Monday, June 30, 2014

Funny Papers, Where Art Imitates Life, or Vice Versa

Funny papers, comics. graphics--whatever you want to call them, they’ve been around since the time of cave paintings. I didn’t get to read those early comics, but my memory of the funny papers does go back to the mid-forties. I was probably eight or nine when my sister and I took piano lessons for a year. Mrs. Duke gave lessons in her house, so after my lesson and while my sister was having hers, I curled up in a big stuffed chair and read the comics in the newspaper that was sitting on the coffee table. I didn’t know then, reading Katzenjammer Kids, Li’l Abner, Joe Palooka, Pogo, and others that it was the start of a life-long interaction with the funnies.

Walt Kelley’s Pogo was an opossum who lived in the Okefenokee Swamp with his swamp friends-- Albert the alligator, Churchy LaFemme--a turtle, Howland Owl, and others. Walt Kelley lived in Bridgeport, CT and in 1953 my family and I moved to Bridgeport, the home of P. T. Barnum. The name of Pogo’s boat is often called the P. T. Bridgeport. Pogo was philosophical; two of his great lines were, 1) We have met the enemy and he is us, and 2) A woman is only a woman, but a good cigar is a horse of a different feather. You can’t beat lines like that.

Al Capp’s Li’l Abner lived in Dogpatch with his parents, Mammy and Pappy Yokum. Pipe smoking Mammy Yokum could often be found saying, “If it makes you happy to be happy, then be happy.” Profound wisdom that my mother used to love to quote. In addition to Li’l Abner’s long-time girlfriend, Daisy Mae, Sadie Hawkins also lived in Dogpatch. Sadie was the homeliest girl in town so every year, her father organized the Sadie Hawkins Day Race where all the eligible men in town were given a head start, then the eligible women would take off after them, hoping to catch a man. By my sophomore year of high school, we had moved from Bridgeport to its suburb, Fairfield, CT. Our sophomore dance was the Sadie Hawkins Dance where the girls asked the boys to the event. Because I didn’t have to wait for someone to ask me, I asked a boy and got to go to the dance. Thank you, Sadie Hawkins.

Chic Young’s Blondie was also a favorite. My sister and I had a lot of paper dolls when we were young and among them were Blondie, Dagwood, their kids Cookie and Alexander, and even Daisy the dog, and her pups.

I still like to start the day with a smile and a few chuckles. Now I find that my favorites are Pickles and Zits. Jeremy, in Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman’s Zits, reminds me of my son when he was a teenager. One day he was five foot four and the next day he was six foot four and the apartment was no longer big enough for him and his long legs.

Brian Crane’s Pickles used to make me laugh because Earl and Opal Pickles were so much like my parents. I don’t know how or when it happened, but suddenly Fred and I are Earl and Opal, forgetting where we left our glasses, not being able to hear each other and accusing the other person of mumbling.

If old age is our enemy, then, we have met the enemy and it is us! Now that’s something to smile about.

Quote of the Day:  Don't take life so serious, son. It ain't nohow permanent."  Walt Kelly via Pogo.


Saturday, June 21, 2014

Sweet Lady...Dirty Little Murders

I have a special treat for you today.  I'm sitting here with my friend and author, Marcia Buompensiero. Marcia is the author of Dirty Little Murders and writes under the pen name, Loren Zahn.  Welcome, Marcia.  Let's start by finding out a little about you.
Let's start with where you live, are you married, and do you have children?
I live in San Diego, California.  Married, yes to my long-suffering husband, Joe. For any writer, a long-suffering spouse is a necessity! My son Dave is a photojournalist with five Emmys under his belt for news reporting. He is also the inspiration for my mystery novel protagonist. My stepson Matt is equally talented and writes political satire blogs. 

How long have you been writing, Marcia?
Putting pen to paper—since grammar school. However, I really began crafting fantasies with imaginary friends as early as five. That got me into trouble and expelled—my first day—from kindergarten. It was during nap time when, armed with my mental storyboard inspired by my favorite Robert Luis Stephenson classics,  Robin Hood and Treasure Island, I stood atop my folding cot and incited my classmates to riot—or I scared them—memory is fuzzy on that.

What type of writing do you normally do?
My Theo Hunter mystery series fits the mystery/suspense/romance genre. I am also working on a fictional three generational family saga that incorporates actual events from my own family history.

Give us a brief synopsis of Dirty Little Murders.

San Diego – A sparkling city by the bay—but its shining image hides dirty secrets. Theo Hunter’s job is to dig them out. She's good at it—too good. But her career as an investigative reporter is nearly destroyed after her honest reporting embarrassed her newspaper’s biggest advertiser. She lost her job, reputation, and the man she loved.  As Theo begins to rebuild her ruined life, her friend Stella goes missing. When Stella’s body washes up along the marshy US-Mexico border, her death is ruled accidental drowning—Theo doesn’t buy it. Despite a police cover-up led by her ex-fiancĂ©, Theo unravels the dark secrets of Stella’s double-life and her connections to the city’s corrupt top officials. The political scandal she uncovers could bring down the city’s leadership. But before Theo can expose their corruption, she is thrust into the cross-hairs of a vicious killer.
What prompted you to write this book?
Dirty Little Murders is a work of fiction. While the idea for the novel’s elements was drawn from a real political scandal involving three San Diego city councilmen indicted for corruption several years ago, the murders were fictional and the characters are figments of my imagination. Any similarity between them and their exploits as depicted and any person living or dead is purely coincidental. As an author, I am captivated by the idea that real suspense and mystery happen every day in our lives. How well do we really know those in our communities and neighborhoods?  The people we work, live and play with? Nothing is as scary as the sociopaths who live among us. When self-preservation is at risk, they will gain our trust and stalk the halls of our daily lives, waiting for the right moment to catch us alone.

How long did it take to write it?
Less than one year. The basic outline, plot and scenes were developed in two months. The research, fact-checking, editing, and rewrites took another six months. Most writers will agree that editing is never done. Most books would never be published if someone (usually the publisher or editor) didn’t yank the manuscript from the author’s hands.

Do you have a favorite line from the book?
In one scene, Theo Hunter is describing a vicious political battle fueled by religious zealot extremists. She says, “I decided a long time ago, just because you go to church, it doesn’t necessarily make you a Christian any more than standing in your garage makes you a car.”

Is it published and, if so, when and by whom?
Dirty Little Murders was published in 2009 by Xlibris Publishing.

How can my readers get a copy of the book?
Thank you, for the plug! It is available on and

Tell us about your character, Theo Hunter.
Theo is a principled young investigative reporter dedicated to uncovering corruption. This gets her into trouble—professionally and personally. It complicates her love life with police detective Frank Marino who thinks she takes dangerous chances and wants her to quit her job. Their on-again/off-again relationship is awash in conflict. Theo is dedicated to her friends, especially her best friend Abby Archer. Abby is Theo’s true north when it comes to philosophy and judgment. If Theo followed Abby’s advice more she could avoid some near-fatal situations. But, then, we’d have no story. What’s the fun in that!

What’s next for you?
I am in final editing (yes, final—my editor says so) of the next book in the Theo Hunter series, Dirty Little Lies, which will be published in the fall of 2014. Here’s a brief synopsis:

All hell is about to break loose in San Diego. A retired priest is murdered and a note at the scene brands him a rapist. Father Tony Machado—a one-time student of the dead priest and now a US Navy Chaplain—thinks it’s a set up. When Father Tony asks his old flame Theo Hunter to set the record straight, she agrees to help against her better judgment. Theo interviews several men, upstanding pillars in San Diego’s social and business community, who were once students at a prestigious boy’s school where the dead priest taught for thirty years. The men all vouch for his reputation—case closed. Theo is about to wrap up her findings when one of the men is killed. Within days another is murdered. When she uncovers evidence that ties them and the murdered priest to a decade’s old unsolved crime, her gut tells her someone is trying to settle an old score. Theo narrow’s her suspects to two—one the killer, the other the next target. Finding out which is which puts Theo dead center in the killer’s sights.

What is your advice to would be writers?
When I started, I was clueless about the publishing industry. Make no mistake, it is big business. Anyone who hopes to be successful will find that even with a traditional publisher the author must be willing to do a certain amount of marketing on his/her own. Unless you are James Patterson, Stephen King or J. K. Rowling, you will have to learn to sell yourself as well as your work. The business of marketing may be daunting, especially to writers who are often reclusive, do your research. There are publications about all aspects of the business. Acquaint yourself with them. Step out of your comfort zone and meet fellow authors. Join writer critique groups and find a writers organization that will encourage and help you to grow. I found the San Diego Writers/Editors Guild (SDW/EG) to be a good fit for me. My association with its members who are professionals in the writing field has been a tremendous help.

What do you wish you knew when you started your writing career?
It would have been helpful to understand more about the publishing and marketing end of the business. As I said, research and reading about publishing will help to some extent, but my involvement with SDW/EG has taught me much more and exposed me to so many industry professionals who are willing and anxious to share what they have learned.

Oh, and don’t expect to make millions! Writing is a labor of love—which, as many authors will tell you, is its own reward.

Thank you, Marcia.  It's been a pleasure!
Quote of the Day:  There will be time to murder and create.  Thomas Stearns Eliot. 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Family, Flame, and Fallen Heroes

Memorial Day and the following week was time well spent for us as I hope it was for you.  My daughter Cyndi, her husband Bill, Fred, and I drove to Connecticut to spend the time with family.  We first spent a few relaxing days in Manchester, CT with my other daughter Tammy Sue and her husband Curtis.  Sitting around a fire pit at night, listening to Curtis play his guitar, family reminiscences, it was all good.

Memorial Day we drove to Seymour, CT. to spend time with my son, Michael, and his fiancĂ©e Kari and her family.  It was the first time in years that I’d been with all my kids at one time and I cherished every minute of it.  That was, after all, why we moved to the East Coast.

Mike, Cyndi, Tammy, Me

We spent the following week in Fairfield, CT. with my sister, Donna, and her husband Joe.  They’ve been married going on fifty-six years and are the epitome of what a solid marriage should be.  I hadn’t seen them in six years and it was important I see them before any more time elapsed.  Donnie and I are in our seventies, Joe is eighty.   Time is not on our side any longer so we no longer have the luxury of saying, “Maybe later.” The time was now. 

On the drive back south, we stopped at Arlington Cemetery.  Cyndi and I had been there before but Fred and Bill never had so it was important we stop and look around.  No matter how many times I visit Arlington, I am overcome with the honor and respect and reverence that exists with every step.  

On the way to the Tomb of the Unknowns, we stopped at JFK’s grave site and the eternal flame.  Forty years ago when I visited Arlington, his grave site and flame were on a grassy area next to Bobby Kennedy’s grave.  I know it was on grass because as I stood there gazing down and reflecting, the lawn sprinklers came on and I got wet!  Now, the eternal flame is on a cement platform with marble steps leading up to it, surrounded by a wall with President Kennedy’s “Ask not” speech engraved in the wall.  Next to the marker for President Kennedy is the marker for Jacqueline Kennedy Onasis, their infant boy and a stillborn girl.
Bobby Kennedy’s grave site is now a distance away, on grass.    

A walk down a flight of stairs brought us to the Tomb of the Unknowns.  The guard is changed every half hour during the summer so we were there in time to witness the ritual. The precision, timing, somberness of the occasion are what speaks to us visitors.  The sentinel takes twenty-one steps across a rubber mat, turns and faces the Tomb for twenty-one seconds, turns and faces the length of the mat for twenty-one seconds, switches his rifle to his shoulder nearest the crowd to show he is protecting the Tomb from any possible threat, then begins his (or her) twenty-one steps and does the same thing at the other end of the mat.  This process has gone on, day and night, good weather and bad, without interruption, since 1927. Twenty-one stands for the highest honor awarded a fallen serviceman; i.e., a twenty-one gun salute.  On the Tomb are these words:  HERE RESTS IN HONORED GLORY AN AMERICAN SOLDIER KNOWN BUT TO GOD. 

Arlington is a place everyone in this country should visit to get back to our roots of what makes this country great.  From Arlington Cemetery one can look out and see the top of the Washington Monument reaching high above the trees.  It is difficult not to feel patriotic in such a setting.  Forty years ago, the sprinklers did not extinguish the eternal flame, weather will not prevent the sentinels from guarding the Tomb of the Unknowns, and neither terrorism nor politics will extinguish the pride that is a birthright of every American.

Quote of the Day:  God Bless America!