And so it began: A move to Wyoming, a decision to make Oregon Trail dolls with a gimmick to match each one. For Roy Caldwell a journal, a collection of letters for Sarah Margaret Lovelace, and a novella for Wahniki Wanshee Umatah.
Shortly thereafter, I met Opal Whiteley in a book and in a conscious
My cousin Dottie and my sister Martha Kaye encouraged me to
chronicle the enchanting and heart wrenching experiences I’d had as a nurse. Because of them and Opal, Child of My Heart, my first novel, exploded from within.
Elisabeth Collins of Gardenia Press believed in my writing and my story and published it in 2003, shortly before her death and the demise of the press.
Bob and Elisabeth Collins, founder and president of Gardenia Press
My first book signing, Whilmington, NC 2004
Today, on my 72nd birthday, 22 years after Roy Caldwell’s first journal entry, I’m throwing in the towel.
Another author and Facebook friend shares my reasons:
Stephen J. Myers stated last week, “The last few weeks have been a bit of a rollercoaster for me and it is with a heavy heart that I have decided to remove all the books from sale with the exception of The Colour Red. That means they will no longer be available from sites like Amazon or through bookstores. Considering we have reached hundreds of thousands of readers in different formats it may seem a crazy thing to do but the publishing industry has changed so much I no longer have the same enthusiasm for writing and illustrating when the majority of my time is now geared towards marketing. I always said once I stopped enjoying it I would stop and that day has come."
He continued, "Now there is a positive note . As I have never written to make money, the books will be placed on selected free sites where they can be downloaded for free permanently and signed copies of the books will still be available from my website."
So, I'll leave you now with a short story. Thank you for your encouragement and support over the years. Thank you to everyone who beta-read and edited my books, to everyone who bought my books, to everyone who read at least one, and to everyone who wrote a review. I am eternally grateful.
“Come on, Franny, all the boys will be taken by the time we get there.” Patsy Mitchell tossed an alligator handbag over her shoulder and held the front door ajar. “Isn’t this lipstick too red for me? I feel like a prostitute.” Franny frowned at her reflection in the mirror over the hat rack. “You look great, now hurry up. These boys haven’t been off that boat since before the war ended. One look at you and they’ll be drooling all over you.” “I’m not so sure I want to be drooled over.” Franny took one last glance into the mirror to adjust the feather in her hat and frowned. “Maybe I don’t want a lovesick sailor.” “Why not?” Franny huffed then moved her tongue over her lips. “Don’t lick that lipstick off. Honestly, Franny, how are you ever going to find a boy? Let’s go, let’s kiss a hundred lonely sailors before midnight.”
The USS Drayton had pulled into New York Harbor on September 12, 1945 after more than three years in the South China Sea. She’d been bombed and set aflame more than a few times. Patsy knew that a fair amount of the boys would not only be single but alone and lonely and celebrating their homecoming at a favorite Brooklyn club, Harbor Lights.
“Look for boys standing in groups. They’re the ones who want to get kissed.” Patsy took hold of Franny’s upper arm and pulled her through the throngs of people already gathered in the neon-lit dance bar. When they made their way to the bar, Patsy ordered two Esquire Cocktails—three parts dry vermouth and one part gin. “Look at those dreamy boys at the edge of the dance floor. I think they’re looking for gals like us.” Patsy made her way through the crowd and kissed at least three sailors while Franny stood back and sipped her cocktail. “Welcome home, boys!” Patsy laughed and kissed two more sailors smack on the lips before stopping to brush her spilled gin from one sailor’s starched uniform. The sailor pulled Patsy into a passionate embrace and covered her mouth with his. When they came up for air he said, “You can spill all the gin you want on this uniform. As of,” he paused to look at his watch, “fourteen minutes ago I’m a civilian.” “So I can’t call you, sailor?” Patsy asked still nuzzled against his chest. “You can call me Jack. Jack Anderson.” He kissed her again. When one of the other sailors turned to Franny, she felt an urgent attraction that caused her breath to hitch. “Name’s Leo. I’m a civilian now, too.” Franny’s hand began to shake when Leo reached out to her. She set the glass on a nearby table as Leo pulled her into his arms and held her as if he never intended to let her go. “And you are?” “Franny.” “You look Irish. I was expecting an Erin or Shannon.” He grinned. “It’s Francis Clare Sullivan. We lost the O at Ellis Island in 1904.” “Yer a beautiful, lass, Miss O’Sullivan with those strawberry curls and eyes the color of Ireland herself.” He spoke with a broken Irish brogue. Their eyes locked and he pulled her closer. His kiss was different from any of the other few kisses she’d experienced. Sweet, yet strong—like something she could melt into. Delicious, that was what it was, and full of starvation. He smiled and it embarrassed her. He turned to the group of sailors. “Hey, Jack. Look what I found.” Jack had been oblivious to anyone other than Patsy. His hands roamed her body and caressed her curves. They kissed deep and long as he pushed hard against her and she pushed back harder. He glanced at Leo with one eye, then pulled his mouth away from Patsy’s. “Well, buddy, looks like we both scored.” Jack looked back at Patsy. “Is she your friend?” “Yes.” Patsy adjusted her earrings and swung her long black hair over one shoulder. “We’re roommates. I’m Patsy Cleveland and this is Franny Sullivan.” “Roommates, huh?” Jack slapped his friend’s back. “This is my buddy, Leo Jenkins and I’m Jack Albertson. “Nice to meet you.” Franny smiled, feeling the butterflies ease their fluttering. “We’re two lonely boys who’ve been away from the finer things of life far too long.” Jack pouted as he tipped his hat. He stood tall with piercing dark eyes and hair shaved so short that it was impossible to discern the color. “Would you beautiful dames care to share a little wine and candlelight?” “We’d love to.” Patsy answered for both. “You buy the wine and we’ll supply the candles. Our apartment isn’t much, but it has a view of the Brooklyn Bridge.
The sun hadn’t begun to set when Jack opened the second bottle of wine. He poured the glasses full but before Patsy could take a sip he pulled her from her chair and onto his lap, unzipped the back of her dress and reached inside. Franny blushed and looked away. “Are you all right, Franny?” Leo turned her face to his with the tip of his index finger. She whispered to him. “Sometimes she brings boys home after I’m in bed. I just ignore her.” “Do you sometimes bring boys home?” Franny startled. “No.” “Why?” “Because I haven’t met the right one, I guess.” “Don’t look now, unless you want a peep show.” A sly smile curled Leo’s lips as he watched the half-dressed couple disappear into Patsy’s bedroom. The bed squeaked, the couple laughed and moaned. “Have a little consideration you heathens,” Leo hollered as he reached out to squeeze Franny’s hand. Franny smiled until deep dimples formed on both cheeks and her lips puckered as if she had tasted a grapefruit and a sugar cube at the same time. “I’m sorry about our thin walls.” “This is life with Jack. He’s always been bigger than life, if you know what I mean.” “Patsy, too. She loves boys…if you know what I mean. Leo squirmed in his seat. “So, you don't have someone special?” “No.” She smiled shyly and chuckled at the same time. “Do you have someone waiting for you at home?” Leo thumped his head. “No, but Jack does.” Franny’s eyes grew wide. “He does?” She glanced at Patsy’s closed door. “Hey, Jack,” Leo called. “What are you going to do about Oklahoma?” “To hell with Oklahoma,” Jack called back. “Patsy and I are getting married in the morning! I’ll send a registered letter.” “What does he mean?” Franny gave her full attention to Leo and tried to block out the lustful sounds that had her feeling both highly aroused and uncomfortable. “He has a childhood sweetheart back home. Name’s Elsie. They’ve been courting since she was too young to court. Pretty girl. Nice, too. Never knew what she saw in him. She’s a small town girl—wants a hoard of kids and horses. Patsy seems to be the key to his future—an excuse not to go back home. He always wanted out of Oklahoma, always wanted to be a city boy. “And you want to be a country boy in Oklahoma?” “Guess so. Stuart, Oklahoma to be exact. I want to trade in my sailor’s cap for a Stetson.” Leo smiled the sweetest smile she’d ever seen. His buzz cut was longer than Jack’s and she could see the light brown stubble above his warm honey-colored eyes. “A cowboy hat?” Franny wrinkled her nose. “How did two Oklahoma cowboys end up in the Navy?” “Cause Stuart’s on the Canadian River and we’re just a couple river rats.” Leo rested his hand on Franny’s. “I love the ranch and I’m one of five kids. Haven’t even met my baby brother. He’s almost a year old already. All the rest are girls. My dad needs me. I’ll inherit it all one day and be a full partner until then. Have you ever been to Oklahoma?” Franny giggled. I’ve never been out of New York, except for one trip to Atlantic City.” “Then you have to promise to come to Stuart. I’ve never met a sweeter heart than yours. Ma and my sisters will love you, Pa, too.” Franny looked at her hands again, and entwined them with Leo’s. "And you don't have a girl waiting there for you?" "No, ma'am. Not likely a girl for me within a hundred miles of Stuart."
Elsie watched as the mailman marched up the sidewalk and turned toward her front door, head down. Her heart stopped and then thumped then stopped again and paused until she swallowed hard. She’d always feared the letter would come, but why now? The Drayton had docked day before yesterday and Jack should be on his way home. Silently, Elsie signed for the letter and glued her eyes to it as the mail carrier turned and walked away. Running a finger across her name on the outside, she hesitated, and then ripped it open. A smile emerged as she read Jack’s words. She rested her hand on her bulging belly and let out a long, almost singing sigh.
Eighteen months had been a long time to wait. She’d missed him too much and on a lonely night six months ago she’d let Johnny Wilkerson comfort her. Now, they were man and wife and lived in a little ranch house with crisp white curtains and a horse stable right behind the vegetable garden. At last, unburdened from her guilt, there was nothing to explain now.
“Congratulations, Jack! Congratulations!” she sang as she ran out the back door and into the pasture to find Johnny.
Missing May is my favorite book of all time. Written as a children’s/young teen novel, I feel that this is a book parents and children should read together, although I loved it as an adult.
The author, Cynthia Rylant, once said, "They say to be a writer you must first have an unhappy childhood. I don't know if unhappiness is necessary, but I think maybe some children who have suffered a loss too great for words grow up into writers who are always trying to find those words, trying to find a meaning for the way they have lived."
In Missing May, May dies suddenly while gardening and Summer (the protagonist) assumes she'll never see her beloved aunt again. But then Summer's Uncle Ob claims that May is on her way back—she has sent a sign from the spirit world.
Summer has lost her parents at a very young age and has been passed around several relatives who don't want her before she is finally adopted by her Aunt May and Uncle Ob (who have always wanted children but could never have any). She lives a happy life with them until May dies suddenly while gardening. The story is how Summer and Ob cope with their grief, often not knowing how to help each other. When Summer's friend Cletus tells them about a medium who claims to be able to contact the departed, they decide to go on a summer trip to consult with her, hoping to hear from May again. And they do, but not in the way they'd expected. The encounter is spellbinding and believable.
From Chapter 1: "When May died, Ob came back to the trailer, got out of his good suit and into his regular clothes, then went and sat in the Chevy for the rest of the night. That old car had been parked out by the doghouse for as long as I could remember, and the weeds had grown up all around it so you didn’t even notice it unless you looked, and for years I couldn’t understand why Ob didn’t just get rid of the awful thing. Until I saw him sitting in it after the funeral. Then I knew that even though nobody in the world figured that old car had any good purpose, Ob knew there was some real reason to let it sit. And when May died, he figured out what it was. I never saw two people love each other so much. Sometimes the tears would just come over me, looking at the two of them, even six years back when I first got here and was too young to be thinking about love. But I guess I must have had a deep part of me thinking about it, hoping to see it all along, because the first time I saw Ob help May braid her long yellow hair, sitting in the kitchen one night, it was all I could do not to go to the woods and cry forever from happiness.”
This beautifully written simple and sweet story is injected with just the right touches of humor and mysticism.
Missing May is a critically acclaimed winner of the Newbery Medal in 1993 and the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award and has joined Scholastic's paperback line. It grieves me to read all the one and two star reviews, written presumably by a group of schoolchildren as a class assignment that included writing a review. One reviewer titled their review: "Teachers worship it; Kids squash hornets with it." And another stated, “At the beginning of this year, the whole sixth grade was assigned to read this book; no one liked it. The characters were blank, and just about as lively as a stone. They spent the whole book wallowing in their self-pity. I had to force myself to read it, and now it is shoved out of my sight and under the bed.”
But, then there are the rave reviews, one of them mine: "Missing May isn't about vampires or zombies or other worlds as most of the "one star" reviewers seem to have expected.” And "Missing May is the most beautiful book I've ever read. I call it my 'Happy Book.' Whenever I feel sad, I read it, and it lifts my spirits.”
I couldn’t agree more.
Missing May is especially good for those who have lost a close relative or friend...and isn't that just about all of us?
To Kill a Mockingbird is a favorite of mine. But I have to say a little something about Harper Lee’s wonderful friends, fans, and editor. I blogged about Lee and her novels three times in July 2015 but as the world grieves her death I have to agree with the African proverb that, “it takes a village to raise a child”.
In 2014 Sean Braswell told the story of how a “village” supported Lee’s creative dream: “In 1956 Lee was a rather taciturn 30-year-old ticket agent for the British Overseas Airways Company, who, like many aspiring writers, had come to New York City to pursue her dream. But after seven years of struggle, it seemed beyond her grasp. And without further help, and with no Kickstarter for another 53 years, that is perhaps where her dream would have ended.
Luckily, thanks to an introduction from Truman Capote, her childhood friend and neighbor, Lee had made two very good friends in New York: a Broadway composer named Michael Brown and his wife, Joy, a Balanchine dancer.
Lee became a bona fide extension of the Brown family, and any free time she had that was not devoted to writing was spent with Michael, Joy and their three boys at the Browns’ East 50th Street brownstone. The Browns had read Lee’s short stories, and they appreciated her dream — and her immense gift — better than anyone. They also shared her frustration at the challenges of writing while holding down a full-time job.
The Browns did not want to see Lee spend her life working as an airlines clerk while hoping to become something else.
So, in the fall of 1956, when the Browns came into some cash because Michael had been hired to create a show for Esquire magazine, they decided to do something about Lee’s situation and to give their friend a big break — literally. When Lee opened her Christmas present from the couple that year, she found a note that read: ‘You have one year off from your job to write whatever you please. Merry Christmas.’
In short order, Lee quit her job, got an agent and devoted herself to writing. Just over a year later, she had a finished manuscript and a publisher. And the result of the Browns’ generous gift (which Lee later repaid in full) and Lee’s newfound freedom was no less than the Pulitzer Prize-winning, best-selling novel of the 20th century, To Kill a Mockingbird .”
To Kill a Mockingbird still sells 750,000 copies each year. What writer wouldn’t be thrilled with simply selling 750,000 copies in a lifetime? And what writer wouldn’t welcome a couple of angel investors as well as an astute agent/editor/publisher?
We are all grateful for Lee’s friends and their undying support. But even with all this support, Lee’s editor, Tay Hohoff, didn’t believe Lee’s manuscript was fit for publication. She described it as “more a series of antidotes than a fully conceived novel.” According to Jonathan Mahler, Hohoff worked with Lee for three years before Mockingbird appeared on bookshelves in 1960.
We now see where Mockingbird came from—Go Set a Watchman was the original manuscript that was published last year amid overwhelming controversy. Yes, it’s one of those good novels like so many I read and put down with a sigh. You just know that as good as it is, it’s not going to be a best seller or a ‘change the world’ piece of literature. (I’ve also blogged about this on January fourth of this year: How Harper Collins Cheated Wiley Cash.) So many writers, myself included, never have the good fortune to have our manuscripts picked up by someone like Tay Hohoff who can help us turn our good novels into great novels. Harper Lee could have lived out her life as a ticket agent chasing a dream that was not to be. Instead, she allowed the village to hold her up and let her fly. And the world is a better place because of her.
Leo L. Fuchs/Universal
And as long as the world goes on, we’ll remember Atticus, Scout, Jem, Tom Robinson, and Boo with endearment.
The Summer of Letting Go (p.33). Gae Polisner: “I swallow back a lump in my throat. I miss Lisette. I miss us. I know I was just at her house, but we’re not quite us anymore. Something is off between us. There’s a crack turning into a chasm. It keeps stretching wider and wider.”
The Summer of Letting Go is a story of Francesca (“Frankie” and sometimes “Beans”), an almost sixteen-year-old girl laden with heavy burdens—the worst of which is the drowning death of her four-year-old brother, Simon under her apparent watch. Left alone on the beach while her parents sleep on a blanket in the sun, Frankie is distracted for a moment while Simon is washed out to sea. The grief and guilt her parents experience is nothing compared to Frankie’s.
How can Frankie bare to love herself or let anyone else love her when she has allowed to let her brother die?
Frankie meets the four-year-old Frankie Sky as he plunges to the bottom of the country club pool. He reminds her of her brother.
From chapter 3: “I watch, frozen, as his blond curls float upward while the rest of him plummets down. Bubbles escape his mouth, and his blue eyes blink up at me. The air turns thick and dark, and a thousand panicked memories skitter like water bugs across the sun-bleached landscape of my brain. A bright summer day. The sparkling water. Simon, and the sand castle, and the waves.”
Frankie seems like a rather normal young teen full of self-doubt, longing to be curvier, prettier, and wishing for a boy who will bring her what her best friend, Zette, has.
From chapter 16: “What does it feel like, Zette, seriously,” I ask, letting the last little ember singe the tips of my fingers, “to kiss a guy that way?” She looks out over the water, her face illuminated by moonlight, and holds her burnt-out sparkler in front of her. “Like this, Beans. It feels just like this. All electric and sparkly. Like your entire heart is on fire. And when it’s over, you can’t wait to do it again.” And though I promised not to be, I’m filled with envy.
The typical “angry” teen shows up when she decides to confront her parents in chapter 33—her mother for apparently blaming her for her brother’s death and her father for an apparent love affair. I liked this Francesca. She is honest and forthright and fighting to “let go” of all the past horror and pain.
The Summer Of Letting Go is Teen level Young Adult Fiction novel that touched my emotions with beautiful prose—even if I am 71!
In Bud Rudesill's TEACHER, Roland Brun aspires to be a teacher but karma leads him to invention and design engineering instead. Karma works a different sort of magic when twelve-year-old Jamie Richie, a math genius and social misfit, is chased into his shop by bullies. She becomes his dream student and he, the inspiration she needs to fly.
Thinking back on TEACHER, Bud Rudesill pondered the amount of conflict the story contained. Roland and Jamie’s conflicts center on the way Roland helps Jamie design and build an airplane. The story seems fantastic or maybe even unbelievable, but it’s fiction. Last week, however, Rudesill discovered Sabrina Gonzalez Paterski, a real-life teenager who built a plane from scratch for her father. Now, TEACHER doesn’t seem as implausible.
By contrast to Sabrina Paterski, Jamie Richie has antagonists. They aren’t people so much as a political system, a learning disability, a social disperception, and other less common conflicts. Jamie is more like Temple Grandlin who was diagnosed with autism as a child and had to overcome mental quirks to prove her genius.
Sabrina Gonzalez Pasterski and the plane she built for her father.
When Bud and I moved to Dubois,
Wyoming in 1995 Bud crossed one more item off his bucket list—he began
designing and building a house (mostly) by himself.
We should have written a story about
it, but we lived the experience instead. Here are just a few photographs of the
dream home we named, Ten Forward (our living space) and Moonstrike Gallery and
Studios (our creative/work space).
Leaving North Carolina
May 2, 1995 First step: Finding land with a view
May 14 Digging a well
Framing June 25
And more framing June 25
Then the roof June 30
June 30 Bud had already built raised beds outside our living room windows so I could plant bulbs for spring!
Same raised beds...one year later
June 30 Our view
August 4 finishing the roof
August 27 Almost done—outside anyway!
September 20 Can't stop for snow!
September 24 Bud put up the drywall & I did most of the mudding...but not all in one day
September 30 Staining the wood floors
October 5 Building the stairs
The royal couple descending the stairs for the first time
November 16 The last soffit (left)
Nov 18 Cabnits for the studio
Nov 20 A few windows
December 1 Finished enough to move in!
Dining room on left, kitchen center, living room where the tile starts
Moonstrike Gallery: paintings, sculpture, jewelry, and dolls
My creative space where I made dolls and wrote children's books to accompany them.
June 1996 Enjoying the fruits of our labor on our upstairs deck with our king cat, Hisha.