I’m Back Online!

We made some changes to the website and, due to some of the changes, lost some posts. If there is something you remember being on here but don't see it now (and would like to again) please let me know and we'll look for that specifically.

In the meantime, I'll be posting new things while my writing continues. As some of you know, I have been having shoulder issues for a couple of years due to the amount of time I was putting in at the computer. I finally got those issues resolved in April after a great deal of massage therapy (Thanks Joleen!) and a couple of months of physical therapy (Thanks Mary Margaret and Marquita!).

Unfortunately, I then went on one of our normal beach vacations and tripped over a step and fractured the same shoulder in two places. This means that my writing was again restricted to almost zero because the fractures caused intense pain when my hand was held in the typing position. I tried using voice recognition software and dictating what I would normally type but as many writers know, dictation can result in an awkward document which doesn't sound natural so I decided to wait until I could type again.

This will be a gradual process because I am having to gradually build up my typing time and retrain those muscles so I hope my readers will bear with me.

I'll post more on the projects over the next few weeks but, as usual, I have a number of them going. I have several fiction novels I am working on as well as another ghost writing gig on a non-fiction "how to" book.

More to come on the projects but if anyone has anything they'd like to send me or they've heard me mention a project in the past and they'd like to know what stage it is at, just drop me a line, I always love to hear from my readers!

New Books Coming Soon!

I’ve gotten a few communications on my annual appearance at the Natchitoches/NSU Folklife Festival and whether I will have any new books there and I thought I’d do a short post.

We have an anthology we have put together of some older (pre-1920s) pieces concerning Louisiana as well as the poems from the collection I’m still working on. Also included in the anthology will be the full version of The Bottle Tree, which will also be available as a standalone book. 

In addition, we are working to get a couple of other books together using pre-1920s works which we thought were interesting. Karren is coming across these while helping me do research for my novel, Louisiana, which is still a ways off.

Hopefully, I’ll also have the second book in the Junebug series completed. The title is Junebug and the Monkey. I’m about 25,000+ words into it (100 pages or so) but that’s only about a third finished. For some reason this books is fighting me as hard as I’m fighting it. As many of you know, I’ve always felt that the characters in my book come to visit and sit with me to tell their story but in this case they just won’t come to visit. Still, with any luck it’ll be ready for the festival which is July 15-16, 2016.

I hope to see all of you there!

History, Anne Frank, and The Syrian Refugees – America is Better Than This (or Should Be)

Sometimes, as a writer, I do feel obligated to speak up on certain points. I generally keep politics out of my writing discussions because my readers (and friends) vary across the political spectrum, and I have other places I can voice my views. However, the Syrian refugee issue is different since it involves so many aspects I write about, including the failure to understand other cultures which was the basis of my book, The Bottle Tree, and, of course, the protagonist of the Noah Chance series is a young man with Down’s Syndrome. 

When I first heard all of the right wing Governors stating they would refuse to allow refugees in their state, my first thought was “More grandstanding because that’s unconstitutional”.

However, that happens so much I didn’t dwell on it long.

My next thought was “Has everyone forgotten their history?”

Although I don’t usually reference Wikipedia for my writing, I have done so in this piece since the information is verified based on other sources and Wikipedia is a quick, see of yourself, location to see the information on this topic.

In 1939, the MS St. Louis, a German ocean liner (made famous by the book and movie Voyage of the Damned), left Germany with a cargo of 937 refugees seeking asylum from the Nazis. When they arrived in Cuba, their destination, they were refused entry.

The Captain then took his ship to Florida, where the U.S. Government denied entry and the U.S. Coast Guard (although they deny it) allegedly fired shots to turn the vessel away from where the Captain had considered running it aground and gaining access for the passengers that way. If you look through the newspapers, editorial, and Letters to the Editor pages of the newspapers it is easy to determine the refugees were refused for two reasons which were behind the laws at that time. First, the U.S. was still trying to appease Hitler to an extent and wanted to avoid being drawn into the war. Second, many people expressed hysterical fear that some of the refugees may have been spies sent here to commit espionage (essentially, the 1939 equivalent to the 2015 fear of Muslim Terrorists).

The ship then headed back to Europe. 

The United Kingdom agreed to take 288 of the passengers (31.76 percent), who disembarked and traveled to the UK via other steamers. After much negotiation by Schröder, the remaining 619 passengers were allowed to disembark at Antwerp; 224 were accepted by France (24.70 percent), 214 by Belgium (23.59 percent), and 181 by the Netherlands (19.96 percent). Without any passengers, the ship returned to Hamburg. The following year, after the Nazi German invasions of Belgium and France in May 1940, all the Jews in those countries were at renewed risk, including the recent refugees.

While the eventual fate of all of the passengers is not known, and the numbers have changed over the years, researchers from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum have now stated:

“Of the 620 St. Louis passengers who returned to continental Europe, we determined that eighty-seven were able to emigrate before Germany invaded western Europe on May 10, 1940. Two hundred fifty-four passengers in Belgium, France, and the Netherlands after that date died during the Holocaust. Most of these people were murdered in the killing centers of Auschwitz and Sobibór; the rest died in internment camps, in hiding or attempting to evade the Nazis. Three hundred sixty-five of the 620 passengers who returned to continental Europe survived the war.”

The Captain of the St. Louis, Captain Gustav Schröder, was an extremely honorable man and was awarded the Order of Merit by the Federal Republic of Germany after the war and in 1993, Schröder was posthumously named as one of the Righteous among the Nations at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Israel. His actions in trying to find places to accept those he felt a responsibility for should be looked at as an example by the “leaders”, both real and wanna be, in our country who never learned or want to ignore the history lesson.

In addition to the above situation, I also thought I remembered a tragic, yet interesting fact, I was able to verify through a number of sources but I’ll use a link to Snopes.com . Even those people who were unfamiliar with the St. Louis story would likely know the story of the young Jewish Girl, Anne Frank, since many of us had The Diary of Anne Frank as required reading in school.

What most don’t know is that in 2007, researchers discovered old files in a New Jersey warehouse which revealed Otto Frank, Anne’s father, had tried for many months to obtain visas for he and his family to come to the United States as refugees from the Nazis. 

An April 2015 article titled “Op-Ed: Getting Anne Frank All Wrong” published in Arutz Sheva addressed the plight of Anne Frank and other Jewish refugee children who perished:

Otto Frank, Anne’s father, dutifully filled out the small mountain of required application forms and obtained supporting affidavits from the family’s relatives in Massachusetts.

But that was not enough for those who zealously guarded America’s gates against refugees. In fact, in 1941, the Roosevelt administration even added a new restriction: no refugee with close relatives in Europe could come to the U.S., on the grounds that the Nazis might hold their relatives hostage in order to force the refugee to undertake espionage for Hitler.

Once again, fear of a remote possibility cost people their lives. 

Those who oppose allowing the refugees in without solid reasons to back up the stance should join with others who feel the same way (Democrats or Republicans), invest in a cutting torch and visit Liberty Island, taking the time to remove the words from the plaque at the Statue of Liberty, since apparently it no longer applies:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

There’s already precedent in American history for denying entrance, but it was wrong then just as it is wrong now and the result will be the same.

Aren’t You Glad…

First, I want to say that I love being a writer. Except when I don’t. 

Right now I’m working a couple of novels and a true crime book that is kicking my…well, you know. I’m 40+ pages into the true crime book, am pretty comfortable with all of the material (that’s where my time as a trial lawyer is proving helpful) but I can’t get an outline completed that I like and don’t really want to just do the thing in a linear fashion. Plus, unlike my usual stuff, when the facts don’t cooperate I can’t just make stuff up and trudge on.

I’m not a big fan of silence when I write although I don’t really want to talk, I usually play movies or music videos on one of the computer screens and work on the other and that’s what I’m doing today as I try to break my writer’s block and wait for my muse to show up.

My video playlist is extremely varied, as are my musical tastes. One video mght be Blue Oyster Cult and the next one a tune by Ma Rainey (blues artist from the 30s). The Sex Pistols are on there as is N.W.A. 

On this particular day Katy Perry’s “Last Friday Night” popped up (I don’t care, it’s a funny video, I’ll insert it below) and there’s a stanza in there that I just love:

Pictures of last night

Ended up online

I’m screwed

Oh well.

It’s a blacked out blur

But I’m pretty sure

It ruled

Damn!

It was particularly interesting because last night Karren and I watched Terminator Genisys, which is about how Skynet takes over and destroys the world because of everybody wanting to be online all the time.

Social media is great in a lot of ways. It allows me to unilaterally talk to my fans, to friends, and to meet new people all over the world. I’ve got several writer “friends” across the world that I likely would have never had the chance to interact with absent Facebook. There are others who aren’t writers but are friends because I asked or they asked and they seemed interesting (and it turns out they are!).

But I am so, so glad social media didn’t exist during those years before I settled down and particularly in high school. I have to temper what I put on my blog and elsewhere because I know my Mom and my kids read it. Mom would probably still have a stroke if she knew all of the misadventures I’d pursued and the kids (adults now) would regard it either as permission or hypocrisy that what I did and what I told them not to do are polar opposites.

 But the good thing about being a writer is that I can stick some of the memories into a book somewhere and people (at least the ones who weren’t there) won’t know if I made it up or if it is a bit of personal history.

I can’t fathom why so many people, my age and younger, have the inclination and want to take the time and effort to put their entire lives online for others to see.

I know I wouldn’t have done it but I also know I probably had some acquaintances who would have and likely my endeavors would have been chronicled just because I was there. There was one party where friends woke up in the front yard the next day, plus the dog had vomit all over him and even he looked ashamed (the dog, not the friend).

The thought of having all of that preserved for posterity anywhere other than my mind just makes me shiver.

 

A Story Without an Explanation

As I've mentioned before, I think some of the best writing taking place now is for the premium channel series like HBO, Showtime, etc. (I'm particularly looking forward to Ash v. the Evil Dead premiering Halloween night).

One show I was happy to see return was The Leftovers on HBO. The premise of The Leftovers is that 2% of the world's population disappears in an instant and no one has any explanation. Of course, the immediate thought is that The Rapture has occurred but that appears unlikely since serial killers, child molesters, etc. disappeared along with children, every day folks, etc. 

The show has a lot of unanswered questions but I suspect the writers are never going to answer the question about what happened to the people who disappeared. I haven't read the book on which the series is based but my understanding is there was no explanation offered.

Generally, when I'm writing (or reading) I like to have all the questions answered and the premise tied up in a nice little bow. However, many of the books don't do that. Stephen King, in particular, doesn't always feel a need to explain why something happens in his books and short stories (by the way, King's books are, for the most part, great, but where he really shines is in his short stories and novellas, The Mist being just one example). 

What about you, my readers? Do you feel frustrated if there are unanswered questions in what you're reading or are you okay with leaving some things open to interpretation?