Naked Ladies in the Yard

Belladonna Lilies

 

I may be rather old fashioned, but that comes from my Victorian grandmother’s side of the family. She wouldn’t even refer to a stud horse or a bull by those names, but rather thought up euphemisms for such things, such as the gentlemen. Yet when it came to the beautiful pink lilies that emerge after their initial leaves have died away, their stalks standing talk and naked–their true name which is Belladonna, often called surprise lilies–she always called them naked ladies.

 

Indeed that’s what they look like, and we have bunches of them in several spots in our country yard. They are in glorious bloom right now. Since so few flowers manage to bloom in the heat of July and August these ladies are a welcome sight when all else save some Rose of Sharons (or would that be Roses of Sharon?) still struggle to show off their bright colors.

 

The wildflower kingdom is a bit different, for we still have all manner of sunflowers and daisies displaying their golden brilliance in ditches and at the edge of the woods. This morning I gazed into the shadowy wilderness that surrounds our yard and thought how beautiful this year’s foliage is. With so much rain it is more like a rain forest than a typical almost-August Ozark woods.

 

Into the woods

Into the woods

Jade green leaves of oak, maple, hickory, and black walnut are lush, while the plate sized lighter shade sycamore leaves brush against each other to sing in the breezes that blow on our north slope in the early evening to dark. The crisp fragrance of fresh-cut grass, still thickly green, floats in our windows flung wide to accept every breath of fresh air. No air conditioning to mar our enjoyment of the outdoors. The cloudless sky is so blue it appears to crackle in the sunlight.

 

Just sharing a typical day here at our place tucked up against the Ozark National Forest and a part of the White Rock Wildlife Management Area along the banks of Strickler Creek. Hope you’re having as beautiful a day as we are.

This is where  I create my books, novels and stories. Beyond the Moon will be out in late August and I’m ecstatic about its release. I know you will  enjoy this love story that you’ll remember for a long, long time after reading it. Glen and Katie will grab your hearts and minds with their courage and impassioned devotion.

 

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Amazon: The Elephant in the Room

Elephant or Amazon?

Elephant or Amazon?

Sometimes it’s difficult to know how to advise young or beginning writers of any age. Knowing how we did it when I began isn’t necessarily the way to go today. A few months ago I was still advising self-published authors and experienced authors with a backlist that they owned the copyright on to publish to Kindle, perhaps even go the route of KDP Select. In essence that meant that they could not publish the book anywhere else, but they received several perks.

A lot of us jumped in early and earned some good money. What will happen with the changes Amazon is adapting is anyone’s guess. But I can’t say I didn’t expect it. For the past year I’ve taught workshops on how to format and upload to Kindle, but always warning everyone that Amazon remains the elephant in the room. Hovering there, so huge that anything it decides to do will be done.

After reading the Kindle release explaining Kindle Unlimited, well I’ll admit it sounds good on the surface. Here’s the simple explanation taken from that newsletter:

“Now, when you enroll your title in KDP Select, your title will be included in Kindle Unlimited–a new subscription service for readers in the U.S. and a new revenue opportunity for authors enrolled in KDP Select. Customers are able to read as many books as they want from a library of over 600,000 titles while subscribed to Kindle Unlimited. When your title is read past 10%–about the length of reading the free sample available in Kindle books–you will earn a share of the KDP Select monthly global fund. For July we’ve added $800,000 to the fund, bringing the July fund amount to $2 million.”

Here’s what Publisher’s Lunch had to say about it:

“With KU, Amazon has gone from giving exclusive self-published authors their best deal (70 percent of sales) to giving them their worst deal (an unspecified monthly share of a pool). They unilaterally changed the game, and the extent to which they make it up to those authors by increasing the monthly pool of pro-rated cash that pays for KU and Kindle Owner’s Lending Library reads is at Amazon’s sole discretion. You can be sure that if a regular publisher did such a thing, there would be howling across the internet. (Don’t get too satisfied, publishers; this is why authors and agents already hate unbounded high-discount clauses, and why they objected to agency unilaterally changing their new release royalties.”

Of course both go on to explain in detail, in a most confusing language, what this will do to and for authors enrolled in Kindle Select.

I’ve joined the ranks of many other authors and will take a wait and see attitude. If, as Amazon says, our sales royalties will increase, then fine; but others are warning that will not be the case. So if they tank, I’ll reconsider my other options. Sales online usually drop a bit in the summer, so it will take a few months to get a feel for this new program. At any rate, it’s not so much how many books we sell as how much we are going to make in royalties under the program.

If you would like to read the entire explanation from Amazon and/or Publishers Lunch, let me know and I’ll email them to you. There are other opinions out there, so check the forums at Kindle to see what others are saying about this.

If you are a member of Kindle Select, you will see your prices on Amazon set at 0.00 for Prime Kindle Unlimited. But does that mean you get no royalties? According to Amazon it does not. Every time your book is read for at least 10%, which is usually the chapter published with your book, you as the author will receive a percentage of the “pot.”

Published authors with a backlist are treated the same as self-published authors on Kindle. Only time will tell if this program will be better or worse, who it will hurt and who it will help. But if I were you and enrolled there, I would begin to look at other options. Just in case. There are some small publishers that would republish your book if they like it, even though it’s been on Kindle. But here’s where the cream comes to the top. Those publishers will be picky, their editors tough to get past. So if you have self-published your book(s), please make sure they shine before you submit them elsewhere. Kindle don’t care if the writing is terrible, publishers do. That misuse of the verb was deliberate, ‘cause I’m a fan of the Honey Badger. Honey Badger don’t care either. Check it out

 

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We Call Them Angels

Men in war

Men in war

Today, when a wife or loved one cares for a wounded warrior, whether he’s damaged in body or spirit, they are called angels. But that wasn’t always the case. In 1983 when I was researching for my upcoming novel, Beyond the Moon, all I saw portrayed was wives who filed for divorce, women were shown as harridans who did nothing but shout, scream and cry, then eventually leave their husband who came home from the war and was no longer the same person. Movies, books, plays, were the same. Women, they all proclaimed, did not try to understand their husband when he came home from war.

This was especially prevalent in those returning from the Vietnam War. This was the first time any of us heard the term, Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, now known as a disorder. Many doctors simply did not know how to treat this disease developed by so many men involved in such an unpopular war. These men returned to crowds at airports spitting on them and calling them baby killers. Then they had to go home to face a nagging wife?

I could not believe that all women would react that way. I just knew that there were those who would struggle to continue to love and support this “injured” man. That was the reason I began the research that led to creating my protagonist Katherine Kelly for Beyond the Moon. I wanted a woman in circumstances that would mean she had the backbone, the fortitude, the desire to help a man so damaged by torture he’d endured for nine years in a POW camp in Vietnam that he could not function in society.

Yet, I knew in creating this man I would have to spend a lot of time immersed in veterans’ experiences. Robert Garwood inspired my story, though it is not his in any way. Read Conversations With The Enemy if you’re curious about Bobby Garwood. The book is available used on Amazon. When my story begins Glen Tanner has been hospitalized after his sister claims he tried to kill her. He’s been home less than a year. And he’s not doing well at all.

Right away I decided that I could not go into his POV, but rather should remain in Katherine’s. His dialogue and actions must tell his story. I became so buried in this research, spending days, weeks and even months in the library, (remember there was no Internet available to the common person at that time) that I actually felt as if I had been transported back to the years of that unpopular war. I lived with it day and night, could not let it go. Vietnam was the first war America watched unfold on television.

I must have rewritten the book eight or ten times. I don’t mean edited, I rewrote great chunks of it. It was my first novel, but an agent was interested right away and shopped it around New York. No one would touch it because of the subject matter. Some of the things I revealed from my research hadn’t been released to the general public.

Since I announced my plans to publish this book to Kindle back in February, I have acquired a publisher, and the book with its lovely haunting cover will be out in August of this year from Oghma Creative Media.

I’m pleased to say, though it baffles me why it’s taken so long, people are finally interested in the Vietnam war, the dreadful toll it has taken on the men who fought in a country no one had ever heard of until then, and the angels who have supported and loved them all these years. I know some of them myself and I assure you, they are indeed angels Soon I will tell you all about Katherine, Glen calls her Katie, and you will see why she qualifies as an angel with horns.

Cover by Casey Cowan

Cover by Casey Cowan

 

 

 

 

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Enjoy Wasted Time

“The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.” Bertrand Russell

Painting by Velda Brotherton

Painting by Velda Brotherton

How very true this is. The other day I got to thinking about all the time I spend dreaming up stories. Sometimes hours go by when I do little in production but much in creative meandering. I guess all those who create do so in much the same way. Whether it be words on paper, paint on canvas, music from instruments, or the dozens of other artistic endeavors that allow our brains and hands to work together but often don’t show results for days, weeks, even months.

Just think of the magnificent results from such “wasted time.” Beethoven, Chopin, Elvis, James Lee Burke, Emily Dickinson, Poe, Monet. We could fill tomes with just the names of those who have enlightened our lives with beauty of so many varieties we can’t begin to name them all.

So this summer sit in the shade or the sun, whichever you prefer and spend some time enjoying the imaginings of your mind. No telling what you might discover there.

As a writer, the creations of others have inspired me. From Edgar Allan Poe I drew twisted titles for a new mystery series; a poem by Emily Dickinson inspired a literary novel that will be published in August. Beyond the Moon is a phrase from that poem about war and the dark consequences of sending our young men into battle. I yearn to write as well as James Lee Burke, and that makes me strive harder to make every word, sentence and paragraph sing with meaning.

Enjoy your summer and don’t forget to waste some time that you enjoy. I sure will.

 

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Goodbye XP, I Knew You Well

writing always writing

writing always writing

For the past week I’ve been moving from my old XP PC to a nice light weight, faster and smaller laptop with Windows 7. At first I had hair pulling sessions which ended sometimes in tears, sometimes in stomping through the house between laptops using words my mother would have blushed at.

Having decided to use the old computer solely to stream to our flat screen television, I’ve alternated between downloading files from Carbonite to copying to CDs and transferring. This all depends on the speed of my DSL, which for some odd reason slows down during stormy, cloudy, windy days.

 

l learned after my third or so computer (my first one was DOS with no hard drive or mouse) that newer isn’t always better, but it is always more complicated. Where this could eventually go, I’m not sure. Though when I think about it I realize that my grandson and great grandson are so much more computer wise than I that it really does make sense. One day these electronic devices will only be understood by those not yet born, and I would cringe at trying to open one, let alone use it. But, of course it really doesn’t matter.

What does matter right now is that I’m 78 years old and learning yet another Windows program. Tutorials help some, but I find it easiest to copy them, print out the copy and place it next to my computer. I can’t remember more than two or three steps before my mind yells Whoa and my head spins.

About three days ago I found myself wishing for my old IBM Selectric typewriter, which was much more complicated than the manual I learned on in high school business class. Then I remembered retyping for every draft, struggling to make a perfect final copy, and finding something to do with the discarded piles of paper that were ankle deep halfway through the novel.

Finally, today I realized that I knew what to do with the files I’d copied and transferred, and how to do it. So, sooner or later I’ll have all my files transferred and everything will be good again. The secret is not to spend an entire day doing one thing, but to alternate between moving files, emails, Facebook, listening to the latest audio for the Montana series and glory be, writing (or editing) the next book.

Don’t call me an expert, and for goodness sake don’t ask me how to do something on Windows 7.

 

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Birds Tweet, Why Should I?

Tweeters everywhere

Tweeters everywhere

More and more often I hear people say they don’t use Twitter because they can’t say what they want to say in 140 characters. What these folks don’t understand is that all you need to do is intrigue the reader enough to click on a link which you provide. There they can read all you wanted to say. Be it information about favorite movies, books, sports events or simply sending them to read a blog filled with information. Or you can link them to an interesting article you found online.

The way you tell them what sort of information they will find is by using hashtags. Now what in the world good could a hashtag do? It can do lots of things. Ever watch the news in the morning and they say something is trending using a certain hashtag. Everyone who wanted to post something on this particular subject, maybe a breaking news story, uses that hashtag provided on the news story. Then you and everyone who wants to exchange viewpoints on that subject can go into Twitter, and using that hashtag find everything posted on the

Sharing knowledge

Sharing knowledge

subject.

I am not posting this as an authority on using Twitter. I’m not. I’m just beginning to use it and understand the value. As an author, since I became active there, my sales have picked up quite well. And while on that subject, I do not use Twitter to promote my books every time I post. I share information, stuff readers might appreciate knowing, and once a week I share something about one of my books. I still don’t know how to hunt for specific hashtags, but that’s on my list of something to learn.

And you know what? Having something new to learn on your list every day keeps you educated, keeps you up with world events, local events, things that are happening to specific people you are interested in, and best of all keeps you young. There is so much in this world anymore, without social media a lot of important news slips through the cracks. News stations no longer cover anywhere near what we all want to know. But you can count on someone out there to have read something new, interesting, different, scary, fun, etc., and then they share it on social media.

So unless you want to be the one everyone thinks lives under a rock, open yourself up to new experiences. Be a wise old bird. Twitter should definitely be one of your daily encounters. Limit your time there just as you do on Facebook or games or anything else.

Wise old bird

Wise old bird

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Lying or Telling the Truth: A Writer’s Life

USS Enterprise standing offshore Dec. 7, 1944

USS Enterprise standing offshore Dec. 7, 1944

Odd how easy it is to write fiction. Just create a character, put her in jeopardy and off we go. Her life changes, she has adventures, meets new people, perhaps changes her own and someone else’s life. But sit down to write a short blog, and I meet up with NOTHING.

The character in my next book, Beyond the Moon, coming out in August, was so easy to create. But wait, perhaps I didn’t create her at all. Maybe she was lurking in the shadows just waiting for me to discover her, give her something to do, people to interact with, and she was off and running. Katherine Kelly, at the age of 41, lost her husband when his tractor overturned and pinned him. Devastated that the man she had loved since she was nineteen was dead, she gave her all to grieving.

An artist who taught at both the local University and privately, she withdrew and shut down. Then one day a colleague came to her with a problem he thought she might help solve. And in so doing, he hoped it would bring about her own healing.

But before we go any further, let’s look at the crux of that problem. After nine years classified as an MIA following the Vietnam conflict, Navy pilot Glen Tanner was found by mercenaries hanging in a bamboo cage in a tree in Cambodia. Soon after he is silently

Vietnam soldiers

Vietnam soldiers

shipped home from a hospital on the West Coast he breaks, is hospitalized, then shuts down. Nothing his doctors can do will bring him back. Then he asks for canvas and paints and begins to paint out the horrors dwelling in his mind.

His psychiatrist hopes to help both his patient and his colleague by asking Katherine to come in once a week and take Glen on as her art student. Reveal to him the beauty of the world through the eye of the artist. Help him deal with his demons so he can come home in the true sense of the word.

And so the story begins. Last week I posted an excerpt from the book in this blog. My publisher is now working on the cover, and I will have some input. Beyond the Moon will be out in August.

See how easy it is to write fiction? I am thinking of going back to when I first began to write for local newspapers and publishing some of the interviews I wrote. I think maybe my readers would enjoy that.

When the Berlin Wall came down I interviewed a German woman who had come to America as a soldier’s bride. On Pearl Harbor day I interviewed a retired sailor who had been on a ship standing offshore on that fateful day. He had on his table a piece of twisted remnant from a kamikaze pilot’s plane that hit his ship. One day I was on hand to help dignitaries greet a Marine who came home in a wheelchair from Iraq, a marvelous young man filled with so much courage and hope.

These were stories of the 1980s and early 90s, and some of them are relevant in today’s world. If I were still writing those type of articles there would be many people I would like to interview. At the top of my list would be the Vietnam veterans who at long last received their medals in a formal ceremony held in Fayetteville last year.

Am heroes

But pursuing such a career is no longer possible. It’s both physically and emotionally challenging, and there comes a time when one has to step back and change gears. That means turning to fiction, which is only emotionally draining. So at times this blog may contain fiction rather than nonfiction. You never know what you’ll find here, and I hope that suits my followers.

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Beyond The Moon

 

Beyond the Moon

Beyond the Moon

After watching much media coverage in the mid-Eighties, I began to research the Vietnam war and its aftermath. Most especially the men and women so influenced by it that ten years later they were still suffering what doctors began to call Post Traumatic Stress. At that time not much was known about treating the symptoms.

Many of the wives and girlfriends of these men walked away because they couldn’t deal with this stranger who had returned from the killing fields. Determined to learn more I spent hours in the library reading articles buried deep in often obscure publications. There was no Internet back then. I learned many things about the fighting men, the war, those missing in action who were being kept in prisons long after the end of that cruel conflict. Facts I had never heard about on national news. Surely there were women who did not walk away from the man they had once loved. Surely the healing force of love would prevail.

Finally I wrote a book about a woman strong enough to support a man rescued from a bamboo cage after nine years as a prisoner of an enemy who tortured him daily. I found a poem by Emily Dickinson that fit so perfectly with my ideas of the book that I took the title, Beyond The Moon, from one of her lines. Because I would be writing about the woman and how she learned to care for this man she loved, it would be written in her point of view only.

Not surprisingly, such a project took several years to complete. Finally I did and after reading some of it to my critique group, a new member asked if she could take the manuscript to her husband. I learned that he was the author of many books and well known. He was so taken with the story that he sent it to his agent who called me. He loved the book and wanted to represent me.

He tried his best to sell it, but New York publishers weren’t interested. In the late 80s and early 90s people weren’t concerned with such things. Since my agent also represented several authors of books that had been turned into movies, including the author of The Godfather, he showed the manuscript to some people from Paramount Pictures. They took it back to Hollywood with them. Before a decision could be made, Paramount was sold and of course, all ongoing projects scrapped. I finally put the manuscript away.

Today everything has done a turn around. We honor our wounded warriors, we are trying to help the men who return in their efforts to reintegrate into society. And more and more people are reading books that tell these men’s stories. Organizations like The Wounded Warrior Project raise funds to help our wounded veterans.

Beyond The Moon is a story set in 1985 and based on what was happening after Vietnam. And how one woman never gave up on the man she loved, who was so badly damaged he was unable to return to his former life. Today these women are referred to as angels and we honor them. The book will be released in August from Oghma Creative Media. Here’s a short excerpt from Katherine’s second meeting with Glen Tanner at the VA hospital. She teaches art and has been asked to help him with his attempts at painting his hideous nightmares on canvas.

She tilted her head toward the hovering orderly. “What’s his name?”

“Harry. He’s your bodyguard.”

“I thought he was yours.”

“Mine? I don’t ….” He peered at her broad grin. His dimples winked on and off in an almost smile.

If that smile ever reached his eyes ─ but that was just another if to cloud her life. Probably his, too.

“Harry is going to take us somewhere we can work, aren’t you Harry?” It amused her to catch the somber faced man off guard. He fussed around with the magazines for a minute before starting toward them.

She lay her case in Glen’s lap and signaled Harry to lead the way. “I’ll push,” she told them both.

“I can do it,” Glen objected.

“Be a gentleman and carry my books.” She lay them carefully in his lap, afraid she might break him, and maneuvered the chair out the double glass doors, following Harry onto the back lawn.

They moved beneath giant oaks along a curving blacktop path. It sloped gently. Halfway down the incline a sycamore had dropped huge, curly leaves that crunched underfoot. The air smelled bright and clean, with only a smidgeon of the town’s industriousness. At the bottom they came upon a small creek that murmured over its rocky bed. The largest of several oaks clung to the edge of the opposite bank, its mammoth roots jutting out above the water. The tree must have stood as a sentinel when the Union soldiers marched through over a century earlier. Warm sunlight filtered between half-naked branches to form patches of yellow across an old wooden bench that faced the stream.

Harry sat on the far end, leaving the other end free for her. Glen handed her the heavy case, his strength surprising her. She set it down. No one said anything, and the moment hung there, untouchable and precious. A small gray squirrel darted down the tree across the way. Holding its tiny feet as if praying, the animal stared at them with bright eyes. The silky tail twitched, once, twice, again.

With an unnatural ease she lay her hand on Glen’s arm, and together they watched the squirrel until it leaped high into the trees and raced away, scolding.

In the deepening silence, she became conscious of the warmth of his skin under her palm, the slight movement of muscles and tendons as he reached and took a strand of her hair between thumb and fingers. He held it a moment, then caressed the curve of her cheek, cupping his palm over her ear. Without moving she turned her eyes toward him. Her breathing was shallow, her heartbeat thundering. She should be afraid. But this man she scarcely knew looked at her with eyes full of wonderment, and she smiled.

“What’s your name?” His tone sounded puzzled.

“Katherine.” Her breath trembled.

His fingertips trailed across her cheek, like a butterfly tasting honey. He didn’t speak or alter his expression. A ripple passed through her, and she closed her eyes for a moment of sheer and unexpected pleasure. He took his hand away, suspending it in front of her breasts. She glanced at Harry, who nodded his head and continued to watch as if they were specimens in a lab.

Lower lip caught in her teeth, she waited for Glen to move or say something. He reached toward the top button of her blouse. A muscle across her back twitched, yet she remained immobile. When his cool fingers contacted her warm skin, he licked his lips, and she did the same.

“May I call you Katie?” he whispered.

Her breath drifted out when he took his hand away, and for a brief moment she wanted him to touch her, slide his hand under the fabric, and hold her aching breast in his palm.

Katie? Katie darlin’. Only Stan called her Katie.

“Yes, call me Katie.” Maybe that would chase away the ghosts or at the very least soften the loneliness.

His eyes were moist and bright and aimed at her, and she wanted to shout at him not to look at her that way. She couldn’t help him, not with the dark foreboding questions he never asked but questions always present.

 

moon on lake

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Vietnam – Afghanistan. We haven’t learned much

Bowe Bergdahl

Bowe Bergdahl

 

U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, was held by the Taliban in Afghanistan since June 30, 2009. He was released last week. Saturday evening President Obama appeared in the White House Rose Garden with Bergdahl’s parents, Robert and Jani. He hailed the sergeant’s recovery as a triumph of years of diplomacy.

“He wasn’t forgotten by his country,” Obama said. “The United States of America does not ever leave our men and women in uniform behind.”

This information was posted online a couple of days ago. It wasn’t long before people on social media were having their say. Those who hastily called this soldier a traitor should stop and think about what they are doing, the harm they may cause with such accusations. There is no proof of such allegations. What kind of country is this that so many people are so quick to judge others?

Imagine being 23 years old, in a foreign land where anyone and everyone can be your enemy. Can toss a grenade into your midst, IEDs are planted everywhere. You are at war with a cruel and relentless foe. Terrorists they may be, but they are the enemy in a war. We may never know the choice this young man made that caused him to be captured. How many choices did you make at that age that you now regret?

And all the others on social media complaining because we broke the rule of dealing with terrorists. There is another rule in play here and it trumps that one. Never leave a man behind. He wore the uniform of this country, he fought for this country. Let’s wait a while before accusing him, or complaining about the way in which he was brought home.

Do not make a Bobby Garwood of this young man. Those of you too young to know who that is, go here to read about him. You’ll also note that despite all the accusations he has never been formally charged with anything. Bobby Garwood’s case influenced me greatly, and that’s probably why I remember it so clearly. He returned home after over 8 years “in country” going through God knows what. His appearance with the media on television, the thousand yard stare in his dark eyes, his attempt to tell the world that we had indeed left men behind in Vietnam. That they were in several POW camps in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. He was immediately whisked away.

I tried to find out what happened to this man after all the hoopla and the accusations died down. I thought I remembered that he had committed suicide, but I can’t find anything online, though perhaps if I dug some more I could. He simply disappeared. And who can blame him?

Vietnam – Afghanistan. We haven’t learned much in more than thirty years. But it seems we remain quick to judge others who have endured what we can’t even imagine.

 

 

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The Magic Horse

veldabrotherton:

How magical are the dreams of the very young. If we can join them in flight, as this writer did, then we become beyond ourselves and join the universe.

Originally posted on shadows, wings & other things:

Today at Fort Lee, New Jersey, I sat next to my five-year-old on a defunct cannon and we watched the white soft belly of a hawk against the blue afternoon sky. We were cradled up here on the Palisades by new-minted trees, and far below us the Hudson surged thick, wide and a dull brown. My daughter waved happily at the Little Red Lighthouse and I counted 14 identical white trucks moving snail pace across the GW Bridge—but hey, they were moving. The curved tip of the Brooklyn Bridge was the farthest point East that my eyes could make out, but soon we weren’t even in New Jersey anymore. In deference to the sing-song voice of my red-headed daughter, the cannon had become a horse that lived on the moon, and a silver thread was pulling us up and up where a magic woman waited to welcome us in. We…

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