News from Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Escape to a Fantasy World

I met a young man who writes because he must. He doesn't have a computer. He hasn't studied writing. He says, "The words are there in my head and they have to come out." He let me read the following piece, a memoir, and I was so taken with the world he created  asked his permission to share. His name is David Horn and he works as a handyman.


By David Horn

When I was young, there was a place we called Evenmarrow.
It was as wondrous as anything one might hear of in any fairytale—a place of beauty and mystery where my heart was free and my soul lived untamed by the modern world.
Now I am old, spending my days in restrained social conformity. That which was wild and magical has all but escaped me. I desperately cling to small shreds of memory harboring those cherished events long past. I refer to them as events because they are, or were. This is not a fairytale. This is about truth and humanity—the humanity we have lost. It’s about those things, which matter most in the world.
We lived in the golden sunshine, amid tall emerald grasses surrounding those deep, turquoise waters of Evenmarrow. Towering cattails, reaching to the very sky itself swayed in the summer breeze at the water’s edge. Large bullfrogs lived among them. They were the guardians and not the talkative sort, thus we left them to their duties. Enormous lilies rode upon the waters, providing us with places to spell ourselves after long dives beneath the rippling surface. Lazy goldfish big as whales swam beneath the waters, and above, massive dragonflies hummed, traveling the skies over our beloved Evenmarrow.
There it was we learned to live free and that was the truth, which we lost. We plunged deep into those beautiful waters becoming lost in their tranquility, pulling ourselves even deeper while grasping the lily stalks. Down we traveled as bubbles caressed our bodies on their journey to the surface far above. The sunlight danced throughout the water in bolts that swayed, shimmering as if alive. And yet it was alive, as all things were and are. When wearied, we would spiral once more for the world above, our hair wrapping about us in graceful, flowing sheets.
When the rains visited, Evenmarrow was filled with new magic. The grooves in our grassy banks became waterslides, which we traveled down at great speeds, spilling into our heaven. That’s what it was to us—heaven. Our hearts swelled, deepening our sense of the world we lived in.
Those watery bodies descending from the grey skies sometimes overwhelmed us as we were so small and they were half our size. Thunder was an earthquake, which caused the ground beneath us to tremble; yet we were unafraid. We were not made to fear for the passing that was simply part of the mystery of life.
In winter, we halted in our walk, not as others do, but rather as trees do when the seasons change. We would become dormant in a way. Dreams became, to us, the life of our winter selves and through them we would exist in other places. Evenmarrow would wait for us, and we would long for home in return. Spring would soon arrive, bringing us home on her warm, fragrant wings, placing each of us on the banks of our watery heaven. Thus the cycle would go on. This was the way of things. Our life as it was, ages upon ages ago.
Our world was young and almost fretless, however, as time passed, outsiders came to visit our Evenmarrow. We didn’t know it then, but the place we called heaven was soon to darken before our very eyes. Whispers would be the enemy. Through all their subtlety, they would soon devour our home and our lives as well.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Halloween, Turkeys and the Dark Side

     Halloween has come and gone, Thanksgiving approaches, followed by our modern, mutant version of Christmas. Turkey's come to mind, and that makes me ponder human bullying of the weaker members of society and the misery it brings about.
     I realized the similarity between turkeys and humans at the beginning of my journalism career. I was barely twenty, without any experience, the newbie on a small, local magazine in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, privy to all the fluff assignments. My assignment that day was to interview a turkey farmer and return with an article and a cover photo for the November issue.
     Lancaster County is heavily agricultural--lots of turkeys nearby, so within a half hour I was knee deep, surrounded by a cacophonous mob of poultry. The first thing I noticed was that they all had the top half of their beaks missing. "Why," I asked?
     The reply: "If we don't do that, they'll pick each other to death."
     It seems turkeys instinctively sense the weak members of the flock and gang up on them, picking until they're dead, not unlike a grade school bully, a teenage tormentor, child abusers, wife abusers, and heads of rogue governments who have cowed our own government into submission. Why do they bully? Because they can.
     How have we come to this place? When did we decide that ganging up and whacking them alongside the head was socially unacceptable? By the time we reach sixth grade we should know that you can't appease a bully by being nice, or giving them presents and money.  Bullies fear two things: losing their power and public ridicule. On a grade school level, a couple of victims, with some creative thinking, should be able to come up with a solution. The same fear of those two things runs through all levels of our society, including world government.
     It's time we revisited the lesson of "The Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow." He knew about fear of ridicule. Or remember the lesson of Teddy Roosevelt: "Speak softly and carry a big stick." The fear of losing power.
     The national level is where I'm concerned the most. China bullies us with threats to our currency, so we send them loads of foreign aid. We have to borrow the money from them to send it back and then pay interest on it! Afghanistan announces that if we get into a disagreement with Pakistan they will side with our enemy, so we send them more money and overlook their drug trade. We're rebuilding Iraq in the hopes that someday they will sell us oil. We won the war, stupid. It's our oil.
     You can't buy friendship. Where is our common sense?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Sex and The Middle School.

An exchange of dialogue at the last Presidential Debate has me considering the way we teach sex to our youngsters about to enter puberty. I refer to Michelle Bachman's outrage at Gov. Rick Perry for ordering compulsory immunization against the Human Papilloma Virus for twelve year old girls.
This is a sexually transmitted disease that leads to uterine cancer later on. The problem is it has to be administered before there is any sexual activity. Ms. Bachman thought twelve year olds were too innocent to have to deal with such stuff.
Well, the truth is that if you put it off another year, you'll miss a percentage of girls. They are already active. Forgive me for not having the statistics, but I'm betting almost all middle schools in the country have had to deal with pregnant twelve or thirteen year old girls.
In our quest to embellish our life on this planet with all sorts of beliefs in family values and religious dogma, we forget that man is a mammal whose purpose on this earth is to be born, procreate, and die.
It's the procreate we have trouble with. Suddenly girls are awash in hormones that feel like true love. There is that other very human fear of being alone--cut from the herd--left out. How is a young female going to come through this jungle unscathed unless we teach them about their bodies? It isn't love, stupid; it's a hormone called copulin.
The mystery is explained in my book, The Alien, (unpublished). The five commissioners of the planet Agra, who are all species of moss, are discussing human procreation.

"It sounds most inefficient to me, this requirement for two people," Four said. "I don't understand this male-female thing. Why do they need both?"
Five replied, "My research indicates it is because of the rather involved human procreation process. Periodically, the female produces eggs, which are like our spores, and holds them inside her body. The male fertilizes them, and when they have grown into small humans, they are shed by the female and nurtured until they can live independently."
"It sounds rather chancy to me.” Three said, “What if the male isn’t interested? How does the female compel the male to fertilize?"
Five answered. "The male has little choice in the matter. His nose controls him. The female has scent glands behind her ear. When she has an egg ready she emits a scented hormone called 'Copulin.' Glands in nearby males are stimulated by this odor to produce another hormone, testosterone, in their saliva. They put their mouths together─Earthlings refer to this action as kissing─and the saliva arouses the female, encouraging further male activity. Fertilization takes place."
Three asked, "Why can't she fertilize them herself, like we do?"
Two shifted restlessly. "Really, One. This is most tedious. Must we discuss it further? I don't care how procreation is accomplished and I don't want to learn."
Five intervened, "We cannot strategize victory if we don't understand what motivates these creatures. We have essential oils regulating our behavior; humans have hormones. The mystery is that the human nose cannot detect these substances, which dominate their behavior to a great degree, subconsciously. They are not aware they are being motivated by their hormones."
"Considering how rapidly humans multiply," Two intoned critically, "I should think they would be educated at an early age to be aware of this and control their response."
So there you have it. The next time a boy tries for sex with a girl too young, she can simply chalk it up to hormones and tell him to get lost.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Writing History--The Ultimate trip

My new book, "The Hidden History of Eureka Springs," is about to become a reality. Writing this book has changed me. My world now has color and form way beyond the normal. The reality of every event, every political decision, now comes with an invisible kite tail weighing it down, governing its outcome.
When History Press asked me to write this book, my first thought was, "Who, me?" I write romance or urban fantasy. I like to make things up. This stuff already happened.
I quickly discovered that relating what happened is hardly scratching the surface. My advantage was living in a town that should have never happened. Eureka Springs was an accident. In 1879 there were no maps, no roads, not even a path pointing the way, but there were rumors of a puddle of water, at the base of a hill, that would heal sickness. Once the word was out, they came in droves. 500 in one month, camping around this puddle. 10,000 in a year, all with one thing in common--they were sick, in terrible pain, and without hope.
Thus began the journey that changed my life and the way I see things. I met ordinary people with extraordinary talents who simply appeared when they were most needed. Every time the battle to survive the looked lost, somebody was there, and these people stay with you. I find myself wondering what the wily Claude Fuller, master politician in 1926, would do about this present-day congress . They'd never know what hit them.
And General Powell Clayton, of Civil War fame. He showed up in 1882 determined to make a town out of this mish-mash of shacks and hovels. Within four years he had a railroad, a water works, electricity, and streets with gas lights. No TARP or stimulus for him. Just do it.
And so it went. For each triumph there was a disaster that leveled the town . . . again. The story reads like a bad soap opera.
I even have a mystery man. He was there at the beginning, a charismatic man the citizens followed without question. For two years he led them through the basics of making a town, then disappeared. I can't find one reference to him after 1881. His name was Hugh. I'll find him. He's my hero. Probably the romantic lead in my next book. Maybe we'll do a little time travel.
If you need some excitement in your life, write history. It's the ultimate trip.
You can order the book at or look for it in a few weeks on

Friday, April 29, 2011

A little howling couldn't hurt

I was reading a post on my Facebook page by Amy Shojai, our resident animal behavior expert, about why dogs howl. In my book, the Alien, I have a scene where Daniel, the Alien, learns to howl from a dog he's befriended. Let me post a bit of the scene here, because we've all had those days when a little howling would help.
The scene: Nightime, on the steps outside a camper trailer. Daniel now knows how to move in his body and how to speak, but he's alone and lost. His only friend is a Basset Hound, Buford.
There was no hope for it. He'd never go home. He was being hunted by one of his own species sent to destroy him. Buford, lying in his usual place by the steps, wagged his tail in greeting as Daniel approached and sat beside him.
From a distance, a coyote, searching for a kindred spirit, howled his loneliness, the sound drifting across the hills. The plaintive notes settled in Daniel's bones. Emotion caught in his voice. "Yeah, I know how he feels."
Rousing, Buford gave an answering call, his ululating bugle floating on the night air. With a satisfied grunt, he shook himself, and leaned against Daniel's shoulder, tilting his head to invite an ear scratching.
Daniel obliged him. "Howling feels good, huh? I could try that. I might feel better." He gathered his thoughts, centering in his gut, all his fear of abandonment and the pain of his loss. The ache grew into a black hole, churning until it welled up into his throat. His head thrown back, he let go with a long, loud howl, pulsing with grief, prolonging it until there was no more breath.
Buford howled in sympathy, the sound resonating with Daniel, where it hung in the air. In the distance, the coyote answered. Daniel tried again; this time he was louder and more heart-felt. Buford added his voice in dissonant harmony--a couple of kindred spirits in tune.
Inside the trailer, Ed looked at John. "What's all that racket?"
"Buford and Daniel are howling at the moon."
"You know, when that young man told us he wasn't from around here, Ithink that might a been a big understatement."
"I heard that."

Friday, April 22, 2011

Getting Started Again

You start a blog with great anticipation, make some posts, and then get busy with other stuff, and before you know it, six months have passed without a word and Google has almost forgotten you.
Guilty as charged, but I'm back and this time with something to say.
I've just finished a novel titled "The Alien," about a creature stranded on this planet with no clue where he is or why, but with an embedded Artificial Intelligence to explain human behavior. I had to get inside the Alien's head to write this and get rid of all my culturally conditioned beliefs, attitudes and politics so I could look at human behavior from a coldly analytical point of view.
It was a harrowing journey that created a lot of questions and no answers. my hope is, if anyone else reads this book, that it will make them examine their own beliefs. I'd like to offer some of these questions in the next few weeks to get some feed back, but fair warning: they are controversial.
The premise is that if humans don't change their ways and their attitudes toward this planet, they are in for another mass extinction like the last, very soon--within the next two years. This will be the fifth time all life except some plants has been destroyed and evolution started again. The last time we got mammals, which was good, except for humans. If there were no humans this would be a paradise.
My Alien, who will be named Daniel eventually, hatches from a seed pod left behind by an outer-space exploration, 40,000 years ago. He is an experimental clone, made from a plant. He is a plant who appears human, but has no human biology, no sex, no organs. He functions like a plant with essential oils but he has extraordinary intelligence. He starts as a sprout and grows until he creates a cocoon and emerges as a human replica. He has to learn to walk, talk, etc. with the help of his embedded Artificial Intelligence. Luckily he's in the Rainier National Forest and it's summer.
During Daniel's odyssey he must elude a female assasain sent to destroy him, deal with gangsters terrorizing a neighborhood, human trafficking, survive a gang war, elude some determined police officers and learn how to play Texas Hold'Em.
To begin, here's a short scene witha boy he's befriended at a campground . They are watching the boy's mother prepare dinner.
"What's she doing?" Daniel's eyes were wide with fear.
"My Mom? She's peeling carrots."
"Why would she do such a thing?"
"I guess 'cause we don't eat the skins. Why?"
"They've been torn from the ground by their roots. They could be suffering. How do
you know they're dead?"
"Carrots aren't alive like people. They're vegetables."
''I'm a vegetable and I'm alive."

Until next time.