It was a tough life for the Scottish Sharp family at the turn of the twentieth century. Coal miners, they were exempt from the World War I draft. Frank, the fourth of five sons, was the only one that went off to war. Luckily, he survived the trenches, only to return to poor job prospects and poorer wages. When most of the family sailed across the Atlantic in search of a better life, Frank stayed behind for a while... for a little too long, it so happened. A victim of the 1924 Immigration Act, he was barred from immigrating to the US until October, 1929. Three weeks after his quota number came up, the stock market crash occurred.Frank's story weaves through Detroit's rich history during the Great Depression, Prohibition, World War II, and the booming automotive industry starting in the 1950's and beyond. What Frank sacrifices to achieve material and career success takes its toll on his family and personal life. After all is said and done, this is the saga of a determined and ambitious man who was hell-bent on leaving his poverty-stricken past behind. Did he make the right choices? You decide.
There was little help for poor, sick people during the Depression. Many people simply tried to power through it... unfortunately, many people just didn't make it. My grandfather was the seventh of eight children. During the Depression, his father and three of his older brothers died. It was a sad and disturbingly difficult time. We should appreciate how relatively easy life has become for most.
During Prohibition, it's estimated that 75% of the liquor coming into the US crossed into Detroit. Mobsters engaged men, women and children as couriers. Police often looked the other way, happy with the money being blind provided. Governments are rarely good at trying to legislate their versions of morality... certainly, keep drunks out of cars where they can do significant damage. But in their own homes?
Some people have a knack for poor timing. This particular fact - immigration to the US on October 5, 1929 - is exactly what happened to my grandparents. October 5, 1929, standing alone, means little. However, when put against the fact of the October 29, 1929 initial stock market crash which heralded the start of the years-long Great Depression, it is momentous. The initial years of an immigrant arriving in the US are difficult enough in their own right. Add the Great Depression, and wow. Just wow. Timing at its worst.
Just a week, away, April 24th. That was my father's birthday... my father's 1st birthday. It took a leap of faith to leave everyone dear to you, and everything familiar, to travel across the sea to nothing more than a promise. Take a deep breath and dive in. Courage - raw courage, hope, and faith.
Some people fight mightily against unfavorable fate. Imagine: within three weeks of crossing the ocean a new law is passed - signed on a Saturday by the President, going into effect Monday morning at 12:01. Upon hearing that, you go and apply for immigration on that Saturday. You dutifully go down to the immigration office first thing Monday morning.... and you missed the cut. Debarred. For years - until your number comes up, years later. The only luck some people have is bad luck.
Remember those days? When the Man of the House managed everything outside, and the Little Woman resigned herself to everything inside. Given the hardships of the Depression, I can only imagine how excited this Man of the House was to get a reliable, full-time job. However, being the Man of the House, he also signed his wife and son up. Unasked. While I can see the situation from the Man of the House's perspective, that would be quite the stretch today.
It must be so surreal, returning home after seeing combat. The houses, the stores, the parents... unchanged. But the man: the man returning... he will never be the same. He gets summarily plopped back into a life he probably can barely remember, while the people back home have seemingly been stopped in time. No wonder so many have a difficult time adjusting.
There once was a woman named Dorothy who had an obsession with her boss. A dangerous obsession. Through a series of events, he ended up living with her, her sister, and their father. He never married her. That fact haunted her. She lied to people, telling them she was his wife, She lied to the funeral home when he passed, saying he had no next of kin, hiding his funeral from his family, and having him interred in her family plot, next to where she would finally be laid to rest. She was evil. She was real. Her name was Dorothy, and the man she obsessed over was my grandfather.
There's comfort in finding resolution to a wrong. True, the wrong often cannot be undone, but coming up with a remedy can be comforting. There's talent in being able to let go of a wrong, even though that wrong cannot be undone. Finding a remedy to offset the wrong is much more effective in developing inner peace. There are some who cannot forget the initial wrong, no matter what transpires after. Those people are to be pitied... they will never find peace.
This really happened. A besotted and obsessed woman who always craved my grandfather as her own actually did this. She lied to the funeral home and she hid the passing and funeral from us. To this day I cannot believe the temerity. We did go to the cemetery. We did have my grandfather moved. If that woman never had his heart in life, we made sure she never had his remains in death. Some people are simply nuts.
As I investigated WWI researching this book, and taped six hours of my father speaking about his unit also getting annihilated trying to cut off the Bataan peninsula in WWII, I can only wonder... why is it that we never learn? Why are sociopathic leaders so greedy and egotistic? Why?
It's estimated that about 75% of bootleg liquor came across the Detroit River during Prohibition. Local police basically looked the other way, and crime bosses used anyone they could get - men, women, and children - to get the cargo across the mile-wide river separating the two countries. Interesting times. An example of government crossing the line into people's lives... crossing the line against the wishes of the minority.
I am so very distressed with the Russian incursion into Ukraine. If Ukrainians wanted to be a part of the Soviet Union, they would have asked to join. How can anyone forget the horrors of past wars? Do they never learn? Still am incredulous that a madman has the arrogance and impertinence to engage his fellow countrymen in such a heinous act. The is the global equivalent of extreme, controlling domestic abuse. It should not be allowed.
5 stars from Franklin Bauer, The Book Commentary. "This latest book by Wendy Sura Thomson is set in the time of the Great Depression and covers the journey of one man from the coal mines of Scotland to the United States. The Man from Burnt Island boasts some of the best characterizations that you will find in any book. The characters ... make for the most amazing combination of characters that help bring this story alive. The obstacles and complications that Frank has to face and overcome on his journey from the coal mines to the world war and finally to the land of opportunity make for an intriguing storyline. Through The Man from Burnt Island, Thomson sheds some much-needed light on some historic events all the while highlighting questions regarding social class, belonging, survival, and identity. This is an intricately plotted tale of resilience and the human spirit, fascinating in the historical climates it evokes and in the portrayal of the elements that affected many people after WWI. It is searing and utterly delightful."
I never realized just how unprepared the UK was for WWI. I did pretty extensive research, and the facts surprised me: yes, the recruits really had armbands for uniforms. They practiced with brooms and lived with civilians in Scotland - there were no bases for them to do their basic training. Coal miners did became exempt from the draft. It was fascinating for me to discover all of this.
We are in the throes of winter here in Michigan - it snowed again last night. It's also quite cold. I am blessed, though, to have heat, a full pantry, and the ability to not brave the elements.. It wasn't that way for many during the Depression.
Sometimes parents make a wrong call. This particular passage actually happened to my father, and to his dying day, he regretted not being able to attend. From a practical standpoint, he didn't have any way to pull it off without his father's support, so I get it. My father passed away in my family room. When I say he regretted not going to the Edison Institute until the day he died, I mean that very literally. Our Robert was far too used to calling all the shots. Sometimes he got them wrong.
I think it's fairly easy to identify with a Depression-era immigrant who has struggled to provide for his family for years. It was the man's job to provide for his family, and having a difficult time doing it would weigh heavily, not only physically but emotionally. I therefore find it comes as no surprise that our protagonist comes home thrilled, knowing that there will be steady employment. The same cannot be said of wives and children, who have different priorities. To me, there's where the distancing starts - when sides cannot appreciate the other points of view.
The allure of a vibrant, wealthy and prosperous life in the new world called to many between the two world wars - enough that US immigration was sharply limited by law in 1924. Easy to imagine a better life, coming in late through poor weather to a rather meager supper. Life was so hard.
It would have been, if our new groom believed he could support a family. He held out, though, against his new wife and her family until he was financially able. That must have been difficult. I think most people assume early marriages in the18th and 19th centuries in Europe. Might have been in other countries, but not in Scotland. In decades of genealogical research covering literally thousands upon thousands of names, most people got married in their mid-twenties. It was pretty obvious to me that the "responsibility" driver loomed large, even hundreds of years ago.
I can only imagine the mixed emotions men felt when returning from war. They are not the men they used to be, and they are plopped right back into a world that they remember, but that feels strangely, disturbingly different. I think it must feel akin to being plopped into an alternate reality - things look the same, but they are fundamentally not the same. I feel sorry for the men that have experienced that.
I think we often forget just how much effort was required to simply live, back in the day. Feed the chickens. Load the stove with coal. Scrub the clothes on a washboard and hang them up. Take the clinkers out of the stove (that was one of my dad's jobs as a child.) Put ice in the icebox. I would say that some call that "more difficult." I'm not sure it was more difficult: certainly it required more time and energy. It took more effort, but it wasn't very complicated. They were not bombarded with politics or constant news of all that's wrong in the world. We certainly have it physically easier now, but I think today is mentally much more stressful.
There are clues that people are growing apart - forebodings, if you will. Here we have a husband in tune with world events and a wife happy to focus on the domestic side of life. Frank knows nothing of the butcher; Margaret knows nothing of Winston Churchill. Many marriages survive these differences. The key is acceptance and love anyway. Many men appreciate their stay-at-home wives - as long as they don't expect something else from them. It's all in the expectations.
Shock and hurt. When couples don't communicate, shock and hurt is many times right around the corner. Betrayal isn't confined to just the physical. Emotional betrayal can cut to the core.
Regret can hit hard. We so often get carried away with our daily lives, our ambitions and dreams, that we fail to notice the impact we have on others dear to us - until, often, it's far too late. It becomes especially bitter when we have no way to make amends. Those are the regrets that are never resolved.
There aren't many protections for the self-employed, even today. No worker's compensation. No unemployment insurance. No company that shares social security taxes; no paid vacation, no sick leave. No work = no income. Things were the same back in the day, except that the burdens were shared with those that worked for companies. It's a hand-to-mouth situation - mores during the Great Depression.
It happens all the time - trying to change the behaviors of others. It is usually a bad idea, I have found. Oh, a person might use positive reinforcement to encourage someone to adopt different behaviors. Or someone might have compelling arguments with ends that are agreed upon between the parties. I have found that, mostly, trying to change someone else by fiat is the first step towards estrangement.
Back in the day it was very important to immigrants to do their best to fit into their newly adopted countries. There is good and bad to that: good, in that assimilation is important to national unity; bad, because the richness of different cultures can be lost. For me, I think the best tack would be to adapt publicly but hold onto native culture privately. My mother's family did that - they spoke their native language at home but spoke English publicly. Had no problem going to American cuisine restaurants, but ate borscht at home. Straddling cultures can be done, I think, if the will to do it exists.
There was a lot go liquor in Detroit during the Prohibition: Windsor Ontario was only a mile away to the south, just across the river. In fact, 75% of the liquor "imported" during the Prohibition came across the Detroit River. In the spirit of the hope that a new year offers... HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! Oh: and buy my book. Yes, this is shameless self-promotion. :-)
Life changes in an instant the moment war is declared. These coal miners went into the mines as usual... then walked out to a world immeasurably changed. Little did they know what was in store... be thankful for peace.
Sending the children out to the garden to harvest vegetables for supper. Making mud pies... feeding a large family. Times were so much simpler - so much harder. During this holiday season we should remember, and be thankful for what we have now.
This part of the story reflects true life: my grandfather's family. Ten people in all: two parents and eight children. The patriarch and three brothers died between 1929 and 1931. The only other living brother went back to Scotland with his family. One sister ended up in Canada; one in Scotland. One cousin also died. Of that large clan, only three remained in the US by 1935: my grandfather, his mother, and one sister. Hard, hard times.
Even dreary, even in the depths of the Great Depression, joy could be had. It's all in the spirit of the day - nothing else. Handmade gifts, crafted with love. It was a fine Christmas.
Even in hard times, some people found the will to celebrate Christmas. To decorate a tree... to make small presents for one another. To bake up a small batch of Shortbread, even though butter and flour were precious. The will to be thankful for the small things.
Hindsight can be sad at times. Many people end up regretting things they have done, or failed to do. However, regret is part of the human condition, I think. We can never have perfect knowledge, and what might seem reasonable at the time can have unpleasant, unintended consequences. One thing is for certain: we can never go back.
Ah, the blush of attraction - the start of young love. It's one of the loveliest times of life, don't you think? This scene - the one with the Grand March - was exactly how my grandparents met. Obviously, it has a very special place in my heart. Leads me back to remembering when I felt that way.
A quaint concept, the "head of the household." The HOH making all the big decisions unilaterally. While I certainly understand the concept of "follow the money", there is something inherently divisive when half of a couple decides something and then sells and/or bribes the other half to go along. That's what parents frequently do with children. I personally thinks it doesn't bode well in the long run, but that could just be my personality. Another time, another set of cultural norms...
I think that most families have an internal creed - some value that permeates their family's culture, even if unspoken. In my family, it was honoring your word... very strongly, honor your word. I think it served us well, overall. I decided to honor that creed in this book.
I never knew there was a labor draft in WWII. I guess it makes some sort of sense: men fit enough for work but not quite fit enough for combat. One one level, I have a problem with powerful politicians blithely directing the lives of citizens. Conscripted labor... lords and serfs. Let freedom ring.
Not an insight - at least, not my insight. A Readers View review said the following: "Wendy Sura Thomson has put together a thrilling story, prominent characters, and has used her words as one would use stunning photographs. Each description she gives of locations, eras, and her characters allows readers to see it all clearly in their minds. “The Man From Burnt Island” is truly a fantastic read!" Hopefully you can see this "clearly in [your] mind."
Robert would not let his son attend the prestigious Edison Institute. Why? Was he afraid to be socially bested by his son? Was he afraid that his personal attempts at rising socially would be tainted by a son whose upbringing might cause the family to look like country bumpkins? Was he afraid of ridicule? Parental motives are always interesting and seldom simple.
As I was researching the Depression, it struck me just how difficult it was for so many. The media was conciliatory with corporations, and if a corporation didn't want the newspapers to cover a strike, the newspapers didn't. Men would be called to work and would show up on their own dime, but after waiting sometimes hours, they were told to go back home - no pay given. Those wasted, unpaid trips ate into what little money they had for essentials for their families. Heartless.
Prohibition ended up causing more problems than it solved. Once it ended, an entire underground industry was turned on its ear. And the Great Depression continued to deepen. Now what?
Grit. Many people don't have it - maybe they lost it... maybe they never had it. Perhaps it's a function of softer lives, something that slowly disappears through lack of use, like cave newts that have become blind because they lost the need for sight in the constant darkness. Faced with hardship, those with grit survive... those without either crumble or simply accept the hardship and adjust. Those with grit and determination overcome.
What would you be willing to do to feed your family? How far would you go? Would you break a law you believed was foolish? Hard times force hard decisions. There are those that let governments decide their morals, and then there are those that develop and live by their own.
Joy is exactly where anyone can find it. These days, I believe we forget that; too consumed by constant materialism, over-thinking, embroiled in self-absorption, many forego simply relishing the pure, simple moments of life. Let it go....
Anyone can make beauty out of very little. All it takes is a desire and the capability to appreciate the little things. Paper chains. Crocheted snowflakes. A gingham bow... on a tree free for the cutting. I think we can all take away a lesson from this.
It was a matter of custom and pride against the basic requirement of eating. Custom, as wives traditionally did not work. Pride, as it was painful for a traditional man to be unable to fully provide for his family. And pride, as any proud Scot would be terribly ashamed to be "on the dole." I remember my grandmother speaking down on that with unmistakable derision - "the dole" being charity or handout. There were soup lines in Clark Park, but it would take quite a bit to get a proud Scot to line up.
People might not realize that health insurance was not available to most of the workforce during the Great Depression. With little money to eat and have shelter, many went without medical care. Unfortunately, that became a tragedy for too many.
Pretty much everyone knows about the US stock market crash on Black Thursday, 1929. What they don't know is that the stock market crept back up higher than the day before the crash by April 1930. It was the years-long, inexorable march downward during the following years that caused the real pain. Sure, investors jumped out of Wall Street windows, but the real pain was felt by regular workers. What chance did an immigrant that had come to the US just three weeks before Black Thursday have against such a backdrop?
Fearful of large waves of immigrating Eastern Europeans, Congress passed a very restrictive immigration law on May 26, 1924. Not wanting to accommodate a flood of applicants, the bill was signed into law on a Saturday and went into effect the following Monday, at 12:01 AM. The word used for deal of entry was "debarred." But for one day..... dashed dreams. How many in a similar situation simply turned back? How many were stalwart and determined to prevail?
Scotland is a small country - just 1/3 the size of the state of Michigan. The cities Frank saw were nothing like what he has seen before. Many years ago I had friends visit Chicago from Tallahassee, Florida. They had a couple of children. The sight of the then-Sears Tower dumbfounded them. They were amazed that they couldn't even see the top from the street. I would imagine that same sense of wonder held Frank's rapt attention.
It is thrilling to stand on the side of a large ocean-going vessel as it leaves port... I've done it, more than once. Exciting, when you know you're going to return eventually. Thrilling, but perhaps intimidating, to leave with the knowledge that you never intend to return.
Sometimes it takes only a little shove - only a glimmer of hope... a hopeful light in the great, dark unknown - to change a dull ember into a true burn. Everyone knows it's the first one to jump off the dock to get others to follow. That's a very common human trait. For Frank, it didn't take much.
Children died with alarming regularity "back in the day." Viruses ran rampant and doctors had little in their arsenal to combat them. There were no incubators or special care protocols for things that are routinely mastered today. That being said, it was no easier then to lose a precious child. I can't read this passage without crying. Happens every time. I lost a day-old infant. The pain is forever.
In 1924 the US Government, wary and spooked by large numbers of Eastern European immigrants, passed a very strict immigration bill, establishing quotas by entering country. The bill was signed by the president on a Saturday and went into effect at 12:01AM the following Monday... a rather obvious ploy to avoid a crush of immigrant hopefuls. I can only imagine being so close, and yet so far....
Leaving everything you know in search of a better life takes - including your wife and child - takes courage. It happens a lot now, but we have instant communication via cellphones and video chats. Back in the day everyone relied on the mail, which traveled via boat across the ocean. No television to get familiar with the culture, sights and sounds. No TikTok. Twitter or Facebook to be alerted to breaking news... just jumping off into the Great Mostly Unknown.
There comes a time when enough i enough. how many times have we all held on in unfavorable situations, thinking that maybe things will get better? When we make excuses because change is difficult: leaving the known for the unknown is simply too intimidating. There comes a breaking point - st least, in some situations, there truly should be a breaking point. Frank met his.
I can only imagine how startling the differences between a small stone Scottish hamlet and the city of Detroit in its heyday would be. The level of diversity, the availability of goods, the motorization... the sheer size - must have been both wondrous and a bit intimidating.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Even with heavy workloads and never-ending chores, love blossoms in honeymoon couples.
Frank's parents, and several of his siblings, left Scotland for the promise of new lives - and land grants - in Canada. It's very difficult to imagine what life in a different country would be. I imagine it takes a huge amount of courage to pick up and leave. I remember a graphic I once saw regarding such change. In the graphic there was a chasm separating two pieces of land, with a rickety bridge between them. On one side, a man clearly frightened is looking at the bridge, and then turns around to see a conflagration behind him. Sometimes it takes a fire to move forward.
The pressure to marry was so much greater back in the day. Pre-marital birth control consisted of nothing more than public pressure and censure. Ah... but all of those returning men, so hungry after years at war.
This was a thing "back in the day." I actually found pictures and descriptions as I researched this rather obscure activity. I was curious because my dad once mentioned that his dad raced whippets after WWI. Who knew?
Love permeates all financial circumstances and situations, doesn't it? Even with all of the difficulties inherent in post-WWI Scotland for most people, love finds a way.
Men returning to the UK after WWI found a foundering economy with poor job prospects. There was no national elation that the war was over, just dispirited men wondering what the war accomplished and how to earn a living. In Fife, the linen industry was dead and the coal mines were full of miners that never went to war - the war effort required coal. Perpetual hard times.
It's common knowledge that the trenches on the Western Front were tangible vestiges of Hell. The fortunate few came back whole - many, many more did not. Very distressing times that left indelible marks on the men that were able to return home.
The coal mines in Fife were very close to the coast. and between lots of rain and their locations, flooded frequently. Coal miners didn't get paid when the weather closed the shafts. It was a dangerous occupation, with far too many deaths every year. The youngest death I found during my research was 15: the oldest, 71.
With few to be had, working folks made their own amusements. A simpler time.
Ten people living in an 800 square foot townhouse. Taking shifts eating dinner. It is difficult to imagine just how difficult everyday tasks were for coal miners at the turn of the twentieth century. I remember visiting my great aunt Bessie in 1969. She and her husband Oliver lived in Markinch, a quaint, all-stone town in Fife, Scotland. I went with her to the butcher, where she bought a quarter pound of beef. She fed nine people with that quarter pound of beef. I was amazed then, and continue to be amazed at that everyday life.
This was an enlightening book to research and write. I took every genealogical fact I knew (or found) about my grandfather - census records, birth, marriage, death certificates, service records, newspaper articles, and conversations with my father - and wrapped a story around those tidbit facts to pull it all together. This is fiction, albeit historical fiction, because I had to imagine how it all wrapped together. After all was said and done, a picture of a complicated man emerged... driven, honorable to his own standards, and flint-like hard. He had to be hard: life was hard. He survived, and survived well, but he paid a price.
A toddler in an emotionally explosive and unstable family has her leg amputated. In spite of significant hurdles, she powers through to become a successful career woman and equally successful single parent.
The first book I remember reading was a picture book about a little girl in leg braces that wanted to be a ballerina. Somebody got me that book, with, I'm sure, the intention of making me feel that I am not alone, and that practice makes anything possible. That book was both inspiring and disappointing. You see, as much as I practiced, i would never be a ballerina. I have an artificial leg. So even though I practiced and practiced, it was never to be. At the tender age of four, I learned that despite strong will and determination, some things can never be.
My father was born in Scotland - he and his parents were granted immigration in October, 1929 - 3 weeks before the huge stock market crash that ushered in the Great Depression. The family made it through by virtue of grit. We have it so easy now.
My father would have been 99 years old today. He moved in with us, and I cared for him for his last two years. Those two years were a privilege and an honor.
My brother was killed by a newly-minted teenage driver one day, Late in August. I remember thinking to myself that the evening was lovely - I didn't know I was thinking that at the moment my brother was hit head-on by a high-schooler that thought he could open up his full-size Oldsmobile on a rural road. He never saw my brother, who was puttering along on his Vespa. The teenager was going well over 100 MPH, the officers told me later. How times have changed. That young man got a couple of weekends in jail and some extensive community service. His father came to court in a wheelchair. That young man wasn't a troublemaker. I am sure what he did haunts him to this day. I am torn between "justice" and the ruination of a young life. One death is horrible. Should we add a second casualty? Like I said: I am torn.
Had to have been young and naive to decide to go to sea on a freighter. It makes for a great story, but I'm sure that I would never do that again.
Right at this very moment, my 3-day old grandson is about six hours into his first open-heart surgery. He will need two more, one before he gets his first tooth and one a couple of years later. He has only one ventricle. He will be physically limited his entire life. This will be pretty hard on him, as he has an older brother and two very physically active parents. Shoot - his father was an NCAA football player. This little grandson will be limited to light exercise - he will get easily winded. I remember when I could no longer keep up with my brother and sister on my bike. They took off without me. This little grandson will need me... I will be one of the only ones that truly understands.
I grew up on the shores of awn inland lake, maybe a mile square. I swam every day possible - my dad called me an otter. Since that was my experience, I had no fear of the water - I loved it. It was an entirely different matter, being out in the Atlantic being bounced around like a bobber. That iron ship, that ignored small waves with impunity - became nothing more than a piece of plastic at the mercy of ferocious waves. Awe-inspiring. I had never seen such power.
Nineteen years old, and I boarded the freighter my father bought in Amsterdam and headed out, the last noncommercial ship to leave the Detroit River before the icebreakers got ready for the season. This was an adventure filled to the brim with mishaps. Ambitious, but ultimately a failed dream that ended up unfulfilled. My poor dad: trying in vain to resolve undiagnosed PTSD.
It takes a special kind of resolve to get through living in a dysfunctional family and not buckling under the strain, going on to live a different kind of dysfunctional life. My sister was very rebellious, but unfortunately she ended up paying for that for the rest of her life, in a different but fairly self-destructive way. My brother also lived a different but at least as dysfunctional life. The two of them spent their conversations bemoaning their upbringing. My mother's response was to comment how could they believe their upbringing was bad: we did, after all, live on a lake. The only way to overcome the past is to put it behind you and focus on where you want to go, and who you want to be. You might not have a roadmap given to you, but at least you can observe what you don't want to be.
As far as I'm concerned, if old men want to entertain their inner narcissism and delusional dreams of eternal glory, we should sit them in a room with World of Warcraft and let them play until they die. Then we would spare the lives and countries of people who merely want to live, love, work, and raise their families. No patience for the idiocy of war. None.
I urge you to capture the stories of your parents and grandparents, before it's too late. Everyone has quite a story to tell, and the bonding you will feel as you listen, and as you later remember, gives great solace and happiness. Get those stories. You will be so glad you did.
I have always sort of lulled people with my stories - starting slowly, setting the backdrop. Some people get bored and put the book or letter down. I can't seem to help it. I did the same here. I start out slowly, describing a seemingly normal childhood. It slowly turns dark as events unfold. By the end, most people are simply astounded. I guess that was the point all along.
My father fought in the Philippines in WWII. He had a horrific time of it. If you think about it, the men and women that served in large-casualty wars are fast leaving us. The soldiers of the last war like tat - Vietnam - are now in their 70's and 80's. Maybe that's why we have the current carnage in Ukraine. Short memory.
I was in elementary school during the Cold War - during the Cuban missile crisis. I was also the child of a remarkably pragmatic and war-weary father who, as they say, would always tell it like it is. He had been a physics major and had been stationed in Hiroshima after WWII, 53 days in the hottest spot. He knew of what he spoke when he said there was nowhere to hide if there was a nuclear bomb anywhere close. Everyone would go blind from the flash and then die of radiation poisoning. End of story.
I have always considered my home my fortress. When that fortress is breached, it causes a constant uncomfortable feeling. On the bright side, nothing permanently damaging happened, and the experience gave me insight into myself - I never consciously realized I thought of my home as a fortress before it was breached. We can find out things about ourselves in the most unusual places.
I think that loads of parents are unaware of their effects on their children. They are, after all, human. I think most children overcome any lack of parental perfection and go on to live fairly successful lives. However, when a sensitive, not very resilient child hits parental behavior that is a standard deviation or two outside of the norm, an entire life of really poor decisions make for unhappy, constantly struggling lives. An inconvenient fact of life is people must overcome whatever they've been through. Life doesn't care about the why's. Blaming parents is so counter-productive. Get the help you need, but at the end of the day, it's only up to you.
Pity the children. We have all heard that phrase. It rises to an entirely different level when that poor child is you. To be perfectly honest, I have been overcoming this for my entire life. I have been so driven to be so good - to be so utterly perfect. Straight A's. Zero shenanigans in high school. A highly accomplished cook, seamstress, homemaker, vocalist... the driver? Maybe if I'm perfect, she will love me. It has been a miserably failed strategy. But then, I now know that there are people that are so emotionally compromised in themselves that they are incapable of love. Knowing that does not fill the hole.
If you haven't yet figured this out yet, life is difficult for pretty much everyone. It's all a matter of degree. In my younger days, I sang in a professional liturgical choir. There was a member of the congregation who bitterly complained if any female singer wore any earrings besides pearl studs. Earrings? Really?? All I could think of was "My dear woman: you have been truly blessed if all you can find to complain about is someone else's earrings." Perspective is everything.
We have been subject to many weeks of global protests over various Covid-related restrictions. As I look back, the powers that be could have taken a cue from #6... they were so intent on quashing Covid that they totally ignored the unintended consequences. The severe mental and educational toll the measures had on our children which will plague at least some of them for their entire lives. Shameful. The total lack of consideration isolation has taken on whole swaths of the population - throw in the elderly. The epidemic of mental health issues that have swamped providers and have led to huge increases in violence, substance abuse and self-harm. That's what happens when single-mindedness rules the day.
Learned a very valuable lesson from the corporate world: the top people do not like hearing complaints. I think I have employed going to the top only a few times in my life - only in cases when I have tried unsuccessfully to resolve issues with underlings. It is a tactic to be used very sparingly, but when you are right, and you've tried the normal resolution process, it is extremely successful. Use it very sparingly. It is truly the nuclear option.
Who needs it? My parents' relationship was textbook toxic, and it spilled over everywhere. I must admit, some of the things I have done might also seem textbook family drama. My older son married a very headstrong Venezuelan who wanted to get married in Cartagena Colombia. To a one, every relative said they wouldn't go. I said I wouldn't go. FaceTime me in. It was all my fault that they ended up getting married in Florida, where her parents and sisters lived. And this was four months after they had a civil ceremony in Michigan. They count their anniversary in May, when it legally is in January. I have said no to them a couple of times. I guess family drama sometimes can't be avoided. My current, strong desire is for peace. Because of that, I won't put myself in uncomfortable situations. Not that I fight, mind you. I simply choose not to participate. I walk away.
In my experience, there is nothing so heart-wrenching as losing a child. It's hard to explain to someone who, fortunately, has never gone through it. It will be forty years since my firstborn died. Forty years, two sons and two and a half grandsons later... and I still cry for my little girl. It rips a hole in a heart that never quite heals.
Two things can happen when a person is in a dysfunctional family: they can pattern their lives from it, and continue the dysfunction into the next generation, or they can decide to be anything but what they experienced. The first alternative is, sadly, very common. The second takes a courageous soul... they might not know what to do, but they certainly know what they will NOT do. It takes imagination. It takes determination. The second road breaks the cycle. If you are unfortunate enough to have been in a dysfunctional environment, I encourage you to find the imagination and courage to find the second path.
I must admit, it took me far too long to realize I was in a dysfunctional marriage. That I had married an angry, entitled child who expected that I would shoulder all living expenses. Who wanted to be carefree like his retired fishing friends - in his mid-thirties. Who hit back by being very verbally abusive. I've done a lot of reflecting on my reactions to displeased people. I don't easily address issues. Insisting on marriage counseling was a big step for me. A big lesson for me: sometimes I can't fix things.
However well-meaning, the world very often makes assumptions that only serve to constrain those with disabilities. People frequently focus on what someone else can't do instead of what they can do. I have an acquaintance who has a daughter with a cognitive disability. The daughter is married and has a job. She is a talented artist. She is articulate. She is all of that. However, all her mother sees is someone who is "profoundly handicapped." Nonsense. That perception is so very dysfunctional. It is also sadly very limiting to both mother and daughter. I have spent an entire life fighting to do what I can do. I drive. I mow the lawn. I garden. I live alone. I even move furniture. So to all you well-meaning folks: please - before you judge; before you step in. Stand back and watch what people can actually do. You might be very pleasantly surprised.
It's difficult to wrap your head around what causes a parent to engage in extreme acting out. A child never knows where they stand: life becomes a constant exercise in walking on eggshells. I'm totally convinced it's not a healthy environment. Acts of love and care become a river, I think. They flow. When they flow from parent to child, the child's reservoir of loving capacity fills up, and they can turn around and spend that reservoir on their own children. It takes a special strength to spend love and care when the reservoir has not been filled. And that becomes the ultimate sacrifice: the parent that recognizes that, and gives anyway, suffers the personal loss coming and going.
I have been fortunate to have several "experiences of lifetime." Traveling across Italy while performing concerts is high on the list. Everything about it was fabulous: the food, the accommodations, the concert-goers... the museums, the history. The memory that trip is something that I will always cherish.
Dysfunctional families are everywhere. or so it seems to me. I remember being astonished when I ran into a "normal", loving family. I remember thinking that those families really do exist. And what I found? A 70-year long marriage. Five children who all did well. Who (for the most part) stayed married, had children, cared for one another. No extreme drama. No unfortunate life choices... just normal, well-adjusted, happy, loving people. It's been my limited experience that those families are in the minority... but that they do exist, and that striving for same is really, really worth it.
My brother died when he was 45 years old. He was on his Vespa, traveling a country road on the way to visit some friends on a gorgeous summer evening. I remember the weather that day: I remember looking up at sunset and thinking what a perfect day it had been. My brother was struck by a teenager who had gotten his license just two months before. He was truck by a teenager who, in a full-size older car (i.e., massive) who the police said was going well over 100 miles an hour. Death was instantaneous: my brother was decapitated. Hard to wrap your mind around such a senseless death. We buried him on the day my daughter was born. My daughter died the next day. I didn't know where to turn. I buried those emotions so deep it was impossible to talk about them.
I believe the end of a marriage, no matter why, is a very, very difficult situation to endure - worse if children are involved. There are so many factors to consider. Is it the right move? Is it me? Have I really been subjected to emotional abuse? What about the children? Is it something I've done? What's the path forward? How can I pull this off? My mind was somewhat put to rest when a friend who also was a counselor pointed out that I probably did the right thing by my sons: chances are they would either believe that's how a man should treat his wife; that, or end up hating their father. Still, never easy.
I don't think there is a fight more intense than when a mother defends her offspring.The level of determination is difficult to wrap words around. So when I took on the local school district on behalf of my older son I was no holds barred. Years later, he has proven me right... he owns a successful business is happily married, and is expecting his second son. Take on a Mama Bear at your own peril.
I have spoken to many people whose fathers served in WWII. Pretty much to a one, if they spoke at all, it was of the funny, quirky stuff... the pet monkey. The snake that got into the mess hall. Never the horrific stuff - until these men knew they were reaching their respective ends. Then they opened up an started revealing the horrors they survived. That governments and generals flippantly sent unrelated men to expected casualties is so foreign to me - so cold. So sociopathically calculated. Let's hear it for Peace On Earth and Goodwill Toward Men.
We all collect lessons as we ramble and careen through life. These are some of mine.
I think most people have favorites while I liked them all, my Uncle Gene and Aunt Jean (we called them "the Jeans") were my favorite. What a great couple! They were warm and caring, down-to-earth and funny. My Uncle Gene was a school administrator - he ended up being a school district superintendent. My Aunt Jean wrote for the local newspaper. My entire extended family were in the National Ski Patrol, and it was not unusual for a wayward Austrian to show up at these Christmas gatherings. I found that positively intoxicating. Ah... happy times.
My fondest Christmas memories were made when I was little - in the late 1950's. I especially liked going to my grandparents' house for dinner. My grandfather was really skilled with his hands, and he would make us toys. And I still have a sock doll, dressed in a clown costume. I'm not sure many even remember sock dolls... they were actually made from white socks, stuffed and dressed. They were all soft and cuddly: not a sharp edge of plastic anywhere.So very comforting. Ah, the simple joys of Christmas.
Rather unusual, all the way around: to begin with, my father bought a 110-foot Dutch freighter, built in 1932. I had a full-ride scholarship that even included books and supplies. Did I mention I am an amputee? As I said, rather unusual, all the way around. Read on for a truth-is-stranger-than-fiction life story. I doubt you will find a more determined and challenging story.
I have spent the last several weeks hanging with a couple of people from high school. They both live out of state, and spent significant time visiting remembered places, eating remembered local foods, and attempting to reconnect with some that they spent a lot of time with in high school - several decades ago. Richie, in particular, mentioned his high school football team buddies. He finally found one of them, after talking about him for the entire trip. Yesterday he went and knocked on his door - he had no other way to contact him. I felt so very badly for Richie... the reception was just this side of frosty. As brave and unconcerned as Richie appeared, I suspect he is hurt. The bittersweet lesson in all of this? You really can't go back. Things change. People change. Perhaps even memories change. A sad lesson: we really can never go back. We can stay where we are or we can go forward. No other choices are available.
I came very close to being lost at sea, many years ago. I was passing out breakfast to the crew topside, neither hand to the ship, when we were caught broadside in a deep swell. We left harbor delayed because of a prior hurricane. I should have known the seas would be rough. The crazy thing is, I wasn't terrified. I wasn't frozen in fear... I wasn't anything but robotic. Afterwards, when I was below deck, I knew I had a very close call. With that danger passed, I simply registered it as an event. To this day I do not understand why I react that way. I still do.
These are trying times. We are headed into territories not seen since the 1930's. I have spent hundreds of hours listening to stories of the Great Depression, and reading more. What this tells me is we can do this. Be the bobber. A bobber floats on water - floats in all sorts of heavy seas. Gets washed over and jostled mightily in storms, sometimes turned feet under the surface. But the bobber always manages to rise to the surface. It rises to the surface, that is, unless it cracks and lets in the weight of the water. Don't let the weight of the times infiltrate into your psyche. Be the bobber. Rise to the surface. Always.
My son suggested I write this book. And as I approached the project, I started the tale with an intricate portrait of a child's life. It is slow; it is nuanced. It is this way because I wanted a backdrop against which subsequent events could be contrasted. The innocent childhood became abused; this child's self esteem took a beating. Took a beating, but did not die. This is a story akin to a phoenix - a rising from the ashes to raise children without visiting the "sins of the father" upon her own children. A phoenix that flew - maybe not as high as others would have, but remarkably high nevertheless, given the tethers placed around her ankles. This story starts out as an unopened flower. It takes a while, but the flower eventually blooms.
Several years ago I was in Carlsbad California and we went to the beach. There is a massive concrete seawall there, with a long ramp up and down. At the foot of the seawall is a sandy beach - not terribly deep - upon which, at the time, the waves of the Pacific were gently lapping. There was a child building a sandcastle. How very iconic. That got me thinking about what happens to that sandcastle when the wind starts to blow, even fairly gently. Between the breeze and the surf, that sandcastle doesn't stand much of a chance. That seawall, however - as huge as it was, I think it could withstand anything the wind and sea could throw at it. Some people are sandcastles. The least irritation: someone that is not paying attention to a light turning green; someone that has more than fifteen items in their grocery cart in the fast checkout lane... you name it. Small potatoes stuff. Some people get bent all out of shape. They are sandcastles. Be the seawall.
It wasn't enough to leave college for a sea-faring adventure, headed around the world.... no, within the first several hours we were hit by an international commercial freighter, piloted by an Englishman, that missed the west-bound channel and collided with us. That was a telling omen.
I worked at General Motors fro fourteen years. I ended up at Corporate, filling positions in the Treasurer's office, the Comptroller's staff, and in strategy. I had access to all sorts of data. About thirteen years before GM finally declared bankruptcy we (strategy) told them they were in deep shit. We told them their financial decisions were not based upon facts and analysis. We told them that their vaunted Harvard grad MBAs in New York did things like develop the income statement starting at the bottom: this is EPS, so let's work upwards to figure out income and expense. Instead of righting the ship, the strategy department was disbanded. That ostrich really, really had its head in the sand.
I never would have guessed just how carefully orchestrated corporate events could be - and I am sure that politics works the same way. For public events, executives, and probably politicians, are nothing more than talking heads. The minions that ply the talking heads with answers -- the minions the do all of the research and develop recommended approaches and answers -- they are the silent gears and pistons and drive shafts and universals that power these public events. They are young, they are bright... and they are nameless.
I was a navigator on a 110-ft Dutch coastal freighter for six months. Yes I was - not on a commercial navigator, mind you, but, nevertheless, a navigator that had learned both Loran C and celestial navigation. I still have the sextant and the old, oil-fueled starboard light. Who would have thought that a 19-year old, 5'4 female college student, disabled at that, would climb aboard? Yes, I did.
It's quite difficult to stay away from the message of gratitude. It's everywhere. It is true that those that feel grateful are happier people - at least, that's what science says. I have been advised to practice gratitude, but it has always rung a bit hollow for me. I realized that is the case because of my definition of gratitude... to me, gratitude stems from an unexpected and unearned kindness or situation that one finds themselves in. It is above and beyond what a person has earned. So I have had a very hard time with that, because I have earned most everything. However, what I CAN practice is appreciation. It doesn't matter what it is, or how it came to be. I can appreciate that which I have earned, and I can appreciate kindnesses shown. It makes me live in the moment. I can appreciate my beautiful backyard. I can appreciate a wonderful dinner. I can appreciate a clean and beautiful home. I can pay attention and just drink it all in. And that, to me, is as good as gratitude. It leaves me warm, smiling, and content.
My first-born was six weeks early... but she was so beautiful! She had curly, dark hair and big eyes. I had sung to her throughout my pregnancy, and the moment I spoke it was obvious she recognized my voice. Talk about falling in love. She died within the day. I cannot begin to describe the heart-wrenching pain I felt. To this day, there are no words to fully convey the despair. It left me emotionally unavailable for anything or anyone else for a good two years. It is astounding that humans get through the experience.
It took me over fifty years to actually speak that statement aloud. It is a difficult thing to accept. And when an emotionally impaired parent has a physically disabled child, the consequences can be profound. To this day, I cannot, with perfect certainty, say that the resolve I used to rise above a panoply of other challenges thrown my way through the years was in spite of my childhood, or because of it.
Yes, really. A 110-foot, looks-like-King-Kong-type freighter. Amazing choice for a 5'4", 19-year-old leg amputee with a malformed right arm. A ship's navigator.
A trio of authors - Andrew Charles Lark, Donald Levin, and Wendy Sura Thomson - produced this dystopian anthology. Andrew Lark’s “Pollen” is a riveting, multiple point-of-view account of a strange atmospheric phenomenon that destroys humankind’s ability to reproduce, ushering in the extinction of our species. Donald Levin’s “The Bright and Darkened Lands of the Earth” is a gripping tale set in a desperate, post-apocalyptic future where a heroic woman battles ecological and social collapse in an effort to save her tribe—and humanity—from certain annihilation. Wendy Sura Thomson’s “Silo Six” is a suspenseful story of love and survival set far into the future, when the sun begins its transformation into a red giant and scorches the earth into a virtually uninhabitable cinder.
It must be a very strange feeling, knowing that you, alone, were not infected by a strange substance. It reminds me of the movie "The Body Snatchers"... one by one they fell. What a lonely feeling.
A continuing conflict between control and freedom - Solomonic in proportion. Who is in control? Are others? Is the individual? Individual control means freedom - external control means overall order. For me, I choose individual control, the personal cost of which is internal discipline and the acknowledgment that I will be responsible for the consequences. To me, that is preferable.
Truthfully, I am not sure that even our best minds can coalesce all the variants of weather into an accurate and internally consistent picture of the future. We keep on getting surprised by factors we didn't know had effects. I am not arrogant enough to state I know what will happen. I do know, that in the face of uncertainty, we should take reasonable approaches: don't make things worse by ignoring smog, for instance. However, I also do not think there is a cadre of scientists out there that have it all accurately figured out. We do not know what we do not know.
Unfortunately, most of us have experienced some level of betrayal. However, it can become lethal when lives are on the line. Especially during war, be super careful whom you trust. Terrible way to live, but essential for survival. Sad.
I struggle to understand censorship, because it can so easily get out of hand. What starts as genuine concern drifts quickly into "anything I don't personally like or believe." At c\some point we should all respect various points of view. Points of view, in and of themselves, do no harm. It's only when people either act upon them, or try to force them on others, that harm can happen. Let it be.
We have just been notified that this book has taken First Place in the Incipere Awards. The three of us are incredibly thrilled and honored. This excerpt is from the third novella. If you haven't grabbed a copy yet, now's the time.
I believe we all want love like this. I think that's why romance novels are so popular - we look to those stories to revel in what we crave, even when it's a flight of fancy. Of all the couples I have ever known, I think one stands out. They met at an alumni dance, shortly before Murray was shipping out for WWII. Until the day he died, he could see his Ruth standing by a wall. He remembered what she was wearing. 37 days later he gave her a ring and went off to war. He was in the Pacific theater when their firstborn arrived. Five children and seventy years later, Ruth died. Murray lived another five years. He couldn't tell you what month it was: he couldn't tell you what he had for lunch. But he could tell you every detail of his dear Ruth. That's love.
I found this snippet interesting. It's post-apocalyptic, and it's the musing of a nineteen-year-old who really has known nothing else but dystopia. I found it very hopeful that he is looking to build, not tear down. Human spirit can be an ember that can kindle, in the right environment.
Andrew Lark has an interesting take on "The End" - people welcomed it. No pain, no bombs - simply ecstasy... and then, poof. Nothing. Guess that's not a bad way to go.
The writer in this excerpt is a middle-schooler. As with many young, his heart is full of compassion for animals. He eschews killing for sport - something that is a widespread thought. Why would anyone kill something else for sport? Beyond barbaric. Here's where I think it goes too far - at the end. Here we have an example of how good intentions become vicious. No - there's nothing about eating that should engender "serves him right."
There has been a long history of imagining life after wars have totally decimated the entire global landscape. Going hand-in-hand is the assumption that human life reverts to lawlessness. What if, instead, human life reverted to super-regimented control? Instead of Mad Max, we have 1984. Let your mind wander...
For the life of me, I will never, never understand why old men are allowed to send young men to fight - and die for - their battles. Do those old men not see? Do they not care? The devastation caused is so immeasurably immense, and for what? It disturbs me to no end. Let those old men go into a room and play World of Warcraft against each other until they themselves die. The world would be better for it.
Sometimes heading towards the unknown is more attractive than staying in an emotionally comfortable but hopeless present. That's where courage comes in.
There is a price to pay for a perfectly orderly and healthy community - in return for the promise of order and health, people in my fantasy world have given up personal autonomy. Free will, as it is frequently called. I think I would feel suffocated.
Love. Comfortable love - relaxed, happy, confident, joint, accepting, joyful love. All for the sake of love.
Terrifying - the only word available, really, to describe the sheer horror of believing you are about to be killed and have no recourse. I can only imagine.
Andrew Lark, author of the first novella in our 3-story anthology, writes of a cataclysmic event that envelops humanity in an extremely pleasant, though eventually fatal, way. The only survivors are those not exposed to the catalyst. Not sure I would want to be one left behind to survey the demise.
Elon Musk warns that low fertility rates will become serious problem. If the scales tip so there are not enough folks able to work, I can see the problem. Balance that with too many people on earth - I can see that problem, too. The secret is balance. What I currently see is that the developed world has taken extraordinary steps to help the elderly at the same time as [probably unconsciously] it discourages births. How, you say? I think the primary reason is by making it very expensive to have children. Either lose an income or pay [a lot of money] for daycare. Gone are the days when you could tell your children to simply go out and play. Unintended consequences of basically good intentions.
The will to survive is stronger in some than others. It has kept humankind going in the face of astounding odds. What must be the thought behind it? It's the knowledge that quitting means death. The world in general simply doesn't care. My son owns a little business. He and his wife just moved states. She is pregnant with a child that will require three open-heart surgeries within the first few years of life. Yes, their plate is excruciatingly full. However, if my son doesn't sit down and tend to his business it will fail. The world doesn't care that the two of them have other burdens. If his business fails, pretty much all is lost. Priorities and grit. That's what a life that makes it uses.
In this second novella the world is barren and irradiated from endless wars. The few that survive are hanging by a thread, constantly threatened not only from negligible sustenance, but from mad roving murderers. The ultimate dystopian scenario. Let's keep this in mind as we navigate life... be kind to the earth; be kind to others.
I think that this passage reminds us that closing schools is a very sad and harmful thing. The psychological and academic harm that forced upon our children will be regretted for decades to come. Short-sightedness. Lack of adequate consideration of unintended consequences. Shame on us.
Many people daydream of an easy life. Not much work - very little responsibility. No need to be productive, really - no need to even know how to cook. It may sound idyllic, but as far as I've been able to see, it leads nowhere. Not much to be proud of. No sense of accomplishment. People's spirits wither, I think. There is really something to be said for striving to create something and being proud of the results. Don't wish for a life devoid of responsibility: you might just get it.
In the second novella, humanity has devolved back into tribal ways, where history is passed down verbally through tribal leaders. The written word has all but vanished, and hard lives have obliterated hope and aspirations... until now. Until the glimmer of a better life dimly glows like a not-completely-extinguished ember.
A valiant effort to save one man led to a small cadre of trained medical personnel surviving in a shattered world. Here's an existential question for you: would you choose to survive in a shattered world with no other inhabitants? Would you honor that instinct, only to watch aliens cause havoc before they, too, did not survive?
In "Silo Six" we visit an imaginary future world where the government controls life to a high degree. It seems normal if you are born into it, as we all know. Visit this world to get an idea of what more and more government could become - where no one has any lifestyle diseases (for your safety) because the government controls what you eat and how you exercise.
It happens everywhere: the few that decide something is just not right. A lot of the time they are mistaken: some of the time, they are correct. It's one of those Solomonic, existential questions: is there a conspiracy, or not?
Finding a little bit of quiet within a time of turmoil takes a special personality. I think it's a quality that from which we would all benefit.
Hope is life-giving. Enervating. It's the twinkle in a child's eyes heading to see whether Santa came down the chimney. It's the elation of a newly-married couple. It's even the housecleaning done, in anticipation of waking up the next morning, satisfied, to a clean house. I think it's not love that makes the world go round - I think it's hope.
Postards from he Future was written prior to the current pandemic. The first story in this three-novella anthology has as its premise a worldwide infection. Timely story! Have a read... then read the second and third stories. We are sure you will find them thought-provoking and entertaining at the same time.
As frustrated and losing-control as it may seem at the moment with the several crises we are facing, it could be much worse. Here we have a sci-fi trilogy set at three different times in the future, all imagining the end of humans on earth. The first describes a pandemic that renders normal humans infertile: the second, a true, apocalyptic tale of descent into deprivation, insanity and ignorance. The third is set with no real medical or apocalyptic genesis - just the sun aging to a point where life on earth becomes unviable. Get lost for a time this summer with this interesting trilogy.
Author Andrew Lark depicts an event that could be called The Rapture, however these humans, instead of being transported to heaven, simply vanish. No fear - the last experiences of these doomed humans were exquisitely happy. Interesting take.
It takes a certain sort of strong will to take off into a land where the only other living things - including plants and animals - are deranged and violent, slowly dying men. The suggestion that longer term survival for the tribe is possible is such a strong motivator for our protagonist, Ash. The author of the second novella in this anthology has written a sequel explaining the death of the woman Ash happens upon in the beginning of this clip. If you enjoyed this story, please look up Donald Levin's book, The Exile.
In the novella Pollen, included within this anthology, an extraterrestrial culture has decided that there is a fatal flaw in humanity and takes it upon itself to end humans as we know them. It does it painlessly, but it ends us nevertheless. All except Mr. Quinn, who was not affected by a prior extraterrestrial visit. This is an intriguing flight of fancy that shows different, though very human, reactions through the lens of journal entries that our Mr. Quinn collects. You'll want to read this.
Mayhem can ensue when throngs of people, panicked, react without rational thinking and engage their emotion-driven survival mode. This scene describes humankind's final attempt at leaving for a distant colony.
Our heroine Ash doesn't have any experience beyond minute-to-minute survival - until she spends some time with the elder, Odile. She has not had the luxury of deep deliberation... and so, when told that a third journey for the survival of the tribe is necessary, Ash just leaves with what she can carry. Bare-bones survival fades in favor of compassion, though, when she stumbles upon Mae. Even in desolate times, the human range of emotions can exist and be demonstrated. That's a decent definition of humanity.
There has been much written about the explosion of humankind on Earth. In Pollen, author Andrew Lark speaks to rapid depopulation and the entropic effect that could have on societal structure. Just imagine watching it, and being able to do absolutely nothing about it. Rather terrifying.
In my last bubble I spoke of the darker side of human behavior... but not everyone reacts the same. I believe that when faced with the worst, there are those that react with kindness and grace. This passage reflects that grace and kindness.
I guess it's not very unusual for many people to trample on everyone and everything else when their own survival is at stake. There are many that become hard and cold, dispensing with any shred of compassion that may have held. Leaders have to have at least some of that hardness to become leaders. What general in the army hasn't sent young men and women into combat, coldly calculating the possible/acceptable casualty rate? What manager hasn't laid employees off, even knowing that among those were families that may have a child on the way? Or that a spouse was in the hospital? Or that is was almost Christmas? It's a sad commentary on the human condition.
Take three published authors and present a premise: imagine the end of humanity. The three have taken different roads; different times, different circumstances... but the one thing they have in common: the stories are thought-provoking and riveting. And although the three didn't compare notes, all three share the integral importance of the written word.
The author of Bright and Darkened Lands of the Earth, Donald Levin, wanted to emphasize the immediacy of his characters' daily struggle to simply survive another day. I find it a very arresting and effective convention, given the desolate world he has painted. It grabs you from the first sentence.
Three postcards pinpoint the date of your extinction. Are you brave enough to read them? Donald Levin pictures a bleak landscape. His characters struggle for mere survival. This tale features two main characters: Ash, a lowly gatherer, and Odile, the tribal leader. These two live underground in a overwhelmingly female society. Men, topside, have been ravaged by war, pestilence and radiation. An intensely told story ensues.
Andrew Lark's Pollen centers on an extraterrestrial interference with human's life on Earth. It's a riveting tale told via various characters' journal entries. Enter for a change to win this book over at Amazon - we are running a giveaway that ends October 12. No purchase necessary: go over and try your luck!
As I thought about what life might look like thousands of years in the future, it occurred to me that, short of extinction, people would start to resemble one another more and more. If they lived underground, they would become fairer and fairer as they were denied exposure to sunlight. It was an interesting exercise.
Here's another teaser, this time from Andrew Charles Lark's novella, Pollen. A fascinating tale, told as snippet's from diaries and other notes found by the protagonist as he wandered around a much different United States. The events unfold via the differing perspectives of the various journal authors. Fascinating.
A wonderful fellow author wrote The Bright and Darkened Lands of the Earth, which appears as the second story in this anthology. His tale is set in a post-apocalyptic Canada and features as its protagonist a young woman named Ash. Enjoy!
"Postcards From the Future was a fascinating read. I literally couldn’t put the book down, and that doesn’t happen often. I loved that even in the future books would still be around; all three stories showed how powerful books can be. I also loved how they showed that even in the most gruesome living arrangement, there is always hope and hope can be powerful as well. Pollen by Andrew C. Lark had a couple of great twists at the end, though I was sad to realize there wasn’t more to the story. And Donald Levin’s The Bright and Darkened Lands of the Earth may have a trigger warning as one of the heroines, Ash, gets attacked by men, but it’s well written and not too gory, which I appreciated it. I loved Ash’s spunk and determination. The ending was hopeful but left you wondering and hoping there will be a sequel. Wendy’s Sura Thomson’s Silo Six is probably my favorite of the three. The ending was sad but beautiful at the same time. If you love stories that deal with humanity possibly ending and seeing how or if they overcome it, then this is a great read. It will leave you wondering about a lot of things." - Renee Guill, Readers Favorite
This, just received from Readers' Favorite: "Though they are not thematically intended to be connected to one another, the timeline of these dark and inviting tales makes for some cohesion in the reading as we wander from disaster to survival, then back to the ultimate end of all things... The entire team of Andrew C Lark, Donald Levin, and Wendy Sura Thomson writes with excellent suspense and a sense of control over the worlds which they have created (or destroyed), and their characters emote through dialogue and well-described action to build an atmosphere on every page. Overall, Postcards From The Future: A Triptych on Humanity’s End is an excellent collection which is certain to entertain fans of the dystopian and post-apocalyptic genres."
This dystopian work features three novellas: (1) Pollen, by Andrew Charles Lark, (2) The Bright and Darkened Lands of the Earth by Donald Levin, and (3) Silo Six by... me. This book officially launches on November 2, but I thought I would whet your respective appetites by giving you a glimpse of my far-in-the-future world. Many dystopian novels assume societal chaos and disintegration: mine goes in the opposite direction, where life is highly and intricately controlled. Enter with me, then, as we go underground.
Maggie Fraser met the man of her dreams one day in New York City. She had never been happier - until tragedy struck, sending her into an emotional tailspin. Her recovery was rudely interrupted by her accidental possession of a mysterious and ancient amulet.What was this amulet? And why was she being pursued for it? Travel with Maggie as she criss-crosses multiple countries unraveling the secrets of the amulet and searching for the inner peace, acceptance, and personal direction that had been so disrupted.
Ah, the mystery and majesty of the Knights Templar. It was so enjoyable doing research into this flashback to the late 1100's - to the time of the Third Crusade. One of the more interesting sources was an old Italian farce video... it was from that unlikely source that I learned that many of the various Crusade members traveled to the south of Italy, where they boarded boats to cross over to Jerusalem. I learn things from the most unexpected sources!
People like resolution... in general, It is mostly not satisfying to be left dangling - unless the storyline is horror. One of the best tips to remember is to re-read a manuscript and make sure everything tidies up into a neat little package.
This is a bit of a stretch, but a person can question themselves after enduring a traumatic event. Once upon a time, I was stalked by someone with what they used to call The Dark Triad: a severely bi-polar, narcissistic sociopath. He broke into my house. He would peer in my windows at night and then leave threatening letters describing what I was doing in my mailbox. For years after I had a difficult time feeling safe. Any little inkling and my fight-or-flight would kick in. Our protagonist, feeling the same state of extreme alert, felt the same.
I had a rather interesting time imagining having to hide, as I have never experienced anything like it personally. How would I do it? Where would I go? It was an intriguing flight of fantasy.
It's a very calming feeling, reaching the other side of grief. I think some never quite make it all the way, which is sad. When you've climbed up that mountain and finally reach the other side, though, the feelings turn to bittersweet. You remember good moments: funny moments, dear moments... and then a smile appears.
Hang on to loves, past and present. Lord knows, there's not enough love in this world. Hold dear in your heart those you have loved, even if they are no longer with you. That love you feel is eternal. Honor, respect and cherish it.
I had a bit of fun conjuring up a rogue sect hiding in plain view. A sect on a mission... a sect that would stop st next to nothing to further their own agendas. It was an exercise in exploring the concept of paranoia versus reasonable caution. Like I said, it was an entertaining wandering of the imagination.
My cousin was disappointed in my heroine. He wanted her to have had Mossad training, or be some sort of Navy Seal-type veteran... someone that could fight. I love my cousin dearly, but that storyline seemed so trite and banal to me. I wanted my protagonist to be rather normal. Crafty, brave, smart -- but not military. I wanted her to have ingenuity, limited by having no military or hand-to-hand combat training. So that's who she became.
I have never been kidnapped. I can only imagine how terrifying that would be. I fashioned my heroine after what I know would be my reaction. My mind would go into overdrive... Analyze. Observe. Senses on high alert... how do I get out of this? I would leave my emotional reaction until later - until I was safe. I know this because I have been physically attacked twice. That's Maggie. She would not cower. She would not crumble. She is strong that way.
If you have never had the misfortune of meeting someone really "off", you are lucky. The first time I ran into someone clinically, mentally ill, I had a very hard time recognizing the fact. It was as if the possibility never even entered my mind. A friend once said to me, "Once you recognize it, you'll be amazed just how prevalent it is." I find that part of it to be true. But even with that, the"mentally ill" part is never the first thing that pops into my mind.
I had the most remarkably rewarding time coming up with history that would plausibly tie together my story line... and the exultation I felt when I fell upon it was palpable. I sat here thinking to myself: "I found it! I actually found it!" I was so excited! Never thought history could be so rewarding.
I think many, many women dream of a perfect wedding - the setting, the weather, the dance, the dress... a perfect day, ripe with promise and joy. In the best of situations, people can look back on that special day with warm, happy memories forever. It doesn't always work out that way, as everyone knows. But in the best light, it's one of life's best days.
I have had the very unfortunate experience of sudden, unexpected tragedy and loss. I am not sure everyone reacts as I did, but my entire psyche did a hard reset, as if my previous life, to-do lists, and plans were simply eradicated. I turned into a human version of an automatron - going through the motions, but in a total mental fog. I was relying on muscle memory. It's really difficult to pick up the pieces.
It's sometimes difficult to discern between being merely observant and being paranoid. I have struggled with that at times - I had a small mole underneath my collarbone. I couldn't decide whether it had gotten bigger or not. Every time I thought it had enlarged, I considered the possibility that I was imagining things - I decided I was imagining things. Until one day I could see it through my blouse. Until it bled. I was not imaging it... it ended up being skin cancer. Sometimes it's hard to tell.
You have been blessed if you have had the opportunity to have had a good role model... someone whose acquaintance, even if brief, made a life-long impact on you. I've had a few, and my memories of them have continued well past being in their respective presences. It's amazing what even a chance encounter can do.
There has always been something a bit magical, a bit mysterious... a bit frightening... about the Knights Templar. I can only imagine the awe a young boy would have, seeing one.
Feeling that life is perfect is elusive, isn't it? I think that most people yearn to experience it, even if it is fleeting. When everything falls into place... the sun is shining, the weather is lovely, the normal stressors of life retreat, if briefly. We need to remember those moments and cherish them. They are the moments that we can look back upon and smile, even if we are old and are sitting alone on a porch in a rocking chair.
After my cousin read this book he thought my heroine needed to beat some butt... Mossad training, maybe. Swift kicks to the face, wrestling moves, maybe a Glock. I had different ideas. I thought I wanted my protagonist to be a normal person. Someone who could think her way through instead of resorting to brawn. Something different. Not everyone needs to be a James Bond-type. There can be elegance in ingenuity.
I must admit I am not one for conspiracy theories - you know, secret societies, ominous intents... all the stuff that enthralls the imagination. Given that, it was an interesting exercise to dream one up. I might want to let my imagination wander unhindered more often.
Sudden death hits so very hard. It's different than someone fading slowly. Sudden death hits like a freight train, totally unexpected. There is no way anyone can be prepared for it. I've experienced it twice, unfortunately. The level of despair is difficult to describe. There is just no way anyone can prepare for it.
I don't know if you've ever met someone really off the rails. The first time I met one I was unprepared. I never thought mental illness... it never crossed my mind... I was simply befuddled by unexplainable behavior - unexplainable from a rational point if view. I remember speaking with a guy names John of that person's odd behavior (which I subsequently found out was the Dark Triad: untreated Bi-Polar, Narcissism and AntiSocial disorders). John said something I will never forget: once you recognize it, you realize just how many people are affected.
I find it fascinating that the most innocuous of observations speak so loudly. Why did Oliver's eyes narrow? What does this three-word sentence convey? Oh - so much. Intense interest. Suspicion, perhaps. Unspoken knowledge shrouded in secrecy. "Where did you get this?"
Furtive phone calls. Mysterious objects. Ominous cult overtones. Don't you just love the beginning of a mystery?
Double-income, no kids. That is a phrase from decades ago, when such couples were fairly rare. Life has a different rhythm for DINKs, caught between singledom and life within a family with children. Nowadays, DINKs are common, even if the classification is temporary. I think it's a great way to figure each other out before considering having a family.
New Years Eve, in other words. A night of First Footers and general revelry. I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season, and I hope 2022 brings you blessings and contentment.
Don't you just love seeing people obviously in love? Does it take you back? does it represent something you want to have? It always gives me an inner glow that seems to warm me from within. It's happiness and hope. It's what transcends any situation. It's simply, love.
Weddings are such hopeful and happy times - families celebrating the launch of a new family. Hopes and dreams for a bright and happy future filling the air... life at its best.
Christmas was solely a religious holiday in Scotland until 1958, when it was declared a national holiday. New Year's Eve is a bigger event - Hogmanay. Edinburgh goes nuts New Year's Eve. However, Christmas has had sixty-plus years to take hold.
I don't know whether any of you have had one of those "AhHa" moments, where you can pinpoint, to the exact moment, when a deep-seated and troubling issue suddenly resolves. Where the clouds that have been shrouding a part of you evaporate - where, all of a sudden, you know you have moved on. I know I have, clear as day. It is truly a blessing.
People want resolution: they want the bad guys caught; they want the good guy to get his girl; they want people to get their just rewards. It's comforting to have tidy endings when life doesn't always come through. Figuring out how o make that happen is enjoyable!
If you liked The Da Vinci Code, you might like this. A mysterious relic. A rogue religious order. A brother in MI6. A cat-and-mouse game of chase. Give it a go!
Let your imagination take you globe-trotting during these trying times. Enjoy this cat-and-mouse mystery steeped in history as our fearless heroine, Maggie, skips from Scotland to Michigan, Italy, and England - and revel in a chapter-long throwback to the times of the Knights Templar and the Crusades. You won't be disappointed at the interesting twists and turns.
As I wrote this book I was imagining all the different little things that someone might have to consider if they had to evade detection. It was an intriguing exercise, but I came away with the feeling that it must be fairly exhausting to always be on high alert.
People have asked me this question. The best I can come up with is that it bubbled up surreptitiously. I wanted a cat-and-mouse story; I wanted an historical angle, I wanted to call upon places I know. I wanted a protagonist that was "normal"... I didn't want some super-human, Mossad-trained kick-ass woman. I wanted a clever woman with no extraordinary physical training. I wanted a tender woman forced to survive intrigue while recovering from a very unexpected and deep-felt loss. The operative question here: could I have pulled this off?
It's a long journey from grief to the peace of acceptance and the strength and will to go on. Sometimes it comes like a turned-on lightbulb: sometimes it creeps up on someone so they barely notice the gradual change. Sometimes it comes with a final, bittersweet gesture that signifies closure. The important part of the process is getting through it, however someone processes loss. The true tragedy is when the process never completes.
Our heroine Maggie, having successfully escaped those that were after her - twice - finally returns to New York and safety. Lots on her mind.... and this excerpt tidily describes the questions and challenges ahead of her.
It's not hard to take a flight of fancy with the spies and agents of government agencies: loads of books have been written about them. I actually shared an office with a summer intern once, whose husband worked for the CIA. He shared an office with an agent with no name and no documented history - that officemate was a total ghost. Given that I was told that such ghosts actually exist, I let my imagination describe the creation of a "new" person. Quite an entertaining exercise, and not a terrible stretch of the imagination.
People often speak of closure after tragedy. It shows up on the evening news frequently... looking for a missing person (or body). Seeing a perpetrator caught. I think that, sometimes, people confuse retribution for closure. To me, closure is that moment where the last piece of the puzzle is placed where is belongs. There is nothing left to question or ponder - the deceased has had a proper burial, or the lost child is found, or the criminal has been tried, found guilty, and is remanded to jail. When there are no loose ends to tie up, a person can move on. It's a healing process... a healthy process. Life does go on. It is our job to accommodate the shock/loss/damage and go forward - go forward without losing the love we are capable of giving. Go forward without losing the compassion and kindness that may have been taken advantage of. Go forward, sometimes alone, realizing that our partner or parent would want us to find joy, even without them. Go forward, maintaining appreciation for the beauty around us and the kindness we have been shown.
The primary antagonist in The Third Order was modeled after my now-deceased neighbor. I had never met anyone like him before: from the way he kept his home, it was obvious he was a hoarder. I also was surprised when he randomly chuckled in the middle of sentences. Very odd. He was driven by several compulsive drives, needing to write down the amount of rain that fell every day. Writing down when and where he bought gas, driven to put in exactly $10 a pop. He had little black books, one for weather, one for gasoline - maybe more for other obsessions - that went back for years and years. And near the end, in the middle of a sentence, he let his thought drift off. He paused, as if he had totally forgotten what he was saying, and then recited the rosary. Sad but alarming... I had to call the police on him for discharging a firearm in the backyard. And for being Peeping Tom. There are strange people among us - my character would have felt right at home.
Whenever I want to generate a nice warm fire inside on an otherwise cold emotional day, I can think back to the wonderful times I have been in love. Those memories never cease to make me smile... it's like my emotions curl up in a warm, fuzzy blanket, knees up, sipping a nice cup of hot cocoa. It never ceases to work.
A little bit love story, a little bit cat-and-mouse mystery... what's not to love? Follow our protagonist Maggie as she gets away from, and keeps one step ahead of, her "bad guys" as she unravels an ancient mystery! Just remember your sunscreen and beach hat. Enjoy!
I have been honored to have this book compared to Dan Brown and Diana Gabaldon by no less than a Kirkus critic. It's similar to Dan Brown in that it describes a cat-and-mouse adventure between an unsuspecting victim an an obscure, rogue Catholic cult. It has been compared to Diana Gabaldon because of it's strong, resilient, female Scottish protagonist. If you like books of that genre - with some strong emotional component - you just very well may love this heroine, Maggie.
I write what I can describe, and I feel most confident describing places I have been - places that I know. I have stayed in Italian rooms with double shutters. I have stood at the wall in Assisi and stared in wonder at the fields below. I have walked cobbled streets is small Scottish hamlets, visiting the green grocer, then the butcher, then the baker. I have been on the University of Michigan campus and walked Cranbrook. I can recall peering up cobbled and winding narrow streets admiring the arched wooden doors and the spills of flowers tumbling off windowsill planters. Being able to smell the air and notice small facts, I think, adds such truth and sincerity to a story.
I know that "letting go" seems to logically be followed by "moving on." I am not sure that is exactly true. I think that a heart never lets go of true, deep, perfect love. Even if a person is forced - chooses - to move on, that doesn't mean they have actually let go. No, they move their love to a different part of their heart: a sacred, cherished and protected space where it will always remain. A place that they can return to with fond, sometimes bittersweet, memories of a very special time... a very special person.
The Kirkus critic found "powerful emotional satisfaction" in this "cozy mystery." Here's what else was said: "...the pacing is quick, and the element of travel provides rich backdrops and description. Readers will find the unfolding story charming and ultimately affirming... a satisfying synthesis of mystery, history, and emotion."
My protagonist, Maggie, grew up in a very protective family. Being so protected allowed her to safely fight the constraints placed upon her. She had faced no true challenges - until a fateful day in September. Maggie's discovery of her own inner strength and resilience is a strong undercurrent throughout this cozy mystery/action novel. It is a study in how a person, when faced with adversity and danger, can rise to the occasion.
I had such a good time writing and researching this: a few facts that might be of interest: yes, there really was an Alan Fitzwalter, second steward of Scotland. Yes, he fought in the Third Crusade with Richard the Lion Heart. He did have a son a couple of years older than our little Francesco. And a few generations beyond him, his direct descendant decided to adopt the last name Stewart and claim the throne of Scotland. Bonnie Prince Charlie was his direct descendant.
Please don't be too offended by the language on the first page: it is the only profanity in the entire book. It just happens to fall in the second paragraph. Here is this book's latest review: hopefully it will pique your interest! "Wendy Thomson’s The Third Order is a fine novel that works on a number of levels—as a thriller, an adventure novel, a Dan Brown-like fusion of historical and religious conspiracies, an archeological mystery, a critique of how ideals are tarnished and betrayed, and above all a sensitive portrait of a resilient and resourceful woman who must rebuild her life after a tragic accident. The story is exciting and multi-layered, racing back and forth between countries, continents, and centuries—all handled deftly by the author. The characters are well-drawn and memorable, particularly (for me) the contemporary main character, Maggie, and a battle-weary twelfth-century Scottish warrior whose large spirit helps change the course of religious history. I highly recommend this engaging and fast-moving novel." - 5 stars, Don Levin at goodreads.com
Our heroine Maggie is driven to understand the amulet in her possession and the reason she is being pursued for it. She decides an important key lies in Assisi. Although she speaks no Italian, she is undaunted. Bound and determined, she is off to learn more.
I fell in love with Assisi when I was there performing a concert many years ago. This flashback takes us back to a young St. Francis - before he was a saint, before he was a soldier... when he was a youngster dreaming of becoming a Knight Templar. He did eventually become a soldier. This except imagines a young Francesco meeting an idol.
I have met several people in my life with significant emotional issues: people who have OCD. People who are significantly Bi-Polar. People who are narcissistic, people who are Histrionic. This character is patterned after an unfortunate man that used to live next to me. He was a classic hoarder and had fairly severe OCD. He also was poor at recognizing limits and tried to overcome his discomfort around others by chortling at the most inappropriate times. He also would stop mid-sentence and break into Hail Mary Full of Grace. He is very real, and here I captured the idiosyncrasies he exhibited. I also called the cops on him once for discharging a weapon in his back yard and also peering into my windows, hands up against the glass around his face so he could look in. Quite creepy.
Little does Maggie know that this chance discovery would lead her on adventures never expected. The article depicted is an accurate description of a shape found in ancient Pictish carvings. I took great pains finding true-to-history facts from which I wove this story. The research was at least as rewarding as writing the book.
No matter how many times I read this, it makes me smile. There is something so tender and heart-warming about the bloom of fresh, young love.
I recently received this review, and I am at a loss for words at how humbled and honored I am. "Amazon Customer 5.0 out of 5 stars Gabaldon to Thomson! September 26, 2018 Captivating. If you love Diana Gabaldon, you will love Wendy Thomson! Well researched to really make the moments and events have color and flavor. Enjoy!
I am personally quite fond of having a reader follow an innocent story, just drifting along, and then.... BAM. Something entirely unexpected happens - right before the chapter ends. If a reader is sleepily reading along, enjoying a benign story, it really wakes them up. Like Haydn's Surprise Symphony. :-)
When I was very small I wanted dearly to be a dancer. I had been given a book about a little girl and ballet. I can still vividly remember it - and because of it, day after day, I would practice first position, second position... I would imagine that my protagonist is what that dreaming little would have been, had she been able. What we can't be, we can always create in the written word.
I love true love - the kind of love that is deep, and easy, and comfortable. Maggie and Ben have that love. This except comes from the opening lines of this book, which is full of twists and turns and surprises. This is a chick-lit book: it has romance, a wide range of experienced emotions, a fair share of drama, suspense, and adventure.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish