My Lockdown by Dina Corcoran

Back by popular demand and coronavirus be damned! I’m thrilled to have Dina Corcoran as today’s guest blogger. Dina’s work inspires me to find the beauty and good in any situation—excuse me while I put on IZ’s CD and contemplate rejoining my “treasures” when the pandemic is over.

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My Lockdown

Old Toll Road is not a busy road under normal conditions, but under this lockdown it appears abandoned.  Alan and I walk it every day, and as we round a bend, we come upon a field of lupines and poppies busy being glorious—no one to notice them, except for us. 

A face appears, smiling a greeting from on high.  It’s the bee lady, up in the apple tree manipulating a pair of loppers as she prunes, surrounded by a few friendly bees. That’s it.  The only contact we have on the whole walk.

Back at home, the warm gentleness of IZ’s Hawaiian music soothes me.  I play it on Spotify to make it all go away—and it almost works.  IZ’s soft voice rolls over me like waves of the ocean.  When the waves break and calm down again, peace will reign.

My daughter Kim comes for weekly visits.  We sit outside on the deck, fifteen feet apart to maintain social distancing, and chat. She doesn’t even think of coming inside the house.  An attorney, she still has cases at her job; others at her firm have been let go, and she gets their work. This is sad for them, but a relief for her.  She can continue making the payments on the house she just bought. She enjoys working at home and being with her twin sons who must continue their college classes now via remote learning.

My son is an “essential” worker in Southern California for Cal-Trans.  He keeps the freeways functioning. With most everyone off the roads, the speed-demons have taken over, and its common for drivers to go 95 m.p.h. and crash into things. His mother worries about him hanging from light poles or overhangs, fixing the electricity, with this going on.  But he continues to get a paycheck.

Since we are over sixty-five, Alan and I are allowed to Email our grocery list to Cal-Mart, charge it, and have our purchases loaded into the car behind the store. No social interaction. When we get home, we don disposable gloves to unpack our supplies so we can wipe them down with a bleach solution. (Fresh produce gets scrubbed in the sink with water.) As they sit in the sun to dry, we notice that certain items have been left off the list—there’s never any toilet paper.

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My friends are tucked away like treasure to be saved for later. Except for the occasional phone call, we don’t see each other anymore. This virus! Gisela sits alone in a big house, since her husband died. She is saved by her German inclination to abide by a housekeeping schedule. Tuesday is laundry day. Every day has its own obligation.  Her week has structure.​​ ​Minna, from my book club, sips wine and reads Proust. 

th-5We all cope in our own way.

I write.

 

 

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Filed under Aging, Autobiographical Writing, COVID19, Guest Bloggers

These Days by Donald Turner

As COVID lockdown continues, folks are buzzing about how they’re managing. Our habits are changing, some for the better and  some for the questionable. We’re assessing our activities, our possessions, our purposes and letting go of what no longer serves us. Today’s guest blogger, Donald Turner, is letting slip his rigid schedule of accomplishment for  new habits: sleeping, flexibility and contemplating worms. 

These Days

Awake, I check the  time. Ahh. I can’t sleep, but I’ll rest a bit more. Smart phone in hand to track my sleep, I enable WiFi, Location, and Bluetooth for FitBit—slept five hours, thirteen minutes. Yuk. I want at least six hours, especially now, during covid-19 season. I’ve got to get to bed earlier and stop stimulating my mind near bedtime.

Sleep problems looping through my brain, I conclude adequate sleep is more important than completing projects, which can wait. I’ll give up some satisfaction in how much I get done in a day. Making daily progress will be enough.

Before rising, I spend about four minutes blessing my back by doing flexing procedures of ten-second counts each. A retired chiropractor and friends suggested these movements. The flexes are listed below for later reading by anyone interested. Start gently.

On my back, I do real motions on some imaginary devices.

  1. Bike pedaling
  2. Both legs together at the ankles, pedaling a single pedal.
  3. For slight twisting torque on my back, I keep my head against the bed while I arc my bent legs from one side to the other. The legs take turn being the more bent leg which crosses over the less bent leg. The less bent leg rests on the bed. As I get more flexible I push the knee of the more bent leg onto the bed. Repeat five times for each leg.
  4. Buttocks tightened against bed, then relaxed.
  5. Plank, supported by elbows and feet, I stiffen my back as I count to ten.
  6. As I let my back sag, I do pushups from my knees, not my feet.
  7. On hands and knees I do cat-like-spine-upward arcs and downward cow dips—beginning and ending folded as if in a Muslim prayer position.

Honoring my good habits, like the flexing habit, improves my days.

Once I’m up, I write about what interests me. If I suspect others would find value, I submit the writing—after tweaking—for the comments of my writing group. I start by reviewing topical lists I’ve created from various ideas come to me as I walk or think in bed. Introspective discovery and the challenge of fiddling with words motivate me.

I know a bunch of writing rules, such as: spell out small numbers like five and thirteen instead of writing 5 and 13.  But, I want numbers as digits to stand out among gobs of words. After all, my STEM education in science and technology biased me toward numbers composed of digits with their lovely shapes. Merely 10 digits.

On behalf of the magnificent TEN, I exhibit them: 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9. These shapely symbols tell me, “We don’t get no respect–at least not enough.”

Now in my seventh decade, I use a repeated non-curvy digit to represent my age. The older I get, the faster I get old. To me, my remaining time increases in value. Life has been mostly good during many happy years of reasonably sound body and mind. If I falter in my seniority, may my mind be last to fall.

My life, all life, is evidence of organized matter. Entropy is increasing disorder. Each life briefly overcomes entropy. However, entropy dominates some regions of the universe. My house is such a region–temporarily, I tell myself.

When my bodily entropy is certain to accelerate, an anatomy lab can have me as a corpse—after my brain fails. Such a donation will avoid an expense to my heirs and be a contribution to medical students—especially if my parts correspond to anatomy books.

Perhaps the chap book I’ll write could be tethered to the better looking of my big toes along with an ID tag and a note about my synthetic lenses and the exceptional length of my near-sighted eyes.

Thinking ahead, I’ll be dead forever, so I’ll more than catchup on my sleep deficits. There won’t be an I, nor a me. There was an I, a me. Dust to dust. Atoms to atoms. Entropy wins, but some atoms from my body may yet come to be in another life form, maybe in an earthworm.

Maybe some of my writng group remember my wormy poem:

I’ve never been an earthworm….without a single tear.

 

I’ve never been an earth worm

Never wriggled through the soil

Never flooded to a road

Never plucked by any toad

 

Glad I’m not a worm

Glad I’m still a man

 

On my corpse worms may feed

Extend beyond an ear

Slide out a vacant eye

Without a single tear

 

Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.

~Mark 9:44 King James Bible version

Donald 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.

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Hug The One You’re With by Cliff Zyskowski

We’re all going a little stir-crazy under stay-at-home lockdown. Read how one author, musician and yogi manages. Please give a virtual hand (after purelling) to Cliff Zyskowski and his stalwart trees.

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Hug The One You’re With

I shudder in place and need a hug. My wife and son both go off to their essential work duties. I ponder the idea of going out to see who else can’t stay at home, alone, all day—for another minute. I freeze. I see them. Two vultures circling above my yard, on the lookout for vulnerable senior citizens on the loose. Won’t the kombucha, crystals and sage smudge protect me against all calamities?

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I’ve already used the new bidet three times this morning, twice just for fun. Roaming the yard searching for direction, I’m pulled by some magnetic force, a gravitational light saber of mythic propulsion. The rustling branches open wide to welcome my embrace. We hug, Oak and I. It’s taller than my son, not as soft as my wife, it’s girth more than I can wrap my arms around.th-7.jpeg

I feel. Listen. Gather. Hang…on to the laden wisdom. Stability. Security. Sanctity.

“Thanks for not chopping me down five summers ago because of how I shaded your Doughboy pool causing the water to stay cold all summer. Remember how the arborist said I was a Heritage Valley Oak and you needed a permit to level me? He lied to save me. Pool’s gone, I’m still here. Good move.”

I’ve since built a deck under its canopy. We visit twice a day—when no one’s looking—before I feed the cats, the tree feeds me.

Moving on to Plum, I hold its decaying branches with a weathered hand. Aging together. It sends out suckers from its root structure. A proliferation of white blossoms announces spring’s arrival. Precious few fruits to savor at harvest.

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“Sorry to prune you so severely last fall. Had to make space for Fig. We burned your fragrant branches on special occasions this winter. The wood paired well with butternut squash soup. Our downwind neighbor noticed.” Plum nods a whispered gesture.

th-3.jpegI make my way over to Sycamore in the front yard. Majestic. Our giving tree. Bark peels off its trunk like dead skin after a sunburn. The rope swing still hangs after 20 years of joy-giving. Your skin grown around the intrusion of thick twine as an afterthought. Parks closed, neighborhood kids clamor forth, waiting six feet apart, for a chance to swing on the only game in town. I vigilantly purell the rope after each use. New pandemic verb; purell: the act of cleansing. Dirt re-appears under the worn grass beneath the redwood plank seat, a sign of the laughter and play only children can muster these days, missing since my boys are men now. Like a scab on the knee in the summers of youth, the bare patch of grass gets picked at, stomping, braking, gliding little feet, pumping the air, digging the earth, gathering flight in Sycamore’s shade.th-2.jpeg

“I’ve been meaning to thank you for curving your new sidewalk twenty years ago around my surface roots. Sorry my feeders send out water seekers into your sewer line. We had a four-year drought, remember? When you stopped watering the lawn, I had to do something. The rotor-rooter you rent clears the line once a year. Like spring cleaning, we can work together on this. You love the shaded parking spaces!” Wink, branch wave, pollen-filled seed bomb drops at my feet. “The runny nose I send your way clears the sinuses of the plague, you know.”

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I grab an extra early-morning hug from Valley Oak. The crescent moon and Venus have long since set beyond the fog’s horizon. A mourning bird sings a harkening tale of day-break. Will this be the day the numbers of those infected have flattened? Parks re-open perchance?

th-1.jpegWhere have all the songbirds gone? Like the last Dr. Seuss Truffula Tree. Sing on. As nature calls my heart open, my arms welcome a restoration consideration.

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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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My Happy Crusade

 

I am thrilled to introduce my followers to a new friend and writer I met at this year’s Left Coast Crime conference. Anne Louise Bannon saved my voice with menthol drops during Author Speed-Dating, where we presented our books to almost 200 readers. (I’d say she was a lifesaver, but they were Hall’s.) Later, after the conference went on the chopping block of coronavirus, Anne Louise saved my sanity (I couldn’t get my flight changed) at the bar, where we flirted with the handsome bartender and discovered we have in common  a taste for  Virusvodkatinis and Long Good Bye Gimlets.

Today, Anne Louise Bannon is helping us build a better story during lockdown with her Happy Crusade.   Let’s give her a warm welcome!

 

 

INTRODUCING ME AND MY LATEST CRUSADE

By Anne Louise Bannon

When Ana Manwaring stopped by my blog last month [https://annelouisebannon.com/ana-manwaring-on-writing/], she asked me to come by here for a visit. So, here I am.

I met Ana at the aborted Left Coast Crime conference last March. We both got to participate in one major event, the Author Speed-Dating. Basically, we authors go from table to table, and offer up a two-minute pitch to the readers at each table. I knew it was going to be intense as hell because I’d been at a similar event for winemakers a couple years before.

You see, I’m also a wine blogger with my husband. The blog, OddBallGrape.com [https://oddballgrape.com], is on an extended hiatus for now. But a couple years ago, we were more active and at a conference for wine bloggers, we tasted while winemakers went from table to table and poured in two-minute pitches. With the Author Speed-Dating, I was looking forward to being on the other side of the table.

I am a pretty confident public speaker, which means I appreciate the value of rehearsal. Ana, who would also be presenting that morning, caught me muttering my pitch to myself, and came over and gave me another chance to rehearse. I may have mentioned that I was a touch nervous (which one should be – it keeps you on your toes). What a sweet offering! I did, of course, then remembered my manners, and heard her pitch, as well. It was wonderfully dramatic – just enough tongue in cheek for the occasion, but gave a lovely sense of the more dramatic work she was presenting.

So, we got to talking afterward, exchanged contact information, and we both have dates for a drink when we land in the other’s territory. Assuming we ever get off lockdown, that is.

Which brings me to the main reason I wanted to write about Ana’s act of kindness. You see, as scary as things are, it helps me to feel better when I can do something nice for someone else. Also, at a recent Zoom meeting, I pointed out that happy or funny stuff often helps me deal with the more dire events of the day. The idea that we’re helpless in the face of being stuck at home as the headlines get worse and worse is not the way it really is. There are things we can do, including being present to somebody whose anxiety levels have hit the ceiling. We can look at Mary Tyler Moore re-runs for a good laugh to restore our spirits. We can write about our scary feelings and turn them into a really, really powerful story.

At that same meeting, somebody asked for some happy stuff to read. What I’m proposing:  in the comments here, you share books that make you happy for one reason or another. Admittedly, what constitutes happy stuff will vary from person to person. Some folks might love a good horror story, with the return to order making them feel a lot better about the scary stuff we’re facing. Me? Not so much. I want to laugh, but that’s me. The idea is to discover new faves and maybe stretch ourselves a little, if that helps. Authors, here’s a chance to help your friends.

Like my friend Carol Louise Wilde, who has a wonderful series called the Nagaro Chronicles. It starts with Gift of Chance. It’s technically a fantasy because it doesn’t take place in the real world as we know it, but there’s no magic. The story is about a young man whose escape from political intrigue and those who would control him forces him on the journey to his true destiny. It’s not exactly funny, but it’s a rip, roaring good yarn, and that makes me feel good, too. Oh, and Ana Manwaring has some lovely thrillers, too.

But it’s your turn. What’s your happy stuff?

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Anne Louise Bannon is an author and journalist who wrote her first novel at age 15. Her journalistic work has appeared in Ladies’ Home Journal, the Los Angeles Times, Wines and Vines, and in newspapers across the country. She was a TV critic for over 10 years, founded the YourFamilyViewer blog, and created the OddBallGrape.com wine education blog with her husband, Michael Holland. She is the co-author of Howdunit: Book of Poisons, with Serita Stevens, as well as author of the Freddie and Kathy mystery series, set in the 1920s,  the Operation Quickline Series and the Old Los Angeles series, set in the 1870s. Her most recent title is Sad Lisa. She and her husband live in Southern California with an assortment of critters. Visit her website at AnneLouiseBannon.com, and look for her latest release:

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Link to books: https://annelouisebannon.com/fiction/

Editor’s note:

I’m currently enjoying, Death of the Zanjero, Book 1 of the Old Los Angeles series, set in 1870, the time ranchers and farmers paid the zanjero for rights to access water. I heard the pitch at Author Speed-Dating, “When life was cheap and water could cost you everything.”

When Burt Rivers’s body floats up out of the irrigation ditch, or zanja,  winemaker and healing woman Maddie Wilcox must find out who killed him, a chase that will tax her intellect, her soul and her very belief in humanity before she’s done.

 

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Filed under Books, COVID19, Guest Bloggers, Inspiration

Shelter In Place, A Poem

COVID-19 has changed life as we know it across the world. Here at Building a Better Story we’ve been sharing stories and wisdom on the inevitable—aging. Now the universe has tossed a time bomb into our timelines. Instead of aging gracefully, we need to stay alive! I’m asking our guest contributors to share their thoughts on the Coronavirus pandemic. Returning to Building a Better Story, please welcome poet Theresa Ortez with her positive message on the lockdown and disease, Shelter in Place. Welcome back, Theresa!

By Theresa Ortez

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When you meet on the street
Stay away 6 feet
Cover mouth and nose
Don’t get too close
Stay inside
Seniors should abide
Still, I want to go outside
No handshaking to greet
Can I use my feet?
Stay healthy until we meet
We are in this together
We shall defeat

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Filed under COVID19, Inspiration, Poetry

The Dilemma of the Quercus—or—Oak Erotica

April 2020 might not look like past years: the bright green of new grasses, the pinks and creams of flowering fruit trees, sunny daffodils, Easter-colored tulips. Maybe you haven’t been out to see the lambs gamboling in the country or noticed the sparrows building nests. Maybe that orange  isn’t the blooming California poppies but  the fake tan on President Trump as he makes himself actor, director and producer of Coronavirus—It’ll Go Away Soon so Just Forget It.

 

Even if you’re sheltering in place, you can turn off the horror show, step outside and watch Spring. Pull some weeds or tie up your spent daffodils. Rake up the dropped camellias. Pick daisies. Watch your trees unfurl new leaves. Tweet with the chickadees, listen to the doves. Count the crows—there’s one more than last year. Take a breath, let it out slowly. Feel the renewing energy of the season, and let go of your anxiety. Now find a sunny corner and read a poem. Or better yet, write a poem. It’s Poetry Month after all. Nothing is as healing as a good dose of nature and poetry!

 

The Dilemma of the Quercus—Or—Oak Erotica

You elongate your catkins,

male flowers dangled

from the tips of your naked limbs

in seduction of the wind before Spring

unfurls your pink or chartreuse canopy.

Your few females tuck up at the crook

Nondescript, awaiting the ecstasy of pollen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monoecious yet self-incompatible

you must count on your distant-relations

standing near, and the hillsides

abreeze in ochre, or the powdered

buzz of native bees

to deliver the yellow dust

that pollinates life into your acorns

to grow fine new trees.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Find this and many more poems in my latest chapbook available on Amazon.

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The Joy of Aging

Author Dana Rodney rejoins Building a Better Story with more thoughts on getting older. Here’s her story. ~AnaM

 

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Author Dana Rodney: Before

Just kidding, aging isn’t a joy, you just don’t have any choice. Like they say, getting old ain’t for sissies. I’m sure there are some advantages to growing older: grandchildren, more free time, discounts. But if we’re being brutally honest, the negatives outweigh the positives. So instead of wringing my brain to come up with a list of the joys of aging, how about a list called:

Weird and Unexpected Things About Aging:

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And After

 

#1-  You don’t look as good but it’s a relief.

Mostly, not looking young sucks, but there’s an unexpected advantage to it; you’ve worried about your looks and been judged for it all your life (especially women.) Suddenly you’ve lost them…and it’s a perverse relief. You don’t have to stress about it anymore. Game over. Sure, you still have to be presentable and put in a little effort… but admit it, no one’s looking.

#2-  Whatever you’re gonna do you’ve already done.

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By the time you’re 60, you’ve built your career (or not,) you’ve had a family (or not,) you’ve achieved—or not achieved. At this point you can just accept it. Probably not gonna change the status quo at this point. Like baking a cake. You have one chance to get it right. If it collapses a little in the middle, you can’t go back and fix it. Spread some frosting on top and enjoy the party.

#3-  You don’t care what people think.

You’re not trying to fit in anymore or be like someone else. You’ve become who you are through decades of trial and error and making millions of choices that you can’t undo. You are who you are, might as well stand behind your work.

#4-  Death doesn’t scare you. 

By the time you’re a senior citizen, you’ve seen, experienced, tasted it all. You’re just going through the motions again and again. like re-reading a favorite book, it’s enjoyable, but there are no surprises. Maybe you’re secretly curious about death; it’s the only surprise left. The final adventure awaits!

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#5-  You inadvertently become a mindfulness practitioner.

Retirement is an interesting experiment. Your whole life you’ve been pushed to succeed, produce, make money, then overnight your world paradigm shifts. It takes a while to convince your frantic mind you don’t need to be anywhere, there are no pressing deadlines, you can sleep in. But when your mind finally accepts it, what a naughty joy it is to sit for thirty minutes drinking coffee at noon and watch the hummingbirds.

Well, okay…maybe there are some joys to aging after all.

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An interview with Dana Rodney:

AM~ How did you start writing?

DR~ I started writing in 2017 after I retired from a career in the design industry. Seeking inspiration, I wandered into a free writing class in my hometown in the Napa Valley, California. One of the writing exercises I did inspired me, and I just kept writing. A year later, I had a novel finished titled,  THE BUTTERFLY WING, a story which explores Napa Valley history. It is soon to be published, and I will be offering some excerpts from the book in the “Writing” section of my website

AM~ I had the opportunity to be one of your early readers and loved The Butterfly Wing. Are you continuing to  write period pieces?

DR~ Yes, but the time is the future. I am currently working on a new novel on the subject of climate change titled- THE ECSTASY OF ICE, which chronicles the last year in the life of Anuk, the last polar bear on planet earth, in her first-person point of view. 

AM~ Tell me about your background. What else have you done?

DR~I am also a lettering artist. I started doing calligraphy in the 80’s when it was an artsy- craftsy trend. Thirty years later I picked up my dip pen again and started creating  calligraphy art incorporating Asian-inspired shapes, original watercolor washes and the words of the mystics like Buddha and Rumi. 

AM~ It sounds like words are important to you.

 DR~I guess I just love words. Take a look my calligraphy art on the “Modern Calligraphy” tab in the navigation bar of my website

AM~What message do you have for readers?

DR~ Please join my writing journey.  My BLOG  is a fascinating selection of issues that have inspired my books such as climate change, women’s empowerment, history and the natural world. I always am interested in what readers have to add to the discussion. You can also check out my Instagram, Facebook  and twitter platforms for photos of new calligraphy and posts about my ongoing creative journey. I would be tickled pink if  I  could send you a page or two from one of my novels every month. Your comments would be welcome. Click here to join my list: DanaRodney.com

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Dana Rodney: Now

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Expect Betrayal

MONDAY, JUNE 7, 1943, England

Despite the fogginess of deep sleep, Etta Schnell sensed the hot prick of the energy probe.

She struggled toward awareness as fear danced at the base of her neck and rippled down her spine. A magical nightmare, a foretelling…a warning. Swirling images coalesced in her mind’s eye, bringing clarity. Something evil was stalking her and sought to rip the family grimoire from her care-taker hands. Her heartbeat increased, and her breath took on the nature of a pant.

The Book of Cures is in danger.

Because of decades of precognitive experiences, Etta intuitively recognized the probe’s source—Hitler, and his occult minions. The family grimoire contained hundreds of years of occult recipes for protections against malicious spells. The Nazis coveted The Book. They would surely corrupt the grimoire to bolster their twisted ambitions for the Third Reich. In the wrong hands, the spells could be turned from Good to Evil and reborn as powerful curses.

Her one ray of hope was that—in the magical nightmare—the American flag also chased the grimoire.

~excerpt from the Prologue

In the third Operation Delphi volume, Expect Betrayal, intrepid Lt. Olivia “Livvy” Delacourt, facility manager of The Watch’s Philadelphia headquarters, and her superior officer, the handsome Commander Barrington “Trey” Drew, III, are on assignment in England to retrieve Livvy’s family grimoire—a centuries old spell book in the sights of Hitler’s Der Mumm. Operation Delphi is certain information in the The Book could help the U.S.A. combat stateside mind control  emanating from Hitler’s occult group.

Almost from the moment Livvy  and Trey land at RAF Lakenheath Airfield, Livvy is aware of strange forces. They are met at the plane by Brick Kensington, Trey’s college buddy, currently in England to set up USO troop entertainment. She’d met him before and found him too smooth for her taste. He is hard to read and she dismisses her uneasiness around him as the effects of the long trans-Atlantic flight. Anyway, she has a job to do and it doesn’t include socializing with Trey’s Old Buddy. She needs to find her Aunt Etta and the grimoire before it’s too late, and she needs some sleep before she and Trey set out in the morning. Trey, on the other hand, makes a date with Brick for a play and drinks afterward. It’s over nightcaps the betrayal begins: Brick insists Trey carry his “lucky penny” to keep him safe—and to keep his whereabouts known to Brick. The two headed penny is really Brick’s enchanted tracking tool and Brick is a traitor.

In the morning, Brick shows up to drive Livvy and Trey to the aunt’s last known address. They can’t seem to shake him. Brick tests his psychic abilities on Livvy in hopes of keeping her from finding The Book. He plans to get his hands on it and arrange transportation to Germany on a U-boat. He’s going to buy himself entree into Hitler’s inner circle with the grimoire, but the aunt has disappeared. The chase begins. Brick sends assassins after the Americans, as they hunt for Aunt Etta, criss-crossing England following leads and addresses in Aunt Etta’s address book Livvy finds at there abandoned home. Several asassination attempts are thwarted, but the assassin gets away with the address book, aiding Brick in his chase.

After dead ends, and deadly encounters, Livvy finds a contact able to tell her what is on the missing “K” page and they and David, a psychic from the British counterpart of Operation Delphi, head toward the grimoire, danger following on their heels. But danger doesn’t put this duo off, it brings them together and Livvy’s romantic high school dream might turn into reality—after the war. First they have to beat the Nazi’s to Aunt Etta’s hiding place.

I’m not a sceptic. Read my post from June 2016 on volume two of the series, Expect Deception. According to author, JoAnn Smith Ainsworth, there really was a top-secret U.S. military branch comprised of psychics during World War II. I said it before, and I’m sticking to my story: Ainsworth certainly makes the job of psychic sound exciting, and for readers of WWII novels, she gives a riveting story of espionage and treachery set in an era of polite national determination. Volume three is even better. Some of the “polite” is tossed aside for the cause. And Livvy is more determined than ever. Although she’s never met her English family, this is her blood, and she’s wearing the key to the grimoire around her neck — a  gift  from her mother before her death. The operation is personal.

Ainsworth has again studiously researched her topic. The attention to detail and setting placed me right into 1943, but instead of being filled with wartime zeal, as I was with volume two, I felt the fear, strain, and exhaustion of the characters. People get injured or worse during war. Stakes are high. A manic quality imbues the more innocent and proper times. Livvy is willing to compromise her reputation to her orders — the mission cannot fail — and perhaps to a bit of: live today for tomorrow we may die.

In straightforward language, with well chosen details and not a trace of sentimentalism (okay, Livvy and Trey have soft spots for each other, but they’ve been friends since childhood) Ainsworth develops a suspense filled, historically steeped race against time and evil. The houses have been bombed. People are gone. The trains are delayed for troop movement, petrol is hard to come by, buses run late, phone booths are hard to find. Trey takes a larger role in volume three as he is assigned to lead the operation and protect Livvy. We get to know him better. He’s not a believer in the occult and he has a jealous streak. He also cares for his aide de camp, Livvy, and will do what it takes for a successful operation. Trey’s character is illuminated through the character of Brick, his “Old Buddy.” Trey is everything Brick is not. Brick is smarmy, greedy, deluded and small. He’s betraying his country and his own friend because he fantasizes he’s going to become powerful at the right hand of Hitler. Brick lacks the qualities of a winner, and whether or not he grabs the grimoire, he’ll always be a whiny con man, blaming his failures on someone else. You know the type.

The battle against evil has changed Livvy. She’s less innocent, more self actualized, stronger, yet more relaxed in her role. She yearns for a bath and clean, pressed clothes, but she takes charge with competence and compassion.  She has the eye and action of a pragmatist; theres no time for dithering or dissembling. When Trey is injured, she rips up her own clothes to staunch the blood. When evil looks her in the eye, she stares it down. I can’t wait to see what Livvy does in volume four. If the books were set now, she’d run for president. Livvy Delacourt would get my vote.

 

Congratulations to JoAnn Smith Ainsworth on Volume Three of the Operation Delphi series, Expect Betrayal. It’s coming out on April 18th and  is currently available for pre-order at Books2Read.com

About JoAnn

JoAnn Smith Ainsworth experienced WWII food rationing, Victory Gardens, and blackout sirens as a child. She lived in Philadelphia during the ’50s and she attended the Berkeley Psychic Institute in the late ’70s. She is the author of six published novels: Expect Trouble, Book 1 and Expect Deception, Book 2 of the Operation Delphi series; two historical western romances released from Whiskey Creek Press; and two medieval romantic suspense novels released from Samhain Publishing, Ltd. Ainsworth lives in California.
JoAnn says this about her characters: Fighting may be necessary. My characters fight against Nazi spies, social prejudice, and other worldly events to preserve what they hold most dear.
To learn more about this award winning author, visit http://www.joannsmithainsworth.com.

“The impetus behind my writings lies in a desire to illustrate through the lives of my characters that small moments of courage are all it takes to attain what we seek from life.” ~JOANN SMITH AINSWORTH

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Growing Down with Barbra Hana Austin

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When I was five, my place on line was always in the middle. I was an average height kid. In Junior high and all through high school, my stature stayed a non-issue.

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I recall as girls, we knew we were more mature and smarter than those awful boys. Except, of course, for whiz kid Murray Lifshitz.  Murray never used a pencil; he calculated everything in his head, and it was a considerable one at that. The only thing young Lifshitz could not do was remember to raise his hand quick enough when nature called.

Adolescent females, at least in the ’40s and ’50s were smaller than boys except for my classmate Harriet Shmuckler who had the distinction of being as tall as Grisly Gaynor.  Coach Gaynor could reach up and get a basketball in the hoop almost without standing on her tippy toes.

Harriet had three nipples; two on one boob and one on the other. Her popularity in the girl’s locker room was for all the wrong reasons. You had to give her credit though, because she took the teasing, laughed it off and never got upset. I know I would have.

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In high school it was pretty much the same; my stature was of no consequence; it stayed gridlocked thru my teens and on into my twenty’s, thirty’s and so on. However, at my recent physical, three-quarters of an inch had run off and hid. Also when I look around at the giants shopping in the supermarket and wait in line for my coffee at the Roastery, it is obvious.images-5

Damn it, I am short.

History tells us Jewesses are tall in countries where the women of indigenous races are tall, and vice versa, therefore in Brooklyn where women are not tall, I am average. But in California I am short—and getting shorter.

 What in the world does my future hold, and is there a way to stem the tide? If I continue growing down, I could disappear entirely!

UnknownIt’s obvious it must irk me on some level, because I dreamed of buying a giant red clay flower pot. Could it have been to regrow three-quarters of an inch?

Why, I ask myself, do I want to be taller when I am closer to the bouquet of my favorite Lilly of the Valley?images-8

I can call on attractive, tall men to reach the high shelf.

It’s easier to cut slacks down than to lengthen them.

Most times,  closer to the earth folks look younger.

And just so you know, I heard that Cosmo will be the first to announce:  SHORT IS THE NEW TALL.

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SHORT IS THE NEW GIANT: Rachael Brosnahan is 5′ 0″ tall

 

barbaraBarbra Hana Austin was born on the kitchen table above her father’s linoleum store in Brooklyn. A few minutes after graduation from high school, she married and had two brilliant kids.

Hana-Austin lives in Calistoga, CA and is looking forward to revisiting with you, the place she fondly and oft times hilariously writes about—the Brooklyn of yesterday.

Kosher Style Stories is on iTunes as well as several other apps. If you want to see the stars of her stories, please visit KosherStyleStories.com.

PS:  On the East coast, it’s “on line.” On the West coast, it’s “in line.” In the UK it’s “queue up.”

 

 

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Editors note: Thank YOU Barbra for bring your wonderful stories and SELF to our classes! You brighten the day. Everyone, tune in to Kosher Style Stories—you won’t be disappointed.  ~AM

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Filed under Aging, Humor, Memoir

Sunday morning in the shadow of Sonoma Mountain

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