Friday, March 31, 2023

The Real History of Florida: A blog by Warren Bull

 Image from Wikimedia Commons

The Real History of Florida: A blog by Warren Bull

Governor Ron Desantis of Florida is a polarizing political figure with strong support in the state. He was re-elected with 59.4% of the vote. Regardless of your opinion about some of his policies, I believe we should all support his efforts at least in one area.  His stated goal is to have real history taught. As he said to students about his ideas for when his plan is implemented, "You're learning the real history. You're learning the real facts. It's not going to be done in a way to indoctrinate students with whatever modern agenda someone may have." 

Sure, there are other problems in the state. For example:

As early as 2050 much of the Florida coastline could be underwater. Flooding would affect Miami, Orlando, Tampa Bay, and any other major center touching saltwater. Note: But much of the state would still be above water.


Within a few decades of release, starting in the 1980s, invasive Burmese and hybrid pythons had devoured just about every living mammal in their new home. Today, wildlife officials estimate that Florida’s invasive pythons have eliminated up to 99% of the furred creatures that once called the Everglades home. 

For perspective on just how out of balance the python is, captured individuals in the Everglades have measured nearly 19 feet in length while the next largest US snake is the eastern indigo which measures up to 8.5 feet in length.

According to wildlife biologists, it’s highly unlikely that Florida will ever be rid of its invasive snakes, hybrid or otherwise. The reason for this is that the hybrid pythons now live across 1,000 square miles of the Florida Everglades and estimates of their population top 100,000 snakes. That’s a lot of ground to cover for extermination.

Note: So, Floridians will have to learn to live with the snakes.

But let’s get back to education and real history.  A few relevant events include,

By Chelle Koster Walton

1513 -- Juan Ponce de Leon makes the first European landfall somewhere in the vicinity of St. Augustine claiming La Florida for Spain. Note: It is unclear whether he discussed the “discovery” with the people already living in the area or, if he did, what their response to the claim was. Consider that on his second visit, natives shot poisoned arrows at him

1559 -- Florida's first settlement is started. It ended with starvation.

1600-1700 -- Spain is on a mission to "educate" (convert to Catholicism) Florida's native people. Its priests build more than 30 missions along the northeast coast and westward.

1564-1723 -- Spain and France battle to claim the area.

1763 -- At the end of the Seven Years' War, England gives Cuba to Spain in exchange for St. Augustine. Note: Residents pack up and sail to Cuba helped by the people there.

1776-80 -- Florida, now British, supports the Motherland during the American Revolution, providing a safe haven for thousands of Tories.

1783 -- St. Augustine is again swapped, ending up once more in Spanish hands.

1785-1795 -- Spain relinquishes St. Augustine and Pensacola to England.

1803 -- The United States of America claims West Florida and its capital Pensacola as part of the Louisiana Purchase.

1813 -- England is not so keen on giving up Pensacola and General Andrew Jackson arrives to drive the British out.

1818 -- Jackson's actions spark the first of two skirmishes with the Seminole Indians.

1821-1823 -- Jackson becomes Florida's provisional governor when the U.S. purchases Florida and its capital St. Augustine from Spain. Tallahassee becomes the new capital.

1830-1840 -- Boom! Florida's first flush of settlers arrives by steamboat and the population grows from 15,000 to 34,000.

1835-1842 -- Seminole Wars, the sequel.

1845 -- It's official: Florida becomes the 27th state with 66,500 people.

1861-1865 -- It's official: Florida becomes a non-state when it secedes from the Union. Florida provisions Confederate troops with salt, beef, and bacon during the Civil War.

1959 -- Fidel Castro's assumption of power results in the first influx of Cuban immigrants to Florida. Note: This was a voluntary movement.

1980 -- Nearly 125,000 more Cuban immigrants arrive in the Mariel boatlift. Note: Castro empties prisons and psychiatric hospitals. These people are expelled from Cuba.


Let’s us learn a bit more about Seminoles 

The Seminole people primarily came from the Creek Indians who had moved into Florida from southern Georgia and Alabama. From 1805 through 1816 there was increasing friction between white settlers, Florida Indians, and the Creek Confederation. The Seminoles began hiding runaway slaves who had escaped from southern plantations into Spanish Florida. Note: the escaped slaves became full members of the group. Others who did not fit into society were also welcomed. The group was never a tribe in the traditional sense of the word.

On November 21, 1817, General Gaines sent 250 men from Fort Scott in Georgia to arrest Chief Neamathla; gunfire was exchanged thus starting the beginning of the First Seminal Indian War. Note: Seminoles did not start the conflict.

In March of 1818 General Andrew Jackson crossed into Florida attacking the Spanish fort at St. Marks with 3,500 men and then marched east to the Suwanne River and attacked the village of Chief Boleck. Many Indians escaped into the swamps. Jackson was unable to find or capture the Seminoles thus ending the First Seminole Indian War. Note: Seminoles did not start this conflict either. Jackson pretty much just declared victory and left.

In 1819 Florida was sold by the Spanish to the United States. There were about 5,000 Seminole Indians who claimed Florida’s 32 million acres of land as their own. In 1823 under the treaty of Moultrie Creek, they gave up their claim which resulted in reducing their land to 4 million acres, with no access to their cultivated lands, game, and either ocean. Then President Jackson in 1830, signed the Indian Removal Act requiring the relocation of the Seminoles to Oklahoma.

Osceola, a young Seminole leader organized opposition to the relocation. The Second Seminole Indian War began on December 28, 1835, when Osceola and a band of warriors killed the Indian Agent and four other whites at Fort King. On the same day, Chief Micanopy’s warriors attacked Major Dade and his troops, killing Major Dade and 105 of his 108 men. Three days after the killing of Major Dade on the banks of the Withlacoochee River, 250 Seminole Indians led by Osceola and Alligator attacked General Clinch and 750 U.S. Troops. This saved most of the Seminole villages in the area.

On February 28, 1836, General Edmund Gaines with 1,100 troops from New Orleans was crossing the Withlacoochee River, he also was attacked by Osceola with more than 1,500 warriors. Lt. James F. Izard was killed during the battle; when the fort was constructed it was named Ft. Izard in his honor during this 10-day battle. This was the only battle involving the entire force of Seminole warriors. The war Chiefs of Osceola, Alligator, and Jumper were all involved, resulting in the only time when U.S. soldiers were held under siege by the Indians.

After this major battle, the Seminoles broke into small guerilla bands and moved south attacking by surprise and disappearing into the swamps.

Between 1835 and 1842, almost 3,000 Seminoles were removed to Oklahoma. For every two Indians removed, one American soldier died. The Second Seminole War was the bloodiest and longest in United States history. In 1842, the U.S. government withdrew and the Seminole Indians never signed a peace treaty.

Chief Billy Bowlegs lead an attack in December 1855 beginning the Third Seminole War.  Note: This article finally ditched the word “Indian.” As noted earlier the group included more than indigenous people. 

This was done in protest of the U.S. government sending patrols into Seminole territory. Some negotiations ended with a treaty being signed giving Seminoles land in Oklahoma.

The Florida Seminoles crept quietly deep into the Everglades. Their descendants over the years have fought the good fight and have prospered by teaching the old ways, providing for their young and old, and preserving their heritage through education, museums, trusts, and holdings. Note: They never surrendered. 

How about slavery?

1619 was the date the first African was sold into slavery on the North American continent, but slavery in Florida existed earlier. 

On the heels of Ponce de León’s claiming Florida, the Spanish empire tried to create settlements in its new territory. For example, in 1526 another Spanish explorer, Lucas Vázquez de Ayllón, tried to establish a Spanish settlement at San Miguel de Gualdape in what was then La Florida (the current Georgia or South Carolina coast.) The Ayllón group included both Spaniards and African slaves who were brought as mining and agricultural workers. The settlement collapsed, First, some of the Spaniards mutinied against Ayllón. Then the African slaves burned down the mutineers’ housing and went to live with Native Americans in the area.

While the historical record on early slavery in Florida is thin, scholars have uncovered the ways in which it was endorsed and exploited by the Spanish crown, while being challenged and resisted by the very slaves forcibly brought across the Atlantic through the slave trade. 

Note: The real fact is that slavery failed over and over again in Florida. From the beginning, slaves fought the system. That is an important part of real history. It is also important to recognize that it is a real fact that Floridians have always used violence to oppress and kill people they hate and fear. 

During the depression in the 1920s, when the KKK elsewhere was shrinking. Florida had an estimated 30,000 members. 

In 1951 the Florida Klan declared war on “hate groups” listing, among others, the NAACP, B’nai B’rith, the Catholic Church, and the Federal Council of Churches. So many bombings took place that the KKK was called “The Florida Terror.” 

Note: The so-called “hate groups” did not do the bombings.

I would hate to get involved in political controversy so let me stop here and say that I am strongly supportive of teaching the real facts of Florida History.

Thursday, March 30, 2023

When A Writer of Spy Fiction Hates Technology By Sandy Manning

I write espionage thrillers, which means by definition that technology has to be involved. After all, in today's world much of the work of intelligence gathering is done through interception of electronic communications and through surveillance of social media. Cameras are omnipresent, not only fixed cameras on traffic intersections and on shops but those little computers in our pockets that also allow us all to record events that happen in front of us.


And yet - I hate reading about (or writing) technology. But I love spy novels.


What I like about spy novels is the challenge of someone using intelligence and nerve in a battle of wits with a dangerous opponent. I like to explore how people use deception and sleight of hand (so to speak) to ferret out information, and I particularly like to explore the sometimes not so moral choices that my characters have to make (and what it does to them) in pursuit of a greater good.


So how to write those kinds of novels without drowning in technology?


One way is to write about events from the past. I just moderated a panel on spying for Sisters in Crime. One panelist wrote about spying during the Revolutionary War. Another panelist wrote about spying in 1975 in connection with events in India. (The third panelist didn't write about spies, but she was a veteran of the CIA.)


I've read historical spy novels - and they're excellent. The technology that's used is not very, how shall I say it, technical. The emphasis is on the battle of wits, on the moral questions, and on questions of character. And of course, it's easier to do that in the past. In George Washington's day, the technology might have been putting notes inside a statue. In the 1970s, agents could bug a room or use a camera the size of a lipstick, but the cameras still used film, and the film had to be transported and developed.  There wasn't instant communication, with a spy able to immediately transmit data through a cell phone. The NSA wasn't gobbling up millions of electronic transmissions around the world and using algorithms to sift through and find anything of interest. And people's whereabouts couldn't be tracked by a phone that they carried.


But I don't write historical novels. We live in the here and now, and the political and social issues of today are what I want to write about. For example, my last novel, Bloody Soil, was about the rising threat from the far right, with the history of the Holocaust intertwined. In my novels, I want to not only give readers a thrilling experience with engaging characters, but to increase their awareness of issues that matter to our lives now and in the future.


So how to do that without writing too much technology?


One way I deal with it is by turning technology into another challenge for the characters to overcome.  Characters know that cameras are watching, that people are listening to communications and reading emails, so they act accordingly. They find ways to get around it. They communicate in code. They use disguises to get around cameras, much as they would have done in the case of human watchers. In Nerve Attack, Kolya, my protagonist, operating inside Russia, wears layers of clothes and a hat and scarf to conceal his face. After he's forced to kill an FSB agent, he ducks into a bathroom, removes his topcoat, and dumps the hat and scarf.


My spy world (and the world of intelligence) can also use technology against the enemy to give misleading information. I did that to some extent in my first novel Trojan Horse while keeping the focus on the characters involved.


But my books - and intelligence gathering - continue to have a focus on the human.


In the world of intelligence, human intelligence (HUMINT) remains vitally important. Some of the world's bad actors have learned not to send emails or texts and not to carry a phone. They use burners. They stay off social media. They can also use technology to send misleading information. That's why the best information still comes from an inside source who can reveal an organization's (or nation's) secret plans. That's why in Bloody Soil, my protagonist has to join the neo-Nazi group instead of just listening to transmissions or reading emails. Penetration of a dangerous group not only provides vital information, it is dangerous for the agent doing so. Being undercover can also put an agent in a position of having to commit a crime to conceal who he really is and what he's really doing. Not only can this happen in real espionage, but when a writer uses those situations in a novel, they make for great suspense and character development. I use the latter situation in Bloody Soil when my protagonist has to commit a murder or be killed himself.


So, it is possible to write about espionage in the here and now without being a techno whizz, both because it can be worked around and because not every kind of espionage requires advanced technology. And writers still create gripping tales of espionage that are set in our time frame without a degree from MIT.


AN AWARD-WINNING WRITER, S. Lee Manning is the author of international thrillers, Trojan Horse, Nerve Attack, and Bloody Soil, which uniquely feature a Russian-Jewish immigrant to the United States working for American intelligence. Her latest novel, Bloody Soil, deals with the threat from far-right extremists. Manning spent two years as managing editor of Law Enforcement Communications before embarking on a subsequent career as an attorney that spanned from a first-tier New York law firm, to working for the State of New Jersey, to solo practice. After taking a class in stand-up at the Vermont Comedy Club, she was a semi-finalist in the 2019 Vermont’s Funniest Comedian contest, and she still performs stand-up on occasion. Manning lives in Vermont with her writer husband James and their very vocal cat, Xiao.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

An Interview with Ellen Byron writing as Maria DiRico By E. B. Davis

 Worry is paying a debt you may not owe…

Maria DiRico, Four Parties and a Funeral, Kindle Loc. 254


The June events schedule at Belle View is busting out all over—proms, graduations, and of course, weddings. There are unexpected bookings too, including a casting call for the pilot of Dons of Ditmars Boulevard. But soon, Mia’s fears about the cheesy reality show are confirmed . . .
Belle View quickly becomes the site of a sea of wanna-be goombahs and phony girlfriends, and some of Mia’s friends insist on getting in on the action. The production company owner and his executive producer ex-wife—who’s also very minor British royalty—have assembled a motley crew that does as much infighting and backstabbing as the on-screen “talent.” Even so, it’s a shock when a dead body is found in the pool house of a local mansion rented by the show . . .
Murder might boost the ratings. But Mia intends to make sure the killer gets jail time, not airtime . . .


Four Parties and a Funeral is the fourth book in Maria DiRico’s (Ellen Byron) Catering Hall mystery series. It was released yesterday.


This series keeps me guessing its backstory. Just when I think I know what is going to happen—it doesn’t—something else does. Of course, that’s also the reason I like the series. This is not predictable prose!


Please welcome Maria/Ellen back to WWK.    E. B. Davis

Do you plot a series arc and work the backstory to an end point? I actually don’t arc my series. I have a general idea about the ongoing storyline for my characters but let one book inform the next in terms of their growth.


Mia and her boyfriend Shane complain to each other about being brought up in notorious families that caused hurt and shame in their youths. Did Shane also come from a mob family? Yes! The Gambrazzo Family, which was based in Florida. (Fictionally, of course. 😊)


The mob Godfather, Donny Boldano Senior and his wife, Aurora, are dangerous people. Even so, why do we like them so much? Because I focused on problems we can all relate to: marital discord, kids they don’t know what to do with, aging… I also made Donny semi-retired and more interested in legit than illegal businesses. It’s a cozy series. I always keep that in mind. The prototype is one of my favorite movies from the 1980’s, Married to the Mob.


The reality show, “The Dons of Ditmars Boulevard” showcases Little Donny, who needs a career since he isn’t cut out for the mob. Although “Don” in Italian is a title of honor, in slang, it also refers to a mob boss. Why would Little Donny go on the show when it associates himself with his father, the Don of the mob? Wouldn’t that be too much exposure? This is one of the reasons Donny Senior is very unhappy with his son doing the show. But he also knows DJ is at sea and loves his son and wants him to find his path in life. And he knows that even DJ would draw the line at revealing anything incriminating or that would endanger his loved ones.


If there is a real Ditmars Boulevard, what’s it like? It’s the main drag in Queens, with shops and restaurants.


Why is Connecticut called the “Nutmeg State?” I had to look this up! It’s an unofficial nickname and no one seems to know the origin. The official nickname is The Constitution State.


I found it hard to believe that Madison’s cousin, the Anglophile, Pickney, had such atrocious manners. Wouldn’t her upbringing and interest in English Royalty influence her manners for the better? That’s so funny, because she’s based on a real person I knew! A very good question. And one I’ll put to the person in question if I ever see her again, lol.


Many of the reality show associates displayed transactional behavior. What is transactional behavior? Is it a new term for being Machiavellian? Narcissistic? It’s more upfront than Machiavellian. It’s taking a certain action knowing it will get you something in return. I.e., on a reality show like The Bachelor, a contestant may throw a fit or be nasty knowing it will get them more screentime. The producers understand this and expect it.


In the past, journalist Teri has been helpful to Mia. But she’s a pain! Why? What is it about Teri that is so irritating? I like to think of Teri as affably annoying. She enjoys getting a rise out of Mia. And she’s completely comfortable with who she is.


What’s a cafone? Basically, it’s someone who’s low-class and boorish, male or female, although I think it’s used more for men than women.


What’s a sizzle reel? It’s basically a sales reel – a short promotional video that will get buyers excited about your product. In TV, if you’re producing a pilot without a pre-set buyer, you’d put together the juiciest clips to woo a buyer.


What’s a Frankenbite? This is a reality TV term for when they cut together disparate takes to create a manufactured moment. It looks like a single shot but is different clips edited together for more of a dramatic effect.  I.e. – and this is exaggerated – a contestant might say at different times, “I hate strawberries” and “I’d like to talk to you.” A Frankenbite would be editing those moments together somehow into her saying “I hate you.”


What’s a second line? Technically, it’s the line of mourners marching after the band following a funeral in New Orleans. But it’s morphed into a celebratory quasi-parade for all kinds of events.


Is Little Island real? Yes, and it’s fantastic! It was primarily funded by Diane Von Furstenberg and her husband Barry Diller and is in the Hudson River around 14th Street at the pier where the old White Star ocean liners used to dock. Home - Little Island


What does Farkakte mean? It’s a Yiddish word that basically means “messed up” or “ridiculous.” It’s kind of a Yiddish verbal version of an eye roll.


What is Montepulciano wine? Is that a vineyard’s name? It’s a red wine varietal generally grown in the Abruzzo region of Italy, where my mother is from.


What’s next for Mia? The Witless Protection Program will launch in June 2024 and we’ll finally get to meet her no-good adulterer of a husband, Adam Grosso. And yes, he’s still her husband, which will complicate her personal life enormously – as you might expect!

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Using Music as a Muse by Martha Reed

When I need to do a deep dive into the creative wellspring, I like to have music playing in the background. There’s something about hearing a steady rhythmic beat that helps me focus. This may come from growing up in a household where - if anyone was actually in the house - an ancient Panasonic radio with tinfoil bunny ears was always, always playing modern pop tunes from the kitchen. Music meant the very definition of home.

As much as I admire musicians for their creativity in writing song lyrics, I do not comprehend how they create a musical accompaniment (e.g. write a song). I can boogie to a thumping disco beat at a wedding reception as well as anyone, but when musicians kindly try to explain to me what the “language of music” is, I’m lost. And I don’t know why. Written language is my life. Musical comprehension sounds like something that should be right up my alley, and yet, it’s not. As a child, I suffered through enforced piano lessons for years staring at clef and treble notes and waiting for those black dots to magically turn into words. I’ve had professional musicians try to teach me how to play the guitar – twice. Nope. No go. To my protesting brain, musical comprehension sounds too much like math.

Yet here I am, sitting at my desk writing this blog with Kool & The Gang playing in the background. Since music seems to be a tool in my writerly toolbox, how do I use it?

I’ve learned that music is a trait than can help me define a character. If my character drives a pickup truck, rolls down the windows, and cranks the volume when listening to Luke Bryan songs, that tells the reader something about him/her that I don’t need to use extraneous words to explain.

In “The Choking Game,” my first Nantucket Mystery novel, Sally Poldridge loves listening to jazz music, especially Diana Krall’s vibe when she sings Irving Berlin’s evocative “Let’s Face the Music and Dance.” Whenever I needed to develop Sally’s character, I played the song on a YouTube loop. Here’s a link for a quick listen:

The power in listening to it still gives me chills.

Music saturates “Love Power,” my NOLA Mystery. Of course, being set in New Orleans, jazz, blues, and gospel music are required. I underlined the music even more by making Ken Pascoe the sole surviving member of The WarBirds, an 80’s heavy metal rock band. In my imagination, I believe The WarBirds sounded like Bachman Turner Overdrive:

When I needed to access Ken’s character, listening to a BTO song instantly let me in.

Do you ever use music as a muse? Which musical genres help you write your stories?

Monday, March 27, 2023


 Have you ever tried to write something using a new computer? How about with a (relatively) new puppy? The two in tandem raise the difficulty level in writing to previously unseen heights. Technically speaking, I am also writing this with a new word processing program. Word Online is different from Word downloaded to a computer but not so hard that I can’t handle it.  

So how, exactly, did I end up in this fix? First, the laptop I was using died. Kaput. And I really miss it – the keys lit up at night, the keyboard was the right size for my fingers, the speed was perfect, and I had lots stored on it. We have a family laptop, but that is not the same as having my own writing spot. And while it may seem overkill, I really like having a computer dedicated to me and my writing.  

Then I went to the ABA Techshow in Chicago earlier this month. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and to top everything off, I, who never win anything, won a brand new Chromebook! So, I thought to myself, “Voila! I have my writing computer. Hooray!” Which is true, but as with any new technology, there is a learning curve. This learning curve is steeper because Chromebooks do not run off a Windows operating system but off its own system, Chrome OS. Also, as of this writing, Chromebooks are not compatible with Microsoft Office – at least the version that you download onto the computer. I used my Kindle Unlimited subscription to download the book Seniors Guide to Chromebook by Richard Reed (my husband is still laughing at me over the title) and learned that the reason for this is that the Chromebook is designed to use online apps, not programs loaded onto your computer. This allows a Chromebook to carry a lot less internal memory and makes it a lot lighter. Its keyboard is smaller than I’m used to, also, but I think once I get used to its particularities, I will end up liking it a lot. And free is infinitely better than paying for a new laptop, although laptops are lots cheaper than they used to be.  

Now, to backtrack a little. As you may recall, we adopted Max on December 27. He is now six months old, a sweet dog, but a puppy. Being a puppy, he is a very random thing. He does not normally lick me silly, but tonight, as soon as I sat down and opened my computer, he attacked. It’s difficult to write when your eyes are closed and your face is covered with your hands to keep your glasses from getting messed up, all while trying to figure out how to right click on a touch pad that follows its own rules. But finally, I have managed.  

So, for all my (hopefully) temporary difficulties, WWK community, meet my new writing tool, Chromebook. Chromebook, meet the WWK community.  

And everyone, Max says hello!