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Memorial Day 2017

“Flags, Fourth of July” is licensed by Melinda VanLeone under CC BY-NC 2.0.

A number of men from Fentress, Texas, served in World War II. Two did not return.

Marshall Langley was the son of Will and Essie Langley, my family’s very good neighbors. Marshall graduated from Texas A & M,  which commissioned more officers during World War II than West Point did. His name appears in Texas Aggies Go to War: In Service of Their Country. He died in France in 1944, leaving a wife and an infant son.

Dunallen McCaskill was lost when the plane he was piloting went down over water. August 1942 USAAF Overseas Accident Reports lists the site as “Unknown, PAN” (Panama). Dunallen was my father’s friend. His family left Fentress before I was born but I heard many stories about them. Neighbors described them as kindhearted, spontaneous, fun-loving, and much loved. Dunallen’s mother never lost hope that he would one day come home.

***

First posted here on Memorial Day 2012

 

Friday Fictioneers: Used to Be

The Friday Fictioneers Challenge: Write a 100-word story based on the photograph.

 

PHOTO PROMPT – © Roger Bultot

*

USED TO BE

“The convention center? Well, go about six blocks, to where the old movie house used to be–the one that burned in ’87–What’d you say, Fred?”

“It’s The Oaks now. Condos.”

“Oh, that’s right. Well, just before the condos, turn right, and when you get to where the Masonic lodge used to be, there’s a–What’s that, Fred?”

“It’s the Hyatt–”

“All right, the Hyatt. Turn right again, and almost to where Milton Badey’s furniture store used to be–”

“The Omni.”

“Omni. One day they’ll knock down the diner and this’ll be where we used to be.”

 

***

On my husband’s first visit to my hometown, I took him on a walking tour: There’s where Miss Blanche Harris used to live, and my great-grandmother lived there, and when my grandfather moved in from the farm he built that little house, and the house across the street was Uncle Carl’s, and that one belonged to Aunt Bettie and Uncle Maurice, and Rob and Nell’s grocery store was there, and right next door was where Dick Ward sold double-dip ice cream cones for a nickle, and next door to that was Earl and Lorene McCutcheon’s store, and that was the Masonic lodge, and across the street was Dr. Luckett’s office, and that was the cotton gin, and there are the scales where they weighed the cotton wagons, and there’s the old post office that was a bank before it was a post office, and that was the gin yard where they stored the cotton bales, and the skating rink was back there on the river before they moved it to Lockhart . . .

And when the tour ended, I realized everything I’d told him was history.

*

(The the event pictured below happened before my time. And it’s Fentress Resort. That’s the skating rink in the background.)

Cottonwood School Reunion – Fentress Resort–Fentress, Texas–1930s (?)–Row 1, 2nd from left – Carl Waller; 4th from right – Jessie Waller Meadows (white collar); last on right – Ethel Waller (polka dots). Next-to-last row, from left: Maurice Waller (partially hidden); Bettie Pittman Waller; Pearl Daniels; Frank Waller; Barney Waller

***

Friday Fictioneers Challenge

On Tuesdays, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields posts a photo prompt on her blog. The following Friday, writers post 100-word stories inspired by the photo on their blogs.

To read what other Friday Fictioneers have written, click the blue frog.

 

Coming July 21: DAY OF THE DARK & More of the Murderous Marva Lu

“The good old days.” Joe turned his eyes up to the ceiling and sighed.

“Oh, I remember it all. Fried chicken, sunbathing, you grabbing me and holding me under the water till I almost drowned before you let me go. . . . What I don’t remember is anybody actually swimming.”

“We had too much fun doing other things. I wasn’t a strong swimmer anyway. But I loved playing in the water. And just being with y’all.”

I personally believed what he loved most was Bonita and her bikini. My sister Bonita was the youngest in the crowd, but she developed early. Mama absolutely forbade her to wear anything but her blue gingham one-piece, and as long as Mama was taking us out to Paradise Bluff, that’s what she wore. But when I turned fifteen and got my driver’s license, I started driving us out there. And every day, as soon as we got to the Mobil station on Main Street, Bonita would set up a howl, and nothing would do but we had to stop so she could slip into the restroom and change.

Joe goofed around with me, but when Bonita was wearing that bikini—there wasn’t enough cotton in it to stop up an aspirin bottle—he only had eyes for her.

Joe leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees. He had a faraway look in his eye. “I haven’t been out there in years. It’s kind of sad, you grow up and get responsibilities, seems like you to forget the simple pleasures of youth.”

“Um-hmm, sad.” Watching him leave with that silly smile on his face, I knew he was thinking about Bonita’s little red bikini.

~ M. K. Waller, “I’ll Be a Sunbeam”

 

Marva Lu Urquhart is on the move again. This time, she’s celebrating the 2017 eclipse with a picnic at Paradise Bluff.

If you remember Marva Lu from “Hell on Wheels,” in Austin Mystery Writers’ anthology MURDER ON WHEELS, you’ve probably already guessed the picnic has less to do with the eclipse than with–well, it has more to do with knocking the memory of Bonita’s little red bikini out of Joe’s head and replacing it with–let’s put it this way: Marva Lu hasn’t been taking belly dance lessons all these years for nothing.

“I’ll Be a Sunbeam” will be published in DAY OF THE DARK, a crime fiction anthology edited by Kaye George and due out from Wildside Press on July 21st–a month before the August 21st eclipse.

All twenty-four stories in DOTD focus on those crucial minutes at midday when the moon devours the sun and anything can–and does–happen

Especially if you’re Marva Lu Urquhart.

Austin will see only a partial eclipse, so David and I will watch from Kansas City. Our eclipse glasses arrived through the mail this week.

 

Now there’s nothing to do but pack, grab my copy of DAY OF THE DARK–a little escape reading for the drive–drop William and Ernest off at their hotel, and head north. Where we trust our experience will be much less eventful than the one Marva Lu has planned for her friends.

Reblog: Kaye George on Taxes for Writers 2017

Technically this isn’t a reblog, because WordPress and Blogger aren’t set up to reblog each other’s posts. So I’ll call it a shareblog.

***

In a post on Travels with Kaye, established–and very successful–writer Kaye George says the IRS hobby rule doesn’t have to apply to writers, if you’re serious about your writing.” She explains the hows and whys and provides links to pertinent IRS publications. She’s not a tax preparer, but a veteran writer and taxpayer.

Kaye posted this in March. I’m late in sharing it, but perhaps information will be helpful in preparing for April 15, 2018.

Here are her first two paragraphs:

Kaye George/Janet Cantrell holding two of her books–MURDER ON WHEELS and FAT CAT SPREADS OUT

I learned of yet another writer whose tax preparer gave her wrong information! It’s a shame that ignorance of what taxes mean to writers is so widespread.

So, once again (sorry it’s a little late this year), I’m posting to inform all of you writers that you CAN deduct expenses–and for many, many years. Below is my standard post and at the bottom is a link to changes for this year.
 *****
To read the rest of Kaye’s post, click here.

What’s Happening?

What I’ve been doing when I haven’t been fighting off my cat.

Austin Mystery Writers

Posted by M. K. Waller

The Austin Mystery Writers blog has been quiet for several months, but we’re still living the Writing Life. Here’s what’s been going on.

V. P. Chandler and Laura Oles at the AMW panel discussion, Wimberley Village Library, November 2016

In November, AMW members, along with Scott MontgomeryCrime Fiction Coordinator at MysteryPeople in Austin, appeared on a panel discussing AMW’s crime fiction anthology, MURDER ON WHEELS (Wildside, 2015), at the Wimberley Village Library in Wimberley, TX.

Laura Oles is editing her novel, DAUGHTERS OF BAD MEN, to be published by Red Adept in winter of 2017. Her story “Ocean’s Fifty” will appear in DAY OF THE DARK, an anthology compiled and edited by Kaye George. DAY OF THE DARK will be released by Wildside Press on July 21, 2017, exactly one month before the total solar eclipse that will occur on August…

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Pavlov’s Cat

A recent Paws N Reflect post displays a picture of a cat and a quotation about realigning oneself. For the rest of this post to make sense, please click here and read the quotation.

Thank you.

The juxtaposition of cat and quotation prompted a question: Do cats really realign themselves?

Initially, I said, No. Cats come into the world perfect. Cats are the creme de la creme. Miss Jean Brodie need not apply.

On reflection, however, I realized that cats sometimes do realign. A case in point:

Ernest the Cat Davis is a compulsive snuggler, a compulsive stomper, and a compulsive pest. I am a born victim.

When I’m lying down, he marches back and forth across me, turns ’round and ’round like a dog, and makes biscuits. Lots of biscuits, and I am his bread board. When he’s ready, he settles down and snuggles.

When I’m sitting in a recliner, working on the laptop, he jumps onto the arm of the chair, right side, reaches over, and tugs at my shirt. I pet him. He tugs the shirt again. I pet him. He tugs the shirt again. Etc. I know I’m reinforcing the tugging, but it’s either that or lock myself in the bathroom.

Tired of tugging, he turns 180 degrees and straddles my forearm–the one attached to the hand sliding the mouse around on the chair arm/mouse pad. Then he settles and tucks himself in, leaving my hand in what would be prime tummy-rub position, if I weren’t holding the mouse. When it comes to pinning, Jesse Ventura has nothing on my cat. I eventually I manage to extract my arm.

Then he crawls onto my leg. I quickly shift the laptop to the left. He goes into stomping mode.

This is where the real battle begins. While stomping, he backs up and tries to straddle my forearm. I resist. There’s one upside: The sight of him making biscuits with his front feet and at the same time stabbing one hind foot in the air, trying to glom onto my arm, is funny, and I laugh and release endorphins all over the place. The endorphins almost make up for having to hold his tail to keep it out of my face.

Finally he tires and collapses, on the keyboard if possible. Once in a while he hits the Enter key. His rear has sent several unfinished emails. If I’m lucky, he turns over so his tummy is exposed for easier rubbing. If I’m luckier, he oozes down to the footrest.

It’s a lengthy and exhausting process, and it takes place several times a day.

Now, here’s where realigning comes in. For quite a while, I’ve tried to influence Ernest’s behavior.

While he tugs and stomps and kneads, I say, “Lie down, lie down, l-i-i-i-i-e-e-e dowwwwn.” It’s begun to sound like a mantra.

For the first few years, he ignored me. But lately there are signs it might be working.

He doesn’t stomp as long as he used to. Today we set a record. I said, ” L-i-i-i-i-e-e-e dowwwwn,” only fifteen or twenty times before he obeyed.

Obeyed isn’t the correct word, of course. Cats don’t obey. They don’t react to stimuli. They are the deciders. There’s a reason Pavlov had a dog.

But Ernest is changing. He’s realigning.

I took some photos of Ernest realigning. To see captions, hold the pointer over pictures. The black-and-white stripes are my shirt. I wanted to get a shot of the tug-holes in the shoulder, but my arms are too long.

Friday Fictioneers: The Red Shoes

The Friday Fictioneer Challenge: Write a 100-word story based on the photo.

Photo Prompt © Magaly Guerrero

 

 The Red Shoes

“A photo prompt? Ooooh. High-heeled lace-ups.”

“What’s that book?”

“So retro—art reference—I want.”

“No. That one. Red cover, gold letters, dog… E-G-P-U-something-C-A-R-O—

“Zoom in. RECRUIT. Dog?”

CAROLINA.”

“Which Carolina?”

OUTHD-E-R—”

DEPOT. Red pumps.”

“ND OUTH CAROLINA…”

“MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT PARRIS ISLAND, Iwo Jima Memorial. That dress at Nordstrom’s . . . ?”

“The dog–“

Where?”

“On the ‘memorial.’ English Bull. Eyes, ears, big red tongue.”

“Going shopping. ‘Bye.”

Ohhhh. Not a tongue. The cover. There’s the Marine’s bottom… his leg… I thought it was a dog.”

“A Rorschach cover.”

“What’s a dog mean?”

“What’s a bottom mean?”

*

Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island South Carolina 1968  ~~~ Not the same, but similar

*

Afterword
Word Count: 42

Ernest and William © MK Waller

Speaker # 1 didn’t go shopping for red pumps. He stayed home, worked on his cartoons, did laundry, and massaged William the Cat. “Rorschach cover” is his.

Speaker #2 said, “Thank you,” then wrote and cut and cut and cut. And wrestled with Ernest the Cat.

*****

 For more stories by Friday Fictioneers, click the Froggy.       

Branding: It’s Not Just for Cows Any More

Before launching into the post, a definition of terms:

brand

noun

1. kind, grade, or make, as indicated by a stamp, trademark, or the like: the best brand of coffee.
2. a mark made by burning or otherwise, to indicate kind, grade, make, ownership, etc.
3. a mark formerly put upon criminals with a hot iron.
4. any mark of disgrace; stigma.
5. branding iron.
6. a kind or variety of something distinguished by some distinctive characteristic:
The movie was filled with slapstick—a brand of humor he did not find funny.

*****

In such moments of doubt, I look to history for reassurance. It’s always comforting to be reminded that literary whoring — I mean, self-marketing — has been practiced by the greats.

~ Tony Perrottet, “How Writers Build the Brand,” NYT Sunday Book Review

***

The Waller Brand. © MK Waller (Yes, that is a blanket used as a drape.)

When I think of brands, I think of Opal the White-faced Hereford.

She was big and sleek and fat, the only registered cow in the Waller herd, and the best escape artist in the history of cowdom.

No matter how strong the fence–heavy cedar posts, six strands of barbed wire, stretched tight, a barricade I couldn’t get through without a follow-up of iodine and gauze–she broke out. How the beast breached the barricade was a mystery and remained so for a long time.

Finally she slipped up, as bovines sometimes do, and busted out while my father was watching. He said she just lay down beside the wire and rolled under. A regular Hairy Houdini.

To her credit, she never fled, nor did she meander into the neighbor’s maize, but grazed beside the narrow lane between the fence and the property line.

Nevertheless, since cows are capricious, my father bought a brand. In my honor–and because technically Opal was mine–he chose a K.

“chisholm trail 2” by S. J. Driscoll is licensed under CC BY 2.0

I hasten to say the branding was nothing like you see on Rawhide. He did not restrain Opal, stick the iron into a blazing fire, and sear her hide. After repeatedly shooing her back through the gate, he probably wanted to, but he didn’t.* He merely dipped the iron into an acid designed for the purpose, walked up to her, patted her on the back, and pressed it against her hip. The acid ate the hair and killed the follicles, so she was left wearing the initial. Maybe she itched a for a few days, but that was nothing compared to what the barbs must have felt like.

The K didn’t keep her confined, of course, but it made her easier to spot if she ever decided to widen her social circle.**

Well, anyway, when I think of brands, I think of Opal, or did until the writing thing came along–and I learned I must have a brand so readers can identify me.

The prospect wasn’t pleasant. I felt like a box of Kleenex.™

But it had to be done, so finally I’m designing my brand.

Unfortunately, the K won’t do. I mean, it really won’t do. When I put MURDER ON WHEELS (see sidebar) on Goodreads, I was immediately confused with a different Kathy Waller. That required some straightening out. Googling Kathy Waller brings up a multitude of people I’m not, including the EVP and CFO of the Coca-Cola Company (NYSE: KO). (I wouldn’t mind being the EVP of Coca-Cola, but the company would.)

Officially, I’m a Mary Katherine, so I have options. Mary Katherine isn’t one of them. In the early years, I liked it just fine, but lately I’ve heard, “Are you a nun?” often enough not to want it hanging around.

“Lone Star Attitude – DFW” by kathywd is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

People who don’t know me well, and some who do, call me Mary, so when I hear that name shouted out in a doctor’s waiting room, I answer, but it’s still a little foreign. I sign Mary K., a name I’ve come to despise, in part because it’s sometimes confused with Mary Kaye and I have to get that untangled, but mainly because Mary Kay makes lipstick and I don’t.

Once again, Google proves its worth. M. K. Waller brings up only one other person with my initials. That’s good.

When I search for MK, Google thinks I mean MK Wallet and pulls up only Michael Kors, which appears to be more of a business (jet set luxury: designer handbags, watches, shoes, clothing & more. Receive free shipping and returns on your purchase). That’s even better. But I don’t like the way it looks on the page.

So I’ve settled on M. K. 

The name chosen, I changed the theme–appearance–of the blog. I wanted to change it anyway, because I was tired of the previous one, and it seemed best to make one smooth transition rather than two bumpy ones. I’m not sure about the new theme. I may change it again, but M. K. will remain.

There’s one more aspect of branding I’m still ruminating** over, so I’ll leave it for another time.

I’ll add, however, that I first ran across the word ruminate in a line from James Thomson’s “Winter”:

The Cattle, from th’untasted Fields, return,
And ask, with Meaning low, their wonted Stalls;
Or ruminate in the contiguous Shade . . . 

In the context of the poem, ruminate means “to chew again what has been chewed slightly and swallowed :  chew the cud.”

And I complete this post by circling back to the beginning, starting with cows and ending with cows, and thus preserve the unities, as every writer, duke, and scoundrel knows is proper.

*

P. S. What do you think of the new design? Both positive and negative comments are welcome. I need to know. The page I’d like feedback on is here: http://kathywaller1.com

***

* If he’d threatened to brand her the old-fashioned way, I would have cried and that would have been the end of that. (Maybe.)

“Cows at the County Fair 1” by Laura Ritchie is licensed under CC BY 2.0

**In fairness, I add that Opal wasn’t the only one who*** got over the wall. Clyde Barrow escaped a couple of times. But he was a Holstein and flew over the fence, as Holsteins are often wont to do, so there was no mystery. We would have been surprised if he hadn’t.

The animals in the photograph are cows, not steers, and they might not be Holsteins, but they’re black and white, and they’re sweet, and I have poetic license, so I ask you to suspend disbelief for the moment.

*** My animals are who, not that

Repost: Queen Elizabeth II on the Presidential Kerfuffle of 2016 (and the Coach Kerfuffle of 2017)

I posted the following on March 7, 2016, and wasn’t planning to mention it again. Now, however, with President Trump inviting himself to ride in Queen Elizabeth II’s gold carriage, I think it’s time for a repost. In case it’s slipped anyone’s mind, candidates in the 2016 presidential debates didn’t exactly present themselves as . . . Well, anyway.

***

I am thinking about Queen Elizabeth.

She’s bound to be sitting over there in Buckingham Palace, ruminating about the United States, and the Republican debates, and the upcoming presidential election, and all the things that might happen between now and the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. And what might happen on and after January 20, 2017.

“Buckingham Palace gates in London” by Jessie Harrell licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

I think about the Queen’s weekly audience with her Prime Minister at which, according to The official website of The British Monarchy, she has the right and the duty to express her views on Government matters. The views she expresses might go something like this:

It is our duty to say we are shocked, simply shocked, at the goings-on across the Pond. And it is our right to say that, no matter what the Government wishes, we shall not–nay, will not–invite any of those churls to tea. Nor will Kate allow them to kiss the babies. They behave abominably. One does not hear the Prince of Wales use such vulgarities unless his telephone has been illegally tapped. Prince Harry did prove a bit of an embarrassment during his stay in Las Vegas, but he’s promised not to do it again, and, anyway, he is not angling to become Leader of the Free World.

Why is it the United States does not fix things so that nice Mr. Obama can stay indefinitely? We quite like him. He speaks in complete sentences that always parse, and he has never made the slightest effort to massage our neck. And we rather admired his wife’s dressing down when she visited the Palace. We get tired of people always putting on the dog. In fact, we have been thinking of acquiring a twinset of our own.

The fact that Mr. Obama is said be a gay communist fascist pot-smoking Muslim terrorist doesn’t bother us one little bit.  

Now, here is the thing: Magna Charta allows us to reign for life. Surely their Constitution could be amended to extend President Obama’s time in office, at least until the churls have crawled back under the rocks from whence they emerged.

It is our duty to advise that you call the President immediately and broach the subject. Promise him our full support. 

And tell him we will send some of our Redcoats to back him up. Prince Harry has been just itching to get back into action.