Thursday, April 23, 2015

Dirty Words from the World of Book Reviews by Linda Root

We are drowning in lists--grocery lists, shopping lists best sellers, worst dressed, sexiest man, cutest dog, most cunning cat...but the lists  I find the most annoying have to do with books--writing, reading, reviewing and promoting.  I have my reasons.  I am a writer, a voracious reader and a serious reviewer and I find the language of book reviews  as creative as fast food for dinner and as exciting as a barium enema as a nighttime ritual.  My fellow writers Mickey Mayhew and Michael Schmicker should teach a class: How to Write an Incredibly entertaining Highly Intelligent and   Masterful Book Review.' At least I'd approach  reviews of my work without wincing, no matter how many or how few stars my novel rates.
Terms which turn me off:
Thriller:  Besides being a Michael Jackson musical masterpiece, a thriller has special meaning for me and others who are  1. long of tooth;  2. advanced in age;3.  Seniors; 4. mature adults; 5. old people.    Each of those terms are on another list I will discuss on a day when I have both 1) ice; 2. Jameson's; and 3) no other commitments.  To most people old enough to vote and still breathing  (unless they grew up in live in Cleveland where Thriller is a roller coaster at  Euclid Park) a thriller is something exciting and fraught with danger.  A book I consider a thriller is Silence of the Lambs. Another is Relic.
 A thriller is a high-octane, very scary piece of work.  It is not a highly plotted Elizabethan mystery involving ladies and monkeys and dwarfs and nuns and spiders.  Nor is an espionage story in which the scariest thing in the book is a Russian woman with a silencer on her H & K.  All action adventures are not thrillers.  Not every good piece of fiction with tension and intrigue is a thriller.

Which leads to the ubiquitous page-turner.  For some reason if a book is not labelled a page-turner, it is doomed unless it is the Bible or something written by Neil Stephenson.  Why must we equate excellence in writing with a product which must be digested in one giant gulp.  We savor good wine;  appreciate beer with the right amount of head, and sip champagne.  Why do we have to guzzle words to make them worthy of ingesting? I recently read a book by author David Blitx which I consciously put aside to let it penetrate the inner reaches of my mind, or to laugh at plot twists I found amusing or ironic or simply delightful.  And I was on a schedule.  Some books by Susan Howatch can be read in sections according to the point of view of the character.  They are not barn-burners, or races. The last line is not a Finish Line.  A good book engages its reader and keeps the interest level high, but it is not a  390-page literary marathon.

There are other terms bandied about in reviews on Amazon and elsewhere, assuming there still is an elsewhere.  For example, a reading experience is not necessarily a 'ride'.  Also in my opinion, there is no such thing as a masterpiece by James Patterson. Mr.Patterson is a fine prolific writer who I read and enjoy, but his books are not masterpieces. Eco sometimes writes masterpieces.  Patterson writes excellent pulp fiction.  I also hate the overuse of the term 'tale'.  There is something about calling a books about a serial child molester a 'tale' which I find obscene.  'Yarn' is another one.  Yarn is not just antiquated and a tad too cute--it implies a complicated, tangled plot with a homespun quality. Hannibal is not a yarn.

The new word which drives me to frenzy is 'steamy'. For some purposes  we find books rated on their steam value.I am not quite sure how steam and sex became equated--perhaps on Grey's Anatomy.  On the other side of the same gripe I find the word 'sweet' applied to every Victorian novel where kissing is a brushing of taunt lips on a gloved hand and no one removed clothing other than a cloak or a hat.  If the entire plot is saccharine, then sweet is as good a label as any but if the story involves a heart-rending romance  full of emotion and tension, it desires a more substantial label than 'sweet'.
I understand the term 'cozy' when applied to a specific class of arm chair mysteries.  It is the title of a sub-genre, like time-slip.  When I've had enough of guts and gonads, I am drawn to a 'cozy.'  I occasionally like books where the principal character (as opposed to protagonist) is a cat, an elderly busy-body or a vicar.  We cannot all be John Ryan or Lucas Davenport.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


Here is a copy of a letter I sent to my health insurance carrier and the health care administrator which provides (maybe) services. It is neither professional nor politically correct. Perhaps that's a mistake on my part, but as I quote Peter Finch in Network from list of the 100 greatest quotes in American cinema, (below) " I'm mad as hell and I am not going to take this anymore."

Anyone want to bet on whether or not the eecipients send me a canned robotic reply on my land line or a live message recorded for quality control purposed, spoken at two hundred word a minute and in Tagalog?   I have edited out some personal financial information and redacted names and other identifiers to present some unauthorized person at Oasis from selling our data to Desert Hills Memorial Park and Crematorium.

March 26, 2015

To:      Desert Oasis Health Care.
            Blue Shield 65 Plus HMO 
            CC: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
From:  Linda A. Root, J.D. (

Re:      Christopher G. Root, xxxxx

Preamble:  It is essential in responding to the issues and requests below that readers be provided a few salient facts. Taking a moment to peruse them will save all parties to this matter considerable misunderstanding and ill-will.  I am listing the points in order:

1. Background: The subject of this memo is Christopher G. Root, XXXXXX, who is covered by Blue Shield 65 Plus and Medicare.  He is bed-bound, non-ambulatory, incontinent and receiving no current medical care.  I am 76, also covered by the above plans, generally in good health and ill tempered.  I am his full time care giver, assisted on an ‘as needed’ basis by our son and his wife who  reside nearby. I also blog, write books and raise chickens.  So there you have it.

2. Issues re Communication: Both my husband and I hold advanced degrees including Juris Doctors.  We are neither stupid, uneducated nor childlike. We are, however, both hearing impaired.  Chris is diagnosed as moderately to profoundly deaf. I am moderately-to profoundly deaf in one ear and profoundly deaf in the other. We do not do well on phones. I do not respond to robotic calls, messages from speakers who are not proficient in American English, or those requiring me  to ‘say yes if this is correct,’ in order to advance to the next menu item. I am admittedly quirky and I respond to callers who begin a scripted dialogue with ‘Hi there, Mrs. Root. How're you doing today?’ in midland Scottish, the language from which the s word, the f word and the c word originate. While I prefer to receive emails (, I will struggle through a telephone call from a live speaker of the only English I can adequately hear—the one Microsoft Word labels United States English.  If it is not deemed politically correct for your organizations to employ personnel possessing that particular linguistic skill set, deal with me by email.

3  Issues re Diagnosis, or lack of one: My husband’s present medical condition remains 1) undiagnosed [past PCPs];   2) diagnosed as natural aging [desert orthopedics] ; 3) diagnosed as resulting from his lack of cooperation in his own recovery [Dr. A & Dr.,D]; 4) Recovered [ also Dr. D just before he left  DOHC  and retired to someplace where they have real doctors to treat him] and 5) observed signs of neurological damage to his extremities {possibly  resulting from chemotherapy and requiring further testing [Dr. XXX whose file is  oddly closed: I wonder if his diagnosis had anything to do with it]

4. Current History: Chris Root’s only recent (i.e., since mid 2014) medical intervention occurred two weeks ago when he choked on food and could not breath. I was unable to perform the Heimlisch maneuver because 1) I am recovering from a sprained wrist 2) I cannot move or lift a 150 lb non-responsive body mass. My husband began convulsing while I was on 911, but on impulse I drastically changed the position on his electric bed, and the obstruction dislodged enough so he could breathe. The paramedics remained on site until his vitals were stable and he became mentally responsive. The person I deemed to be the team leader asked if Chris was a hospice patient, which gives a clue of how his condition presents to medically trained responders unaware of his history. I compliment them highly.

5. Logistics: Taking Chris to the offices of our new PCP (Oasis’s arbitrary choice, not ours) is not currently feasible. Even before his latest decline, it required two+ people to transport him.  I cannot lift his wheelchair in and out of our vehicle nor can I get him in and out of the wheelchair in his current state, even without my sprained wrist. Even reasonable waiting room delays are unendurable. I accompany him as his historian and my son acts as my translator because of the inability of most people to deal with my hearing deficit. Most of them are unaware  hearing loss  not a symptom  of ADD or Diminished Capacity, although I am often treated as if it were.( While I am not a shrink, as a (retired) criminal lawyer I own a DSM-IV:  I looked it up.)  I am deaf, not dumb and I do admit to an un- healthy dose of anger. Like Peter Finch in Network, ‘I’m mad as hell, and I am not going to take this anymore.’  As I recall the plotline of the movie, the Finch character offs himself on network television, but do not consider this a suicide threat or a desperate ploy for higher Neilsen ratings.  What I want is some support and a treatment plan.  I doubt providing either will bankrupt  Blue Shield or Oasis. 

The Bottom Line:  If you have read this far without dismissing me as a crank, a miscreant or a M.O.W.W. (euphemism for mean old white woman—hey, I learned if from my previous secretary, but she was smiling when she said it.), then please work with me to find a means of getting my husband evaluated by a home health care specialist or some other appropriate medical care provider.  I cannot just sit here on my side of our automatic bed and watch my husband vegetate or die. 


In addition to the weakness and disabilities noted above, my husband Christopher Root suffers from hiccups when he eats; he is out ofXX, the hiccup Rx prescribed for him 6 years ago by radiation oncologist Barbara Anderson, M.D. (one of an endangered  breed of physician who cares, treats and remembers her patients from one week to the next)XXX XXXXX He has stopped eating because it brings on an onset of hiccups that lasts 10-12 hours.  He is sleep deprived due to nearly constant bed jolting hiccups. He cannot get to the bathroom without a strong person to help him get into his walker, XXXXXXX  Between my son, his wife and me, we continue giving Chris sponge baths, manicures, and pedicures; my daughter in law regularly changes his bed linen. We try to provide mental stimulus when Chris is awake and responsive (we are rather entertaining people).  But we are having a hard time sitting back and watching Chris die inch by inch.

And no, I do not want him moved to a convalescent care center, which would break his heart and my personal word. What I am requesting is a modicum of constructive support so I can keep him in our home without ruining my own health in the process.
I resent the implication that his alleged lack of participation in his own recovery is his fault-or that for some reason my son and his wife and I should bear the brunt of it. That assessment came from Chris’s former PCP and a former physical therapist and it caused Dr. XXXXX to terminate Chris as a home health care recipient.  WE, not his PCPs, have watched Chris struggle to overcome his weakness for the past several years. WE  have watched his disappointment and despair when efforts failed or attempts by competent physicians such as XXXX to pinpoint his condition were either stone-walled or foreclosed.   It took me a year to get DOCTOR D to override DR.A's refusal to approve the issuing of a handicapped parking sticker...for a man who who could  no longer stands unaided and is no longer licensed.  I doubt there is a single care provider in the Morongo Basin who will approve the renewal of the handicapped sticker so we can park while we maneuver Chris into his wheelchair to get him to Urgent care should the need arise.  In his current condition, even that is moot. 
I spent most of professional life fighting for the rights of victims.Now I realize one does not need to be the victim of violent crime to need a champion and a voice. Look to this letter as if it were a velvet gauntlet, a challenge cast by one who believed her days of doing battle with the enemy ended when she retired.  Go ahead.  Take the challenge. I suspect finding a cost effective means of re-evaluating of my husband’s home health care needs  is not beyond your collective expertise.  

Very truly yours, perhaps…
Linda A. Root    
XXXXXXxxxxxxand @#+ES&D.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A Week in My Life with Chickens

Day 3, Rescued Orpie and its buddy Pennie

Last week I had an incubator of eggs ready to hatch, with the Orpington buffs due late Wednesday and the Penedescencas due Thursday.  Our son Russ had 'candled' the Pennies three days earlier and only 4 of the expensive 10 eggs showed any development. The Orpingtons all showed some, but no movement. Chickens hatch in 21 days on average.  

Hatch Day 1:  This is the day scheduled for the  Orpington Buff  hatch.   The first one pipped, early, the term for when a chick begins to break out of the egg by making a small crack, and he was way ahead of schedule.  A second one pipped soon after.  That turned out to be a problem.  By evening I had 4  live Orpington chicks in the incubator and a fifth one who was trying futilely to unzip (cut around  the top of the shell ) and who appeared to be dead or dying.  For a batch of 8 mailed eggs, a 50% yield is anticipated.  During the night, one of the Penedesencas began to pip. Except for the one failed hatching, I was pleased.

Four Orpington buff chicks (shown on day three, out of incubator)
Day 2:  (From notes dated 11/20 7pm)

Today was a most unusual day. Late today I elected to intervene to save  the life of the  Orpington chicken who was dying in his shell.  I wrote: 'He is presently in ICU and his condition remains Improved but Guarded.'  I wish I'd taken a picture of what I faced when I removed him from the incubator. I had to take him out because I saw some occasional movement at a spot where the hatched chicks (which by then included 4 Orpingtons and one 'Pennie') were attacking  the hole (too big to call a pip--more of an unsuccessful zip) where something that looked  like the tip of a beak was still moving). I had wanted to try to remove the trapped chick earlier, but there are issues in opening an incubator during a hatch which is why I waited until the Pennie had unzipped his shell. By then there was no further sign of life from any of the remaining eggs but I inserted a wet warm towel into the incubator to keep the humidity up just in case and quickly removed the problem egg.  Obviously I made the right decision, because when I examined the unhatched eggs, none of them were viable.

What I held in my hand looked nothing like a chick. The mass inside was laminated to the outside of the shell and the membrane was thick and dry.  I spent a half hour opening its shell and another 20 minutes peeling off the pieces that would come off without causing the chick to bleed. The only encouraging sign was my patient chirped almost the entire time. I wrote 'He is stuck together in a ball and looks like a peeled lemon or lime, with a beak peeping out. Nevertheless, however the episode ends I learned something important:  Life indeed is precious and worth fighting for. He chirped intermittently for almost 24 hours in his shell with only his beak showing through the pip.'

I further wrote  :'Contemplating universal truths of cosmic proportion re life and death is not how I planned to spend my day.  I planned to spend it writing and instead I saved a life, or tried, and however it ends, it was a worthwhile endeavor.  He cannot stand up but he has two feet. I only see one wing and his head is stuck to his chest.'

As for the very disappointing result with the Penedesencas, I wrote: 'This was also hatching day for the Penedesencas.  Out of 10 expensive eggs, only one hatched. None of the other 3 showng any sign of embryonic mass pipped. This is going to be one expensive little chick.'

Note: Subsequent events make me wonder if the one healthy Pennie hatched for a reason.

Day 3:  Here are my notes from the third day of the Orpington hatch. 'Today I made a decision.  I gave the failing chick a bath and a blow dry. I saw that he was not missing a wing as I had thought.  It was only stuck to him .  After his bath I tried to separate his wings from his body and his neck from his shoulders so he could hold his head straight.  His legs seem strong'  It was not his legs but his ill-distributed body mass that kept him from walking.

Day 4:  'Chris and I gave the sad little guy another bath and blow dry this morning.  He was so scared he started to convulse.  Then I  read something on the Backyard Chicken page and some other sites that made me decide to give my damaged chick a buddy, so I  put a healthy Orpie in the ICU  brooder and my patient attacked it.  On a whim I replaced the healthy Orpie with the solitary Pennie which by then was dry enough to leave the incubator. The Pennie showed the Orpie how to eat. They are inseparable.'

Day 5.  Picture of Pennie and Orpie  Best Buds (taken yesterday). The other Orpington chicks are growing wing feathers.  During the middle of the night I began to worry so I moved them into a brooder with higher sides just in case.  No sleep for me.

Day 6:  The hatchings are in two separate brooders and are doing fine, including the one who was at risk.  It is smaller than its batch mates and still has some pasty spots  but otherwise it is doing well. It does whatever its buddy does.

Day 7: Time for an update of the eggs my husband  ordered in late September when he decided raising chickens would assure us a supply of fresh cage free brown eggs.  Since he has health issues and is bed-bound and I am his care-giver, you can guess which of us is caring for the  chickens.

My first group of hatchings (October 18th)  are  Partridge Penedesencas and will be six weeks old on Saturday. They are a relatively rare new breed which originates in Spain.  They are noted for their chocolate colored eggs. Ours  are no longer really chicks.  It's time for a coop.

My second group (Hatch date: October 25) were silkies and only one of  them hatched. They were mostly buff but the one which hatched is black. Yields from mail order eggs are iffy. However, None of the other eggs showed signs of embryonic development and my guess is they were infertile.

My one lonely little silkie (shown below after he escaped from his brooder yesterday) will be five weeks old Saturday. It  thinks it's an eagle and wants to fly. It is so very pretty. Pictures do not do him justice.
I cannot be sure, but  I fear that 2 out of the 3 older pennies are Roos. I can only keep 2 roosters on my 1.4 acre lot  I have decided no matter, if the little guy I saved is a Roo, he gets to live here for as long as I do.  If the silkie is a roo I have someone who wants one to breed with silkie hens.

Statistically with 10 chickens I should have 5 hens and 5 roos. But when only one out of a batch hatches (like the silky and the last pennie) some experienced backyard breeders say they are likely roos. That means I probably have 4 hens and 6 roosters, a problem I must face. I can always build a rooster hotel on land I own in Joshua Tree. If I get lucky and have 5 hens, we'll have enough eggs.

Isn't this fascinating? 
Not what you expected from a retired prosecutor of major crimes who writes historical fiction, you say?
Take heart. During the month of November when I wasn't incubating, feeding, watering and cleaning up after chicks, I wrote an entire book in the National Novel Writing Month event!  It's a sequel to my Scottish Fantasy The Green Woman, written under the pseudonym J.D. Root. Look for it in final form in March.

I am  finished with incubating eggs until I sex the chicks I already have. Since breeders do not ship live hens in winter, I will likely order 1or 2 female Silkies and an assortment of brown egg layers in late spring to bring my total hens to 10.

Have I gone crazy?  Ya think?

Monday, November 10, 2014

One Lovely Blog Award (True confessions::The care and maintenance of A Lovely Blog )

My blog is not quite as lovely as I would like it to be.  It is like my yard.  It suffers from inexcusable neglect. And that is a tough confession to make, because I love my blog. I just never seem to get around to writing it.  Being invited by two distinguished authors Judith Arnopp and Anna Belfrage to share the designation of being tagged the author of 'A Lovely Blog'  has clearly shown me the error in my thinking.  If I love my blog, I should be kind to it, instead of treating it as if it were an elderly relative in a rest home and visiting it occasionally, but not often enough. Nevertheless, I am absolutely delighted to have been twice nominated for The Lovely Blog Award!  Thank you from the top of my hoary head to the tips of my gnarly toes, Judith Arnopp and Anna Belfrage.

The One Lovely Blog award has rules.  The first is to thank the person or persons who conferred it and link to their blog or website. That was not much of a challenge. Blogspot has a button for it.

The second  rule, adding the One Lovely Blog Award badge to my layout,  required a modicum of basic blogger skills. After much cursing myself for not staying current on technique, I finally sorted it.  As evidenced on my sidebar,although it took me about ten tries to get it right,  I am a disciple of Sir Winston Churchill when he declared:  Never, never, never give up. And thus, Eureka.

Third, we are asked to nominate others deserving of the award and link to their sites.  Forgive me for the duplications on my list, but that is the only honest way to respond.  I have tried to add a few news names  which will hopefully add diversity to our reading and blogging pleasure, and I am omitting some of my favorites because they have been selected more than once. I have tried to select sites that are not entirely devoted to selling the bloggers books.  That is a fine and noble motive, but for this list, I was looking for a bit of news, humor, inspiration and mentoring. The list comes last so if you to not want to share my secrets,scroll on down..

The Fourth Rule, and a true Monday morning challenge, asks us to reveal seven things about ourselves that others might find interesting. Those who know me well will not be surprised to hear that being twice nominated, I am tempted to list fourteen.

Here is my list.

1.  Although I have been around for three-quarters of a century I swim in a bikini.  By way of explanation, I only swim in the exercise pool in my garage with the garage door down.

Note closed garage door- a humanitarian gesture.

Note two men reacting to 75 year old woman about to enter ipool in Michael Kors bikini

2. This is a real shocker I usually do not share unless I have a couple of double-Jameson's under the  belt, but I share an honor with Queen Katherine Parr.  Bear in mind that I have been happily married to the same husband for going on 35 years, but neither of us were 'first timers.'.  Yes, friends, I am Chris's #6.

 Katherine should be smiling like I am in the photo below.  We are a very exclusive pair of survivors in the Sixth Wife's Club.  She should be thankful not to have shared the fate of wives 2 and 5.  And as an aside, Chris and I were introduced by this third wife on the day they signed their divorce papers. We were friends for the next eight years before we got it right, but when we did, we did!
Smiling  Member of Sixth Wife's Club

3. I went to high school with Dennis Hopper and college with Kris Kristofferson and neither one of them asked me out. (As an aside, Dennis Hopper always wore a corduroy jacket with leather patches on the sleeves and Kristofferson, who was the smartest person on the Pomona campus and possibly, the planet,kept his hair cropped short, was clean shaven and favored conservative dark colored turtlenecks).  I would post pictures but my year books burned up in a garage fire in 2008 along with my IRS records, my beloved PT Cruiser and my LHS with the heated seats.

4. There are three fast growing Partridge Penedesenca chicks and one small Silkie living in our guest bedroom. Our former human guests have decided they prefer the Hyatt in Indian Wells. So what's this about an Empty Nest Syndrome?

Below are photos of my human chicks, granddaughters included.
Son Michael and grandkids Elise & Gen
Jolie the First Born and granddaughter Gen

'Cio, Russ, John and Chelsy

5.  In spite of my reputation for knowing a lot about 16th and 17th century Scotland, I have never been there.  The Ferniehirst from the Green Woman series, the Cockie House in Canongate and the Maitland mansion near the Meal Market are constructs of an overactive imagination and a lot of research.  I have, however, been to Westminster.

6. I lie about having always (almost) been a blonde. I would have lied about being tall like Diana Rigg, but that is a much harder stunt to pull off (Note: Young, Fabulous and Broke is just the trade-name  for a brand of clothes I like. I am neither young nor broke.)

7. My first writing award was a national Quill and Scroll first place in Biography in 1956.  I wrote about my friend Nancy Lindberg from my high school class who was an acknowledged  music prodigy at age 4. She is an internationally known Bay Area pianist and composer,shown here with the conductor of the Galeburg Symphony. And if you are one of my friends from Helix High School in La Mesa, she and I wrote the La Mesa Junior High School song. I doubt they still sing it, but I do.
Nancy Lindberg Ohlbach

8. My eighth confession is controversial. It is my bonus fact: Ever since I was seven and they would not let me into Cub Scouts, I have been puzzled why people chose their friends based on such things as sex and race and age and politics instead of how sincere they are and how much fun they add to life. Which leads me to the list, because each of the bloggers listed has contributed to mine.  I have neglected some of my favorites because they have already posted and/or been tagged more than twice.

Each of you have been tagged. If you have been tagged more than once, respond at will. Or not. In that case you will already know the rules.  For the Marie Stuart Society Group, I suspect it will find responding outside of its guidelines, but I list it because it is an exception source that should at least receive honorable mention.  It is a Stuart historian's mother-lode of information.

1. Kim Rendfeld, 2.The Marie Stuart Society. 3.Debra Brown 4,Gingernut Books,D.Michelle Gent - 5. InMemorium - M.m.Bennets Arnopp 7.Paula Lofting
8. 9. (Stephanie Moore Hopkins' incredible site)
10. 11. 12Maria Grace-Random Bits of Fascination 13 14.Tara Chevrett, the Book Babe
15. C,W, Gortner/16.Marie Macpherson 17.Jayne Smith Scottish History

Cheers to all and happy blogging.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

MY FIRST HOMICIDE SCENE: 'Write what you Know.'

Last night I took a short break from my scheduled reading and opened a Linda Fairstein crime thriller.  Thr protagonist in her blockbuster series is a female assistant district attorney with expertise in sex crimes and homicides.  I was traveling on very familiar ground.  I'd been there and done all that, but not in New York City.  I prosecuted homicides in the Morongo Basin area of the San Bernardino county high desert.

Not all prosecutorial agencies encourage or even permit prosecutors to visit crimes scenes, but New York County does, and as television audiences worldwide know, so does L.A.  County.  Remember the shot of Maria Clark walking down the sidewalk toward Nicole Simpson's Brentwood apartment?
Did Johnnie Cochran get her kicked off the case for visiting the scene? No he did not. The  noise made by defense attorneys suggested deputies who visit scenes must recuse themselves from trial, is because there is no police report that equals a visit to a homicide scene. Homicide scenes carry a message.  My first one screamed.

I remember my first homicide scene vividly. It was the final weekend of a month's vacation I had taken after a thirteen victim child sexual assault case, twelve little Boy Scouts and one of their baby sisters. We arrived home from a trip to Colorado on a Rocky Mountain high on the evening the call came. We were had not  unpacked our suitcases.  I was still wearing my travel clothes, a pair of DKNY  jeans and a button down shirt. My sons were sitting on the sofa with my husband watching television when the telephone rang.  I was in the kitchen with the popcorn, closest to the phone.
'If it's Mother, tell her I fell out of the car somewhere in Arizona.'
It was not my mother-in-law. It was my boss and he wasn't looking for me. He was looking for another Morongo felony deputy who was not answering his pager. He apologized for disturbing me on the last days of my vacation, but wondered if I had a different number or some idea where my colleague  might be reached.
'Unless, of course, you are willing to go to the scene of a double in 29.'
Of course I was.

The information he provided over the telephone was sketchy. If I responded I would be briefed by officers at the scene. He had the address, a general description of the location, and the added information that both victims were female and  probably rape victims. Local law enforcement  and NCIS were controlling the scene. The homicide detail from Specialized Detective Division in San Bernardino was meeting at the Morongo Station while the crime lab processed the crime scene. The designated case agent  had requested the presence of a deputy district attorney and would be returning to the crime scene as soon as he doled out assignments to his team. Because of our proximity to the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at 29 Palms, California, all CID and NCIS agents had been cross-deputized to assist in investigations that might involve personnel on the base. I was happy to hear they were involved.  Most had equivalent training to FBI agents and in 20 Palms,they knew who most of the players were.

It was a very warm summer night. I drove to an  apartment complex a block off the highway just beyond the center of town in an area of small apartments in the city of Twenty Nine Palms. I knew the area well. The murder scene was in a small single story court just behind one of our favorite family burger joints, Andrea's. I pulled up behind the substation commander's personal vehicle. His wife was in the car. He had only stopped by on his way home from dinner to thank the military agencies for their support. He pointed to an apartment where two white vans were parked. Before political correctness came into vogue, they were referred to as meat wagons.The scene was still being processed and the bodies 'had not been rolled.' The coroners men were standing by, waiting for something to happen. So was half of the population of central Twenty-nine Palms. Until the bars closed, the crime scene was the only show in town. I had to elbow my way through a crowd to get to the evidence tape.

 The perimeter was  being manned by a detective who had recently transferred to the Morongo station from Narcotics. He did not recognize me in my designer jeans and shined a flashlight in my eyes as if he were conducting a horizontal gaze nystagmus test. As soon as I was confident he would not shoot me for reaching into my fanny-pack, I produced my District Attorney's office. I.D.

''The only  good thing about this one,' he said once he was convinced I was who my I.D.said I was--'is someone left the air conditioning on.'  Up until he made the remark, it had not sunk in that I soon would be entering an apartment where there were dead bodies. I had heard my share of gut-wrenching  crime scene stories.  I have since arrived at an untested theory that many women handle murder scenes better than most men. Motherhood and our physiology make us immune to feces, blood and body fluids. Nothing protects us from the pathos.

'I'll let  them know you're here.  You'll need to put on some booties, and wait for one of the techs to walk you in. The front room is pretty well processed. There's an open kitchen off a living-dining room, and remnants of a party. The pizza looks to have been there since the night before. I think it was one of the party guests who came by today with a buddy and discovered the bodies. The ugly stuff is in the bedroom and bath behind, and from the looks of it, they'll be lucky to have it processed before the middle of next week.'

We were waiting for one of the crime lab people to come outside to collect me when Detective Dick Bunn came up the walk. In those days, Dick was a math teacher at Yucca Valley High School where my daughter taught English.   Each afternoon as soon as the bell rang, he was out the door and on his way to the sheriff's office annexed to the Joshua Tree courthouse.  Somehow he managed to put in a full forty hour shift per week at his second job as a reserve and he had enough experience and smarts to get  assigned as a substation detective. I do not know how old Dick was when his hair turned silver, but for all I know he was born with it, and when I see him out in town since we have both retired, I  think it's actually getting thicker. Not once in the thirty years I've known him have I seen Dick when he wasn't wearing cowboy boots and a western shirt. He and his wife Rex got married on horseback on the O.K Corral movie set in Pioneer Town. I am always glad to see him, but never more than on that night.

'One of the victims is Mandi Scott,' he said.
 I knew her mother. Almost everyone I knew from the Morongo station knew Debbie. She was a popular bartender with an open, pleasant demeanor.   I had met her daughter Mandi in the course of a bicycle theft in which the victim was a highway patrolman's step-daughter. The bicycle had been recovered hidden on Debbie's porch. Mandi  said  it had been given to her by one of her mother's boyfriends. Maybe. I did not prosecute juveniles, but we did go forward on a charge of receiving stolen property with Debbie as a defendant.  The next month she called me to help her with a problem with neighbors who objected to her keeping her pit bull in the front yard. She had also called a reporter from the L.A. Times who did a story on discrimination against owners of pit bulls. Debbie wanted me to give the reporter a statement.  Debbie had excellent marketing skills, and I liked her. She added a touch of glamour to the community.I did not want to believe that the Mandi Scott in the splayed on the bedroom floor was the same girl I had interviewed a couple of years earlier in the bicycle case.
'Not Debbie's Mandi?' I asked with a prayer in my voice. My usually surly cowboy detective friend merely nodded and one of the female criminalists came and tapped me on the shoulder.

From this point it, it is appropriate fto mention  there are no privacy issues in what I am about to describe. There were two syndicated television reenactments of what follows and with Debbie's stage management and promotional skills,  a true crime book was authored by a writer named Deanne Stillman which sold well. It took an editorial stand condemning the United States Marine Corp as much as  the serial rapist who butchered Debbie's daughter, a USMC named Valentine Underwood.
I declined to be interviewed by Ms. Stillman because the case was still active and I took exception to its editorialization. Whether I agree with its message, it is a well written true crime book.

I harbor no doubt as to  defendant Valentine Underwood's guilt. He has recently been extradited to an eastern state and convicted of a brutal 1988 rape in what had been a cold case until  a lab in Massachusetts matched a rape kit in the  crime to the DNA of Valentine Underwood, who is serving two California sentences  of life without parole for the murders of Mandi Scott and her friend Rosie,whose family has repeatedly requested that her last name be withheld.

I had seen dead bodies in viewing room in funeral homes. I had never attended an autopsy and blamed the omission on my trial schedule and an incident in  high school science lab when I suffered a severe reaction to formalin while dissecting a cat.. I always took the time to drive to San Bernardino to confer at length with the forensic pathologist, the late  Irving Root, who did not mind if I missed the autopsy as long as I understood his theory of how death occurred and stayed for lunch.Many of the cops I worked with thought Irv and  I were cousins.  We worked well together. The double in 29 was my first crime scene, but not my first homicide.

Thanks to Dick Bunn, I was aware  I would be seeing a young girl I had known when she was thirteen and very much alive.  I promised my escort to stay on the plastic and not to touch anything. I would  enter the bedroom when they were ready.  At the onset, I was to stand in the doorway and survey what could be seen from there.

And there was Mandi.
Dead on her back on the bedroom floor.
She had been stabbed thirty three times.
Her lace demi bra was wound around her head at the level of her mouth, perhaps as a gag, perhaps as a humiliation.  As I recall, bikini panties dangled from an ankle.I know they were present--colorful and sexy black and either red or yellow lace.  Her eyes were open, her hands and arms posed like a china doll. Her dark hair was hardly disheveled. She was a plump, pretty girl, even in death.
I could see into her chest cavity.
Her sixteenth birthday was a few days off.

Her friend Rosie, the tenant of the apartment, was in the tiny bathroom, nude in front of the toilet. Her eyes were open and her lips were pursed. As I recall, at least one of her hands was in a tight fist. It was difficult to process the bathroom scene because there was a a stain on a towel or blanket which the criminalists thought might include a footprint and they did not want to risk unfolding it. I viewed the slaughter from the bathroom door.
Rose was in her twenties, a good deal older than Mandi, a tiny Southeast Asian of remarkable beauty. She had two children but I do not recall where they were staying the  weekend of Rosie's party.
She, too, had been stabbed thirty-three times, the number on Valentine Underwood's basketball jersey. Valentine was a basketball player.

The lead detective on the case had been at a briefing. He arrived in time to offer me a cup of warm black coffee. The reason why he had summoned a deputy d.a. to the scene had to do with evidence preservation. I finished my coffee and returned with him to the scene.  Even though the time of death had been many hours earlier, the room had been kept so cold that the smell of death was faint, subtle, like flowers at a funeral.

"Did you happened to notice the stain on the wall?'
I had. It had been pointed out to me by the criminalist, but it would have been hard to miss.
'The bloody handprint,' I said.
'As I see it, we have two choices: We already have taken photographs of  the print, and if we process the print where it is,  we will take more photos and videotape every stage. The alternative is to remove a section of the wall, do the testing at the lab and preserve the print as a trial exhibit.  But to do that, someone from your office is going to have to request it.'

It didn't call anyone above my pay grade and I did not hesitate. For me, the decision was a no brainer. The room was ruined anyway. The carpet was saturated.  There were blood spatters everywhere. Hanging a new section of dry wall would be a minor item. A hung jury and retrial would cost the county more than compensating the owner for the entire apartment complex.The only salient question was whether a jury would  be as convinced by an expert with a videotape and photographs as opposed to one with a laser pointer and a bloody hand print preserved on drywall for jurors  to see and examine in the deliberation room.
'Take the wall,' I said.
Those words of mine were memorialized on an episode of The Prosecutors. I have a copy of the director's cut on a useless old VCR in a cabinet in the same room where I am writing this post.
The immortal words of Linda Root: "Take the bloody wall."

Afterthoughts, Vents and Procedural Notes:

1) Dick Bunn was the first person to place Valentine Underwood in the neighborhood on the night  of the crime. His was a name known to the two of us because of a rape prosecution that went nowhere when the victim refused to cooperate and recanted. Her father was a high profile military officer and her parents did not want her to participate.  We could not find her to serve her and  she had made it known she would not come to court voluntarily. At that time, our office had a policy not to take a case to a jury with a victim whose testimony would have to come in as impeachment  testimony from a police officer. That was prior to rape shield legislation and new interpretation of the hearsay laws. Dick Bunn and  I and the two NCIS officers who assisted in the investigation always thought Underwood was a serial rapist and likely a serial killer, but we could not interest other jurisdictions where Underwood had lived where there were  unsolved  crimes with the same M.O. in pursuing it. But this post is not about the Underwood case, about which I could write a book. Mine would be different from Deanne Stillman's and probably would not sell nearly as well.

2) For anyone curious about the investigation and what turned out to be the most prolonged judicial event in the history of San Bernardino County, there is Ms. Stillman's book Twenty-Nine Palms, a True Story of Murder, Marines and the Mohave, available on Amazon, a worthwhile read for anyone who redacts the roasting of the United States Marine Corps. I would have written the same story differently.

2) Why I did not try People v. Underwood  myself is for another forum on the topic of interoffice back-stabbing. The defense brought a recusal motion based on my presence at the crime scene, an issue that has been litigated ad nauseum in California courts and other venues.. However, my supervisor told me had been informed by a member of our staff  that the judge was going to grant the motion. His Honor later told me he had prepared a ruling denying the defense motion, had hinted as much to both attorneys, and he soundly scolded me for recusing myself when there was no basis for it. Perhaps it was an innocent  misunderstanding on the part of a colleague, and perhaps it was not. Sobeit. Whatever the reason, the case was assigned to a fine prosecutor in the Victorville District Attorney's office, Gary Bailey. He got his verdict but it took years of spurious defense motions and shenanigans to do it, while my own career advanced. There was always another murder about to be committed.  Whoever thought they were robbing me of a plum was doing me a favor. I was the lucky one. While Mandi Scott's murder was languishing in the courts, I was assigned other cases, one of which defined my career.  In the television reinactments of that case, I got to say a whole lot more than 'Take the bloody wall.'


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.