Monday, September 15, 2014


Annie Oakley, circa 1903-Wikimedea Public Domain
Early this morning I was culling my research materials and came upon a file entitled "Guns".  It contained an analysis of state and federal gun control law, some clippings from newspapers relating to gun shows, and a receipt for the  firearm we purchased for our son-in-law as a personal wedding present. He was a law enforcement officer: a large screened television just did not seem right.  Then I saw a  legal form I did not immediately recognize until I began to read it.  It was an application for a concealed weapons permit from the mid-1980's in handwriting that was mine.  I had almost forgotten how it had come back to me without action having been taken, with a note attached from the under sheriff thanking me for withdrawing my application. I had,of course, done no such thing.  It seems I was not on the list of those entitled to carry guns. I was not a convicted felon, or even a misdemeanant.  I was a sworn Deputy District Attorney.

Had I been less politically naive, I might have seen it coming.  The philosophy in the District Attorney's Office when I joined it was clearly segued to Lakers' fans who had graduated from USC or UCLA, were unabashedly masculine, and had confused  Annie Oakley for Betty Hutton, who played her in the movie and probably never shot a live round in her lifetime; nor, I suspect,  had they. I did not learn until I  hired in that the office was operating under a consent decree; increasing the number of  women lawyers was a mandate.  That did not mean the idea was universally popular, or so I was eventually informed by my own supervisor who indicated he was not accustomed to the idea of women in the courtroom.

The term politically correct was not yet in use. Hillary Clinton would have been appalled to know there was an unwritten prohibition against women lawyers wearing pantsuits  in court. In applying for a CCW I had performed an action flagrantly in violation of the image the administration had of what a new female deputy might do. Said the DA when he finally called to scold me personally, the way for a deputy TO assure his or her own personal safety was to be a tougher prosecutor. Yet, I never  knew a lawyer whose trial stats did the job of a Kevlar vest.  And there was reason behind my request.

At the time I applied for my CCW, I was making the circuit run to outlying courts from our residence in Apple Valley. Home base at the time was either Victorville, which serviced Big Bear and Trona, or Barstow, which handled the new municipal court in Morongo and the Justice Court in Needles. For those of you unfamiliar with those locations, it helps to know that San Bernardino County is the largest political subdivision in the U.S. that is not a state, and  its population is clustered along the windward side of the San Bernardino mountains in the cities of  Redlands, San Bernardino, Colton, Chino and Rancho Cucamonga.  Everything west is either Los Angeles or Orange Counties, where there are such things as libraries and fashion malls with Nordstom and Neiman Marcus.  Everything on  'the backside of the mountain' (Big Bear) and to the east is termed 'up the hill', and  once you pass through Victorville on the I-15, the landscape is similar to what Neil Armstrong saw when he landed on the moon. If you doubt me, take a road trip to Trona, a community built near the spur of the Santa Fe railroad line that served the chemical plant of Kerr-McGee at Searles Lake. It is very much a company town. Look at a map of Highway 395 and find a place called Red Mountain and you will get a general idea of where the Trona cut off is located.

These were the roads I drove regularly and alone in a country car, an Opel that barely made it up the back side of Big Bear in second gear. During my second  year in the district attorney's office, I tried twenty-three Driving Under the Influence cases and drove  25,000 miles.  By year four I was trying felonies, and since  we had no Superior Court in Joshua Tree, I took my felonies to trial in Barstow, 96 miles each way from home on desolate roads shared with outlaw bikers who over all were more considerate of me than  I had anticipated. They did what they did, and I did what I did.  It was the families of the burglars and child molesters I was prosecuting who tried to run me off the road.  And in those days, those of us assigned to Morongo no longer had the luxury of a County car. We took our private vehicles. And once assigned there, we had three months to find a residence. That was the rule  in 1984 when I was transferred to the Morongo Basin. My Lt.D. was the most conspicuous target  traveling the 247 into Lucerne . The sheriffs at the Morongo station shared my husband's concern that riding so desolate a road could be dangerous, and I began firearms practice and bought a PPK from a law enforcement officer who was moving into Glocks.  However, a gun was apt to do me little good in a lock box in the trunk of my Lt.D. At the suggestion of the guys at the  Morongo Sheriff's station, I filled out an application for a CCW.   And the proverbial caca hit the rotary blades of a fan located downtown in an office on Mountain View in San Bernardino. No one had apparently told me when I took my oath of office that I was surrendering my second amendment rights. The attitude of the administration was: D.A.s were not law enforcement officers and we did not wear badges and we did not carry guns. Our strength came with our law degrees. Generally I can accept the philosophy, but not when traveling after dark from Barstow to Joshua Tree on back roads.

The next country wide office meeting was in Victorville.  Our chief deputy called to make sure  I was coming from Morongo.  Suddenly my attendance was mandated, when two weeks earlier we had been told to save the gas and stay in the Morongo Basin. When I walked into the meeting, most of the people I recognized were hypnotized by the pattern of the floor tiles. I do not remember much of the agenda--something about a Desert Division D.A. picnic that never quite came off, and then, the henchman for the D.A.  gave a little speech about gunslingers and rule breakers. Then the chief investigator, a friend of mine who was obviously uncomfortable in the task,  announced that one of our number had transgressed and applied for a permit to--God forbid (since the Constitution did not)--carry a firearm.  Most of the audience sought out the biggest, toughest and meanest of the new D.A.'s and glared until he shrugged his shoulders and mouthed 'Not me.'  No names were mentioned, but the audience of lawyers was smart enough to figure it out. Soon enough, I was targeted by twenty-five pairs of eyeballs. And on the following Monday  the application I shredded this morning came in interoffice mail with a note thanking me for withdrawing it. It seems there had been some sort of gentleman's agreement between someone high in the sheriff's department and someone in the district attorney's office to stonewall my app. Assuming I would recognize the error in my ways, someone saved me the trouble of withdrawing the application by doing it in my name. Disposing it in that manner saved the sheriff's personnel the formality of rejecting it.  Hence, the 'thank you' note.

I am happy to report that the next elected D.A. Dennis Stout and the one presently holding the office, an aggressive  prosecutor and inspired leader Mike Ramos, were of a different ilk. Mike is complimented by high quality leadership in the San Bernardino Sheriff's Department under the past and current direction of retired Sheriff Gary Penrod and current Sheriff  John McMahon. In 1994, Deputy District Attorney's were distributed badges. Both of mine--the one identifying me as a line prosecutor and the one I was given when I became a supervisor- retired when I did in 2004. They are proudly displayed in a shadow box in the  room where I am writing this post. I never once flashed mine other than to identify myself to the senior volunteers of the Citizen's Patrol who guarded the perimeter at homicide scenes.
 Morongo survivors DDA Lara, B of I Tech Becky, me, DDA Camile, Judge Vicki and Laura-.DDA Riverside 

I never attempted to renew the CCW. The politicos down the hill had spoken, and my chief deputy who retired as ADA last year had supported their position. Since 1994, applications placed by my colleagues were routinely granted. When I stopped riding the circuit, the personal issue was moot, but the principle was not. For some obscure reason I kept the app. Today I shredded it, but the entire affair still bothers me. At least two criminal defendants attempted to put contracts out on my life during my years of murder prosecutions.  I was told of the first by the defendant's attorney when he petitioned the court to be substituted off the case and asked my help in getting him an armed escort to the county line.  I learned of the second from an inmate in Tehachapi  who I had convicted but who believed I had done it fair and square. For better or worse, almost thirty years later I am still here,but so was the CCW application until I disposed of it this morning.  

In 1993, the last year of the administration in power when I hired on, it was suggested by a top-ranking attorney in the administration that I run against our local sitting judge, who was considered unfriendly to law enforcement. My ego was stroked, but my husband convinced me not to attack an elected official even if we had opposing views on doctrines like Miranda: My husband pointed out he had been the people's choice and the community had faith in him even if our office did not. He still sits locally as a retired judge on special assignment. We may not agree on rules of search and seizure, but we stand together on issues of  accountability and ethics.I  consider him a valued friend.

That same winter San Bernardino courts were expanding and I sought an appointment to  the bench. Without going through the arcane procedure of judicial appointments, it sounds impartial but in truth, it is highly political and it often is not the governor who calls the shots. Those of us who are shot down know very well who fired the bullets. Mine came from my own office, the same people who encouraged me to launch an expensive political campaign against someone they wanted removed. Criminal defense attorneys rated me highly qualified and called me' tough, but fair'.One of my own supervisors called me a 'loose cannon.' I got to see the entire body of remarks verbatim. The comments are anonymous, but they are not edited to protect the identities of the writers. Within a year the guy who had called me a loose cannon was ragging on the friend he had supported.My chief deputy apologized  for an undeserved comment in a work evaluation when it was too late to matter.

Actually, I should kiss the men who shot me down, because my best years as a trial deputy were yet to come. And by the time I tried the case that defined the rest of my years as a prosecutor, there had been positive changes in the way business was handled in the district attorney's office. There also had been growth in my little corner of the desert. We had a three department Superior Court in Morongo where I live and I was no longer taking my show on the road.  Assignments to Morongo, previously avoided  like the pox, had become highly desirable. Recruits realized it was only a half hour drive from the Movie Star Enclave in Palm Springs and all those world class golf resorts of the Coachella Valley. My circuit days were over. I got to cook dinners for my husband and my sons. I was promoted. I was able to retire at the top of my game.  That was ten years ago.

I am too old to let the rejected CCW application vex me. I love the life I led then and I love the life I lead now. Writing novels is less painful because my victims are imaginary. It does bother my son Russ and his lovely wife 'Cio  that anyone with a computer can search my name and Google Map their way to my residence.  And yes, that happens. With two giant arctic dogs with horrific barks, each weighing over 150 lbs, I do not get many visitors at the front door so I probably do not need the 9 mm. parabellum or the PPK or the mythical Uzi I joke about having mounted on the roof.  Nevertheless, when I found the application today, it rekindled my sense of outrage for having been denied the right to carry one of them concealed on my person or in my car back in the days when I was younger and more vulnerable. There was no law then or now that prohibits me from carrying one on a hip holster on my walks should I ever feel the need.

I have not forgotten  my attempt to exercise a Second Amendment Right in a legally permissible fashion resulted in my having been treated as if I were a crook. No matter what our individual attitudes toward firearms and gun control may be, the Second Amendment is not the only Constitutional Right subject to attack.I am exercising a First Amendment right as I prepare this post.

If the rights of citizens are not respected by the agencies mandated to serve and protect, and if those agencies are overseen by a government with an agenda which defies definition,  in our present political climate Americans may soon realize just how fragile our liberties can become. 

Saturday, August 23, 2014


photography from Dreamstime(c)Chaoss
Two weeks ago The Green Woman was the #1 selling Scottish Fantasy in all formats on Amazon, and I was delighted.  I deemed her capable of going anywhere  I wished to take her--an advantage in a genre mix like I experimented with in Green Woman.  Every night when I closed my laptop I hovered between sleep and wakefulness and came up with three or four new plots.  I was pleased when within a few days of her debut, she had acquired three reviews, and I do not shop for them.  I am a lousy salesperson when it comes to my own product, and I do not do well when I try to generate reviews. One was from an  avid reader who is very particular about what she reads and what she praises. Two of them were from authors whose works I love and opinions I respect. But when I read the third review, a four star, I realized I had rushed to press: The Green Woman was flawed.  She needed a rest and  a make-over.
Although  I suspect she still has her blemishes and bruises, she is back.  And she is stronger and better.

 And I owe it all to a  four star review from a person whose opinion  I respect and who pulled no punches in telling me what I needed to do, and to the five star reviews which sent a message assuring me The Green Woman was worth the effort.   While I was doing a line edit, I found a handful of anachronisms and some inconsistencies in the plot line, trimmed some of the historical facts, and in addition to the proofreading, I made the green woman's encounters with her lover sexier and stronger.

I have learned some lessons from my less than stellar reviews,not  just with Green Woman, but with all of my novels.  With six books on my Dashboard, I am becoming less thin-skinned and more apt to respond to criticism appropriately.  I still read right over my own mistakes, and my betas do not always catch them. When I withdrew Green Woman from Kindle Direct, I was delighted to receive a handful of private messages from people who wanted a copy and complained when they could not find one. A few even bought the paperback at $9.77.  I sell so few trade paperbacks that I did not bother withdrawing it until the editing was complete.  I am taking steps to make certain those loyal fans get the updated paperback version.

Oh Aye, Thea Jameson is back. 

 She suffered a fall from #1 to #8 in the ratings during her three week vacation concurrent with a minor price increase. I hope she will recover soon.

I market the Green Woman series under another name,so persons who are accustomed to the factual accuracy of my other books will realize this one is different. This is a robust adventure  that mixes fantasy, time slip and a hint of horror.

In the meantime, 1603: The Queen's Revenge (#3 in the Legacy of the Queen of Scots series) has risen to #2 over all in Literature and fiction  #1 in Kindle books in the Queen of Scots sub genre. Each book on the Legacy series is a stand alone novel of events occurring between 1587 and 1615.

As to what happens next with Green Woman, I am putting off the sequel until November and the NaNoWriMo event, but below is the Prologue:


Roxburgheshire, Scotland - 1616

Dand Ker was clearing the brush from around the outbuildings when he saw the apparition.  At first it had no form. Just as his father had reported the sighting in the barn in 1597, it first appeared as a green glow coming from the loft.   Had it not been green, Dand would have overlooked it as mere dust particles caught in sunlight.  But then, Ker was familiar with the aura surrounding the Green Woman who had been haunting Ferniehirst Castle since early in the Fifteenth Century. He set his woodman’s axe aside and rushed inside the barn.
And then he saw the child.
His heart fell into his boots. He had raced to the barn  in hopes of finding a fully mature and  beautiful woman enshrouded in a cloak of gossamer green silk as light as a butterfly’s wings , not a wee female bairn—albeit a pretty lass no older than the milkmaid’s daughter who was  four.
 She had red-gold hair the color of young strawberries which were set in curls that framed her face, a pert little upturned nose that was running like a seasonal stream, and eyes too swollen and wet to show their color.   The child was strangely dressed, not at all like a properly clad Scottish lass.  Her kirtle did not reach her knees and her shoes were made of straps and shiny buckles that showed her toes which were painted pink and covered with silver sparkles.  She wore a jumper with a picture of a funny looking kitten with a red bow in its hair.  Her most distinctive feature was her aura. 
‘Are you looking for my Mommy?’
The child was not speaking Scots.  For that matter, she was not speaking any English dialect known to Ker,  except, of course, that spoken by Helen, who had come to him disguised as The Green Woman but who was not a true ghost because at times she showed herself  in flesh and blood and not much else, wearing a green gown a man could see through.
He moved further into the barn and squinted.
‘Are ye searchin’ for a body, Lass?’
She shook her head and sniffled.
‘Are you looking for my Mother?’
‘Ah dinna think ah was.  Have ya lost her?’
She screwed her face into a terrible frown and put her white knuckled fists on her hips. She did not answer his question and she did not come down from the loft.
‘How come you knowed  my name?’
‘Ah must’a guessed it.’
She seemed more comfortable in his presence and she slowly descended the ladder.  He was about to reach out to steady it, but she looked over her shoulder and launched a look that might have been fired from a hunter’s crossbow.
Ker had never been that good with children, having none of his own and he did not know how to converse with a wee lass who had obviously been crying.   He might have been a widely feared Border Reiver, but he was intimidated by the little girl, even after her aura faded and she appeared as flesh and blood, just as his Helen had done.
‘Ah once knew a bonny hen name ‘a Helen, the same as ye’ he said.
The frown deepened.
‘.  Hens are chickens.  They lay eggs. I’m a girl.’  She stuck her lip out in defiance.
‘How did ya get yerself here?’ he asked.
Her lip curled back against her teeth.  She was not so defiant now.
‘You’ll spank me if I tell.’
‘Nary once ‘ave ah ever spanked a wee bairn such as yerself-- nae even so much as a swat.’
‘You talk funny.’
Dand wondered how it was that he got tagged for being the one who was the intruder and speakin’ strange when he had been born here and lived here most of his life. It had been the same with the other Helen- the one who called herself Thea and came from someplace far off and strange.
‘How ‘boot ah promise not to spank ya and ya tell me how ya got here?’
The child lowered her chin until it fell against her chest and glared from under her furrowed brows, but she did not approach.
‘Ah swear.’
Then she raised her head and look directly in his eyes.  She had stopped crying and he could see hers were green, the color of jade.
She scanned the corners of the barn and spoke in a hoarse whisper as if even the cows were suspect.
‘I sawed the picture of your big castle on my mommy’s book and I dreameded my way here.  I sawed you chopping something up so I hided in the barn.’
‘How do ye know ye are dreamin’, Lass?’
‘Cause when I went to look for Mommy and I putted on my sweater,  Hello Kitty was not green but now she is and so are my shoes.’
‘How ‘boot yer eyes?’
‘I was bornded with green eyes, Mister Silly.’
He could not suppress a chuckle nor could he stop himself from asking:  ‘Is yer mammy’s name Helen, too?’
‘No way! Mommy’s name is Dora Thea, like Dora-Thee in the Wizard of Oz.’ 
‘Actually, Lord Oxnam or whoever you are, my name is Dorothea Jameson.’…
Dand raised his hand to stifle the expletive coming from his lips.
He wanted to grab the lass and carry her into the castle to the kerry-twisted staircases where they could sit and talk without the others interrupting. Often when he had been alone with the Green Woman and they sat on the counter-clockwise turret stairs, she who called herself Thea would cast aside her aura and be his Helen.
 Sometimes they did not spend all of their time talking.
The passage of time had dulled his sense of loss but not his memory.
A shrill voice called his name from outside the barn and he stepped back to look. It was his gudewife Margaret coming from the henhouse carrying the basket she used for gathering eggs.  In the instant it took him to turn his head, the wee girl and her aura were gone. All that was left was a whiff of lavender.
He remembered the scent of lavender in his lover Helen’s hair. It had lingered on him long after she had disappeared.
‘Aright, Dand Ker.  Woods ye care to spit out what ye were doing out in front a’ the barn talking tae yerself?
‘Ah thought ah saw somebody.’
‘Oh Aye! Off ye go again-- lookin for yer precious Green Woman.’
 She was laughing when she said it.  But then, she only knew half of the story.  He was overcome by the sighting of the child but he could not let it show.  He went looking for the Goose Boy, who had been the only other soul at Ferniehirst who could see the Green Woman when she put aside her aura.  Once he had caught a glimpse of the Goose Boy and Helen holding hands and the sight had made him jealous.  Until that moment, he had been the only one able to see her when she was flesh and blood. That had been before Dand and his father had returned from London Town in a chariot led by two black beasts that were half horse and half dragon and driven by a Woman as hard and shiny black as obsidian who said her name was Nyx.
 He had watched the Goose Boy whose name was Michael climb into the chariot and ride away with Nyx, who called to him with the name Thanatos, which meant Death.
But the next day, Michael appeared at the usual time with his gaggle of hungry geese and seemed to be the same ill-mannered mortal Scottish foundling he had always been.
And Helene was nowhere to be found.
 He thought he had put it behind him. Until he saw the lass in the loft, he had all but convinced himself that the great adventure of his life had been nothing but a dream. 
Because the council of the Scottish Kirk considered those who commensurate with ghosts and spirits to be witches and dealt with them accordingly, Dand never shared his tale with others. He had gently prodded his father Sir Andrew Ker of Ferniehirst who had been there for part of it, but it was obvious to Dand that his da remembered none of it.  But whenever he was alone with the Goose boy, he was aware that Michael knew it all.
He met the boy on the path leading from the river. 
‘Where are the geese?’
It was unusual to see the boy without them.
 ‘They are in the pond in the rocks...  They will find me when they want some a’the scratch from my sack,’ he said, patting the burlap pouch that he had tied around his waist.
‘I saw a wee lass in the barn a bit ago.
Methinks she was Otherworldly.  She said her name was Helen and she was lookin’ fur her mammy. 
‘Dinnae know how she got here, but she said she had dreamed her way. I dae nae s'pose ye might know who she is and what she’s doin’ here.’
 The Goose Boy grinned. 
Whenever he was in Michael’s presence, Dand was never quite certain if he was being teased or taunted, but he did know that. Michael was not an ordinary boy.
 ‘The lass ye saw this mornin’ came because she was drawn here.  Methinks 'twas the Green  Woman what made her come,’ he imparted with certain smugness that Dand found annoying.
‘And why would that be?’

‘Methinks she is yer dotter.’ 

While the Green Woman waits till November for the next segment of her adventure, it is time for me to return my attention to Book 4 in the Legacy series, In The Shadow of the Gallows. I had originally planned to launch on November 5, which should be a clue to the historical event which inspires the plot, but in consideration of my tendency to rush through the editing, I  intend to take my time.  Look for it in the Winter of 2014-2015.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

MY FRIEND MAXX the Furniture Mover

Yesterday my male malamute Maxx was bored. Bored Malamutes are notoriously troublesome. When I am bored, I sometimes rearrange the wall hangings. Maxx rearranges furniture. When he was a puppy, he merely ate it. He had a preference for upholstered antiques and window sills. His sister Maya preferred anything cherry by Kling & Co.

 I can usually detect when Maxx  is inspired to redecorate the living space, because instead of just collapsing on the laminate, he walks around in circles, lays down for a couple of minutes and then circumnavigates the room. Fortunately his creative energies generally  focus on one room at a time, and because he is a Malamute and bred to lounge around campfires with Inuit partners, he prefer the company of humans. His first choice of target spaces is the bedroom..

The room we call a bedroom was not originally a bedroom.  I have no idea how the previous owners of the house envisioned it when they added it onto the original house. Since they ripped out the wall that separates it from what I think was designed to be a master bedroom and also removed a weight bearing wall in the great room, I am afraid to hazard  a guess. I do know that our master bath was originally an aviary. Our bedroom is about the size of a small apartment, and was 21 x 24 before we added a walk-n closet.  It opens with French doors off what I suspect was originally a living room, since it has a raised hearth (see photo). We now use it as a multipurpose space since Maxx and Maya ate the furniture. But, back to the bedroom. It is still very large, but the wall spaces are not amenable to variety in arrangement of the bed. But Maxx is a malamute, doesn't read Architectural Digest  and doesn't care.

Yesterday his project was to move the bed into a position so he could walk around it, which required him to move it out from the wall.  It also required him to move my bedside table, an essential piece of furniture which I use as a desk. Because Chris is pretty much bed bound these days, Maxx was required to move the bed with 180 lbs of extra weight, but then, Maxx weighs 140 and has a pull weight of about a ton.
Also, we have an electric split king bed which we use without a frame for ease in changing sheets,  a God send when sharing a bed with someone of contrary sleeping habits.  However, the halves cannot be moved independently because we have them bound together to avoid falling through the crack in the center. This was not a problem for Maxx, who disconnected every wire to the bed, my kindle, my laptop, all lights and the telephone without knocking anything over except my cell phone. My bedside table ended up in the open space before the electric fireplace, a cherry antique dentist's file cabinet ended up in the space to the adjoining room (another outsized bedroom) and when he was finished, Maxx took a nap behind the bed. However, after a few minutes, he decided he did not like it there and opted to sleep outside. By then temperatures in the desert had fallen to 77 and there was a breeze.  I was stuck inside trying to find a way to get in an out of bed.

Somewhere in the course of all of this, I had deigned to scold him, albeit very gently.  I merely said, 'No, Maxx' as he was tangled in our last remaining connection to the outside world--my land line cord.  He gets very indignant when I scold him.  He left the room, went a slammed his stainless steel water dish into the wall, came back to the bedroom, inched by the table in the middle of the walking space, faced away from me and pouted.  Not even pets and praise got me back into his good graces.  Not even cheese. So I did the only reasonable thing left. I moved the bed out from the wall another eight inches and changed the position of my bedside table. Now he can walk around the bed whenever he wishes,although the bed is pretty much in the middle of the room. Today the room arrangement looks like hell and Maxx has lost all the space behind the bed.  He is sleeping by the door to the bathroom, which requires me to either walk over his massive frame or go to the bathroom in the other wing of the house.
All that furniture moving has him all tired out. Me, too.

Monday, July 21, 2014


The most amazing thing happened to me this afternoon.  I was busy downloading an edited version of my novel 1603: The Queen's Revenge, when, alas, the doorbell.  If left to my own devices I would have missed it entirely, since only my husband and my dogs can hear it.  The doorbell at high noon usually announces the arrival of the Steve the Mailman. Not this time.

At the door was a friendly man I vaguely recognized, casually dressed and toting a knapsack.  Had he not seemed so familiar, I would have thought he was a salesman or a representative of a local church group.
"Do you remember me?" he asked, and while I did not remember the details, I knew he was someone I had met when I was a prosecutor, and that my interaction with him had been positive.  He insisted that I had been an inspiration to him, and he had come with a gift.  He wanted to give me  several copies of a book he had written.   When I said I could not accept a dozen books, he said' how about we trade  one of yours for mine?'  Then he announced that he had purchased my debut novel The First Marie, and that it was 'hard reading,' which is about the same thing my double-masters educated daughter said about it.  At any rate, I traded a copy of my latest work  for two of his, one for me to keep and another  to share with someone who I think will  find it inspirational.

The book is somewhat plainly but tastefully bound, and full of illustrated poetry and music.  It is what I would call 'Christian whimsy' if I were to label it. Most of the poetry is exceptional, and all of the sentiment is poignant. Both  the man and his book reminded  me that sometimes, if we show compassion to those we meet in a public forum and view each of them as a person with fear and hopes and needs, even prosecutors can leave a mark.

 It has been ten years last week since I retired as the supervising deputy district attorney in my area, and within the last week I have been tagged for lunch by a formidable young woman whom  I met as a child victim when she was five, and I have been gifted a wonderful treasure by a man whose life I touched and who did not forget me.  We had our visit today at my front door in that shade of the pine I call my Burn's Tree, which had been given to me by a man who was a  defendant  I spotted as bipolar and thus made an effort to divert him into a mental health program.  He had  his mother bring me what was advertised as a pygmy fir tree, advertised as capable of surviving six years in a pot.  Our office policy did not permit us to  accept gifts other than items that could be shared, so I put the little holiday tree in the lobby for all to enjoy. When the holidays were over, I tried to find a place to plant it and when no one wanted to deal with it, I called the ADA for permission to keep it.
"Don't think of it as a gift,'he said. 'Think of it as a tribute and plant it where there's water, because judging by the plants around your office, you'll probably kill it if it isn't silk or plastic.'

That was eleven years and about twenty-five feet ago, and the only problem with my Burn's Tree occurred this summer when my insurance carrier's risk assessment team ordered me to trim the branches that overhung the peak of my roof, because of fire hazard.

The moral to the story is that a small gesture can make a significant difference, and that the most precious gift is the giving of a piece of ourselves. The man who gave me his book did just that, and so did the child who gave me her trust when she was only five. I had always felt honored by the young man I call Mister Burns, because he allowed me into his personal space, a place were armed bailiffs feared to tread.  It makes me proud to have been a lawyer  There is nothing fundamentally wrong with lawyers once they've learned that there is more to what a lawyer should strive to do than winning in court, and that life is the ultimate arena.

Thank you, J.Burns, Hillary H, and J.R.Dykes, for being there with me.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Curse of the Kick-Ass Women by Linda Root

Boudicea byJohn Opie (PD-Art)
I just now signed off Facebook with a tear in my eye. A friend had just picked up the ashes of her husband of forty-eight years, and the experience, the utter haunting finality of it, was devastating. I wondered why I found her emotional response so poignant and I realized it was because my friend is among the world's kick-ass women, a feisty independent redheaded Georgia beauty, the quintessential USMC Sergeant Major's wife who could defend her children, support her husband, work a room of strangers, entertain and encourage her friends and stand up for her ideals as if it all came naturally, the art of being there for everyone who needed her and always being strong. And like other women I have known of that ilk, she is not expected to ever falter, ever waiver, ever just collapse and weep. Like the movie character Cat Ballou, she could 'never let them see [her]cry'. If you know a woman like that you are fortunate, but you are also challenged, because even the Dragon Lady and Wonder Woman have a gentle side, a side we do not want to see, because all of the rest of us need our champions, our Joan d'Arcs, our Wonder Women, and in spite of ourselves, sometimes we must put our needs aside and be there for them.

The entire experience of my  morning caused me to reflect upon the kick-ass women in my novels. In my work in progress my protagonist Daisy Kirkcaldy's son Peter has been kidnapped to extort her husband's silence concerning his knowledge of the plot against the king known to history as the Gunpowder Treason. And what does Daisy do? She leaps upon her Fresian Embarr and in defiance of her husband's request that she stay safe at home while he rides to the rescue, she engages the enemy, and although I have not written that far ahead, I am sure she will prevail because that is what she must do to please me, to make me comfortable and less vulnerable. I am as guilty as the rest of us in demanding that of her. Sometimes I forget that even the most formidable of my sisters, real or imaginary, must take off their armor now and then and put down their battle swords.

I remember the day of my seventeen year old son John's funeral. One of my mother's friends who was at the house afterwards approached and said, 'God must have great plans for you to give you so much strength.' I did not tell her that John, not God, had given me the strength to endure the day, because he was smart and sensitive and he knew how ill he was and what was ahead. He had been to a friend's funeral a few weeks earlier, an accidental tragedy for which his mother had been unprepared and she had thrown herself atop the coffin.

'I don't want you crawling on my coffin in a ten year old black mini . I want you to wear  something new and bright,' John said. 'Dress like a movie star, be funny if you can. Wear your orange heels  but try not to trip on the grave markers, and be nice to my stepmother.  Go easy on the eyeliner, just in case.' He spoke with foresight, not in jest. He had a hundred or more little sessions with me like that, teaching me how to let him die.  Sometimes now, thirty-four years later, when I am alone in the garage swimming in our i-pool he appears and swims along with me,to keep me from drowning. He has also taught me that playing the role of a kick-ass woman is both a blessing and a curse, and that even Boadicea wept when her husband was killed and no one else was looking.

 I know my friend will be fine on Friday and hopefully ever after. And so, I hope,will I.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Wedding I'm Glad I did not Miss - a very personal post by Linda Root

Today is my nephew Damien Smrt’s 6th wedding anniversary.  About two months before the wedding my relationship with my only sibling Terry Lee tottered on the edge of an abyss, and it had to with the fact that my son Russ and his wife were not on the guest list.  I was told it was a matter of economics, but instead of saying something hateful,  I bit my tongue and ask how much two more guests would cost. To this  day I do not know if Damien and Valerie knew why they received a check for $150.00 along with their wedding gift. There were good reasons why Russ was not on the list.  He and his wife are very much a twosome even now and while they often intend to arrive at family functions, I’d never ante on it. I could hardly blame Damien and Valerie for making the same judgment call.   But Russ and Damien were both the same age and when they were little, they had the same yellow Dick Tracy costumes, they watched the same videos, and they were as close as cousins living one hundred eight miles apart can be.  So I bought him back in.
The bottom line is that Terry accepted the check and thought that all was right in Bedlam. But I was still stewing.  And if Russ and Cio had no been so happy about getting an invitation, Chris and I may not have gone.  Our absence would have been justified because Chris is not well. At any rate, the four of us headed for a favorite Harbor Island hotel, and had a great time falling in love again with San Diego where I lived for thirty years, and on Saturday we went to what was a lovely wedding.  My sister was so happy to see that all four of us actually showed that I caught a tear in the corner of her smiling eyes. 
She was beautiful. Her hair was a wonderful  honey blonde that matched her dress. Everything about her was perfect.  She was radiant.  This was the last of her kids to get married, the one who had dragged her half way around the world with his ice hockey team.  Many of the guests were Damien’s friends  she’d chaperoned in Copenhagen on two different Scandanavian sports tours.  When I watched her, I was so damned glad I had gotten over my overdose of righteous indignation and kept my mouth shut.  
Sixth months later, she was dead.
What went on between during that sixth months was almost mystical.  We began emailing one another after our spouses had gone to bed.  She had just retired from a job she had hated after working for nearly thirty years at a job she loved.  We talked about that on the telephone, in spite of the fact that my hearing is all but shot.  She was hoping to get some relief from her carpal-tunnel syndrome that was affecting the use of her hands.  Except it wasn’t carpal tunnel. It was an inoperable glioblastoma.
  She was at her daughter Darcy’s house when she lost control of the hand that was holding a wine glass.  Within days, the diagnosis was pronounced.  My husband and I were furious when her doctors told her she might live five years.  My husband is a researcher and he also is stage four survivor of basal tongue cancer, and nothing we read about her cancer was encouaging.
 But bless her, at least for a while she proved us wrong, and again, I am thankful that I kept my mouth shut.  Even when her emails required a special program that let her keyboard repond to her voice, even when her voice began to fail, we strugged through it.  We sometimes talked on the telephone in the middle of the night, Terry with her slurred speech and me with my ruined ears.   My last late night call  from her was an inquiry—she wanted to know if my son Russ’s puppy Frank made the air flight from Michigan.  When I told her we were getting a puppy, too, she wanted to know what we would name him.  Names were always a big issue between us. I was the one who named her Terry Lee, after the comic strip hero of the 1940’s.
The last time I  was with my sister was two days before she died.  She was in and out of consciousness and the family had assembled with the hospice people.  I had asked to be summoned from the meeting if she awakened, and her son in law Mark came to tell me she was asking for me.  He stayed with us during the visit because of my hearing problems.
Our last conversation consisted of a phrase she repeated over and over until Mark and I calmed her.
“Linda, you’re my big sister and you have to take me home,” she said in the manner of a petulant child.  When she was four and I was eleven, I was the one who walked her to and from school.  In Cleveland in the forties there were no buses.  Sometimes when the snow had drifted on the south side of Euclid Avenue,  I carried her.  During one of her hospital stays in ICU early in November, she had a friend of hers call me with the same request.   ‘I don’t know how to tell you this, Linda, but she wants you to get in your car right now and come down here to take her home.” Terry’s friend, another Linda, apologized profusely and assured me it was the drugs talking, but I  knew what she meant.  When she was a little girl she thought I could do just about anything.
In our last visit, I told her it was too early  to go home just yet, but  I would try to help her get there when it was time.  Then I told her that I loved her. She made a funny grimace, and she was five years old again.       
“I already knew that, ” she scolded.
Then she said,  “You have to go home now and fix dinner for  Chris.  I have to wait for Damien to come.”
  Mark told her it was all right for her to go back to sleep and he kissed her forehead.
After we left with plans to return on Sunday, Damien arrived.  She shooed everyone else away.  He shared what happened with my daughter later.
“Damien, am I dying?”
“Yes, Mom, you are,” he said.
Then she slipped quietly into a coma.
Our mother was a difficult person who often drove wedges between Terry Lee and me.  That was another thing we talked about during that last six months. I had no idea that our mother was using the same tactic with Terry that she used on me. We should have had those conversations years before, when our children were growing up. But I was busy in the courtroom slaying dragons and Terry was being the international ice hockey Mom and a constant cheerleader for her lovely daughters.  Bittersweet  though it may be, at last we had that last six months, a treasure I may never have uncovered if I’d  let my temper flare the previous spring.  And as I look back to Damien’s wedding, it is the one wedding other than mine to Chris that I could not have afforded to miss.
Happy anniversary, Damien Smrt and Valerie Finik Smrt.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Meet Sydney Jameson, a Main Character in my Cross-Genre Paranormal Historical Romance, The Green Woman.

(c) Chaoss@ (modified by the author)

When preparing my first offering in Debbie Brown's English Epochs 101 blog hop devoted to main characters in  recently completed work or work-in-progress,  I slipped into a lucid dream in which my character Daisy Kirkcaldy was doing battle with a modern woman whose name is  Sydney  and who is a writer of historical fiction.  As usual, when the conflict is between Daisy and a writer, Daisy wins.  But Syd was not entirely defeated.  She was resting. And now she demands and introduction an equal time.  I find it meet and proper that I interview her for you, using Debbie Brown's excellent set of questions.

Linda: Sydney, what is your name and are you fictional or an actual historical character?

Sydney:  My name is Sydney Jameson, at least insofar as I am concerned, although there are other names that some people persist in using to tag me. One of them is The Green Woman, but I am only called that by people who experience my aura and are familiar with the myths surrounding the Green Woman of Ferniehirst.  My Scottish lover Dand Ker calls me Helena because when he was a young man at the Sorbonne he read a book about Helen of Troy and he is fixated. Scottish men are often like that.  I am a historical novelist with three recent novels  being marketed by a small publishing house owned by a man named Simon Dirst. This entire misadventure is entirely Simon's  creation.  He insisted on doing a book launch in the Great Hall at Ferniehirst, a castle on the Borders where my stories take place.  No! that's not fair. My weird adventure on the Borders is wholly mine, not Simon's. No sense giving him credit where none is due. Even if he hadn't wanted to come here so he could golf at Gleneagles with Sir Sean and write it off on his taxes as a business expense, I would have found my way  here anyway.

Linda:  I gather that the novel The Green Woman takes place at the site of the book launch at Ferniehirst Castle near Jedburgh. Is that correct?

Sydney:  Not entirely. It depends on whether you consider Ferniehirst in 2012 and Ferniehirst in 1612 the same place.  You and I both know they are not.  One exists in what Nemesis calls Dand Ker's Now Time and the other is in my Now Time, which I call the Present.

Linda:  That brings us to an extra pair of questions  - Who is Nemesis and have you been venturing dangerously close to microwave towers lately. Oh, and if you've been drinking, where is the still located and is the hooch for sale?

Sydney:   Nemesis is a Goddess from Greek mythology- the Goddess of Retribution. She is a second tier god, a Daemon. She maintains equilibrium and punishes unjust enrichment. Sometimes she assumes the aspect of a Guardian. That is straight out of Wikipedia and the web. And as to whether I have been drinking, Linda, you are the one who wrote me into the pub frequented by the entire Jedburgh Rugby Club, who bought me drinks when they discovered I knew what scrum-half means.

Linda:  Next question:  What should we know about you before we delve into this rather odd story?

Sydney: Come on now, Linda.  You know me better than I know myself.  Why don't you answer the question? 

Linda:  I'll break it down:  Are you mortal?

Sydney:  I am a 100% mortal California divorcee who writes books for a living and who for some reason seems to appear with a green aura  when I visit Ferniehirst in 1612. If some of the characters in my story see me as The Green Woman, that is their problem, not mine. The rest of the time I am like everyone else. There is a possibility that I may be susceptible to the phenomenon  called Lucid Dreaming or perhaps the task of writing has simply driven me mad.  You wrote me.  You solve it.  And if you want to know what Lucid Dreaming is, read some of the books you bought when you were doing your research.

Linda:  So what is the main conflict?  What messes up your life?

Sydney:  Hah! Try falling into an intense relationship with a man who has been dead for more than Three Hundred and Seventy years and thinks you are the one who is not real. And that's before you even get to the part where we try to save King James and rescue the Duke of Rothesay, who grows up to be Charles II, which begs the question of why we bothered.  And of course, it does not help my relationship with Dand that I know what happens in the future and have sworn not to tell.  

Linda: Sworn to Whom?

Sydney:  If I told Dand what was coming he would change it and that would upset the Equilibrium.  You sort it out. And no spoilers.

Linda:  But what does Sydney expect to get out of this?  What's your goal?

Sydney:  It would be nice to say my goal was to save King James VI and I and the Stuart Monarchy  but that would be pure posh.  My goal is to find a life beyond what is written on my Toshiba laptop.  I want to feel life, not just write about it.  Ask Nemesis.  She has a canned speech memorized that covers it.

Linda:  Is there anything you'd like to ask me, Sydney?

Sydney:  I'd like to know if you are seriously going to self-publish a madcap mixed genre lightly erotic tale about a historical novelist who is forever linked to events which happened in 1612, who is deeply connected to a lover who died in 1628,  who identifies  with a Daemon Goddess named Nemesis who may be a construct of her imagination or an alter ego, and who even after the final page is not quite certain what is real and what is not.  

Linda:  Watch me.  I cannot spend all of my time writing heavily factual historical novels centering on the life and time of the Queen of Scots and populated for the most part by real people. And one last question, Sydney.  It seems to have slipped my mind, but where exactly is it that you learned to throw a Jed Axe?

The novel The Green Woman is essentially finished, awaiting two rounds of editing, cover art and illustrations. At present I am engaged in an exhaustive rewrite adjusting inconsistencies in point-of-view. I will be submitting this to beta readers from a group of people who venture into this type of writing. It is substantially shorter than my other novels, weighing in at 75,000 words. My target launch date is the anniversary of Wild Frank Stewart's death in Naples in November of 1612. 

This deviation from my heavily historical novels  was not at all intentional.  Like Nemesis, it more or less hatched  out of a green egg and grew during the madness of the NaNoWriMo competition in November 2013.  The initial draft  was written in 27 days of nearly non-stop writing which explains why it resembles stories written by opium addicts and absinthe drinkers. It is different from my other works, which is why I am publishing it under a pseudonym J.D. Root. Why not?  After all, I am Linda Root, J.D., and this way I will not embarrass my wonderful friends who are serious writers of English Historical fiction, as am I at least 90% of the time.  This book arises during the 10% when I write out of genre and drink a wee  bit of Jameson's Gold Reserve. And no, that is not where Sydney got her name.   The inspiration for her name is a secret known only to aging fans of the Cleveland Indians baseball franchise. Truthfully, there is a good deal of research in the book, not just about  events  surrounding the death of Henry Frederick Stuart, Prince of Wales, and the never ending plotting of Lord Francis Stewart, aka Wild Frank, but about such topics as the archetype in fiction, the life of Alexander Seton and the phenomena of Lucid Dreaming, Out of Body Experiences and the Oz Factor. And yes, there is a sequel.   

If you want a glimpse, the prologue appears below.  It presents no graphic sex but there are sexual  references and erotic innuendos . 

Present day Edinburgh

The man did not have a copy of the book, but he had a copy of the book jacket folded in the pocket of his windbreaker.  The windbreaker was blue and white and under it he wore a blue tee with the word NAPOLI embossed in white, and beneath it, the name Emilio Lara and a number.
He did not know why he was wearing either of the items or why he was in Scotland.  He did not understand most of the English spoken by the staff at the hotel, and knew none of the Scots spoken on the streets and in the taverns.  He especially did not like the weather. His last memory was being in Naples sharing a small cup of sweet liqueur with his Master, and even that was vague, as if in a dream.  That was before the headaches came.
Whenever he trolled for answers as to why he was trailing the woman whose picture was on the back cover of the book, he would experience a spiking pain in his head and in his bandaged knee,  and would seek relief from the elixir he carried in a pocket flask.  When people passed him they often stared at his jacket and some of them patted him on the back.  They called him by the name Emilio, but that was not his true name. He did not know why they called him out in such a manner and he did not understand their speech well enough to ask. He smiled back at them and shrugged because it was the easiest way to satisfy them without causing him to lose sight of the woman. 
He did not recognize his image in the shop windows.  The man reflected back at him was sturdier and younger, with dark curly hair like a Sicilian and an Italian way about him manifested in a swagger exacerbated by a limp. He would have liked to stake a permanent claim to the man’s physique. 
He had awakened that morning in a park outside of Edinburgh, dressed in the same unfamiliar clothing he was presently wearing. He made his way to the hotel on a route that had been revealed to him that morning in his waking dream. The papers in the pocket of his jacket included a thin wine-colored booklet called a Passporto with a likeness of the man he saw reflected in the shop windows pasted on its first page. He followed the instructions of his Master with precision and without hesitation or pain-inducing questions: he handed the booklet to a pretty woman at the counter, and he saw that the name printed under the photograph affixed there was indeed Emilio Lara.  She handed him a room key and asked him if he needed help with his luggage.  He did not understand the question and shrugged, and the clerk went to serve the other customers.
He pocketed the key and took a seat in the lobby.
When the woman appeared, he followed her down the High Street to a cafĂ© where she ordered breakfast while he sat at the counter,  picked on a scone and drank a pot of Breakfast Tea.  When she was finished, he followed her back to the hotel, annoyed that he had been given no opportunity to fulfill his mission. 
He resumed his vigil in the lobby where he could watch for her if she left, and took a swallow of the elixir from the little flask his Master had given him because the pains would return if he did not do so. It had a pleasant taste which the Master attributed to pearl dust.  The drug no longer made him dizzy. Its effect had become less medicinal and more euphoric. His Master told him it was laudanum with something special added.  The man had asked  what could be more exceptional than pearl dust and his master had given him the Evil Eye  after which the man abandoned the inquiry  least he lose his tongue.
The scene in the lobby blurred and as the man had anticipated, he descended into a dream-like trance during which he could hear his Master’s voice. Sometimes in such trances he could fly and in some, he would be borne across the water on the wings of serpents, but not on this occasion. When he awakened from his reverie, it was as if no time had passed. The shadows in the lobby had not changed and the hands on the clock above the desk had barely moved.
 When the woman he was trailing left the hotel he watched a porter assist her with her bags. After the doorman helped her into a motor carriage, the man had no way to follow her. He knew that the woman was not coming back. He relaxed and sipped some of the potion.
In his dream his master appeared to him in the fearsome persona of a giant black swan with a huge red proboscis shaped like a phallus. On the first occasion when his master had visited him in such a form, the man had thought him beautiful, but only until he witnessed the carnage the swan inflicted in its pursuit of sexual release and the voraciousness of its appetite for violence.
Thereafter, the man acknowledged the black swan as the most frightening of his overlord’s various aspects. 
The man knew that in following the instructions he had been given in the dream, he would find himself possessed of the necessary skills to do as he had been ordained and there would be no excuse for failure. He also knew better than to question his master’s methods or his purpose. If he violated the protocol, his Master would use him as if were a street whore and leave him in a simpering heap on the floor. And that was if his overlord was in one of his more benevolent moods. 
In his sparse and heavily accented English he asked the concierge to arrange a rental car. The clerk at the car rental obviously knew the man whose likeness he had assumed.
“A’right, Emilio!  Good tae see ya again.  Ma mates and ah hated tae see ya leave Manchester but ah suppose ya like bein’ close tae home and all. 
“And, too bad about the knee.  It ain’t no fun getting knocked up like that in what looks tae be a winning season.”
The man in the white and blue windbreaker had no idea what this was about, but he thanked the man and took the keys. 
“It’s the SUV at the curb, the one the lad is detailin’ for ya.” 
When the boy finished with the windows, he opened the door for the man to enter, and just as the man had expected, he knew exactly what to do with the key to make the strange motor carriage work.   He did not question how any of this was possible. It neither surprised nor excited him to find himself driving a metal beast called a Land Rover down a highway out of Edinburgh to Jedburgh.
He was doing his Master’s bidding and when the Master’s purpose was achieved, he would become himself again and would remember none of it.  He would be back in Naples in the company of his overlord who would assume his human form and reward him with ecstasies no women could produce.
 He followed the instructions given him  and made his way to Ferniehirst to deal with the woman whose picture was on the jacket of the book. He had a paper in his pocket upon which the Master had written the words La Donna Verde, the Green Woman.