. Stallone demonstrates a wide range of scouting skills, from building traps to exploring a pitch-black cave; he is also able to slaughter wild animals and give himself stitches. He corners the sheriff’s men a number of times, and invariably he is good-hearted enough to let them go. The movie tries hard to make sure that Rambo will be seen as a tormented, misunderstood, amazingly resourceful victim of the Vietnam War, rather than as a sadist or a villain.” On this part, I’d agree with most of what the movie critic said, though understandably as a combat veteran myself, the movie affects me perhaps a little differently. There is no denying the simplistic quality to the script. There’s nothing complicated with the dialogue. Miss Maslin’s comment regarding Rambo being “the good boy scout” was interesting to me. This connotation connects Rambo to another Vietnam movie, The Deer Hunter. Yes, while The Deer Hunter is most certainly more complex in story, the character Micheal Vronsky, played by the impeccable Robert De Niro, is represented as the ultimate outdoors man, the ultimate Boy Scout if you will, who becomes this mythological Superman of Vietnam. In a strange way, perhaps we could look at Rambo as the continuation of Vronsky’s story. Or perhaps I’m reaching a bit here!

To be fair, First Blood does reach a bit toward the end, despite the powerful last scene mentioned earlier in this review. While personally, my focus on Rambo as the suffering post-war veteran, there are some bits to his dialogue that leave one wandering the wasteland of Hope, pondering just who cost us the Vietnam War? Rambo laments about the “hippie scum” who spit on him at the airport, or the liberal politicians who “wouldn’t let us win.” These thoughts would be more fleshed out in the next installment, Rambo II, as Rambo returns to Vietnam in search of those we “left behind.” But all of this begs even more questions: “Just who did we leave behind?” “Who lost the war?” “How did we lose?” “Did we need to bomb more villages?” “Did we need to send more men?” etc. etc. This sadly leaves one with a very surface level understand of the war. If we were to pull back and look at John Rambo as the PTSD rattled veteran, could we even afford to send more into the hell pit that was Vietnam? Or any war for that matter? Yet, intermixed with the convoluted “stabbed in the back” attitude, there are glimpses of real problematic cultural relations with society and combat traumatized veterans. Here is another quote from John Rambo for you to chew on.

John Rambo states:

“Nothing is over! Nothing! You just don’t turn it off! It wasn’t my war! You asked me, I didn’t ask you! And I did what I had to do to win! But somebody wouldn’t let us win! And I come back to the world and I see all those maggots at the airport, protesting me, spitting. Calling me baby killer and all kinds of vile crap! Who are they to protest me, huh? Who are they? Unless they’ve been me and been there and know what the hell they’re yelling about! …For me civilian life is nothing! In the field we had a code of honor, you watch my back, I watch yours. Back here there’s nothing! …Back there I could fly a gunship, I could drive a tank, I was in charge of million dollar equipment, back here I can’t even hold a job parking cars!”

As I said, it’s very provocative. Beautifully so, I think.

Okay. Moving beyond the social-political undercurrent. First Blood had a great pace and mood that was very captivating and entertaining. While there was some cheese-crusted acting by some of the supporting roles, I felt Stallone did a rather impressive job as a sober, traumatized character. If you haven’t seen this one yet, or skipped it (FOR SHAME!), you need to watch it. Netflix recently released the entire trilogy on instant viewing.

MEET THE AUTHOR: Thomas S. Flowers is the published author of several character driven stories of fright. He resides in Houston, Texas, with his wife and daughter. His first novel, Reinheit, was published by Forsaken. He also has a short story, “Lanmò,” in The Sinister Horror Company’s horror anthology The Black Room Manuscripts. In 2008, he was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army where he served for seven years, with three tours serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2014, Thomas graduated from University of Houston Clear Lake with a BA in History. He blogs at machinemean[dot]org, where he does author interviews and reviews on a wide range of strange yet oddly related topics.

LIMITLESS PUBLISHING: http://www.limitlesspublishing.net/authors/thomas-flowers/

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/ThomasSFlowers

TWITTER: https://twitter.com/machinemeannow

WEBSITE: http://machinemean.org

LIMITLESS PUBLISHING: http://www.limitlesspublishing.net/authors/thomas-flowers/

 

 

IndieBRAG Christmas Blog Hop!

ALL-ABOARD-with-medallion

I have been invited to be a part of this year’s Christmas blog hop, sponsored by IndieBRAG. This is open to all author’s who have won the B.R.A.G. Medallion for best independently published book. My novel, titled A Beautiful Glittering Lie, won a few years ago. Here are my responses to a few questions about how I spend Christmas.

1. What is a Christmas tradition you and your family have?

We have several. We watch Santa’s progress online. We order chocolate seashells and buy chocolate covered cherries for stocking stuffers. We also watch “Scrooge” (the musical, 1970 version), which is no easy feat, since my family is spread out across the country. We synchronize the movies so we all end up watching them at the same time, regardless of different time zones. We open one gift on Christmas Eve (just one!) and we started a new tradition a few years ago. My older son and I now trade off giving wine every other year. He lives in California, so his selections are excellent!

2. Is there a humorous gift that you received? What was it?

I don’t recall receiving a humorous gift, but when I was about eleven, my parents gave me an electric razor for Christmas. I was devastated! I was hoping for something a little less mature, but I guess they thought I was old enough to start shaving my legs.

3. What is your favorite Christmas story?

My favorite is A Christmas Story by Charles Dickens. It’s a classic but the story never gets old. I think it’s interesting how many versions and interpretations of this story there are, and I love observing new ideas, like “Scrooged” with Bill Murray.

4. Have you ever taken a Christmas Vacation somewhere? If so, where to and please share your experiences and what you enjoyed about it?

I went out to Southern California a few years ago right at Christmastime. It was spectacular! We attended the boat parade at Balboa Island. My younger son sings in a quartet, and they were there singing carols. The townspeople go all out decorating their houses. They even include fake snow! We also saw a house that was featured on the TV show “Great American Light Fight.” It was over-the-top beautiful, and really got everyone into the holiday spirit. The homeowners were so nice that they even gave out cookies and cider to everyone who came to visit.

5. Egg Nog or Cocoa?

Since I can have cocoa practically any time, I vote for egg nog!

6. What is your favorite part of Christmas day?

Opening gifts, of course! Just kidding. My favorite part about Christmas is spending it with family, even if it is over Skype.

7. Do you go all out on Christmas decorations? What is your favorite?

Normally I do go all out, but right now, my husband and I are renting a small townhouse, so we don’t have room. I have boxes and boxes of Christmas decorations stacked to the ceiling in our garage. However, we do have a few wreaths, a couple of table top Christmas trees, and various other knick knacks set out, along with whatever Christmas decor I could squeeze into the place. My favorite is a nativity scene with an angel that has a little heart attached. On the heart, it says “Thank Heaven for Little Boys.” I love this because we have two sons, and now we have a grandson as well.

8. What is your favorite Christmas movie and why?

I think my favorite movie is “It’s a Wonderful Life.”That story says it all, and really makes you think. The world would be a far different place if you or I weren’t in it. How much we influence and love others is really all that matters.

New Book on Blog Tour

MM BT Banner

Today for the featured b00k r3vi3w Tours book, I am featuring Michael’s Mystery: The Nations of Peace, by Linze Brandon. Check it out!

 

*** BOOK  TOUR ***

 

It was time for the Lords of the High Council to step in when the Grandmaster of Kryane is accused of murdering his own people. They had little choice but to prevent the collapse of the whole magicians order, so they sent Michael to investigate the allegations.

The people of the desert planet were an enigma, but none more than Andesine, the healer assigned to assist Michael. Why did she report the Grandmaster? Was she involved, or was there something more sinister going on?

The more people they interrogated the more they suspected that nothing was as it seemed. Not the murders, nor the Grandmasters’ motive as everyone thought.

Unable to resist the growing attraction between them, Michael and Andesine learn that they had to trust each other with their own secrets, and risking any future they might have.

Time and again the High Lords had to step in to prevent chaos on Kryane, but time was running out for Michael and Andesine. They had to get a new Grandmaster in place before the Kryane Order collapsed completely. And they had to find the who the true culprit was.

Fortunate to escape an attack from this monster once, they were risking the lives of many others in the process. Before the High Lords could formulate a plan, Michael and Andesine were captured, leaving the High Lords helpless to prevent it.

Kidnapped and imprisoned, Andesine was confronted with the realisation that if they were to survive their ordeal, it was up to her and her long suppressed powers. But as a healer she saved lives, would she be able to destroy the monster before he forces her to unleash her power to destroy the future of mankind?

About the Author:

Teaching herself to read before she went to school, it was the start of her life long love affair with books. Trained as an engineer, Linzé has worked as an export consultant and is presently a project manager. Although she still loves to read, she also enjoys counted stitch embroidery, archery, tai chi, fly fishing, painting, her husband’s medal winning photographs and watching Manchester United play.

She counts both novels and short stories to her publishing credit. Her fourth novel, Waiting for Adrian, is planned for publication early in 2016. Her story, The Vernal Equinox, was a finalist in a sci-fi flash-fiction competition in 2015.

Linzé Brandon lives in Pretoria, South Africa, with her engineer husband and German Shepherds who are convinced that the world revolves only around them.

Follow Linzé Online:

 

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