Morning Pastiche

This post will be a mix of various thoughts and events and, since I love unusual words, I’ve chosen PASTICHE for my title. A pastiche is a collection of sorts, bits from here and there. One of Merriam-Webster’s definitions is: a musical, literary, or artistic composition made up of selections from different works. Synonyms: alphabet soup, assortment, collage, crazy quilt, hodgepodge, patchwork, potpourri, etc.

Activities

I cooked a few meals at the senior’s residence in October. The funeral here three weeks ago, the deceased was the husband of one of the regular Villa cooks, so I filled in a few times for her. And will again this month. Yesterday I got the schedule, with fourteen “open” meals I could choose from.
Last Sunday our congregation was small, with many locals attending a wedding in Alberta. The bride being a teacher here for several years, a number of families with school children attended. This coming Sunday there is to be a wedding in our church – and by all reports it will be huge. The bride was also one of our Villa cooks this fall – until the groom offered her other employment.

Wildlife Chez Nous

I’m still setting out water for the wild things. My basins, full at night, are licked right dry almost every morning. I’ve mentioned seeing deer; early one morning two days ago I even saw a very shaggy coyote around my basins.
Sunday morning I looked out about 9:30 and saw a flock of at least a dozen grouse poking around close to the house, between here and the garage, with some nearer the water basins. These ones headed for the back yard. Looking out the front window a few minutes later I saw another, separate, flock of 8-10 out by the road. When we drove out of the lane to go to church one of these was perched in a tree west of the lane. Of course the magpies and sparrows come for the spread-out seed treats. The lame one is still among us.

Weather

Rained in Saskatoon while we were in the city yesterday. We got just a sprinkle overnight here — sigh! No frost though; our fall weather is holding. Christmas is coming up too fast. Stores have been setting out displays since Sept and Michael’s already has their Christmas trees and decorations for sale at half price!

Books & Writing

NaNoWriMo has started! Writers and wanna-be writers around the world are working hard every day to come up with the 1200 words (the average needed) every day to complete 50k in 30 days. I didn’t plan to do it this year, seeing too many other things on my plate right now.

I haven’t been writing, but I’ve been reading — just finished FOREIGN to FAMILIAR by Sarah A Lanier. This is a book everyone should read! Contains vital info for those interacting with folks of a different culture. She shares personal experiences of living in different parts of the world and observing how cultures relate to each other. Her conclusions about relationship-based cultures versus the (primarily northern) take-oriented cultures are very insightful and would help someone avoid the serious faux pas made because mind-sets are so different.

Last week I finished The Aberdyll Onion by Victor Canning. This is a book of short stories, all with unique twists that send a downhill slide back to an upbeat ending. So if you’re one who enjoys a happy-ever-after ending, you may want to read this one. I once read another of his books, Mr Finchley Discovers His England, and found it rather delightful. More like “escape” reading than realistic historical fiction, but it was enjoyable watching him meeting hoboes and rogues as he adventures his way across part of England.

I’ve just finished Sweet Danger, the action adventure-treasure hunt by Margery Allingham. One reader calls it wildly improbably and melodramatic. Yes, you have to suspend belief at times. The villains are ruthless – yet they politely tie the good folks up and never assault the lovely ladies. (Mind you, the death penalty was hanging in those days, so maybe murders were rare.) Albert is so clever that he manages to switch himself with a good friend without his captor ever noticing. Still, he gets his usual captures, shoot outs and near-drownings.

An article this morning on REEDSY, caught my eye. The subject this morning on this site for writers was the popularity of romance novels. Apparently these are Amazon’s best-sellers. The article explains how to choose a situation, or trope, that will interest readers, create sympathetic characters the reader can identify with, how to publish, etc. If you’re interested, you can read more here.

The Coming Storm – Part 2

Powerful Opening Hooks

After reading how important a novel’s first page is, I decided to check out a few. Using Amazon’s “Look inside” and Libby’s, “Download a sample,” I checked out half a dozen opening paragraphs in various genres. Some piqued my interest enough that I’ve borrowed the book.

I’ve never read anything by John Grisham; my impression from reviews is that his books are thrillers, and definitely on the darker side. However, the title, A TIME FOR MERCY, sounded fairly hopeful. His first page starts with a such a compelling hook that I couldn’t quit! He’s layered a number of issues into his first chapter, all with powerful hooks.

The writer starts with a picture of domestic abuse – something I’m familiar with. My birth mom was beaten severely at times by her father; she and my dad led an Andy Capp & Florrie life. My one sister got many beatings from a drunken spouse; when he started choking her, she finally left.

Opening scene:
Almost 2am, Josie’s waiting for her boyfriend to come home. Stuart’s a sloppy, violent drunk so she needs to be awake; she may need to protect her two teens who are upstairs, barricaded in the girl’s room. Brought up rough herself, living in an old camper before Stuart took her in, she knows she and the kids have nowhere to go if they can’t stay here, so she puts up with the escalating violence. But she won’t have him hurting 16-year-old Drew–who’s small for his age – and 14-year-old Kiera.

Finally he staggers in, angry that she’s up. She tries to placate him; he accuses her of cheating, starts slapping her around. She tries to keep things toned down for her kids’ sake but she really has no chance. Stuart’s been a street brawler all his life. Finally he gives her a pile-driver punch that shatters her jaw and knocks her cold.

Then he thinks of the girl upstairs and fancies a sexual encounter. (He’s abused her before–and threatened to kill her if she ever told.) But they’ve barricaded the door well. After several clumsy attempts to force his way into her bedroom, he gives up, goes downstairs, and passes out on the bed. After awhile the teens creep downstairs and find their mom out cold; they’re sure she’s dead. Drew calls 911, says, “Stuart killed our mother.”

Drew checks on him. Passed out now, but if he wakes up they know he’ll beat them for being downstairs. He has no use for Josie’s kids – nothing but white trash – won’t buy them food, treats them like slaves. He’s Somebody in the community; his family’s big here; he owns a house and land, has lots of friends. When sober he’s Mr Nice Guy; everyone likes him. Stuart’s a deputy sheriff, the officer with the friendly wave and cheerful smile who gives talks at schools about the dangers of drugs.

When his violent side shows, his fellow deputies cover for him. He’s been involved in drunken brawls that never get reported. Two other times when Josie called for help because he was beating her, his buddies came and settled him down; no other action was taken; if reports were even filed, they disappeared.

So Drew knows they’ll get no real help from the police. He’s at the end of his rope emotionally. He goes into the bedroom and takes Stuart’s police gun, always kept loaded, from the holster. Terrified that the man will wake up and start abusing them, filled with hate for this murderer, he sees no hope ahead. A few minutes later Stuart moans, shifts on the bed – and Drew shoots him.

Cops arrive; an ambulance comes and takes Josie away; the teens are taken to jail – for their own safety as much as anything. Now Sheriff Ozzie learns about Stuart’s domestic violence. “Why wasn’t I told this,” he asks his men. “Where’s the report on those incidents?” (Later he learns that Stuart’s blood alcohol content when he died was 3.6. Raging drunk.)

The sheriff, a newly-elected black man in this redneck Alabama community, is basically a good guy but knows he had to tread carefully. Drew’s under arrest for murder, but he asks Kiera if she has any family she can go to. Josie and the kids have gone to church a few times though Stuart didn’t like it at all and was rude to Pastor Brother Charles when he came to call. But Kiera asks Ozzie to call Brother Charles. He comes and takes her to his home.

A kind young man, Brother Charles is also fairly new in the community. He doesn’t notice the spiteful looks directed at him by the deputies present. He’s here for the killer’s family and in their minds their buddy was the innocent victim shot by this young punk. Stuart’s family likewise is gathering together, murmuring about revenge. Sheriff Ozzie will have his hands full controlling their reaction. And he’s up for re-election next year, a good time to show himself tough on crime.

Jake, one of the main characters in this drama, being the only reliable defense lawyer around, knows this will be a very unpopular case. He believes that everyone has the right to a fair trial, but the last time he’d defended someone in a high-profile, controversial case like this, he got nasty looks everywhere he went, was harassed by phone calls, even threatened, for up to three years after.

As he attends church that morning he senses the mood among his own Presbyterian church people. A minor or not, he’s killed a cop. And for sure the fundamentalists down the street, Baptists and Pentecostals who favored the death penalty, will be out for blood. This boy has no chance to escape the gas chamber. And if Jake acts as this boy’s defense, he’ll be universally loathed. As word gets around that he’ll be defending the boy, he starts getting threatening phone calls. “If you get that kid off…!” His wife even gets one at her job.

At the jail Drew curls himself into a fetal ball, wrapping the thin blanket around him. In the eyes of friends and family, Stuart has become a hero, a martyr almost. The media, with no official word, is distorting the picture big time: “Officer killed in the line of duty!” Folks are talking of skipping the trial, dealing with this cop-killing thug right now. Meanwhile Brother Charles and his Good Shepherd church rally around Josie and her family.

You can just see the thunder-heads building in the sky! Grisham has put so many issues on the plate, all compelling hooks:
Is there justice and a fair trial for the poor in America?
Will the defense be able to prove the threat Josie and her children were facing?
Will the relatives take justice in their own hands?
How will the family and predominantly white community react to a black sheriff if he allows the truth about Stuart’s violent character?
Will the area’s fundamental churches attack Brother Charles’s group for standing by the killer’s family?
Will the community lynch the defense lawyer?

Atticus Finch, where are you?

Warning:
I’ve no clue how this will end and can’t give it a rating at this point. But if you choose to read this book, don’t start it later in the evening like I did!

A Great Book Free This Weekend

Today I’m sharing the love for a good book. If you enjoy historical fiction, especially World War II stories with a touch of romance, you’ll want to read Dan Walsh’s books. He’s done a lot of research on WW II, especially about the US involvement and German activity in the US. Dan has written several books with this setting as a back drop to an amazing tale.

This story starts out in the present, as a budding writer inherits his grandfather’s home and discovers a manuscript his grandfather left for him to find. As he reads his grandfather’s own history, he’s taken back to the early days of WWII and a subversive plot carried out by the Germans in the US.

Free today and tomorrow at your Amazon store.

Spring Clusters

Good morning everyone! I’ve been more-or-less away from blogging for a couple of weeks, just popping in occasionally while we had a week of meetings at our church and I’ve had a few medical appointments to get through, but now I’m ready to get back into life’s normal routine.

It’s a cloudy Monday morning here where we live, and yesterday was the first day of spring, so I decided to celebrate the new season by changing my Header image. The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is CLUSTER so I searched on Pixabay for a nice cluster of snowdrops. I came across this picture of crocus, another spring flower. Doesn’t this make a nice soft, seasonal Header?

And here’s the cluster of snowdrops I found. They’re such hearty little flowers, braving the chill to pop up in early spring despite the snowy ground around them.

Image by pasja1000 — Pixabay

We’ve had about five days of spring that did a lot to reduce our whiteness, and yesterday we got a soft steady rain to further reduce the shrinking snowbanks. So nice to see water in the ditches again — a good beginning for replenishing our water table, so drought-stricken last year. However, endeavoring to chip away at the ice buildup on our sidewalk Thursday, I strained my right knee and am still hobbling a bit while it recovers.

I was feeling quite tired in January — an abnormal fatigue, I decided — and starting to get night sweats again. So I called the doctor to ask about my last blood test. He confirmed what I suspected: my white cell count is going up again. In other words, my CLL is coming out of remission and making itself felt.

For my newer followers, I was first diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia or CLL in May of 2013 and needed six months of chemotherapy treatment starting in March of 2016. That time I had chemo by IV, but my oncologist says this time she’ll give me pills. Much preferable!

I did a phone-call visit with my oncologist on Thursday and she isn’t very worried yet; the white cell count isn’t that high yet and the other blood counts are quite normal. My family doctor told me last Monday that my lymph nodes are still good. As cancerous lymphocytes build up in the body they tend to cluster in the lymph nodes, which hardens them.

In moments of leisure I’m sewing seven-inch squares of fabric together for blanket tops for our Sewing Circle to use. And reading of course — currently an Austin Freeman Collection of books and short stories written in the early 1900s. The author was a doctor himself and didn’t skimp on medical details as his main character, Dr Thorndyke, solved mysteries by clever forensics. Just finished THE EYE OF OSIRIS, which was compelling in spite of long details about the human skeletal structure.

Stumbling around YouTube yesterday, searching for books by D E Stevenson, I came across the channel of a woman who was recommending her favorite books by Scottish authors and/or stories set in Scotland. Books by Josephine Tey, O George, Nancy Mitford, Jean Shaw, Alexander McCall Smith. She gave them such good reviews — now I have more books on my “TO READ SOMEDAY” list!

I’ll leave you now with a few more CLUSTERS to inspect.

A cluster of blue butterflies –image by Hans Braxmeier
And a cluster of Christmas cookies –image by Jill Wellington.

Books 2021: A Finale

As I write this, I suppose some of you will be toasting the New Year, some may even be seeing the first morning of 2022. I’m wishing for all of us that this coming year will be more encouraging and upbeat than the one we’re leaving behind.

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning was FINALE – and last night I finished the last book in my 2021 GoodReads reading challenge. At the beginning of last year I set a goal of reading 80 books in 2021, and I accomplished that. In fact I surpassed it, as the book I just finished was #125. Mind you, some of these were simple children’s books – but every book counts.

The shortest book was 32 pages, a children’s book called MAC & CHEESE, by Sarah Weeks, a tale about two cat friends. “Macaroni and Cheese are best friends, yet they couldn’t be more different! Mac likes to pounce and bounce and jump, but Cheese just sits there like a lump.” But one day Cheese has just the answer Mac needs for his problem.

The longest book is actually a three-volume set, Apple Orchard Mysteries, 639 pages in all. A quick easy read with characters who are ditzy and wise-crackers rather than clever. If you’re looking for a good mystery and MC’s with some sense, forget about these and go for Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple + Hercule Poirot, or Dan Walsh’s When Night Comes (#1 in the Jack Turner Series.) In 2021 I reread almost all Diana Xarissa’s Markham Sisters, very mild cozy mystery series. Funny that I liked these so much and her Isle of Man series featuring “Aunt Bessie” not that much.

Book #125 may have been my last read, but I gave it five stars. DON’T EAT THE PUFFIN: Tales From a Travel Writer’s Life by Jules Brown, is delightfully descriptive, written with humour and respect for the environment, the locals and their customs. He’s even embedded You tube links in a few of his stories so readers can get a glimpse of the sights he saw. In his last chapter he pays a warm tribute to his brave, open-minded father who lived in 47 countries and visited thirty more. I read it one chapter at a time over several weeks, savoring all his adventures – though not all the food he consumes. It was well worth the journey!

Brown, a travel writer by profession has written several travel books and blogs at https://julestoldme.com where he recounts his many adventures abroad. He writes for a travel company, but has his own book publishing company, Trust-Me Travel, his own You Tube channel, and posts on Facebook @ JulesBrownWriter. His next book, likewise sharing some common sense travel advice is NEVER PACK AN ICE PICK.

Now I shall close, wishing you good health, blessings and comforts in the new year.

Books: Gone To Green

The Green Series, Book 1

© by Judy Christie;
Published by Brosette & Barnhill Publishing LLC (March 12 2016)
This book is free through Kindle Unlimited

One day Lois’s good friend and work colleague, Ed, tells her how he has planned his retirement from the hectic life of big city news. He’s bought a newspaper in the peaceful town of Green, Louisiana. Owning and operating a small-town paper was his dream, but just as he’s about to take the reins as owner of The Green News-Item, he has a fatal heart attack. He’d made a will and Lois is amazed to discover that he chose to leave this new business to her.

Thus Lois, a thirty-year-old single city news editor, finds herself in possession of a small town newspaper in the deep South, a world unfamiliar to her. While she had been hoping for a promotion in her own sphere, Lois goes down to Green and has a look around. The town and the small local newspaper appeal to her, so she decides to give it a whirl — for Ed’s sake.

Meeting the staff, learning the ropes, getting used to the community; she sees why the adventure had so much appeal to Ed. Most of the Green citizens she meets are kind, friendly, easy-going folks, great to work with. She also meets the kind high school coach who lives down the road from her new home and drops by often just to chat. She realizes this is someone she’d like to get to know better.

But even small towns can have their greedy types and corruption. Her main reporter gets a whiff of something rotten in some local VIP’s proposed property development and she gets glimpses of possible racial prejudice involved in the new development scheme. Ready to stand up for civil rights, Lois encourages her reporter to go after the story, but if they expose local dirty-dealing, the paper may be headed for a hot gumbo.

The plot thickens when she gets a call from another former colleague, suggesting an attractive offer’s coming up back home. “A great offer…you should grab this opportunity.” A big newspaper chain comes up with an offer to purchase the Green News-Item. Decisions, decisions!

I really enjoyed this book and give it five stars. It’s well written, believable, holds a readers interest, and has an old-fashioned flavor. No immorality — and the story line is great. Makes you want to visit the place, drop in on her and say “Hi.” And this is the first in a series, so we can keep on reading about Lois’s newspaper newspaper crusading adventures in Green, LA. I’ve read the second book and enjoyed it just as much. I see three more have been published since.

Ragtag Daily Prompt for today: COLLEAGUE