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Veterans Day in Northwestern Arizona: Blowing Down Tombstones and Pancakes

dad-on-uss-bluefishOn Veterans Day I always think of my dad, an Arizona cowboy the US Navy sent to the South Pacific. The nineteen-year-old went from rounding up cattle in the wide open spaces of the northwestern Arizona desert to riding herd on two big diesel engines in the claustrophobic confines of a submarine. Dad always preferred horsepower to horses, so when he was discharged from the Navy at the end of WWII he didn’t go back to the ranch on the banks of the Colorado River. Instead he married his childhood sweetheart and moved to town to make three Baby Boomer children and his fortune in the automotive business.

Dad loved to tell his submarine stories and reminisce with other vets at the monthly American Legion Post meetings. On November 11, Veterans Day, before sunrise, Dad got out of bed, put on his blue and gold Legion garrison cap with Squawjame Post 14 in gold embroidery, and hurried from the house. With me usually begging to go along.

“Please, please, Dad. I wanna watch you blow down the tombstones.”

“Sorry, honey, no girls allowed. Reveille Club members only.” Dad gave me a wink and a smile, jumped in his pickup and drove away into the cold, windy dark.

About an hour later, just at official sunrise, eleven huge booms, one after another, rocked the entire town. It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized the Legionnaire’s weren’t at the cemetery giving the dead an eleven cannon salute. Dad and the Reveille Club boys were launching mortar rounds from the courthouse steps. No tombstones or honored dead were ever in danger during the Kingman Veterans Day proceedings. That can’t be said of the Reveille Club members who always gathered in the Legion Post bar for after-salute drinks and war stories, while the Legion Auxiliary women prepared their annual pancake breakfast in Post’s kitchen.

When I was eight or nine my parents volunteered me to serve at the Legion breakfast, carrying juice, coffee, cooked to order eggs, bacon and stacks of pancakes to hungry Legionnaires and townspeople crowding into long tables covered with white butcher paper. Usually, the first to weave in direct from the Post bar was an elderly man in a very tight wool navy blue sailor’s uniform. His white t-shirt covered belly squished out from the bottom of his jumper as his old-fashioned dark wool flat hat sporting a navy ribbon around the crown slipped down over one ear. The timeworn sailor had a sweet smile and friendly bloodshot eyes. He grabbed the back of the folding chair, squared up with it and lowered himself.  Once he was anchored on the seat, his eyelids drifted shut and the slow listing began — to starboard, back to midship and over to port. I set his plate and coffee down in front of him and lightly touched his shoulder to wake him. His eyelids rose to half-mast and he grinned, reaching for his cup.

“Down the hatch,” he slurred and fell face first into his short stack and scrambled eggs.

The well-oiled veteran in a doughboy uniform sitting next to him reached over with his left hand, pulled the old sailor out of his pancakes and held him back in his chair with one arm. The doughboy continued to shovel eggs into his own mouth while the sailor had a catnap behind his fellow veteran’s protective arm. No one seemed to mind or be offended by the public though usually quite polite drunkenness of the old warriors. Instead, they were treated with respect and affection on their one day to be honored for their service—Veterans Day in northwestern Arizona.

Have You Written Anything Important I’ve Read?

I have six traditionally published novels in the genres of romance, paranormal thriller, and young adult paranormal. My books have won sixteen writing/literary awards. Yet, often when I meet someone new and say I’m a novelist, I get this silly question: “Have you written anything important that I’ve read?” On a tour bus in Hawaii last February, I answered that question with—“Yes, War and Peace!” That felt good. Of course, no one mentioned that I didn’t look like a dead Russian aristocrat, which just goes to show no one on the bus had read the book, or perhaps hadn’t even heard of it. When I got that silly question from my new neighbor last week, I cocked my head and asked my usual, “How would I know that?” She answered with a sly smile, “You know what I mean.” Yes, unfortunately, I do. My name isn’t J.K. Rowling or Nora Roberts or Scott Pratt. So if “important” book translates to “best seller” for you, I haven’t written anything you’ve read.

3d-contest-smartsBut hang on, I have two new books coming soon, Contest Smarts: Writing Contest Winning Strategies, a non-fiction how-to, and a fun women’s fable entitled Bitten: Confessions of a Menopausal Vampire. 3d-bitten-frontWith these two sure best-sellers, maybe I’ll have a new answer for that silly question, “Have you written anything important that I’ve read?” Or I could just keep on with a superior quizzical look and “How would I know that?” comeback because it’s so much darn fun.

Heigh ho! Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmelinda

Disaster or Beautiful–It’s Perspective

king-street-flood-10-16-eunaWe lived in D.C.for five years and whenever there was a storm rolling up the coast, Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, a couple of miles south of us, would get flooded by the Potomac River. Though we lived on the river by DCA airport, we weren’t ever affected by flooding. Of course, we lived on the 10th floor of a high rise. However, my son and his wife live in Old Town Alexandria–on higher ground, thank goodness. They ventured out to King Street one evening last weekend and waded to dinner. My daughter-in-law took and enhanced this beautiful photo of the flooding. The APP effects make the disaster look magical, almost.

Book Promotion on Social Media Whoas

I’m always hatching fabulous ideas, usually about how a group of like-minded individuals can accomplish, create, achieve so much more together than individually. Rocking that theme, I decided that writers I’ve met here in Tucson could extend their promotional reach by cooperatively promoting each others’ work. I believe now is the best time in history for an author with stories to tell and sell directly to the readers. Reaching readers via the internet and social media seems to be the best or debatably the easiest place to connect with readers who’ll buy your book. Or so social media would have us believe.

Promoting a book used to be a matter of bookmarks, book signings and developing a mailing list for communicating with readers. Now there seem to be endless online promotional options singing a siren song of “You Can, and Really Should, Do It All”. If you believe that, the learning curve and time sink can be overwhelming and demoralizing. Our Promotional CoOp has sixteen members with varying social media/internet skills. They’re eager to expand their skills while they figure out how much promoting they can and want to do.

I’ve just put up a MelindaRuckerHaynesBooks page on FaceBook. Sounded easy enough, but people couldn’t access the page. I spent way too much time developing the content and then trying to wring out the Settings to publish. Finally got that accomplished–by myself, which put me behind on production of my Contest Smarts book. Contest SmartsAnd during this busy time, the Contest Smarts website has gone live and I’m working on helpful and inspiring content. Seemed important to get a Twitter account for Contest Smarts and figuring that out has been growth-promoting. And put me further behind on book production. I still haven’t completed my Author’s Page on Amazon.com, but I’m working on it. Promoting is always time away from writing, from book production.

Internet and social media book promoting often may be the way of whoa, as in, “Stop, horsey!” as well as the usual meaning of woe, but it’s what we’ve got right now. I continue to say and pray, “There must be a better way!.” And I’ll keep looking or maybe form a cooperative to find it.

Heigh ho! Mmmmmmmmmmmelinda

Mmmmmelinda Talks CONTEST SMARTS

Contest SmartsAfter my CONTEST SMARTS workshop this summer at Pacific Northwest Writers Conference, attendees kept asking me for more tips and strategies for entering writing contests. I came home to Tucson and embarked on twin projects of building a website and creating a how-to book of CONTEST SMARTS: Writing Contest Winning Strategies. The book will be available October 1, 2016 on Amazon.

The website is now live. Check it out for featured writing/literary contests, winning strategies, winners’ interviews, and the infamous Undiscerning Arbiter Award given to the worst/funniest judge’s comments. The next interview is with Darcy Carson, Pacific Northwest Writers Association Literary Contest Chairperson 2006 – 2014, who will discuss all things PNWA contest and her own successes entering writing contests.

 

Melinda Rucker Haynes is the sponsor of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association 2017 Literary Contest Young Adult Category.

 

 

Living in Translation

My darling daughter-in-law called me yesterday on my birthday and followed the Haynes tradition of singing the happy birthday song. She has a lovely voice but is self conscious about her pronunciation. English is not her first language, but a fine second. You know the voices you hear in your head? Probably speaking English, right? She hears Korean and translates to English. Everyone and everything around her speaks English, even my son’s Airedale. However, her Westie, who came with her from Seoul and whose first language is Korean, has rapidly become bilingual. My daughter-in-law speaks beautiful English. I often think of her not just coping here in a foreign language but thriving!

MelindaI was a Spanish literature major. While in university and when I was teaching, I spoke fluent Spanish. When I traveled to Mexico I would even begin thinking in Spanish. But ten years later when I lived in Brasil where they speak Portuguese, I often struggled to communicate in a sort of Portanole–Spanish Portuguese mix. I could stand right next to an Argentinian speaking Spanish to a Brazilian and try to speak Spanish to him as well but he would not understand me. My Spanish was correct, if university level with a bit of a Mexican accent. Hers was Argentinian Spanish. The Brazilian and she communicated. He and I did not. If I had to speak on the phone where I could not see a speaker’s mouth, I had great difficulty understanding what was said. Once, the concierge of our service flat called to tell me something about the phone system in the building. I could not understand him. Next thing I knew he was pounding on the door. I opened it and he roared into the room, picked up the phone, yelling and gesturing about how I should use the phone. I saw his lips. Heard his inflection and got context clues from his gestures. We communicated. I also understood that he thought if I didn’t understand I must be deaf, so he yelled and spoke slowly with big, broad gestures, because I apparently was not only deaf but a bit developmentally delayed.

I get what my daughter-in-law is dealing with in this adventure in foreign living. I understand her concern, her constant vigilance in translating and communicating, being understood and not embarrassing herself or her new family. I’m dedicated to praising the fabulous job she’s doing so that she will be as proud of herself as we are proud of her. Oooooo , if only I could speak Spanish with the fluency that she does English, I would be not only simpatica (Spanish speakers and Brazilians always called me that as I was kind and friendly) I might be writing delicious magic realism like Gabriel García Márquez, Miguel Angel Asturias, and Isabel Allende. Ah, now there’s a dream worth pursuing. 

Says the Spider to Guest Blogger Suzanne Gunn, “Welcome to my orb!”

Orb WebSummer in Kansas goes through stages. It starts hot and muggy with a few bugs, which is followed by hotter and muggier and “did you see the size of That Mosquito”; and finally it’s damn hot, wring-it-out muggy, Backwoods Off as the perfume de jour and season of the orb spider.

Along with increase in bugs comes an increase in their nemesis, spiders (along with bats and miscellaneous birds, but this is about spiders). Most spiders know their place in the yard. The gorgeous yellow and black garden spiders spin magnificent webs along the border of things, neatly out of the way. Not so the orb. These ladies believe the world is their oyster and happily rig their webs any place they can get an anchor line attached. The webs can be really big, nearly invisible and surprisingly tough – after all it has to withstand struggling insects. We are now at the beginning of the Season of the Orb Spider (mysterious music, please).

So the other evening Skamp, the rat terrier, and I were following the plopping journey of a smallish toad across the yard. I was looking down at the little critter, not up. Oh darn! Walked smack dab, full frontal, forehead to belt into an orb spider web that hadn’t been there an hour before.

I levitated. Yodeled! Flailed mightily and then did my best cheerleader moves midair trying to remove web and find the spider (oh where is the spider!?!?!) and avoid stepping on dog or toad. Eeee! Once grounded on terra firma the spider hunt continued, bending at the waist, shaking out my long hair, alternately hopping, shaking and flailing. It’s the most horrible feeling not to know where the spider went to say nothing about the creepy web. The spider obviously survived because there was another web in the same exact place by the next morning.

If you happen to drive by our place and see the Lady of the Manor out and about waiving a long stick like a demented Hogwarts escapee don’t worry. It’s just the best available spider defense system. It’s low tech and it works. Sweep and swish through thin air and there went another spider web…

Mmmmm’s Western Historical Novel, REMITTANCE, Finalist in PNWA 2016 Literary Contest

The Pacific Northwest Writers Association, PNWA, has sponsored an annual literary contest for over sixty years. There are twelve fiction and nonfiction categories for unpublished work and a separate category for published books. The last few years contest entries have numbered over a 1000. Last summer my experimental Boomer Lit paranormal romance, BITTEN, about a menopausal vampire was a finalist in the romance category.

In the 2016 PNWA Literary Contest I entered a western historical romance novel, REMITTANCE, Book I, a sweeping saga of a Bostonian blue stocking businesswoman running from her past after a Spanish remittance man who flees with her nephew down the dangerous Santa Fe Trail to his noble family’s land grant in New Mexico. I previously entered the first three chapters in Romance Writers of America’s Hearts Through History chapter’s literary contest and the story came second in Best Short Historical. I can’t wait to see how REMITTANCE does at the PNWA Awards banquet on Saturday night, July 30 in Seattle.

Contest SmartsBefore the Awards banquet on Saturday, I’ll be giving a ninety minute workshop, CONTEST SMARTS: Make Writing Contests Work for You, at 5:00-6:30. I’ve been called a contest guru because I’ve won sixteen writing contest awards. (There are editing and website content awards in the list, too.) I have over twenty years experience entering writing contests, developing contests, and judging entries and have learned much that I hope will inspire and help writers make writing contests work for their particular career goals and maybe win some, too!

COMING SOON

CONTEST SMARTS Kindle eBook

September 2016

 

ONEBOOKAZ Book Tour Ends, The Haunting of Josh Weston Now A Kindle Edition

Winning the ONEBOOKAZ 2016 Young Adult eBook award in March 2016 kicked off a marvelous adventure of touring Arizona’s libraries with my young adult novel, The Haunting of Josh Weston.haunting-josh-weston My roadie, Bob, and I started with the Tucson Festival of Books. Seven libraries and hundreds of miles later our tour ended in Chandler, Arizona, a Phoenix suburb. The librarians and their patrons were so much fun, booklovers every one!

ONEBOOKAZ is at an end and my book is the last YA novel winner. There aren’t going to be anymore ONEBOOKAZ contests and awards. It was suggested that I make available paperbacks of my book for tour signings and for book clubs and libraries to order. The ebook edition was available on the ONEBOOKAZ site for Arizonans to read for free during the tour. Now that ONEBOOKAZ is ended and the free online reading no longer available, Sonrisa Multimedia has published an electronic Kindle edition on Amazon.com of The Haunting of Josh Weston

This little Arizona ghost story has been very good to me, and the book’s fans aren’t just limited to my family and friends and other Arizonans. It was nominated for three national awards, prior to winning the ONEBOOKAZ contest. Now with the paperback and Kindle ebook editions available, I’m hearing from teens and from the growing audience of adult readers who enjoy stories about weird families living and learning together, despite the stimulating meddling of a crazy ghost or two.

Mmmmm’s ONEBOOKAZ Book Tour–Hello, YUMA!

I’ve always treasured librarians. My mother-in-law is a retired librarian, who trained her son in the dark art of cataloguing and organizing data. That’s what brought us together. I needed help organizing data for an adult education research project I was directing at UNLV and Bob stepped into my office with exactly the skillset the project (and I) required. Then and now. He’s ever my beloved patron and currently serving as a roady for my book tour of Arizona libraries.

Arizona State Library's ONEBOOKAZ Winner Table, Tempe Book Festival 4-16-16

Arizona State Library’s ONEBOOKAZ Winner Table, Tempe Book Festival 4-16-16

Last Saturday Bob the Roady and I toured to the Tempe Library for their Book Festival. What a wonderful venue for booklovers and authors to meet each other in a beautiful setting. The Arizona State Library hosted me and my OneBookAZ 2016 literary contest winning book, The Haunting of Josh Weston, at a great table downstairs outside the Teen Room. I also served on a Teen Reviewer panel and got updated on their favorite reads, as well as what they saw as the new hotness in YA books. Dystopian fantasy is still of interest, but super heroes are the next big thing for some. I say how about a cool ghost story set on a hidden ranch in northwestern Arizona?

We’re at the Yuma Library on Saturday, April 23, at 2:00. I’ll be giving a workshop on the Power of Place in Your Story, as well as signing books. See you there, I hope!