Venture Galleries http://venturegalleries.com Connecting Readers, Writers, and Books Wed, 27 Jul 2016 20:26:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Are readers buying the same old story over and over again? http://venturegalleries.com/blog/do-readers-want-the-same-old-story-over-and-over-again/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/do-readers-want-the-same-old-story-over-and-over-again/#comments Wed, 27 Jul 2016 07:40:46 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=77700 FOR SO LONG, I confess, I have believed that authors should write what their heart wants them to write. Forget the genre. Don’t even worry about mixing and matching genres. Your novel may be a sizzling romance. The plot and... Read more

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FOR SO LONG, I confess, I have believed that authors should write what their heart wants them to write.

Forget the genre.

Don’t even worry about mixing and matching genres.

Your novel may be a sizzling romance.

The plot and subplots may all be triggered by an intriguing mystery.

The story may take place in outer space.

Yesterday.

Today.

Tomorrow.

It doesn’t matter.

It’s all about the story.

I still believe that.

But I fear that we as authors, in a frantic attempt to place more and more books on Amazon and other eRetailers, have become complacent.

We have developed a simple formula.

It fits the genre we like.

It’s a comfortable place to write.

But, without our realizing it, we find ourselves writing the same old novel with the same old characters wallowing in the same old plot over and over again.

But why should we worry?

Readers loved our work once.

They’ll love us again.

Well, we better start worrying.

Readers, I’ve discovered, don’t want the same old novel with the same old characters wallowing in the same old plot over and over again.

That train of thought struck me when I listened to judges for the First Chapter Contest sponsored by the East Texas Writers Guild.

I read the entries when they came in.

I had a lot of friends submitting them.

I was prejudiced.

I didn’t have a damn thing to do with the contest or the results.

I’m just a used word salesman, but the contest judges were a different breed.

They were educators.

They were librarians.

They were bookstore owners.

More than anything, they were serious, no-holds-barred, I go through three books a week readers.

I have no quarrel with the decisions the judge made. The winning entries were all well written, well edited, and deserved to be at the top of any contest.

What surprised me, however, were the entries that didn’t win.

Many were written by some of the best authors working today. Many possessed brilliant writing. So why didn’t the judges choose them?

Here is what I heard the judges say.

I’ve read that story before.

I’ve read those kinds of characters before.

Different novels.

Same characters.

The writing was great, but the plot has been around for a while.

I’m tired of reading about serial killers.

Two people kissing doesn’t make a romance.

“What do you want to read?” I asked one of the judges.

“I don’t care if it’s romance, mystery, thriller, science fiction, fantasy, or historical fiction,” she said. “I want to read a story I’ve never read before. Our final decision was based on whether or not we would buy the book and read it.”

In essence, those judges were refusing to wade through the same old novel with the same old characters wallowing in the same old plot over and over again.

Readers, they said, are looking for something fresh.

Readers like to involve themselves with characters and plots that are original.

Readers want stories that are different.

Readers are intrigued with stories that take you someplace you did not expect to go.

It’s easy for writers to come up with a new story, but that may not work so well when dealing with today’s readers, young and old.

It’s time we think about breaking the mold, fighting our way out of our comfort zone, taking the hard road and not the easy one, and developing a totally new story that has a totally new twist.

We don’t necessarily have to walk away from our genre of choice, but it might be advantageous if we take a chance on a concept we’ve never considered before, a story we’ve never told before.

Look at recent blockbusters.

Harry Potter.

Twilight.

Fifty Shades of Grey.

The Girls.

The Girl on a Train.

The DaVinci Code

The Devil in White City

Water for the Elephants

When published, there was nothing like those novels anywhere in the marketplace.

So sit down tonight and invent an innovative concept that pushes and stretches your imagination beyond its limits.

Look hard at story idea you’ve created.

Ever read anything like that before?

No?

Why not?

It’s unconventional.

It’s compelling.

It’s extraordinary.

Well, it might be the story you’ve been waiting all your life to write and just didn’t know it.

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A Quiet Walk in Her Garden http://venturegalleries.com/blog/a-quiet-walk-in-her-garden/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/a-quiet-walk-in-her-garden/#comments Wed, 27 Jul 2016 07:10:41 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=77689   I COME HERE To walk And sit in the garden Her garden The one we called Dee-Dee’s Garden And found a little sign Declaring it so The garden she looked after Even in her Weakened, declining state So... Read more

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I COME HERE

To walk

And sit in the garden

Her garden

The one we called

Dee-Dee’s Garden

And found a little sign

Declaring it so

The garden she looked after

Even in her

Weakened, declining state

So hard to get going

And keep going

Despite the fierce

Challenging

Discouraging heat

Yet she fought back

Digging and planting

Sometimes replacing

Those roses

The elements claimed

And pruning

And watering and feeding

And protecting

Her roses

Her pink roses

The ones she

Would get up early

Even stay up late

To look after

And pick off the bugs

The ones to which

She would sternly order

To get off my roses

My sweet roses

My sweet pink roses

And stay off my roses

You nasty bugs

And take cuttings from

And take roses

Pink roses

Inside our home

To put into

Her little vases

And place in this room

And that room

To brighten

This nook

And that cranny

And make our day

And hers

And now and then

Take to a neighbor

Thus cheering them

And so I come here

To this place

This garden of hers

Which she left

Exactly

Two lonely years ago

This day

This garden she shared

With us

And o’ so many others

This garden

From which she

Really never really left

To which she still comes

Though she is gone

This garden

Which is an

Expression of her ways

Her gentle

Yet courageous

And encouraging ways

Her smile

Her love

Her comforting laugh

Her humor

Her tenderness

Her commitment

Her humanity

Her compassion

Her helper supporter attitude

Her joy

And so

To her garden

Her garden of pink roses

The one

She graciously allowed me

To here and there

Plant a rose not pink

But the color of my choosing

My very own choosing

A yellow one here

A white one there

A red one in between

And now I come

In moments like these

Sad, sad yet tender

Consoling moments

Of reflection

And remembrance

Come in profound sadness

Yes

Moments of

What’s that wetness

On my cheek

And yet

In this reflective moment

In her garden

Her pink rose garden

To smile

And rejoin her

And know the essence of her

The spirit of her

The abundant joy of her

And somehow go on.

 

(Roger Summers is a journalist, essayist and author.)

 

 

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The Journey of a Novel from Beginning to End http://venturegalleries.com/blog/the-journey-of-a-novel-from-beginning-to-end/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/the-journey-of-a-novel-from-beginning-to-end/#comments Wed, 27 Jul 2016 07:00:20 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=77681 I WROTE A BOOK, something I’d yearned to do since childhood. I naively thought I’d start at page one and proceed in a logical fashion to “The End.” Instead the story came together in fits and starts with a whole lot of organizing,... Read more

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I WROTE A BOOK, something I’d yearned to do since childhood. I naively thought I’d start at page one and proceed in a logical fashion to “The End.” Instead the story came together in fits and starts with a whole lot of organizing, reorganizing, writing and rewriting—much of it done at night when I suffered from insomnia. Scribbles on yellow sticky notes, written in the dark, barely decipherable in the morning, eventually came together as a novel.

In all of my childhood dreaming, I had never considered the roller coaster of emotions that would come with the author role.

Initially, I told no one about my writing, rather embarrassed to presume to have the ability to put myself somewhere among the ranks of my favorite authors. But I couldn’t just leave my baby, er, I mean my novel, sitting on my computer so I joined the provincial writing guild and became a member of a critiquing group.

517Z8F4crTLWe were strangers on a mission, all new to the business of being an author, but determined to succeed and intent on helping each other reach our goals. Meeting once a month, nervousness morphed into confidence—not only of our own work, but also of the members’ genuine desire to help, not insult or hurt.

From the critiquing group I progressed to working with a writing partner sending work back and forth, brainstorming ideas, and making corrections. With a completed manuscript it was time to search out agents. I trotted off to the post office and, hands trembling a little, handed my letters over to the clerk.

I waited, impatiently for the post man. Replies did come—eventually. My heart beat faster, my hopes rose. I tore open the envelopes. Rejection. Rejection. Rejection. Hopes dashed, I glared at my computer, gave it a figurative kick and left it standing alone and lonely on my desk. This period of gloom lasted anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours after the receipt of one of those letters.

Refusing to give up, I started to write a second novel while preparing more queries for the first. Eventually a fat envelop arrived. My heart leapt. This had to be good, right? All the others were skinny with little “Dear Author” notes inside. A fat letter had to be a positive response. Not! Rejection and pages of agent advertising urging me to spend a bundle of dollars on various services they just happened to be able to offer. Angry and frustrated, I debated quitting. Any sane person would give up. Not me. I persisted. I kept writing.

It was at the Willamette Writers Conference (not the first conference or workshop I’d attended, by any means) that I first heard about self-publishing. My writing partner and I pitched to an agent. She was positive, asked to see our work. Elated, we drove home plotting our future. A couple of weeks later we received identically worded rejections from this agent for two very different genres and writing styles. Angry at first, frustrated beyond belief, then overcome with laughter, our determination solidified. That was it! No more agonizing. Future defined. We’d self-publish.

Persistence paid off. I now have six books published (a four novel science-fiction series, one collection of short bits, and a contemporary novel) available in all formats. Ideas are swirling in my head for book seven. Now to get them to settle down into a logical order so that I can write it.

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ETWG First Chapter Book Awards: For the Children’s Sake by N. M. Cedeno http://venturegalleries.com/blog/etwg-first-chapter-book-awards-for-the-childrens-sake-by-n-m-cedeno/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/etwg-first-chapter-book-awards-for-the-childrens-sake-by-n-m-cedeno/#comments Wed, 27 Jul 2016 06:40:57 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=77685 For the Children’s Sake by N. M. Cedeno is a Finalist in the Mystery/Thriller Category of Published Books for the East Texas Writers Guild First Chapter Book Awards. The children are quarantined. Their touch is deadly. Their advocate is dead,... Read more

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For the Children’s Sake by N. M. Cedeno is a Finalist in the Mystery/Thriller Category of Published Books for the East Texas Writers Guild First Chapter Book Awards.

The children are quarantined. Their touch is deadly. Their advocate is dead, and they want out . . .

Father Ingall Bryan is already dead, murdered outside his home, when his brother Nate finds his body. The priest had been the single-minded champion of the voiceless Allergen Children, whose inexplicable genetic mutation causes their touch to be deadly. Now that Father Ingall has been murdered, who will speak up for them?

The priest’s enemies were too numerous to count—from the families of those accidentally harmed by the children, to those fearful that the children may wipe out humanity at will. Are they ruthless killing machines, or innocent victims?

It soon becomes clear that Nate will have to find his brother’s killer on his own. Nate’s investigation raises questions that somebody doesn’t want answered. Traps lie around every corner as the killer tries to stop him and any research that could help the Allergen Children.

As the body count increases and the attacks on the researchers escalate, the situation for the quarantined children becomes explosive. Can Nate solve his brother’s murder in time to save the researchers’ lives, defuse a political time bomb, and prevent further injustice? He must, for his brother, and for the children’s sake.

 1-Finalist-Mystery-page-001

Award-Winning First Chapter

 

“The message says, ‘Don’t come. You can’t help. I don’t want you blamed if something happens to me.’ That’s the last I heard from him.” Nate handed his phone to the detective, who took it in a gloved hand and dropped it in an evidence bag.

“You ignored the message and came anyway?” said the detective with a raised eyebrow.

“Not immediately, I got the message at eleven p.m. I was waiting to hear from him, but he didn’t respond to any of my calls or texts. As time passed, I started to worry that something was seriously wrong. Then, at 1:26 a.m., I knew he was in trouble. I had to come.”

N. M. Cedeno

N. M. Cedeno

“You left at one-thirty a.m. on a Monday morning and drove from San Marcos to Houston because of a feeling that your brother was in trouble.”

“Yes,” said Nate, hoping the detective believed him.

“Then, you found him dead on the ground outside his residence,” said the detective, not hiding his skepticism.

“We’ve been over this. Ingall was dead when I found him. I pounded on the door until someone inside the building answered. I called 911. That’s it.”

The detective sighed. “No one else was around when you found your brother?”

“No one.”

Detective Janwari stared at Nate, waiting for more information, maybe expecting Nate to tell him who had killed his brother.

An uncomfortable silence filled the space between them and chilled Nate, forcing him to speak again. “Look, I don’t know what happened. I don’t know why Ingall thought something might happen. He didn’t tell me what was going on. Look at my phone. I tried to call, but he didn’t answer. I sent messages, but he didn’t respond. Check his phone. You’ll see.”

The detective stared, his face unmoving, disbelief in his dark, cold eyes. “Did your brother have any enemies?”

Nate stared back and gave a wry grimace, astounded that the detective had bothered asking that question. “Are you asking me if Father Ingall Bryan, voice of the Allergen Children’s Rights Movement, had any enemies? Are you kidding me?”

A red flush filled the detective’s face. “Did he have any personal enemies?”

“He didn’t have time for anything personal. Ingall devoted all of his time to the children. He spent all his waking hours working for them. What you saw on television was Ingall’s life. He was calm, patient, reasonable, and driven to fight for the sake of the children.”

A sneer formed on Detective Janwari’s lips, the gap between his upper front teeth making his mouth look like a lopsided jack-o’-lantern. “Those kids could wipe out eighty percent of the population with a touch, or simply by leaving skin oil on doors or, worse, in the water system. They’re born killers.”

“That’s your opinion. That kind of reasoning fed the fear of HIV-infected people in the 1980s and led to the quarantining of people with leprosy for centuries. You might want to join the rest of us in the twenty-first century.” Nate’s retort dripped with contempt that he knew he should rein in, but the detective’s response was the knee-jerk nonsense spewed by the mainstream media when they wanted to create paranoia and build suspense in order to gain the right number of eyeballs to sell premium advertisements.

Red-hot anger filled the detective’s cheeks, and his hands clenched on the table. “Look, you bastard, I know what those kids can do. They killed my cousin.”

Nate took a deep breath, but his anger bubbled up, and his words came faster and louder the more he spoke. “They killed both of my parents, too. Accidentally! No one could predict this mutation. No one went around trying to kill anyone. The kids’ parents didn’t know that their children’s skin oils would cause other people to have allergic reactions. I’m not going to argue this with you. The courts have already decided that you can’t charge an infant with murder, and you can’t charge the parents with negligence or anything else. The problem was unforeseeable! If you want to find my brother’s killer, look for people like you!”

The detective lunged forward across the interrogation table. Another officer standing to the side of the room leaped forward and grabbed Detective Janwari by the shoulders. Nate slid his chair back from the table, putting a few more inches between himself and the heaving, furious man. The second officer, a muscle-bound, dark-skinned man, shoved the shorter, leaner detective out of the interrogation room. Before the door slammed, Nate heard the detective say, “Whoever it was did the world a favor. I’d rather shake his hand than arrest him.” Nate was left alone at the table to regain his composure.

Nate propped his elbows on the table and rubbed his eyes with the heels of his palms. It was past ten a.m., and he hadn’t slept. He was exhausted, in need of a shower, and almost numb from the overwhelming wave of grief that threatened to eviscerate him. Ingall’s absence left him mutilated in a way he never knew was possible. The ache was beyond anything he’d experienced in his thirty-five years of life. Even his parents’ deaths hadn’t hurt this badly. The image of Ingall lying on the ground, his eyes open, and small, bloody spots on his chest floated before his eyes.

An hour and a half later, as Nate was dozing at the table, Detective Janwari returned. “Mr. Bryan, you’re free to go. Your cell phone GPS places you near your home in San Marcos until one-thirty a.m. Cell tower data and toll records show your car speeding through various checkpoints between two and three this morning. We know you weren’t present at the time of the murder. However, you need to remain available for questioning.”

The detective’s rigidly controlled speech and mask of a face clearly indicated that he would rather arrest Nate than release him. Nate began to rise from his seat, but stopped as the detective spoke again.

“Your brother was trying to help evil people that barely qualify as human. If you ask me, he got what he deserved. Whoever killed him should be rewarded for protecting the rest of humanity. If you withhold information regarding this investigation, I will have you charged with interfering in the investigation, or even as an accessory to murder! All you crazies should be jailed for helping those monsters. I have two other active cases right now. Your brother’s case will get all the attention I think it deserves! Public figure or not, he can wait his turn like everyone else!” The detective slammed Nate’s phone down on the table in front of him.

“You aren’t even going to look for his killer, are you?” said Nate as he glanced at his phone, surprised the screen hadn’t cracked.

“I will investigate this case like any other, because it’s my job. I investigate the deaths of drug dealers and gang bangers, too. Don’t you dare suggest I won’t do what is required. I’ll follow protocol with all due diligence. But, I don’t have to care for your brother’s sorry ass any more than I’d care for a murdered serial killer.

Nate slid his phone into his pocket and refrained from responding, knowing the man was trying to provoke him into attacking, looking for a reason to jail him. He left the room and the police station as quickly as possible.

If the detective hated Ingall’s work, and hated Nate for defending Ingall, Nate doubted that the detective would try very hard to find Ingall’s killer. People had despised Ingall for championing the rights of children whom they saw as a threat to civilization. Nate realized that if he wanted justice, he would have to find out who had killed Ingall by himself. The knots left Nate’s stomach. The bleak sense of emptiness evaporated, replaced by an ember of purpose. Nate was furious at the detective, enraged at the killer, and angry at the unfairness of having lost his brother so soon. He wanted to hit something, anything, more than he’d ever wanted to in his entire life. He’d fought to learn to control his temper, more or less taming himself as an adolescent. Controlled or not, the internal flame had never died out. His parents hadn’t wrongly named him when they had called him Ignatius.

His parents had chosen the names Ingall and Ignatius for the twins before their birth. They had intended for the first born to be Ingall, which meant “messenger of God,” and the second Ignatius, “meaning fiery,” but they had changed their minds when Nate had come first, with a tuft of fiery red hair on his head and a demanding, irate cry. Ingall had been born less than a minute later, with brown hair and a calm, undemanding personality.

Ingall had certainly been the messenger, even when people had not wanted to hear the message. He’d earned more than his share of enemies. One of them had killed him.

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How do people talk in stories these days? http://venturegalleries.com/blog/how-do-people-talk-in-stories-these-days/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/how-do-people-talk-in-stories-these-days/#comments Tue, 26 Jul 2016 07:40:11 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=77673 SO THEY'RE TOGETHER, the high school football and the older woman, the femme fatale. He just lost the most important game of his life, and she’s waiting for him in the end zone on a field hidden by darkness and the veil of a heavy rain. So... Read more

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SO THEY’RE TOGETHER, the high school football and the older woman, the femme fatale. He just lost the most important game of his life, and she’s waiting for him in the end zone on a field hidden by darkness and the veil of a heavy rain.

So what happens next?

Well, here comes the dialogue.

So what do they say to each other?

That’s easy.

How do they say it?

That’s the question.

I’ve always been old school, comfortable with using the traditional speech tags of he said and she said.

That’s all.

The said is invisible. Nobody ever reads it.

You know who’s talking.

Let the story move along.

In my upcoming novel, Friday Nights Don’t Last Forever, this is the way I would have written it.

***

She kissed him softly and gently, running her tongue lightly across the stitches that were holding his swollen lip together.

Casey felt his hands beginning to tremble. He wanted to run. He knew it was time to run, but it was too late. Casey felt her fingers fumbling with the top button of his wet shirt, and she was peeling the soaked fabric away from his chest.

“What’d you do that for?” he asked.

“Because I’m a woman,” she said.. “And sometimes I act like a woman.”

“Jesus.”

“Was that a prayer?” she asked.

“No.”

“That’s good,” Karen said with a whisper.

He watched, barely breathing as she moistened her lips. Her umbrella fell out of her hand and dropped shamelessly to the ground.

“I get tired of being with a man who would rather pray than make love to me,” she said.

“But you’re a preacher’s wife.”

“He doesn’t treat me much like a wife sometimes. He’s too busy stroking that damn pulpit of his.”

“Brother Proctor would kill us if he caught us together out here,” Casey said.

“I’m worth the risk,” she said.

***

It works for me.

The story never slows down.

But maybe I’ve been wrong.

A new trend has come along.

Forget the speech tags, it says.

Describe the action of the speaker.

Not only do you hear what’s being said.

You can see what’s going on.

So in my novel, I wrote it this way:

Anne Bancroft as Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate is my idea of an older woman femme fatale.

Anne Bancroft as Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate is my idea of an older woman femme fatale.

She kissed him softly and gently, running her tongue lightly across the stitches that were holding his swollen lip together.

Casey felt his hands beginning to tremble. He wanted to run. He knew it was time to run, but it was too late. Casey felt her fingers fumbling with the top button of his wet shirt, and she was peeling the soaked fabric away from his chest.

“What’d you do that for?” His face was hot in the cold rain.

“Because I’m a woman.” The look of curiosity in her eyes had turned to one of amusement. “And sometimes I act like a woman.”

“Jesus.”

“Was that a prayer?” Now she was mocking him.

“No.” Casey could barely choke the word out.

“That’s good.” It was a whisper.

He watched, barely breathing as she moistened her lips. Her umbrella fell out of her hand and dropped shamelessly to the ground. “I get tired of being with a man who would rather pray than make love to me.”

“But you’re a preacher’s wife.”

“He doesn’t treat me much like a wife sometimes. He’s too busy stroking that damn pulpit of his.”

Casey backed away, nervously wiping the rain off his face. “Brother Proctor would kill us if he caught us together out here.” His voice was strained. His stammer was one of protest.

Karen threw her head back and laughed again. “I’m worth the risk.” Her eyes were dancing in the rain.

***

Does the story work better that way?

I hope it does.

An occasional he said and she said is all right, I’m told.

But for the most part, I’m packing said away until the trend changes.

The reason is simple.

You should write the way people want to read, or you shouldn’t write at all.

 

 

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You’re in the Army now if you want action and adventure. http://venturegalleries.com/blog/youre-in-the-army-now-if-you-want-action-and-adventure/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/youre-in-the-army-now-if-you-want-action-and-adventure/#comments Tue, 26 Jul 2016 07:00:30 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=77661 THIS IS WAR, MAGGOTS! You screw up, you better die because the men around you are gonna die because of you. If you wanna get home and get your girlfriends outta the beds of all the four-Fs left behind, then you better pray you fight better than... Read more

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THIS IS WAR, MAGGOTS! You screw up, you better die because the men around you are gonna die because of you. If you wanna get home and get your girlfriends outta the beds of all the four-Fs left behind, then you better pray you fight better than you…

Er…Sorry…I got carried away again…You’ll have to use your imagination to finish off the above sentence, which you should hear in your head in the voice of George C. Scott…Okay, then…It appears we are back this week with another look at the best of the war-centric men’s action/adventure series from the ‘70s and 80’s…

Billed as All Man, All American, Always In The Thick Of The Action, special agent and demolition expert Captain Mac Wingate needed eleven books to win the war single-handedly, but he did it…Published by Jove between 1981 and 1982 under the house name Bryan Swift, the Wingate novels are low level Guns of Navarone/Where Eagles Dare style WWII adventures. Casablanca, Albania, Crete, Corsica, Warsaw, Norway, Salerno, the Russian front, Anzio and anywhere Nazis threaten freedom, Mac turns up and blows stuff up.

W1Arthur Wise wrote the first and seventh books in the series with the nine books split between western writer Bill C. Knott and Ric Meyers—master of martial arts thrillers and many of the Dirty Harry books inspired by the movies.

I was able to ask Ric about his time with the series:

I had total freedom in plotting and creating my entries and truly enjoyed hinging the plot on actual WWII events—especially ones where something anonymous, unexplained, or mysterious happened, which I could then attributed to Mac.

 I also will always remember it was on this series where I had the first instance of a character talking back to me. I was certain I was going to let one character live until she entered my mind and said, you know I have to die, don’t you? Sure enough she did.

 I also loved creating a character who had seen so many war movies he refused to make any hopeful statement such as, nothing can stop us now! Invariably, in the movies, that character is immediately killed by an enemy soldier who’s not quite dead yet. I sorta regret having my character, in a moment of uncontrollable emotion, make the stupid statement he has tried so hard not to say and then gets killed. I shoulda let him live.

THE MAC WINGATE SERIES

Mission Code: Symbol (1981—Arthur Wise)

Mission Code: King’s Pawn (1981—Bill C. Knott)

Mission Code: Minotaur (1981—Bill C. Knott)

Mission Code: Granite Island (1981—Ric Meyers)

Mission Code: Springboard (1981—Bill C. Knott)

Mission Code: Snow Queen (1982—Ric Meyers)

Mission Code: Acropolis (1982—Arthur Wise)

Mission Code: Volcano (1982—Ric Meyers)

Mission Code: Track And Destroy (1982—Bill C. Knott)

Mission Code: Survival (1982—Ric Meyers)

Mission Code: Scorpion (1982—Ric Meyers)

HUNTER 1From the European theatre of WWII, we now fast forward to the fallout from the Vietnam War. The M.I.A. Hunter series led the charge for many similar themed books and movies starring either Sylvester Stallone or Chuck Norris. Conceived and edited by wordslinger extraordinaire Stephen Mertz—and written by some of the top names in the paperback original trenches under the house pseudonym Jack Buchanan—M.I.A. Hunter deals honorably with the genuine ‘80s concern there were living American M.I.A./POWs left behind after the end of the Vietnam War. Anecdotal evidence was rife unfortunately (or fortunately) solid proof never materialized. The sentiment, however, funs strong and you can still see the black M.I.A./POW flags flying today.

The M.I.A. Hunter is Green Beret and former POW Mark Stone. Along with giant red-headed Texan Hog Wiley and British demolition expert Terrence Lloughlin, Stone follows every clue to scour Vietnam for soldiers listed as Missing In Action. In later books, Stone and company expand into other countries and even take on work to help the CIA locate missing agents.

Over at his GLORIOUS TRASH blog, Joe Kennedy describes the series as an ’80s action movie on paper. It’s as if it was co-published by Canon Films or something.

I asked Steve Mertz about the genesis for the series:

My Mack Bolan novel, Return to Vietnam, pretty much knocked people out when it first appeared. The book was a tremendous success and made several trade bestseller lists. An editor at Jove saw the potential and asked me to sketch the M.I.A. concept as the basis for a series. Jove liked the characters of Mark Stone, Terrance Loughlin and Hog Wiley, and The M.I.A. Hunter was born. Interestingly, the books ended up resonating with a broad audience of readers beyond the general men’s series readership.

Mertz has taken advantage of the e-book format to not only make all the M.I.A. Hunter books available, but to also—after twenty years—add new titles. As for the time gap, Mertz says, Stone will remain at the age when he’s in his physical prime, in the time honored tradition of Mack Bolan, Mike Shayne, and many others.

M.I.A. HUNTER: HOSTAGE TOWN

When an M.I.A. mission goes terribly wrong, Mark Stone and his team are thrust into a showdown with terrorists who have seized control of an isolated Texas border town. But the invaders have not counted on the fury of Mark Stone, Terrance Loughlin and Hog Wiley. It’s a deadly race against time to rescue a church full of innocent hostages when world terrorism strikes the American heartland.

In his review of Hostage Town, James Reasoner (an amazingly prolific wordslinger himself) states, nobody does this sort of book better than Mertz. Compelling characters, fast action, a real sense of urgency and suspense. He’s one of the best adventure writers of our time, plain and simple. Highly recommended.

MARK STONE: M.I.A. HUNTER SERIES

M.I.A. Hunter (1985—Michael Newton)

Cambodian Hellhole (1985—Michael Newton)

Hanoi Deathgrip (1985—Joe R. Lansdale)

Mountain Massacre (1985—Joe R. Lansdale)

Exodus From Hell (1986—Chet Cunningham)

Blood Storm (1986—William Fieldhouse)

Stone: M.I.A. Hunter (1987—Chet Cunningham)

Saigon Slaughter (1987—Joe R. Lansdale)

Escape from Nicaragua (1987—Arthur Moore)

Invasion U.S.S.R. (1988— Arthur Moore)

Miami War Zone (1988—Bill Crider)

Crossfire Kill (1988— Arthur Moore)

Desert Death Raid (1989—Bill Crider)

L.A. Gang War (1990—Stephen Mertz)

Back to ‘Nam (1990—Bill Crider)

Heavy Fire (1991—Stephen Mertz)

China Strike (1991—Stephen Mertz)

Hostage Town (2016—Stephen Mertz)

FOR MORE ON THE M.I.A. HUNTER BOOKS CLICK HERE

FOR A GREAT INTERVIEW WITH STEVE MERTZ, THE CREATOR OF M.I.A. HUNTER, CLICK HERE

Paul Bishop is the bestselling author of Lie Catchers.

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Historical American: Sequoyah and the Talking Leaves http://venturegalleries.com/blog/historical-american-sequoyah-and-the-talking-leaves/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/historical-american-sequoyah-and-the-talking-leaves/#comments Tue, 26 Jul 2016 06:50:02 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=77666 HE SIGNED HIS NAME Ssiquoya or Se-quo-ya, as his name is often spelled today in Cherokee. His English name was George Gist or George Guess and he was a Cherokee silversmith. In 1821 he completed his independent creation of a Cherokee syllabary,... Read more

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HE SIGNED HIS NAME Ssiquoya or Se-quo-ya, as his name is often spelled today in Cherokee. His English name was George Gist or George Guess and he was a Cherokee silversmith. In 1821 he completed his independent creation of a Cherokee syllabary, making reading and writing in Cherokee possible. Cherokees called his alphabet the talking leaves.

The people of the Cherokee Nation rapidly began to use his syllabary and officially adopted it in 1825. Their literacy rate quickly surpassed that of surrounding European-American settlers.

Sequoyah was born circa 1776 near the Cherokee village of Tushkeegee, Tennessee. Very few facts of Sequoyah’s life are known. His mother, Wut-teh, was known to be the daughter of a Cherokee Chief and was a single mother. His father, Nathanial Gist (Guess or Guest) was an English fur trader.

Gay Ingram

Gay Ingram

Sequoyah never went to school and never learned English. He and Wuteh spoke only Cherokee. As a youth, he spent much of his time tending cattle and working in their garden, while his mother ran a trading post. An accident that resulted in lameness in a knee joint prevented him from being a successful farmer or warrior.

As a child, he had devised and built milk troughs and skimmers for the dairy house. He took up blacksmithing, so he could repair the iron farm implements. Self-taught, he made his own tools, forge and bellows. As he grew older and came in contact with more white men, he learned how to make jewelry and became a noted silversmith.

Taking over his mother’s trading post after her death, it became an informal meeting place for Cherokee men to socialize. He enlisted in the army in 1813–14, serving as a warrior of the Cherokee Regiment and fighting the British troops and the Creek Indians in the war of 1812.

Impressed by the writings of white settlers, he referred to their correspondence as “talking leaves.” Around 1809, Sequoyah began creating a system of writing for the Cherokee language. After twelve years of labor, Sequoyah developed a symbol for each syllable in the language. He had a system of 86 characters, each representing a unique sound of Cherokee speech.

Sequoyah first taught the syllabary to his six-year old daughter, Ayokeh before traveling to and sharing with the Indian Reserves in the Arkansaw Territory. Thousands of Cherokees learned to read and write within a few years. In 1824, the General Council of the Eastern Cherokees awarded Sequoyah a large silver medal in honor of the syllabary. By 1825 much of the Bible and numerous hymns had been translated into Cherokee.

In 1828, Sequoyah journeyed to Washington, D.C., as part of a delegation to negotiate a treaty for land in the planned Indian Territory. He continued to serve Cherokee people as a statesman and diplomat until his death.

Gay Ingram is the author of the historical novel, Not Bound by Blood.

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ETWG First Chapter Book Awards: King Tut and the Plagues of Egypt http://venturegalleries.com/blog/etwg-first-chapter-book-awards-king-tut-and-the-plagues-of-egypt/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/etwg-first-chapter-book-awards-king-tut-and-the-plagues-of-egypt/#comments Tue, 26 Jul 2016 06:40:41 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=77669 King Tut and the Plagues of Egypt by Douglas Derrer is a Finalist in the Science Fiction/Fantasy Category of Published Books for the East Texas Writers Guild First Chapter Book Awards. The mysterious death of King Tut eluded archeologists for... Read more

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King Tut and the Plagues of Egypt by Douglas Derrer is a Finalist in the Science Fiction/Fantasy Category of Published Books for the East Texas Writers Guild First Chapter Book Awards.

The mysterious death of King Tut eluded archeologists for centuries until the Plancks, a time-traveling family from the 25th Century, flew four millennia into the past to 18th Dynasty Egypt to investigate.

Encountering a vast volcanic eruption upon their arrival plunged them into the Ten Plagues of Egypt and the Exodus as two co-regent Pharaohs, Tut’s father and grandfather, battled over the fates of their Hebrew slaves.

Will they make it back to their century alive, and without bringing some deadly disease that has been eradicated for centuries?

10-Finalist-Sci-Fi-page-001

Award-Winning First Chapter

Buffeted by severe, erratic winds, the great golden sphere of the Time Machine [TM] slowly descended toward the desert of ancient Egypt. Powerful pulses like a boxer’s punch slammed against the ship, vibrating through its hull and sending shivers up Max Planck’s spine. He stood in front of the holographic video screen of the control console, but could see little as the maelstrom outside was so fierce. Occasionally, the vid screen image cleared. Then, he saw rock fragments as small as dust particles and some the size of a man’s fist, pelt his ship.

The ship’s chronometer indicated midday in Eighteenth Dynasty Thebes, but the view through the TM’s portholes, black as a starless midnight, made the clock a liar.

Douglas Derrer

Douglas Derrer

Anti-gravity [AG] thrusters and gyro-fields stabilized the TM, but Max could still feel the assault. This is one hell of a lousy welcome. I hope this storm’s not damaging my ship.

Max stared at the fluctuating images on the viewscreen. “Damn. That’s a godawful sandstorm out there. I’ve heard they can be horrendous in Egypt.”

“Shall I continue with your landing instructions, sir?” Jeeves, the computer, asked.

“Yeah, Jeeves. I want to get to the bottom of this.” Max smiled at his poor pun. “Bring the AG thrusters and the gyro-field up as much as you need.”

With thrusters and the field nearly full on to stabilize against the horrendous storm, the Time Machine finally settled into the blowing, drifting desert sand.

“Nice landing, Jeeves especially in this muck. Can you tell me what’s going on out there? Is this one of their famous Egyptian siroccos or what?” A pattern of lights and graphs flickered across the viewscreen. “Can’t tell much by that, old boy.”

“Frightfully sorry, sir. I am unable to ascertain the nature of this meteorological disturbance at present. However, inasmuch as it has the potential of doing considerable damage to the hull, I have taken the liberty of bringing up the deflector shields.”

“Wow. That bad, huh?” Max paused. “Yeah, I noticed you’d turned on the shields. Good. So, would you sample this stuff and determine what we’re sitting in the midst of?”

“Quite so, sir. I am analyzing now.”

Max walked across the cabin, spoke to the food dispenser. “Coffee, black, extra shot.” The machine burped and complied. Max returned to his vigil carrying a steaming cup.

A complex array of lights and patterns flickered across the viewscreen. Max studied them with much interest. You’ve gotta be kidding me. “I don’t believe this display, Jeeves. We couldn’t have landed in a worse situation, could we?”

“I’d say it’s rather dicey. However, sir, you did intend to land in this particular place, these specific spacetime coordinates, yes?”

Max paced up and down in front of the control console, sipping his hot coffee. “Well, sure, yeah… But hey. I didn’t expect this shit. You did bring us to the exact spacetime coordinates I gave you, right?”

“By all means, sir. But this is no ordinary sandstorm or sirocco. My analysis shows we are being pummeled by severe winds, acid rain, toxic gases, and tephra. Not to mention periodic subsonic eruption pulses.”

“Toxic gases? Acid rain? Eruption pulses? Jayzuz. What the hell is tephra?”

“A volcanic mixture of ash, dust, gases and small rocks,” Jeeves reported. “It is the ejecta of a typical volcano, part of its Plinian column, and seems to be mixed with storm clouds as well, sir, producing highly corrosive acid rain. Additionally, we are being hit with subsonic pulses each time the volcano erupts, which seems to be fairly frequently, sir.”

Flabbergasted, Max had nothing to say for one of the few times in his life.

Jeeves continued, “Frightful stuff, sir. One would not like to be about in it.”

“Jesus F-ing Christ. You’re telling me we came down in the middle of a bloody volcanic eruption?” Bloody? I’m starting to talk like Jeeves.

“Indeed so, sir. If I may be permitted a small liberty, I believe your son Mark would phrase it thusly: ‘we’re in a perfect shit storm.’”

Max laughed. “You’re telling me. I can see by your on-screen analysis we’re being pelted with pumice and tephra. Sand and gas are swirling around the ship, too.”

“Affirmative, sir. Do you wish to remain here? Or should I activate the thrusters and get us above the maelstrom?”

“Yeah, Jeeves, let’s beat a hasty retreat for now. No point in staying here and getting the hell beat out of the Time Machine by a cantankerous volcano. Besides, I just washed and waxed the TM before we left Port Aransas.”

“Very good. I’m acting on your orders instantly, sir… Uh… You washed and waxed the Time Machine before we left? I say. Whatever for, sir?”

“Relax, Jeeves. Just a little joke.”

“Your putative sense of humor continues to baffle me, sir.”

With a mixture of pinging, whining, and humming sounds, the mighty machine lifted into the air again, shooting straight up through the volcanic cloud with bone-crushing acceleration, ameliorated for the passengers by its artificial gravity field. Soon, the viewscreen cleared and Max had a commanding perspective of the entire area.

“Holy shit…” he muttered as he watched a monstrous Plinian cloud spread out below him, blown by storm winds from the northwest. He glanced at the altimeter. “We had to come up a hundred kilometers to get outa that crap? We’re well into the stratosphere.”

“Quite right, sir. This is a horrendous eruption, reaching as it does from this part of Egypt all the way back to Crete and beyond, some 800 kilometers or more. My databanks indicate it may be one of the two or three greatest volcanic eruptions in Holocene times. I’ve determined the volcano must be the island of Thera, due north of Crete in the eastern Mediterranean, sir.”

“Wow. I didn’t expect that kind of welcome.” Max moved around the TM peering out one porthole after another at the black, turbulent volcanic cloud well below them. A spectacular lightning show strobed throughout the cloud. “I just wanted to visit King Tut.”

“I’ve re-computed the era of our arrival, sir, and I think we’re off by several generations.”

“Damn. That bad a miscalculation huh? At least we’re still in the Eighteenth Dynasty.”

“Yes, sir, but the boy king will not be born for a number of years. We appear to have arrived late in the reign of Tut’s grandfather, Amenhotep III, who currently shares the throne with the heir-apparent, his son Amenhotep IV. The Egyptians invented this co-regency business in order that the dying pharaoh could be assured of his successor.”

“Clever. How’s that working for the Amen III and IV?”

“It is widely believed by historians the two pharaohs despise each other, sir. The father has the upper hand; the son rebels against his yoke, counting the days until the old man expires.”

“So father and son don’t get along, eh? Yet they share responsibility for ruling an empire. Sounds like a real dysfunctional family. Maybe one of the first, after Adam and Eve, of course…”

“Your mordant sense of humor, sir?” Jeeves asked. “If not, may I suggest not applying Twenty-fifth Century standards to this dynamic and turbulent period of the Eighteenth Dynasty: two powerful men fighting for their ideals and the future of Egypt. My historical archive indicates when the son takes power, he radically alters the entire social, political, and religious fabric of his era.”

“I see. Lotsa action, then.” A wry smile creased Max’s face. “Okay, thanks for the history lesson. I think our arrival time here is not so bad considering we were shootin’ in the dark from nearly four millennia away. We hit the target pretty damn close. Now we’ve got a virtual pin in the time-map of the Eighteenth Dynasty and can navigate from here with a lot more precision.”

“Congratulations, sir. You’ve achieved a scientific marvel worthy of a Nobel Prize. You are the first man to have traveled through time. It is a privilege and an honor to serve you.”

Max strutted about the cabin with a big smile and bowed several times to the cameras, the computer’s eyes. “Ah, shucks, Jeeves.” False modesty emanated from Max. “T’weren’t nuttin’, really. Any chrono-quantum physicist worth his salt coulda pulled it off…”

“But none did save you, sir.”

“Yeah, true. But we need to keep this little caper under our hats, Jeeves. As you know, time travel is strictly against government regulations. So mum’s the word on our illicit little exploit, pal. Okay? I hope I make myself clear.”

“I quite understand, sir. So I presume that means no Nobel for you.”

“Right. No Nobel. Unless the government changes its obstinate mind.”

“I’m very sorry, sir. But why does the government object? All your other scientific endeavors have been enthusiastically supported, regardless of who is in power.”

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When characters rip the story away from you. http://venturegalleries.com/blog/when-characters-rip-the-story-away-from-you/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/when-characters-rip-the-story-away-from-you/#comments Mon, 25 Jul 2016 07:40:59 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=77654 WHEN IT COMES to writing a novel, the author has three jobs. Sit down. Shut up. Stay out of the way. When the author tells the story, it falls flat. In reality, the author is nothing more than a stenographer or a court reporter.... Read more

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Film-Noir-3

WHEN IT COMES to writing a novel, the author has three jobs.

Sit down.

Shut up.

Stay out of the way.

When the author tells the story, it falls flat. In reality, the author is nothing more than a stenographer or a court reporter. The author listens. The author writes down what the characters do and say. That’s all.

For example, an author might tell this story:

***

Ambrose Lincoln sat down with Dr. Sloane, a psychiatrist, and let her probe his conscious and subconscious mind. She learned he had been wounded while meeting with a dubious business associate during a conflict somewhere in Germany. It had been a cold night, and he picked up the box he had been assigned to deliver. He had not expected the fight or the gunshot. He could not remember the details. He only recalled that he had awakened in a prison cell, and men he did not know had come to take his memory away. The name on the box had been Lincoln Ambrose. He took it for his own.

I read it. I yawn. I close the page.

So when I write the passage again, I rely on dialogue and let the characters tell the story for me. Why not? They know a lot more about the story than I do.

Here is the new version.

***

Dr. Sloane stood up, walked around to the side the desk, sat down, tilted her head slightly, and asked softly, “What do you remember, Mr. Lincoln?”

He closed his eyes and tried to scrape his way past the pile of salvage scrap metal that had buried his distant past. Or was it last week. Time was the great illusion. Now you see it. Now you don’t. Now you have it. Now it’s gone. “I know it was winter,” he said at last. “It was cold. The snow had been falling for weeks. It was night. The whole city was dark. No lights. No moon. Nothing. Just darkness.”

“What were you doing in the cold?”

Through the faint haze that had been draped across his memory like a piece of surgical gauze, Lincoln again saw himself walking through the snow. The cold had not seared its way to his bones.

“I had gone to meet a man,” he said.

“Business?”

“I was being paid.”

“By whom?”

“The mailman.” Lincoln grinned. “He brought the checks.”

All of his yesterdays had become as empty as the narrow and ancient street that stretched far beyond his gaze. His mind was as pitch black as the night that had swallowed him in a cold, deadly mist.

Dr. Sloane asked again, “Then what happened to you?”

“I woke up in a prison cell.”

“Why?” she asked.

“Wrong place,” he said. “Wrong time. Wrong town.”

“Were you tried in court?” Dr. Sloane asked.

“No.”

“Why were you convicted?”

“There were two of us in the alley,” Lincoln said. “He had a gun. I didn’t.”

“What were you convicted of?”

Lincoln shrugged. “Wrong place,” he said again. “Wrong time. Wrong town.”

“Were you injured?” Dr. Sloane asked.

“I healed.”

The bullet wound had not killed him.

He ignored it.

He kept the details to himself.

“What was the fight about?” Dr. Sloane wanted to know.

“I had something he wanted.” Lincoln smiled sadly. “It was something he wasn’t supposed to have. He took it.”

“What did you have?”

“A box.”

“What was in it?”

“I wasn’t paid to look in the box,” Lincoln said. “I was paid to deliver it.”

“Who was supposed to receive it?”

“The man in the newspaper.”

“What was he doing in the newspaper.”

“Obituary,” Lincoln said.

“Who was he?”

“The name on the box was Ambrose Lincoln.”

“How did you acquire the name?” she asked.

“I stole it.”

 

“What about your own name?” she asked.

He shrugged.

“They took it away from me.”

“Who?”

“The men in the shadows.”

Dr. Sloane paused and looked up toward the harsh light. She sighed, glanced over her notes, and began again.

“Was there a fight over the box?”

“If so, I must have lost,” Lincoln said.

“Does that bother you?”

‘What?”

“Losing.”

“It’s not something I dwell on.”

“What do you dwell on, Mr. Lincoln?”

“Waking up tomorrow in no worse shape than I am today,” he said.

***

Somewhere along the way, the author lost control. The characters ripped the story away from him.

I know.

I’m the author.

And I never had control of the story again.

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Did she die of a broken heart or a broken voice? http://venturegalleries.com/blog/did-she-die-of-a-broken-heart-or-a-broken-voice/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/did-she-die-of-a-broken-heart-or-a-broken-voice/#comments Mon, 25 Jul 2016 07:00:42 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=77641 Florence Foster Jenkins believed she was a talented Operatic soprano. I WATCHED MY GUEST'S facial expression when the CD started to play. As I had predicted, Margaret, made an awful face. “I have always been curious about this, Peggy—she... Read more

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Florence Foster Jenkins

Florence Foster Jenkins believed she was a talented Operatic soprano.

I WATCHED MY GUEST’S facial expression when the CD started to play. As I had predicted, Margaret, made an awful face. “I have always been curious about this, Peggy—she preferred to be called Peggy—so I was in an ordering mood when I saw the CD offered in a catalog that promised items to inform, enlighten, and entertain.”

“Ugh! That is not enlightening at all.” Peggy started laughing. “Who is playing the accompaniment? They can’t keep up with the singer.”

The devil in me made me linger in my chair a minute longer so Peggy would get the full effect of the whole number, then I removed the CD from the player.

“Who is that? Why were you so glad to find it in a novelty catalog, anyway? It doesn’t seem like something anyone would be looking very hard to find.”

“The artist is Florence Foster Jenkins. She lived from 1868 to 1944 and she fancied herself a brilliant opera singer. The reason I ordered it was my own overpowering curiosity. I wanted to see just how bad it was.”

Peggy then said, “Okay, now I get it. You got it for its awful-ness. Who on earth was this woman?”

“She is somewhat obscure, but you will be hearing a lot about her in the months to come. A movie about her is being released this summer. I was hoping you would go with me to see it, but now I am skeptical.”

Florence-featured

“Well, we’ll see. Tell me a bit about her. Was she a character?”

“That she was, and she should have a full page in The Mysteries of the Human Mind. I have never once seen her story in reading about people whose own minds played tricks on them. She was born into a wealthy society family, Charles and Mary Jane Foster. Charles was a lawyer and land owner near Black Mountain, Pennsylvania. Florence had a younger sister who died when she was only eight. Mrs. Foster saw to it that Florence had piano lessons and lo and behold she became a child prodigy on the piano. She traveled the state, performing classical music and later played for the President Rutherford B. Hayes in the White House. She was good.”

“I am assuming something happened to destroy her musical abilities.” Peggy was giggling.

“As much money as her father had, he refused to pay for her to study music abroad—her fervent desire—when she graduated from high school. She was crestfallen and soon eloped with a Dr. Jenkins, possibly for revenge. That did not last long and they parted ways under a cloud of mystery, but she kept her married name. The only thing left for her to do to support herself was to give piano lessons in Philadelphia. Then the arm injury happened.”

“What arm injury?”

“She somehow injured her arm to the point that she could no longer instruct the pupils. Her mother helped her out on the sly, and when her father died, Florence had the money to follow her dream of a music career. She took instruction in voice, and more importantly, she established networks with members of the New York City music scene. She started a music club of her own, became a music producer, and a music director. Along the way she had met a Shakespearean actor and they had a common- law relationship for the rest of their lives.”

“Oh for pity’s sake—why didn’t she just marry the actor?”

“There is a question as to whether she was legally divorced from her first husband. She did not want this first husband’s name mentioned and did not have anything to do with him.”

“Very odd. I wonder what he had done?”

“For all of these years, she did have a constant accompanist, Cosme’ McMoon, and yes that is Cosme’ you hear on the CD trying to keep up with Florence and her erratic singing, and actually trying to cover up her mistakes when possible. Cosme’ was competent and wrote and arranged music. Florence saw herself as a talented operatic soprano, and nothing could change her mind. She had no sense of tone or rhythm. She could not sing on key, and she could not pronounce the lyrics to the operas correctly.”

“This is so mysterious,” Polly said. “She was a child prodigy on the piano, yet that ability, or even knowledge, did not extend itself to singing in any way. Is that what you are telling me?”

“That is what I am telling you. The woman could not sing and was in fact awful, but somehow she was able to plan her own private concerts and they were always sold out. The viewers thought it was a comedy show. When occasional laughter rose up from the audience, she told concerned friends that those laughing were planted in the audience by her rivals.”

“She reminds me of Mrs. Miller who was on the Ed Sullivan show, but Mrs. Miller knew she was a comedy act.”

Florence was very careful and screened her audiences. She made sure no professional critics were able to enter. She had been giving her performances at The Ritz Carlton Ballroom, mainly, and private clubs. She orchestrated the ticket dispersal, herself, avoiding the critics. She designed and made elaborate costumes and threw rose petals into the audience. She was so popular that her fans demanded a performance at Carnegie Hall. She yielded, and at the age of 76 gave her performance there. The tickets to the event disappeared early on and there were many noted celebrities in attendance including Cole Porter, Lily Pons and Andre Kostelanetz. She knew she could not keep out professional critics and they did attend and gave her scathing reviews that crushed her. While in a music store two days later, she had a heart attack and died within the month.

“Possibly, she died from a broken heart.”

“The mystery about her strange behavior continues. You see, her first husband had passed on to her a medical condition that was euphemistically referred to as the secret disease or blood poison. She probably took high doses of mercury for the condition, and either the mercury or the condition itself may have been causing some cognitive problems.”

There was an audible gasp coming from Peggy’s direction.

I continued. “There is a camp of people just as large that are convinced that the medical condition had nothing to do with it. She simply believed what she wanted to believe, even if the truth was staring her in the face, they say. In order to end on a good note, Peggy, I must add an anecdote: Florence was once a passenger in a taxi cab when it had a minor collision, causing her to squeal. Later she wanted to make sure the cab driver got a box of expensive cigars. She claimed that the squeal had produced the highest F she had ever been able to hit.”

Sara Marie Hogg is the author of Quite Curious, a collection of stories about the unknown and unexplained.

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