Showing posts with label Rizer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Rizer. Show all posts

15 July 2013

A Book, A Story, A Picture

by Fran Rizer



The last thing a writer wants
is to make the reader yawn.







Boring


Boring


BORING


BORING!

The ultimate goal of writers is to engage their readers.  I shy away from generalizations and tend to want to qualify anything I say, but I doubt anyone will disagree with that statement.  An unengaged reader becomes bored.

Regardless of what is being written--an amusing detective story, a how-to article, an instruction manual, something you want posted on Wikipedia, a political essay, or anything you can imagine--the goal is to engage the reader.

Many long years ago, as a college freshman, I managed to get myself into a graduate level course on writing magazine articles.  It was taught by a former editor of The Saturday Evening Post before its demise and recent resurrection.

I wound up becoming his hired chauffeur and driving him to and from Philadelphia on university holidays for a few years, but that's a different story. (Actually quite a few stories which I may one day write.)

Back to the class, the biggest, most important fact that I learned from him was:  IDENTIFY YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE.


I check every week to see if
John has a story in WW.
He does this week, and it's a
good one as always!

Look carefully and you'll
see the cover story of
this issue of  issue of AHMM
is by Janice Law.
This seems obvious and easy when planning magazine pieces. Most periodicals have an identified audience, so the writer knows who is likely to be reading the work if it's accepted by a specific magazine.  I believe John would agree with me that his target audience in Women's World is somewhat different from the readers of AHMM or EQMM even though he writes mysteries for both




My target audience might make a good Venn diagram when writing for Bluegrass Unlimited or Field and Stream, both of which have been kind enough to purchase and publish my articles.
The red circle represents readers of Field and Stream.  The blue circle represents readers of Bluegrass Unlimited. The purple overlap area represents readers who like to hunt or fish and pick or listen to string instruments.

There might be very little overlap between my readers of Field and Stream and Ladies Home Journal, and not only is what I have said in these magazines different, so is how I said it.


                         Have I bored you yet? Are you                                           yawning?

Perhaps you're not interested in magazines at all and write only novels.  The same principle applies.  Though many of us enjoy almost any kind of mystery, others are very specific in their tastes.

I read Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum, but don't care for her other books.  I also read Mary Daheim along with Jeffrey Deaver and James Patterson and dearly love revisiting Agatha Christie. My tastes are personal, but they might be represented as separate circles with an overlap including readers, like me, who just love mysteries--almost any kind.

The target audience for my Callie books is different from that of some of my other writings.  The point I wish to make today is that what we write and how we write are influenced by the readers we want to reach.

My grandson wrote an essay about me last year when he was twelve.  I want to share it with you.


GRANDMAMA 
by Aeden Rizer
October, 2012

     "Read a book, write a story, paint a picture."  These are always her answers to, "I'm bored."
     My grandmama is the most supportive, brightest, and most pleasant person to be around in the world!  She's very smart and witty.  I mean, she was a school teacher, so it's sorta required.
     Being an author makes her a better storyteller than Aesop in my book.  She's very clever and supportive.  She's always got something funny to say, and she's always gonna cheer you on.  No matter what the sport, she'll be there, roaring your name.
Aeden and his dad, who is my older son.
     Grandmama is our matriarch that holds our family together.  She's the mediator who settles every dispute.  She's lots of things to many people.
     But me, I just call her G-Mama!

If you're an old curmudgeon with no grandchildren, that might be very boring to you.  Of course, I'm not bored by this essay at all.  In fact, I love it!!  I'm proud that he spells and punctuates correctly, but I'm even more pleased that he feels that way about me.  The first paragraph goes back to what I've told him for years because grandchildren will, as some of you know, complain of boredom at times. I'm certain you can tell that he wrote it as a gift for me.  That young man knows to write toward his targeted audience!


As Dixon says, "See you in two weeks."
That's when I'll continue this with a discussion of "voice."

Until we meet again, take care of ...you!

01 April 2013

A Hoax of a Ghost Hoax

By Fran Rizer



On March 29, 2013, R. T. gave us a good look at fools and their history, especially on April's Fool's Day, which happens to be today.  He sent me looking on the Internet for famous hoaxes.  One that intrigued me was the Cardiff Giant Petrified Man in the 1860's. Here's what Wikipedia had to say about the Cardiff Giant.




The Cardiff Giant
Creation and discovery

The giant was the creation of a New York tobacconist named George Hull. Hull, an atheist, decided to create the giant after an argument at a Methodist revival meeting about the passage in Genesis 6:4 stating that there were giants who once lived on Earth.

The idea of a petrified man did not originate with Hull, however. In 1858 the newspaper Alta California had published a bogus letter claiming that a prospector had been petrified when he had drunk a liquid within a geode. Some other newspapers also had published stories of supposedly petrified people.

The much publicized the discovery of the Petrified Giant.
Hull hired men to carve out a 10-foot-4.5-inch-long (3.2 m) block of gypsum in Fort Dodge, Iowa, telling them it was intended for a monument to Abraham Lincoln in New York. He shipped the block to Chicago, where he hired Edward Burghardt, a German stonecutter, to carve it into the likeness of a man and swore him to secrecy.

Various stains and acids were used to make the giant appear to be old and weathered, and the giant's surface was beaten with steel knitting needles embedded in a board to simulate pores. In November 1868, Hull transported the giant by rail to the farm of William Newell, his cousin. By then, he had spent US$2,600 on the hoax.

Nearly a year later, Newell hired Gideon Emmons and Henry Nichols, ostensibly to dig a well, and on October 16, 1869 they found the giant. One of the men reportedly exclaimed, "I declare, some old Indian has been buried here!"

Exhibition and exposure as fraud

Newell set up a tent over the giant and charged 25¢ for people who wanted to see it. Two days later he increased the price to 50¢. People came by the wagon load.

Archaeological scholars pronounced the giant a fake and some geologists even noticed that there was no good reason to try to dig a well in the exact spot the giant had been found. Yale palaeontologist Othniel C. Marsh called it "a most decided humbug". Some Christian fundamentalists and preachers, however, defended its authenticity.

The Cardiff Giant on display
Eventually, Hull sold his part-interest for $23,000 (equivalent to $423,000 in 2013) to a syndicate of five men headed by David Hannum. They moved it to Syracuse, New York, for exhibition. The giant drew such crowds that showman P. T. Barnum offered $50,000 for the giant. When the syndicate turned him down, he hired a man to model the giant's shape covertly in wax and create a plaster replica. He put his giant on display in New York, claiming that his was the real giant and the Cardiff Giant was a fake.

As the newspapers reported Barnum's version of the story, David Hannum was quoted as saying, "There's a sucker born every minute" in reference to spectators paying to see Barnum's giant. Over time, the quotation has been misattributed to Barnum himself.

Hannum sued Barnum for calling his giant a fake, but the judge told him to get his giant to swear on his own genuineness in court if he wanted a favorable injunction.

On December 10, Hull confessed to the press. On February 2, 1870 both giants were revealed as fakes in court. The judge ruled that Barnum could not be sued for calling a fake giant a fake.

Ten feet "sounds" tall, but seeing the Giant with normal
sized women really illustrates how large it is.
Current resting place

The Cardiff Giant appeared in the 1901 Pan-American Exposition, but did not attract much attention.

An Iowa publisher bought it later to adorn his basement rumpus room as a coffee table and conversation piece. In 1947 he sold it to the Farmers' Museum in Cooperstown, New York, where it is still on display.

Why did this fascinate me?  Mark Twain captured me with Huckleberry Finn the summer between second and third grade, and I still love to read his works.  His short story, "A Ghost Story," was familiar to me, but never having heard of the Cardiff Giant before R.T. sent me seeking famous hoaxes, I'd always assumed the story was ALL fiction.  We frequently discuss origins of story ideas, and many authors suggest their stories spin off from news items. Before you read this story, may I remind you that Mark Twain was born in 1835 and died in 1910.  He would have been thirty-four years old when the Cardiff Giant was "discovered" and thirty-five when the hoax was revealed. Twain wrote this story in 1903.

Since the story is now public domain, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you "A Ghost Story."  Enjoy! 



     I took a large room, far up Broadway, in a huge old building whose upper stories had been wholly unoccupied for years until I came. The place had long been given up to dust and cobwebs, to solitude and silence. I seemed groping among the tombs and invading the privacy of the dead, that first night I climbed up to my quarters. For the first time in my life a superstitious dread came over me; and as I turned a dark angle of the stairway and an invisible cobweb swung its slazy woof in my face and clung there, I shuddered as one who had encountered a phantom.

     I was glad enough when I reached my room and locked out the mold and the darkness. A cheery fire was burning in the grate, and I sat down before it with a comforting sense of relief. For two hours I sat there, thinking of bygone times; recalling old scenes, and summoning half- forgotten faces out of the mists of the past; listening, in fancy, to voices that long ago grew silent for all time, and to once familiar songs that nobody sings now. And as my reverie softened down to a sadder and sadder pathos, the shrieking of the winds outside softened to a wail, the angry beating of the rain against the panes diminished to a tranquil patter, and one by one the noises in the street subsided, until the hurrying footsteps of the last belated straggler died away in the distance and left no sound behind.

     The fire had burned low. A sense of loneliness crept over me. I arose and undressed, moving on tiptoe about the room, doing stealthily what I had to do, as if I were environed by sleeping enemies whose slumbers it would be fatal to break. I covered up in bed, and lay listening to the rain and wind and the faint creaking of distant shutters, till they lulled me to sleep.

     I slept profoundly, but how long I do not know. All at once I found myself awake, and filled with a shuddering expectancy. All was still. All but my own heart--I could hear it beat. Presently the bedclothes began to slip away slowly toward the foot of the bed, as if some one were pulling them! I could not stir; I could not speak. Still the blankets slipped deliberately away, till my breast was uncovered. Then with a great effort I seized them and drew them over my head. I waited, listened, waited. Once more that steady pull began, and once more I lay torpid a century of dragging seconds till my breast was naked again.

     At last I roused my energies and snatched the covers back to their place and held them with a strong grip. I waited. By and by I felt a faint tug, and took a fresh grip. The tug strengthened to a steady strain--it grew stronger and stronger. My hold parted, and for the third time the blankets slid away. I groaned. An answering groan came from the foot of the bed! Beaded drops of sweat stood upon my forehead. I was more dead than alive. Presently I heard a heavy footstep in my room--the step of an elephant, it seemed to me--it was not like anything human. But it was moving from me--there was relief in that. I heard it approach the door-- pass out without moving bolt or lock--and wander away among the dismal corridors, straining the floors and joists till they creaked again as it passed--and then silence reigned once more.

     When my excitement had calmed, I said to myself, "This is a dream--simply a hideous dream." And so I lay thinking it over until I convinced myself that it was a dream, and then a comforting laugh relaxed my lips and I was happy again. I got up and struck a light; and when I found that the locks and bolts were just as I had left them, another soothing laugh welled in my heart and rippled from my lips. I took my pipe and lit it, and was just sitting down before the fire, when-down went the pipe out of my nerveless fingers, the blood forsook my cheeks, and my placid breathing was cut short with a gasp! In the ashes on the hearth, side by side with my own bare footprint, was another, so vast that in comparison mine was but an infant's! Then I had had a visitor, and the elephant tread was explained.

     I put out the light and returned to bed, palsied with fear. I lay a long time, peering into the darkness, and listening.--Then I heard a grating noise overhead, like the dragging of a heavy body across the floor; then the throwing down of the body, and the shaking of my windows in response to the concussion. In distant parts of the building I heard the muffled slamming of doors. I heard, at intervals, stealthy footsteps creeping in and out among the corridors, and up and down the stairs.

     Sometimes these noises approached my door, hesitated, and went away again. I heard the clanking of chains faintly, in remote passages, and listened while the clanking grew nearer--while it wearily climbed the stairways, marking each move by the loose surplus of chain that fell with an accented rattle upon each succeeding step as the goblin that bore it advanced. I heard muttered sentences; half-uttered screams that seemed smothered violently; and the swish of invisible garments, the rush of invisible wings. Then I became conscious that my chamber was invaded--that I was not alone. I heard sighs and breathings about my bed, and mysterious whisperings. Three little spheres of soft phosphorescent light appeared on the ceiling directly over my head, clung and glowed there a moment, and then dropped --two of them upon my face and one upon the pillow. They, spattered, liquidly, and felt warm. Intuition told me they had--turned to gouts of blood as they fell--I needed no light to satisfy myself of that. Then I saw pallid faces, dimly luminous, and white uplifted hands, floating bodiless in the air--floating a moment and then disappearing. The whispering ceased, and the voices and the sounds, anal a solemn stillness followed. I waited and listened. I felt that I must have light or die. I was weak with fear. I slowly raised myself toward a sitting posture, and my face came in contact with a clammy hand! All strength went from me apparently, and I fell back like a stricken invalid. Then I heard the rustle of a garment it seemed to pass to the door and go out.

     When everything was still once more, I crept out of bed, sick and feeble, and lit the gas with a hand that trembled as if it were aged with a hundred years. The light brought some little cheer to my spirits. I sat down and fell into a dreamy contemplation of that great footprint in the ashes. By and by its outlines began to waver and grow dim. I glanced up and the broad gas-flame was slowly wilting away. In the same moment I heard that elephantine tread again. I noted its approach, nearer and nearer, along the musty halls, and dimmer and dimmer the light waned. The tread reached my very door and paused--the light had dwindled to a sickly blue, and all things about me lay in a spectral twilight. The door did not open, and yet I felt a faint gust of air fan my cheek, and presently was conscious of a huge, cloudy presence before me. I watched it with fascinated eyes. A pale glow stole over the Thing; gradually its cloudy folds took shape--an arm appeared, then legs, then a body, and last a great sad face looked out of the vapor. Stripped of its filmy housings, naked, muscular and comely, the majestic Cardiff Giant loomed above me!

     All my misery vanished--for a child might know that no harm could come with that benignant countenance. My cheerful spirits returned at once, and in sympathy with them the gas flamed up brightly again. Never a lonely outcast was so glad to welcome company as I was to greet the friendly giant. I said:

     "Why, is it nobody but you? Do you know, I have been scared to death for the last two or three hours? I am most honestly glad to see you. I wish I had a chair--Here, here, don't try to sit down in that thing--"

     But it was too late. He was in it before I could stop him and down he went--I never saw a chair shivered so in my life.

     "Stop, stop, you'll ruin ev--"

     Too late again. There was another crash, and another chair was resolved into its original elements.

     "Confound it, haven't you got any judgment at' all? Do you want to ruin all the furniture on the place? Here, here, you petrified fool--"

     But it was no use. Before I could arrest him he had sat down on the bed, and it was a melancholy ruin.

     "Now what sort of a way is that to do? First you come lumbering about the place bringing a legion of vagabond goblins along with you to worry me to death, and then when I overlook an indelicacy of costume which would not be tolerated anywhere by cultivated people except in a respectable theater, and not even there if the nudity were of your sex, you repay me by wrecking all the furniture you can find to sit down on. And why will you? You damage yourself as much as you do me. You have broken off the end of your spinal column, and littered up the floor with chips of your hams till the place looks like a marble yard. You ought to be ashamed of yourself--you are big enough to know better."
Mark Twain

     "Well, I will not break any more furniture. But what am I to do? I have not had a chance to sit down for a century." And the tears came into his eyes.

     "Poor devil," I said, "I should not have been so harsh with you. And you are an orphan, too, no doubt. But sit down on the floor here--nothing else can stand your weight--and besides, we cannot be sociable with you away up there above me; I want you down where I can perch on this high counting-house stool and gossip with you face to face." So he sat down on the floor, and lit a pipe which I gave him, threw one of my red blankets over his shoulders, inverted my sitz-bath on his head, helmet fashion, and made himself picturesque and comfortable. Then he crossed his ankles, while I renewed the fire, and exposed the flat, honeycombed bottoms of his prodigious feet to the grateful warmth.

     "What is the matter with the bottom of your feet and the back of your legs, that they are gouged up so?"

     "Infernal chilblains--I caught them clear up to the back of my head, roosting out there under Newell's farm. But I love the place; I love it as one loves his old home. There is no peace for me like the peace I feel when I am there."

     We talked along for half an hour, and then I noticed that he looked tired, and spoke of it.

     "Tired?" he said. "Well, I should think so. And now I will tell you all about it, since you have treated me so well. I am the spirit of the Petrified Man that lies across the street there in the museum. I am the ghost of the Cardiff Giant. I can have no rest, no peace, till they have given that poor body burial again. Now what was the most natural thing for me to do, to make men satisfy this wish? Terrify them into it! haunt the place where the body lay! So I haunted the museum night after night. I even got other spirits to help me. But it did no good, for nobody ever came to the museum at midnight. Then it occurred to me to come over the way and haunt this place a little. I felt that if I ever got a hearing I must succeed, for I had the most efficient company that perdition could furnish. Night after night we have shivered around through these mildewed halls, dragging chains, groaning, whispering, tramping up and down stairs, till, to tell you the truth, I am almost worn out. But when I saw a light in your room to-night I roused my energies again and went at it with a deal of the old freshness. But I am tired out--entirely fagged out. Give me, I beseech you, give me some hope!" I lit off my perch in a burst of excitement, and exclaimed:

     "This transcends everything! everything that ever did occur! Why you poor blundering old fossil, you have had all your trouble for nothing-- you have been haunting a plaster cast of yourself--the real Cardiff Giant is in Albany!--[A fact. The original fraud was ingeniously and fraudfully duplicated, and exhibited in New York as the "only genuine" Cardiff Giant (to the unspeakable disgust of the owners of the real colossus) at the very same time that the latter was drawing crowds at a museum is Albany,]--Confound it, don't you know your own remains?"

Even after the hoax was exposed,
shows at fairs and carnivals advertised
their giants as the Cardiff Giant.
     I never saw such an eloquent look of shame, of pitiable humiliation, overspread a countenance before.

     The Petrified Man rose slowly to his feet, and said:
"Honestly, is that true?"

     "As true as I am sitting here."

     He took the pipe from his mouth and laid it on the mantel, then stood irresolute a moment (unconsciously, from old habit, thrusting his hands where his pantaloons pockets should have been, and meditatively dropping his chin on his breast); and finally said:
"Well-I never felt so absurd before. The Petrified Man has sold everybody else, and now the mean fraud has ended by selling its own ghost! My son, if there is any charity left in your heart for a poor friendless phantom like me, don't let this get out. Think how you would feel if you had made such an ass of yourself."

     I heard his stately tramp die away, step by step down the stairs and out into the deserted street, and felt sorry that he was gone, poor fellow-- and sorrier still that he had carried off my red blanket and my bath-tub.



                                                                         THE END

What about you?  Does the morning coffee and newspaper trigger story ideas?

Until we meet again. take care of you!

04 February 2013

And Where Is THAT?

by Fran Rizer




St. Mary, SC, is my town, and Surcie Island is my island.

When I wrote the first Callie Parrish Mystery, I created St. Mary, a small town on the coast of South Carolina, not far from Beaufort and Fripp Island. It's located near Highway 17. To get to Columbia or Charleston from St. Mary, take I-95 north to I-26 where a turn to the east leads to Charleston and circling round to go west leads to the midlands. I Googled carefully to be certain neither St. Mary, SC, nor Surcie Island exist. Surcie is actually based on Edisto Island before it was commercially developed (with a little Daufuskie thrown in), yet inevitably, at book signings, readers assure me that they've been to St. Mary or Surcie Island. I don't attempt to enlighten them, but it does set me thinking about fictional places I've been.

Most photos of William Faulkner are formal and solemn head
shots, possibly because of his height of 5'5".
I like this one because it's more relaxed than most..
The first and most memorable is Yoknapatawpha County in northwestern Mississippi. I traveled there frequently in my youth and return occasionally even now. It's bordered on the north by the Tallahatchie River and on the south by the Yoknapatawpha River. William Faulkner referred to it as my "apocryphal county."

Fourteen of his next seventeen novels after Sartoris were set in Yoknapatawpha County, including my personal favorites: The Sound and the Fury; Absolom, Absolom; and The Reivers. The eight short stories set in Faulkner's own county include my favorite Faulkner short story of all time--"A Rose for Emily."


This marker directs visitors to William Faulkner's
grave in Oxford, Mississippi.


William Faulkner drew this map of
Yoknapatawpha County for
The Portable Faulkner (1946).

Now travel with me from Mississippi to Maine where we'll visit Stephen King's town of Castle Rock. This town is part of King's fictional Maine and first appears in The Dead Zone. Writings set in Castle Rock include Cujo, "The Body" (which became the movie Stand By Me), "Uncle Otto's Truck," "Mrs. Todd's Shortcut," The Dark Half, "The Sun Dog," Needful Things, and "It Grows On You."

Castle Rock is also referred to in about ten short stories as well as fourteen novels, including 11/22/63, Bag of Bones, The Stand, Gerald's Game, and Pet Sematary.

Stephen King's Maine
King openly admits to being a fan of H. P. Lovecraft who created a series of fictional small towns in New England. King follows this idea of Lovecraft's with Jerusalem's Lot (in Salem's Lot), Castle Rock, Derry (in It, Insomnia, Dreamcatcher, and 11/11/63), Little Tall Island, and Haven.

There are several real Castle Rocks in the United States in southwest Washington and in Colorado, south of Denver. King denies his Castle Rock evolved from those real places and acknowledges that he got the name "Castle Rock" from the fictional mountain fort in William Golding's 1963 novel Lord of the Flies.

Stephen King, creator of Castle Rock, Maine
King's Castle Rock has been referred to in several works by others. A signpost in Peter Jackson's alien invasion movie Bad Taste points to a town named Castle Rock. This has been confirmed as a reference to King's town. In her 1993 novel One on One, Tabitha King mentions Castle Rock and thanks "another novelist who was kind enough to allow me to use the name."
Angela Lansbury as Jessica
Fletcher in Murder, She
Wrote
While we're in Maine, let's stop off at another fictional place I've visited many times: Cabot Cove, Maine-- the small fictional fishing village where Jessica Fletcher lives when she's not flitting around New York and Europe in the Murder, She Wrote series. I have friends who will argue that Cabot Cove, Maine, really exists. "After all," they say, "we see it all the time." The fact is that the television series was filmed in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, and in Mendocino, California.

David Dean revealed a few weeks ago that a reader of his The Thirteenth Child pointed out "mistakes" he'd made about their town, not noticing that Dean's town had a different name. I'm an avid Faulkner, King, and now Dean fan, but I confess I think a writer creating his or her own location is the easiest way out. (That's why I took that route, but now I'm finding that as I'm working on the sixth book in the series, I'm having to check back on some geographic facts that I myself created.)

I admit that I have even greater admiration for those who recreate accurate, believable, historical settings in their fiction. An example of that among SSers is Janice Law's Fires of London. For more examples of impressive locations, see David Dean's recent blog Location, Location, Location.


This began with my emphatic statement that St. Mary, SC, and Surcie Island, SC, are my creations. I'll close by telling you that a writer friend of mine has sold a story he set in St. Mary, SC. He used a low country ruins scene I made up for another series and actually had his character mention Emily from my story Leigh likes: "Emily's Ghost Story." He called me on the telephone all excited about the sale (and when he has a publication date, I'll share it with you), but I confess that though he called it "homage," I wasn't really joyful about it. However, if Stephen King gives his wife permission to use his town in her novel, my friend can borrow some name from me.

I never introduce a song performance nor a prose reading with an explanation. I feel that the work should stand on its own. I also am not fond of books that begin with a list of character descriptions and/or a map of the location. I prefer to learn these things as I read, yet, after writing this, I actually considered making a map of St. Mary, SC, showing locations of events such as where Bill was caught making out with Loose Lucy during the candlelight vigil when Jane was kidnapped and where Little Fiddlin' Fred is buried in his gold-plated casket as well as recurring places like Callie's apartment, Middleton's Mortuary, Pa's homeplace, June Bug's burned out "Club," Rizzie's Gastric Gullah Grill, and other spots.

On second thought, that sounds like far too much work. Callie's readers will have to be satisfied with word descriptions.

Until we meet again, take care of. . . you!

12 November 2012

Known Only to God

by Fran Rizer

Are you off from work today? Although yesterday, November 11th, was Veterans Day, today is the official legal holiday for government workers and bank employees. I never understood why educational districts in SC didn't (and still don't) schedule Veterans Day as a holiday for students and teachers. After all, what's a parade without kids there to watch and how does the non-holiday instill an appropriate respect among youngsters ?

A little history: World War I, "the war to end all wars," stopped at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. November 11 was proclaimed Armistice Day. If, indeed, that war had ended all wars, we would still have an Armistice Day, but in 1939, World War II began in Europe.

On November 11, 1947, Raymond Weeks organized a parade in Birmingham, Alabama, to honor American military members for loyal service. He called it a Veterans Day Parade. Later, US Representative Edward H. Rees of Kansas proposed legislation that changed Armistice Day to Veterans Day. In 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a bill proclaiming November 11 as Veterans Day and issued a Presidential Order for Americans to rededicate themselves to the cause of peace. In 1968, Congress moved the holiday to the fourth Friday of October, but in 1978, the date was returned to November 11 because of its historical significance.

A little explanation: Some people confuse Memorial Day with Veterans Day. Aren't they both meant to honor and thank our military? As I used to tell my elementary students, Memorial Day honors the dead while Veterans Day honors all veterans, both living and dead. They understood that and gladly took part in assemblies and making cards to send to those in the military. (We watched the Veterans Day Parades on television.)

National Veterans Day
Arlington Cemetery,
November 11, 2011.
What they didn't understand was the Tomb of the Unknowns--originally called the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier when the unidentified body of an American soldier was buried on a hillside in Virginia in 1921 and put under military guard twenty-four, seven to symbolize dignity and reverence for all of American's veterans . "But, why, Ms. Rizer, why didn't they send him home to his family?"

I explained about the national ceremony every November 11 when the President of the United States or his representative lays a wreath on the tomb and there's a parade of flags and many dignitaries giving speeches, but the question remained, "But why, Ms. Rizer, why was he 'known only to God' and why didn't they send him home to his family?" Back then, it was okay to mention God in the classroom, but even back then, the symbolism of the unknown was difficult, and I didn't want to explain war and corpses to children.

This isn't the photo that went
viral, but it's my favorite of
the Tomb of the Unknowns
because of the lighting.
A photo that went viral on the Internet during Sandy showed the Tomb of the Unknowns being guarded by military during bad weather, and many thought this was actually taken during Sandy. I immediately thought, "What a great teaching tool!" and saved the picture though I'm no longer teaching. Turned out the picture was made in September, but it still made a valid point because the guards did remain on duty during Sandy.

Recently, I cleaned out my mother's bedroom closet. Hanging way back in the corner was a World War II soldier's uniform. It brought back memories. Not that I remembered my dad wearing it though I'd seen pictures of him in uniform, but I recalled a story I'd heard hundreds of times. When the USA entered the second World War, my father was deferred because he was a professor. As he told me,

I knew that one day I'd have a son and he'd ask, "Daddy, what did you do in the war?" I didn't want to have to tell him I stayed home and taught, so I joined the Army. Well, later, I did have a child and I've never been disappointed that you are you and a girl, but could you just one time ask, "Daddy, what did you do in the war?"

And being the sweet spirit I've always been, I always answered, "But Daddy, I love you no matter what you did during the war." I was grown before I realized he really did want me to ask about what he did during that war of national unity, common goals, and war rationing that our generation and especially our children's generation will never understand.

As a child, I assumed that my daddy was
probably one of these men photographed
in February, 1945,
Since then, my life has been filled with military men and women. My father-in-law was retired Navy; my sons' father served in both the Army and Navy; my sons' service has been both Marine and Navy; and my grandson's mother was in the Navy when he was born.

Uniforms have surrounded me most of my days--both personally and in everyday life since Fort Jackson, U.S. Army training facility, is located in my hometown and Shaw Air Force Base is only about forty minutes away.

The recruits look handsome and healthy in their uniforms when they're downtown on leave but sometimes they come back in different conditions.

During World War II, my father suffered permanent injury that led to his being bedridden most of his adult life, and I remember hearing of men who were shell-shocked. (I was grown before I realized they weren't saying "shell shot.") Is there any difference now? Men and women still come home with permanent injuries and with post-traumatic stress disorder.

World War I turned out not to be "the war to end all wars." Why? Students asked, "Why, Ms. Rizer, why is there war?" It's easy to say wars are fought because of differences in beliefs and goals, but I believe the real answer to that question is like the identity of the unknown body in that grave under military guard in Arlington Cemetery--known only to God.
Some of our Iraq and Afghanistan vets.

Veterans Day means more than little flags on graves in our cemeteries and big flags folded and placed in survivors' hands as "Taps" is played. It's more than American Legion and VFW clubs. It's more than the many veterans organizations who provide help and scholarships to vets and their families. It's more than projects like the national program to preserve veterans' memoirs. It's more than flag-waving and parades and a day off from work. It is a time to honor all vets, the living and dead, the healthy and the injured, and to give them our most sincere
THANK YOU!

God, please bless America, our veterans, and their families.

01 October 2012

To Kill or Not to Kill: My Personal Story

by Fran Rizer

Recently, I began going through my deceased mother's personal belongings. Among newspaper clippings and all of my report cards back to preschool, I found she'd saved print copies of numerous Internet articles and several guest blogs I did before I discovered Criminal Brief and was later invited to become a SleuthSayer.

Today, I'm reprinting a blog that appeared on Murderous Musings,
Sunday, June 11, 2008, including the introduction and an afterword.

2008 INTRODUCTION

We cap off the opening week of Murderous Musings with some thoughts from Guest Blogger Fran Rizer, author of the Callie Parrish Mystery Series for Berkley Prime Crime. Fran obviously has a morbid (make that mortuary) sense of humor. That she is a retired public school teacher may seem obvious from her nursery-rhymish titles. The first book was A Tisket, a Tasket, a Fancy, Stolen Casket. The second will be Hey, Diddle, Diddle, the Corpse & the Fiddle.

Fran has written for magazines, won photography awards, co-authored scientific nature studies for Clemson University, and is a published, recorded songwriter, A Murderous welcome to Fran Rizer.

THOUGHTS OF MURDER

Lizzie Borde
Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks.
When she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one.
Once upon a time, there was a little girl who loved that rhyme. I was that child. My fascination and delight with this poetic effort revealed my interest in murder at a very tender age. I read avidly about Lizzie, Jack the Ripper, the Boston Strangler, Ted Bundy, and, of course, Truman Capote's In Cold Blood killers.

Then I saw Susan Smith on television begging for the safe return of her children. She lived only about an hour's drive from my home. I doubted her sincerity but was still horrified when she confessed.

Susan Smith made me aware that my intrigue with murder isn't the act itself. My attraction is entertaining reading. It's not murder I like; it's reading about it. In my earlier years, I'd devoured true accounts, but because of their distance in time and place, those words had seemed like reading fiction.

That was a relief. It's easier to confess, "I love reading murder mysteries," than, "I love killing."
Susan Smith, 1994

Having read this week's initial blogs and feeling honored to be a guest on Murderous Musing, I wanted to address my personal thoughts on murder first and close with a few words about another favorite topic of mine: research.

RESEARCH NOTES

I always knew that if I lived long enough, someday I would write a novel and it would be a murder mystery. I also realized that many people are tired of the horrific news on CNN and that real murder is tragic and heart-breaking. When I retired from teaching, I decided to take a light-hearted approach to my first murder mystery. That's how the Callie Parrish Mystery Series was born and I was tagged the writer who put "fun into funerals."

Asked why my books are southern-based, I tend to answer, "Because you write what you know, and that's what I know." That's partly true, but I also write about murders and mortuaries, and I've never killed anyone, personally known a murder victim, nor worked in a funeral home. I used to tell my students, "Write what you know, and if you want to write about something you don't know, research it!"

A couple of years ago, at the visitation for my uncle's funeral in Aiken, SC, I began chatting with an employee who'd recently graduated from mortuary school. I asked a simple question about casket locking mechanisms, and he invited me downstairs to see for myself.

He showed me how to lock and unlock different models. I asked, and he answered a thousand questions. Well, at least a hundred. I confess I also checked out the difference in linings and the mattresses. When we finally returned to the visitation upstairs, I found my family frantically searching for me.

"Where were you this time?" my son asked.

"Researching for the book,"I replied.

When the first book was completed, I sent it on its merry way to New York where I was fortunate enough to get a great agent who got me a deal with Berkey Prime Crime. The third Callie Parrish book will be issued in October, 2008,

Recently, a cousin called me from Augusta, Georgia. "I went to a funeral today," she began.

"Who died?" I asked.

"Nobody you know, but I was telling a friend that my cousin writes books that take place in a funeral home. This good-looking man asked if you were from Columbia and then proudly announced that he'd taken you on a tour of the funeral home where he used to work. He wants to know where your next book signing will be."

As much as I appreciate the opportunity to blog as a guest on Murderous Musings, I need to hit the road. I'm headed to Georgia on a research trip!

2012 AFTERWORD

A lot has changed since 2008. The second, third, and fourth Callie books have been published, and I'm on a first-name basis with undertakers at several funeral homes who have no problem answering whatever weird questions I call and ask them.

My friend, Linda
The major change, however, is about my best friend, Linda. A few of you already know about her. She was two years younger than I and the daughter of my mother's best friend. We had matching Easter dresses when we were little, and one year, we received identical gorgeous dolls from Santa. We each married our childhood sweethearts two weeks apart and bought houses next door to each other. We celebrated the births of our children together and comforted each other when our marriages ended in divorce. We double-dated both before our marriages and after our divorces. Linda was Callie Parrish's number one fan, not the kind Stephen King wrote about in MISERY, but the kind who organized a fan club that met me at book signings carrying big "Fran Rizer Fan Club, We Love Callie" signs and wearing black, sequin-accented mourning veils she made.

On the last Friday in January, 2009, Linda and I went shopping that morning. That night, we went to dinner with Cal and Dennis. She went home early because she had an all-day church meeting on Saturday. I called her several times Saturday. Her car wasn't at her house, and I assumed she'd gone out with some of the others from the meeting.

Cal and I kept calling. When there was no answer by nine that night, he called her son-in-law, who entered the house and found Linda's body. She'd been beaten to death the night before during a home robbery. She'd retired from her state job only sixty days before; she'd raised her daughter as a single mother; and her house needed repairs, but she spent most of her money on her three grandchildren. What in the hell did the monster think she'd have that was worth stealing? I won't go into details except to say that I helped clean the house including removing what seemed like a ton of black fingerprint dust. Her burned car was found not very far away, and the amethyst and diamond ring she'd traded her wedding rings in for after her divorce was recovered from a pawn shop.

Well-written murder can be entertaining. In reality, murder is perpetual hell with survivors doomed to wonder every day: When did she know he was in the house? How scared was she? How much pain did she endure physically and mentally?

I vowed not to ever write another murder. I did, however, allow what I'd already written to be published.

My mother, Willene
On April 25, 2012, my mother died in my arms after five months of constant agony, infection, and complications from hip surgery. How could I even consider ever writing another Callie mystery which, according to some reviewers, "put the fun in funerals"?

Not a day passes that I don't think about my mother and Linda. Not a day passes that I don't remember the many wonderful times with each of them--including watching my mother read the Callie books with her big magnifying glass and finding Linda's optimistic stash of black sequined veils in her closet when we cleaned out her house.

I couldn't write fiction from November until a month ago. The thriller written long ago found a home under a pen name after Linda's death, but I decided there would be no more Callies.

There's an old song– "Time Changes Everything." Maybe so. Or maybe I remembered how much Linda and Mama loved Callie, but when my publisher called and asked when the next one would be available, I told him the end of November and started writing. Callie books average 80,000 words. I'm 60,000 words into the rough draft of Mother Hubbard Has A CORPSE IN THE CUPBOARD. I can no longer say, "I haven't killed anyone...lately" because I've killed two recently. I don't think blunt force trauma will ever return to my writing, but apparently I can still shoot fictional characters.

Gotta go now. I have another book to finish.

Until we meet again… take care of   YOU!

06 August 2012

Surprise Endings


By Fran Rizer

O. Henry was one of my favorite writers when I was a child.  I loved the surprise endings in each of his tales.  Almost everyone is familiar with some of his short stories, especially "Gift of the Magi" and "Ransom of Red Chief."  My favorite was "Mammon and the Archer." 

Periodically, I survey my universe and eradicate the negatives, which has frequently led to breakups with gentlemen friends. This tends to correspond with "cleaning out my library" which results in my giving away books which I later wish I'd kept.  Inevitably, I've changed my mind and wanted those stories back, (though not the gentlemen friends), so I've bought numerous copies of the Complete Works of O. Henry through the years. I enjoy his work now as much as I ever did.
William Sydney Porter
aka O. Henry
aka Olivier Henry

William Sydney Porter was born in Asheville, North Carolina, but began receiving recognition for his writing under the pseudonym Olivier Henry while living in Texas, where he was convicted of embezzlement and spent time in prison.  Upon his release, he moved to New York City and began writing under the pen name O. Henry

Since his death at age forty-seven, O. Henry has had several supporters offer evidence that he was innocent of the embezzlement.  There is an O. Henry Museum in his honor in Texas. 

Regardless of  his youthful guilt or innocence, O. Henry remains one of my favorite writers and an inspiration for the unexpected ending.  Needless to say, he immediately came to mind when I discovered PARAPROSDOKIANS.

Sir Winston Churchill
PARAPROSDOKIANS are figures of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected and frequently humorous.  Sir Winston Churchill loved them, and I'll bet O. Henry would have, too.

Some examples:

1.  Where there's a will, I want to be in it.

2.  The last thing I want to do is hurt you, but it's still on my list.

3.  Since light travels faster than sound, some people appear bright until you hear them speak.

4.  If I agreed with you, we'd both be wrong.

5.  War does not determine who is right--only who is left.

6.  To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism; to steal from many is research.

7.  I thought I wanted a career, turns out I just wanted paychecks.

8.  I asked God for a bike, but I know God doesn't work that way, so I stole a bike and prayed for forgiveness.

9.  I didn't say it was your fault; I said I was blaming you.

"I'm sexy and I know it!"
10.  Women will never be equal to men  until they can walk down the street with a bald head and a beer gut and still think they are sexy.

11.  A clear conscience is a sign of a fuzzy memory.

12.  You don't need a parachute to skydive; you only need a parachute to skydive twice.

13.  I used to be indecisive; now I'm not so sure.

14.  To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target.

15.  Nostalgia isn't what it used to be.

16.  Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.

17.  Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.

18.  I am neither for nor against apathy.

19. Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go.

20.  Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it into a fruit salad.




How about you?  Do you have a favorite of the twenty PARAPROSDOKIANS above or perhaps one not listed?  Better yet, make one up and share it!

Until we meet again. . . take care of YOU!







09 July 2012

Numb and Nummer

By Fran Rizer

Note: Two weeks ago, I promised this week would be more about pseudonyms,but I've been too busy to finish the research, so that will come later.


Last year both of my hands went numb. They'd been tingly and uncomfortable before, but not like this. When they weren't numb, the pain was agonizing, excruciating enough to wake me from a sound sleep.  Being type 1 diabetic, I attributed the problem to neuropathy, but my endocrinologist insisted I have testing.  For those of you who've never needed these tests, the technician sticks needles in varying points on the patient's arms and hands, then presses buttons that send jolts of electricity from one needle to another.  The time between the shock above the hand and its arrival at points in the hand can be interpreted by the physician to show degrees of neuropathy and carpal tunnel syndrome.  My tests showed mild neuropathy and extreme carpal tunnel syndrome in both hands.  Carpal tunnel syndrome is compression of the median nerve at the wrist.


My first surgery was scheduled for December, but I postponed it because I was spending all my time with Mom then.  The right hand was "fixed" in May, and since then, what writing I've done has been left-handed hunting and pecking.  I'm still having therapy on the right hand but plan to have surgery on the left in August.



If you're reading this, you have access to computers and can look up Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) for yourself, so I won't go into many medical details, but there are a few facts I've learned that I believe writers should know.  First, there are treatments that help before surgery becomes necessary. (I ignored symptoms until they were severe.)  Second, if surgery is necessary, its success is somewhat limited by the degree of infirmity in the hands.  Third, the surgery isn't always successful and is not so minor as I thought.  Frequently, six months to ten months pass before recuperation is considered complete and the surgeon knows how much success there has been.


When a gal reaches my age, a scar or so is not going to be as upsetting as to ladies who receive scars that interfere with their bikinis.  In CTS, the scars will be either on the wrist or the palm of the hand.  I'm pleased that my surgeon makes the incision at the bottom of the palm instead of on the wrist. I think it's less noticeable and won't ever be mistaken for a suicide attempt.  Besides, when the brace  comes off, these will be scars that can be shown off without having to remove any clothing.  The doctor did tell me that though the incision was less than an inch and a half, he lifts the skin and actually operates about four or five inches in length.


If you're still with me, you're probably wondering why I chose to talk about this. After all, SleuthSayers isn't a medical blog.  CTS is not about writing, is it?  Actually, it is.  Mine is probably the result of excessive writing, both on and off the keyboard.  My point today is that I didn't know until my surgery that it could have been more easily corrected earlier.  If you're having early signs of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (tingling, pain, numbness and/or difficulty in moving fingers), it's advisable to have a doctor check it sooner instead of later.

Until we meet again,  take care of. . .YOU!





25 June 2012

AKA

by Fran Rizer
Mary Anne Evans
AKA George Eliot
What do Silas Marner, Jane Eyre, and Heathcliff, have in common?  They each had his/her story told by a female writer whose books were first published under a male pen name because it was not thought appropriate for women to be writers during the Victorian period..

Silas Marner was written by George Eliot whose real name was Mary Anne Evans.  High school and college students still study her works including Adam Bede.

Emily Brone
AKA Eric Bell




Heathcliff and Jane Eyre live on in Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. Novelist sisters Charlotte, Emily, and AnneBronte all wrote under pseudonyms when they were first published.  They chose to present themselves as brothers.  Charlotte Bronte wrote Jane Eyre as Currer Bell; Emily Bronte  wrote Wuthering Heights as Ellis Bell; and Anne Bronte's first works were published under the name Anton Bell. The sisters' first effort was a book of poetry with works by Ellis, Currer, and Anton.  It was self-published and sold only two copies!

Surely times have changed enough that women freely publish their works as females, but the prejudice hasn't been fully erased. Jeanne Rowling's chronicles of Harry Potter were published under the name J.K. Rowling because her publisher believed the stories would be better accepted by young male readers if they didn't know Harry's world was created by a woman.

Joanne Rowling
AKA J. K. Rowling
Charles Lutwidge Dodson chose his pen name by translating his first two names into Latin (Carolus Lodovicus) and then anglicizing them to Lewis Carroll.

Eric Blair proposed four pen names to his editor.  Three of them were rejected, including Kenneth Miles and P. S. Burton.  The editor chose George Orwell. which Eric had selected because of the River Orwell in Suffolk, England.

Some readers assume that the Richard Bachman novels were written by Stephen King before he became successful and switched to his own name.  Actually, King was already recognized and was churning out more than one book a year.  His editor advised that the public wouldn't accept more than one book a year from him.  King decided to publish Rage under his maternal grandfather's name--Gus Pillsbury.  The pseudonym was leaked, and King changed the pen name to Richard Bachman.  The name came from King looking around and seeing a Richard Stark book on his desk while listening to "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet" by Bachman Turner Overdrive on his stereo.

Gore Vidal
AKA Edgar Box, Cameron Kay
and Katherine Everard
Gore Vidal's early books outraged critics and led to his facing a blacklist.  Vidal turned to murder mysteries under the name Edgar Box.  These books were Death in the Fifth Position, Death Before Bedtime, and Death Likes It Hot.  Vidal also wrote an international intrigue entitled Thieves Fall Out under the name Cameron Kay and a Hollywood melodrama called A Star's Progress using the byline Katherine Everard.  The "Everard" came from a gay bathhouse in New York City. 
Ray Bradbury AKA Ron Reynolds, Anthony
Corvais, Guy Amory, Doug Rogers,
William Elliott and probably others.

The late Ray Bradbury was prolific in both his work and his use of pen names.  At age nineteen, he and some friends started a fanzine.  In the first issue, Bradbury  published his work under his own name and as Ron Reynolds.  In the seccond issue, he used three pseudonyms: Anthony Corvais, Guy Amory, and Doug Rogers.  His first breakthrough was in 1945 when he had three stories accepted almost simultaneously by Mademoiselle, Charm and Collier's.  He'd submitted them under the name William Elliott and had to call editors to have checks cut in his real name.


Probably the best known pseudonym is Samuel Langhorne Clemens's use of Mark Twain.  Closer to
many of us is Jolie McLarren Swann.  The Black Orchid Novella Award published in the August. 2012, issue of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine is "Inner Fire" by Jolie McLarren Swann. 
Rearrange the letters in Swann's name to discover the author's true name.

Join me in two weeks for continuation of this blog about pen names. I'll share with you some I use and introduce you to my friend/mentor who was a successful mystery/thriller writer who changed her pen name and has made it to the New York Times Bestseller List.

Until we meet again, take care of ...YOU!