Monday, March 17, 2014

You Don't have to be Irish to love St. Patrick's Day

Friday, January 3, 2014

Not Your Odinary Detective Story

Det. Lupee: THE IMPOSSIBLE CASES




By James Secor



Amazon: Not Your Ordinary Detective Stories







Author James Secor’s unusual detective short stories are captivating, due in part, to seemingly mundane suicide and murder cases. His talent lies in his unique ability to show scenes in artful description with few words. Combined with action to move his tales, the reader is drawn quickly to his eclectic style.



Most of the stories take place in Liverpool, England, a perfect setting for his bizarre cases; most with no solutions, yet a testament to “ man’s inhumanity to man”, (Robbie Burns). Jim Secor writes “ out of the box”, a pleasant change from today’s typical formula detective stories with few surprises.



He outdoes the witticism and parody of Sherlock Holmes while maintaining a highly Poesque satiric thread woven throughout his work. Author Secor leaves a message in his stories reminiscent of Jonathan Swift, a satirical essayist, ( A Modest Proposal, 1729), addressing the societal ills during the potato famine in England.



Detective Lupee, (Loopy) and Sgt. Cassandra Dumqick ( Dum-chik ), pun intended, spend hours at a favorite pub, along with fellow detectives, discussing their odd cases, most with no conceivable answers. In these seven versatile, yet individualized stories the cases give thought to the premise that the true perpetrator is society--past and present--until humanity evolves into a higher plane of compassion and morality.



Reading the “ Afterlude “ before the stories will better enable lovers of mysteries, and all other readers, to observe the hidden agenda which flows throughout his work. This is no ordinary book, rather one that intellectuals and those who love a challenge, will cherish and be left wanting more.



Author James Secor succeeds in presenting a collection of short mysteries that are layered with suppositions and theories to boggle the most supple minds. His stories stretch the imagination in diverse directions . . . Leading readers to recognize the real solutions to his tales . . . or perhaps not.



Micki Peluso: Writer, Journalist and author of … And the Whippoorwill Sang

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

NEW YEAR - NEW BEGINNINGS

Musings on the coming New Year with all it's promise.

The beautiful, lighted ball in Times Square has dropped, slowly, elegantly, a second at a time. A new year begins. I wonder how it would be if our lives were lived in the absence of structured time. There would be no past, or future, just the "now". Instead, we are subjected to the rhythms of time, living according to its laws.
ne thing we learn as children is that time seems to take forever, as we crave to grow up and test the waters of our future. Time appears to slow throughout young adulthood, then picks up speed aroung the age of fifty. It zooms forward just when many would prefer to slow down and savor the lessons learned.
It is either an enigma or cosmic joke that the huge tortoise can live one hundred and thirty years or more, with little purpose, while human life stops just about the time we gain the wisdom to enjoy and benefit from it. The Creator has a penchant for supreme irony. A tortoise gets one hundred and thirty years to munch on lettuce while humanity has about eigty or so years to begin to grasp the meaning of existence. Given a choice, I would probably not opt to chew greens for over a century, yet the tortoise aggrevates me--so much time to do nothing while I have so little time to do so much!
Each new year is magical in that it offers new beginnings, a chance to correct past mistakes, make resolutions for future projects and dreams. Resolutions, made in earnest, are not always kept, but it is important to make them for it proves the incredible ability of the human race to believe it can better itself. The tortoise just keeps looking for the next green leaf. Successful or not, the attempt to improve, correct, or make better choices is a good thing. It shows that we have not lost our inherent ability to dream, hope and attempt to perpetually improve our lives.
The year 2014 is upon us, a blank page waiting for us to write a new and exciting story. Let the first chapter begin. And let it be a best seller!!

HAPPY NEW YEAR

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Witching Hours

This is a story of the origins of Halloween from olden times up to the present.

THE WITCHING HOURS

Strange shadows dart stealthily across sparely lit streets, as dusk settles heavily on quiet neighborhoods of tree-lined sidewalks and cheerful well-kept homes. The eerie scream of a screechowl,more likely the brakes of a passing car, echoes deep into the night. Looming ominously from nearly every window is the menacing glare of smirking Jack-o-lanterns, while the often nervous refrain of "Trick or Treat" rings out in repetitious peals. Halloween is here, and with it the shivery remembrance of things that go bump in the night.

Halloween, a holiday once favored second to Christmas, is not as much fun as it used to be. The last few Halloweens have brought tampering scares, such as finding razors in apples and poisoned candy. A sick segment of society has forced many parents to hold neighborhood parties, instead of allowing their children to trick or treat. The tricks have been turned on the children, ruining an a once magical evening.

Gone are the days when children, dressed up hideously, or gaudily beautiful, could enter the home of a stranger, and be offered chilled apple cider with cinnamon stick straws, and homemade gingerbread, or cupcakes with orange icing and candy corn faces. No longer can mischievous children creep up on neighborhood porches to toss corn kernels against the front door, or generously soap window panes, without triggering house alarms and angering guard dogs kept behind locked fences. The mystical lure of Halloween is becoming a commercial interprise for the sale of candy, costumes and decorations.

Halloween is a Christian name meaning All Hallows, or All Saint's Day, but the custom of Halloween dates back to the Celtic cult in Northern Europe. As the Roman conquest pushed north, the Latin festival of the harvest god, Pomona, mingled with the Druid god, Samhain. Eventually, the Christians adopted the Celtic rites into their own observances.

Halloween signified the return of the herds from the pasture, renewal of laws and land tenures, and the practice of divinations with the dead, presumed to visit their homes on this day. For both the Celts and the Anglo-Saxons, Halloween marked the eve of a new year. The Britains were convinced that divinations concerning health, death and luck, were most auspicious on Halloween. The devil, himself, was evoked for such purposes.

The Druid year began on November first, and on the eve of that day, the lord of death gathered the souls of the dead who had been condemned to enter the body of animals to decide what form they should take for the upcoming year; the souls of the good entered the body of another human at death. The Druids considered cats to be sacred, believing these animals had once been human, changed into cats as punishment for evil deeds.

The Druid cults were outlawed by the Romans during their reign in Great Britain, but the Celtic rites have survived, in part, to the present day. By the time these ancient rites migrated to America, the mystic significance was lost, and all that has remained is an evening when children can dress in outrageous costumes, and collect candy from obliging neighbors; yet a tiny part of every child still believes in witches, ghosts, and the nameless entities that creep about on Halloween, relatives, to their young minds, of the monster that lives under every child's bed.

In the ancient days, it was believed that Halloween was the night chosen by witches and ghosts to freely roam, causing mischief and harm. Witchcraft existed before biblical times, believed in by ancient Egyptians, Romans and American Indians. The Christian Church held varying opinions on witchcraft, at one time accrediting it to be an illusion, later accepting it as a form of alliance with the devil. As late as 1768, disbelief in witchcraft was regarded as proof of atheism.

Halloween customs varied from country to country, but all were related to the Celtic rites. Immigrants to this country, particularly the Scotch and Irish, introduced some of the customs remaining today, but there were many more that are unfamiliar. On Halloween in Scotland, women sowed hemp seed into plowed land at midnight, repeating the formula: "Hemp seed I sow, who will my husband be, let him come and mow." Looking over her left shoulder, a woman might see her future mate.

Apples and a six-pence were put into a tub of water, and whoever succeeded in extracting either of them with his mouth, but without using his teeth, was guaranteed a lucky year. In the highlands of Scotland in the 18th century, families would march about their fields on Halloweem, walking from right to left, with lighted torches, believing this would assure good crops. In other parts of Scotland, witches were accused of stealing milk and harming cattle. Boys took peat torches and carried them across the fields, from left to right(widdershins), in an effort to scare the witches away.

The Scots strongly believed in fairies. If a man took a three-legged stool to an intersection of three roads, and sat on it at midnight, he might hear the names of the people destined to die in the coming year. However, if he tossed a garment to the fairies, they would happily revoke the death sentence.

Scotland's witches held a party on Halloween. Seemingly ordinary women, who had sold their souls to the devil, put sticks, supposedly smeared with the fat of murdered babies, into their beds. These sticks were said to change into the likenesses of the women, and fly up the chimney on broomsticks, attended by black cats, the witchs' familiars.

In Ireland, a meal of callcannon, consisting of mashed potatoes, onions and parsnips, was solemnly served on Halloween. Stirred into this concoction, was a ring, a thimble, a coin, and a doll. The finder of the ring would marry soon, the finder of the doll would have many children, the thimble finder would never marry, and the one fortunate enough to find the coin would be rich. Jack-o-lanterns originated from Ireland, where according to newspaper editor and writer, George William Douglas, " a stingy man named Jack was barred from Heaven because of his penuriousness, and forbidden to enter Hell because of his practical jokes on the devil, thus condemned to walk the earth with his lantern until Judgement Day."

A more serious custom was the holding of the General Assembly(Freig) at Tara, in Celtic Ireland, celebrated every three years and lasting two weeks. Human sacrifices to the gods opened the ceremonies, the victims going up in flames.

England borrowed many of the Scotch and Irish customs, adding them to their own. Young people bobbed for apples, and tied a lighted candle to one end of a stick, and an apple to the other. The stick was suspended and set spinning, the object of the game being to bite the apple without getting burned by the candle. This custom was a relic of the fires lighted on the eve of Samhain in the ancient days of the Celts.

The only customs bearing no relation to the ancient rites is the masquerade costumes of today, and Halloween parades. But the custom of masked children asking for treats comes from the seventeenth century, when Irish peasants begged for money to buy luxuries for the feast of St. Columba,a sixth century priest, who founded a monastery off the coast of Scotland.

From the north of England comes the activity known as "mischief night", marked by shenanigans with no particular purpose, or background. Boys and young men overturned sheds, broke windows, and damaged property. Mischief night prevails today, but is mostly limited to throwing eggs, smashing pumpkins, and lathering carswith shaving cream. The custom of trick or treat is observed mainly by small children, going from house to house. The treat is almost always given, and the trick rarely played, except by teenagers, who view Halloween as an excuse to deviate from acceptable behavior.

Children today, knowing little or nothing of the history and myths behind Halloween, still get exited over the prospect of acting out their fantasies of becoming a witch, ghost, devil, or pirate. It is still pleasurable for an adult, remembering Halloweens past, to see the glow on a child's face as he removes his mask and assures you that he's not really a skeleton. Watching the wide-eyed stares of young children warily observing flickering candle-lit pumpkins, is an assurance that even today, thousands of years beyond the witch and ghost-ridden days of the Druids, a little of the magic of Halloween remains. Children need a little magic to become creative adults; adults need a little magic to keep the child in them alive. So if, on this Halloween, you notice a black cat slink past your door, trailing behind a horde of make-believe goblins, it probably belongs to a neighbor. And the dark shadow whisking across the face of a nearly full moon is only the wisp of a cloud, not a witch riding a broom... probably.





By the pricking of my thumbs,

Something wicked this way comes.

Open, locks,

Whoever knocks!

-Shakespeare


Friday, October 11, 2013

My Shadow

This poem is a prompt contest poem--the prompt being, "My Shadow".

The shadow followed me all day
Glimpsed in farthest corners of my eyes
Each time I turned, it sped away
Wherever Shadows run to hide

It took not shape, nor any form,
At least from what I briefly spied
It seemed a darkly presence at my back
I hurried home, and ran inside
Would its blackness fade with sunlight's lack?

No, it hovers just beyond my view
In darkness shows its wicked might
Taught me terrors I never knew
I reached quickly for some light

Each click, each lamp,
brought no flare, no brightness
To turn away the dark
Which made the Shadow more aware
That I could feel its evil mark

Do I deserve this dreaded fate?
My sins crossed o'er my mind and soul
Must I now pay the devil's toll?
Or be redeemed too late?
Only my Shadow knows



 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Introducing Nancy Jardine, from Scotland

I'd like to introduce Nancy Jardine, a writer from Scotland, to tell us about her writing experiences. Welcome, Nancy, I'm happy to have you as my guest and I find your publishing career interesting from the point of view of a writer from another country.and being Scotish myself, even more so.
 
 
 
Dipping in a toe and using what I know….
It’s fantastic to be hopping across the cyber Atlantic, from Scotland, to visit with you today, Micki! I’d love to tell you a little about my writing though I don’t fit into the category of one particular sub- genre since I’ve written non-fiction and fiction. I relish the challenge of trying something different.
To date my published career is a mishmash. In 1999, I produced a pack of historically based non-fiction teaching materials for my teacher colleagues in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, volunteering my time and effort to that non- profit making venture.
A walk of a few hundred yards from my house in the village of Kintore, Aberdeenshire, will take me to something that’s been there for a very long time. It may be the nearby ruins of Hallforest Castle, built in 1296, a square keep which had six floors and is now the most fantastic crumbling shape. Alternatively, it could be one of the Bronze Age standing stone circles that can also be found just up the hill from my home… or the remains of Ancient Roman marching camps - though admittedly they are underground!
In 2002, my village school was housed in a Victorian-built granite building which was deemed no longer suitable for the purpose. A brand new school building was to be erected directly behind the Victorian school, on what had been a sports field. From Victorian times, it was known that there had been a Roman Marching camp (possibly Agricolan and dated around AD 84) on that site. Thorough archaeological digs were undertaken, over the years 2002-2004, and the findings were astounding!
Instead of the possible 4,000 soldiers being camped 200 steps from my front door, the conclusions were that there may have been as many as 10,000 Romans encamped there, during three possible uses of the site. I was SMITTEN. I’ve always loved history; it was my favourite teaching subject; and I was inspired.
The kids in my 2004 class, (Did I say I also taught at the school across the road?) wrote fantastic stories about Roman soldiers invading Kintore - the local Celtic tribe battling against the Roman Empire. Not to be outdone by kids, my 2004 summer vacation was spent writing my time-travel novel for 10 -14 year olds, in which 3 kids time travel back to Roman Kintore. (That novel, after revamps and rejection slips, is currently with an Edinburgh publisher)
My 2005 summer vacation was spent writing a non-fiction history book of Kintore School since no-one had ever created one. Not from Aberdeenshire, I had to learn a lot in a short time. An OPEN day in Sept 2005, while we still inhabited the old school building I researched, was planned. I wrote furiously that summer and produced ‘a skweel at Kintore fir monie a year’: the first recorded school dominie of Kintore teaching a class in 1574! My colour plated book (old photos and illustrations) was professionally published. Around 400 copies were sold; all profits going into school coffers since I had volunteered.
My 2007 summer vacation (YES- I was a vacation writer) was spent writing a historical romantic adventure, set in Celtic/Roman times. That story became my published novel, The Beltane Choice (Crooked Cat Publishing) which has gained mostly 5 * reviews- though it was not published till August 2012.
In 2008, I cut back from full-time class teaching and began write more fiction. I decided to try contemporary romance. The Wild Rose Press gave me contracts for my contemporary novels: Monogamy Twist (published Aug 2011) and Take Me Now (published Aug 2012). Monogamy Twist is a sensual ancestry based mystery and Take Me Now is a corporate sabotage mystery. The former has an updated Dickensian style weird bequest of a dilapidated English manor house. The latter is set on an island castle off the west coast of Scotland, the main characters zipping around the world in floatplane, jet and catamaran. Take Me Now is also sensual, like Monogamy Twist, but is my first attempt at marrying an element of suspense with humour.
Topaz Eyes (Crooked Cat Publishing Dec 2012), my second ancestral mystery, has a complicated ancestry based plot. Third cousins who have never met before are brought together in Heidelberg, Germany, to solve a family mystery. Their quest to find a set of long lost Mughal jewels takes the main characters to Vienna, Amsterdam, Duluth and Rochester (Minnesota) and New York. Not all is rosy in the family, though. The sub-genre of Topaz Eyes overlaps mystery, suspense, intrigue, and a little romance – death, danger and mistrust abounding.
During 2013, I’ve completed two follow on novels to my Celtic Britain novel, The Beltane Choice. They’ve now been submitted to Crooked Cat Publishing. It’s a nail biting time waiting for a decision on them! I’ve started a three book family saga set in Scotland which starts in the Victorian era. Yet a different sort of writing and time frame.
Thank you so much for inviting me to enthuse about my writing career, Micki. Any questions from you or your readers I’ll be delighted to answer.
Bio:
Nancy Jardine lives in the fantastic ‘castle country’ of Aberdeenshire, Scotland, with her husband of many years. She spends her week making creative excuses for her neglected large garden; doesn’t manage as much writing as she always plans to do since she’s on Facebook too often, but she has a thoroughly great time playing with her toddler granddaughter when she’s supposed to be ‘just’ childminding twice a week. Her writing is peppered with history whenever possible, and those lovely locations she’s visited around the world- too good not share. Blogging takes up a good slot of her writing time, covering this and that topics!
 
Find Nancy’s writing at her Amazon.com author page; http://amzn.to/RJZzZz

Thanks, Micki

Monday, September 9, 2013

THe Uneaten Meal

This story is being reposted in honor and a memorial to 911. It's important we forgive= but never forget

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This is a part fiction, part true story of one of the most horrific days in our history. All the facts surrounding that day are true --I lived it. The fictional part examines what might have gone on in the mind of one of the victims during his last minutes of life.



The Uneaten Meal

           The watch hanging from Ian’s belt loop under his white chef jacket read 8:15. The morning rush was in full swing. Patrons sat in the sunlit posh restaurant—some drummed their fingers with impatience, others read the Wall Street Journal. Many seemed barely awake, sipping coffee for a caffeine jolt.

           Ian had worked the kitchen all morning, his third day on the job as a Sous Chef to the Head Chef. He had survived the breakfast rush; bagels with cream cheese and lox for the rushed, Quiche Lorraine for the ones too important to punch a time card. Still, most would be heading to their various jobs, many on the 104th floor below the restaurant. The conference room, a floor below the restaurant, on the 106th floor was catering a breakfast to the Waters Financial Technology Congress, serving seventy-one guests.

           Ian was preparing for the lunch entrée special; a new recipe Chef would be offering to the lunch crowd--numbering hundreds. Ian worked quickly, with dozens of cooks helping to prep the ingredients. It was a gourmet delight – an aromatic concoction of bowtie pasta swimming in a rich white cream sauce, consisting of sweet herbed butter, heavy cream, white wine and an imported parmesan cheese. Large shrimp lightly sautéed in the sauce were placed on top, sprinkled with crumbled Greek feta cheese, sweet basil and freshly ground black pepper. Parsley sprigs added décor to the plate along with a few strips of fresh grilled red pepper. Chef Mike was confident of his creative cuisine. He was not of his new Sous Chef and often hovered over him, making Ian nervous. He was glad Chef Mike would not be coming in to work until the noon rush. This entrée could not be made completely in advance and the chef wanted a few made up to insure the recipe was followed to the letter. He had a fine reputation to maintain.As customers rose to go to their perspective jobs; many glancing out of the rows of large windows overlooking the panoramic business district of Manhattan and the East River, the dining room was set up for the lunch rush.

           Ian had Chef Mike’s creation ready to be sampled as soon as he arrived for his shift. He was afraid his job depended on how well he had prepared the dish. Still, he had done his best and felt confident it would suit the perfectionist chef.

Blinding light and roaring noise shut out his world. Fire and smoke filled the entire 107th floor, screams of panicked customers and workers alike died out quickly as they were overcome by suffocation and burns. The delectible shrimp and bowtie pasta entrée was destroyed along with most of the kitchen. Neither Ian nor Chef Mike would ever know if it met the chef’s high standards. His new recipe would go uneaten, along with all the meals scheduled for that luncheon meal. Windows on the World, Manhattan’s noted and loved restaurant was destroyed. It was 8:55 and the 104th floor was incinerated.

People on other floors were spared the direct impact of the first passenger jet, Flight 11 that slammed into the first tower of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. The ones on the top floor, along with the people in the restaurant were trapped. There was no way down. Many ran up the staircases to the top 111th floor and climbed onto the rooftop hoping to be rescued. Ian ran with them. He helped the few people alive make it to the roof. Helicopters tried in vain to reach them but black billowing smoke prevented this, as well as bursts of flame. People succumbed to the heat and smoke and died. Others chose to jump off the top of the building, rather than burn to death. Ian was one of them.

           As he jumped, his thoughts were of his wife and their new born baby girl. It was such a beautiful day that they had planned a picnic in Central Park when his shift ended. Before Ian reached the ground, his spirit left his body. He saw his body splatter on the street below. He watched as financial wizards, secretaries, businessmen, maintenance workers, became one in the futile effort to escape the building. He saw a second plane hit the second tower, taking more lives in an instant. This plane hit closer to the top of the second tower giving more time for people below those floors to get out. Many made it, many more did not. Ian’s spirit drifted through the first tower, watching frantic people calling on their cell phones for help—some realizing their plight cried and said goodbye to their loved ones.

           911 operators, unaware of the gravity of the situation, gave wrong advice to many who called--advising them to remain inside until help came. Help, that was unable to reach most of them. Most of the ones who survived had ignored that advice and hurried to escape the building.

           New York City responded at once. Ian watched as police, search and rescue squads, and fire trucks rushed to the scene. Ambulances raced to help those who survived. People began the long trek down dark stairways, coughing and choking on thick black smoke; often meeting police and firemen on their way up the building. The heat was unbearable. Ian felt anquished, knowing that so many would never make it back down. He saw many like him who could walk through the ruins, already dead.

           The second tower imploded almost without warning at 10:05 A.M., through time held no meaning for Ian. Thousands of lives were crushed into rubble. The ambulances and hospitals set up triages for the injured. Most beds lay empty, as few made it out of the towers alive. Except for the ones lucky enough to have escaped before the first tower imploded at 10:30, there were few patients to help. Ian observed the nearly 3000 souls wandering lost throughout the ruins. Many did not yet realize that they were dead.

           The shock waves of horror extended past Manhattan, its neighboring boroughs, rippled across the country, impacted the world. America had been attacked by cowardly terrorists on her own soil. New York City wept, Mayor Guiliani wept, the free world wept. And Ian wept.

           The Chef’s new entrée in the Windows on the World would go uneaten, never sampled for its flavor. There would be many uneaten meals that day and for many days to follow. Terror, death and inconceivable destruction had taken away the appetite of the City, the nation—most of the world. It left a bitter taste in the mouths of all those who lost loved ones and those who grieved with them.

           Ian glanced through the rubble and saw his chef uniform buried beneath the debris. It held a quickly scribbled note of love to his wife and newly born baby. He hoped it would be found and given to her. He also hoped that she would tell his baby girl about her father—so that his memory would live on, even if he could not. Ian sensed that this most infamous day would never be forgotten. He wished for new twin towers to be erected for all the lost lives destroyed this day, taken so brutally. And maybe a new restaurant and new offices restored—not to replace those lost but to honor them. Perhaps there would be a new chef with an untried recipe that would be eaten and enjoyed. If that day arrived, it would signify healing in a shocked and saddened nation—a new beginning.

           Ian turned to see a horde of people of all ages and occupations gathering together. He looked up and a bright, warm light spread across the sky. He saw arms outstretched to embrace those who walked toward the brightness. He joined them.

Seventy-three employees in the restaurant died that day, all seventy-one in the conference room and an unknown number of patrons. Remnants from the Windows on the World restaurant rubble included: a dinner spoon, soup bowl, salad plate, dessert plate and coffee cup. Also found was a table lamp, champagne flute, bottle of champagne, grill scraper—and a chef’s uniform.

Author’s note: The terrorists had counted on taking out from 30,000 to 50,000 lives that earth shattering morning. Their timing was a little off and many people had not yet entered the building. However, due to the toxins in the debris, such as mercury and asbestos, many of those who spent days, weeks and even years searching Ground Zero for body parts are now dying a slow and agonizing death due to cancers of the throat, lung and esophagus. Many more will die in the ensuing years—among them, families and small children whose homes were filled with this debris; which they were told to clean up themselves. The repercussions of disease from toxins spread to Staten Island, when they helicoptered the remains to the Staten Island dump. The dump blew the toxins across the seventeen-mile- long Island and many are dying of quickly striking and fatal cancers. It is conceivable that the total count of those lost on 911 will reach 30,000 to 50,000 after all. Damn the terrorists