Friday, August 31, 2018

Rolling With the Trolling by Warren Bull

Rolling With the Trolling by Warren Bull

Image from Pixabay

I’ve written before about my Facebook page, “I Love Abe Lincoln,” which I use to build a platform for my upcoming book Abraham Lincoln: Seldom Told Stories. At that time I had received my first, “I hate Lincoln” post. Oddly enough I found that reassuring. 
See, throughout my life, I have found that success attracts criticism. At the very peak of my athletic career, I became an average high school cross-country runner. Scores in cross-country meets were based on the finishing order of the top five runners on each team with the lowest score winning. A sweep was 5+4+3+2+1 = 15. After years of practice, I sometimes added to the opposing team’s total by beating a runner among their top five finishers. For that feat, a friend who said he could have been on the team informed me that I was “a natural” runner. Who knew? Here I thought years of sweating and plodding along had something to do with it.
So when the hate post appeared, I decided I had become prominent enough to gain a troll’s attention. With cultivation, learning through mistakes and keeping on keeping on (more plodding) the number of followers has grown. The number and variety of haters have grown too. Although Lincoln continues to attract the great majority of the flak, I have become a secondary target. I find it amusing that some accusations are the direct opposite of other accusations, which make it impossible for me to fulfill both. I’ve learned that the phrase, “You sound like an educated person” is not a compliment. Requests for personal information are usually veiled ways of asking, 
“Won’t you please give me a reason that I can use to totally discount what you write on the basis that you are A or you are not B.”
In addition to the trolls, the page is starting to attract posts from people who want to use my platform to benefit themselves. I call them barnacles. “Earn money from home,” vies with “Find out more about the TRUTH on my site.” I had a number of posts from a man who espoused a very different understanding of Lincoln. I didn’t mind until he started answering many posts with nearly identical information. I politely asked him to stop and his formerly friendly response style changed to a rant. Like the other barnacles, I blocked him from the page. My favorite barnacle so far is the “World Renown Psychic” who warned me about the chaos surrounding me and informed me he could help reconnect with various loved ones including my daughter. I don’t have a daughter.
I am interested in what will rise to the surface next. I will let you know.

Thursday, August 30, 2018


I just spent a week in California with my youngest daughter, Mary. We had a good time and the weather was perfect; slightly warm in the daytime and cooler in the evening and night. It was nothing like the hot weather in Ohio.

I left later Tuesday morning because there was a change in flights out of Cleveland, and then when I got to the layover in Dallas, all who were heading to San Francisco had to wait for quite a few hours because of heavy fog or something over the San Fran cisco my daughter had to pace around the San Francisco airport for several hours or more waiting for my flight to come in. We stopped for a late supper on our way to her house because we were both hungry. We were both tired when we got to her house so we didn’t stay awake long talking before heading to bed.
This was so beautiful inside and out.
The next day after breakfast we went to the Golden Gate gardens and to the Conservatory there which was one of the most beautiful ones I’ve ever been to. After we paid to get in we wandered through room after room with giant trees, shrubs, plants and flowers from other countries. It also had a little stream going through it over rocks and a small waterfall, too. In the background were the sounds of tropical birds, which one of the workers said weren’t real, but piped in songs.

I was checking these weird pods on the plants.

After we left the Conservatory, we drove around the very large park and around a small lake in the park with a waterfall that went into the lake. 

We stopped for a while to watch the sea gulls swimming on the lake before heading towards home where we rested for a while before heading to the downtown area where we visited a new pottery shop that had only recently opened. 
Everything was lovely in there, but I didn’t have any more room to add anything to my suitcase especially since I was stopping at book stores to buy books.

After that we went to the new Italian restaurant that had recently opened. It was lovely in side with wide windows looking out on the bay. We weren’t too enthused with the meals but we still ate almost all of what we were served and the freshly made bread was good. The waiter was nice so of course we tipped him well.

When we got home Mary brushed her border collie, Kira, and then took her for a walk while I read a book I’d brought from home. When they returned from the walk, we went to her friend Heather’s house to leave Kira for Heather to care for. Heather doesn’t have a dog of her own anymore, but loves Kira as well as her daughter’s dog and other dogs she watches for friends. She takes no money for this, but Mary does give her gifts occasionally when she’s gone for a week to Ohio. Last year I gave Heather a copy of my first book in my Catherine Jewell Mysteries, THE BLUE ROSE which she really liked so this year I gave her the second in my series, DAYLILLIES FOR EMILY’S GARDEN which she was pleased to get.

The next morning, Thursday, after breakfast we left and headed to Point Reyes Station and on the way there we wandered through mountains and small towns where we stopped at some of them where at one we got coffee and pastries and others we just wandered through some of the small shops. When we got to the town of Reyes Point we kept going back and forth through the not many streets looking for the restaurant called Siron Canteen which Mary had read had good food. Finally we asked someone and they directed us down a drive towards an old lighthouse with the bottom part of it a restaurant. It was set back from the beach where lots of people were either swimming or sun bathing. We found one table available and through the windows could watch the ocean with swimmers as well as sun bathers and children running around. We got cheese burgers, French fries and strawberry milkshakes.

After we left Mary drove on winding mountain roads up and down and sitting in the passenger side I could see the valleys at least three or more miles below. I was nervous because although she’s a good driver there were very few railings anywhere to keep us from going over the edge.

Our biggest problem was when we got closer to home on a five lane highway with cars slowly moving bumper to bumper except for the odd person who had slowed down to look at his phone and text people with a huge gap ahead of him/her so lots of cars were swerving to one lane or another to avoid being stuck.

We didn’t get home until 4:00 and then rested a while before heading for the farmer’s market in downtown Benicia. There were lots of people selling fruit and vegetables and some selling jewelry or other things. They have farmer markets downtown in Benicia every Thursday evening when it’s summer and into fall, too, I assume. Mary bought apples, peaches and some other fruit, too, which she put in her car when we went for supper at a hotel. We ate out in an area between the next building with a wall at the back and a five piece band playing at the back. They were quite good and I enjoyed listening to them. We each ordered salads for dinner which were quite delicious with fresh baked bread, too.
Me with the giraffes 
 On Friday we went to the Oakland Zoo where we wandered around below before we took a gondola up to the top of the zoo. It flew up on a wire and only about four people could ride in it unless there were small children, too. It was a long ways down. At the top we got out and got coffee and something to eat in the café at the top and then walked around where we saw grizzly bears and some other animals before going back down.

It was a little scary.

When we left there we went to the LC Berkley Botanical Gardens with massive cactus gardens with cactus from all around the world. And other gardens of flowers and trees from different places around the world all labeled so you knew where they were from. It also had streams, ponds, and paths to follow. They also had a section of gardens for each state. It was such a large park that we couldn’t see the whole thing, but we will be going back again.

Mary fixed a delicious dinner and then we went to pick up Kira at h3eather’s house. When we left we went to the end of Benicia’s main street which ends at the Bay. Mary wanted to see the sunset over the water. We saw a sailboat out on the bay and some large boat coming around the corner from another area of the bay.

As we were leaving beside a building that has information on Benicia for those coming for the first time, there was a young man playing the bagpipes. I had Mary stop so I could get out and listen to him play. A man who stopped, too, said the man playing the bagpipes lived in one of the expensive apartments nearby because he could hear him playing during the day sometimes. According to Mary he often played there.

On Saturday morning we went shopping in Valejo for different shoes for me because all I had were sneakers as well as a sweater because where we were going that evening it might be chilly.
That evening we were going to a mystery dinner at a hotel in San Francisco. The meals were $76.00 each. We were told to dress casual, but not come in clothes that weren’t appropriate. We got caught in traffic so we were a little late, but there were others who came even later.

I'm sitting next to the crime scene chair.

There were eight people at each table, and we all had to put a fake name on a label and peal the back off and put it on ourselves. I chose Polly Peacock for the new pea en I’d bought for my son’s lonely peacock. Mary chose Pipi Pepper. We said we were the P P sisters. We were to question the people at our table and wander around until meals were served to talk to others.

Before meals were served a tall, very think, lanky young man wandered around talking to others. We figured he was one of the cast of players. I was sitting next to a chair with crime scene strip on it. When the last couple came, Mary and I moved down so they had seats.

After we were all settled a woman came out to talk to everyone. She was the one in charge of the mystery part of the evening. We started eating our salads then when she left the room. She wasn’t long gone before two men came out. One had handcuffs on his belt and the other had a gun, I think. They were police detectives looking for a murderer they thought was there so they started calling different people forward and questioned them asking if they were a murderer, or what kind of job they had, etc. etc.
They had no sooner left when the tall, skinny boy came running in moaning and crying with one hand on his side and fell to the floor moaning and groaning. The two detectives came back in and checked him and then carried him out before they came back in we already had our main course and we were eating it when the two police detectives came back in and started in again questioning people. They questioned a tall man who rode up in the elevator behind us. He said his job was as a minister caring for poor children. They moved on to others, too There had been clues typed up and laminated passed around to each table and we’d read them and pass them on to the next table. The person who picked the murderer was to get $100.00 and other prizes, too.

Mary had noticed a woman called Goosy Lucy dressed in green get up with a table knife and walk out of the room before the tall man who said he was a minister came staggering back in with his hand at his side moaning a groaning, too saying he’d been stabbed. So we were given a paper to write on it who we thought the murderer was and why we thought that. Mary picked Goosy Lucy and she was right. However I guess a lot of people picked her and someone else won the money and prizes. She didn’t think it was fair and she should have gotten at least something like maybe a coffee mug.

Mary and Kira by one of the many redwoods.

On Sunday we picked up Kira at Heather’s house and headed out to a California State Redwood Park to hike. It was so lovely and there were so many people walking there and many of them with dogs, too.We brought along a lunch, too, and in a open building with a few tables we ate our lunch. Mary always brings along a doggie dish to put water in for Kira. We quit walking after about three miles. At least that’s what Mary’s thing-a-ma-bob said it was.

That evening we went to a Chinese restaurant in Benicia and had such a delicious meal there. The only problem each plate brought to us had enough food to feed three people so most of it was bagged up and Mary put it in her freezer.

We got up a 4:30 the next morning to head for the airport and home for me. I’d packed the evening before so I was ready to go. I got there in time to get a cup of coffee and a pastry for my breakfast before loading, and then it was off to Dallas again. 

It was a while before my plane was to leave for Cleveland so I had enough time to get a sandwich and a cup of coffee. I’d already eaten the peanut butter and jelly sandwich Mary had sent with me as well as apple slices.

My granddaughter, Emilie, picked me up at the airport and took me home. My friend Laura was still there waiting for me to come home. It was good to be home and Maggie was so excited to see me it’s a wonder she didn’t knock me down. After I wrote a check for Laura she headed home. A little while later I headed for bed. The bed in Mary’s house was comfortable, but there’s nothing like being in your own bed in your home.

P.S. Mary and I both took way too many pictures to post here. 
Have you taken a trip to California?
Have you ever seen the redwood trees there?

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

An Interview with Dianne Freeman by E. B. Davis

In this exciting historical mystery debut set in Victorian England, a wealthy young widow encounters the pleasures—and scandalous pitfalls—of a London social season . . .
Frances Wynn, the American-born Countess of Harleigh, enjoys more freedom as a widow than she did as a wife. After an obligatory year spent mourning her philandering husband, Reggie, she puts aside her drab black gowns, leaving the countryside and her money-grubbing in-laws behind. With her young daughter in tow, Frances rents a home in Belgravia and prepares to welcome her sister, Lily, arriving from New York—for her first London season.

No sooner has Frances begun her new life than the ghosts of her old one make an unwelcome appearance. The Metropolitan police receive an anonymous letter implicating Frances in her husband’s death. Frances assures Inspector Delaney of her innocence, but she’s also keen to keep him from learning the scandalous circumstances of Reggie’s demise. As fate would have it, her dashing new neighbor, George Hazelton, is one of only two other people aware of the full story.

While busy with social engagements on Lily’s behalf, and worrying if Reggie really was murdered, Frances learns of mysterious burglaries plaguing London’s elite. The investigation brings death to her doorstep, and Frances rallies her wits, a circle of gossips, and the ever-chivalrous Mr. Hazelton to uncover the truth. A killer is in their midst, perhaps even among her sister’s suitors. And Frances must unmask the villain before Lily’s season—and their lives—come to a most unseemly end . . .

Dianne Freeman’s debut novel, A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder, caught my attention from the beginning. Her main character, Frances Wynn, who, in the first paragraph, compares her marriage to mourning, evoked my sympathy.

Sometimes it’s hard for me to read stories set during the Victorian era because women so often are treated as chattel. But even though Frances’s mother traded her daughter and money for an English-title marriage, Frances doesn’t act like a victim and that may be why, after her husband is dead more than a year, she’s suspected in his murder. Murder? She didn’t even know he’d been murdered.   

With a little help from her friends, Frances conquers all. 

Please welcome author Dianne Freeman to WWK.                                                                E. B. Davis

Did American gentry often buy titles for their daughters by marrying them off to titled foreigners with a large monetary payment made to the husband?

During the last quarter of the 19th century and the first few years of the 20th, there were enough transatlantic marriages between American heiresses and cash-strapped British peers to consider it a phenomenon. The brides came from some of the wealthiest nouveau riche families who didn’t have the status to break into New York society. An aristocratic son-in-law could provide enough status to raise the family’s social standing on both sides of the Atlantic. But aristocrats don’t come cheap. When Anita Murphy of San Francisco married Sir Charles Michael Wolseley, 9th Baronet in 1883, it’s reported her father provided a dowry of two million dollars. But when May Goelet became the Duchess of Roxburgh in 1903, the price of the title was two million pounds! At that time a pound was worth about five U.S. dollars.

Was the story set during the end of the Victorian era?

Yes, the Victorian era ended in January of 1901 with Queen Victoria’s death.

Was the mourning period one year? During that time, did they not have company or callers?

By this point in the Victorian era people were becoming impatient with their queen’s constant seclusion while she mourned her husband’s death. This could be why mourning practices began to relax and strict observance became a matter of choice, particularly if the mourner was young. For a spouse, however, a year of mourning was considered the minimum. The mourner could still pay and receive calls, but it was not acceptable to attend large entertainments or wear bright colors.

You mentioned Frances’s sister-in-law, power/money hungry Delia, wasn’t wealthy enough to marry the oldest, titled son—so this was the custom—not just something tacky Americans did?

Britain’s primogeniture laws were still in place in 1899 so the eldest son inherited not only the title but any property and wealth that went with it. He also inherited the upkeep of any property, which could be extensive and expensive, and he might be expected to provide a living for various family members. If you are a member of that family and you hope to receive an allowance of some sort, you want the heir to find the wealthiest bride he can.

Why didn’t Frances think about returning to the US when she became a widow? Her entire family was there.

Frances’ life to this point revolved around duty—first to her mother, then her husband, and finally her in-laws. If she returned to the states, she’d be back under her mother’s rule and she didn’t relish the prospect of living out that cycle again. If there was a chance she could make it on her own, she wanted to give it a go.

Luckily, Frances’s father set up a household account for her exclusive use to help raise daughter, Rose. Was he progressive or did he have reservations about Reggie?

Mr. Price was not all that progressive. The property laws had changed in the 1880s and married women did have the right to hold property in their own names. However, this was far too progressive for the Wynn family, who were used to the head of the family controlling all the funds. When the families started negotiating marriage settlements, he knew he’d better establish an account solely for Frances.

Reggie’s death occurred during their hosting a house party in which bed-hopping was one of the primary entertainments. If adultery was common, why isn’t it more accepted? One married for money, not love.

This is a little tricky. Aristocrats tended to follow the example of their monarch, but this royal family set two opposite examples for how one should behave. Queen Victoria was all about family and propriety while her son, the Prince of Wales, was something of a wild child. Because he was the royal out mixing in society, his example was what more people followed—it was also much more fun. But since they still wanted to please the queen, outwardly they were prim and proper. Cheating on one’s spouse was accepted, but it should never become public knowledge. This is what makes the Victorian era so interesting; everyone is hiding something.

Frances seems philosophical about her marriage, but not about her money or her freedom. Does the lawsuit brought about by brother-in-law Graham have any merit?

The lawsuit has no merit, but because it must be answered, and her account is frozen, it becomes a nuisance. Graham hopes for a settlement from Frances. He’ll drop the suit and Frances can access her funds again.

Although Frances must tighten her budget, she still has six people working in her employ even without a butler or footmen. How can she afford them?

Frances is a creature of her environment. She’s never done without servants and definitely considers them a necessity. Fortunately for her, service does not pay well. Frances will spend about 125 pounds per year for her entire staff. That’s about 20 – 25% of what she can expect to earn in interest.

Fiona Nash, Frances’s English best friend, has a brother, George Hazelton, who turns out to be Frances’s new next-door neighbor. Why does she seem so reluctant to befriend him?

Pure embarrassment? When her husband died, Frances had to ask George to render a service that was unseemly at best. She would have preferred never to lay eyes on him again.

What does George Hazelton do for a living?

He worked as an assistant to the Home Secretary, H.H. Asquith. It’s similar to what we would call Homeland Security. What he does now, is a bit of a secret.

I loved Frances’s brandy-imbibing Aunt Hetty? Please describe her for our readers.

Aunt Hetty is one of my favorite characters. She’s Frances’ aunt on her father’s side and knows a good business deal when she sees one. She married the love of her life, who passed away from influenza far too young. After that she moved in with Frances’ family and became a loving fixture in her life. Hetty is fifty years old, has her own income, and does whatever she wants.

Frances’s sterling character shines through when she returns a stolen bracelet that was planted on her to Reggie’s last lover, Alicia. Honesty really is the best policy and the best defense, too, isn’t it? Why?

Frances would never consider keeping someone else’s property, but in this case, she doesn’t want to be caught with it either. Someone might think she’s the mysterious burglar.

Your plot was complex combining murder, marriage, courtship, robbery, trust, distrust, and friendship. Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I’m a pantser turned plotter. The first draft of this book was all pantser—then I found all the plot holes! I belatedly wrote a scene-by-scene outline before revising, and I’ve been outlining ever since.

You leave Frances contemplating going into the sponsorship of other wealthy young women who want to experience the debutante season in London. Is this why you titled your book as such?

Frances suffered through her mother’s version of finishing school, so Frances’ manners and her understanding of what is and isn’t done in society is second to none. If there were a guide to etiquette, Frances could write it. Her sister, Lily balked at this training and as a result, needed help in navigating the social world. Their roles as sponsor and debutante helped to create the title.

What’s next for Frances?

Frances will have another chance to investigate when an acquaintance is found murdered in her own home. She can’t image who would want to harm the poor dear until she learns the woman had countless notes hidden away in her home, detailing the private indiscretions of society’s elite. Now Frances has to wonder who wouldn’t kill her to keep their secrets safe? A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder will be out in June of 2019.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Telling Stories and Storytelling

Image courtesy of Roke from Wikimedia Commons
My grandmother always told me, “Now don’t you be telling no stories.”

She meant lies and other nefarious fabrications, not flights of fancy. The word “story” could mean either in her mind, and she frowned on both. Anything that wasn’t factual was suspect because non-facts had no foundation and therefore couldn’t be trusted. Stories were like gathering clouds—dangerous in their potential.

My husband would agree with her definition if not her assessment. He’s an engineer, suspicious of the frayed edge that all stories have, the place where facts start unraveling. He says that fact and truth are the same thing. He says that if he started writing equations based on my ideas of truth, planes would fall from the sky.

It’s a point.

And yet my brain can’t make sense of all the facts around me. Information overload sets in, so my brain begins editing my reality into something I can comprehend, erasing this, focusing on that. It connects my present experience to the other experiences folded and tucked in my gray matter, and by doing so, creates a chronology, a sense of past and future, effect and consequence. The human brain is wired for stories, and it programs our consciousness accordingly.

Not facts. Stories.

Memory is useful not for what it records, but for what it erases. For the vast majority of us, it is not photographic. It takes out the extraneous
however factualand leaves us with essencehowever slanted. And our recollection is slanted; it must be. No true and perfectly accurate memory exists. Certain details, by necessity, weren’t captured in the first place, and every subsequent time your consciousness touches the memory, it further alters it, even as the flawed memory is carved deeper into your brain.

Jonah Lehrer explains it more eloquently than I can in his Seed magazine article "The Neuroscience of Proust":
“Every time we remember, the neuronal structure of the memory, no matter how constant it may feel, is delicately transformed. If you prevent the memory from changing, it ceases to exist. So the purely objective memory . . . is the one memory lost to you forever.”
Criminal justice research shows how problematic this process is, revealing that even though juries value eyewitness identification as gold-standard evidence, it is actually the most fallible of testimony.

I think this is why I’ve always loved reading mysteries, why I eventually became a crime fiction writer. If my own memory was suspect, malleable, shaped by my subconscious every second of the day, then why not lean into that unreliability? Why not partner with it instead of fighting it?

And so I have. I’m hard at work crafting the seventh book in my Tai Randolph series, tentatively titled Prodigal Lies. Like me, Tai isn’t afraid of a little lie (white or otherwise). She spins them out of necessity, but also for the sheer fun of it. It’s one of the pleasures of writing her.

Sorry, Grandma.

*     *     * 

Tina Whittle writes the Tai Randolph mysteries for Poisoned Pen Press. The sixth book in this Atlanta-based series—Necessary Ends—is available now. Tina is a proud member of Sisters in Crime and serves as both a chapter officer and national board member. Visit her website to follow her on social media, sign up for her newsletter, or read additional scenes and short stories: