Murder with a Twist by B. B. Wright; Fateful Choices: The Finale

evacuees to bournemouth

Fateful Choices: The Finale

Inspector Alexander Collier Mysteries will often provide a choice for the reader. If you want to obtain a deeper understanding or a ‘feel’ for the period follow the embedded links (high-lighted blue and underlined) found in the text of the story.

Duped
A Short Story of Fiction by B. B. Wright

The weeks passed quickly and by Saturday, August 19, 1939, news about the murder of Arthur Brodley and related stories with respect to the capture and incarceration of his murderer, Joseph ‘Philly’ Morris, had slipped into the middle pages of the Echo. Throughout most of the month, the Monte Carlo Ice show, Akhbar’s Indian show, complete with a levitating woman, Max Miller, who was considered to be the rudest comedian that ever lived, and the crowning of Miss Betty Meadus as Queen of High-Cliffe, graced the front pages of the Echo. Toward the end of August the front page of the Echo shifted dramatically with the signing of the ten-year non-aggression pact between Germany and the Soviet Union on August 23. On Tuesday, August 29, the Echo announced: “Children Evacuation to Bournemouth Begins Tomorrow.” Herbert Morrison, leader of the London Country Council, was quoted to have issued this advice: “Children—be kind to each other. Parents: Make the kiddies cheerful. Others: Show a British smile.”  As August drew to an end,  the pages of the Echo were filled with the growing crisis; still, it made room on the front page to report on a jewel heist from Knibbs & Son in Boscombe. No mention was made on any of its pages about the Brodley murder or the compelling circumstantial evidence against ‘Philly’ Morris as argued by his lawyer, Richard Bell, or that the trial would begin on Tuesday, April 30 at the Central Criminal Court in London, commonly known as the Old Bailey.

On Friday, September 1, Hitler invaded Poland. Two days later, on Sunday, September 3, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain announced in deeply sad undertones that war had been declared against Germany.

Everyone in Britain awaited a calamity after the German invasion of Poland but none materialized; they had expected a robust response to the German invasion of Poland but little of military importance took place. Only stilted sameness existed between people as they went about their daily business trying to absorb and adjust to the torrent of prohibitions of what they could not do and what they had to do. Their transition to this new normalcy ached for relief from the portentous suspension they found themselves in and they willed their attitudes to shift away from Hitler’s machinations to the greater pleasantries and possibilities inherent in holiday planning that smacked with the wholesome and real camaraderie of family and friends. The children who had been evacuated to the Bournemouth area for their protection began to return to their families as reality’s tenuous hold on the preciousness of time regrouped to momentarily follow a different drummer. This period between September 1939 and April 1940 became known as the “Phoney War” or “Sitzkrieg.”

Legal sparring between the Crown and ‘Philly’ Morris’s lawyer, Richard Bell, had pushed the trial to Tuesday, June 25. During that summer of 1940 the fate of Britain hung in the balance as the battle for Britain was fought out overhead between the British Air Force and the German Luftwaffe.

Satiated and exhausted with the daily news of death, the usual curiosity seekers that filled a courtroom during a murder trial had lost their taste for its details and, apart from those actually involved in the trial, the courtroom in Old Bailey was empty.

Norman Steffens had a square face with a jaw line that could chisel granite. Noted for being incredibly outspoken and self-assured, the 34-year old newspaper reporter had developed a reputation for not only his disconcerting ability to analyze events and detect underlying patterns but his uncanny ability for crystal clear language in his articles. As a result, he had developed a sizeable readership. Fixated on this trial, he had turned his finely oiled skills to champion ‘Philly’ Morris’s innocence. His first ‘shot across the bow’ of the Prosecution’s case was a carefully crafted and well received article that challenged the credibility of the saliva test to identify blood type.

On the morning of September 7, Chief Inspector Collier entered the courtroom and nodded in Steffens’s direction when their eyes met as he sat down on the bench at the opposite end to him. Time marched by slowly as Collier reviewed the critical parts of the trial in his mind while he awaited the jury’s verdict. Indelibly seared into his mind were the words of Morris’s lawyer when he had held aloft one of the cigarettes butts and asked the jury “…how is it possible that invisible traces of saliva could even remotely determine the blood type of an individual? In all conscience, could you send a man to the gallows on such skimpy evidence?” Bell’s all-out assault on the credibility of the saliva test had been immediate as seen on the faces of the jurists. It had become quite obvious to Collier that the well-presented case by the prosecution had just been usurped and that it had been reduced to a single scrap of disputed evidence.

When the jury entered, Collier glanced in Steffens’s direction and found him looking at him with a smirk on his face. It didn’t take long before Collier felt the red-hot heat of anger and disappointment begin to leave its imprint as it crawled up the back of his neck.

In a smog-filled room of cigarette smoke at the Strand Palace Hotel positioned close to Trafalgar Square, River Thames and Covent Garden on the north side of The Strand in London, ‘Philly’ Morris celebrated his newly won freedom with the newspaper reporter Norman Steffens by opening a second bottle of champagne. Well on their way from being just inebriated to blindly drug, Steffens watched as Morris lollopped about the room slurping his drink and singing Andy The Handy Man.”

“T’is George Formby’s best song, don’t you think? “ He poured another glass and offered more to Steffens.

“Damn it, ‘Philly,’ it’s barely pass noon and I can barely feel the end of my nose,” Steffens chortled, waving ‘Philly’ off.

“Noon…schmoon…who cares.” Bottle in one hand and the glass in the other, Morris flopped down on the couch opposite Steffens, spilling the contents of his glass on himself. “Fock! “ He exclaimed. “What an arsehole, I am!” Placing both bottle and glass on the table in front of him, he wiped himself down with the cushion beside him. More or less satisfied with the result, he poured himself another glass of champagne. “This, my good friend, is for you and me lawyer,” and he began to sing his rendition of the George Formby song:

“Now he’s a jack-of-all-trades as busy as a bee
Should anything need fixing, just get in touch with Steffens
If you’re water cisterns frozen, or the baby’s face turns blue
Ring Lawyer Bell on the telephone, cos he knows what to do
They call me ‘Philly’, Winner ‘Philly’, a lucky man indeed.”

Morris’s face turned red as he choked on his own laughter.

When Morris had stopped laughing, Steffens shifted forward on his chair and leaned across the table separating them. “Tell me something, ‘Philly,’ and this has been something I have never been able to figure out, how do you think the murderer gained access to Brodley’s safe and where does the hair curler figure in?”

Morris suddenly took on a sober demeanor. He finished the small amount of champagne in his glass and returned it to the table between them. Sitting back in the couch, he spread his arms along its back. “My guess… and …I’m only guessing ‘Steffie’ old boy…but I’d put my money on his granddaughter.”

“Hmm…that’s interesting, why her?”

“She gained a lot from the old man’s death.”

“You mean his estate?”

“And its contents. Worth a fortune.” He poured himself another glass of champagne and swirled the contents around.  “I think old chum that the murderer and her were in cahoots….Like you and me…a real win-win situation. Salut!” And, he drank the contents of his glass in one gulp.” As for that hair curler…” He shrugged.

“I think I’d better head off while I can walk,” Steffens said, standing up.

Unable to stand up after several attempts, Morris glared at him. “But, its way too early to go! Stay and celebrate!”

Fending off Morris’s entreaties to remain, Steffens weaved across the room to the door and left.

Several hours later, Steffens was awakened from a deep sleep by someone banging on his door. Disoriented, he stumbled out of bed and after stubbing his toe and tipping over a chair as he made his way across the room, he finally opened the door.

“Jesu… ‘Philly’…” The vomit and alcohol stench was too much for Steffens and he backed away in disgust.

Morris stepped into the room and shut the door behind him. Sobbing and using the wall as a brace to hold himself up, he blurted out: “I can’t live with it anymore…I’ve got to tell somebody. The jury was wrong…I killed the old bastard.”

Appalled, Steffens began to pace the floor. He and the jury had been duped and there was nothing he could do. British libel laws were stringent. He was the only one present to hear his confession and once tried and found innocent, Morris could never be tried again for the same offence. If he reported what he had just heard he knew Morris would deny it making him libel for massive financial damages. And, he had no intention of giving Morris that satisfaction.

The mournful, wailing sounds of air raid sirens echoed across the City as Steffens descended the stairs to the bomb shelter. He felt no qualms or remorse about leaving Morris’s drunken and unconscious body in his room, only despair at being so thoroughly duped. He hoped that if luck worked in his favor, Morris would be found dead amongst the rubble and he could reveal his confession.

Brodley’s granddaughter, Valerie, was in London that evening too, staying in a hotel a discrete distance away from the Strand Palace Hotel. Unfortunately, her hotel took a direct hit and she died before she could leave her room for the bomb shelter.

The outcome of the trial bothered Chief Inspector Collier  until the truth was finally revealed a full decade later. As ‘Queenie’ Stoddard predicted, his career blossomed but, not without much heartache. Confounded by ‘Queenie’s’ uncanny ability to forecast future events, his curiosity and analytical mind finally got the better of him and he visited the Stoddard household.

Author’s Corner: An Interview with Sherry Foley

Picture of Sherry Foley

Welcome to Author’s Corner, Sherry!

Q: Tell us about yourself.

A: I write full time and when I’m not writing I’m reading. Reading is called research you know, at least I tell myself that so I don’t feel guilty curling up with a good book.   I love to garden, travel with my husband, cheer my kids on at their games and cook. 

Q: What did you want to be when you were a child? Did you always know you wanted to be a writer? And, if you did always know, how did you go about nourishing that dream to fruition?

A: I wanted to be a grown up and be independent. Before I could read I was making up stories with imaginary characters. After learning to read and write I put the stories on paper. I kept writing and imagining readers curled up somewhere so engrossed in the lives of my characters that they took a break from theirs.

Q: You once wrote: “Concentrating on the positives erases the negatives and keeps the grumpies away.” I love this piece of wisdom. It is such a winning philosophy. But, I know that this is not always easy to do. How do you make it happen for you?

A:  I’m an optimist by nature and I always focus on the blessings instead of the negatives.

Q: Are you a pantser, a plotter or a little of both? Give us some idea how you plan the overall structure of your novel and your approach to each chapter.

A: I’m a total pantser. I think up a name for the hero and imagine his personality, do the same for the heroine and decide what their conflict is and begin writing.  I end each chapter with a cliff hanger and go to the next to find out what happens. I never know where the story is going. I like the adventure. 

Q: How do you go about getting the ideas for your stories?

A: My imagination bank is HUGE. I dream up a story I would enjoy reading.

Q: What is your favorite part of writing?

A: I like all the aspects of it including the editing too. I think of it as polishing the final look.

Q: Do you have a least favorite part to writing?

A: No.

Q:  When you are in the midst of writing a novel, what does a typical day look like for you?

A: I start out rereading the part I wrote the day before as it gets me back into the story and I write from there. I write at least 3,000 words and if I don’t have any errands to pull me away I try to write 5,000.  I stop whenever I feel like I’m trying too hard because I know it’s going to be what I will end up deleting the next day.

Q: How likely are people you meet or know to end up in one of your novels?

A: Very likely. I’m always people watching, eavesdropping, honing in on the gestures people make along with body language.  All of these things can be used to help you lift the character off of the page for the reader to experience.

Q:  Do you prefer to read in the same genres you write in or do you prefer to mix your readings with other genres? Why?

A: I read widely in my genre and then throw in other genres just to stay current. It all influences the way your voice sounds.  I call it research so I don’t feel like it’s a guilty pleasure to curl up somewhere with a book when I could be writing. 

Q: What is the most difficult for you to write? Characters, conflict or emotions? Why?

A: Sometimes I struggle with emotion and have to revisit those areas a few times until I feel the level is right.  I’m more even keel than emotional so I have to be sure my characters are reacting emotionally enough in the scene. 

Q: Having achieved your goal to be a published author, what is the most rewarding thing?

A: Being invited to book clubs to speak and hearing the readers talk about your book.  I mean, I know my characters are not real, but when the readers talk about them like they are…it’s so exciting.  

Q: Is there a downside?

A:  No, I can’t think of anything. I love all aspects of it and feel fortunate to have it as my day job.

Q: Have you any strategies for writers who suffer from writer’s block?

A: I just keep writing and give myself permission to get the bones of the story down.  You can go back and put some flesh on it later and dress it the way you want to then.

Q: Of the three books we will discuss today, is there one you found the most fun to write? Why?

A: Switched in Death. I  loved writing the twisted personalities. The brain fascinates me. The way it works is still a mystery. The mind can convince one of anything, even if it’s wrong.  We all can justify things, but some take it to the extreme. Example: John Gacy.

Switched_in_Death_cover Sherry FolleyQ: What inspired you (Where did you get the idea from?) to write Switched in Death about a serial killer?

A: I was made fun of while growing up because I was the only one in class that didn’t have parents. Divorce was rarely heard of during that time period. I was raised by my grandmother. Kids can be so cruel.  I got to thinking about all of this bullying you hear about these days.  There has always been bullying, but it seems to be addressed more at the same time these poor kids are taking their lives over it. Words can never be taken back and we must be careful what we utter. They can heal. They can sever. I wanted to show that in Switched in Death.

Q:  Was the killer based on an actual serial killer or a compilation of several serial killers?

A: I just came up with the name Christina Mitchell and flipped it to Mitchell Christian.  One is the tortured child and one is the personality they would’ve had if they had not been verbally battered by others.

Q: In one or two sentences, what is the premise (logline, elevator speech) for Switched in Death?

A: A serial killer hunts for a murderer responsible for tremendous amount of deaths.

Q: Tell us about the hero (heroine) including strengths and weaknesses. (Please include how you arrived at the name Seth Banning.).

A:  My son Seth asked me one time, “Mom, do you think you might ever name one of your characters after me?” Seth Banning was born out of desire to show my son great things can be achieved from having noble character. Seth desires to play by the book and protect the lives of others.  He has allowed his past hurts to stand in the way of his future until Laney shows him some risks are worth the pleasure.  Laney believes in wonderful things for others, but doesn’t reach for them enough herself.

Captive_Memories Sherry FoleyQ: In your novel, Captive Memories, you quite nicely captured the emotional turmoil Brian Helms was living through after the loss of his wife. I think writers go to a ‘special place’ to do this. What was your ‘special place’ and how did you hook into it?

A: No matter what the betrayal is, we’re always left wondering if the person ever really and truly cared or whether it was all a selfish act on their part at our expense.

Q: In one or two sentences, what is the premise (logline, elevator speech) for Captive Memories?

A: Betrayal is hard to bounce back from, but the risk is worth it when love is found through some amazing circumstances.

Q: Tell us about the hero (heroine) including strengths and weaknesses.

A: Brian Helm’s heart has been broken by the one he trusted most. In order to self preserve he has built some pretty thick walls. When a disoriented Shawna McFadden wanders into his studio, not only do Brian’s cop instincts kick in, so does his long dormant need for love. Torn between her feelings for Brian and her fear of what might lurk in her past, Shawna will do anything to protect him, even if it’s from herself. When someone from her former life steps out of the shadows, Brian and Shawna find out what real loss—and real love—are all about.

A Captive Heart by Sherry Foley

Q: What was the most difficult thing you found in the writing of A Captive Heart? Why?

A:  It was my first story that I wrote and I was amazed at how much of yourself you pour into your stories.  You show your core, all walls down, and it leaves you very vulnerable.

Q: In order to capture the realism for the characters and the situations, writing often involves research and preparation before the novel is written. How did you prepare to write A Captive Heart?

A: I read a lot of books on writing, went to conferences and practiced learning POV.

Q: In one or two sentences, what is the premise (logline, elevator speech) for Captive Heart?

A:  When your life is at stake how far will you go?

Q: Tell us about the hero (heroine) including strengths and weaknesses.

A: Uncovering corruption within his own department, FBI agent Ian Mulherin watches the lines of justice blur as he finds himself in the middle of greed, betrayal, and double-agents tied to the Mafia. Realizing he is being framed, he must now protect Nicole, the innocent woman marked to be his victim, as feelings between the two of them begin to blossom. While the conspiracy tightens around Ian, he frantically races to clear his name, bring down the perpetrators, and protect the woman who has captured his heart.

Q:  What is next for you? I understand that you are working on a detective series. What can you tell us about it?

A: I have just finished the first book. The series is set in my hometown of Springfield, Missouri.  I celebrate the area with combining the past with the present into a lot of the mysteries.  I grew up hearing the local lore and incorporated some family stories into the mix too. The first case is very close to my heart. There was something that happened in our town when I was in grade school that kept me glued to the news every night. It was hard for me to get over it. I’ve told the story in a fictional way and written an ending that heals some of the memories.

Q: What is the most valuable lesson you learned on your road to publication?

A: If you fight self doubt you’ll write faster

Q: And, what advice do you have for future novelists?

A: Hold on tight to your dream and don’t let anyone rip them out of your hands.

It has been a pleasure meeting you Sherry. Thank you.

And, a BIG thank you goes out to all of you who dropped by to meet Sherry! Have a great day!

Just point and click below to find Sherry’s books:

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Amazon            

Barnes and Noble            

Books a Million

Pharmaceuticals in Our Water Systems: A Time to Act

He had worked the last 15 years to develop a new filtration system that screened out harmful pharmaceuticals from contaminating the water supply.

An excerpt from Betrayal of Trust

Betrayal of Trust, indiepub, amwriting, amreading, crime, thriller, suspense, fiction 

Shortly after I began writing Betrayal of Trust, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer; this motivated me to take a closer look at my environment.

The above excerpt and its associated references throughout the novel attempt to draw the reader into asking three basic questions:

  • How do pharmaceutical by-products get into our water system?
  • What might be the effects? And, is there scientific research to support it?
  • Is main character Edward Slocum’s concern about pharmaceuticals contaminating the water supply justified?

Unfortunately, to my knowledge no reader has addressed any of these questions, which makes me think that the sequel must be more pointed in its intent to reveal this growing problem.

Unlike most pollutants, medications are designed specifically to act on the human body. The effect of certain drugs or combination of drugs in our drinking water (consumed in large quantities every day) over decades is a question that must be addressed now. If I am correct that there is a growing concern within the scientific community, then their research must be supported and financed to find answers.

James Spader’s character Raymond ‘Red’ Reddington on the weekly series “Black List” recently commented that real answers and solutions no longer rested in government since the world was now run by criminals and corporations. Is Reddington a cynic, a realist or a little of both?  I’ll leave that for the reader to debate.

As a stakeholder in Earth’s ecosystems, corporations’ profit-driven mandates must coexist genuinely with the highest commitment and responsibility to the principles of environmental sustainability and land stewardship. Communities within which corporations reside and operate share that same responsibility and commitment to the environment. We do not want to be left at the end of the day with only paper money to eat because everything around us is either ‘poisoned’ or ‘dead.’

 

Begging the Question

      Do pharmaceuticals detected in our environment impact human health and/or aquatic organisms? Maybe Edward Slocum in my novel Betrayal of Trust had every right to be concerned. At least he was willing to commit 15 years of his life to correct the problem.

In an article on prostate cancer in Health and the Environment, Dr. Ted Schettler, MD, MPH stated: “…prostate cancer is influenced by fetal, childhood, and adult events, including exposure to environmental contaminants. In particular, contaminants with estrogenic properties may play an important role in early life.”

If there are indeed too many unknowns surrounding the cocktail of medications in our drinking water, then now is the time to change that. The reason: for the children that are and will be. Why? Because they will be the ones most affected during their developmental stages; while aquatic life depended on for food /recreation may either disappear or be dramatically altered.

Partnerships

A number of years ago, I had the honor to work with a community organization called Future Builders. Though the raison d’être for Future Builders was focused more on educational change than the need to learn more about the effects of pharmaceutical contamination, its inclusion here is still relevant.

Future Builders supported educators/learners in making the shift from fact-based learning to ‘learning about learning’ in the context of a lifelong process of inquiry. The strong principle underlying the work of volunteers in the organization was ‘participation tied to responsibility, motivation and ownership for creating solutions that work.’ Their products and services targeted: parents, businesses, community workers, educators and students.

Their steering committee struggled with a number of questions; each question—like a multiplier— generating a set of increasingly more complex questions. Here are some of those initial questions they struggled with in order to establish a credible community action-oriented organization to be reckoned with:

·         What model will encourage the active participation of all stakeholders?

·         How do you view all learning from a global perspective?

·         How do you effectively use the wealth of research on learning, thinking, personality styles, and communication?

·         How will information be gathered and shared about what is working?

·         How are competency levels addressed in the community and workplace?

·         What funding is necessary and how will it be raised?

·         How is inter-cultural and inter-sector participation ensured?

·         How will technology and media be utilized to interact, educate and communicate?

No matter the purpose of the community organization, an in-depth educational process within the group must occur first if its members hope to educate the larger community (outside the organization) with any degree of credibility. Future Builders focused on essential skills for responsible action in the family, the community, the workplace and society. Creative thinking, depth listening, working with others, active participation and adaptability to change were key components to this focus. Essential laudable attributes to any call to action within a community.

During the period I was associated with Future Builders, I was invited by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) to co-author a manual: A Guide to Public Involvement (Z764-96). The CSA Group is an independent, internationally accredited standards development, testing and certification organization that is a not-for-profit member-based association. There vision is “to create a better, safer, more sustainable world where standards work for people and business.”

A Guide to Public Involvement “is a guide to…help make informed decisions about the most appropriate ways of involving the public.” Specifically, the Guide helps a business

1.    To determine the extent of their need to involve the public in an upcoming decision;

2.    To decide which form of public involvement is most appropriate;

3.    To help in the detailed planning for public involvement;

4.    To carry it out;

5.    To evaluate the results.

The Guide also addresses the questions:

  • What does public involvement mean?
  • Why involve the public?

 

Understanding the variety of ways people learn and the development of ‘tools’ that reflect that understanding increases a wider active listening in the community and willingness to form partnerships. I have no doubt that the CSA Group and Future Builders would concur on this observation.

Something To Ponder

According to Cancer Research UK, “Prostate cancer is the sixth most common cause of death from cancer in men worldwide.”

U.S.  News published an article by HealthDay on June 1, 2012 stating: “The worldwide incidence of cancer is expected to increase 75 percent by 2030, with a projected increase of more than 90 percent in the poorest nations…certain types of cancer… reductions are likely to be offset by substantial increases in the types of cancer associated with “westernized “ lifestyles, including breast, prostate and colorectal cancer, according to the report published online May 31 in The Lancet Oncology…”

In a report updated 01/14/12 in Huffpost Healthy Living, Dr. David  Margel, lead author of a study published by researchers at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto, Canada and published in the online British Medical Journal Open, said: “…where the oral contraceptive was used more often, prostate cancer had a greater incidence…where millions of women are doing it and for a long period of time, it may cause low environmental estrogen levels…We think further research is needed to explore both oral contraceptives, but also other estrogen compounds that may contaminate our environment  and may cause and increase the incidence and mortality from prostate cancer.”

 According to an Associated Press investigation “a vast array of pharmaceuticals—including antibiotics, anticonvulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones—have been found in the drinking water supplies of a least 41 million Americans…”

According to Dr. Margaret I. Cuomo, M.D., in her book A World Without Cancer: The Making of a New Cure and the Real Promise of Prevention: “…children are at special risk from environmental contaminants, but we don’t have an adequate understanding of the threats…What we do know is that our failure to act against cancer-promoting contamination is having a profound effect on our children. Children’s and adolescents’ cancer incidence rates have risen significantly over the past 15 years.”

The above quotes represent the tip of the iceberg to a very real and growing concern within the scientific community. Though more than half of all cancers are preventable through lifestyle and dietary factors, our unwitting choices and our environment may be the culprits for the increase in certain forms of cancer. If it is true that one of four Americans will die of cancer then might this be called an epidemic? The commonality for all humans and living creatures on this earth is that we all require water to survive; anything that even remotely has the potential to threaten our water sources must be dealt with head-on through ongoing financial-scientific-education commitments. There can be no half-measure here. Asking questions is the necessary first step to not only understanding how the mixture of lifestyle-diet-environment may affect our life now but their answers may go a long way to protecting future generations.

Some Questions to Consider

  1. Why do medications pose a unique danger?
  2. Does your water provider conduct pharmaceutical screenings?
  3. Are results from pharmaceutical screenings disclosed by your water provider?
  4. Is your water treatment facility required to test for or filter out pharmaceutical contaminants?
  5. Has your federal government set safety limits for pharmaceutical contaminants in water?
  6. Who monitors the watersheds for pharmaceutical contaminants?
  7. What regulations are in place to address trace pharmaceutical contaminants?
  8. How are rural consumers who are on well systems protected from pharmaceutical contaminants?
  9. Since leakage from failed septic systems can add to the problem of pharmaceutical contamination, what regulations are in place to stop it?
  10. What regulations are in place to ensure the quality of bottled water? That is water  free from (pharmaceutical) contaminants?
  11. Is there a drop-off depot for the proper discarding of unused pharmaceuticals?
  12. What regulations govern the use of steroids and other hormones in cattle?
  13. How is the local wildlife affected by pharmaceutical contamination?
  14. Who in the population is most vulnerable to pharmaceutical contamination? And, how can they be protected?

The above questions are by no means exhaustive but many should open up a myriad of other questions and, like the peeling of an onion, they will open up layers of complexity that may bring you to tears. 

 

Stonewalling

As you begin ’to peel the onion’ in search of the more complicated underlying questions and their respective answers, you will undoubtedly encounter less than satisfying replies to your queries. Replies, quite bluntly, that are patronizing and designed to shut down the enquiry process. Five common replies that stonewall are:

·         We are already meeting municipal, provincial, state and federal regulations;

·         There is little or no scientific evidence to support the claim that pharmaceutical contamination in our drinking water is at levels harmful to humans;

·         Releasing results of pharmaceutical screenings of the water supply would be too complicated for the public to interpret correctly;

·         Lack of understanding of pharmaceutical screening results may cause undue alarm in the public;

·         Budgetary restraints prevent us from pursuing this without support from all levels of government.

An Approach

Seeking real answers and solutions is a long and arduous process that requires a willing and informed collaborative approach inclusive of all stakeholders. In other words, it requires hard work and commitment and, above all, honesty between stakeholders. And, there’s the rub, especially when corporate bottom-lines are mixed into the brew. Collaborative, non-competitive approaches to solutions are not widely encouraged in our society. Just look at the types of highly successful video games that are marketed to children and reflect for a moment on how they may affect how we as a society think. I’m not saying that I’m against these types of games, though I do admit I wish some had never seen the light of day; I am saying there is a need for a different kind of thinking. Thinking that includes more collaborative approaches to problem-solving and integrative learning in games for early childhood through adolescence. One example of such a game is Pandemic in which players work collaboratively to stop a pandemic. If few people are either unable or unwilling to leave their ego and politics outside the door, then trying ‘to walk the talk’ of collaborative solutions is next to impossible. Thinking collaboratively is a learned process with no quick fix-it, Band-Aid-type solutions. Its aim is to find the best solution through shared ownership by its stakeholders. It is not a winner take all mentality!

At the moment, it is a given that researchers do not know what the long-term and persistent effects of pharmaceutical contamination are but, every effort must be made across communities to encourage them to seek those answers. Remember, at one time the effects of pesticides, lead and PCBs were unknown. Now, their harmful effects are well documented and these contaminants along with others are regulated.

A Memoir by Roberta Goodman

PTTU eBook Cover copyA Book Worth Reading

B. B. Wright: Your most recent project ‘Persevering through the Unforeseen: One Couple’s Experience Conquering Testicular Cancer’ is now  published. Recently you wrote: “…Persevering is closest to my heart because everything documented happened. I hope to spread the word about Testicular Cancer by releasing this story.”  Describe this most recent endeavor and how you hope “to spread the word about Testicular Cancer.”

Roberta Goodman: Cancer is an insidious disease that can strike anyone at anytime. I was hit with this realization when my husband, who was thirty-six at the time, was diagnosed with Testicular Cancer in January 2011. He underwent an orchiectomy to remove his testicle which we later learned contained two tumors. When TC is suspected removal of the testicle is the only way to perform a biopsy. When it was discovered the cancer had spread to his pelvic area, he was forced to endure four aggressive cycles of chemotherapy for a total of twenty doses.

It was a very stressful time for my entire family, because we didn’t know what to expect. When I initially looked for information about TC, I was overwhelmed by the medical jargon. I also discovered not many people have written personal accounts of their TC battles. It’s not a cancer that gets much publicity, because the numbers of men who get it are overshadowed by the number of individuals who get other cancers. I decided I needed to document what was happening to better educate people about the emotional upheaval and the treatment options for this particular cancer. I knew very little about chemotherapy until my husband went through it. I didn’t realize older people can’t get chemo in the amounts he received, because they’re not strong enough to handle it.

Writing down what we went through was my way of coping with a situation I couldn’t control. If I can reach those who might be comforted by reading what my husband and I as well as our family went through, and triumphed over, then all the work I’ve done writing, revising, and editing it will be worth it. If I can educate those going through a similar situation, so they are aren’t terrified by the experience, then all the suffering that happened in our lives won’t be in vain.

Buy her book at:

Barnes & Noble

Amazon

Amazon UK

My Interview on L. A. Talk Radio

HilldaleOn Wednesday, November 6 at 4:!0 PT/7:10 ET, I was interviewed on the Hill & Dale Show at L. A. (Los Angeles) Talk Radio by Sharon Dale and Lucie Hill. It gave me an opportunity to discuss the writing of Betrayal of Trust, the environmental references that thread through the book and my upcoming article for The Environmental Forum.

I highlighted this environmental thread by quoting the following excerpt on page 5 of Betrayal of Trust:

He had worked the last 15 years to develop a new filtration system that screened out harmful pharmaceuticals from contaminating the water supply.

The above excerpt and its associated references throughout the novel attempt to draw the reader into asking three basic questions:

  1. How do pharmaceutical by-products get into our water system?
  2. What might be its effects? And, is there scientific research to support it?
  3. Is Edward Slocum’s concern about pharmaceuticals contaminating the water supply justified?

Unfortunately, no reader that I am aware of has addressed any of these questions and, as a result, I think the sequel (working title: Gold in the Furnace) must be more pointed in its intent to reveal this growing problem.

My article for The Environmental Forum: Pharmaceuticals in our Water System: A Time to Act will expand on the above questions and it will be posted on this site soon.

So now it is time to sit back and enjoy the Hill & Dale Show on L.A.Talk Radio.

http://www.latalkradio.com/Players/Hilldale.shtml?date=November+6,+2013&file=110613

Author’s Corner: An Interview with Roberta Goodman

DSCN1992Welcome Roberta Goodman to Author’s Corner:

A Meeting Place for Emerging Authors

Q: Tell us about yourself; include how you got started writing.

A: Before I get started, I’d like to thank you for featuring me on your blog, Barry. I appreciate the support. I’m an extroverted introvert. I’m very social and talkative when I want to be, but I can be just as content spending time alone. Individuals who don’t know me assume I’m quiet and reserved. I’m actually quite loud at times. I think the tendency to raise my voice, which most of the time I’m unaware of, stems from being raised in a large city. I grew up in Philadelphia. I moved to the Eastern Shore of Maryland with my husband, then boyfriend, fourteen years ago. I hope to move to a warmer climate in the future, because I dislike cold weather. I can tolerate cooler temperatures, but I hate winter and snow with a passion. I’m an outdoorsy person who loves to walk, hike, bike, and swim. I practically go insane during the winter months when I’m cooped up in my house because it’s too cold to do anything outside.

When I turned thirty-six, back in 2008, I found myself on a quest to find my passion in life. There had always been this desire inside of me to tell stories, but up until that point I was busy being a SAHM to my two children, so I waited until they were both in school to pursue a writing career. In January 2009, I embarked on writing my first manuscript. A Sojourn in Hell is loosely based on situations that occurred to members of my family. I weaved fact with fiction to create a story that’s an emotional roller coaster ride. I revised it in 2012 to make it a much deeper read than it had been originally. It’s my second published novel, but the first one I self-published.

About seven months ago, I started focusing my energy on becoming more involved in the indie writing community. I created Tweetathons on Twitter to showcase some of the amazing writers I meet there on a daily basis. I initially focused on writers, but I realized there were lots of other talented individuals as well as those trying to make their small businesses successful that deserved support, so I started including them. My scheduled tweets run four days for twenty-four hours straight. I devote Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays to help spread the word to all my followers about books, music, or anything else they might not learn about otherwise.

Q: What is your favorite part of writing? Is there a least favorite part? And, if there is, what is it?

A: My favorite part of writing is creating scenarios that will get readers thinking. I prefer writing fiction to non-fiction overall. In the case of my upcoming memoir, I used my writing ability to document a very dark period of my life, because I needed a way to cope. It was a cathartic experience to know my words might end up helping others who are dealing with a cancer diagnosis of themselves or a loved one. I haven’t discovered a least favorite part of writing, at least not yet.

Q: Are you a plotter or a pantser? And, how would a typical day look for you while you are writing?

A: I’m a complete pantser. I make notes about my characters, but I never outline. I do my best writing when I’m alone in my home. I can’t concentrate unless I have a quiet atmosphere. I usually start right after my kids leave for school. Depending on my mood, I’ll either sit on my sofa or at my dining room table with my laptop. I’m a caffeine addict, but I’m not a coffee drinker, so I usually have a Diet Coke or a cup of hot chocolate sitting beside me. I usually work for hours completely unaware I’ve done so until something alerts me to the time.

Q: Were you inspired by particular writers or genres and, if so, how did they influence your style?

A: I’ve been inspired by every writer I’ve ever read. It’s a list that’s way too long to write here, but I can’t honestly say any of them has influenced my style. I like to believe I have my own unique way of telling a story which is independent of anything I’ve chosen to read.

Q: What are you reading now?

A: I’m ashamed to admit I’m not reading anything at the moment. When I have free time from editing my memoir, which I’ve been working on daily, the only thing I want to do is rest my eyes.

Q: Was your road to publication difficult or a walk in the park?

A: I apologize in advance for this lengthy response. My journey to become a published novelist wasn’t an easy one. In January 2009, I began writing my first manuscript. My tragic romance/family saga took ten months to complete. After many months of querying to agents I failed to secure representation, so I decided to set it aside.

I was inspired to write Snow Escape a few months later. It took me a total of five and a half months to complete it. Again, I started the process of querying to agents. I had high hopes someone would feel as passionate about this work as I did. I sent out over a hundred queries and waited patiently for the responses. Rejections started to pour in from about half of those queried. After several months I ended up shelving Snow Escape.

I started doing some freelance work, because I couldn’t bring myself to write a third manuscript. I didn’t even consider self-publishing, because I didn’t feel it was a road I wanted to go down. At the time, I falsely believed the stigma some people attach to self-publishing, and I was convinced the only way I’d succeed in the writing world would be through traditional means.

At the beginning of 2011, my husband was diagnosed with Testicular Cancer. It was an incredibly devastating time in my life. I knew I had to stay strong and find a way to deal with the stress of his having to go through surgery and chemotherapy, so I began to write a manuscript about our struggle. After I completed it I started the process of querying to agents, but I didn’t get very far. I was told several times our story is too personal, therefore it isn’t marketable. I made the difficult decision to set it aside.

In July 2011, something compelled me to revise Snow Escape. Within a week, through fate, I had the number of a small independent publisher. I called her up and told her about my project. I ended up sending her a query, a synopsis, and the first three chapters of my manuscript. A little over a week later I received an email stating my work was going to be published.

Unfortunately, I didn’t realize how much control I was giving up by going with an indie publisher. Couple that with the fact promotion of the book was my sole responsibility and most writers will understand why I decided to try self-publishing. After I revised my first manuscript, I was able to overcome the intimidation and stigma I initially felt about the process and it’s not something I regret. I plan on self-publishing my memoir.

Q: Now that you are a published author, what is the most rewarding thing for you?

A: It’s a powerful thing to know I possess the ability to entertain readers or help them escape their own troubles just by reading something I’ve written. If I can get them to relate to my characters, and to become engrossed in the story, then I’ve done my job.

Q: Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do to combat it?

A: I have suffered writer’s block, and I continue to occasionally. The only thing that helps me combat it is to walk away from what I’m working on. I’ve learned the more pressure I put on myself to break through a block, the worse the block will become. I’ve purposely shelved work, because I felt I couldn’t do justice to the story by forcing myself to continue. I do find myself going back to most stories, but there are some I’ll probably never finish. My philosophy is I can’t beat myself up when inspiration leaves me.

Q: What is most difficult for you to write? Characters, conflict or emotions? Why?

A: Characters give me the most trouble. I have a tendency to focus more on their flaws as opposed to highlighting their positive traits. I believe flawed people are much more interesting to read about, so I always have fear readers will think my characters are boring if they aren’t flawed enough.

Q: Though A Sojourn in Hell was your first manuscript (2009), a very different novel Snow Escape (September 2011) saw the ‘light of day’ ahead of it. What was happening to bring this about? In other words, what inspired you to write Snow Escape as your first published novel?

goodman_SnowEscape_final (414x640)A: I endured three huge snowstorms during the winter of 2009-2010. Two occurred within a week of each other. I was sitting at my computer querying agents for my first manuscript, A Sojourn in Hell, about a week after the back-to-back storms. I looked out the window and watched as more snow fell. Thankfully, this storm was going to pass my area and head up to New York. I remember thinking Thank God we’re not going to get hit from another storm. Let New York get clobbered with it, because I’ve had enough snow. That’s when I had this light bulb moment. What if you had a woman in New York who’s trapped in her apartment, because it just keeps snowing? What if this woman uses online dating to meet guys and one of them decides to contact her during the blizzard? The details basically came flooding to me, so I was compelled to write them down. Here’s a brief description of my murder mystery/thriller:

Set against the backdrop of a historic snowstorm, Snow Escape is the story of one woman’s innocent foray into the world of online dating turned deadly.

 

Allegra Maxwell is a 30-year old, single school teacher looking for love. Having chosen to use the Internet to meet the opposite sex, she encounters an articulate, prospective beau on the night the biggest blizzard in history is blanketing the Big Apple. Their pleasant conversation soon turns sinister when she discovers “Charles” has been stalking her for weeks and claims he lives in her building. When threats of destroying her little by little are made Allegra must stay one step ahead of the mind games. Turning to neighbors for help, tragic consequences ensue.

When her sanity is questioned because the online evidence her stalker exists disappears, Allegra must prove he does exist, and she isn’t losing her mind. She’s convinced he’s somewhere in the building just waiting for the right time to attack, so when a power outage thrusts her into darkness will she be able to overcome the helplessness she feels? Placed in a situation that’s spiraling totally out of her control, while trapped in her apartment building with no escape, will she survive until the authorities can reach her?

Q: A Sojourn in Hell—a multigenerational novel spanning almost 80 years from the Depression through WWII and beyond—is rich in historical research. Was it difficult for you to capture the life during that period? Describe how you went about preparing yourself to write this novel. 

A SOJOURN IN HELL EBOOK COVERA: It wasn’t difficult for me to capture life during the period starting with the Depression, because I grew up in a family whose members enjoyed talking a lot about what life was like in the 30s, 40s, 50’s, etc. The only thing I did to prepare myself to write A Sojourn in Hell was recall stories told to me throughout my lifetime. Writers write what they know, so for my first manuscript I chose to build a story intertwining fiction with real life events. Here’s a brief description:

A Sojourn in Hell focuses on the tragic romance of a young woman. Losing the love of her life in combination with a dysfunctional upbringing help to shape the subsequent decisions she makes. As you’ve stated in your question, the story is a multigenerational tale spanning almost eighty years. From the Great Depression through WWII and beyond, the reader is witness to the changes one woman’s life undergoes as she becomes a wife, mother, and grandmother as well as the trials and tribulations her own children end up going through. Alcoholism, untimely deaths, physical and mental abuse, adultery, and life-long regrets abound in this heartbreaking character study of human emotions.

Q: A Sojourn in Hell explores the long reaching effects that violence has on a soul. Why do you think this is a common theme in literature?

 

A: Writers know most readers can empathize with suffering characters; ones who’ve been physically or emotionally scarred from a violent incident or incidents. If they’ve been a victim of violence themselves, reading about a character in a similar situation can sometimes help individuals delve deeper into how the violence they experienced shaped their own lives. If they’ve never been a victim of violence, reading about it will hopefully build compassion within them for those who have suffered.

 

Q: Do you have plans to extend A Sojourn in Hell to follow any of the central characters on new adventures? Do you think there is scope to follow up the novel in this way?

 

A: I don’t have any plans to extend A Sojourn in Hell. The supporting characters are definitely interesting individuals, but I purposely built the book around a complex main character. The reader follows her throughout her lifetime until her death. I felt content ending the story with her passing and letting readers use their imaginations to envision what happens to the other characters in the future.

 

Q: Your most recent project Persevering through the Unforeseen: One Couple’s Experience Conquering Testicular Cancer will soon be published. Recently you wrote “…Persevering is closest to my heart because everything documented happened. I hope to spread the word about Testicular Cancer by releasing this story.” Cancer has touched many families including my own. I am still battling stage 3 prostate cancer (Gleason 7) after a prostatectomy 2 years ago. Describe this most recent endeavor and how you hope “to spread the word about Testicular Cancer.” How can people reading this Blog help you reach your goals?

PTTU eBook Cover copyA: I’m sorry to hear about your struggle, Barry. I certainly hope you win the battle. Cancer is an insidious disease that can strike anyone at anytime. I was hit with this realization when my husband, who was thirty-six at the time, was diagnosed with Testicular Cancer in January 2011. He underwent an orchiectomy to remove his testicle which we later learned contained two tumors. When TC is suspected removal of the testicle is the only way to perform a biopsy. When it was discovered the cancer had spread to his pelvic area, he was forced to endure four aggressive cycles of chemotherapy for a total of twenty doses.

It was a very stressful time for my entire family, because we didn’t know what to expect. When I initially looked for information about TC, I was overwhelmed by the medical jargon. I also discovered not many people have written personal accounts of their TC battles. It’s not a cancer that gets much publicity, because the numbers of men who get it are overshadowed by the number of individuals who get other cancers. I decided I needed to document what was happening to better educate people about the emotional upheaval and the treatment options for this particular cancer. I knew very little about chemotherapy until my husband went through it. I didn’t realize older people can’t get chemo in the amounts he received, because they’re not strong enough to handle it.

Writing down what we went through was my way of coping with a situation I couldn’t control. If I can reach those who might be comforted by reading what my husband and I as well as our family went through, and triumphed over, then all the work I’ve done writing, revising, and editing it will be worth it. If I can educate those going through a similar situation, so they are aren’t terrified by the experience, then all the suffering that happened in our lives won’t be in vain.

Q: Where can readers find you? And, where can readers find your books?

A: Website/blog-  http://rogoodman.com

Facebook Author Page- http://on.fb.me/Wm9RBE

Twitter-  https://twitter.com/#!/RobertaGoodman

Linked in-  http://www.linkedin.com/pub/roberta-goodman/44/886/b87

Goodreads-  http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5253029.Roberta_Goodman

Goggle + –  https://plus.google.com/103358666573770201293/posts

Buying info for Snow Escape:

Amazon- amzn.to/16sh1oN

Amazon UK- amzn.to/1h1FjfF

Write Words Inc-http://www.writewordsinc.com/snowescape.html

Barnes & Noble-bit.ly/11x6dBK

Buying info for A Sojourn in Hell:

Amazon- amzn.to/11wu4l3

Amazon UK- amzn.to/15MdlCe

Barnes & Noble-bit.ly/168oIAJ

Buying info for Persevering through the Unforeseen: One Couple’s Experience Conquering Testicular Cancer:

eBook coming soon to Amazon, Amazon UK, & Barnes & Noble

Thank you Roberta for taking time from a very busy schedule to participate in this interview. I hope all goes well and I am looking forward to your next book.

Flock or Not: That’s What It’s All About

Flock or Not: That’s What It’s All About

A Poem

by B. B. Wright

 

A group of sheep is a herd or flock;

the shepherd is never a flocker.

A volery of birds is a fleet or flight

also a pod, congregation or parcel.

While small birds’ in groups

a dissimulation is called,

a mouthful to remember indeed!

Though these words are few,

soon you’ll learn new,

to describe a flock, congregation or parcel.

A gaggle of geese look up from the ground;

while in flight a skein, a wedge of their kind take notice

of Albatross—feathered giants indeed—

in flock or rookery combined.

“Spectacular!” the geese exclaimed,

in confidence of the sighting just seen.

Until the screech from the ground

where a party of jays

made the whole thing turn upside down.

“What do jays know?” was the harsh, self-assured, raucous reply

from the murder of crows nearby.

“There’s no mystery in this!”

screeched their unison entreat,

“It just simply is.”

A committee of vultures circled the gathering

waiting for the ripe time to come down.

“Look!” alerted the fall of woodcock:

“a wake, a kettle ‘uptown.’

An exaltation of larks

drowned out the woodcocks;

while an unkindness of ravens

on their way to the barn

scared a gulp of swallows in turn.

Grouped in charms, chattering, drums or troubling

—whatever their group is called—

humming wings and twittering squeak,

the hummingbirds’ nectar reply

was to counsel the geese

and give the jays peace

the hardest wisdom to buy.

In the front of the court

a murmuration of starlings and a host of sparrows patiently sit looking on;

while a pitying of turtledoves and a rafter of turkey hope the trial will not last long.

When the learned parliament of owls finally arrived,

with white gowns all newly preened;

before they could “hoo”

a prorogue was ensued

from the charm of warbling finch.

When the bouquet of pheasant nodded support

— simply not expecting a hitch—

that’s when the ostentation of peacock

yelled “Foul play!” and called it “A BITCH!”

But,

when the owls consorted

with a sord of mallards

the tidings of magpies flew away.

Debate and rebuttal and erudite rubble

crumbled the mumble astray;

until egos did stumble

and they did fumble

apparently lost in melee.

An answer came out

—expedient no doubt—

and here’s what they had to say:

“Agreement lies far to the south…there’s simply no other way.”

Askance looks

—filled with doubts—

their dilemma chirped underway.

“Hoo, hoo-hoo, HOOH should go,

mallard or owl this day?”

“That answer is easy,”

quacked the team of ducks,

bunched up with their newly born.

A hush, like hoar-frost,

suddenly settled over

the cacophonous pod that day.

“Hmm!” said the chief owl, glaring down his nose

at the paddling of duck on the pond.

“Hoo-hoo can a bunch of ducks like you

and your brood of duckling know?”

His oppressive eyes and threatening ways

gave the ducks a stuttering blow.

Until,

a dole of doves

settled in

to defiantly stand in a row.

“Hoo, hoo-hoo, HOOH!  Okay!” the chief owl yawned,

“If you must. Let’s hear what you have to say.”

A young duckling stepped forth

to firmly take hold

her bold intention precise:

“Your answer is clear! Stay here!” she exclaimed,

stamping her web-foot twice.

“But…” stumbled the owl,

trying to recover

from someone as outspoken as she:

“the… Kingdom of Penguins…

with their waddle on land and their raft in water

have wisdom greatly revered.”

“I don’t give a damn!” the duckling exclaimed

“Look around you silly old owl!”

With a paradoxical look the parliament shook,

and clearly shrugged an answer in vain;

while moans and groans as if in pain

mixed with the congregations’ disdain.

The duckling strode forth

and with her mother’s support

the duckling took center stage.

“Wait!” she cried out,

with a surprising rapport,

for someone as young as she.

With the tip of her wing, she took them all in

especially the parliament to her lee.

“The paradigm shift

is real easy to see

if only you would all listen, please.”

When the siege of herons called out their support,

the volery of birds settled down.

“Here’s my question to you,” she slowly began,

earnestly looking around.

A slight murmur arose

among all the rows

until silence reposed profound.

“How many agree ,”

she preceded her challenge,

“raise a wing if you concur,

that a flock or rockery

of Albatross in flight

is a spectacular sight to see?”

Opinions and thoughts never really sought,

the pods hesitated ever so slight.

A glance to the left,

A glance to the right,

the center led the flight.

All wings raised

—except the jays—

for what they knew was right.

The chief owl humbled,

but still shrewdly insightful,

did not let his goals go astray.

“Answers all, lie within?” He thought,

this scrupulous circumspection could  pay.

His trap now laid

the duckling displayed,

scooped up so the flock could see.

His position without doubt

would now have real clout

sea to sea to sea.

Then laughter broke out

his parliament backed out

screeching pee-hoo-hoo

pee-hoo, pee-hoo at he.

When the chief owl looked down,

it was with a frown,

his white gown was all brown

below where the duckling had peed.

His plans now a shamble

by his selfish gamble

revealed by an innocent duckling like she.

When the duckling got down

she stood her ground

and the pod drew near to hear.

“Our rights are our might

—never surrender—

to someone the likes of he.

Though choices may be slender

your vote must be rendered

to ensure your destiny.”