Home to Let

Longer hours of sunshine. Warmer temperatures. Active minds turn to thoughts of….moving?

It’s that time again. Time to tour the neighborhood with the mate and decide on housing. What’s taken? Will it be large enough? Beware the neighbors — they can shorten a body’s life span. How’s the view?

They come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some require more work than others. Better not be claustrophobic for some of the pre-fab models. They are looking for families — first home or a different location for veterans.

“I want that one.” She circles it.

“Too gaudy.” He insists. “Those are unnatural colors, hard on the eyes.”

“You’re jealous that it’s flashier than you are. I’m moving in.”

Proud to call St Louis home.
Proud to call St Louis home.

Baseball home opener is April 7, 2014.

Paperback edition of Starr Tree Farm now available at



Triangle Tragedy

Today we travel to New York in 1911.

Listen to the noise of commerce in several languages. See the mixture of horse drawn and motorized vehicles clogging the streets. Smell the activity – ships bringing immigrants, factories sending smoke into the air.

The Asch Building, ten stories high, occupies the corner of Washington Place and Greene Street. On this March Saturday afternoon the workers at the Triangle Waist Factory (aka: Triangle Shirtwaist) are gathering their personal articles and paychecks, finished for the week and looking forward to their one day a week of leisure.

A fire begins in a bin of scraps on the eighth floor. And then everything goes horribly wrong. No audible alarm in the building – a phone call notifies the tenth floor but not the ninth. On site fire hoses lack water pressure. Elevator operators risk everything to make multiple trips with twice the number of allotted passengers per time. Doors to the stairway are locked. The exterior fire escape collapses under heat and weight. Fire department ladders only reach to the sixth floor.

One hundred and forty six workers died — several of them jumped to their death from the eighth and ninth floors when trapped by the flames. The owners and several others on the tenth floor escaped to the roof.

In December 1911 the owners were found not guilty of first and second degree manslaughter. Insurance paid the owners and they were forced by a civil suit to pay small damages to the victim’s families. Their behavior did not change. In 1913 one of the owners was fined $20 for locking the exit door in his factory. Fire, safety, and building codes were strengthened in New York and other cities. Union organizers spoke of the tragedy when urging reforms in labor laws.

Do you think this could happen again? Did you check the fire exit map during your most recent hotel stay? Block or prop a door at your workplace?



It’s Official Now

Yes! Spring arrived. Well, the vernal equinox arrived on schedule. Depending on where you live it may or may not look green and “springy” outside your window.

St. Louis is brown with small, irregular spots of green. Thank you hardy bulbs. Daylight makes an effort to cheer the humans and their pets. As one of the impatient people, I’m eager for more. More sunshine. More warmth. More enticement to linger outside and chat with a neighbor without both of us bundled up from toes to ears.

With a nod to the past and hope for the future I give you a photo from my personal archives. Not every March 21 is bleak and brown.

Blooms on March 21, 2009
Blooms on March 21, 2009

Next stop on The Writing Process Blog Hop is March 24 at


March 18, 1931

Or perhaps it’s July 23, 1929

It all depends on the web site you visit. I obtained the first date from a today-in-history site. The second came up in an article used in researching the item for this blog.

So here’s to things they agree upon. And to the men in the readership.

Colonel Jacob Schick retired from the US Army in 1910 and returned to service during WWI. In the interim years he lived in Alaska. During a long winter and while recovering from illness he developed the concept of a “dry shaver”. After the war he tried to take the dry shaver but it failed to generate interest.

Colonel Schick impresses me as a person with a sharp mind, able to use concepts from one piece of machinery and apply it to one with a different function in society. Thus  – the Magazine Repeating Razor – which took theory from the repeating rifle to store shaving blades in the handle, ready to move into position without dangerous handling with the fingers.

He didn’t give up on the dry shaver. In either 1929 or 1931 (that’s where the date conflict arises) he obtained a patent for an electric shaver. It met with only modest success in the early years. But he operated his own factory and improved models gained wider acceptance.

So gentlemen: the next time you face the mirror in the morning, whether you prefer wet or dry shaving (manual or electric) think of Jacob Schick and his improvements to grooming methods.

A nice smooth shaved chin is much more pleasant for the lady to cup in her hand before the kiss.  (Okay. My romance writer is showing again.)


The Writing Process — A Blog Hop

Bonus Post!  Welcome to all.

Today’s special posting is brought to you as a portion of a Blog Hop. I guess that means I’m following a rabbit trail to discover new footprints in my writing life.

First I want to thank Claudia Shelton for inviting me to participate. You can find Claudia’s post and more information about her soon-to-be-released romantic suspense at:

And now to the questions.

1)      What am I working on?

This month I’m polishing a synopsis for a companion story to Starr Tree Farm and doing a first draft of a story set in St. Louis.

2)      How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My work has a light tone. The hero and/or heroine faces personal danger (and I’ve often got a dead body central to the story) but that’s as deep and dark as the suspense gets. And my settings stay in the Midwest.

3)      Why do I write what I do?

My favorite books have happy, positive, or hopeful endings for characters that I’d like to meet over a cup of coffee – no matter which century they “lived” in.

4)      How does your writing process work?

On the continuum from pantser to plotter I fall near the plotter. I write a complete first draft, make major changes (I’ve been known to switch serial killers at this point) during the second draft, and then each pass adds details and smaller plot items.

Interested in other authors? Check out Barbara Binns  on March 24.

B . A. Binns writes realistic contemporary multicultural YA novels to attract and inspire young readers with stories of “Real Boys Growing Into Real Men…and the people who love them.” After all, men fall in love just as deeply as women, and their stories deserve to be told and read. She lives in Illinois and is a former RWA Golden Heart® finalist and a winner of a National Readers Choice Award, and teaches classes on writing from the male POV.

Like her on

Follow her on twitter @barbarabinns

Check out her website



Green Gamble

St. Patrick’s Day is coming. The day that all American school children – Irish or non-Irish — suffer consequences if they forget to wear green. Adults approach the day a little differently.

One of my favorite images is a laboratory secretary, an English war bride from the area near Bath, wearing a bright splash of orange on the day. (Influence of our Scottish boss?)

Parades, corned beef, and beer mark a day of celebration. I’m hoping for a spring day — unlike one in my college years where nature gifted us with a thunderstorm and several inches of snow.

I’ll show my recessive gambling gene in another form of green. I found them irresistible in the store. Brought them home and threw a mental dart at the calendar. Then I saved plastic yogurt cups and used the collection to hold dirt – and seeds.

Future tomato garnish
Future tomato garnish

If the gamble pays off I’ll have cherry tomato plants for myself and several friends. Yum. Yum.

Return Monday for a special posting – The Writing Process Blog Hop


Hidden Hint

March 11, 1918

Fort Riley, Kansas, USA

Several cases of an “influenza” have hospitalized new recruits.

Was this a headline? More likely it was a line in a physician or military hospital administrator’s report. The Great War raged in Europe. Eleven months ago the United States joined the hostilities. Army camps full of young men have been built and staffed. Training covers the basics of marching, shooting, and following orders. We need soldiers as fast as they had be trained and transported.

The war is top priority. We need men. Recovered patients and the men that have been living with them in close quarters are shipped to Europe. Living conditions on the battlefield make the training camp barracks appear a palace. But peace looms on the horizon. The Armistice will take effect on November 11, 1918.

Before the armistice papers are prepared another enemy, more deadly than German gas attacks, machine guns, or that new mechanized marvel of war – the tank – goes to work among the soldiers. Civilians suffer too.

From the autumn of 1918 to the end of 1919 more people would die of the “influenza” than were killed in the preceding four years of war. It spread with troop movements plus along shipping and trade routes. It circled the globe and killed more than 20 million people before it sputtered to a halt.

Could it happen again? Will the next outbreak of “bird flu” or “SARS” explode into a pandemic? Treatment in 1918-1919 was limited. Medical personnel was worked to the limit – many physicians and nurses were with the army – the epidemic among civilians tested the limits of those remaining.

Today International travel provides a route for rapid movement – of people and pathogens.  Yet the same is true for information, treatment protocols, and medicine. What have we learned in the ninety plus years since the pandemic?




Optimist – One who holds the doctrine that this world is the best possible world or: an inclination to anticipate the best possible outcome of actions or events  or: a person who views the glass as half-full.

This is often a difficult and hazardous position to hold.

Watch any newscast — or weather forecast — and you can feel the reporters sucking the optimism out and scattering it to the four winds. Natural disasters and thoughtless talkative people aside, I do believe in second, third, and fourth chances. I’m the sort to give a person the benefit of doubt and attribute positive motives to their actions until they brazenly prove otherwise.

Non-humans demonstrate optimism on occasion. These residents in my flowerbed ignored our wild temperature swings and poked up to sample the air prior to another ice and snow storm.

Hardy Optimist
Hardy Optimist

Long and Short in History

From 1793 until 1933, a span of 140 years and 36 United States presidential election cycles, this was Inauguration Day. I went looking for a few fun facts to mark the occasion. I won’t attempt to be inclusive.

The most popular location for the ceremony was the East Portico, US Capitol, Washington, DC. Andrew Jackson in 1829 was the first to be sworn in at that location. Other sites within Washington DC have been the Senate Chamber, House of Representative Chamber and two outdoor sites – The Front of the Old Brick Capital in 1817 and In front of the Original Senate Wing with McKinley in 1897. Jefferson in 1805 was the final president to take the oath in Philadelphia. Washington was the only one – first term only – to be sworn in in New York.

Washington, a name that should be familiar, also made the shortest speech. In 1793 when taking the oath for his second term his speech began with “Fellow Citizens” and contained two paragraphs. A total of 133 words.

Wm. H. Harrison, on the other hand, is a presidential name familiar to less of the population. He took the oath in 1841 on the East Portico and spoke at length. A total of 8443 words according to my source. I skimmed the text and counted twenty-five paragraphs (some near a page in length). His final paragraph began “Fellow-citizens.” Perhaps he should have skipped the first portion and delivered only the last paragraph. Would that have prevented the pneumonia which killed him one month later?

Note to politicians giving outdoor speeches in winter: Be brief and concise.