MUSICAL MONDAY – A DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE ADVENTUREStandard
I love blog posts with a little music. They brighten my day, and Monday is the Most Miserable day of the week. So here is my contribution.
I happened on an old video of the James Tayler/Carly Simon classic Mockingbird and before you know it, I was down the rabbit hole.
This led to a number by the Steep Canyon Rangers, my absolute favorite bluegrass band, performing Rockabye Sweet Baby James as a tribute to James Taylor.
The SCR began as a group of talented musician-students at the University of North Carolina, which many of you know is where I taught for nearly thirty years. Through the years they have become famous, often playing with Steve Martin. In 2013, the Steep Canyon Rangers’ solo album Nobody Knows You won the Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album. I never miss a concert of theirs within driving distance.
And of course, I had to stop and listen to one of my favorite songs by the SCR, Radio. It features Nicky Sanders, a Grammy Award-winning, American fiddle player specializing in Bluegrass music. He is best known for his work with the band Steep Canyon Rangers. He joined the group in 2004.
Hope you enjoyed my rabbit hole adventure!
The New Garfield Chronicles, Part 2Standard
Well, here I am again, Garfield the Magnificent, able to get to the computer one more time. My two-legged has been absent for a day or so tending to her two-legged companion who is at a place called a hospital. I don’t generally interact with him, although he has tried hard to get me to warm up to him ever since they adopted me from the shelter. But I am basically a one-person feline.
Anyway, after we moved to this new place, things were calm for a while, except for my absolute unwillingness to get into that crate cage. Then two years ago, BOTH two-leggeds disappeared. They were gone for a long, long, long time. I will admit I was a little lonely, but this nice person called Auntie Beth stayed with me. She loved me and brushed me every day and sometimes fed me twice a day! I figured she was going to be my new two-legged so I gave her all the attention I could. But then one day, both of my live-ins came back. I was SO glad to see them!
Since then, I know when Auntie Beth is coming because some boxes come out and clothes get put into them. I try to express my knowledge someone is leaving and that I am unhappy by getting into the boxes and even sleeping there. But it never stops them. I just have to believe they will come back at some point.
Most recently, my two-legged left for quite a while and after three days of sulking on my tree and in the bedroom, I really needed a pet. I really do like sleeping on the bed, but honestly, it got boring after a while.
So I came out and let him pet me, once. I liked it, so I came out the next day for a little longer. After another day, I got in his lap for a purr and a pet. Any port in a storm, right? But then she came home, and I forgot about all that.
Wishing you lots of pets and scratches and good food,
Your friend Garfield
The New Garfield Chronicles, Part 1Standard
It is I, Garfield the Magnificent. My two-legged told me the other day that someone who reads her blog missed my posts, and I haven’t composed anything for a long, long time. I think my life has just been too busy with all the comings and goings and her long absences.
Anyway, did I tell you that I got moved? For good while, things started disappearing from my home and large cardboard boxes appeared. I did like jumping in them when they were empty, but got a surprise when I landed on things they’d put in the boxes. I enjoyed digging their sides, too. Very satisfying to drag my claws down the cardboard, until I got swatted.
Then one morning, when there was so little left in the house I could hardly figure out where to relax, my two-legged swept me up from the bed and carried me down to the bathroom, where that horrible, terrible cage awaited. Mind, she’d been carrying me around for about two weeks, so I wasn’t prepared when she jammed me in. I let her know what I thought about that.
Then she took me to a place where someone took the cage with me in it and transferred me to a larger cage in a place with a lot of other dogs and cats. The speed with which this happened overwhelmed me, especially since my two-legged didn’t have time to say goodbye. It didn’t help to hear all the sob stories from the other cats who were living there. They were all lonely and told me sad stories of various pokings, proddings, and treatments and how lonely they were. Some were just there for nothing, like me. I figured this was the end for me. The cats disappeared one by one, just like in that place I came from, something called a shelter.
I wasn’t going down without a fight! I refused to eat for two days, until hunger just made me eat the food they provided – it turned out to be my cuisine, and I wondered where THAT came from. I spent my days hunkered in the back of that cage—except for using the box – and refused to let anyone pet me. Day after day rolled by. The other cats continued to leave, and I hoped to a better place.
Finally, one day, a long arm and a strong hand grabbed me by the neck and put me back in the cage I’d arrived in. Then, miracle of miracles, I heard my two-legged’s voice. I’d been saved! I was going home! In the car, she kept telling me how sorry she was, that they’d had to live in a place called a hotel for a long while until the new house was ready, and the hotel wouldn’t take cats.
When we got to where we were going, she let me out in a small room with some of my favorite food, water, and a box. “You just relax and get used to this place,” she said and closed the door. After a while, she came in and petted me, and of course, I just had to purr up a storm, I was so happy to be anywhere but that cage. Then she opened the door and said, “Welcome to your new home.”
I have to admit I was confused. It wasn’t my home, really, but I recognized a lot of the things from before: tables, sofas, beds etc. There was even a room with her desk and my cat tree right by a big window. I wandered around for about five seconds and spent the rest of the day climbing into her lap as soon as she sat down.
That night, I let her know how happy I was to see her by climbing all over her in bed, kneading the blankets, and purring and licking her arm up and down. I didn’t sleep much and I think she didn’t either.
Book Review: In the Shadows of Castles by G. K Holloway #RBRT #medieval history #Norman Conquest of EnglandStandard
The novel is book two in the 1066 saga.
Book one, 1066: What the Fates Impose, is about the atmosphere leading up to and following the Battle of Hastings in 1066 between the Norman-French army of William, Duke of Normandy, and an English army under the Anglo-Saxon King Harold Godwinson. It began the Norman Conquest of England.
In the Shadows of Castles, William of Normandy is enforcing a new, brutal, and bloody regime of Norman rule throughout England, creating feudalism as the dominant social and economic system. William spreads his soldiers throughout the kingdom, killing, raping, and pillaging to force the Anglo-Saxons to bend to his rule. His plan includes the construction of castles in all the main cities to secure the Norman foothold, hence the title of this novel, and he creates a ruling class of Norman nobles and arranges the appointment of his supporters as bishops and abbots in the Norman church. But these sudden changes in the English political, religious, and cultural landscape create resistance. Dispossessed, driven from their homes, the members of an English network of resistors have the courage to fight, but scattered across the land, can they coalesce to defeat William? Can they entice the Danes to join them?
This seemingly endless turmoil is populated by many characters, which the author – fortunately for the reader – introduces at the beginning of the book. The main ones are two sisters, a thane (a freeman who had his own land), and a soldier. These characters are likable and real. Intrigues, kidnaps, battles, escapes, murder, destruction, and death face them as the resistance takes shape and their fates intertwine in love, hope, and their fight for survival.
The author has a monumental knowledge of the history, politics, and turmoil of the time. He unflinchingly portrays the brutality of William and his reasoning behind it, as well as the anger and needs for vengeance by those resisting him. Thus this novel is a powerful lesson for its readers. So powerful that I wanted William to fail and wanted justice for all those murdered. But history tells the tale: his plan worked, which allowed him to spend the greater part of his reign at his home in Normandy.
This is an accomplished historical novel, challenging to the reader only in the number of players on the stage. Anyone interested in English history and this historical period in particular, will love this book and should definitely read it. I look forward to his next book.
About the author:
G K Holloway left school at sixteen and worked in a series of manual jobs until, at the age of 24, he decided to do something more challenging and rewarding, combining education and travel. He eventually gained the qualifications to get on to a degree course in History and Politics at Coventry University. After graduating, he trained as a Careers Officer, later working in Adult Education, and then as a Student Welfare Officer at Bath Spa University, during which time he was inspired by a biography time about King Harold II enough to write my own version of events, resulting in 1066. The author’s opinion is that the events of the mid-eleventh century and specifically the Battle of Hastings, set England on a new course, which led over a long time to a British Empire. The impact the Normans had on England will be in his next novel.
You can find GK Holloway at:
Well folks and followers (there are 1583 of you!), my next mystery, Death at the Asylum, is with the printers. I thought maybe you would like to get a gander at the cover.
Here is a blurb to whet your appetite for this latest in the Rhe Brewster Mystery series.
Attending the opening of a new commercial center, Rhe Brewster, an ER nurse and police investigator, and her husband Sam, chief of the Pequod police department, save the governor of Maine from a sniper attack. They are assigned to a task force to find the sniper, while trying simultaneously to identify the person who has stolen Rhe’s personal data. With a serial rapist on the loose, and threats to Rhe and Sam escalating as a sociopath from Rhe’s past reemerges in a strange twist, their lives begin to spin out of control. Maine’s most tenacious sleuth is back, surrounded by the colorful characters who populate the coastal town of Pequod. In this fifth installment of the Rhe Brewster Mysteries, Rhe’s strength and determination are tested to their limits while she tries to protect her unborn child.
I hope to have the book up on Amazon later this month.
A Traditional Celebration of Robert BurnsStandard
Every year in January the SCOT society, to which Hubs and I belong, has a dinner in January to honor Robert Burns. It’s a festive occasion with good food, so we never miss it.
Robert Burns, also known as Rabbie or Robbie Burns, was born in Scotland in 1759. He was a poet and lyricist and is widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland. He wrote in the Scots language (Gaelic, a language, some, a few words of which I know), but much of his writing is in the Scots dialect of English, which while challenging is understandable. Luckily, his work has been translated into standard English.
The eldest of seven children, he was born on the farm of his father in Dunnotar. The family lived in poverty and faced constant hardship, largely because William Burns was consistently unfortunate and migrated with his large family from farm to farm without ever being able to improve his circumstances. The manual labor on the farms at a young age left Burns with a premature stoop and weakened health. He was educated in reading, writing, arithmetic, geography, and history, off and on between stints of full-time labor on the farm.
Failure seemed to dog young Rabbie’s footsteps as well. In 1781, Burns moved to Irvine to become a flax-dresser, but during the workers’ celebrations for 1782, the flax shop caught fire and was burnt to the ground. Burns went home to Lochlea farm, where he befriended a sea captain named Richard Brown, who read the poetry that Burns had been writing and encouraged him to become a poet.
Burns married Jean Armour, a stonemason’s daughter in 1788, and Armour bore him nine children, three of whom survived infancy.
Burns was in financial difficulties due to his lack of success in farming, and to make enough money to support a family he took up an offer of work on a sugar plantation in Jamaica. It was suggested that he should publish his poems as means of getting a little money to provide him the necessities for Jamaica. In July of 1786, his Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect was published. It contains much of his best writing (which includes To a Mouse, one of my favorites). The book brought immediate success and he was soon known all across Scotland.
The second edition of the book brought with it some wealth, which allowed him to buy a farm in Dumfriesshire. There he trained as an exciseman, collecting duties on manufactured goods, and after he was appointed to duties in Customs and Excise in 1789, he gave up the farm. Through all this, he continued to write and had affairs both real and platonic with several women. As an Excise Supervisor, Burns went on long journeys on horseback, often in harsh weather conditions, and his health began to give way. Burns died in Dumfries, at the age of 37, in 1796.
The tradition of the Robbie Burns Dinner began five years after his death when a group of his devoted friends hosted a dinner to celebrate his life and work. The tradition caught on and was usually held on or around his birthday, January 25. That date, often referred to as Robert Burns Day, has become Scotland’s unofficial National Day. In fact, it’s more widely celebrated in Scotland than the official national observance of St. Andrew’s Day.
At the heart of the celebration is the Burns Supper or Burns Night—a traditional Scottish dinner typically accompanied by numerous speeches, recitals of Burns poetry and, of course, numerous toasts accompanied by drams of Scotland’s golden elixir, whisky, or uisge breathe (I’m showing off my Gaelic here). The men dress like peacocks: black tie with a brilliant tartan below and a sporran at the waist. The women are wrens, wearing only a sash or boutonniere in tartan.
The traditional Burns Supper begins with Burns’ Selkirk Grace:
Then comes a soup course. We had butternut soup, but it’s usually a classic Scottish soup like Scotch broth, potato soup, Cullen skink (a thick Scottish soup made of smoked haddock, potatoes, and onions) or cock-a-leekie (a soup dish consisting of leeks and peppered chicken stock).
The highlight of the dinner is the serving of the haggis—a traditional Scottish pudding comprised of the heart, liver, and lungs of a sheep diced with onions, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, which has been cooked in a sheep’s stomach. Everyone stands when the haggis is ‘piped’ into the room by a bagpiper. The host then recites Burns’ poem Address to a Haggis:
Haggis is traditionally served with neeps and tatties – turnips and potatoes. I’d been told Haggis is an acquired taste, but I find it delicious, along with the neeps and tatties.
Following coffee, the guests raise toasts to the memory of Robert Burns, punctuated by recitals of his poems. Here is a portion of Ode to a Mouse:
In Scots English
Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a pannic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi’ bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee,
Wi’ murd’ring pattle!
I’m truly sorry man’s dominion,
Has broken nature’s social union,
An’ justifies that ill opinion,
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
Little, cunning, cowering, timorous beast,
Oh, what a panic is in your breast!
You need not start away so hasty
With bickering prattle!
I would be loath to run and chase you,
With murdering paddle!
I’m truly sorry man’s dominion
Has broken Nature’s social union,
And justifies that ill opinion
Which makes you startle
At me, your poor, earth-born companion
And fellow mortal!
Traditionally the evening ends when a male guest gave an “Address to the Lassies,” ostensibly this was to thank and toast the women present for preparing the meal but was often used as an opportunity for the speaker to give his views on women.
That toast was followed by a “Toast to the Laddies,” an opportunity for a female guest to give her views on men and to respond to any of the specific points raised by the previous speaker. The evening culminates in the singing of Auld Lange Syne.
Also accompanying the meal, either before or after, is harp playing, bagpiping, and Highland dancing – so the entire event is very entertaining. I wouldn’t miss it!
Tá súil agam gur bhain tú taitneamh as ceiliúradh lá breithe Robert Burns –
I hope you enjoyed the celebration of Robert Burns birthday!
AN INTERVIEW WITH JOHN HOWELL, AUTHOR OF A NEW BOOK, THE LAST DRIVE, THE SEQUEL TO ETERNAL ROADStandard
Today I am meeting John Howell for breakfast at the award-winning Elmo’s Diner in Durham, North Carolina, so he can tell me about his new book, The Last Drive, the sequel to Eternal Road – The Final Stop. I loved Eternal Road, which cleverly meshed time-travel, adventure, mystery, justice, and the supernatural. The new book does the same – what’s not to like?
Elmo’s Diner opened in the spring of 1997 in the Ninth Street shopping district of Old West Durham. Large windows, wooden floors, high ceilings, and old red brick grace the Durham location, and give a warm and casual feel. The restaurant also is located in an old building with lots of history, having been a former taxi cab garage, beauty college, and bakery at various times.
Since John offers us wonderful Sunday menus to go along with his Views of the Neighborhood blog post, I thought it only fair to turn the tables on him and offer him the menu from Elmo’s. My recommendation is the baked French toast stuffed with cream cheese and apples, topped with cinnamon apples and whipped cream. It tastes like a breakfast bread pudding and is served with two eggs and bacon, sausage or ham.
After placing two orders for this French toast, plus some eye-opener coffee, I start to pepper John with questions.
NG: John, can you tell me a little about The Last Drive and how it differs from Eternal Road?
JH: Eternal Road and The Last Drive differ in how nasty Lucifer gets in trying to grab off souls that have already been destined for eternal grace. In Eternal Road he sends Sam and James into situations that are dangerous but less evil. In the Last Drive he pulls out all the stops.
NG: Well, that gives me goose bumps. I’ve just started reading the book and I’m already nervous!
NG: Where did the ideas for these two books come from?
JH: When I was ten years old my dad passed away. I had a hard time coming to grips with the loss so I started making up what I thought heaven should be. It came down to heaven is whatever you want it to be which is the theme of both books.
NG: I also think when you get to a certain age, the concept of heaven is on your mind a lot. It’s hard to get your mind around, but I do like your version.
At this point, our breakfast arrives, and we dose our waffles with maple syrup and dig into the eggs.
In between mouthfuls, I ask: What is your favorite breakfast food?
JH: Our local food chain private label Raisin Bran Crunch with bananas and 2% milk.
NG: Do you live on coffee?
JH: I have an espresso machine that makes excellent coffee, but I only have two cups a day.
NG: That’s pretty modest compared to some writers I know, who main line it. My next question is: When do you write and where?
JH: I usually try to write in the morning. I sit on the couch with Twiggy my dog. I have an office, but Twiggy won’t let me write in there. She makes a fuss until I sit on the couch.
At this point, I need to tell our readers that John is the owner of two dogs, the wise older Lucy, who is a boxer, and the irrepressible younger Twiggy, who is a French bulldog. Twiggy thinks that their yard is occasionally inhabited by water buffalo and pumas. Their adventures appear regularly on John’s blog.
NG: Does Twiggy interrupt your writing?
NG: Do you listen to music when you write?
JH: No. I used to but stopped. My first three books were written to Queen’s Greatest Hits.
NG: I would be totally distracted by anything Queen and would want to sing along. Are you a pantser or a plotter?
JH: A pantser from the get-go. When I started writing I didn’t know how to plot. I do know how now but still prefer sitting in front of the computer with the characters and let them run off with the story.
I stop to take a good gulp of my coffee and let John get on with his breakfast. Then I ask a couple of off the wall questions. Where did you grow up, John?
JH: I grew up physically in the Detroit area. Once I left for college I never went back. Mentally I’m still a kid.
NG: What was your first car? Not a 1956 Oldsmobile like the one in Eternal Road, by any chance?
JH (smiling): No but this sounds like you are going to hack into my financial accounts with secret questions. My first car was a Ford Club Coupe. Being a Detroit kid, I naturally had to squeeze every bit of horsepower from it. So, I installed a duel set of carburetors, dual exhaust, souped-up ignition, and floor shifter. It was the fastest thing on Woodward Avenue, the local drag strip.
NG: My first was a 1930 Model A phaeton, and I’ve missed it for all these years. Definitely not a roadster – I think its top speed was maybe 40 mph. Before we finish I have to ask you: Is there another book in the works?
JH: I have two. One is a memoir and the other is a collection of my Top Ten Things Not to Do posts incorporated into a book
NG: Well, I’m looking forward to both! I really enjoy your Ten Top Things Not to Do, since I’ve so often made the mistake of actually doing them.
I call for another cup of coffee…..
So here is the blurb for The Last Drive, John’s new book.
‘In the sequel to Eternal Road – The Final Stop, Sam and James (who are both dead souls and are trying to find their way to heaven) are reunited to look for two other souls, Ryan and Eddie. Ryan was killed in Afghanistan, trying to avoid a schoolyard with his crippled plane. Eddie Rickenbacker, Ryan’s hero, is to guide Ryan to his Eternal Home, and now both are missing.
The higher-ups believe that there has been some interference in Ryan and Eddie’s journey by Lucifer, so Sam and James have the task of finding Ryan and Eddie to get them back on the road despite the evil interference. Unfortunately, the machinations designed to prevent Ryan and Eddy from completing their journey takes the pair to horrifying testing grounds. The places visited represent the best work of the Devil. They are the trenches of World War I in France, gladiators at the Roman Coliseum, the sinking Titanic in 1912, Hiroshima 45 minutes before the bomb, and the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1943.
This book is for you if you like plenty of action, strong characters, time travel, and a touch of spiritual and historical fiction. So, join Sam and James as they try to find the missing souls while staying one step ahead of the Prince of Darkness, who is determined to destroy all that is good.”
About the author:
John began his writing as a full-time occupation after an extensive business career. His specialty is thriller fiction novels, but John also writes poetry and short stories. His first book, My GRL, introduces the exciting adventures of the book’s central character, John J. Cannon. The second Cannon novel, His Revenge, continues the tension. The final book in the trilogy, Our Justice, launched in September 2016 concludes the thriller series. John’s fourth book Circumstances of Childhood, launched in October of 2017 tells a different thriller story of riches to rags, football, Wall Street, brotherly love, redemption, and inspiration with a touch of paranormal to keep you riveted. The fifth book is a collaboration with the award-winning author, Gwen Plano titled The Contract. Heavenly bodies become concerned about the stability of the Earth and send two of their own to risk eternal salvation in order to save the planet. The Contract achieved number one status in its genre. John’s next book is titled Eternal Road – The Final Stop and launched in September 2020. In search of their eternal home, Sam and James discover a threat to human existence. They also encounter the prince of darkness. The question is; can they save humankind and their eternal souls. All books are available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions.
John lives in Lakeway, Texas with his wife and their spoiled rescue pets.
You can find John
On twitter at: @HowellWave
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/john.howell.98229241
On his website: https://johnwhowell.com/
The Last Drive is available on Amazon:
After all the ‘busy’ness of the holiday season and the death of my cousin, I am behinder than ever in my writing and editing.
I need a break!
So I am going to be off social media for the next two to three weeks in an attempt to take a deep breath and catch up with my life.
Don’t miss me! I’ll be back!
HAPPY NEW YEAR!Standard
While some sadness crept into our holidays with the death of my cousin, Paul, and the travel north to his funeral, our grandchildren – as they tend to do – provided us with some lightness of heart.
Eli found delight in a pile of his favorite food, cheese, at a restaurant, and was fascinated with the jellyfish at the Baltimore aquarium.
Alex is, well, Alex, still getting her sea legs as she continues learning to walk.