Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Today in History

Do you read a daily newspaper? In our small town, we get our local newspaper, The Progress, still delivered to our door by a paper girl. After a busy day at the computer or working in the yard and around the house, I enjoy sitting down with a cup of coffee and the local paper. I even have our newspaper held when we’re on vacation, or sent to us if we plan to be away for a long period of time at one particular place.

I know many people now read all their news online, but I still love the newspaper in its original form—a somewhat flimsy, drab ecru, non-glare news print that allows you to touch, browse, flip from news to sports to comics to Dear Abby in seconds. You can easily lay it aside if you get interrupted, but quickly return to your favorite spot minutes later. And no one cares if you fold, bend, or wrinkle it—or later reuse it to wash your windows or catch the water and mud from your dirty boots!

There is one particular section of the newspaper I particularly like. It’s called, “Today in History;” and for a writer, it has a wealth of information. For example, on Tuesday, August 5th in 1884, the cornerstone for the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal was laid on Bedloe’s Island in New York Harbor. In 1914, what is believed to be the first electric traffic light system was installed in Cleveland, Ohio. In 1924, the comic strip “Little Orphan Annie” by Harold Gray made its debut. And in 1962, actress Marilyn Monroe, 36, was found dead in her Los Angeles home, her death ruled a probable suicide.

Along with an important event on a selected same date in time, “Today in History,” also includes birthdays of important people and a “Thought for Today.” As a writer, we are always looking for those rare tidbits of information to squeeze into a historical novel or to give us a spurt of creative energy, a springboard leading to other similar ideas. Right now, I’m curious to learn about the behind-the-scenes preparation and work for erecting the Statue of Liberty. But of course, when today’s paper arrives, I may be led astray to yet another topic.

We all have ways to jump start our imaginations as writers, artists, musicians, dreamers, and people who enjoy toying with the creative muse. What are some of your catalysts for creativity?

To be fair to my favorite Progress column, I can’t end without sharing my favorite “Thought for Today,” taken from the August 4, 2014 edition: 

        “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”—Anne Frank (1929-1945).

Friday, July 11, 2014

You Can't Have Too Many Shoes, Can You?

I have always been fascinated by shoes. When I find a pair that fits, I often buy the same style in a different color. You can’t have too many shoes, can you?

History cannot pinpoint exactly how or where the first shoes actually evolved. However, I am convinced that the process was probably spurred on by early cave women, egging their menfolk to develop something that fit better, felt better—and looked better than what their neighbor was flaunting when she emerged from her cavern to pick berries and gather firewood.

Various sources state that the very first footwear that resembled shoes were found in drawings on Spanish cave walls some 15,000 years ago. The crude shoes were merely baglike wrappings made of animal fur and skins that may have been padded with grass and leaves and were worn in the cold regions or on hazardous terrain.

The first know footwear in warm surroundings consisted of sandals made of plant fibers or leather. The ancient Egyptians wore sandals as early as 3700 B.C. along with the ancient Greeks and Romans. In China, people wore wooden-soled shoes and cloth shoes for thousands of years. American Indians developed leather moccasins long before European settlers arrived.

Somehow through the ages, shoes have become a part of people’s clothing; and fashion often determines the style of shoes a person wears along with the climate and a person’s occupation and activities.

HERE ARE SOME REAL FUN FACTS (with credit to ShopSmart):

According to Consumer Reports National Research Center for ShopSmart magazine, the average American woman has 19 pairs of shoes. But she only wears four pairs regularly and one quarter of the average woman’s shoes have only been worn once!

On an average, a female from ages 13-16 may own about 15 pair of shoes including sneakers. And older woman 16-21, who perhaps has a job: 25-40 pairs. A mature woman 25-+, anywhere from 40-60 pair of shoes.

Thirty-three percent, or one third, of women have trouble finding the room to store all of their shoes.

Close to half of the female population (43%) has been injured, at least moderately by their shoes.

Sixty percent of women have regretted a shoe purchase.

So, tell me, what’s on your feet and what’s in your closet?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Happy Birthday, America!

Independence Day, better known as the Fourth of July, is the birthday of the United States of America. It is celebrated on July 4th each year in states and territories of the United States and is the anniversary of the day on which the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Continental Congress—July 4, 1776.

The founders of our new nation and thirteen colonies considered Independence Day an important occasion for rejoicing. The first Independence Day was observed in Philadelphia on July 8, 1776. The Declaration was read, bells were rung, bands played, and the population rejoiced. In early day, Independence Days were occasions for shows, games, sports, military music, and fireworks.

The exuberant use of fireworks and the firing of funs and cannons caused deaths and injuries in the early days. By the 1900s, people began a movement toward a “safe and sane” Fourth. Cities across our nation passed laws forbidding the sale of fireworks unless trained people were hired to explode them.

In 1941, Congress declared July 4th a federal legal holiday. Today, many communities stress the patriotic importance of the holiday and celebrate with programs, pageants, games and plays, athletic contests and picnics.  

Happy Birthday America!

Monday, June 23, 2014

THE ART OF LOVE AND MURDER - by Brenda Whiteside

 I'm pleased to present an excerpt of Brenda Whiteside's new book, The Art of Love and Murder, published in April 2014 by The Wild Rose Press. It is "Book One" in the Love and Murder Series. 
 Although she didn’t start out to write romance, Brenda found all good stories involve complicated human relationships. She has also found no matter a person’s age, a new discovery is right around every corner. Whether humorous or serious, straight contemporary or suspense, all her books revolve around those two facts.

In celebration of the release of The Art of Love and Murder, Brenda is offering a $25 Amazon Gift Card. Please take time to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway at the bottom of the blog post.

Momentarily struck dumb by his eye color, she stared back. Why hadn’t she noticed until now? Although not as light as hers or her father’s, the professor’s eyes were a startling green shade.
His hand nudged her arm. “Lacy?”
She jumped. “Oh, yes.” She slipped the tissue from the half-carved wolf. Another glance at his eyes and goose bumps riddled her arms.
He lifted the wood close to his face, using both hands as if handling a delicate hummingbird. His thumb traced the neck of the creature to the juncture of where it emerged from the wood. When he brought the piece to his nose, closing his eyes and breathing deeply, Lacy wanted to turn away from the oddly erotic gesture.
He swallowed, opened his eyes and set the wolf back on the tissue. His attention shifted to the photograph of the chest. He touched the photo, a smile on his lips. “Where is the chest?”
The chest. Like he knew it, had seen it before. “I’m having it sent. You’ve seen it before?”
He didn’t move, stared out the window as if deep in thought. “I’d like to show you something, Lacy.”
“All right.” She waited, watching his profile.
He turned and stared into her face a moment. “You’re so very lovely. A creation full of life and passion, surpassing any art form.”
His hypnotic voice floated on the classical strains drifting from the living room. She couldn’t speak. Didn’t know what to say. She’d been lifted upon a pedestal of admiration. With any other man, she might consider his words a means to a sexual end. The professor’s intentions, however, were crystal. He admired her like a work of art. 

When it comes to the setting in a story, do you prefer an imaginary place or the real thing? To date, all my stories have taken place in real cities. I’ve had to change the names of hotels and restaurants, but I still pattern them after the real places. I have a friend who writes paranormal. What I like about her books, well one of the things I like, is her fantasies take place in real places. Kind of fun to imagine vampires walking next to me on the streets where I live! So how about you, real or imaginary places?

The Wild Rose Press




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Friday, June 6, 2014

The Rare Month of June

This year, the month of June crept up on us slowly and silently, easing it's way into the summer season, instread of "busting out all over" like the song so aptly implies. It was a chilly spring with lots of rain, and the foliage and flowers huddled until the last moment to greet the summer sun.

June is one of my favorite months. The world is new and green. It’s the time of year when the smell of roses, lily-of-the-valley, and wisteria linger on the mist as dusk arrives. It’s the month when you can smell sun-baked hay in the fields and fresh-wet earth in the gentle rains.   

If you close your eyes, you can hear a repertoire of songs from the birds—the trill of the song sparrows, the cry of the killdeers and blue jays, the chatter of the chick-a-dees, and the soft lilt of the whippoorwills. It’s a time when the wind whispers in the pines and leafy maples, and bobs and bends the tall meadow grasses into rippling waves.

June is a time of motion and excitement as butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds juggle for space and a taste of the blooming flowers. But June is serene and calm when nightfall arrives and a sliver of a golden moon hangs in the star-filled sky…and the only interruption in the silence is the tranquil sounds of night insects and tree frogs serenading each other in the grass.

And what is so rare as a day in June?
Then, if ever, come perfect days. . . 
     --From: The Vision of Sir Launfal 
 by James Russell Lowell

Sunday, June 1, 2014


Out in the Fields
by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

The little cares that fretted me,
     I lost them yesterday,
Among the fields, above the sea,
            Among the winds at play;
Among the lowing of the herds,
           The rustling of the trees;
Among the singing of the birds,
            The humming of the bees.

The foolish fears of what may happen,
I cast them all away,
Among the clover-scented grass
            Among the new-mown hay;
Among the rustling of the corn
            Where drowsy poppies nod,
Where ill thoughts die and good are born—
        Out in the fields with God.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Remembering Those Who Served

Formerly known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day is a U.S. federal holiday to honor the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. The holiday is celebrated every year on the final Monday of May after Congress declared it a national holiday in 1971. It is often thought to be the start of the summer season in the United States.

The holiday originated after the American Civil War to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War, and it was later extended to honor all Americans who have died while in military service. It was General John Alexander Logan who was instrumental in declaring a special day in May to be reserved to honor fallen Union soldiers who died during the Civil War (1861-1865). However, it was not until the 1880s that the term Memorial Day was assigned. And it was not until 1967 that the holiday was legally recognized as Memorial Day.

President James A. Garfield was the first president to speak on Memorial Day (then Decoration Day) while he was a Civil War General and Republican Congressman. On May 30, 1868, he spoke at Arlington National Cemetary, saying: "“If silence is ever golden, it must be beside the graves of 15,000 men, whose lives were more significant than speech, and whose death was a poem the music of which can never be sung.”

Each May, Memorial Day is the time when people visit cemeteries and memorials, and place flowers on the graves of their deceased service members as well as on the graves of their loved ones. Volunteers and cemetery personnel place flags on the graves of those who have served.