On the Eve of Election by Charles Bennett

YOU CHOOSE

“My two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart. . . .would qualify as not smart, but genius…and a very stable genius at that!”
Polls open at 7:00 am November 3, 2020

Another four years? YOU CHOOSE. #VOTE2020

“Nobody can do it like me. Nobody. Nobody can do it like me, honestly.” “Nobody is stronger than me.” “It’s all because of me.” “I know words. I have the best words.” “Our country is being run by incompetent people.””I’m not changing. I went to the best schools, I’m, like, a very smart person. I’m going to represent our country with dignity and very well. I don’t want to change my personality — it got me here” 

“The only people brave enough to vote out this corrupt establishment is you, the American people.”

It’s up to us to save our democracy.

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The Homeless Question by Mark Pavlichek

I’ve carefully followed both sides of the Sebastopol Inn Homeless issue in the news and on Nextdoor, and I have come to the conclusion that the Sebastopol Inn would not be an appropriate site for a homeless shelter. 

First, we have no guarantees regarding who it will house. Currently it is projected to be for those 65 and older or with health issues, but that may change. 

Second, oversight or management seems sorely lacking and without that, this appears to be a house of cards waiting to crumble. 

Third, Sebastopol does not have the infrastructure to handle the needs of those with severe health or mental concerns. 

Fourth, the current owners have a history of bad business management for which they should not be rewarded. This looks more and more like a bailout than a business deal.

That said, I must now take exception with the bashing and demonizing of our homeless population by some posters on Nextdoor—not all, so hold your outrage!

Opioid addiction is an epidemic in America. The Sackler Family who owns Perdue Pharmaceuticals was just fined a record $8 Billion for flooding the streets with their drug, Fentanyl. No one plead guilty, no one was arrested or did jail time. Their multi-billion dollar family fortune is still intact and they continue to enjoy their lives while too many families in this country mourn their dead or deal with the heart breaking consequences of addiction. 

But you deal a joint on the corner and you do 20 years.

“Well, that was the choice those junkies made,” many here have said. 

But I have a friend from the mountains of Kentucky. His family, like most there, goes back to the founding of the US. He told me there are so many dying every day from Fentanyl, that the mortuaries are beyond capacity and use grocery store freezers for the bodies. This is Middle America, conservative, tough, religious, hard-working and independent. Those people didn’t wake up one morning and decide to become immoral, degenerate addicts. So why have so many small towns just like his, whether in Kansas, Oklahoma, West Virginia, or Ohio met this fate?

The answer is the one that no one in the opposition wants to discuss: ECONOMICS.

And no—before I’m accused of wearing rose colored glasses again—it doesn’t cover every individual we see on the streets today, or absolve many from their poor choices. But the system is designed to move the bulk of the nation’s wealth from the bottom to the top and that consolidation has a profound effect on the 99%.

The abyss between the haves and the have nots is greater than even in the Robber Baron age of Morgan, Rockefeller, Astor and Vanderbilt. Millions of jobs have been lost to cheap labor in Asia. Real wages adjusted for inflation have not risen since the mid-70s. A recession every 8-10 years, as regular as clockwork, has cost many millions of homes to be taken by the banks and the result of all these foreclosures is another epidemic—one of homelessness. Nothing like a little recession to speed up land redistribution, because as one of those Robber Barons said, “When a man doesn’t have a home, he doesn’t have anything to fight for.” And without an address, you can’t vote.

When a person loses their job and their home, their dignity and pride often are taken as well. Studies have proven the generational impact of poverty and dislocation on the human psyche, and the effects are profoundly destructive. During the Great Depression we saw a spike in alcoholism as people sought to blunt the pain of a world they did not create. Today it’s drugs.  And just as with those folks in Kentucky, I doubt any of the street people we see said, “Boy, I can’t wait to grow up to become addicted to Fentanyl and live in a box.”

So, whatever your position on the current solutions being offered, I for one, would appreciate a more humane and compassionate view of the people involved, because they are people. And to those who’ve posted some of the most disparaging remarks, remember: standing on the shoulders of the less fortunate to make yourself look taller isn’t advancing the discussion in any positive way. 

Tossing ideas around on where to house them, or even treating their addiction, is a losing sum proposition because next year, next month, next week, there will be another generation of lost and damned UNLESS the cycle itself is broken!

And to the most vocal here—and your continued unwillingness to address the root economic causes of homelessness, while avoiding the REAL societal reform needed to truly fix it—I have to ask, “Why?”

America has not always been this way. It doesn’t need to remain this way. But the cure will require a real reallocation of our resources, as other nations have managed. We can’t just a rearrange the deck chairs as another generation of American hope sinks beneath the weight of an economy stacked against it. Are any of you up to it?

freedomandprosperity.org

For more information: 

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/evictions-coronavirus-americans-homeless-covid-19-rent_n_5f209d31c5b66859f1f3545b

https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/ny-purdue-pharma-oxycontin-settlement-charges-20201021-t5i4jgrpgjbmbhl55ti4zxrdka-story.html

Mark Pavlichek majored in journalism, creative writing and critique at U.C. Berkeley where he was selected to study with Pulitzer winner M. Scott Momaday, and PBS’ “Critic At Large,” David Littlejohn. He is the principal in West County Productions, a PR firm that created the Nature Conservancy’s first national campaign, Gift’s Of The Land; a cross-marketing partnership  featuring endangered species that generated nearly $1 million in sales and international press. And he is a founding partner in JAM Manuscript Consulting–A Full Service Editorial Team.

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The Puzzle by Betsy Roman

The Puzzle

Our nation is raging, crumbling and burning. Tattered shreds of decency and ashes of logic impede the understanding we need in order to pull ourselves from the pits of our mindsets.  Every one of us attempting to survive this mania of confusion wishes it were different. The puzzle will never make sense until polarized opinions are released from their blind bunkers and given not just an honest hearing, but a sincere listening; not only from others, but from within each of our stubborn centers of self. 

There are valid reasons why so many cultural pockets of our nation tenaciously cling to security blankets of identity, explode from cannons of generational inequities, or mute the sounds of desperate cries for survival. We understand our local worlds through the filters of our limited experiences, both a gift and a curse. We internalize what we have been taught and defiantly defend tradition, because exclusion is painful.

Where can we go to untangled the riddles of power, nightmares of annihilation, and twisted normalcy in times of lunacy?  Where is there room for everyone to see and be seen, to hear and be heard? How do we bring our rich national diversity into common contact with each other for the explicit promise of democratic law— of, by and for the people— all the people? It is time to engage the conversations in which solutions replace blame. 

The Bigger Picture:  Each of us is one among many; each perspective only a piece of the national portrait; each country its own continuum of historical conditions; each continent sculpted by forces of scientific formula; and each planet a unique speck in the whole universal scheme of things. Visiting the Bigger Picture is a mind-altering experience. It is also where we learn how everything and everyone are connected, what is needed from each of us and how we can contribute our gift of self toward the benefit of all. 

Each of us holds a unique piece in the Bigger Picture puzzle. Those who discover how their piece fits, contribute clarity to our humanity; those who hold fast to their puzzle piece render our understanding incomplete and inaccurate. We can do better than we imagine and we can be crueler than we admit.

Your piece could make all the difference.

Betsy Roman stepped out from her storybook childhood in the Northeast, remarkably unprepared for the maze of mid twentieth-century mixed messages and upheavals. While training to become a medical illustrator, a profession on the brink of obsolescence, she met her future husband working in a hospital lab sketching autopsies in the morgue. Within a year of their marriage, her husband was drafted into the Army Medical Corps and sent to Vietnam, while Betsy managed an orthopedic office in San Francisco. Being an officer’s wife at the Presidio and protesting the war during the Summer of Love seemed like a perfectly normal dichotomy of the times. Upon the safe return of her husband, they were reassigned to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where Betsy assisted in physical therapy and sang the only female part in the play, The Fantastiks— inside the federal penitentiary. Travel into the unknown became a way of life.

After settling in Los Angeles, Betsy attended to the education of their two children, as well as tutoring at-risk teens, teaching adult literacy, and becoming a liberal religious educator with the Unitarian-Universalist Association. With all good fortune, the family survived earthquakes, fires, riots, and Hollywood. Her move to the Napa Valley also brought her back to the acute care hospital setting as a medical transcriptionist until it, too, was rendered obsolete. 

As a faithful journal keeper, letter writer, and poet, Betsy began excising stories from a life of disruptions, infusing them with significance and stitching them with humor. She has written award-winning fiction for the Jessamyn West Creative Writing Contest in Napa. Her granddaughters continue to keep her happily disrupted, and growing vegetables keep her grounded.

#VOTE2020

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THE COVID CHRONICLES by Aletheia Morden

THE COVID CHRONICLES – BETWEEN THE FIRES 9-26-20, 3:00 a.m. Northern California

wallpaper cave.com

I tell you what’s changed—I see stars out there in the night sky. How long has it been since I’ve noticed stars? It’s not as if they weren’t there before. They didn’t go anywhere. They’ve been there since before the dinosaurs. And they went extinct a long time ago. Why are we so short-sighted and arrogant to think that we as a species won’t go extinct? We’re doing our darndest to make that happen. 

Sitting by the open kitchen window, what a luxury to feel the cool night air. How long since I’ve felt that? Like a kiss on my skin, a breath of what’s real to remind me that all is not lost—yet. My orchids are dying. They live on air. Like me they cannot breathe in this toxic smoke that blankets us from the wildfires. Get ready for the next round, they warn us. We’re not done with fire season and it’s heating up out there; three-digit temperatures by Sunday.

videohive.net

It was clear enough to see the moon tonight. From inside my self-quarantined apartment, I bathed myself in moonlight, the same moonlight that shone down on the dinosaurs and all the sorry civilizations of man since.

There’s always been conflict. Think of the Spanish marching into the “new world” and colonizing by killing. There have always been peaceful groups; they’re the ones that suffer. Those Europeans came, saw, killed and conquered. The Mayans and the Aztecs weren’t exactly bloodless societies. One brutal outfit just fought another brutal outfit. What for? Gold, land, possessions, greed. USA society’s all about money, land, possessions, greed. Some people came here just so they could breathe. That’s disappearing. And what are we replacing it with? Money, land, possessions, greed. And air we cannot breathe. 

Mother Nature’s giving us a smack: Air we cannot breathe safely. There’s a bomb floating around in it. Where it lands, nobody knows—until we sicken and die. 

Plus ca change, plus c’est la mểme chose. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Life’s a crap shoot. No wonder gambling’s so popular. We think we can beat the odds, and we never stop trying, even though there’s only one ending. Try not to think of death as failure. We are too much of this world at the moment. Let’s go back to the real we so often took for granted and hardly noticed: it was so commonplace. 

The night air that softly and luxuriously pours over me as I write is filtered by a beautiful tree outside my window. Birds used to live there. I have not heard birdsong in weeks. They used to be everywhere. Two weeks ago I was on a telephone call to my daughter, staring at the tree outside the window as we talked. A little bird came flying in and landed on a branch for a second or two before flying away again. I got so excited. “There’s a bird!” I exclaimed. “I haven’t seen one in over three weeks!”

Bird Painting flickr.com

“They go somewhere safe at time like this,” my daughter said. Of course they do. All animals hunker down for safety, even the human ones.

But someone was drinking from the water dish I keep on the front porch. I started leaving water out during a prior heatwave for all the errant cats that saunter through the yard, dogs that step off the sidewalk for some refreshment during their daily walk, the raccoons and god-knows-what other creatures who wander about during the night. I hadn’t seen much of any animal life since COVID hit, except people walking their dogs—cats they keep indoors, now. So, who was drinking the water I so faithfully replenished every day to keep it free of ash? Some days that dish stayed full. No one was venturing out at all.

And then, one evening as I walked downstairs to place a clean doormat by the front door, I saw a little fat squirrel come bounding up the garden path. I felt overjoyed at the sight of him, my first squirrel in weeks! And he looked so healthy. We used to have squirrels aplenty in this town. They’d move around on the squirrel highway, running along the neighborhood power lines, jumping from tree to tree. Since my landlord  cut the big tree down in the front yard last year, I’ve seen squirrels less and less. They used to run up and down the tree trunk taunting the cats, “catch me if you can.” But now, they stay more in their hiding places.

A small flock of Canada geese flew by my window yesterday, a much smaller flock than usual. But still, a flock of migrating geese! What joy to see them in a V-shape against the sky.

scribesgarret.wordpress

This is the real I cling to as an antidote to all the chicanery of politics in Washington. As Rome burned, Nero fiddled. These days, he’s playing golf. 

Thanks to designshrub.com and artist Katarzyna Oleska

Aletheia Morden

Aletheia’s had many jobs: teenage store detective. wine harvester in France, Hollywood P.A. and film reviewer for underground newspapers amongst others. Much volunteer work, too, including tutoring homeless children, arranging for NASA to bring their space mobile for a day of fun to inner city kids, and currently Foundation Vice Chair of an art and rare book collection. She lives at the top end of the Bay and looks out at Mount Tamalpais across the water.

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Covid Clyde by Donald Turner

Dear Alfred E. Neuman,

Please sit down. I bring bad news. Clyde died. COVID got ‘im. COVID killed Clyde.

As you may recall, Clyde was a racist, a philanderer, and a tax cheat. His other faults included lying, cheating workers, carelessness during pandemics, and narcissism.

By the grace of the almighty God, Clyde eventually forsook his hell-bent journey to perdition. After his conversion to Christ, Clyde served as an example of what God can do for a wretched soul. All over the world Clyde’s testimony brought sinners to Jesus. Clyde accompanied various evangelists including Rev. Billy Smores Graham Cracker and Rev. Hell-Fire Furness.

During a recent board meeting a member suggested you, Alfred, as a replacement for the late Clyde.

In this era of fear and uncertainty, your motto: What, me worry?, may be a calming blessing to many.

Alfred, you can Make America Grin Again. Before responding, please study www.ReprobateReplacments.org  

Sincerely,

John Smith, Chairman, Committee to Replace Clyde

th-1-1

Don Turner 2Donald Turner retired to Angwin, CA. after 29 years of aerospace computer programming in California for the Navy at China Lake/Ridgecrest, for Northrop Grumman at El Segundo, & for Boeing at Huntington Beach. In retirement Donald keeps busy with writing, gardening, exploring the internet, attempting stock market profit, mixing music with Bitwig, and making his two acres more fire resistant. He is divorced with two daughters and four grand-daughters.

After graduating in 1966 from Pacific Union College, Donald taught high-school math, physics and earth science at Fletcher, NC. from 1966-69, then math at PUC prep in 1969-70.  He holds a  Master of Arts degree in  Physics from University of Wisconsin,  Milwaukee and a Master  of Science in  Electrical Engineering from University of California, Davis. He represents his age in non-curvy digits.

What me worry?

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Predictions of Election Failure by Leona Rice

tonywastall.com
I need to put my energy behind getting civil liberties.
Our party’s candidate does not excite me.
My one vote will not make a difference.
 
My $20 bucks is nothing compared to the millions the rich donate.
I have no time to help right now.
Give to one place, they bombard you with requests.
 
Nothing will change for me.
I need to concentrate on my family.
I need to focus on my work.
 
Politicians are all the same.
I don’t get involved in politics.
I can’t believe either side.
 
Let’s see who endorses them.
I never bother with voting.
I don’t know how to get involved.
 
It’s too early.
It’s too late.
I’ll just sit this one out.
 
He is “old school.”
She has an uppity stare.
They aren’t attracting the young.
 
I have enough with Covid and fires.
I’m too depressed to function.
          I’ll move to Canada.
Former California Assembly Member, Leona Egeland Rice

During her three terms in the Assembly, Leona Egeland Rice successfully championed important legislation to improve children’s welfare, public health, and access to healthcare across the state.

A native of Tucson, Arizona, Leona came to California to earn a master’s degree in education at San Jose State University. She stayed in California as she began her family and her career as a science teacher. *She first became personally involved in the public sphere through her instrumental role in the campaign to build a new sewage treatment plan to prevent ocean pollution. *After three terms in the State Assembly, she became Chief Deputy Director for the California Department of Human Services in L.A. Later she returned to Northern California to work with The Doctors Company, a physician-owned insurance company. She served as Senior Vice President of Government Relations as well as Executive Director of the company’s charitable foundation. As The Doctors Company expanded beyond California, Mrs. Rice developed partnerships with other state governments. Furthermore, she championed the Corporate Charitable program and implemented an Employee Charitable Gift Matching program.*Now Leona lives in the Napa Valley with her husband and writes about her amazing life.

(Photo by Sergio Flores/Getty Images)

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United We Stand by Cliff Zyskowski

 

Certain days in our lives leave a permanent imprint, like a hot poker brand on cattle, a tattoo, charged with total recall, like it happened just yesterday.

United We Stand

9/11 I’m visiting clinical sites in Vallejo. My psych tech students are completing their internships at an out patient treatment center for folks with dual diagnosis. Autism, bi-polar, schizophrenia, developmental delays, head injuries: the students get to experience a patch work mental health quilt of many varied sizes, shapes and colors.

Ziggy cries out, “Why did they do this?” as we all watch the horror play out on the big screen TV in the day hall that morning. He has Down Syndrome. He is sensitive. He is a caring, loving human being laid to waste by tears as the story of the epic destruction of those twin towers unfolds.

Several of the participants begin to pace the perimeter of the room, their anxiety building, their coping strategies pushed to the brink. A staff person ushers Artie into a side conference room.

“Breathe Artie. Your breath like the ocean, remember? Breathe in the relaxation, breathe out the tension. You can handle this,” she implores. He’s hyperventilating, sweating, eyes open wide, piercing, pupils dilated, biting his hand, rocking back and forth at an increasing rate. She pages the off-site nurse for a PRN medication.

“I knew those Commie Pinko Fags were coming to get us. I heard them scheming last night. Their time has come. Our time is up…we’re next,” exclaims Josh.

Josh has paranoid schizophrenia. He’s hiding under a chair in the far corner of the room. Silently screaming in his mind’s eye, rubbing his head along the underside lip of the chair.

Mitch, the director, enters the room with authority. Turns off the TV. “Break up into groups of five. Today’s discussion: addressing our greatest fears. What is it that scares us? How do we cope with what we can’t control? How have we overcome obstacles in our past? How do we muster the courage and conviction to face our fears head-on? Meet back here at 10:30 before break.” 

Divided We Fall

July, 1966 Hot, muggy, Mid-western summer day. No breeze off the Lake. Mom rounds up us four kids from the yard into the house early before lunch. Me and my best friend Vinnie had planned on riding our Schwinn bikes down Rumble Hill to visit the old man with his roost of homing pigeons.  Not today.

“The blacks are marching past Portage Park to Norwood Park. They say 800 people will pass by our neighborhood and walk right past St. Monica’s church down the block from us. We’re all staying inside. People been throwing rocks at the marchers. I won’t let any of you kids get hurt. We’re not causing any trouble.” Not today. She looks worried, scared, pale. We obey without a fuss.

There are no black folks living in our neighborhood. This is the summer of the Chicago Freedom Movement. Martin Luther King is marching for equal housing rights. I’ve never even met a black person. Dad says when they move in, we move out ‘cuz, “They cause the property values to crash.”

“But isn’t your favorite baseball player Ernie Banks, a black guy?” I ask him.

No comment.

While Mom shakes Jiffy Pop with one hand and stirs the cherry Kool-Aid with the other, my curiosity runs rampant. I sneak downstairs and climb out thru the basement window. I hear hundreds of voices singing in the distance. This Little Light of Mine, We Shall Overcome, the voices gather strength, rising louder and more boisterous as the throng approaches the corner of Nottingham and Carmen Avenues and the steps leading to the entrance of St. Monica’s Church. Nobody out in the streets but them. Vinnie’s mom, Mrs. Funsch, peers out between the drapes of her front room window. I’m hiding in the bushes across the street from the Rectory. MLK, the man himself, approaches the church entrance. He silences the crowd by raising his right hand, palm open to the sky, as he surveys his followers with steely determination. Gesturing with both arms raised to the heavens, he gets down on one knee and says, “Let us pray.”

“Almighty Lord,” he cries out. “Hear our prayer,” respond the marchers, all genuflected on one knee.  “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, thy kingdom come thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…”

Heads bowed to the earth, prostrated on one knee, the congregation recites the Our Father…the same prayer I recite every night before bed. I find myself praying along, flushed out of the hiding brush, bent on one knee, “. . . forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, Amen.”

They pray, they feel, they sing, they kneel—just like us. My cup runneth over with faith in humanity.

Smile a Little Smile

Fall 1969 Summer of love passes. The annual 8th grade fall dance held in the basement of St. Monica’s rectory. I’m a nerd. One of three classmates wearing horn-rimmed glasses. Teacher’s pet. Too smart for my own good. But I made the basketball team. Tom Kowalski felt sorry for me and gave a fellow Polack a chance. In class, I sit behind Joanne Arcaro, 8th grade cheerleader. I whisper her a few answers during the math exams. Sister Felice proctors the tests. She is deaf.  

Joanne believes in me somehow. When it’s time for the last slow dance, she comes up to me and grabs my arm without a word, pulls me across the room to the middle of the dance floor. The 45 drops onto the Magnavox turntable playing Smile a Little Smile for Me. This isn’t one of those tightly held slow dances. Sister Jeanette wouldn’t allow such behavior. For the first time, I feel like a man—a woman asked me to be her dance partner. I find a cure for my case of nerd fever.

tenor.com

For the first verse, we alone take center stage. She looks straight into my eyes, smiles, as we rock back and forth in unison to the song’s chorus, breathing as one, the class nerd making waves with the babe of his dreams. Loving kindness endlessly travels through time captured by a memory.

Orange sky over Bay Area

Birds, by the thousands, drop dead from the orange.
  Ravens chant Nevermore.
A robin picks at a toasted worm, upended
  from the parched terrain.
Bees labor back to the hive with ash-laden pollen.
Sunflowers strain to lift their heads to the sky.
  There is no sun.

My mask blocks the virus, filters the smoke,
 hides the shame we face:
  Profit over Planet.
“They muddy the waters to make it seem deep.”
What legacy will we leave our children?
“You guys just stood around while
watching the West Coast burn?”

Who will unite ranchers, developers,
  conservationists?
Who is prepared to build a coalition,
a consensus among polarities, concerning issues of
Black Lives Matter,
Immigration and Customs Enforcement,
gun control,
global warming?

“We are the first generation
to feel the impact of climate change
and the last generation
that can do something about it.”

United We Stand, Divided We Fall

              Save the Earth,
             Value its worth,
             Before we dread
         The sky bleeding red.

 September 9th, 2020 The Day the Sky Bled Orange

Cliff Zyskowski
playing John Hiatt’s Have a Little Faith at Sonoma’s Farmer’s Market

Cliff Zyskowski is a retired psychiatric technician and a Chicago native now living the good life in wine country. When not hashing out a long-winded memoir, he plays the piano for inspiration. His work has appeared in The Bohemian and The Sonoma Sun.

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Stain on the Soul

If you haven’t read Michele Drier’s books, you should. She’s got something for everybody—even a fan club! She writes mysteries; her corpus includes a standalone psychological thriller, and she’s written a series of  (so far) ten paranormal romances—The Kandesky Vampire Chronicles. That’s where I tuned in, with volume 1, Snap: The World Unfolds, after I met her at a Left Coast Crime* conference in 2014. What an introduction to paranormal romance! I couldn’t put it down. But I invited Michele to Building a Better Story today to talk about the first in her new series, Stain on the Soul   A Stained Glass Mystery.

Michele dubs the book a “dark cozy” for the fact it  uses little  eroticism, violence or profanity, and surrounds a “current moral issue.” As with all of her books, her themes are important and disturbing. In Stain on the Soul, Michele explores themes of homosexuality, pornography, abuse and pedophilia and the cover-ups of pedophilia within the Catholic church. Dark indeed.

The book is set against the backdrop of quiet, seaside Hamilton on the Oregon coast ,where protagonist Roz Duke, has moved after the unsolved murder of her husband, Winston. Roz is an internationally renowned  stained glass artist working on an installation for a Catholic church, and plans to “use the beach, scoured by wind and water, to cleanse her soul and rebuild her creativity” after the senseless drive by shooting. Of course, her best intentions are shattered by emergency vehicles sirens and watching her neighbor’s body being taken away. The neighbor has been stabbed by one of her custom glass knives. She joins the Neighborhood Watch group, which introduces  her to journalist Liam Karshner. Liam and the act of the murder are Roz’s entree into Hamilton’s small town life of gossip at the diner, friendly police and odd neighbors.

Roz and Liam have different reasons to want to solve the  murder, but they form a team as their friendship  grows through shared confidences. As the disturbing truths are revealed, Roz uses her rescued Greyhound, Tut, the dunes, and sunsets from her porch as refuge from her grief and troubles as the wind and surf comb her mind to untangle the truth of her neighbor’s and her husband’s deaths.

I have to agree with one reviewer who describes the book as “authentic, not contrived.” It’s the characters who bring authenticity. Both Roz and Liam are well crafted and well-rounded. They have strengths, weaknesses, biases and secrets. Secondary characters such as busybody Patsy and Police Chief Giffen ring true to their purposes within the story as well. I believed  each character, down to the former priest living across the street and the retired fisherman and town drunk, Clarence.

As far as far plot goes—OMG! I was hooked from the start and didn’t see  the ending for the tight twists and turns throughout. Stain on the Soul reminds me of a Jane Marple mystery: quiet village on the surface, dastardly deeds underneath and way too many denizens with secrets. Not surprising, in an interview, Michele lists  classic British mystery writers—Christie, Sayers, March, as well as contemporary authors,  French, Atkinson and Sanford as favorites. The book appears to move slowly on the surface (Life in St. Mary Mead!) as Roz sifts who is innocent (Liam?) and who is out to get her, but it’s  a deception of the smooth dialog and calming nature of the setting. A lot is happening, and Roz has to work it out before she’s the next casualty

Just to let you know, Roz lives to investigate another crime. Michele says, “I’m half-way through the second book in the Stained Glass Mysteries, have a third one plotted, have another two plots for the Newspaper Mysteries, at least one more of the Kandesky Vampire and two more standalones (at least as this point, though they may turn into series). After Bouchercon, I’m going back to writing two or three books a year.” And with the pandemic, Bouchercon 2020 scheduled for Sacramento has been closed down for in-person attendance., but registration for Virtual Bouchercon October 16 & 17 is now open. Check it out: https://www.bouchercon2020.org.

Roz Duke is “already well into her next adventure on the south coast of Kent, England where she runs afoul of international art thieves.” Internationally renowned stained glass artist Roz Duke takes on a challenge—recreate part of the medieval masterpiece, the Bayeux Tapestry, a needlework done in the eleventh century to commemorate the Normal Conquest of England. While spending a sabbatical in Kent, staying near the site of the Battle of Hastings which changed England forever, she stumbles across a body in an ancient church, starting a journey of international intrigue and danger. Steeped in history, she finds this part of England has plenty of contemporary terror. (And you’ve still got time to read Stain on the Soul.)

LOOK FOR TAPESTRY OF TEARS AT THE END OF SEPTEMBER! 

Michele’s tips for emerging writers:

“Read, read, read. Know the language. Understand the basics of grammar. Know how to tell a compelling story. And show not tell. And read, read, read.” She reads anything she can get her hands on, especially crime genres, Nobel, Booker and Pulitzer lists. And, of course, books recommended by friends.

Autobiography
“I was born in Santa Cruz, California to a family that migrated west to San Francisco in 1849. Unfortunately, they never found gold, nor did they buy (and hang onto) any California land. My mother named me Michael, after author and actress Blanche Oelrichs, who wrote under the name of Michael Strange. After months of saying, “Yes, she’s a girl. Yes, her name is Michael,” my mother finally caved and I became “Michele.”

I was read to as a child, and needed always to have a book with me. My maternal grandmother belonged to a writing club in San Francisco in the early part of the 20th century and wrote poems and jingles–one of which won her a travel trailer during the Depression.

I’ve lived in San Francisco, the Bay Area, the Central Valley, the Sierra, Southern California and the North Coast.

My first career was in journalism, and I spent seven years as a staff writer with the San Jose Mercury News. After returning to Humboldt State University to complete school and work on a master’s, I fell into my second career, as a non-profit administrator, including a legal organization serving roughly 10,000 senior citizens in Alameda County. I’m a member of the Society of California Pioneers and Sisters in Crime and live in California’s Central Valley with a cat, skunks, wild turkeys and an opossum (only the cat gets to come in the house).”

Fun facts: She started college as a chemistry major and if she could re-do it, she’d be an anthropologist. Or maybe take up closed circuit sports car racing again? She used to drive in time trials.

Find Michele Drier at  MicheleDrierAuthor.com. Her Amazon author page lists all her books.

Michele’s twitter handle is @MicheleDrier . Please drop her an email or comment at mjdrier@gmail.com or her Facebook page www.facebook.com/michele.drier.

 

Editor’s notes: I’m hoping if you read and enjoy Stain on the Soul as much as I have, you’ll generously leave a review wherever you bought your copy and on Goodreads or  a readers site of your preference.

*And if you’re a crime reader—fiction or non-fiction— Left Coast Crime  is a wonderful way  for writers and fans to meet each other and share what’s new, what’s trending and what might be to come in our world in a friendly, intimate conference. I’m betting Michele will be there in 2022!

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Summer Reading

 

We’ve made it to  summer.  While coronavirus remains a threat, the weather is warm and, until fire season, we have a great opportunity to read (and drink!) So pull your lounge chair into the shade, mix a martini, and sink into a good read.

Here’s what’s on my list:

The Paris Package by A.W. Harton, set in pre-WW2 Europe. A young American couple on honeymoon in Vienna take possession of a book the Nazis don’t want  to surface, and they must get the book to its rightful owner in Paris.  The SS knows they’ve got it and are on their trail. I’m trying the Kindle/audiobook sync on this one. Too exciting to put down! I can listen while I make dinner.

 

The Blue Period by Luke Jerod Kummer about the young Picasso’s “blue period” as he bounced between Barcelona and Paris. Kindle.

Seven Stones to Stand or Fall by Diana Gabaldon—seven Outlander universe short stories to tide us through the season break! Audiobook.

 

Wicked Plants by Amy Stewart all about the sordid lives of plants behaving badly. Want to kill, maim, intoxicate or possibly drive someone mad? Do it nature’s way. Paperback.

 

No Bad Deed the debut thriller by Heather Chavez turns my home county into a menacing backdrop to a terrifying game of cat and mouse. Hardbound.

Not for everyone on the list, Steven James, Story Trumps Structure. How to Write Unforgettable Fiction by Breaking the Rules is jam-packed with great information. It was recommended by my favorite writer of mysteries set in Paris, Cara Black. She’s written 19 books. I’ve read them all. Start with the first book: Murder in the Marais and finish with the latest, Three Hours in Paris.


Finally, the drinking part! A Drinkable Feast. A Cocktail Companion to 1920s Paris by Philip Greene. Did you ever wonder what the Lost Generation drank and where they drank it? A Drinkable Feast not only offers the recipes, but tells the stories behind the drinks and the artists, writers, and celebrities who drank them. My favorite so far? The Bailey created by Gerald and Sara Murphy, wealthy American ex-pats—the inspiration for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s protagonists in Tender is the Night.

 

The Bailey

2 oz. Hendricks gin
1/2 oz. fresh squeezed grapefruit juice
1/2 oz. fresh squeezed lime juice
1-2 tsp. simple syrup
2 sprigs of mint

Tear up the mint leaves into a shaker, add the gin and steep for a couple of minutes, add the grapefruit then lime juices. Shake with ice and don’t allow it to dilute. Strain into a wine or cocktail glass and garnish with a sprig of mint. Enjoy!

 Drinking and literature—a time honored pairing!

And if you haven’t already, pop open a Victoria and try out the JadeAnne Stone Mexico Adventures. Lawn chair travel—next best thing to being there! These will offer you plenty of suspense and muy rico meals. Book three, Nothing Comes After Z is scheduled for release late this year.

2SET UP postcard   +   Now in digital and paperback  +

(and if poetry is your thing, check out Nature Girl. All available on Amazon)

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