This is a picture of my dad (bottom row, center) and his B-26 Marauder crew and plane, The Deefeater, taken in England just prior to the Allied invasion of Normandy, France on June 6th, 1944. He and his crew were ten minutes out ahead of the invasion fleet bombing Nazi coastal positions and his plane-with the distinctive white invasion stripes-can be seen in war film footage of the invasion. Salute to them all! I wrote about them and this day in my book, “Storytellin’: True & Fictional Short Stories of Arkansas.”
I’m taking a pause (also famously known as procrastination) from writing to post a picture of my flowering clematis.
I planted this three years ago and this spring it has blossomed wonderfully.
In “Storytellin’: True And Fictional Short Stories Of Arkansas” I write about a young boy, a midnight train, and the value of friendship in the tale “He A Friend Of Yours?” The title of the story is actually a question posed to the young boy by a train station employee.
Several of my family provided inspiration for the story not the least of which were my grandfather, father, and an uncle who all worked for the Rock Island Railroad in various capacities including railroad bull, brakeman, and conductor. All of their work began and ended with the Rock Island Rail Road train depot in the small town of Booneville, Arkansas. Not coincidentally, the fictional story’s beginning is set in and around a train depot.
In its heyday, the Booneville depot was a busy, thriving place, bustling with activity. I remember trips to the depot to either welcome or say goodbye to family members as they left for work or arrived after a working absence. More than once, I too, rode the railroad to and from Little Rock to visit uncles and aunts.
This picture of the Booneville train depot was taken in the early 1980s and reflects a mere ghost of itself in comparison to the days when it thrived. Built in 1910 originally as a railroad eating house, the building style is unique compared to the average Rock Island train depot in Arkansas.
The days of riding the rails from Booneville to Little Rock are gone forever now, as are my family members who worked on the line. Sadly, just a few years after this picture was taken the Booneville depot burned down and its stories mostly lost to history.
It has been an unusually mild, wet summer around my neck of the woods (as they say here in Arkansas). Few 90 degree + days and (thankfully) no 100 degree + days. In other words, when it wasn’t raining, we’ve had beautiful days to enjoy. No wonder I’m doing more bicycle riding than writing. But I do remember those blistering summer days when it was so hot all I could do is kick back and enjoy lounging in the pool.
Into rewrite of Chapter 26 of my wip titled “The Corpsemakers” since very early morning. Hit an idea block on one of the sub-plots and a pesky antagonist acting out of character, dialogue stilted, not convincing. Hard to believe characters won’t play nice with your well-plotted scenario, huh? What’s a writer to do? Answer: Keep working on it!
By nine thirty, I was ready for a break.
Clear blue skies, no rain, no wind. A big change from the rains experienced recently. Time for a another bike run around Fayetteville to clear the cobwebs and get the ideas flowing. Hit Fayetteville’s wonderful bike trails, headed out around Lake Fayetteville and parts beyond.
Back home now after logging just over 18 miles and feeling refreshed.
Enjoying a quick meal of fish, cucumbers, and tomatoes before jumping back into writing.
Now, where did I leave that pesky, uncooperative character?
My previous post found humor in two canoes being pulled behind a plumbing and repair van. However, after more than a week of storms bringing massive rains to the area leaving roads, bridges, bike and hiking trails either under water, damaged, and/or washed away, having a boat might have been a good idea.
As an example, this is a picture of the beautiful War Eagle Mill now flooded from the heavy rains. The mill was originally built in 1832.
How big of a water leak is it when the plumbing and repair people show up with two canoes? Must be a whopper!
Saw this vehicle and trailer on my way home today. It’s a plumbing and repair van pulling a trailer carrying two canoes. I hope this guy is just heading to the lake to enjoy a beautiful spring day rather than responding to a water leak. Either way, it just struck me as humorous.
It’s that time of year for special gift-giving around my neck of the woods (so to speak) and as it is in many other places. And what better gift than a book or two?
Here are two books for your perusal. I hope you’ll consider them for this holiday season or for any gift-giving occasion.
“Storytellin: True And Fictional Short Stories Of Arkansas”. A collection of mixed-genre stories set in Arkansas from the early 1900s to the 1950s. Each of the fictional stories is preceded by a Cotner family story or event that inspired the fictional tales. Set against the rugged backdrop of the Ouachita Mountains these stories bring ageless tales of hope, fear, laughter, retribution, and kindness.
“Mystery Of The Death Hearth”. A Celtic tale of murder, power, and intrigue. In a far-flung outpost of the Roman Empire, the Great Cross—made of Celtic gold and amber now claimed by the Roman church—goes missing along with a fortune in coins and precious gems. Murder soon follows, igniting tensions when church leaders maneuvering for political gain are implicated in the violent plot. When news reaches the Grand Prefect in Rome, Enforcers are sent to identify the thieves and recover the missing treasure. The trail leads to the Brendan Valley where it falls to deputy magistrate Weylyn de Gort to work with those whose ways are alien to his Elder Faith beliefs. Along the way, he must find an elusive young Celt girl and her missing grandfather, unravel the mystery of an Elder’s vision, and avoid death at the hands of an assassin as he faces the greatest challenge of his life.
Mystery Of The Death Hearth Prologue
June 21st in the Roman calendar
“This sacred site has been here longer than we can remember,” Elder Blaine the Slender told the small group of children clustered around him. They were surrounded by festival vendors in tents bearing colorful flags, all part of the crowd gathered there to celebrate the Solstice holiday. “Heed these stories well, so you may pass them to those who will come after you.”
He saw them nod, some smiling, many somber, all attentive.
“Learn your crafts well, listen to your elders, honor the gods, and respect the land. Enjoy the life you have been granted and help others do the same. No other goals should be attempted lest you fall into the evil snare of greed and dishonesty.”
A small voice whispered, “He means the Romans, right?”
“Not just Romans, young one. Celts, too, face dark temptations. The two worst enemies we all face are liars and thieves,” the Elder continued. “Take nothing that isn’t yours. Honor the code of doing what you will so long as you harm no one or their possessions. Have compassion for those less fortunate, help those in need. Follow the path of our Celtic Elder Faith, stay true to its teachings. You will be wise to–”
Blaine’s words were interrupted by heavy beating of drums and cheers from celebrants within the inner circle of the standing stones. Before Blaine could continue, a child spoke up.
“What about murderers, Elder? Aren’t they an enemy, too?”
Elder Blaine nodded. “Truly spoken young one. Murderers are the worst kind of thief. They steal your life.”
I have several ways to overcome that pesky nemesis called writer’s block but my favorite is taking my bicycle out on the trails enjoying the fresh air and sunshine. Riding invigorates both mind and body. I always return to writing after a long ride feeling refreshed and creative. (Thank you endorphins!)
Today I made a short ride of it covering a mere 12.75 miles, including a stop by Fayetteville’s beautiful Botanical Gardens to enjoy the scenery.
Now, back to writing.
Eureka Springs, Arkansas is one of my favorite places to visit. It is quirky, beautiful, full of unique artists, craftspeople, writers, entertainment venues, and natural scenery. It is a town built seemingly overnight in July 1879 following the discovery of what was then and is believed to be now curative powers in the waters of the many natural springs in the area.
In “A Fame Not Easily Forgotten”, researchers, historians, and authors June Westphal and Catharine Osterhage spent four years culling newspaper articles, historical records, written accounts, and rare photographs to compile a reasonable and accurate description of what many call the “City That Water Built.”
In mid-December 2015, just prior to my departure on a thirty-day winter holiday, I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with June Westphal at her book signing at the Eureka Springs Historical Museum. I was impressed by her extensive knowledge of the town, its inhabitants, and the entire region.
Here’s an excerpt from the Preface of A Fame Not Easily Forgotten: An Autobiography of Eureka Springs:
Eureka Springs, Arkansas is a remarkable place—and utterly improbable. Why would anyone in the late 1800s, traveling on horseback or in wagons, traverse dirt paths through the steep Ozark Mountains to what must have seemed like the end of the earth? Why would they settle and build elaborate structures on sharp, rocky inclines?
The answer is, water. Pure, abundant spring water reported to have extraordinary curative properties—hope of healing was that powerful and that compelling. So, come they did. Build, they did. And while the water may not have reached expectations, the beauty and magic of the place captured the hearts of so many, they stayed, or kept returning. They still do…
The extensive research is well documented, includes many old pictures of the early days of expansion and growth of the town, and makes for interesting, informative, and entertaining reading. I would recommend this book for anyone interested in the area and its history. You can order your own signed copy of this book from the Eureka Springs Historical Museum.