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A Life of Research

Remembering Marshall Field's

Who really cares about a defunct department store? Well, it turns out a lot of people do.  There is a Facebook page devoted to Marshall Fields, and to hear people talk about it, you wonder why it ever disappeared—a place where truly, the customer was always right.


Marshall Fields, the man, opened his first store in 1892 and "Give the lady what she wants" became one of the enduring hallmarks of the Marshall Field's department store. The Chicago Landmark, now a Macy's store, is a 12-story building that spreads across an entire block on State Street.  Sadly, the last time I went there, it cost me $59 to park for an hour and a half.


While iconic MF décor was retained, such as the first and largest Tiffany glass tile ceiling in the world, Chicago architect Daniel Burnham's original fountain and the original name plaques and signature bronze clocks remain, so many people who can compare the two will agree that Macy's can never be Marshall Fields.  It's hard to believe that it was only back in 2007 that Macy's took over this franchise, because the idealism with which memories are wrought seem like they belong back in the 1800s.


I took on the task of finding out what Marshall Fields was like from the 1930s to the 1960s because of a fiction novel I'm writing that carries the name in its title. What you'll see here are a compilation of memories, along with some research that I've done that will appear in the book.  I welcome any and all feedback! My hope here is that more people will share what they remember based on this, or this will jog their memories, or that they will tell me if I've gotten something wrong before I try to get "Dinner at Marshall Field's" published.


Field's in the 1930's was focused on maintaining and advancing a strong sales and service culture. "Give the Lady What She Wants!" was driven by the belief that "enthusiasm, plus knowledge, plus courtesy, equals good selling."


Pamela Day Vlies remembers the elevator, how the operator always called out what floor they were approaching, and you could hear different dinging sounds, depending on what floor it was.  You could even tell the operator what you were interested in purchasing and he'd know just where to take you.


Many people in Chicago would choose the iconic clock outside Marshall Field's to meet under.  Michele Eisenberg shared an old wives' tale about it: "It's said to be one of several places in the world where you'll run into people you know."  Jean C. said her parents always met under the clock when they were courting.  Her mother worked there, and she knew her way around as well as she did at home.  She knows about the suicides that prompted them to put wire screening around the open spaces on the upper floors (likely during the Depression).


Bob Eltzholtz remembers, "You used to be able to get from O'Hare to Fields on the Blue Line without ever going outside. And when you got to Fields, you thought you were still at O'Hare because the luggage section had a cool light installation to mirror the colored tiles at O'Hare."


When asked about their memories, invariably people talk about Frango's, the mint chocolates.  Macy's brought back this Field's signature "a couple of years ago," according to Vlies. Frangos were created in Seattle by someone at the Frederick & Nelson Department Store back in 1918 and re-formulated and introduced in Chicago in 1929. Frango mints were produced in large melting pots on the 13th floor of the State Street building until 1999, when the demand for the candy overwhelmed the in-house facility.  Tinney Heath, a fellow author, likes to pretend she's in the 60s when she buys the candies today.


The Walnut Room remains on Macy's 7th Floor as the major restaurant event, especially at Christmastime, where its centerpiece is a three-story tall Christmas tree. That tree used to be real, but starting in the mid-1960s it was replaced by an artificial one. Vlies remembers the tree as being huge, "but I was little." Steve A. in Omaho, too, saw a tree as tall as eight stories, probably going right up the center of the building, and it could, too, as the center of the store is open, with four sided floors going up at least seven stories, and up up into the 9th.  


Jean C. disagrees: It started in the Walnut Room and went up to the 9th floor. That could be true. While it seems the building was built to put a tree right into the heart of it, finding one that tall would have been very difficult. And perhaps all these stories are right at different points in time.


Everyone remembers the Christmas window displays, because perhaps Marshall Field's took such care in putting them up.  Michele Eisenberg thought of them right off when asked and Tinney Heath called them "truly amazing."  They often included moving parts, and demonstrated the fantasy that was Christmas in all its many myths.  


For those who remember that Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was an icon of Montgomery Wards, you might be surprised to learn that Field's too had a Christmas icon.  His name was Uncle Mistletoe.  He was a bright, cheery fellow with a black top hat and heavy red overcoat. Uncle Mistletoe was introduced in 1947 and was Field's holiday ambassador through the 1970's.  He had his own TV show from 1948 to 1952 and was a fixture at the Cozy Cloud Cottage in the store alongside Santa through the early 1980's.


A floor for toys, and a floor for books, remembered Heath, and kids treats like ice cream clowns.  Jean C. used to watch the model train for hours while her mother shopped in the toy department. These memories indicate how much in awe children could be when visiting this department store.  


Heath still has one of the MF signature shopping bags, in dark green. Earle Garber will never forget the Ambrosia Chocolate Shop, also on the lower level.  

Jean C. shared what she remembers about places to eat there when I was doing research on a counter service for the novel: "The Walnut room was always the more elegant of the dining rooms and rarely changed. They never had a counter but there were several other restaurants. The Narcissus Room was more casual but still not counter service, the English Room which may be the one with counter service; I don't recall because Mom never liked it. That eventually became a sandwich and salad restaurant. In the 70s they had The Bowl and Basket (I think that was the name) which was behind the cafeteria and was mainly soup and sandwiches. And yes, they had a cafeteria. There was also a room across from the English Room, which at one time was mostly pasta dishes, but before that I couldn't say because, again, Mom didn't care to go there. When we went to Field's it was lunch in the Narcissus Room and afternoon tea in the Walnut Room.


The only counter service I remember distinctly was in the food court in the basement in the 90s, and an ice cream parlor sort of affair on 7, but again that was the 80s and 90s."  Marshall Field's had more places that served lunch than supper because of attracting business people and people on the way home would often stop at the diner for coffee and pie before the long trek home.


So perhaps the basement diner in my novel is my own creation, but it serves the purpose of the book, and what's the harm, really? Yes, not all of these memories have dates, but that doesn't matter.  They're all Marshall Field's, and they're all gone now.  Although you could let me know if you find someone you know under the clock, because that clock (and its legend) is still there.


Janet Elaine Smith remembers the lemon meringue pie, and eating in the basement diner, the one that's featured in my novel.  It took some doing to find out more about this diner, though.  One of my contacts who declined to be named said that the best bet for a diner was in the basement – just a little diner with a waitress and counter service.  The Fountain Dinette was located in the Basement Store on the South State side of the building.  Today this would be right below where the women's cosmetics are sold and close to the subway entrance to the store. They had what was called bargain basement – not clearance items, but more like having a K-mart in the basement of a Macy's. But again, I have no date on this basement diner.


Something that I didn't remember at all until I was told:  The store itself closed at 6 p.m. back in the 60s and was never open on Sunday.  


Marshall Field's would never discriminate, or like one fellow thought, that the basement shopping was for black people. That just wasn't true. Anyone could shop anywhere and they liked it when people just explored and dreamed about what they could get someday. And also, you never knew when someone was going to become rich and you don't want to shun anyone for not having the money at any time. Marshall Fields loved the American dream.


Steve A. said that you went to Marshall Field's because you lived in Chicago.  But when I lived in Eau Claire, I went to Marshall Field's because it was the only decent clothing store in town.  Oh, they had others. But this was the only decent one. By 2005, though, it was just another Younkers (and that's gone now, too).


It's hard to say when things began to change. Perhaps in the early 60s, when instead of a real tree, they began to put up an artificial one. Perhaps when they put Uncle Mistletoe to bed for the last time.


Jean C. noted:  "Another thing I remember is that until the 1980s the store was pretty much stuck in the 1930s/40s. When I was little, it was sort of art deco glam, really elegant, you know? But by the 70s it was looking very down-at-the-heels and badly needed renovating."


And it got renovated. Hinky Dink Kenna's in the basement was opened as a brand new restaurant as part of a restoration of the entire State Street store between 1987-1992.  During this restoration the lower level was transformed essentially from the bargain basement into the look and feel it has today.  Gone was bargain basement. In 2003 InField sports bar replaced Hinky Dink Kenna's.  


Marshall Field's was one of the first places you could say "charge it." They had revolving credit even in the 1800s, but only for exclusive clients.  You had to qualify and that was hard to do.  People used to get Marshall Field's to deliver just to show off to their neighbors. Jean Hibben remembers the first time she could say "charge it."  Marshall Field's issued her credit when she was young and no one else would.  She still remembers the pleasure of that day.


Yes, Marshall Field's is a memory now, because times have changed.  I still remember the shock and horror I felt when I heard that ALL Marshall Field's had been taken over by Macy's.  But we can't go back, as much as we'd like to.  We can only remember.

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Conference Adventures in Historical Philadeladelphia

First I'll look at my goals for the conference, and what should be on anyone's mind: make goals before you commit to the expense. I budgeted $1100 and will end up topping that off with another $300. My goal was finding out how to be a successful AHA presenter by studying others.


I'd also like to get published and read the AHR to see what kinds of articles they do publish. I learned that I needed to actually read, and not just skim, the articles. In doing that, so much in this journal actually interested me, and gave me the inspiration to redesign the article I've not yet been able to publish anywhere. It's not enough to just give them some startling new information, as I'd tried to do in the past. I have to present it in context of what else was going on. The idea for an article is to have an argument to frame the article around.


I made sure I picked the two days of the conference that had a good diversity of presentations. Most of the AHA members are educators. This made it important for me to try and find a way to bring attention to my books. So another goal was to find, or encourage them to create, a free resource table. I brought six of my historical books along to leave behind.  Or if I was lucky enough to meet a few teachers myself, I would offer them the books.


I did not stay at a convention hotel, but I think I might have paid almost as much. The Wyndham on Arch Street was in the historic district and only 10 blocks away. Not that I'd recommend the hotel. The air blew right at the desk, there was no other chair to sit in and while I did have dinner there one night, the breakfast server was nowhere to be found the morning I wanted to try it. And yes, parking was a premium there as well. But the walk there and back was maybe my favorite part of the conference.


That walk meant that I needed a clever way to get my six books with my handbag and notebook to the convention. Since I had a small travel suitcase with me, I emptied that out and pulled that along that first day.


I have to mention this. Someone at the convention must have thought it a good idea to mark the two main restrooms as for use by both men & women. Problem was that the men's restroom had urinals. I ducked out of there fast and went into the other one. What were they thinking? They had the signage for men/woman taped over the other signage and by the next day, these restrooms were back to normal.


The first session I attended on Thursday was on History, Civics and the Constitution. Even though I wore my hearing aids, and some of them spoke loudly enough, it was hard to understand what they were saying. There was a Constitutional Museum on my walk so I think one was curator there. This was a panel that appeared to be discussing teaching the Constitution in the classroom, or the lack thereof.


But I started to get an idea about my presentation next year in San Francisco, on breaking of myths around Virginia City, but also show where these myths come from in a historical perspective, with respect to a popular TV series that made me a historian. My focus for the book is on where historians get it wrong but also how Bonanza also got some things right. My first idea is to explore statehood, the Paiute War and the silver standard, all through the eyes of their #1 citizen, Senator Bill Stewart. This would fit into categories of Pivotal History Makers, Economic History and Popular or Public History.


The next session was Historical Gazeteers. I thought it would be on newspapers and journalism, but instead this was on map-making and use of maps in your research. At least I followed it better. Panels do not use PowerPoint, for the most part, so it's hard for me to keep up. I do like the ones that have visuals, as that helps me hear better.


I had no luck that first day getting rid of any books. I asked about a free resource table and was told the book fair wouldn't be set up until the next day. I went to that area but it was being guarded, so no luck sneaking any books in. She told me to bring them back tomorrow. I said I'm not hauling this suitcase around again.


I didn't get involved in any social hours, because, frankly, I'm not the type to go up to people and start talking. If they're standing alone, yes, but I noticed that people were either alone because they wanted to be or had plenty of people to chat with. So I went back to my hotel to have dinner and work.


As I said, I wasn't going to take my suitcase the next day. So either I leave all books there and call that part of the trip a bust, or I carry just two nonfiction and see if I can do anything with them, which is what I did. I carried just my book tote and a bag they handed out filled with conference materials, and yes, I also carried my lunch both days, since I make it a rule not to buy a meal more than once a day. The first day I had to find a place well off the beaten track in that hotel (I saw a sign that said no carry-in food at their version of a food court) to wolf down some chips and beef jerky. I planned to do that again the second day.


Now remember, this was early January but we were blessed with great weather for the conference. I was never out in less than the mid-40s for temps. Even so, carrying the bag with three heavy books, including the AHR I was still reading, made the walk seem longer. This second day was going to be a challenge, as it started at 8:30 compared to 1:30 and would last until past dark, unlike the day before.


I went first to the auditorium where the topic was "Defund the Police? A history" expecting perhaps too much. They really didn't talk about racism much, or the KKK or even once mention George Floyd. Instead it was all about law and the courts. I came up with the following question that I never asked: "I think the police perform a vital function but because of their early history, we need a way to purge the racist attitude that still permeates, thanks to FOP. This needs to be addressed, as does lax gun laws that make them jumpy."


Monica Martinez on this panel would be a good one to read "Mexican Wall Affair." So I contacted her at the University of Texas at Austin on 1/13/23. No response yet, and none is expected.


My problem in not being able to make myself known by asking questions that are intelligent and related directly to their conversations is my inability to follow their conversations. I hear snatches and yet if I ask a question it might be one they addressed that I just didn't hear.


One of the panelists talked about the LA Police, so I emailed him to ask about the LAPD, FOP and RFK's murder there. Overall I learned that the police do not feel guilty over how the courts handle the suspects they turn in. He also related how the police don't seem to change, even as society changes. We weren't given much time for questions.


I took a quick pop down after that to the book fair and it was loaded to the rafters with books and their publishers. Very impressive, if a bit overwhelming. So many books!


At 10:30 I went to another auditorium panel talking about Divisive History, but again, rather than explore that topic, the talk was about how educators were stymied by the roles of state governments in what they could and could not teach, and those standards vary by state. This would be the number one reason we're still a divided country (Civil War) today; no one is learning the same history.


A bit of excitement there, though, in that there was a film crew filming the panel and audience questions. I don't think they got much. The panel did say that conservative groups discourage questioning history but we need to in order to be informed voters. They emphasized that we are not responsible for what our grandparents did. No, but we are responsible if we turn a blind eye today. I kept hoping someone would bring up PC or woke issue, but no one did. It did become obvious that states having different history teaching standards is what's leading to divisiveness in our country. They asked us to write to our legislatures whenever they post an issue to us, and also to get on our school boards.


I came up with the idea of researching Hawaii's takeover by the US more fully. I'll have to see if AHR or anyone else came up with that idea first. You can see a summary on that issue in From Lincoln to Trump.


The next session was the best, but only because the room was small and they had food, including small bags of beef jerky. They know what historians live on! (I stole a bottle of root beer for my husband.) Here they talked about what kinds of articles the AHR is looking for, and how well articulated the idea needs to be, even if not well written; is it something they can work with. I asked how far back I needed to look to see if a topic had been covered, but the response was vague. They told me to search their press website, not their own. They do have a slower response time. In perusing the journal, as I have been doing, I noted that they seem to prefer that we insert photos of documents used, rather than typing up the text in them.


At the 1:30 presentation I actually got treated to the type of presentation I would plan to make. Three ladies, each under a certain broad topic, presenting their research. The topic was "Which Side are you On?" and presented racial discrimination in different ways. I did find one lady's book could be helpful for my research on the Beloit Black Migration project.


I skipped the next one at 3:30 so that I could thoroughly peruse the books and publishers. I did not find a free resource table. But the longer I hung on to my books, the more I realized I was going to really struggle to walk back in the dark carrying them. So, before I went to the 5:30 presentation I found a quiet table close by, made sure I put my business card in each book and left them there.


The Presidential Address was at 5:30, by the president of UW-Madison, Jim Sweet. I went thinking I might know him, but also thinking we're going to hear about the organization. I didn't know him and he wasn't president of the organization. But the room was packed. He started out introducing his topic, saying he didn't know what he was doing to find, and thinks the best history is when you surprise yourself. I spent the whole hour wishing I could sneak off because this many people leaving at once could be a madhouse. But they even had to bring chairs in, allowing no way out.


I was glad I had to stay. At the end he says we should strive to be as impartial as possible when we write history, so that everyone can really see and understand an event without our attempt to prove an argument. I contacted him about my work being that way and offered CWBP but again, I don't expect a response.


I stopped at BurgerFi for a quick bite and walked back, feeling, well, relieved. I know I should have gone to the public historian reception, but I simply didn't feel right staying out that late, nor did I want to drink, anyway.


I should watch their website - at one point early in the conference I noticed a photographer had snapped a photo of me getting my things together. If I find it, I'll post it.

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How Long Does it Take to Write a Series?




Arabus Drake came to me in a dream in March 1983. I remember distinctly. It was two months after my youngest was born, right around the time I had my tubes tied. So I gave birth to a vampire. The dream was basically a love story with me falling for this handsome and incredibly sensual guy who then latches onto my neck and stays there, I'm thinking like that metaphor for sex. It was a brief dream, really, just a glimpse but he caught me, maybe, at just the right time. I then felt he looked Greek, much like Armand Assante, who's actually Italian.


I started researching Greek vampirism. I still have a folder of all my early research, and once gave a presentation but without PowerPoint, which was a mistake, I guess. Anyway, I began crafting short stories set in history because I felt he was centuries old. The first story, though, I remember, I set in a hospital. I must have since discarded it.


As I started these short stories, I realized I would need his complete backstory. So I started looking at Greek history. Of course, I've got three kids to raise, I have a job, and I got involved with the local Oconto theater group. So these stories were spare time things. All my writing throughout my life have been when and as I could fit them in. The first short story I ever wrote was while working a temp clerical job where I had nothing to do but answer phones. That was a short thriller before Arabus was born.


So rule #1 -- unless you can dedicate your entire 12-hour day to your art, expect it to take time.


I think the first fully fleshed out short story must have been "Reawakened," or what I called "The Becoming," which is the first short story in Journal of an Undead: Love Stories. I'll tell you why I think so in a minute. But you have to have a character's back story so you can fully flesh out his undeath, or so I figured. From there other stories rapidly developed and I really can't say now in what order. I do remember working on his Vietnam story while taking a college history class on Vietnam.


Finally, though, I had the five stories put together in the first marketable edition of Journal of an Undead in 1993. Only ten years later, right? But in the meantime, I had been sending short stories out to magazines. I remember this one that focused on vampires and she was so incensed by my vampire breaking rules like garlic and crosses that she told me never to send her mine again.


And then there was Anne Rice. Yeah, she finally began to hit it after I started working on mine. So then I became frightened that I was going to be called a copy. But there have been so many "copies" since that now I don't worry. For one, I know there are no similarities, although mine is meant to be a sympathetic, anti-hero kind of guy. A guy you love to hate, or hate to love. I was in love with him in every adventure I wrote, and I hope, today, that this shows.


In 1994 I got what I felt was the dream opportunity. Llewellyn Publishers wanted to see the full novel. I was over the roof, so happy! They were and still are big publishers in the "new age" world and do very little fiction. Their initial response was that I needed to add another 100 pages, because it was too short. So yes, I did that and felt, good, that helped a lot. I then waited a month for that big contract to come, and finally asked if they received it okay. I got a rejection a week later.


(As an aside FlameTree Publishing has been considering Climax for over two months now. Supposedly they were responsive to materials within two months, so when Love Stories was published, I simply alerted them to it. Still, to date, no response.)


A week later, a form rejection!? After all that? I was so devastated that I wrote "Patience is Hell" only a week later. In ten minutes. Sold it for $72. Best money I ever made. (Do the math.) An essay about how writers can be their own worst enemies.


But that sale did not erase the pain and suffering I endured. Llewellyn did send me a number of comments because I asked for a more specific reason why. (Never do that unless you really want to know.) One of the reviewers said it seemed I was channeling an aged spirit and that I was "not capable" of the kind of writing that demanded. Not capable. That has stuck with me, as you can imagine.


Around this same time, however, I'd gotten the notice of David Dortort for my Bonanza writing, and I also did tons of research on those, so that became the focus of my work, with "Felling of the Sons" my first published novel. But I also started writing "Bloodlove," a contemporary full romance novel with Arabus and Keri, who's name is destined to change multiple times throughout (I've finally settled on Theodora Louise).


Rule #2 - Don't linger on rejection because that gets you nowhere.


Bloodlove became a fully fleshed out novel, set in contemporary times, with Arabus pursuing a romantic interest who was related to one descendant of one of the historical tales. This would be the beginning of what has become Climax. But boy, what it went through!


First, I got an agent for my  Bonanza novel, through sheer luck, as she'd taken over an office of a publisher I'd queried on it. She asked to represent Felling of the Sons, and queried everyone. The problem was that there had been a series of Bonanza books by "Stephen Calder" (who doesn't exist) that didn't sell well. They were not true to the Bonanza World, although, to be honest, a lot of Bonanza fans love them. But another Bonanza novel on a bookstore shelf? Wasn't going to happen. So finally we put it with a small publisher in 2001, who actually went out of business when I pulled the novel in 2004 because he didn't get it at Amazon.


Anyway, the agent, Claudia, also agreed to start shopping "Journal of an Undead," which was the one that Llewellyn rejected. I felt that should sell before BloodLove. This was back in, oh, 1999. She shared the responses she got with me. Most made it sound like they were expecting a zombie novel. That's when I decided to start toying with the title. It went through a number of title incarnations, the latest, the published one, being Adventures in Death & Romance: Vrykolakas Tales, published with Solstice.


Anyway, while agented, I asked Claudia what she though of my new first person Arabus. Yes, I took the third person stories and turned them into first person. While doing that, I also penned my first movie script, "The Becoming," and that won me a trip to the Cannes Film Festival in 1999. Oh, no because the script was good. No, the contest promoter thought I might know French! Yeah, I'm serious. It was not a place to promote a script, and he nearly didn't get us those insider tickets. I remember sitting there, watching him argue with the Cannes admission person. Kind of embarrassing, because he kept pointing at me.


But what that experience of developing the script did was it enlivened the book. I found I could use a lot of the script scenes in the book. Then what I did was work on BloodLove, where I developed TWO first person voices. I thought that was a cool idea. For a while.


After the agent backed out, refusing to take on anything else of mine, I submitted this title, whatever I had it at by then, with Arabus in first person. I got some interest, some contracts but none were any good.


In the meantime, of course, I had other things going on. My kids were graduating high school. I helped them move wherever they were going. I had entered college myself because of Arabus, back in 1994 and finally got my BA in 2000.


I can't remember which publisher it was, but I was told to remove the alien story in the book because it was "too far out there" for the rest of the reality-feeling novel. So I did, and made that a stand alone that I had published. (It's now unpublished and in the Of Gods and Friends book because it is pivotal to the Climax storyline.) I replaced that with the Hollywood Depression story that actually leads well into Climax.


Also, by about 2010, I went back to the third person voice of Arabus, and removed the other first person voice. Yeah, can you imagine? I went from third person to first person and then back to third person again. As you can imagine, that final transfer back needed some additional work to make it all … work.


I told was that I was using too much "inner dialog" to successfully write a first person novel. They could be right. I've gotten nowhere promoting Dinner at Marshall Fields.


In the meantime, of course, I went on to my master's degree in history from 2004 - 2006 and was doing some major primary research on a non-fiction book, now published (by me, after querying everyone three times), called Civil War & Bloody Peace: following orders. I also got more involved in theater in Green Bay, plus worked hard as curator at a museum in Oconto for three years.


Rule #3 - life does not stop because you're a writer, no matter how much you might wish it did. You do just keep getting older.


So even though this trilogy is 40 years in the making, it was not with an exclusive approach to develop it. In fact, it seemed I needed a certain amount of experience and maturity to become the kind of person who could pull this off.


Anyway, in 2016, I finally accepted a contract on Adventures in Death & Romance from Solstice. They didn't pay much royalty for the print copy but I felt they were good at marketing. I was wrong. Adventures was placed as a paranormal romance but it was nothing like that genre that most of their readers were used to. I had several who got advanced copies who refused to finish and review it. But it did get some good reviews.


I was given NO say on the cover. I gave them an idea of what I wanted but was ignored. I was given a stock photo instead, and pretended to like it. When I saw another book with the same cover I told them to let my son Adam add the flower, which is part of what I wanted in my idea. So they allowed that.


But sales were dismal. In part, I had a hard time promoting it because they screwed up the cover, making "Vrykolakas Tales" the featured part of the title. You can't get Word of Mouth on a word they can't pronounce! I was hoping they'd suggest a different title, but they didn't. They gave me an editor to work with who "doesn't like this kind of material." Whatever that meant.


So after three lousy years, I told them I wasn't renewing the contract, and got the rights back. Be careful when you sign a contract that you get the rights back when the contract is canceled! I had, in the meantime, found a previous edit I'd lost, and decided to rework that one instead. I also had finished Climax and wanted to weave it a little more into Love Stories.


Problem now was very few publishers would consider a previously published novel. So then I had to start promoting Climax and Of Gods and Friends. But one publisher even said, well, you need Love Stories, and his origin story, published first.

So here I am and here it is: Journal of an Undead: Love Stories is now available for purchase and I hope it becomes a permanent part of your library.


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Emmett Till and the Beloit Migration Project

Emmett Till was a loving 14-year-old son of a single mom who was lynched during a friendly visit to some cousins in Mississippi. Emmett was born in Chicago in 1941. His mother, Mamie Till-Bradley, was born in Webb, Mississippi, and her family moved her to Illinois in 1923 during what was called the Great Migration, an exodus of blacks from the South. According to the movie, Till, his mom raised him to have no fear of whites, but she was afraid of him making this trip with his uncle and cousin. The whites of Mississippi didn't act like those in Chicago. What if he didn't say 'yes sir' enough or looked at a white woman the wrong way? He assured her he understood, but he was all of 14, where a boy's libido often outpaces his maturity.


My new project is this same period of time as transcriber of the oral Beloit Migration Project. I transcribed the stories of 14 old residents interviewed back in 1976, who were recruited from Pontotoc, Mississippi to work in Beloit, Wisconsin, not far from Chicago. Many of them came through Chicago to get here, and some stayed there instead. I checked each one to see if any of them had responses to this boy's murder in 1955 and found nothing. The first sign of protests for any of them was a later reaction to Martin Luther King.


Mamie had an open casket funeral in Chicago to show the world what they'd done to her son, and neither man was convicted in trial by white-man jury down there. But this event kick-started what was already simmering, a civil rights movement, and Mamie was an early outspoken leader. Because of Till's death, Rosa Park refused to move to the back of the bus. She was subsequently arrested for violating Alabama civil laws, and the NAACP decided that this case needed national-wide attention. This led to bus boycotts, and a federal lawsuit ruling that this segregation violated the 14th Amendment.


The 1987 Eyes on the Prize, a 14-hour Emmy award-winning documentary, began with the murder of Emmett Till. Accompanying written materials for the series, Eyes on the Prize and Voices of Freedom (for the second time period), exhaustively explore the major figures and events of the Civil Rights Movement. Stephen Whitaker states that, as a result of the attention Till's death and the trial received,


Mississippi became in the eyes of the nation the epitome of racism and the citadel of white supremacy. From this time on, the slightest racial incident anywhere in the state was spotlighted and magnified. To the Negro race throughout the South and to some extent in other parts of the country, this verdict indicated an end to the system of 'noblesse oblige.' The faith in the white power structure waned rapidly. Negro faith in legalism declined, and the revolt officially began on December 1, 1955, with the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott.[40]


Here's what I learned at one of the links I used:


"Although the modern civil rights movement was well underway before Emmett Till's murder, Mamie Bradley's refusal to let that crime be covered up brought renewed urgency and resolution to the movement. With Mamie Bradley by his side, Randolph proposed a march on Washington to demand action from the federal government to protect black citizens from the kind of violence that had taken Till's life. Such a march did take place, as did several others, eventually culminating in the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom where the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech. Passage of the Civil Rights Act soon followed."


A. Philip Randolph is one of the leaders I discovered while writing "From Lincoln to Trump." He organized a March on Washington in 1941 to demand that FDR provide equal treatment in employment. All FDR could do to prevent the march was to bar discrimination in businesses that held federal contracts. It was a start. Randolph also organized the march in 1963 where Martin Luther King gave his "I have a dream" speech, a march organized for both freedom and opportunity. This was held the year after the US Supreme Court demanded that the University of Mississippi open its doors to its first black college student, James Meredith.


The book I'm working on, "20th Century Black Experiences: A Beloit Case Study" will cover their responses to issues such as why the migration happened, and all the responses raised before the 1965 Civil Rights Act, and continue to the reality of 1976 and why Emmett Till was no longer being remembered in those communities as the pivotal act that awakened a nation.


Till is the name of a recent movie depicting Till's mother's journey for justice for her son. Her voice became the voice of the Civil Rights movement and yet King's name is the one we think of first. King's name is the one first mentioned by the black Beloit respondents as informing their desire to resist racism in their area, bringing it to the forefront of their minds, too. Not Till's murder.


What do they remember of that period of time that led up to the killing of Emmett Till? What was the reality of the black migration in the first half of the 1950s that made Mamie Bradley afraid to send her son back to Mississippi? Why, in Chicago, did she raise her son to have no fear of whites? These are many things my full book project will explore.


Chicago was both boom and bust to these 14 respondents, two of which were white. Here are some of their comments about Chicago memories:


"I know once he got laid off and he went in to Chicago. These brothers had him to come into Chicago. They were going to try to get him a job there. And my mother went over there and she said no, I'm never moving to Chicago. I'll never take my children to Chicago. I don't know whether it was the crowd or the apartments, and she just wasn't used to no city like Chicago.  That was, of course, in 1921 or '22."


Mamie's family, too, settled in a small town outside of Chicago, and she then moved and raised her son in Argo, Illinois.


"Said they used to tell some very tough stories about Chicago. Get up there and they tell it to you, and in fact, the average black man didn't want to come to Chicago. They say, well, sir, you get up there, you're liable to fall on a pit, they drop you down there and make medicine out of you."


There was a paper they referred to called the Chicago Defender that many of them subscribed to. For the book, I'll find out more about it. I'll also want to check the newspapers in this area to see what kind of reporting was done on Till's murder here. Is it possible they thought he brought it on himself?  Here's some comments that indicate that possibility:


"always use your manners, boy. It'll carry you a long ways." I can remember him saying those things to me. He said, "It don't hurt to say yes and no sir." He says, even to the other ones, because he said someday they'll be saying that back to you. And you'll be liking it. So he said, and so that was impressed upon me there. So I still to this day still hear that answer, yes sir and no sir, don't hurt you."


"Said it even more, in other words, the whites didn't want the blacks to come north … they wanted them down on that farm.  To work those fields … because later on, when I went back to Mississippi – I believe it was 1937, the job that the Negroes was doing when I left from down there, such as grading the roads and building the good roads and getting around there. When I went back there in 1937 the white men were doing those jobs."


We can guess even in 1955 there was a lot of resentment in the South toward blacks who were living better in the North. Emmett's only real crime had been to call a white woman fine looking. He never even touched her, but she got offended and she let her white men know about it.


"But you see, the main thing in the south, especially around in the State of Mississippi or Arkansas, Tennessee, and Alabama, Georgia, they're getting down there, although the Negro had been set free, as far as slavery was concerned. But he was governed. First of all, they wouldn't give you a job that you'd make anything, you know. You didn't have a decent house to live in."


But even in the north they faced continuing racism:


"Well, because a black man was qualified to do the job, and yet they wouldn't put him on it."


"But you ask in Mississippi they say you go to the back door, you get it, you get served. They serve you at the back door, give you all you want to eat. But they didn't tell you nothing in Beloit. They just said we don't serve you. That's all."


"You just couldn't get anything. You go to a restaurant, you couldn't, they said we don't serve colored people."


And yet they decided to recruit workers like yourself from Mississippi. Do you know why? 


"Cheap labor. Cheap labor."

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A Publishing Career -- Ongoing

Are agents and publishers avoiding me because I have what appears to be nine self-published books? Does this make me look like I'm too impatient for a publisher's contract? Well, listen up and learn. The one thing I crave is a publisher's contract. The one thing I do NOT want is to self-publish (SP) one more original novel.


My first novel, Felling of the Sons, an authorized Bonanza novel, had two different publishers. Electric Works Publishing released it in 2001 and told me they were working hard to establish a relationship with Amazon. That's what I wanted. In the meantime, all they sold were PDFs or "floppy disks." Yes, believe it or not, Felling of the Sons was first issued as a second gen floppy disk. I found a printer and printed 100 so I could bring some to a Bonanza convention. Those first editions sell for a lot of money these days.


I canceled that contract after three years because he was having no luck getting on Amazon and my stock was gone. It was sad for me, because that was my first and only appearance in the Writers Market (2003 edition). A week after my book was canceled, he folded up his business.


So I searched for a publisher for second edition. That's not an easy task, but maybe a little easier in 2004 than it is now. Write Words picked it up and that was an uneasy relationship I kept for a decade. She also published Mystic Fire. In both cases she paid a royalty, which amounted to the retail price of a book purchase, so she could call herself a traditional publisher. These days most small presses do not pay royalties but we still call them traditional.


Anyway, she retired, maybe back in 2014 or so. I remember her saying she'd still have the books for sale but she would only pay out once a year. Since my two novels paid a fee to Bonanza Ventures, I didn't think I should allow her to keep our money that long, and I pulled out. The search was then on for a new publisher, but finding one to take previously published works had become more difficult. After a slight effort, since I was doing too many other things at the same time, I decided to put them up at Amazon.


In the meantime, I was seeking publishers for Dancing with Cannibals, Civil War and Bloody Peace, Saving Boone, and Grimms American Macabre.


I developed Civil War & Bloody Peace during my bachelor's in history and took it with me to my master's, where it was my master's thesis. Before, after and during my college years I was on the road, going to every place mentioned in that book to get primary details of what went on there. When I felt the book was close to developed I began the query process. I must have queried every publisher three times.


Don't tell me I don't have patience to wait for a publisher. I had traditional publishers tell me that I should try the university presses. I had university presses tell me I should try the trade presses, which I eventually learned are traditional presses. I had some say it was too long, so I shortened. I had some say it was too general, some say it was too specific, some say I didn't analyze enough, some say it was more like a memoir. I had come to a decision. I wasn't going to waste this research, and put it at Amazon in 2019.


But this decision came after a series of book sales, and my devastating first publication at Amazon in 2015. I had co-authored Dancing with Cannibals, helping an African make one of his books publishable. He had a lot of disjointed scenes and history about the Congo in the early 1900s that he just wanted someone to edit for better English, but the book was such a mess I had to ask him, is this fiction or nonfiction? At first the deal was that I got 20% of the sales. But I said it was way too much work and I would need to split this 50/50 but I'd also do the submitting. We worked on it, back and forth, for seven years, and finally I got what I thought was a publishing contract. Turned out to be more like a money-making scheme for some college students (can't even remember the name of their company), so I got us out of that. Well, that made him mad, although I kept him abreast of developments all along the way. He began to bad-mouth me everywhere. And after a few months of silence, I got a little worried. I knew he wanted to put it on Amazon, but I said we have to go through the submission process first.


So I did a search one day at Amazon in 2015 and there it was. Same title, but different co-author, although this guy was referred to as an editor. I got the sample Kindle, compared it word for word with mine, and saw only one sentence (poorly written) had been added.


I went through the process to prove to Amazon he didn't have the right to publish without me. I then went through the process of, once again, editing it, and then putting it up with both our names on it. That was so little fun I'd never do it again, by the way. He does not market it. But I have to share half of the sales with him. Suffice to say that it's a good book that doesn't sell. He's yet to make $10 on it, and I won't send him a check until he makes $50. All rights go to him when I die, though. I won't have my kids dealing with him.


Anyway, while I was still submitting on Civil War & Bloody Peace, and after I moved to Madison to take a full-time job with benefits in 2015, I continued to promote my three fiction novels; the two mentioned above and the third was Vrykolakas Tales: Adventures in Death & Romance. Now this novel's title is not one I was particularly keen on. I was willing to take a publisher's advice on it. It had even been agented, back in the 1990s, under the title Journal of an Undead, when it wasn't yet part of a trilogy. But the agent seemed to indicate that they all thought it was a Zombie novel and were disappointed to learn it was just an "Anne Rice" wannabe. Well, I started mine before I knew anything about her, thank you, so no comparisons, please. I played around with titles while submitting and ended up with one I still wasn't convinced about. "Let the publisher decide" has often been the advice.


In 2016 I got the contract -- after canceling numerous others that weren't good enough - from Solstice. It was a pretty poor royalty but they sounded like they did a lot of marketing. They were promoting it as a paranormal romance. Well, given that title, I thought that was okay. They didn't change the title or even mention to me that they thought vrykolakas is hard to pronounce. I gave them a cover idea, which they ignored. They came up with a cover that was, at first, fun, but then not. I eventually found that it's a stock image when I saw another book with the same cover. At that point I insisted they let Adam add the flower in his hand. (Adam is my cover artist for my SP books and my graphics artist son.) But the worst part of the cover, and I told them this, is do not make Vrykolakas Tales the featured title. That part should be in small print. They didn't listen to that either.


It also turned out that it was poorly placed as a paranormal romance. They got several reviewers for the book and not one of them could get into it. Another weird thing about Solstice. I asked why they didn't have their publishing imprint on the back book cover. There was this big blank space where that was supposed to be. They didn't know what I was talking about. So much for a "good" publisher. After the three years I allowed that contract to expire.


But getting a publisher for a formerly published had become even harder. In the meantime I found a different edit of that book that I had lost (it was on Google Drive) and I worked on that, and the other two in the trilogy, and I went to Crete, where part of the action takes place, and worked on it more there, and now I have a trilogy to offer. This one is called Journal of an Undead: Love Stories. But it's still a previously published, and it's even harder to find a publisher now than before. So now I'm marketing Journal of an Undead: Climax instead. The last publisher interested said they wanted the first book of the series, and after taking that, then said they didn't do reprints.


Also in 2016 All Things that Matter Press agreed to publish the Grimm's anthology collection. It was scheduled to be released shortly before the Grimms TV series was to end. I joined a Facebook group because I loved the Grimm series and hoped to promote the book. I had them publish it under my pen name, Lizbeth Grimm, derived from my grandmother's maiden name. They lived in Grimms, Wisconsin, which is also fun, and we used a photo I had of their old house on the cover. They had a horrible looking type for the cover title, though. They wouldn't use the font I had. They also had the cover much too dark, you could hardly see the house. I complained, they said there was nothing they could do, and yet the next time I looked, it was better.


In the meantime I read one of the publisher's books (a mom and pop operation is what they were) and was honest about it. I don't think they took kindly to that idea. Honesty, I mean. Though they never said anything.  In 2017 I offered them Saving Boone: Legend of a Half-breed, but in the meantime realized I didn't want that on the cover and changed it to Saving Boone: Legend of a Half-White Son. We tossed a few different ideas around. They wanted half-breed on the cover and I said no. They didn't like Saving Boone because they thought readers would think Daniel Boone right away. And they proceed to butcher the cover, to the point where I could not even promote it. I spent a year in agony with what I thought (and still think) is one of my best written novels, before finally joining Authors Guild and getting that contract canceled. The reason? The title was wrong and they would not change it. Instead of "a son" they had "the son." It entirely changes the connotation. Anyway, once they canceled that, they just naturally canceled the Grimm, too, which actually had pretty good reviews, now lost to eternity.


But now I had two more books that were likely not going to find a publisher. No, I'm not impatient, except perhaps in not waiting for better contracts. I have had a number offered that just didn't feel right, so I don't take the first one I get, ever.


I hope publishers don't see my experiences as making me too hard to work with. I don't think I am. But at the same time, when I have ideas about what goes on the cover, I should be listened to. All three of those published covers were bad. But, that said, Adam's covers don't guarantee they'll sell, either. I've even had people tell me they liked that old Saving Boone cover. I just don't see how that's possible.


Anyway, Saving Boone went a few rounds of submissions with a  new edit and title, Saving Boone: Legend of a Kiowa Son but there are even fewer that will take previously published. I told Adam I wanted movement on the cover, buffalo if possible, but the book does not sell. Grimms American Macabre has a new cover ready to go and it will be called Grimms American Fairy Tales.


Why wouldn't publishers want a cover free to them and ready to go? I'll try a few publishers for Grimm but I don't hold much hope. It'll have new stories, and be more whimsical.


In 2019 I self-published Civil War & Bloody Peace with Adam's cover because I wasn't going to let all that research go to waste. When the pandemic hit and Trump was making such a mess of everything I researched and wrote From Lincoln to Trump. Though I queried a few, I wanted it out before the November 2020 election and the only way was to do that myself. Now it's in second edition, and of course I know better than to try and market it again.


Then there's my series of copper resource manuals. I have been compiling a master database of all pre-contact copper artifacts found in the Americas for over a decade, and realized that I need to start getting the books out there. I have 23 planned. I queried several who would take this kind of work and they all responded with affirmatives, but I would have to accept little to no royalties. They were academic publishers only, and I guess meant for professionals who have to publish in their field. I'm no professional, I don't teach and I spent money gathering these materials. I suppose I could have just gone with them for the "prestige," but I was also afraid they wouldn't be able to handle the data appropriately. So all of these will be SP at Amazon in book form only.


What I have left in my unpublished book list are one history nonfiction where I have a beta reader ready to help with the final clean-up and a publisher ready to take a look. I have my Journal of an Undead trilogy that I don't want to SP but I will do Love Stories if I have to. I have an archaeology novel making the rounds, a mythological erotic that's having a hard time, and I'm doing continual work on a first-person thriller that's been giving my trouble and gets no feedback from previous submissions where I thought it was ready. I always look for publishers before I self-publish anything.


So please don't tell me I'm not patient. This is just the way my publishing life has gone.

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The Write Way to Edit your Novel

I was reading "The Authors Publish Guide to Manuscript Submission," given free by Authors Publish, as a definitive guide to submitting to publishers following your hard work of writing a novel or book. Emily Harstone starts by saying how to edit and edit until you know the book is ready. I didn't like her process of editing and want to provide here an editing process that makes more sense.


Harstone says the first edit should be to catch any grammatical errors. But I contend you do that during the absolutely LAST edit of the book. The first edit, after you've written "the end," depends on how wordy you are. A good novel needs to be at least 80,000 words. If you fall short, you need to figure out where actions, scenes and people need to be fleshed out. Do you need another subplot? Is there a character hiding in the shadows that needs to be uncovered? You will do a lot more creative writing in your second draft.  If you're wordy and way over 100,000 words, then you need to trim. You need to look for all the ways your characters talk too much, say too much, leave too little to the reader's imagination. Remember, you're taking your readers on a journey. If they know how it's all going to turn out right away, they will stop reading.


What I find humorous about her suggestion to do grammatical changes in your first edit is that you will keep making them as you keep creating. You may think you won't, but you will. Save that technical stuff for your read-aloud final draft.


You don't need to print each edit as you go. But definitely print the first draft just in case something happens to your computer. Heaven forbid. I had mine stolen once with 6 weeks of work on a new novel gone. Brilliant stuff, too, probably.


Once the novel feels fully formed, you need a print copy. That can take a number of edits to get it to its full form. You'll know when that is. The next edit, then, when you feel it's ready, is the red-line edit. Get off the computer and sit with your print copy in hand. Pick up a read pen and put your reader glasses on. Now read it as though you've just picked it up in a book store. Analyze every line as though one that will potentially throw off or confuse the reader. The biggest problem when I red-line edit I see is confusing prose.


Now I know that I'm currently only self-published, but it's even more important for people who only want to be self-published to follow guidelines like this. You don't have a publisher's eyes fixing things for you. You are in charge.


After you go through your entire print copy with red-line changes, make those changes into the manuscript on the computer. This is considered another edit because you might make changes to some of those hand-written edits, too.


When that edit is done, it's up to you if you want to print another one. The LAST edit is the read aloud, and can be done on the computer.


Emily Harstone doesn't give you any of these tips. After making grammatical changes she says to revise with content in mind. And then give it to readers. But follow the more complete steps above, and after your read-aloud, where you'll catch your tense switches, spelling errors (the ones spellcheck doesn't catch) and easy flow of sentences, then you'll do your spell check, and find a reader or two. You night not be able to find a reader. People do get uncomfortable with that process.


After your read aloud, you should feel comfortable enough to submit. But be honest. Did you enjoy reading it? Does it have enough of what it claims to have to hold a reader's interest? Did it hold yours with every edit? I'm working on a first person novel that's been through so many revisions and content changes and each time I think it's ready, only to find, after putting it away a while to work on something else, that it's not ready at all. I think my struggle here is with first person. But I've been unable to figure out how to make it third person and retain the same 'cozy thriller' feel I want it to have.


"As an author we are so close to the work that it is hard for us to see plot holes, gaps in information, inconsistencies in pacing, and many other issues. You can only gain this perspective by asking other people to read your work." Yes, readers can be helpful this way. But a read-aloud of your work can also do a lot of this for you. Let a publisher who likes your vision do the rest. Find a reader you trust if you can. But don't give up and die if you don't.


I'll share this story. I ran a writer's group called "The Green Bay Reading Writers Guild." My goal was exactly that -- to help authors find beta readers and give readers the next level of activity by helping writers get their books ready for publication. I envisioned these readers then getting editing credit when the book was published. Problem: one guy there got a number of readers to read his book. And he very vocally did not like any of the suggestions he was given, such as cut your 200,000 word novel down, you're too wordy. We lost most of our readership, because I, at the time, did not set any ground rules.


Authors, don't be so sensitive that you tell your beta readers they're wrong. Oh, we authors all do this. Please. It's why finding beta readers can become more difficult. Harstone shared a Facebook beta readers group, and another at Goodreads. Check those out if you're a member.


Take their suggestions to heart. Understand what they're saying. They may want you to kill someone earlier or later, they may want you to remove your favorite sentence because it doesn't fit.  Run a couple of new ideas they generated past them to see if you've understood their concerns. Don't just thank them and move on. Make them feel they've helped. Give them a thanks in the book. No, you don't have to accept every suggestion. But understand why they made it before ignoring it. It might lead you to make a different change that works as well.


"If you are struggling to get a book published and have submitted it to twenty or so publishers without any response, except for canned rejections (personal rejections are often a compliment and should be seen as such), you should consider another major round of revisions."


Yes, this is where I've been with my first person cozy thriller. So I am finding a read of this publication helpful, and you will, too. But if you really want to know how to edit, bookmark this article. It'll work better for you.


Go to Authors Publish Magazine for more information on their publication.

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Trump before the Pandemic: Anyone remember?

I'm a glutton for the truth. Seems there's not a lot of that going around these days. When it comes to Trump closing the government for his wall, I don't believe that's why he did that. I believe it's because he feared the incoming Democratic House. Here were just some of the supposed facts I gleaned from the newspaper on January 19, 2019:


"Trump has argued, despite polling to the contrary, that federal workers and other Americans accept any such sacrifices, given their support for a border wall to keep the country safe."


He believed they supported him, and were willing to give up a paycheck to stand behind him. These federal workers should have stormed the bastille to demonstrate their lack of support in the most physical way possible. But they didn't. Does that mean they supported him? Perhaps, like many of us, they felt helpless.


One reason for the fallacy of his border wall:


"Apprehensions at the southern border have been declining for two decades, and no terrorists are known to have crossed it."


It was related that, of 4,000 terrorists that have been captured over a period of time, only 6 came across the Mexican border. With the shutdown, TSA personnel at airports walked off the job rather than keep working for no pay. Airports are considered the #1 way terrorists get into the US.


"Democrats have also called for investigating detention centers at the border, after the recent deaths of two migrant Guatemalan children in U.S. custody."


And these weren't the only migrants to die. But whites killing migrants or blacks or school children are not Trump's (or the GOP's) concern. In his national address on 1/9/19, he talked about recent deaths by illegal immigrants, maybe three people, and did not mention all the shootings in 2018.


"Moments after Trump's speech, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York delivered a televised rebuttal, arguing against what Pelosi called the "immoral" wall while making the case for reopening the government "before any negotiations about border security."


According to Schumer: "The president just used the backdrop of the Oval Office to manufacture a crisis, stoke fear, and divert attention from the turmoil of his administration."


Those who believed during this crisis that the Democrats should cave to Trump missed one vital point. If they had caved, and voted to allow him to have that 5.6 billion for his border wall, he would have held it over their heads. He would have gained control of them, as Bush did in 2003.


I firmly believe that whoever wins this battle will win the presidency in 2020. There is another big fear about that, though, and that is that Trump could manufacture a war, because that's what saved GW Bush's presidency.


"Even many of Trump's conservative allies in the immigration fight have put a low priority on building a wall,  but the president has suggested that he will keep the issue at the center of his re-election battle of 2020 … Senate leaders have not lent him vocal support lately."


That's good -- it will bring reminders of how he lost this fight. Actually, I can't see him making it to 2020. One of the main problems is Mitch McConnell; word is that many in the Senate are against funding for the wall, but McConnell won't let them vote to end the government shutdown.


Trump had two years with a Republican Congress to get this support for his wall passed, and didn't do it. This is nothing more than posturing against the new Democratic House, which was sworn in during the government shutdown.


Names of those Republican senators in this article who want to reopen the government to continue negotiations include Sheeley Moore Capito (WV), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Cory Gardner (CO), Thom Tillis (NC) and Susan Collins (ME).


"Democrats … believe they have the leverage and have been unwilling to yield. They have previously supported money for border barriers in past years' immigration compromises but now see the issue as politically toxic to their anti-Trump voters."


The best thing Pelosi could have done, she did: Since the House is where the State of the Union speech is held, she closed the doors, saying he can give the State of the Union when the government reopened.


Trump finally caved on January 25th, saying he'd give the government three weeks to come to a deal on his wall. It came while the airlines were struggling to keep people in the air, and the same day his good buddy Roger Stone was arrested during an armed raid on his house.


Now there are some who say Trump put a positive spin on this by being the one to reopen the government. But he was the only one who could. McConnell was not allowing a vote in the Senate until he could sway everyone in Trump's favor. Most of the talk I've heard since then is that Pelosi now controls Trump -- that he put the federal workers through hell and gained nothing.


Supposedly it'll be open for only three weeks if he doesn't get his wall. By February 10th he was still talking about another shutdown, or calling an emergency to get his funds. Politicians in Arizona are hoping to prove there is no emergency; most of the border people are doing this, from what I understand.


By the end of February, Trump declared his emergency at the border to get the money for his wall that way, and promptly took off for a golf vacation. Why didn't he have to somehow prove the emergency? Why not make it his "13 days in October?" Because there is no emergency and everyone, particularly border politicians, knows it.


On March 14th, Congress voted to reject his emergency declaration, and the next day, he vetoed their rejection.

How can a president veto Congress determining that something he did was wrong? How can he veto a congressional repute of his actions? Isn't this the mark of true dictatorship? I've also heard it said that he's rallied his supporters to his "cause."


So here we are, into April (2019), and his veto was NOT overruled by the House, for the reason given by some of my Democratic friends that they have bigger issues to worry about -- like beating him in 2020. Really? You don't think beating his issues NOW is going to help you beat him in 2020? And now I notice that Trump isn't going to wait for a wall. He wants to close the borders NOW. Close them, which I guess means closing all bridges so no one and nothing can get in or out. I heard that hasn't been done in three decades and people are worried about getting their avocados.


"So," as a friend succinctly put it, "if he can do that, why does he need a wall?"


Good question.


Trump wants Mexico to stop letting their people cross the border. He thinks closing the border will be good for our business. "Mexico could stop them," he quipped on 3/30/19. "It's very easy for them to stop people from coming up, and they choose not to do it."


Closing the border would halt millions of dollars of commerce. But like his declaration that the Republicans have a much better health care plan in mind so let's completely get rid of ACA, Trump does not say how closing the borders would be better for our business. Do we grow avocados, too?


The Mexican president, Obrador, in what could have been lost in translation, expects to cooperate because they "want to have a good relationship with the United States government." I hear they might be tightening security at their southern border to stop people from Central America coming in.


Recently the Mueller report was released, and because no further indictments were recommended, Trump felt vindicated. He also did not want the report released. There is word that when and if it IS released, it will be redacted -- only revealing what Trump wants revealed.


This is serious. He has to be held accountable, as does the entire Republican party that does not oppose him.


Confucius tells us what a good leader is and does. He must serve as a model, lead by good example, suffer when the people suffer. In 12.17: "…the key to governing lies in being correct." The problem is, Trump believes everything he's doing is the right thing to do. Being correct is a vague concept. What is correct? In 13.6: "Lead so that those near to you are satisfied and those far from you are drawn to you." We can't say that anyone in Europe is drawn to him. In 12.19: "Why should a leader speak of killing? The abilities of the exemplary person resembles the wind, while that of a petty person resembles that of grass. The wind blows and the grass bends in response." We all know now what Trump thinks of wind. It doesn't always blow.


Trump lies too often. He says he has a plan, but he has no plan. He's a bully and a tyrant.  He says Mexico will pay for the wall. He knows he can't force this, but he got his supporters believing it. He declares an emergency at the border and goes off to play golf. There was no emergency, but he got his supporters believing it. He says he will close the borders completely, that this will be good for business, and he's probably got his supporters believing that, too.


Remember back in January? No terrorists have been known to cross the border, and yet he feels that this is one reason it needed to be closed. His supporters still quote it as a reason to close the borders. They are now afraid of Mexicans. Oh, and Trump is also known to recently say that his supporters are ready to defend him wherever necessary. This is a mass call to domestic terrorism.


By April 5th, however, Trump had to (or was forced to by the GOP) backpedal on his grand scheme of closing the border completely. He said it was because he forced an agreement from the Mexican president to do more to secure their southern border, and also that if he saw no improvement in a year, he would put tariffs on Mexican cars.


Moral of this story: Trump doesn't know what the hell he's doing.

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Challenges of a Low Fat Diet

I lost the 25 pounds in 2013 that I'd been trying to lose for the last ten or more years.  It amazed me how a simple change of diet made the weight just fall right off.


Simple?  Well, maybe that's not quite right.  I don't advise people to develop gall bladder trouble before they begin a do-or-die diet.  But these changes were what I needed, so maybe they'll work for you.  It will take a lot of determination, however.  For me, it was a matter of just wanting to feel better without surgery (like the kind that killed Dan Blocker).


I got the diagnosis shortly before leaving on a trip to New Mexico; to remain well enough to travel by car alone, I was given some tips. I was worried, well, what can I eat at a motel food counter?  By the time I got home, I'd lost the first ten pounds, and that was enough to keep me on this diet for life.


The last time I was able to lose like this was in 2005, when I worked for two months at Carlsbad Caverns. I got in the best shape of my life, but you know, I couldn't recreate that lifestyle anywhere else (except a little now at Kwik Trip, maybe).


Here's what I did:


1.  Read packages of all items.  Know the fat content of everything you eat.  Avoid high fat content, and especially high saturated and trans fats.  The doctor advised no more than 20 gm of fat per meal, and less than 10 gram per item.  I figured the lower it was the better because I couldn't in any way figure out grams.


2. You still need to have good fat in your diet. So there are good fats that you can eat, such as nuts.  Again, read the package to make sure the trans and saturated fats are low to nonexistent. You can also look at cholesterol levels, because that counts, too. I found when I traveled that beef jerky was really low in fat, as were crackers and chips. I have can small portions of cream cheese, like the motels have, but best to have low-fat cream cheese, cheese and yogurt. Dairy-free is even better, if you can handle that.


3. Watch the portions. Chips are a particular downfall. The package will say how much is in a single serving. Eat that, and nothing more.  And no more. Put the right portion on your plate, and don't have seconds. Leave the table still feeling hungry. Portions – that's crucial in this diet.  I discovered I was eating too much at every meal as well.  Fill up on water with the meal.


4. It doesn't hurt me, though, before bed, to have a few of those low fat crackers, if hungry, to help me sleep.  But now that I've lost the weight, I don't feel hungry as often.


5. While on the road I discovered few restaurants where I trusted the food served.  So I ate at Subways and have Wendy's salads a lot.  I was not afraid to study a menu, ask a few questions, and get up and leave.  I ate a lot of turkey and vegetables, dry bread, and baked potatoes with only salt and pepper.  If I don't know what else to eat when I dine out, I order salad.  I ask for half portions.  I take half home, if I'm not on the road. Yes, eating out remains a challenge, and I pay for it when those ill feelings return.


6. Eat more vegetables.  There's great veggie selections at Trader Joe, if you have one near you. Add things like nuts and cranberries.  And I already loved Vinaigrette dressings, which are the only ones that fit this diet.  


7. Change the way you cook. Yes, a Mediterranean diet IS better, so check it out.  We got rid of shortening and all oils except Canola.  Use olive oil on everything except breakfast foods. Canola oil in your deep fryer, but don't overindulge; a few fries is okay.


8. Apples.  Every day.  Have an apple before dinner to cut back on hunger. Have one between meals.


9. Drink more water.


Yes, it meant giving up a lot of things I used to love. Pecan pie. Banana splits. Most desserts, actually. I do buy a few sugar free cookies because I also once received too high a sugar count in my blood. Where did that come from? I don't eat candy bars at all anymore, and never touch soda, which I gave up long ago.  Cutting back on sugar is always a good idea, whether on a diet or not.  


And there are always favorites you won't have to give up.  I can still have my nuts and peanut butter, wine and Cheetos.  But always, everything, in moderation.  That's key.


So happy dieting!  And don't forget to exercise.

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The Special Needs of the Copper Artifact Master Database (CAMD)

David Overstreet, Menominee historian, once wrote: "One wonders if the distribution of copper implements in Wisconsin is representative, or, is it skewed, by the ardor and efforts of [Henry P.] Hamilton in amassing his great copper collection?"  That's a good question, but an even better one to consider is if Hamilton's public hobby of buying and collecting copper artifacts led to the black market in copper artifacts.  If so, perhaps his early and untimely death by copper arsenic poisoning was justly met. There's a website devoted to the buying and selling of copper artifacts, and artifact shows you can attend to buy and sell.  And if you hunt on your own land, or with permission, you can pretty much metal detect your little heart out, because copper artifacts can be "heard" under the ground.


But we're also talking about sensitive cultural material that's been robbed from its resting place and its original owners.  Some museums are reluctant to share their database with me because they fear my gathering of this master copper artifact database compilation will encourage more metal detecting. But in the course of wanting to know what has been found out there by private collectors and later installed in museums, I've discovered that these private collectors are the ones most likely to give their collections to museums, such as Henry P. Hamilton did in 1919.  


So isn't it just a little disingenuous for museums to tell me that they cannot share their collections for this project because it might encourage collecting?


I am on the fence about private collection, as you can tell.  I think it's a great thing to find out how extensive the pre-contact trade, industry and communication network was, and through copper artifacts being assembled in the CAMD this can be illuminated to a great extent.  


But am I encouraging collection by making this compilation?  


There is the possibility that knowing more about these copper artifacts will make their possession by others even more valuable, because of what the artifacts can tell us based on where they were found. I've even had to pay a private collector to get his database.  I only paid once, but there are many collectors who don't share with me because what's in it for them? Well, I always give back as good or better than I get, but that's not enough for some. I don't think any collection is worth anything without knowing all that was found in that area, and everyone should want to be a part of this to gain this knowledge. In that respect, I am increasing the value of copper artifacts by creating location context based on an overview of all copper found. No one else is doing that. Many museums do approve of that. My hats off to Chicago's Field, Milwaukee Public Museum and Harvard's Peabody, just to name a few. For the cover of the Michigan Copper Artifact Resource Manual, the Grand Rapids Museum was most cooperative.


But there are criticisms. One was University of Tennessee in Knoxville. They claimed to have sensitive burial material and declined to have it listed publicly, and no amount of reassurance that so do others and I don't share sensitive material made any difference. I faced similar scrutiny in Delta County, Michigan more recently. They didn't like the idea of sharing artifact locations, even though I tell everyone that I don't need to reveal anything more specific than where it was found at the county level.  The problem, said Delta County, is the Native American Indian population in the area doesn't like it when people metal-detect on former sacred ground.


Disclaimer: the argument I will put forth here on this issue is not a pretty one.  On the one hand, no one feels worse than I do over how much has been taken from them.  But there comes a point when we have to say there's nothing we can do about the past. They still have land that they can keep people off of, and if they want more, they should buy more.  Many have casinos and can do that.  I know the Oneidas are doing it and the people in South Dakota should do that, but still refuse the money they were paid for the Black Hills. The Menominees were offered the Copper Culture State Park burial land years ago, and turned it down. They could have had their sacred burial grounds back for a buck, from what I understand.  The reason I left my job as curator there (besides the fact that it didn't pay) was that the Menominees disliked it as a burial museum, but since they didn't buy the land when it was offered to them, there wasn't much they could do about it.  I happened to agree with them, and didn't know back in 2010 of any other burial museums being run in this country (it's a bizarre focus for a museum).  There are mound sites, of course, such as Dickson Mounds, where burials were found.  But they don't run it as a burial site; at least, they haven't since NAGPRA.  In Oconto, burial photos are the main feature, rather than the copper itself.  I wanted to make it known as the Copper Artifact Research Center in the U.S., but Oconto citizens on my board did not agree.


One argument tribes use against the digging is that we don't go digging around in our historical burials.  But that's not a good argument, for the reason that headstones mark those locations, and those locations are properly owned and documented. The tribes could refer to all of the U.S. as sacred burial lands.  A lot of the sites got dug up because nothing indicated a site as a sacred site, like headstones, and stuff was found. That happened in Oconto, where the burial site was being excavated for its gravel. I'd love to give them all their land back but it isn't possible. I wish they had won the Indian wars. From my perspective, the only way to get the Black Hills back -- even though it was taken illegally -- is to buy it back.


I am available to any tribal member who wants to question me. But what I need is a capstone statement so that everyone realizes why this research is important, and should be of vital interest to all tribal members in North America.


 The CAMD demonstrates the wide communication and trade network their ancestors had in this country, via their copper industry, previous to the arrival of the Europeans. It shows how much civilization they had, and why they welcomed the Europeans at first -- as traders.  It is NOT to reveal sensitive digging locations and it is NOT to encourage more metal detecting. But it IS to encourage anyone who's found anything to share it for the database; otherwise, they might as well just put it back in the ground. This project shows that the value of those artifacts goes way beyond any sale value.


Much of what I've uncovered so far demonstrates the need for this research.  There is no good common typology that is being used, so pieces have been misidentified.  Some museums have no idea what they have and want help with interpretation.  Without someone showing an interest in these collections, they could be sold off, or even discarded.


The pre-contact copper tooling industry on this continent is a fascinating thing, and is currently undervalued.  It began up near Lake Superior, or in southern Wisconsin or in Illinois off float copper, as much as 10,000 years ago, long before the people here had agriculture.  Everywhere else in the world, agriculture and even pottery came first, which is why most other cultural groups entered the Bronze Age.  But the copper industry was going strong long before pottery was created and used in the U.S. --  when agriculture arrived copper artifacts became more decorative and ritual. Around 4,000 years ago, copper tooling in South America came after agriculture and turned into a smelting industry; they began to enter the Bronze Age long before Pizzaro arrived. And in Mexico and Central America, the influence of copper came from both north and south.  They were the last to tool in copper, but copper connections are being established in the CAMD between Mexico and the Great Lakes cultures that never could have been made otherwise.  As Mexico was sharing corn northward, copper trade was heading south.  Mexico was entering the Bronze Age when Cortez arrived.


There is so much to learn by the study of a single industry that spanned 10,000 years and affected so many people. The more information we have, the more we might be able to say where materials were created, who they were created for, and even why. We can be quite hard on private collectors who don't want to share what they found because they're afraid of getting into trouble. Because of this research, the same can be said now of museums.  But why should this research get anyone into trouble?  


If any tribe can answer that question, I'd love to hear from them. If they want to shut me down, they can contact me. If they want my data, all they have to do is ask. It belongs to them. I charge minimal price for the manuals I create, only as a way to pay back the time I spent. And I know I'll never earn as much as the time was worth.


There are important questions that historians, anthropologists, and archaeologists want to answer.  But if a project like this can be shut down, then why even have such a thing as archaeology?


Why, indeed.

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You hear a lot about state's rights, but what do states really have the right to do? It would appear that all depends on the U.S. Supreme Court in charge of our country at the time.


In the Times of San Diego, dated 18 minutes ago when I started pulling this together (7/1/22), this SCOTUS felt it had the right to throw out a lower court ruling in California where they were attempting to BAN the use of large capacity ammunition magazines. Here's why that's scary:


The justices' actions mean that lower courts that allowed gun restrictions will have to reconsider many decisions, including Maryland's ban on "highly dangerous, military-style assault rifles," bans by both California and New Jersey on magazines with more than 10 rounds of ammunition, and Hawaii's ban on openly carrying firearms in public.


Now it was always my understanding that the SCOTUS could only act when an issue involving two or more states was brought to them. What's with the interference here? Apparently the Firearms Policy Coalition challenged this ban on assault rifles and expects us to rely on people's good moral character. "We are eager to see this stay lifted and one more nugget of freedom restored in the Golden State." This is probably also in relation to the moderately tougher gun laws passed by Congress recently.


What are those new gun laws? Here's from CNBC:


The measure aims to strengthen background checks for the youngest buyers, close the so-called boyfriend loophole and incentivize states to pass red-flag laws. While Democrats wanted to go further to rein in gun violence following the Buffalo and Uvalde shootings, they could get Republicans to agree to only more modest measures.


Do those new laws help us get guns only into the hands of people with good moral character? While this one appears to make that effort, I'm not sure any law can do that, such kids get get hold of their parents' weapons so easily. Prosecuting more parents when their kids kill helps, and may prevent more in the future if they learn to keep these weapons locked up. But most of those owners would say that would prevent them from protecting their homes. Honestly, though, we don't need guns in the streets to protect our homes.


New York, of course, is having the same problem with this uber-conservative SCOTUS. Also on July 1st, those legislatures are meeting in a special session to rewrite their gun laws after SCOTUS struck down one law that required people to prove they had good reason to carry a concealed weapon. Their session began the previous Thursday following a ruling by SCOTUS that said people have the right to carry guns in public. Governor Kathy Hochul called their decision reckless and reprehensible.


"Our nation has been brought to a moment of reckoning due to weapons of war that have been too easily accessed by those seeking to kill," New York Senate majority leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said in a statement. "In these devastating times in New York and across the nation, we have worked ... to step up and send a message that this path of gun violence is unacceptable and we need real change."


So what's behind the SCOTUS decision to protect the free carry of guns? Is it because they believe a good guy can stop a bad guy, though we have little proof of that? Is it because they buy in the NRA notion that if you keep good guys from getting guns only bad guys will have them? Do they watch too many old westerns? What about people who become bad guys when they have guns? How many hardened criminals commit these mass shootings? Maybe 1%? I don't know. I don't think anyone cares.


The Supreme Court said that Americans have a right to carry firearms in public for self-defense. That's important because about half a dozen states have conditioned getting a license to carry a gun in public on the person demonstrating an actual need — sometimes called "good cause" or "proper cause" — to carry the weapon. That limits who can carry a weapon in those states. In its decision, the Supreme Court struck down New York's "proper cause" requirement, but other states' laws are expected to face quick challenges. About one-quarter of the U.S. population lives in states expected to be affected by the ruling.


I think in view of all this, we should just throw the 2nd amendment away. We don't need it anymore. We don't need another Civil War, either, but that could happen.


One view on the 2nd Amendment laid out its most obvious meaning, when written. George Will of the Washington Post wrote on this ruling, that the six justices (yes, even Roberts), in striking down New York's ban, were acting on a 2nd rights amendment theory that had also been affirmed in 2017 and even back to 2008, when it's not clear that the right to protect your home meant outside of it, too.


Will wrote that the Second Amendment is the only one in the Bill of Rights with a preamble: "A well regulated Militia …" is that preamble. That's what this amendment is for. Nothing else. Not a well-armed public, not a punch of KKK looking to reinstate slavery. A well regulated militia. This means only that the federal government could not take away any state's right to defend itself with its own armed troops should the federal government want to restrict their freedom.


Well, guess what? The Federal government is now restricting their freedoms. And it doesn't seem like there's a thing they can do about it. Because the state militia now also belongs to the federal government. Our Constitution no longer works. It needs find-tuning.


Oh, but Justice Thomas, who's been a real bully boy since we've learned his wife is a White Supremacist (go figure), even calls on "American tradition" as the reason we have to allow free gun use in this country. Well, we can't argue that, can we? Even though strict gun laws are also a part of American tradition. Need proof? I'll work on that next time. No, here is a restricting of state's rights and nothing more; every state has the right to set its rules and laws.


Even Justice Kagan was conflicted: "It was completely intuitive that there should be different gun regimes in New York and Wyoming, but it is difficult to match this with our notion of Constitutional rights."


No, it isn't. Read the 2nd Amendment again. Understand state's rights again. If people in Wyoming want to shoot each other up, that shouldn't mean that people in New York must be forced to do the same. States rights.


Of course our Civil War was fought to remove states rights in reference to slavery. I can see this conservative court using the same mentality in regards to gun laws, abortion,  gay rights … you name it.


They are only getting started.









George Will, a Washington Post Opinion, appeared in Beloit Daily News, June 29, 2022.

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