News from Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Friday, December 7, 2012

A Free Gift For Christmas

From me to my readers, here is a short story for Christmas entertainment. It's not the warm fuzzy Hallmark Channel lurkers are used to, in fact, there's irony here and a little taste of "gotcha," but it has a happy ending.
It's an experiment in Interior Monologue, which means only one voice, one point of view. His name is George, and he's not a happy camper. Enjoy!

Marilyn Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

               By Joyce  Zeller

I've lost my mind.  I'm standing in a puddle of slush on the sidewalk, in Downtown Chicago, waiting for my ride and shivering my ass off, because I've been sucked into to another Christmas cocktail party. Hell, I just came from an office party. 
I’m a push-over that’s what. I hate these things. The food is lousy, alcohol gives me a headache, and I stand around trying to look like I'm having fun, but nobody wants to talk to me. Bud wants me to meet this woman he's gone ape over--the broad he's going to marry if he can talk her into it, and, OK, I owe him. He’s new in the office and the only one who’s tried to be friendly in a while. The rest of those losers all took Marilyn’s side in the divorce and now they just ignore me. Learned a lesson there.  Four years of marriage is more than enough. Shit, if the guy wants me to go to this party to meet this woman, well, what the hell. 
It’s starting to snow—again. God, I hate Chicago in the winter—the damn wind blowing salt from the street in my face, the sidewalks piled with dirty, greasy snow left from the last storm.
       Holidays are the worst. The place goes crazy with gaudy Christmas decorations, the obligatory, glitzy tree in every office, and those damn, clanging bells in the hands of the ersatz Salvation Army Santas, driving a man crazy.      
       “Hey, George! Over here!” 
       Well, yeah, Bud, yell loud enough for the whole world to hear, hanging out the window of that cab, waving his hands, just like a little kid.  I’m not going to live through this evening if he keeps up with this holiday cheer.
Well, it ‘s too late now to back out. I might as well get this over with.
      “Hey, good Buddy. You been waiting long? Here, let me move these bags. I stopped to get some wine. Melody likes this special wine they sell at Stop &Shop.”
     So smile as if you mean it, stupid. Melody Lowe! What the hell kind of a name is that? A woman with a name like that is up to no good.
     “Hey, cheer up, George.  You’ll enjoy yourself. Wait until you meet her!”
     Brace yourself. Here it comes.  When Bud starts about Melody it‘s like a dam breaking. To hear him tell it, the lady is the most dynamic, dazzling, beautiful, et cetera, woman to come down the pike this century.
     “She’s so confident! She knows where she’s going and how to get there.”
     What the hell is that supposed to mean?
     “She makes her own clothes out of material she paints. She weaves stuff on the loom she has in her living room.”
     George sighed. “Marilyn used to have ideas like that. We’d fight about it and then, she’d finally give it up.”
     Hell, I’m talking about my ex-wife! I never talk about her, ever, except to mother. Damn, there shouldn’t be this pain in the gut. I should be glad to be rid of her.
     Bud was looking at him, waiting.
     “Marilyn is my ex-wife.”
     It wasn’t enough. Bud still waited. What the hell! Maybe it was the goofy look on his face when he talked about Melody, or his general dumbness when it came to women. Whatever, George suddenly felt like talking about his marriage. He was an expert on the devious ways of women. Maybe he could enlighten Bud about the pitfalls and keep him from making a stupid mistake.
     “Marilyn had all these ideas about decorating. She wanted to fill the living room with wild colors and buy a purple rug. We had a big fight about it. Mother explain to her that most dirt was shades of brown, so it was smarter to stick to those colors so the dirt wouldn’t show.”
Bud was looking at him oddly. It was plain that he didn’t understand and it was important to George that he did.
      “It took some doing but she finally saw it our, ah, my way.  We ended up with a nice brown tweed sofa and a brown carpet. Good stuff. Cost a bundle. Here’s women for ya’. When it was delivered Marilyn refused to go in there -- only to dust once in awhile.”
     Plainly, Bud wasn’t listening, looking down at his hands, obviously waiting so he could talk about Melody. His temper started to flare. His friend reminded of a dog he’d once owned, briefly. Damn thing didn’t want to listen to him, either.
      “Melody’s about our age. I met her when I was taking a night class at college. She’s an Interior Decorator. She makes a lot of money. Wait until you see her place. She’s got these acrylic tables she made in art class, and there’s a purple rug on the floor. 
     One of those hippie types. “Marilyn wanted to go back to school.  She started taking a couple of night courses, but it didn’t work out. I mean, what kind of life did I have if she had her nose in a book all the time? Dinner was never ready because she was late getting out of class. Breakfast too, because she stayed up late studying. We didn’t have anything to talk about anymore.“
      “Melody and I spend hours talking. She has a fine mind. You know, the next day is easier after I’ve spent an evening with Melody. I know she’s there, waiting for me to phone and I don’t feel alone anymore.” He looked to George for understanding.
     Well, hell. “Yeah, Buddy, I know what you mean.” Regret seared through him, making his gut ache. “Loneliness is the one thing about divorce that’s hard to live with. There’s nobody to talk to unless you go out looking, and then you wonder if anybody will like you enough to spend an evening with you, and then wonder what else they’ll expect, and if you’ll disappoint them.
The moment of quiet brought on by his confession should have been peaceful, but it embarrassed him. Thankfully, Bud broke the silence.
      “I’m going to ask Melody to marry me again, tonight. The one thing I have going for me is that I want kids and so does she.  Did you ever have kids?”
     The fight about kids ended his marriage. “No. Marilyn wanted kids and we argued about it, but Mother warned me. Marilyn was adopted and if you didn’t know the blood, you couldn’t be sure of what you’d get, so I didn’t want to have kids.”
     The expression of pure disgust on Bud’s face shocked him.  He heard his laugh echoing uncertainly.
     “You know, Melody once told me one of the things that appealed to her about me was that I didn’t have a mother. I thought that was a strange thing to say, but maybe not.”
      They pulled up at Melody’s apartment. Bud paid the cab and George got out to follow him to the entrance of an obviously high-end apartment complex. The lobby gleamed with polished wood and elegant furnishings and lush Christmas decorations, obviously the work of a professional. The bronze elevator doors and plush carpeting added to the impression of wealth. George looked around, envious, wondering what it'd cost to live here. Reluctantly he followed George, walking down the hall, inhaling the electronically freshened air. The sounds of gaiety beckoned them.
     The door was open. George saw Melody Lowe standing there, wearing some long, flowing thing of many colors, and laughing with the crowd of people surrounding her. She had pulled her long, dark hair on top her head with tendrils of curls caressing her exquisitely long neck. Pain twisted in his gut. He had never seen a more desirable woman. When she looked up and saw George, her face stilled. Slowly, deliberately, she walked toward him, He stood, rooted to the floor, impaled by the expression in her eyes as she approached, placing one foot in front of the other, like a cat stalking its prey. 
     She was up to him now, looking coldly into his white face.
     “Hi, Marilyn, long time no see.”
                                                             The End

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Predictions and Prophecies

I was going to discuss sweet potato pie, a Thanksgiving favorite, but the media is so taken with the Mayan Prophecies that I thought they deserved mention.
Once again we have reached a time when the Internet is flooded with dire predictions of future misfortunes, namely The End of the World.
The ancient Mayan Prophecies prediction that their fourth calendar year will end December 12, 2012 is gleaning a lot of attention lately because they were remarkably learned about a lot of things, and their predictions were uncannily accurate. You can learn more on the Internet.
Remember the “experts” who would, for a price, prepare us to survive the change to the Second Millennium and avoid disaster? There were predictions that computers would crash.  The electronic cash register in my store was an older model unable to handle a year date ending in a double zero. I had an employee scared almost to death to come to work the first day of 2000 because she thought it would explode. Not to worry. At midnight, Jan. 1, the machine simply posted the date as 1949 and stayed that way until 2001.
This blog is about the remarkably accurate predictions of the North American Hopi Indians. They also use the 2012 date and, so far, have accurately told of events on this continent. I describe them in my book, Accidental Alien. The premise of the book is that the Supreme Creator is so disgusted with the way humans have evolved that He has decided to order a sixth mass extinction on Earth and start over with new life. When humans appeared they were designed to become the caretakers of the Earth. Instead, something went wrong and they evolved into killing machines with no regard for any life, including human. My newly germinated plant alien, Daniel, learns this while maturing into his human persona. He would like to find a way to change things.
Here is an excerpt from the conversation he and his companion female, Aine, are having with their mentor, Professor Masters. He is speaking.
"This sounds like the Native American Indian Prophecies, borrowed by the Hopi from the Mayan. They had a vast knowledge of the heavens. Their calendar divided time into 'Worlds,' of about 5,000 years. This is the Fourth World, due to end by December 21, 2012, after certain 'signs,' or predictions are fulfilled."
"And these signs," Daniel asked, "What are they?"
"For one thing, the Hopi predictions are surprisingly accurate. Most of the prophecies have been fulfilled. We are waiting for the last.”
“Tell us of that one,” Aine said.
They foretold the coming of the white man, the covered wagons of the Western migration, the introduction of longhorn cattle, the railroads, the highway system, and recently, the Seventh Sign, which says the sea will turn black and many living things will die because of it."
"That's already happened," Aine said. "What are the rest?"
"The Eighth sign predicts that many youth, who wear their hair long, like the People, will join the tribal nations to learn their ways and wisdom. Some scholars believe it describes the ‘hippie’ movement.”
"And the last? The Ninth Sign?"
"As I recall, it says something like: ‘You will hear of a great dwelling place in the heavens above the earth, that will fall with a great crash. It will appear as a blue star. Very soon after this, the ceremonies of my people will cease.’"
"The Mass Extinction of the Second Millennium," Daniel whispered.
"Yes, you might be right," Wally said. "The prophecy ends with words something like . . . um, 'These are the signs of the Great Destruction. The world will rock to and fro. The white man will battle people of other lands.'
I remember a prediction about white columns of smoke like those the Indians have seen in the desert. I can only think of an atomic bomb.They will cause much disease and great dying.
The summation, as far as I'm concerned, is that the earth will go through a great purification process. How drastic it will be depends on humanity coming to its senses before it's too late. It seems every day there is a new disaster to warn us."
Daniel accepts this prediction. He has already decided that extinction might be a good thing. Something went very wrong when humans emerged from the primordial mist. Instead of fulfilling their role as caretakers of life on the planet, they evolved into monstrous killing machines with no regard for any living thing including them. They enjoy human slaughter.
The book has a happy ending. We’ll have to see about 2012.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Wha' Happened?

This is an opinion piece so, if you don’t like opinions that might not agree with yours, don’t read it. Wait until next week when I’ll get poetic about sweet potato pie, or some such thing.
The dust has settled on the last election and half the population is happy because their guy won, and the other half views with trepidation the next four years
The truth is that the Romney campaign was the most mismanaged campaign since McGovern, so badly run his advisors owe the public an apology. He should have fired everybody at the get-go and hired two very good speech writers and a drama coach. That campaign was classic 1980 political strategy; the trouble is that this is the second millennium. Back then negative campaigning was a no-no. You remained polite. You didn’t respond to outrageous accusations, no matter how slanderous. You remained quietly steadfast. This strategy today, unfortunately, makes you look like the little kid being tormented by the schoolyard bully (meaning the Dems) and not knowing how to fight back. Your classic wimp.
Uh huh. The Democrats came out swinging months in advance. They accused Romney of everything from being a felon to preying on the helpless old ladies. He remained silent, not saying a word while the public pleaded for some sign that he was a leader. Was this presidential? If he couldn’t slap the Dems upside the head for lying, how would he handle the Middle East despots? Would he just roll over and beg them to be nice? Newt Gingrich would have hit them like a freight train. We were looking for a leader and got nothing. Somebody who could make Iran behave.
Times have changed. These days voters elect a carefully visualized personality no matter how unqualified they are for the job. Did we not prove that in 2008? They don’t care about qualifications. They’re scared. They want a hero who will make everything better and they want to be told that in plain words. With writers it is called ‘building a platform’. Don’t even think of approaching an agent without one.
First comes the image: man of steel, resolute in the face of adversity, don’t-mess-with-me demeanor that bodes ill for you if you even dare to bully. Think 007, not Adam Sandler. Establishing a no-holds-barred persona by giving inspiring speeches a must. Demonstrate without doubt superior knowledge in everything, hopefully diminishing your opponent This is guerilla warfare.
You need the obligatory book about leadership, published about two years before declaring. Consider what great stories the truth about Bain Capital or the Olympics would have been in the hands of the right writer. Include heartfelt testimony about his belief in God.
Do not put up with debate commentators showing partiality. Humiliate their professionalism.
A hysterically laughing vice-Presidential opponent? Attack! Refer to them as laughing boy or Bobo. Very soon the word is out that this is a man to contend with.
And, of course, by all means, avoid sex. That’s the one thing both candidates did right. Will these men never learn?
One more thing. If you must hire advisors, make sure they studied politics either before Reagan or after 1998.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

It Was Different Back Then

     I've heard that so many times but never thought much about it until a few weeks ago when I received a free-lance assignment for an article about growing up a teenager in the 1940s. For me it was a no-brainer. I was essentially interviewing myself.
The article covered 1940 to 1949, the year I graduated from high school and included World War II, but even before the war there were huge differences between childhood then and now.
     Last evening was Hallowe'en, with the traditional trick or treating. In my day we went with friends. Even the grade schoolers went unchaperoned, never imagining being kidnapped or attacked, or worrying about being poisoned by tainted candy. In my small hometown such things didn't happen, or if the evil existed, we didn't hear about it. Did we not have such a vast number of perverted individuals in the 40s, or did they suddenly begin appearing later on?
We didn't know. We didn't have TV and the Internet to keep us informed about such stuff outside our comfort zone. It was a time of innocence and freedom from fear. We had newspapers that only adults read, except for the funny pages, and radio, but who knew that playing with water in the gutters during a rainstorm could bring on disease, or that there were evil men lurking in doorways, or driving around in cars, (nobody owned a car),waiting to pounce? Definitely, some weird adults lived in the neighborhood, but details were scarce. You instinctively avoided them. Sex, rape, and perversion were mysteries left for later years, unless you personally knew someone, then the gossip went wild. Dire rumors of the grim consequences of indulging in sex, the worst being that somebody might find out and you'd be branded, like The Scarlet Letter, kept most of us chaste, even in high school.
      For amusement we rode our bikes to the stockyards and chased the cows until we got run off, or read comic books. I learned math by playing cards, and about money with a Monopoly game. We talked. Every neighborhood had a place where we all gathered, after dark, to talk. Does that happen anymore? Texting is hardly talking, nor is tweeting.
     So, I was writing furiously, not really thinking too much, until I came to the question: What expectations did your parents have for you when you graduated from high school? Wow! The difference between then and now smacked me in the libido. The answer was, absolutely nothing. I was a girl, stupid. Girls weren't expected to do or be anything. You got married and had children. If you worked, it was until you got married, then you didn't work. It simply wasn't done. If you went to college, it wasn't to learn anything; it was to meet men with better job prospects, or who came from money, so you could make a better marriage. The accepted wisdom was that the money for tuition would be wasted on a girl because she'd just get married and never use the degree.
     Since the Women's Movement, which began with World War II, and reached fruition in the 50s, women in the US and Europe have gained many freedoms. We're still learning how to handle it and society is still, like flood waters, trying to return to the way it was. Probably the greatest change is the power to choose or reject motherhood. As the role of women in directing the course of world economic and political future increases it is inevitable that we realize men have made an unholy mess of things. I wonder how long we will put up with it?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Leadership: Somebody Should Write This Book.

    What makes a leader? How do you get to be one? Can it be taught? Is it imbedded in our DNA?
     The world is desperate for leaders who put the good of mankind and country before their own welfare. Never mind looking in the usual places for leadership. Politicians run for office to get privileges and money, churches turn a blind eye to corruption that might affect membership rolls, organizations are all about money. Any sense of right and wrong  is pre-empted by the same old greed and self-interest that permeates all out most trusted institutions. This lack of integrity has contaminated every part of our life, even our athletes.  Every day we hear new evidence that Greed and Personal Pleasure, which have become the religion we use to plan our daily lives, has brought about yet another betrayal.
      So who is going to declare the new standard and lead us out of this mess?
     Are leaders born or created? What do they have, either good or evil in their character, which motivates humans to follow them blindly, even to their own destruction? Can we teach this or does it just happen? That is why somebody has to write this book. The research will be exhausting, because facts don't exist. Academics will come up with theories, for sure, like, "it's all about character. Moral strength produces leaders."
     No it doesn't. Joseph Stalin, Charles Manson, Adolph Hitler, Napoleon Bonaparte didn't have much character to be admired, yet something compelled thousands to follow their lead. Indeed, short, homely Adolph Hitler didn't, himself, understand why he got the results he did.
      Jesus Christ and The Prophet Mohammad changed the world with their message. Why did people listen? Was it as simple as telling the masses what they needed to hear at that time?
     On the other hand, why did all those people drink that poisoned Kool Aid? I doubt that it was Jim Jones God-inspired goodness that brought it about.
      What was the common denominator that made these men leaders?
     To find the answers we have to return to a study of the nature of man. From the beginning, we've been evolving into basically a herd animal. We must have a leader to tell us what to do. Our DNA dictates that we follow anyone who will lead us that comfort zone where we're assured happiness if we simply conform.
       It isn't the philosophers who will rescue us from the mess we've made of the planet, but the social anthropologists. It is time they explained us to us. A good place to begin is the "Interpersonal Theory of Psychiatry," by Harry Stack Sullivan, MD, the most brilliant theorist this country has ever produced. He explains how we get to be human.
      Clearly it doesn't matter where we're being led--into war, or murder, or a jungle hut, or a religious belief, as long as the leadership is firm. We hate uncertainty. We hate questions. We'll deny truth to the bitter end.
       So, you see, somebody has to write this book before it's too late.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Cattle, Candy Bars, and the DEA.

In an online discussion in another group I frequent, the question was asked, “How much research do you do for fiction?” My answer was a lot, because I’m an information junkie and the challenge of learning something new is what gets me going. In the October issue of The Writer, Author Tayari jones is quoted as saying, “I believe you should always write a book you’re not quite good enough to write.” I would agree and add, “and don’t know enough to write.” Where else is the fun?
I’m working on a time travel romance. My heroine is renting a haunted beach house in New Jersey to recover from a shattering divorce. She falls in love with the house ghost, a captain on a whaling ship, and is transported to 1860s New Bedford, MA. This not only required hours of searching the internet for theories on time travel, but visits to the library to gather information on whaling. Fascinating, but brutal. I got to know Moby Dick, which maybe my favorite novel. I adore Ishmael’s humor.
My latest novel, Maddie’s Choice, which is in the capable hands of my agent, Jeanie Pantelakis of Sullivan Maxx Agency, waiting for publication, is about modern-day cattle rustling from small family farms in Arkansas, inspired by a short newspaper article.
 What if there’s this small farming community in Arkansas being plagued by rustlers? What if the rustling was a distraction to cover up the real problem of meth distribution I the area? Aha! I needed romance. You can read about the plot on
The problem was, I didn’t know squat about cows and didn’t know anybody who had one. I also didn’t know anything about meth except that I live in a tourist town and it’s a problem.        I learned from the local police chief that meth trade in the US is controlled by several motorcycle gangs, like the Hell’s Angels, who’d just visited Eureka and got into a knife fight with their Arkansas counterpart. Oh boy! I’ll call them “The Red Hand,” vicious, and dangerous and a threat to the ranch.
I had this idea that Maddie, my writer, would be rescued from above gang during a gun battle, by a 2500 pound bull addicted to the chocolate bars she’d been feeding him.
Can a cow eat a candy bar? They don’t have any teeth. I’ll end this story by telling you how I found out. The County Agricultural Agent is probably still ROFL. I called him and explained my problem. I’ve experienced stunned silence before, but this one, on the phone, was classic. My northern accent didn’t help. Well, after enduring his humor, I learned that yes, they can sort of mash it on the roof of their mouth before they send it to one of their stomachs. I was good to go. Big’un, the bull, became a star.
I added a lot of humor, a few tears, some steamy sex, and there you have it. Some day it will be on bookshelves everywhere.
So there you have it. Half the fun of writing is tackling a subject foreign to you and becoming well-versed.