I’ve often wondered at what point A-list celebrities become jaded to their success. Recognizable folks from any walk of life are at risk but since the world (especially Americans and Brits) obsess over the antics of the rich and famous, it must happen more quickly with those prominent, newsworthy folks. However, even photogenic “beautiful” people have flaws.
Authors are a different lot for the most part, perhaps because we hide behind our characters. I seldom see that nose-in-the-air snootiness with a well-known author. Oh, there’s a few, don’t get me wrong. I won’t name names but every aspiring or mid-list writer knows who they are. Unapproachable. Kiss-my-ring, peon attitude. “I’d be happy to speak at your event but I must have Evian water and no red M&M’s at my table” type requests. “Certainly I will be a keynote speaker but keep those autograph hounds away from me.” Sadly, I’ve even met some of those ego driven folks at chapter meetings for various author organizations.
Sad, isn’t it? My parents stressed that I should never forget my roots – which came from an archaic middle class, hard working, respect your elders, have pride in your work, look at those less fortunate and say “for the grace of God, there goes I” type upbringing. That being said, today’s world requires caution when dealing with the public because the values I was raised with got thrown out with the bathwater.
Old habits die hard. I’m a writer. A good writer but not the best or most recognized writer. I’m not sure I would even classify myself as mid-list. I love spinning a good yarn and am flabbergasted when others seem to like it, too.
Today I received a 5 star review for one of my older books. A book I considered irrelevant to today’s market. It’s not graphically sexy. My characters are not as contemporary as those written by my peers. It’s kinda hokey, I guess, but back when romantic suspense was popular, it did okay. I like it. In fact, it’s one of my favorites. A nice blend of things I love like strong men, sassy women, Native American culture, and a bad ass (IMHO) villain. I actually thought about taking this book off my availability list. But now, because of one kind and expressive person who cared enough to leave a short review saying they liked it, I will keep Red Hot and Dangerous active in hopes someone else might find respite form the craziness between its pages.
Thank you to all my reviewers. Remember, most authors are an insecure lot. It makes us feel good when you enjoy our hard work that probably took months, or even years to release. Writing a novel is like giving birth to a child. We carry it inside us for ages, allowing it to grow and nurture. When our manuscript finally takes its first breath as a published work, we are proud.
If you don’t like it, there’s no reason to be cruel. Just let us know what you think would have made it better. The majority of us want to know. Believe it or not, we listen – and also realize it’s impossible to please everyone. But as writers, we’re probably still going to try.
There’s an elite group . . . and I don’t say that lightly . . . of authors who manage to balance life on the road with writing. I was honored when Ellen Behrens, an outstanding author and fellow RVer, asked to interview me for her blog. Please click the link below and stop by to say “howdy”. While you’re there, check out Ellen’s delightful series, Rollin’ RV Mystery series!
Great Balls of Fire
The Hornet Spook Light, Near Joplin, Missouri
I was raised in Northeastern Oklahoma and knew about the Hornet Spook Light long before investigating the area for my book. As a child, we referred to the mysterious phenomena as the Joplin Spook Light because sightings occurred along a rural county road just 12 miles southwest of Joplin, Missouri. Those who viewed the light describe it as a ball of fire the size of a basketball. Others say it is a blue orb that hovers in mid-air with the ability to divide or separate. While descriptions vary, one thing most people agree on is the spook light’s capacity to frighten unsuspecting travelers.
Explanations for sightings typically lean toward the paranormal – the ghost of two young Quapaw Indians with a Romeo and Juliet type ending. A decapitated Osage Chief looking for his head. A miner with a lantern destined to search for his missing children through eternity. But skeptics will tell you it’s nothing more than swamp gas or headlights from a passing car.
Most local residents believe the light has been around since the late 1800’s. Others say it was first documented in the mid 1930’s. As with most legends, origins are murky and details vary. During the 1940’s, the Army Corps of Engineers conducted a study on the Spook Light, hoping to curb the intense public interest. Their final determination only created more questions when they cited it as “a mysterious light of unknown origin.”
If you’re ever in northeast Oklahoma near sundown, wander over to East 50 Road, four miles south of the tristate junction. Stop and sit a spell. Chances are you won’t be in the dark long.
Great Balls of Fire
by Debra S. Sanders
Henry Tuttle peered through heat radiating off the road in a scintillating haze. It was hot. What Okies call the “dog days of summer”. He dropped his chin so the bill of his faded John Deere cap blocked the afternoon sun from his eyes then watched a white Prius slow and turn into the long drive leading to his farmhouse. Dust formed in a thick, brown cloud behind the vehicle as it crept over potholes and ruts on a road more suited for high clearance vehicles. The right side of Henry’s mouth lifted. Settling into a corner of the wooden porch swing, he began to rock back and forth in a slow, steady rhythm.
The Prius stopped in a wide gravel area next to the house. A young man emerged, running his finger across a layer of dust coating the shiny paint. Seconds later, the passenger door opened and a girl with puffy red lips and large sunglasses stepped out.
“City folk,” Henry muttered with a quick assessment of the man’s baggy pants and loose t-shirt. The woman wore skinny jeans over even skinnier legs. Massachusetts plates confirmed his suspicion.
The man looked up, spotted Henry on the porch and waved. “Hello,” he called in a distinct Bostonian accent. “Fine day, isn’t it?”
“Almost over,” Henry grunted.
“Yuh, it is.” His chuckle sounded forced. “You lived here long?”
“All my life.”
“Ah, that’s great. I wonder if I could ask you a few questions.” The man glanced at his companion. “We’re journalists, researching a bit of local lore.”
Henry took a deep breath then let it out with a whoosh. He knew the minute they pulled into his drive what they wanted – information about the spook light. It wasn’t as if they were the first out-of-towners who fancied themselves ghost hunters.
“I reckon I got a few minutes.”
“Super! Do you mind if we join you on the porch?”
“Suit yourself. Supper’s in an hour. You need to be gone by then.”
The woman giggled. “Yuh, suh. We promise.”
They brushed dried leaves from two wicker chairs before settling onto the worn seats. The man leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. “My name’s Peter. This is Emily. We’re writing an article for our travel blog about Devil’s Promenade . . .”
“The spook light,” Henry corrected. “Figured that was it.”
“Yuh, well, we’re researching paranormal activity in the heartland and this particular myth kept popping up so we thought we’d look into it.”
“Have you seen it?” Emily chimed.
Henry pursed his lips, staring at a spot above her head as if conjuring up a memory. “I’ve had my share of run-ins with the damn thing. Most everyone around these parts has seen it at one time or ‘nother.”
Peter licked his lips. His pupils turned to pinpoint as he shifted in his seat. “We’ve read several theories about the light but since you live right here on the road where it is seen most often, we hoped you would have the inside scoop.” His laugh faded into silence. “What is it? Swamp gas? Light refraction? Some sort of geophysical anomaly?”
Henry kept a straight face as he met the young man’s gaze. “Ain’t none of those things.”
“Well, what is it . . . exactly?”
“Riley Crow’s ghost.”
Silence greeted Henry’s announcement. Emily was first to respond, keeping her voice low and pleasant. “We’ve actually heard a few of those myths. I think one source said it might be the spirits of an ill-fated Native American couple. Another suggested it could be a Civil War soldier. However, I don’t think anyone mentioned the name Riley Crow.
“Riley passed on about ten years ago.”
Peter cleared his throat. “But people first reported seeing the light during the 1800’s.”
“Oh, I’m sure it was around back then. Some say this area is cursed so I figure it holds a lot of souls who won’t move on, just like the Quapaw lovers you heard about. Legend goes they wanted to get married but her pappy didn’t think the young brave had enough dowry. He refused to let them join up so they eloped. Pappy sent a hunting party after ‘em. Rather than be separated, they ran to a cliff and jumped off. Died right away.”
Peter cast a condescending smile. “Part of our paranormal research involves debunking stories like that. I mean, there’s really no factual evidence to back up the myth. Is it true the Corps of Engineers investigated the light?”
“Yep, back in the thirties or forties. They ran a bunch of tests and came up empty handed. Look, son, if you talk to ten people around here, you’ll probably get ten different stories about the spook light but one thing’s for sure – anyone who has seen it, don’t want to see it again.”
“Why do you think that is?” Emily inquired. “What makes it so frightening?”
“The unknown, I reckon. I’ve had the damn thing run right in front of my truck. Then in a matter of seconds, it was behind me. One time, it floated towards me, broke into four different orbs and then went and sat in a tree. It’s a crazy sight to see.”
“Have you ever touched it?”
“Nah, but George Stoddard tried to shoot it. He can’t hit the broad side of a barn in daylight so I don’t know why he thought he could hit a moving fireball in the dark.”
Peter chuckled. “Tell me about this Riley Crow. Why do you think the light is his ghost?”
Henry pushed his cap back, scratched the top of his head then reset the hat to its original position. “I have a theory. I think this area is a sort of purgatory for souls who can’t rest.”
“That’s an interesting concept. Why do you think Riley is not at peace?”
“He’s searching for his balls.”
Emily’s eyes widened. “His . . . balls?”
“Yep. Old Riley was missing his testicles when he died.”
Once again, Emily and Peter exchanged looks. “I don’t suppose you’d care to expand on that?” Peter said.
“It’s a pretty gruesome story. Sure you want to hear it?” They both nodded. “Well, okay, then. Riley was a bit of a womanizer. Everyone around here knew he had a strong appreciation for the ladies – everyone except his wife, Lulabelle. She was a big, full figured gal. Good looking in her own right but real jealous. Needless to say, she watched Riley like a hawk.”
“One night, he came home after cozying up with Nancy Brown. Lulabelle took one sniff of the perfume on his collar and knew it wasn’t hers. After an all-night brawl, Riley finally confessed to his indiscretion. He promised never to see Nancy again. ‘Course, Lulabelle’s green eyed monster was all riled up by then. She just couldn’t find it in her to trust him.”
Henry paused to catch his breath. Peter instantly encouraged him to continue.
“About a month went by before Riley got the itch and started tom-cattin’ around. One night, he told Lulabelle he had to go back to the office for a late meeting. She decided to follow him and sure ‘nuff, Riley met up with Nancy at the No Tell Motel up in Joplin. Lulabelle was fit to be tied. She hid in the backseat of Riley’s car and waited. When Riley came out and started the engine, she popped up and scared the poor man half to death. He listened to her rant all the way home. There was no denying his tomfoolery. She’d caught him red handed.
After they got home, Lulabelle kept readin’ the riot act to him, not even pausing to take a breath. Riley finally told her to shut up. He’d had enough. Vowed to file for divorce the next day . . . which sent Lulabelle right over the edge.
From what I heard, the first thing she did was knock the poor man unconscious with a cast iron frying pan. When Riley woke up, Lulabelle had duct taped him to a kitchen chair. He was nekkid as a jay bird and scared half to death. He tried to reason with her but she didn’t want to hear it. Taped the poor man’s mouth closed. All he could do was sit there and listen. She’d cry, then curse, then cry some more, accusing him of all sorts of things. I’m sure he was guilty of most of ‘em but that weren’t no reason to do what she did next.”
Peter leaned in even further, eyes wide. “What did she do?”
Henry shook his head, staring at the toe of his boot for a full minute before conitinuing. “It was awful, just flat out mean. Lulabelle ran down a list of names of every woman she could think of in a fifty-mile radius, asking Riley if he’d slept with them. I suppose he said yes to just about all of them. He probably thought if she got mad ‘nuff, she might get so disgusted she’d let him go. But there ain’t no one more vindictive than a woman with a broken heart.”
Emily’s hand flew to her mouth. “Oh, dear. What happened?”
“She castrated the man. Cut off his balls with a kitchen knife right where he sat.”
Peter’s complexion paled. For a minute, Henry thought the kid might vomit but then he swallowed and urged Henry to continue.
“Riley passed out, of course. I think any man would. He was bleeding real bad. While he was unconscious, Lulabelle took his testicles, pounded ‘em out flat with a mallet, rolled ‘em in a little cornmeal and flour and fried ‘em up in lard– just like calf fries. I think she intended to feed them to Riley.”
“Nuh . . .” Peter ran to the far end of the porch, leaned over the railing and heaved. When he returned, his shirt tail was wet and stained. “Sorry, man. That was more than I could handle.”
“No problem. I had the same reaction when I first heard it.”
“What happened to Riley?” Emily’s voice was barely more than a whisper.
“He bled out right there in the kitchen while Lulabelle was cookin’.”
“Was she arrested?”
“Nope, and that’s the curious part. She really loved the old scallywag. Once she realized Riley was dead, she slit her wrists and died on the kitchen floor next to him.”
“That’s an . . . interesting story but what makes you think the spook light is Riley Crow?”
“I hear Lulabelle wailing some nights, usually when the spook light is out there bobbin’ around. I think she’s chasin’ Riley, trying to beg forgiveness. Ain’t gonna happen, not for a while. He’s still pretty mad. I reckon they’re stuck in purgatory for the time being.”
Peter sucked in a deep breath and glanced at Emily. “I appreciate you taking the time to speak with us.”
“But you don’t believe me.”
“It’s not that I don’t believe you. The legend of Devil’s Promenade has been around for over a hundred and forty years. Logically, it doesn’t make sense it would be Riley Crow’s ghost.”
“Son, nothin’ about that spook light is logical. You kids believe what you want. That’s all I got.”
Emily was first to stand. “It’s getting late. If we’re going to film the light, we should be going.”
“Don’t keep anything sharp in your vehicle. Lulabelle has been known to throw knives and scissors through the air. Wouldn’t want y’all to get hurt.”
Peter swallowed, joining Emily at the top of the steps. “Perhaps we should discuss our research at the motel. We can return in a few days.” His suggestion met no resistance.
Henry waved as the Prius drove away, travelling down the lane much faster than when it arrived. He lingered on the porch after it disappeared, staring off into the distance. The front door opened and a grey haired woman emerged, wiping her hands on a dishtowel.
“Supper’s almost ready. Better wash up.”
“Sure thing, Mama.”
She narrowed her eyes suspiciously. “Who were those people?”
Henry shrugged. “Just some city folk wanting to know about the spook light.”
“Have you been making up stories again, Henry Tuttle?”
“Now, Mama . . . I was just havin’ a little fun. No harm done.”
Her eyes rolled upward. “I swear, old man. Some days I don’t know what to do with you.”
“I was tryin’ to keep the peace. I don’t think those kids will be back,” he chuckled, “but if they do park down the road, I’ll get out my big spotlight and really give ‘em something to write about.”
His mirth was met with a warning scowl from his wife. She turned on her heel and marched inside, slamming the door behind her.
Henry waited a few minutes longer, enjoying the quiet of the early evening. As he turned, a hazy blue orb bobbed near the far end of the porch. Henry paused, arched a brow, then shooed it away with his hand. “Go on, now git, Riley. I ain’t got time for you and Lulabelle tonight.” He watched the orb float into a tree followed by a low wail in the distance. “I don’t reckon you two will ever get along.”
Shaking his head, Henry shuffled inside and closed the door.
On March 11th and 12th, an amazing annual event takes place on the University of Arizona campus in Tucson – The Tuscon Festival of Books. This star-studded gathering (as far as authors go) offers something for everyone in nearly every age group.
This year, I’m excited to participate as both a signing author and a volunteer. On Saturday, I’ll be in the Author Pavilion from 12:15 to 2:15, then presenting a short “Tent Talk” at 3, discussing research and writing on the road. Sunday will be my volunteer day to assist other presenting authors with their programs.
When not “on the clock”, be assured I will peruse campus grounds and attend workshops by some of my favorite writers such as John Sandford (be still my beating heart) and “Longmire” creator and author, Craig Johnson accompanied by series star, A. Martinez.
I promise to post lots of photos and regale you with my adventures after the event. Be sure to check my Instagram and Facebook pages for the most up-to-date news. If you are attending, be sure to download the free “app” to help navigate the festival and events.
During the week of March 19th, I’ll be attending Escapee’s Escapade, also taking place in Tucson. For those not familiar with RVing, Escapees is a membership club of fellowship, activities and learning. This year, I’ll be conducting a workshop entitled, “Gold, Ghosts and Gravel Roads” where I hope to entertain with my adventures and teach from experience about how to enhance the RVing experience. The presentation will be loosely based on my research for ROAD TALES, Myth, Lore and Curiosities From America’s Back Roads. It will also include a few stories from the upcoming Volume Two.
The hubmeister and I decided to workamp at Ruby’s Inn outside of Bryce Canyon, Utah for the summer months. It’s a win-win since we planned to visit the area anyway. Now we can explore Bryce, Zion, Canyonlands, Monument Valley and so much more while keeping a centrally located base camp, and earn a buck or two along the way. We’ll only work part time and have the same off days.
And now for my big FAIL…I played entirely too much the past few months and didn’t finish my second book in th e Dead Men series, Dead Men Can’t Dance. By the time I took a breath and realized time had passed me by, I needed to focus on my upcoming author appearances. I hope to release Book Two by April.
One more piece of exciting news, I’m working on an episodic thriller, Road Kill. It’s gritty, not light and fun like my Dead Men books so I hope readers won’t ding me too hard for changing genres. It’s a project I’ve wanted to do for a long time. Episode One will release in mid March. There should be four to five episodes to reach the conclusion, and then I may combine them into a single title. Hope you like serial killers!
It’s no secret I enjoy off-beat destinations, books that make me think, ideas which question the norm – so it shouldn’t be a surprise when I say I’ve been studying numerology.
I’ve always had an interest but recently decided to take it a step further after reading Glynis McCants book on numerology, “Glynis Has Your Number”. There are several “Primary” numbers i.e. The Soul Number, The Personality Number, The Power Name Number, The Life Path Number, etc. The most important is your Life Path, derived by adding the digits in your full birth date. Mine equals 3. Glynis uses a few celebrities for examples but the 3 Life Path hits me dead center. I write. I paint. I love talking with people – all traits of a creative 3.
It’s not all smooth sailing, however. My “Destiny” number is 4 which is not compatible with a 3. So how do I achieve my 4 destiny of leaving something behind that benefits mankind when it conflicts with my 3 life path? The logical thing (also a trait of a 4 destiny) is to change my author name so it adds up to a 3, thus making it a “power name”. Surely I can write a heart stopping, memorable novel like Gone With The Wind before I die. Glynis cited an interesting story about John Denver’s musical talent taking off after he changed his last name to Denver. In numerology, it was the compatible power name he needed to jump start his career.
As for content, Glynis has a written an intriguing book that explores the origins of numerology as well as breaks down the individual numerical categories and their meanings. I especially enjoyed her examples using celebrities since they live out their lives in the public eye. It’s easy to see certain numerological traits in their actions and speech.
After reading “Glynis Has Your Number” three times, I decided to try a little experiment. I’ve altered the name on my website to Debra S. Sanders, which computes to a 3. I may even use it as an author name on an episodic thriller series I’m writing. If that project takes off, I’ll consider it confirmation that numerology does indeed work.
I’m sure some of you are rolling your eyes and branding this as hocus pocus. A few of you might be intrigued. And some stopped reading my blog as soon as they saw the title. But if you have experience with numerology, good or bad, I’d like to hear about it. Leave a comment or send me an email. Inquiring minds want to know. Until then . . . I’ll be working on my next book because after all, I am a 3 Life Path.
Learn more about Glynis McCants and Numerology at http://www.glynishasyournumber.com/ There are links for her books on the site.