"" Writer's Wanderings: April 2020

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Remembering Another Difficult Time in History

For many reasons I've been thinking of my mother lately. With our stay-at-home life I've started working again on a project of hers that I inherited and want to finish before my kids end up inheriting it. Mom always seemed to go overboard in the things she did for us. If I liked one sweater she bought me two--one in each color. Meals were always more than we could finish. This project, quilts for all her grandkids (at the start, six, but became eight before she could finish one), was way bigger than she could accomplish. I know because I was always finishing up projects she would start and not finish.

As I think back now with a lot more hindsight and maturity, I realize that all of this overabundance of things, projects, purchases, food, was probably a result of her childhood. Growing up during the Great Depression was an overwhelming challenge at times. As one of seven children, she wore mended clothes until they could not longer hold together with mends. Food on the table was not always a guarantee. Entertainment was whatever they could create on their own.

While our COVID 19 period can in no way compare to the years of desperate times back in the late 20s and early 30s, I can't help but wonder what stories our children will share about this time in their history. Hopefully they will be of perseverance, sharing, caring, and learning to love each other.

Unfortunately, as with all children, I did not listen as well to my mother's stories as I wish now I had. Some of them stuck though and I wove them into the novel that I dedicated to my mother. The novel does not follow her life but is enriched by the stories of her childhood. Ruby, A Novel, is now on sale at Amazon in the Kindle store for 99 cents and the paperback is reduced to $9.99. It
may be a little longer before we all emerge again from our confinements so perhaps you can enjoy another book.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Help! I'm Caught In The Middle Of A Book Series!

It's my own fault. I admit it. I enjoyed an Anne Perry historical novel so much about a young barrister in London that I decided to start at the beginning of the series that preceded him. Perry wrote a whole series based on the young man's parents. Little did I know when I started the first book and got involved with the characters and the setting and of course the mystery that it was going to be a long trail to follow.

The Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series I discovered midway through the fourth book is 36 books! I am currently on number 13--not even half way, and I can't stop. I have fallen in love with the era and the characters. Charlotte is a bit of a rebel in a very structured and prim London society. She married beneath her when she fell in love with Thomas. Thomas is an inspector with the police department and Charlotte (and her sister who married above her station) often get into his cases and help him with the solutions.

I've become so involved in the stories that I can't help but smile when some things happen to the characters and then say, "Oh no, Charlotte, you wouldn't" when she gets herself into situations. The murder mysteries are always quite different. I can't imagine how Perry comes up with so many different scenarios and plots. Book #12 had me going and ended with quite a surprise.

Looking for some reading indulgence? With real travel curtailed, we can at least travel back in time and to another place. I'd recommend Perry's series for the stories and the characters. On occasion, I find a few writing faults but it doesn't take away from the adventure

Monday, April 27, 2020

Where Have All The Cruise Ships Gone?

Now that all the cruises at sea during the COVID outbreak have finally ended and cruises in the near future are cancelled, what have the cruise lines done with all of their ships?

Ports like Miami and Fort Lauderdale that are home ports to so many meaning that is where many cruises begin and end are full. Many of the cruise lines have reduced their crews to a bare minimum and a lot have positioned them in the Bahamas where their private islands are. As one blog put it, the crew can at least have some free time on the islands.

One of the last ships to put into port was the Queen Mary 2 who had to end their world cruise early. Most passengers disembarked in Australia but a small number who were unable to fly home due to medical conditions stayed onboard as the ship made its way back home to Southampton. It is now spending time in its home port along with another ship, the Queen Victoria. The third ship of the line, the Queen Elizabeth is sheltering in Asia until cruises can again resume. There is quite a nice video on the Cunard.com site from the president of Cunard, Simon Palethorpe. 

Many cruise lines are posting videos of favorite ship entertainers, cooking lessons, etc. to keep their loyal cruisers informed as well as entertained and certainly fueling their desire to return as soon as possible to the cruise life we enjoy. If you'd like to see some of them go to FaceBook and like the pages of your favorite cruise lines or check their blogs from their websites.

The question is, how different will it be? Will there be a reduction in the number of passengers? Social distancing? Masks? Certainly the habits of hand sanitizing  will continue as well as the thorough cleaning of rooms and public areas. I trust that the powers that be are even now planning how they can best serve their passengers.

There is a neat site called CruiseMapper.com if you would like to track the cruise ships once they start moving again.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Through My Lens -- Spring Thaw

I was a little bored this day. At least it was better than watching water boil on the stove. *smiles*

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Credit Limit--A Short Story

[This is a fun little story that was inspired by my stint as a florist.]                                                             

Jack Griggs couldn’t believe his good luck. It was a sign, surely a sign. He had finally turned a corner in life. Good fortune smiled on him. It was the shiny red plastic sticking out from the folded paper that caught his eye. He almost passed it by assuming it to be just another piece of litter on the city streets. Red was his favorite color. It piqued his curiosity. Stooping to pick it up, he immediately recognized the litter as a credit card receipt wrapped around the credit card itself. It was just ten in the morning and the day was immediately promising despite the cloudy skies. Here was his silver lining.
It was amazing how a little find like this could lighten your step and put a whistle on your lips. Jack ducked into a Starbuck’s a few doors down to contemplate his good fortune and plan the rest of his day.
“What can I get for you?” the counter girl asked as he perused the menu of specialty coffees.

“I’ll have a latte,” he said. His hand explored the credit card in his pocket. He could feel the raised numbers. “You know, it’s such a great day, I think I’ll treat myself to one of those big cinnamon rolls too,” he added.
Jack found a seat in the corner to examine his found treasure. Normally, he would rummage through trash cans for carbons or slip a wallet out of a pocket or purse to get hold of a little credit to supply him with the necessities of life, but today it had been right there in front of him on the sidewalk.
Jack was always careful not to take any credit from the customers he met at the garage where he parked cars all evening for a living. A living. That was a laugh. The money he made barely allowed for a roof over his head and food in his belly.
There were other necessities of life just as important. Necessities that added to the quality of life such as a new stereo system, a lounge chair, a microwave (an absolute “gotta have” for a bachelor), some great jewelry and a few other wants and desires not affordable on his income. Jack was very conscientious about his credit spending. Each time he used someone’s plastic, he was careful to keep a low limit to his new credit line. Rule number one, he never assumed there would be more than a thousand left on any credit card account. He’d made that mistake once and was sure he’d been caught when the credit card was denied. And, rule number two, he got his shopping done quickly, before the card could be reported stolen or the bank catch on to unusual activity. He didn’t worry about the owners of the cards. After all, he figured, his “gifted” credit was covered by insurance through the bank. Banks and insurance companies had plenty of money to throw around.
This find was such incredible luck. As Jack examined the receipt, he noticed the buyer had filled in his address and phone number. Here was all the information he needed for identification. The receipt showed today’s date so the card was probably not missed yet. The stores had opened less than a half hour ago. If he hustled, he could get that new entertainment center he needed for the stereo system and maybe a new TV to boot. That might stretch his limit a bit, but, hey, this was his lucky day. He’d take a chance. He drained his cup and headed off for an electronics store in a neighboring town.
Jack arrived at his apartment around lunchtime. He unloaded the entertainment center and new TV from his pickup and fixed himself a sandwich. Between bites of bologna and swigs of beer, he set up the speakers, receiver, CD player and the new TV.  With a second beer in his hand, he relaxed in his lounger and snapped on the TV with a push of a button on the remote. Ah, life is beautiful, he thought.
The remote control in his hand gave him a new sense of power. Flipping through the channels, he suddenly came upon a ridiculous looking bee with bunches of flowers in his hand. He pointed the remote, ready to click again, but stopped, intrigued by the message coming from the oversized yellow and black insect. Sunday was Mother’s Day.
Jack thought about his mom who was half way across the country from him. She was the one who had given him his education on credit cards. All through his high school years, she had worked for a credit card company in the department that dealt with stolen cards and card numbers. It was just the two of them at home. She had shared her work stories with him each night at dinner. Ma had always insisted he be home for dinner each night. His friends had razzed him relentlessly about that, but now he was glad he’d been home. Ma didn’t realize what valuable information she had imparted.
Sure, why not send Ma some flowers? Maybe then she’ll believe I’m really doing all right. He picked up the phone book and searched for a florist across town and in a different zip from the one listed on the credit card receipt in his hand. He dialed the number and got a cheerful, “Flowers by Chris. How can I help you?”
“I’d like to order flowers for my mother. It says in the phone book you wire them. Will she get them today?” He had never sent flowers before and felt a little stupid asking.
“We can call a florist in that area and see if they have a truck going out late this afternoon. If not, they will take them tomorrow and she’ll still have them in time for Mother’s Day.”
“O.K. Can we send that special arrangement with the teapot like in the TV ad?”
“Luckily you called early enough. It shouldn’t be a problem.”
Jack gave his mother’s address and phone number. “Just sign the card, ‘your son’.”
“Will you be putting this on a credit card?” the florist asked.
“Yes,” replied Jack reaching for the credit card and receipt. He recited the numbers.
“I also need your zip code and phone number for verification.”
Yessir, it was his lucky day. He had those.
“Excuse me a moment, please.” The voice disappeared for an uncomfortable period of time. Maybe he’d reached the limit on the card. Jack was almost ready to hang up when she returned. “I’m sorry to keep you waiting. I had to make sure I was right. We have a special contest going on at the shop promoting Mother’s Day and you have won. You are the 25th person to order the teapot arrangement. If you can come in to the shop, we’ll give you certificates to a free dinner for you and your mother at Chez Restaurant. Of course, if your mom’s out of town you can always take someone else. Can you come in today to pick them up?”
Wow, Jack thought, the luck goes on. Chez was a classy place. What could it hurt? If I get there as soon as possible, everything should be O.K. The card is still working. If it wasn’t, they would have refused my order. “I can be there in about an hour. Thanks.”
“What is your name?”
He didn’t like having to give a name. What should he tell her? He looked at the name on the card, “Wilson, Chuck Wilson..”
Jack arrived at the florist shop an hour later. It was a little store in a strip mall. There was only one girl behind the counter and a man looking through a picture book of arrangements. Probably ordering flowers for his mother, Jack thought.
“Can I help you?” the girl said looking up from her order pad.
“Sure. I called in an order this noon and you told me I’d won dinner out.” Jack beamed. No, there was no limit to his luck today. The girl looked at the man who suddenly closed the book in front of him. He turned to Jack smiling as though someone had told a joke. Jack felt like he’d missed the punch line.
“Let me introduce myself,” he said, “I’m Chuck Wilson, Detective Chuck Wilson.” Two men in uniform appeared from a door behind him.

Jack stood, mouth half open, as the florist explained, “Detective Wilson is a good customer of ours and realized his credit card was missing when he came in to order flowers for his mother this morning. When you gave me the zip and phone number, I recognized it as his. I phoned him when you said you’d come in to pick up your Chez certificates.”
“Guess it’s my lucky day. We weren’t certain you’d show up.” Wilson smiled. “I would have hated to call your mother and ask her how she enjoyed her Mother’s Day flowers that were purchased with a stolen credit card.”
“What about the certificates?” Jack asked the florist and realizing what a stupid question that was the moment it was out of his mouth. It didn’t look like he’d be able to use them now.
“I just made that up. There was no contest,” the florist said sweetly.

As they handcuffed him, Detective Wilson noted, “By the way, you maxed the card out with your flower purchase.” Jack grinned sardonically. Not only had his luck run out, he’d reached his credit limit too. He wondered though, would a mother have turned in a son who sent her flowers for Mother’s Day? 

Friday, April 17, 2020

Pandemic Lessons

Yes. It's a new world. How are you adjusting? I'd like to say I've adjusted well but I'm still a work in progress. This all started while we were still in Florida so the first few weeks for us were not too bad. We could get out in the nice weather and there was even Pickleball still being played although between games we were socially distancing.

The anxiety grew though. As word that Ohio was closing down and more states were considering it, we wondered what the trip home might be like. Would we even be able to travel home? Suddenly, Northeast Ohio weather aside, home was looking good. And once we made it home, there was a sense of relief despite all the changes created by COVID. Lesson One: home is a good place to be in a crisis.

Once we were stocked up on food and yes, I even managed to find a few packages of TP, we hunkered down. While thoughts of places to go and people to see crossed our minds, we realized that those activities that were so near and dear were not going to happen. Lesson Two: friends are precious.

Lesson Three: routine is good but needs variety. When Bob retired we settled into a new routine and now we find ourselves searching for a few adjustments that fit in with the new normal we are all living in. We look for ways to keep that routine interesting. Finding a time slot for at least one walk a day (not always easy when the weather turns nasty as it does around here in spring). Looking for new places to walk--we have some great parks in our area. Going for a drive just to be out. Playing lots of Hand and Foot--our favorite card game. Going out for lunch at a fast food drive thru and eating in the parking lot.

Grocery shopping has always been a chore for me. Yes, I've said it many times. "I'd rather stay home and clean toilets." Lesson Four: shopping for groceries may not be so bad after all even with a mask on. It's a little contact with others albeit from a distance.

Lesson Five: reading while tuning into the Easy Listening channel on the TV is relaxing. I think I may have known this from childhood though. I've always been a reader. In a normal year I read between 30-45 books. I'm already up to 21 and we're only about a third of the way through the year. Of course the reading and relaxing hasn't done much for my writing and my blogging but maybe that's beginning to fall into routine as well.

Lesson Six: Worship, praise, and prayer are essential and can be very creative. We tune into two worship services each Sunday--our home church and our home church away from home in Florida. There's also coffee twice a week with the pastor from Florida and when Easter morning was cold, rainy and cloudy here, we were able to watch the sunrise service on the Florida shore. We even got a brief look at the sunrise service of a third church whose pastor was live on FB from a graveyard. Lots of creative ways have given us inspiration and hope through Zoom choirs and social media.

I'm sure there are more lessons that I could list but as I sit here and watch the snow fall in a mid-April change in the weather, I wonder, what lessons have you learned?

Monday, April 06, 2020

On Sale For The Paperback Readers!

For those who like to hold a book in their hands the price of the paperback editions of Fort Lonesome are reduced. The regular sized copy is now $9.99 (reduced from $12.99).

If you know someone who needs large print and doesn't like the Kindle which can increase the print size, the large print copy of Fort Lonesome is now $10.99 (reduced from $12.99--the best Amazon will let me do on that one).

Here's the back copy:
Ginnie Scott looked forward to the beginning of a new life in Fort Lonesome. She felt a new sense of freedom leaving behind the parents she had so deeply disappointed. She was starting fresh as a preschool teacher where no one knew her past. Little did she expect that the past would catch up with her.

Grant Richards’ life has been through some deep valleys. Just as he thought his heart might mend from the loss of his wife, Becca, he has to cope with his daughter’s perilous brain tumor. Then Bonnie’s new preschool teacher arrives to throw his life into more turmoil. Is she Becca’s ghost? The resemblance is uncanny.

Martin Westfall ruined Ginnie’s life with his rash promises and failures to fulfil them. He’s found her again and this time he won’t let anything come between them, not even a little girl and her cowboy father.

Fort Lonesome, Florida, is classified as a ghost town but the only ghosts in town are the ghosts of the past that come into Grant and Ginnie’s lives. Will those ghosts bring the two together? Possibly, but only if they can overcome their fears and find the hope they need for the future.

For a list of my other books go to my Amazon.com Author Page.

Stay safe everyone and stay home with a good read!!

Friday, April 03, 2020

Day Three Traveling Home

At last we were on the home stretch. A little more than six hours and we would be home. It wasn't long before we were in the Virginia mountains and the sun was shining beautifully. I decided I didn't want to see another egg Mcmuffin for a while though.

Virginia, West Virginiia and then we were at the Ohio border. Our son had teased us that we would have to pay a toll of two rolls of TP in order to cross the bridge over the Ohio River. There were no toll takers.

The day was pretty much like the other two. Finding restrooms at Loves or Pilots and getting food at whatever fast food place was attached.

The only thing that didn't quite work out was my timing of the audio book. We had about 40 minutes left when we arrived. Home. Not a big problem. We listened to the rest of it as we drove around to pick up our mail and get some groceries. I was happy to see shelves stocked just a little better than down in the Keys. Still no TP and cleaning supplies but I had enough of that at home thank goodness.

It's good to be home. We miss the sun and the weather where we could get out a bit more but spring is breaking out all over here and I didn't miss seeing my daffodils bloom. Can the lilacs be far behind? We will all survive this.

Thursday, April 02, 2020

Day Two Traveling Home Despite COVID-19

The Hampton Inn did not have a breakfast buffet but they did offer a carry out bag. Since there was no coffee, we opted to go to the McDonald's we knew was just up the road on our way. We used the mobile app again and were pleased that they carried it out to our car (with gloved hands).

Once we caught up on the morning news and reached the highway, we plugged in our audio book and were off again.

Rest stops were made at places like Love's and Pilot's where we were certain to get inside. Usually they had an attached fast food place either in a drive through or carry out. Our lunch stop was interesting at an Wendy's attached to a gas station. They had squares marked off and numbered that were six feet apart and numbered so you moved up as people left being sure to keep only 10 people in the place at a time.

A good book. A mostly sunny day. It was a pleasant drive with only the reminder of the crisis we were in when we made stops.

Around 3:30 we pulled into our Hampton Inn in Dobson, NC. This night was going to be a little more of a challenge since we didn't have a suite and all the tables and chairs in the lobby area had been removed. We were able to order from our favorite restaurant, The Harvest Grill, and they delivered to the hotel.

We pulled the desk over to the end of the bed and ate there. It was comfy. Dinner was good but way too much to eat. We took our leftovers out to a trash can outside so it wouldn't smell in the room. Since there was not brewed coffee in the hotel, we opted to drive to the McDonald's in town for our decaf nightcap.

On the way back, Bob stopped at the DQ for a sundae. I went into the little convenient store next to it to get something to go with my coffee and commiserated with the lady who seemed a little nervous about having to work with people coming and going. She complained about a lady who had been in and was coughing all over the place.

After Bob filled up on gas again, we spent a comfortable night and we on our way early the next morning--seeking a McDonald's for breakfast and that all important coffee again.

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