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This month, in elementary schools across the nation, students learn of Pilgrims and Puritans. The Mayflower and Plymouth Rock. Some will dress in the costumes of stern Immigrants or friendly Natives. For the roots of our current Thanksgiving holiday extend back to a time of feasting and thanksgiving for an abundant harvest.

While history takes an important place in Massachusetts – you can’t study the Revolutionary War without mention of Boston, Concord, and Lexington – it is also a modern place. Education, trade, and manufacturing all thrive in the present day.

My travels have taken me to Massachusetts twice – three times if you count an airport arrival followed by a bus trip out of state. In 2013 my travelling companion and I met some very cordial residents in the Western portion of the state. (If you must have a flat tire away from home this is a helpful place.)

In 1998, with a different companion, we visited Salem. What can I say — 17 year old boys have a unique idea of what is interesting. It was an excellent visit. Quality explanations and memorials to the witchcraft trials of 1692. But my favorite part of the town was the waterfront. Imagine men going down to the docks each day. Loading timber and fish into the holds of Clipper Ships. Or unloading the treasures of the Orient from those same ships at the return of the voyage.


Sail away on an adventure from Salem, MA.



Fear Not…

New reports are filled with the actions and reactions of fear-filled people.

Is the person over there a different skin tone? Religion? Political party? Be afraid.

Sorry, dear reader. The author needs to register an opposite opinion. May I offer a word of remedy — communication. If you are in a situation which allows the action — then go introduce yourself. Shake hands. Exchange small talk. That person that looks or acts different breathes the same air, has a heart pumping blood, and a brain capable of learning.

And remind yourself — fear is not a new emotion. Angels frequently introduced themselves to the human prophets and chosen by a the familiar phrase — Fear not, for …

December 2013_423

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Cameras. Phone videos. It’s difficult to have a private life in days of social media.

The topic of today’s post has managed to do just that. The youngest, and newest, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, Elena Kagan.

The usual portions of her biography are public. Her father was a lawyer. Her mother an educator. Her academic and employment records require little more than a search word in Google to find. She’s been the first woman in some of her positions: Dean of Harvard Law School and US Solicitor General.

Her current position is her first appointment as a judge. While not unique, you need to go back several decades to find other justices who came from non-judge positions to the court. As expected from an Obama appointment, she tends to vote liberal. Yet she’s independent and prudent enough to reach out to any and all of the other justices to find areas of agreement.

Oh…and the private life. She’s keeping that private. Exhibiting control and self-control over her outside of work activities.



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Castle Gate Press

Today Writer Wednesday features tips on finding new reads from the founders of a new enterprise: Castle Gate Press.

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How do you find new books you want to read?

Somewhere out there is a new author you’ll love, you can depend on that.  But with 600,000 to one million titles published just in the U.S. every year these days, how do you find him or her?

I’ve got some ideas. There’s the obvious: we all take recommendations from people we know very seriously.

Possibly less obvious: Amazon lists books that were bought together with you are looking at. So, locate a book you like on Amazon and scroll down to “Customers who bought this item also bought…” This can be a great way to locate authors who write similar books to one you like.

You can get active on, a huge site that brings readers together and encourages us to write reviews and recommend books for each other.  Another site to check out: .

What about all those author voices on the Internet? Hundreds of thousands of authors are out to get your attention for their books. But who do you take seriously? You can locate a favorite author and follow his or her Facebook page to learn more and meet others. You may find new authors this way too.

Oftentimes, publishers will target a particular reader niche or genre. Authors who’ve been published by a third party have had their work evaluated and found good, as opposed to self-published authors who sometimes skip some editing steps. You may be able to identify a publisher who turns out the kind of books you like, and you can read a variety of authors from there with confidence. – Phyllis Wheeler


Castle Gate Press is a new independent publishing company focusing clean fiction with a touch of the fantastic. You’ll find engaging characters, twisty plots, and something odd going on: time travel, science experiments gone weird, supernatural beings, a bit of fantasy, or whatever. It’s run by a couple of homeschooling mom veterans, Suzanne Hartmann and Phyllis Wheeler, who both love reading and writing fiction with a touch of the fantastic, and who love editing too.

While Castle Gate Press’s books won’t be available until next year, you can find flash fiction, photo caption challenges, and other reader-oriented items on Fridays on its blog. Go ahead and sign up to have blog posts emailed to you, and you’ll always know the latest news!


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Small Town USA

Today we welcome our first guest in a series of Writer Wednesdays. So pour a cup of your favorite beverage and enjoy thoughts from my friend and fellow author, Lynn Cahoon.

Band shell

I started in a small town. I walked to school, knew all my neighbors, and had my choice of not one, but two mom and pop stores where you could get tons of candy for a few coins. (Yes, now I’m aging myself.) But then my mom moved us out to the country when she remarried. Now, my closest neighbor was a half mile away, I rode a school bus for over an hour to get to school, and shopping was a Saturday only chore.

When I moved from Idaho a few years ago to Illinois, I wasn’t expecting to move back into a small town. Highland Illinois could be Small Town America, USA. The park square in the middle of town hosts a weekly peanut butter and jelly day. There are two summer parades that run through town, marching bands, classic cars, and farm equipment leading the way. They have an outdoor pool, closed for swim lessons in the early morning.  And they play host to the county fair with corn dogs, animal barns, and a dirt track race, including a tractor pull.

My bull rider series is starts in a small mountain town famous for the annual rodeo. A town kids plan on escaping. But somehow, they always pull you back in.

Are you from a small town? Or does the big city seem like home to you?


The Bull Rider’s Brother -Shawnee, Idaho is known for two things.  Amazing salmon fishing and the first local rodeo of the summer.  For four friends, growing up in Shawnee, meant one thing, making plans to get out. Years later, that wish has been granted for all but one.  What happens when they all get together again changes five lives.          Bull Rider's Manager

Lynn Cahoon is a contemporary romance author with a love of hot, sexy men, real and imagined. Her alpha heroes range from rogue witch hunters to modern cowboys. And her heroines all have one thing in common, their strong need for independence. Or at least that’s what they think they want.


November 30, 1993

President Bill Clinton signed a bill into law on this date.

Like many new laws, this one brought out public debate on both sides of the issue. Voices still shout out on occassion on the topic.

It’s my right! – One viewpoint yells on the airwaves.

This saves innocent lives! – Others counter.

The formal name of the law I’m referencing is Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act.

The violent incident which injured the man the bill is named after – and others, including President Ronald Reagan – occured on March 39, 1981.

As you can see by an inspection of the dates, this was not a hasty, rushed piece of legislation. Introduced in the House of Representatives in February 1993, the bill is intended to prevent convicted criminals, drug addicts, and diagnosed mentally ill indiviuals from purchasing firearms. Much discussion of waiting periods and background checks filled the committee meetings and floor debate.

Is this a perfect solution?

No, read the police section of any large metropolitan newspaper and you’ll find record of gunshots fired or weapons shown to threaten.

Should we repeal it to unrestricted ownership?

That’s not a solution in a country as large and densely populated as the United States.

This leaves us with compromise. Give and take. Accomodation. Adjustment.

I leave you with the idea that citizens should encourage lawmakers to practice that most rare of attributes – Common Sense – when writing and passing legislation.



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Flood Gauge

Sights and sounds along the downtown section of the the St. Louis levee vary with the season.

Fair weather and summer bring the most visitors. They explore the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (The Arch) grounds and dine at a fine selection of sites in the restored buildings of Lacledes Landing.

One thing I always want to check is the Clark statue. Installed in 2006 to commerate the return of Lewis and Clark from their trip of Western exploration it stands on the levee in the shadow of the Eads Bridge.

A perfect position to judge the rise and fall of the Mississippi River. Unofficial, a good conversation starter – the water is up to Clark’s…….

...with dry feet in late September
...hat in early July
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The Morning After

One Friday night recently our city hosted a baseball game with their strongest rival.

That same Friday I concluded a meeting downtown a short time before the game ended. My light rail stop hosted only a pair of us for the route west. The next stop, outside of the baseball stadium, we collected enough subdued fans to comfortablely fill the car. I held my curousity close – dare I tap on on the shoulder and aske the score? Ignorance was good in this case – the home team lost and these were fans leaving early. The big rush would be following.

The next morning I return for the next portion of my meeting. I exit the light rail in the underground station four blocks from the hotel. I climb the steps, past the lone individual liquor bottle (it moved a few steps from yesterday) and through stale beer scented air to the sidewalk.

The fans celebrate – win or lose – when the Cardinals host the Cubs!

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I can’t believe it happened!

The clues are all there, beginning with three cars pulled to the shoulder. One glance and an experienced driver could recite the events.

The lead car wears a marred rear bumper. The second vehicle received the worst of it, a mashed in grill and wrinkled hood. The third auto blinks the red and blue lights of a police sedan.

Insurance information recorded, accident report form filled in, the drivers and passengers wait to resume their weekday. The officer distributes the papers, exchanges a few words and the first car drives away. The second car pulls out slowly, pulls the patrol car along by an invisible string to the first driveway and roomy parking lot.

My teacher, boss, spouse – won’t believe why I’m late this morning.

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After the Rain

The morning air is fresh washed from rain during the dark hours.

The shower is over now, the sky clearing, clouds drifting east and out of sight. It makes for a fine walk, in this mild, late summer air with the dust removed. Plants lift leaves high after their welcome drink and grass sparkles with lingering drops. Robins probe for worms and squirrels bound across the lawns. Are they seeking a friend for a game of tag?

I nod and exchange greetings with other walkers. My route is almost complete as I head for the final length of sidewalk. A quick duck of my head under a young tree reaching over the cement is in order.


Mr. Squirrel leaps to the springing branch, shakes the leaves and their remaining water on top of my head and to the ground before he darts back to the trunk to climb higher.