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About this page….

Thank you for visiting and sharing your comments. I’d also appreciate your advice on improving this relatively new page.

My name is Don Mulcare. I’m on permanent vacation (retired) after doing 35 to life in a state institution (The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth as a professor of biology.)

Retirement is a chance to do something else, especially the things that could not happen while working full time. The vegetable garden has fewer weeds and more vegetables. The compost heap runs hot and heavy. Travel is more practical and writing can change from occasional articles, lab handouts and letters of recommendation to fiction, book reviews and comments on travels.

Life is an adventure. That includes broken arms and making mistakes. It is better to learn from the adventure than dwell on the downside.

God Bless!

The Biscuit Bandit in WRiTECLUB

Your story reminded me of O. Henry and a scene from Les Miserables where the pastor gives the churches silver to Valjean. Hope you win the contest.

Word Craft

I’ve returned from a short hiatus of editing stories to submit to contests for #shortstorysunday. The story below was one I submitted to the WRiTECLUB Contest last year. I’ve submitted 2 stories for this year’s competition, so be sure to click the link and watch the bouts to see 30 brave writers compete anonymously for the top prize. The winner is chosen by you, the readers who take time out of your day to read two stories and leave a few encouraging words and a vote. It takes 3 weeks for all the contestants announced, so 137 writers will be checking in with baited breath!

Voting starts on April 29th, so bookmark the link now!

The Biscuit Bandit

Fritz glanced back, stretching his hand towards the steaming biscuit. It disappeared into his pocket, and Fritz sighed at the warmth. A second biscuit followed.

Then he saw it: the little cake…

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Unforgettable Fictional Friends

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We read novels because we care about the people who live between their pages.

William Shaw develops fascinating characters. Each person is vulnerable and brilliant in his or her own way, including the cast of The Birdwatcher.

Police Sergeant William South serves as Neighborhood Officer in the coastal patch of Kent in Southeastern England near Dungeness. He’s a first responder and the man who tracks down an elder who has lost his way. He keeps an eye on the local drug scene and chases shoplifters. A solitary man, South spends hours along the beaches and bogs looking for unusual birds.

On page one, when Sergeant South is ordered to assist in a murder investigation, he begs off because it’s October and prime birdwatching season and although no one else knows, William South is a murderer.

Luck abandons the Sergeant. The Dungeness victim happens to be his next-door neighbor and fellow birdwatcher. He’s torn between exposure and helping the Serious Crime Directorate find his friend’s murderer. He could leave the investigation in its early stages or later when told to stay away. Call it fate, but even official duties and ordinary acts like shopping or helping a friend, drag him deeper into the mystery. Each involvement redoubles his risk of exposure and even death.

Detective Sergeant Alexandra Cupidi’s past drives her from the Metropolitan Police and London. She’s desperate to make a strong first impression in Kent. A guilt-ridden single mother, she weighs professional success against her daughter Zoe’s adjustment to Kent.

Cupidi sees Neighborhood Officer South as an asset in her investigation. He knows the victim, the territory, and the shortcuts. Their relationship deepens as South eases tensions between Cupidi and Zoe. He rescues Zoe from bullies at her new school and hides her indiscretions.

Zoe is mature beyond her age—an adult trapped in the life of a fifteen-year-old schoolgirl. She loves and understands her mother. At the same time, Zoe compromises Alexandra’s professional and personal life. She can’t talk to her mother or the “cows” at school. Surprisingly, she confides in William South and plays matchmaker between him and her mother. Bored, Zoe gives birdwatching a try. Her drawings of birds in flight capture their jizz, amazing the experienced South.

The murderer lurks in the shadows and hides in plain sight. He or she may be stalking Cupidi, Zoe, or South. Cupidi believes that it must be a man. A woman could never kill with such violence and frequency, “Someone who literally cannot control themselves, or doesn’t want to. Someone so consumed with anger they cannot stop.”

Cupidi is anxious to close the case and secure her place in the Kent Serious Crime Directorate. When someone fits her image of the killer, South challenges her conclusions. His experience as a murderer suggests someone else is guilty.

Birds and birdwatching add color and plot twists. Birdwatching focuses on the extraordinary visitors, not the local gulls and sparrows—migrating species and individuals blown off course by ocean storms. South’s birdwatching parallels his police work. The Sergeant scans for anything unusual—a broken window, an abandoned automobile, or a group of individuals camped on a beach. South applies his birdwatching techniques to the murder investigation—high power binoculars and stakeouts even the birds can’t detect.

The Birdwatcher is two stories in one. Each chapter ends with a snippet set in Northern Ireland during The Troubles. Parallels between the life of young Billy and adult William include their interest in birdwatching and their fear of murder investigations.

The first page of The Birdwatcher accuses William South. Could he get away with murder, suffer imprisonment, or fall prey to the Kentish murderer? He’s an engaging character with great potential. Does he have a future?

 

 

The astronaut attitude

getoutoftherecliner

Not everything has to be geared towards achieving a specific future purpose to be worthwhile.

Let me rephrase that:

Don’t try to live in the future. Appreciate the present.

My dad was a storyteller. He grew up on a farm in Saskatchewan, and he had a great fund of stories featuring hard work, honesty, thrift, and generosity. The theme, in addition to whatever specific value was being imparted, was that living by that value would pay off in the end. Hard work pays off in a satisfying career. My dad’s thrift as a child enabled him to lend his parents money when times were tight in the Depression. His honesty in remembering all winter that he had to repay a penny as soon as the roads cleared earned him a whole bag of penny candy from the surprised storekeeper. His mother’s generosity to a band of traveling Cree people was…

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Lessons of the Road

amyhenrybooks

Keep walking, though there’s no place to get to. 
Don’t try to see through the distances. 
That’s not for human beings. 
Move within, but don’t move the way fear makes you move. 
(Rumi)

[The Spin: What better time than April, the month of Earth Day, to recycle a post from another April—with several spiffy additions applied like a new coat of (non-toxic) paint?

The Truth: Major time-crunch this past month—final revisions, agent searches, query letters. Every writer knows the drill. I promise to be back next month with a scintillating brand new post. Until then, rejoice. We have survived another winter.]

When I was in my twenties, I imagined that by 40 or so (when I imagined such an advanced age at all), I would have acquired a certain grace at living. Grace implied to me a kind of sanguine wisdom, the possession of which…

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A Mynah Work: Seeds of Thought/Poetic Injustice

 

Tripper RIP June 17,2011

This is what happens when you plant catnip seeds.

 

Corn Seeds

After the frost,

Is lost.

We rubes,

Plant corn in TP tubes,

Port and starboard;

In tubes of cardboard.

 

Where does one plant parsnips?

You can plant them in the road.

Or feed them to a toad.

Poke them with a goad.

And make them wear a snood.

 

 

A mynah work: Molokai

 

An owl, would make them howl.
A hawk, would end their squawk.
They’d snag those noisome mynahs.
And turn them into dinners.

Talons, the pests would fear.
They’d pay their own airfare.
To another island rally.
And liberate the pali.

 

Sea Song

Musical pun

Is all in fun

Tune a fish!

Kabob a shish

Water the dish

And get your wish

 

 

Poetic Injustice: The spirit of the potato rises with the moon

 

Drink the white lightning.

Are your spirits brightening?

Especially when distilled.

That’s why the soil is tilled.

 

Have you tasted any?

You can be so canny.

Not that I remember.

Don’t be a dissembler.

Maybe I blacked out.

You’re no Boy Scout!

 

It will be our secret.

You will be discreet.

Well, thank the Lord for that.

No tit-for-tat.

 

With confidentiality-

Let’s begin.

Will Poitín wash away,

The stain of sin?

 

Yes, if used at baptism!

You’ll start another schism.

‘Twould have to be dilute. **

And the pastor mute!

 

** A minute impurity in Baptismal water would neither add to nor detract from the sacrament.

 

Rain, at Last

 

Raindrops pound while sleep we must.

They rinsed the leaves and touched the dust.

Sadly, all the roots still lust.

Stormy only wet the crust.

Self publishing 2 – improving

Clarissa Gosling

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In the previous post in this series I wrote about the importance of sitting down to write. You can’t succeed self publishing books if you have nothing to publish.

As well as writing, and the pure drive to get words on the page, you need to be looking to improve your craft of writing. Make what you do write better. And understand that this is a lifelong task – as long as you are writing there is always something to improve.

Story structure, characterisation, emotional resonance, dialogue, descriptions, outlining methods, how to create tension, … this list can go on and on. And I have by no means mastered any of them! I am still finding out what works for me. I find this really exciting – a challenge to see how my writing improves the more I do it. Trying to find new ways to describe things. Description…

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From Oasis to Atoll

 

More than a half-century ago, four members of a wedding headed west traversing four states, the Mississippi, and Missouri Rivers. At two in the morning, we lost our way in a desert of Iowa corn. We scrutinized our paper road map to no avail. Ahead and to our right, mercury-vapor lamps buzzed their sharp blue rays at an isolated house and barn. Being city-folks, we decided—perhaps irrationally— that we might find ourselves on the receiving end of buckshot if we approached the sleeping homestead, so we looked to the sky for guidance—prayers and celestial navigation.

For some reason, Iowa had more stars than we’d seen in our cities. Nevertheless, we found the Big Dipper and Polaris. Reoriented, we zigzagged along any westward trail we could find until we stumbled upon a paved road with highway signs. What a wonderful feeling to locate ourselves on the roadmap. In time, we connected with Route 20—a road that runs from Boston to Oregon. Twenty steered us through endless Iowa-cornfields, across Missouri, and into the endless Nebraska-cornfields. Eventually, Route 20 brought us to O’Neill Nebraska. Handwritten directions guided us to the bride’s family farm—an oasis of trees amid the endlessly dry and sand-colored rows of corn. In true oasis fashion, the family welcomed us as friends they’d never met, offering us food, and a place to sleep. The rehearsal, the wedding, the celebration, and the times in-between remain fuzzy but pleasant memories.

Our hosts explained that oasis trees were a luxury—something like pets or exotic plants. The plains were meant for grass, not trees. Trees may survive along river or stream banks, but on a farm they needed TLC, especially watering during dry-spells. In return, cottonwoods, oaks, and walnuts blocked some of the wind and cooled man and beast in summer.

My image of the oasis surrounded by Nebraska corn suffered a devastating jolt during the news coverage of this week’s bomb cyclone in the plains, including Nebraska.  Ariel images revealed fallow farmland flooded from horizon to horizon. Occasionally, rings or clusters of trees—like atolls—surrounded flooded houses, barns, and sheds. I’m not sure how O’Neill fared, but it has likely suffered crippling losses. Fortunately, my friends survived, although the floods swept away a local access road.

Meteorologists predict the worst is yet to come. As snow and ice melt upstream and the flooding swells rivers to the south. Destruction and misery will multiply downstream. The short and long-term consequences will challenge the skills and resources of emergency managers and stress the agricultural sector already suffering from tariffs.

As in Louisiana and California, levy-failures exacerbated property loss and environmental degradation. The USA has long ignored infrastructure. Supposedly, both Parties agree on this issue.

Nikita Khrushchev said, “We do not have to invade the United States. We will destroy you from within.” From the looks of our infrastructure, the USA is on its way to destruction. Thanks to Nikita and his ilk, our obsession with defense spending for tanks and aircraft that the Generals have rejected has shortchanged infrastructure. Neglect and misguided priorities have begun to process of destroying America from within.

 

 

850 x 400 · jpegazquotes.com

 

Diogenes Eats Humble Hummus

 

We needed yeast and a few other things, so I drove to Market Basket to fill a shopping cart with bare necessities, among them a container of hummus, and of course, the yeast. The yeast was the smallest item in the cart, so I had to make sure it didn’t escape.

At check-out, I tapped my credit card on the counter and chatted with the bagger as she loaded my items. I paid no attention to the yeast until I arrived home.

Where was it? I searched the sundry shopping bags I’d used—no yeast.

Maybe it fell out of my cart and was never bagged. Now I had to find the receipt. You can tell, I’m disorganized. But I did find the sales slip and checked each item. I’d paid $1.49 for a three-pack of quick rising yeast. Did I put it in the refrigerator? No!

Well, if I lost the yeast, other items may have gone astray. Careful screening of the receipt revealed I’d paid $3.49 for the hummus, but it too was gone. A psychologist friend once told me I suffered from Diogenes Syndrome. You remember Diogenes, the guy with the lamp searching for an honest man. In my case, I’d spent years of my life looking for misplaced items like yeast and hummus.

Yes, my life is a mess. Imagine a desk piled with papers surrounding a laptop. Look over the pile. That’s me behind it. As a Diogenes sufferer, I’ve developed coping skills. These skills do not include a filing system or shedding clutter. Diogenes taught me that if two things disappear, they likely ran off together and hide in the same place. I’d probably misplaced a shopping bag. Who knows what else the bag might hold, perhaps an honest man?

No luck. I was out $4.98 and a cloth shopping bag. No big deal, right?

Oh, no. My life was ruined.

“What?” you say. “You could hop in the car and Diogenes the check-out counters or simply, buy replacements.”

They cost less than five dollars, but their loss got under my Diogenes skin. I admit they shouldn’t have. The mishap wounded my pride and demonstrated my attachment to trivialities. Buddhism teaches that attachment causes pain. Christianity asks that we seek first the Kingdom of God and all else will be given to us. Rely on God and not on our limited powers and we will be happy in this world and the next. I should have listened.

Anyway, this morning I found the yeast packet stuck between two bags of English Muffins. The hummus hid behind the Pico de Gallo salsa in the back of the refrigerator. All of my concern overnight hurt only me. Next time I lose something—where are my car keys?—I’m not going to worry—I’ll be late if I don’t find them—I’m going to relax and strive for a spiritual perspective and peace.

God Bless.

 

Thomas Merton after 50 years

Fifty years ago, December 10, 1968, Thomas Merton left this world. His prophet words serve as a warning to the people of our times.

The Seven Storey Mountain, Merton’s autobiography of faith tells of God’s subtle enticement of Merton’s spirit. The ruins of Cistercian monasteries in France fascinated Young Thomas. He read a range of philosophers including Jacques Maritan and other Catholics who convinced Merton that Scholastic Philosophy offered the best explanation of reality.

Most of all, Merton was drawn by example. Before his conversion, he sat near a young woman at Mass. Her fervor and sincerity convinced Thomas of the strength of her faith and encouraged him to deepen his own.

Baroness de Heuck, a Russian immigrant, shaped his concept of social justice. During the Great Depression, Communist recruiters opened soup kitchens in Harlem. When hospitals refused medical treatment for persons of color; when landlords denied housing, and employers, jobs; Communists brought doctors, rented apartments, and offered financial support.

The Baroness noted that it was once said: “See how these Christians love one another.” She observed no sign of Catholic love in Harlem. The Cardinal and Bishops dined with the wealthy but ignored the poorest within the Archdiocese.

The Baroness frightened establishment Catholics with her application of the social encyclicals of Popes Leo XIII and Pius IX. She embarrassed pastors in Harlem who hired white tradesmen to repair their buildings when Harlem residents stood in unemployment lines. She claimed that the Catholic Church was “just a front for Capitalism.”

She established Friendship House and Blessed Martin de Porres Center—Catholic Christian responses to the social needs of Harlem. Merton worked there briefly, but the experience influenced his social justice message.

In Merton’s discussion of sins and virtues, he noted that during the period leading up to the Great Depression, the Capital Sins of Pride and Greed had become virtues. Americans of the 1920s chose personal and national greatness over goodness and humility; unregulated growth and the concentration of wealth in the hands of the few over a disciplined and reliable economic system that allowed everyone to benefit. Merton’s words warn Americans about the consequences of its Roaring 20/20ies economic injustice—redistribution of wealth from the poor and middle class to the rich and the threat of another depression. Greatness is not measured in triumphalism or superiority but love and justice.

America ignores the prophetic words of Thomas Merton, Popes Leo, Pius, and Francis at its peril.

 

Economic Justice

No program has broken the cycle of poverty in the last fifty years? How about the programs over the last three hundred years that perpetuate the cycle of poverty?

Poverty, ignorance, and desperation are not necessarily the fault of the poor as any Irishman should know. After the conquest by Cromwell, the Irish Catholics and Presbyterians suffered under the Penal Laws designed to force them to join the Established Church. Some of these laws endured until 1920 and their effects persist in Ulster.

The Penal Laws deprived Catholics of citizenship, land, education, political power, and the free practice of their religion. Consequently, Irish Catholics became aliens in their own land. They were abused, starved, and ridiculed. Their grievance against England festered for hundreds of years. Some Irish escaped to America, but others were sold as slaves or indentured servants. America treated them with disdain—No Irish need apply. Political cartoons represented the Irish as ape-like creatures. Literature and the press branded the Irish as traitor more loyal to the Pope than the Constitution.

In the Southern States, when it was necessary to work in alligator infested bayous, slaves were considered too valuable–according to Noel Ignatiev, the author of “How the Irish Became White–so Irishmen were hired. If something happened to them, it was no great loss.

The Irish were kept poor, uneducated, and marginalized for much of American history. They worked and fought their way into the melting pot and now—for better or worse—seem no different from other whites.

The same English landlords that suppressed the Irish ran colonies around the world on the backs of slaves. Slavery was the effective equivalent of the Penal Laws. It kept Africans poor, uneducated, and desperate. When England and later America banned slavery, Jim Crow Laws became the effective equivalent of the Penal Laws. When the Civil Rights movement ended Jim Crow Laws, James Crow, Esquire emerged using dog whistles terms like “the undeserving poor,” “Law and Order,” and “Entitlement Programs,” to target programs that help the poor, including poor Blacks break the cycle of poverty. Reverend William Barber documents in The Third Reconstruction that the same the rich and powerful Americans who back Conservative candidates, continue to perpetuate the cycle of poverty that has plagued the poor for centuries.

Arthur Powers describes how the population of rural Brazil was driven from their farms to the metropolitan slums until the land beneath their hovels appreciated to the point that wealthy developers pushed the slum dwellers to even more remote and unlivable quarters. The wealthy care more for profit than the commandment to “love your neighbors as yourself.”

Pope Francis sets the tone for Pro-life Catholics by calling for an equitable distribution of the worlds riches rather than their concentration in the account of the few. The cycle of poverty will continue until the rigged capitalistic system gives the poor and middle class access to their share of the world’s wealth. Those who pass lavish tax breaks to the top one percent of the wealthy, by definition impoverish the majority of humanity.

Remember the questions, “When did I see you hungry and not feed you, or thirsty and not give you something to drink?” Siding with the top one percent put you in this camp.