Lady Graves – NaNoWriMo 2018 – my 50,000-words-in-one-month novel

I did it – I took the challenge; I wrote a whole novel in one month. Toward the end my word count was low and the November 30 deadline was looming, so I wrote some swift, shabby, poorly thought-out exposition. I’ve still not begun the huge remodeling effort, the gutting and rebuilding of those final chapters, the streamlining and purging of deadwood from earlier scenes.

A quick synopsis:

LADY GRAVES and the Road to Lindenstein by Carol Kean

Buried treasure doesn’t usually bring to mind a young woman left for dead in a shallow grave, but when Herr Doktor Niklaus Stangler follows his barking dog in the night, he digs up more than a Fräulein who is barely even alive. He finds her dressed as a maid but when she gradually revives, she asserts she is a lady, and her name is–well, she can’t think of it–nor can she imagine who might want her dead. In a stone cottage hidden in Bavaria, she recovers under Stangler’s care, but her mind is slower to heal than her body. She yearns to remember her identity and regain her life–until she starts remembering. When the truth is too painful to face the mind is able to repress what we know, but she learns enough to send her on the road to Lindenstein, where her future with a prince was apparently usurped by an imposter.

In her new life as Lady Graves she has nothing–no money, no title–but her resources include a one-eyed dog named Emil, an exiled baroness charged with paganism and sorcery, and an impassioned Enlightenment-era doctor who escaped prison after being falsely arrested as a Bonapartist, and who dreams of starting over in the New World, the land of his dreams, America.

The story is a stand-alone at 50,000 words. It could be expanded with more descriptions and back story about Napoleon’s impact on Europe, especially the lands that eventually united in 1871 as The German Empire. The French Revolution, the Napoleonic Code, the ideals of the Enlightenment play a role in this story, but the focus is on Lady Graves recovering her identity and seeking the truth about her would-be assassin.



The one-eyed dog had earned his keep, but that infernal barking had to stop. It wasn’t like Emil to get riled up this way after retiring for the night with his master. Whatever was out there, Niklaus Stangler had no more concern for it than he did for Emil’s most hated foe, the squirrel in the oak tree. “Halt den Mund, Emil!” Stangler shouted, pulling a pillow over his head.

Boing! Boing! Emil leaped straight up, swatting the door latch. That crazy, crafty, stubborn little villain got the door open himself.

“I am no longer shocked that someone tried to kill you,” he added as his little dog catapulted into the cold, dark midnight air. Stangler hurried into his pants, boots and cloak. The moon was full and bright and probably the source of Emil’s Angst.

On a moonlit path through the trees, Stangler broke into a run along Emil’s well-worn course to the stream. He followed Emil’s yipping, past the usual rabbit warren, past the old oak with the squirrel, and on, until a gyrating tail gave him away like a white flag waving. Dirt and leaves went flying from his paws.

“Enough, Emil. Genug!”

Emil, so quick to learn new commands, obeyed only when it suited him. He pawed the earth until something pale and fleshy came to light. Stangler bent down.

This was no animal.

Not since his first day as a battlefield medic, sawing off arms and legs of young men who’d been perfectly healthy minutes before, had Herr Doktor Niklaus Stangler felt so queasy.

He pushed away branches that had been heaped over a human body. There wasn’t much for Emil to dig. A grave this shallow suggested someone in a big hurry to move on.

He grasped two ankles and stepped back, pulling, dragging. Emil sniffed around and started barking at the trail that led to the road.

“Ah, Emil. If you could talk, I’d have you go down that path and find out who did this.”

He laid out the body. A maid or a serving wench, bodice unlaced and skirts hiked up. He wished for someone he could send in search of the murderous gravediggers, but exiles like him had no neighbors.

On her arms, dark liquid beads formed along fresh scratches.

Dead people didn’t bleed.

He checked for a pulse. It was very, very slow, barely detectable. It would be easy to mistake her for dead. If not for Emil, she would have been completely dead before anyone ventured far enough from the road to find her.

The dog looked up at him with an eager expectation of attention and praise.

“Well done, Emil.” He couldn’t share the tail-wagging joy, knowing how little life remained in this cold, cold body. “Ach, Emil! This one may be harder to resurrect than you were.”

The dog listened, one ear cocked, his one eye full of concern. Surely, animals had souls.

Stangler scooped the dirty young wench into his arms, enfolded her in his cloak, and hiked back to the cottage.

She was so cold. Desperate to warm her, he allowed the dog to snuggle under a blanket with his find on Herr Doktor’s own bed. He assembled tools and implements, hot water and clean linens, then tended to her wounds. Her bleeding scalp indicated she had been dragged by her hair, which was tangled with dirt and leaves. A gash in the back of her head required sutures. Her pulse was stronger now, but she was far from conscious.

Like a mother hovering over her sick child, Emil watched over the wretched girl. Not long ago it had been the dog as his patient. Stangler wondered how he could saw off a soldier’s limbs but wince at having to snip off the eyeball that dangled from a dog’s head, clean the empty socket and sew it shut, and keep the dog from waking and biting off the hands that healed him. Perhaps he would have been wiser to let mother nature take her course, but it was the physician’s nature to intervene, to fix, to heal.

He plied the needle and thread, then dabbed a tincture of walnut leaves on her open wounds. His busy hands were well accustomed to this work, allowing him to examine his conscience and lament his plight. Why couldn’t he have left a mostly dead wench to complete her task of dying? If not for Emil, she’d be no concern of his. There was no telling what she might have done. He might be harboring a thief–or worse. Women, too, were capable of murder.

More likely, this woman was an innocent victim. Clearly, someone had tried to kill her. He would go off in search of her assailant but she might die in his absence. If Emil could talk, he’d send him on the trail of the assassin. That dog loved to run off and come home barking incoherently of his finds.

He saved a dog who saved a girl, but who was saving him? To warm her, he’d have to strip off all her garments and his own as well and lie with her, skin to skin, until her body temperature rose to a safe level. It was a dirty job but someone had to do it. Under the blankets, naked, holding her close. A terrible job. He almost smiled.

Soon he could hear her breathing and he shifted back far enough to start checking his patient for deeper injuries. Preferably before she awoke. Pray God she would not come to and find a stranger groping between her legs!

The cottage walls danced with shadows from the fireplace, and Stangler wished for a healthy dose of bright sunlight to illuminate his job. If the girl came to now, she’d think him a mad man and scream for help but there was none at hand, nought but a dog and a stranger.

She had not been raped. One consolation.

In fact, he could be sure this was no wench from a brothel. Nothing had penetrated her and broken her maidenhood.

At some point he must have drifted to sleep. The sun rose as always no matter what happened in the night, filling his cottage with light, but Stangler felt himself still in the dark. He took up his journal and noted the latest events, the nature of the maiden’s injuries, the medical interventions he ministered. Her face was swollen beyond recognition, cheekbones level with her nose, a countenance more leonine than human.

Keeping his new patient warm and hydrated would occupy him for hours. He had to implement a feeding tube to get something warm and nourishing inside her. Ancient Egyptians used reeds to give rectal feedings of chicken broth, wine, and eggs, but this was 1821, and physicians knew how to fashion a flexible, hollow tube of leather to deliver blended food to the stomach. Liquids first for this half-dead woman. Through the nose, down the throat, to the stomach. Stangler concocted a mix of warm chamomile tea for its antiseptic, anti-inflammatory action, and cream, which reminded him–he must get out and milk the goat, if Nana hadn’t leaped the fence again. Emil had been preoccupied all night with his new charge. He let the little watchdog out to do his morning duty, sniff about, then return to the girl while Stangler milked the goat.

Sometimes the girl moaned but didn’t awaken. Better for her to sleep through the pain. Stangler added capsicum and more chamomile to the feeding tube and got her to swallow without choking.

He detangled her hair, rinsed it with vinegar followed by water infused with lavender. The girl would live, he decided, but not without his vigilance.

Time was wasting. He had work to do, gathering more roots and herbs from the woods, drying and storing, labeling and collecting. Fritz Lanza, the local boy, should pay Herr Doktor a visit soon to earn some chore money. Why had he told the boy not to come every day? If only he would come now, and the cleaning lady too, but once a week was all he’d asked of her. Now he’d squander more time hand-washing and mending the girl’s garments himself. Then again, he wouldn’t touch the stained and tattered dress or apron. Leaving them as is might make it easier to identify her.

Her thick, rippling hair finally dried, and Stangler admired the rare shade of dark blond with hints of red. How fitting that the leonine distortions of her battered face should be framed by a lion’s mane. He took up his sketchbook and tried to capture the image of a lioness-woman, unconscious in his bed. Then he started to tear out the page, lest anyone else come upon the image and think ill of him–but no, it was part of his medical work, and he would duly record what he observed.

Stangler checked the laceration on her head. The stitches looked clean. Gently, he brought her long, thick mass of hair to one side and separated it into thirds. So much more hair than Maria, God rest her soul. Plaiting the tresses of his English patient brought back memories and the sting of tears in his eyes, but he kept moving, kept looking forward. He fed Emil, fed himself, fed the fire, then sank into the wooden rocking chair facing the bed with a book in hand. True loneliness was hardly possible when he had so many companions on a shelf, always there at the touch of his fingers, opening up to him, allowing him into the minds of others, and never casting judgment on him. No disapproving stares, no head shaking, no mobs rioting for his head. There were men in this world who espoused the same ideas he held. They communed with him from the safety of books.

The mantel clock ticked the afternoon away .

Up! Up! Bark! Bark! Emil summoned him from a dreamless sleep, springing up and down like no other dog Stangler had seen. The dying flames were the only source of illumination now; daylight had fled.

A voice, soft and weak, murmured in English: “My head is on fire.”

Stangler bolted to his patient’s side. One eye opened and focused not on him but on Emil, who immediately sprang up and down again with unstoppable  joy.

“Am I in hell?” she whispered. “What is that?”

Stangler laughed. “That little demon is your guardian angel, mein Schatz. His name is Emil.”

She gripped the blanket and held it like a shield. Did she know German? “My treasure” might translate into an unwelcome endearment.

A buried treasure, indeed, this Fräulein he had dug up in the woods.

“What has happened to me, and why am I here?”

Her voice was rather imperious, for a maid or serving wench. And accusing. As if he had brought here to this sorry state–he who had lost a good night’s sleep and used no ordinary skill to keep her from her grave!

Stangler tried to look past the sickly greens, grays, and blues of the bruised face of the stranger and into her heart.

“Fräulein,” he said, gentling his voice, “I would love to know the answer to those questions. I have been looking forward to your waking and telling me.”

Her head rose slightly from the pillow; her lips parted, she began a reply, only to sink back as if exhausted by the prospect of making a proper introduction. At this point, propriety was as far away as the brute who’d failed to kill her. Stangler had undressed her, bathed her, and inspected her wounds, with no such nicety as having been employed by her to secure his services.


But she had fallen under once more.



Her head was on fire and she didn’t know where she was or how she’d come to be here. A one-eyed dog stared at her, his head cocked, as if trying to choose the most courteous way to inform her that her life was ruined and she’d only herself to blame. Not that she believed that, but everyone else did.

To her sudden chagrin, she couldn’t recall who “everyone else” might be.

“Who are you,” she asked the dog, “and why am I here?”

He wagged his tail, then leaped from the bed and bounced up and down like a coiled spring. What a strange animal! She’d never seen a dog quite like this one, but she heard the name Emil in her mind.

She sat up, slowly, her throat raw, her scalp burning–and only one eye! She and the dog!

Gingerly, she touched the swollen, bruised flesh that sealed her right eye. Ouch. Very well, her eyeball was still there, hidden inside her head.

“What is this place?” she asked, though the man was nowhere to be seen. The dog yipped an agreeable reply.

“I have been abducted,” she whispered, coming slowly to her senses. “I must escape!”

Someone had dressed in her a clean linen shift, one she’d never worn before–that much she knew. Her one eye made a swift surveillance of the tidy stone cottage with a window on each wall. Steep, narrow stairs led to an upper level. The air was sweet with a yeasty aroma of bread rising, of drying sage, rosemary, lavender, and more herbs than she could discern in one sniff, and milk curdling over a warm stove. She caught a whiff of dog as well, but like horses in a stable full of hay and even the occasional skunk, the odor of dog had never offended her. This, she knew. How she came to be here, she had no clue.

She swung around and planted her feet on the floor, tried to stand, and fell back to the straw mattress and feather tick. Then she noticed a bedpan and shuddered to think of the indignity of a man assisting her to a chamber pot, much less dealing with–oh, the indignity! Surely the man had a maid she hadn’t seen yet.

Fräulein. She had been hearing that a lot.

Slowly, she rose to her feet and managed the chamber pot, then found the pitcher and basin for hand washing, then fell back to her sick bed. Her sick bed! She wasn’t ill–she was injured, grievously injured, and her only guardian was a one-eyed dog.

Apparently she had dozed off again, because her eye opened and there he was, the man with green eyes and dark lashes.

Her captor.

With a gasp, she shot up, just as he was bending closer, and their foreheads collided.

“Ach du Liebe!” he cried, rubbing his head, then clasping hers and investigating the damage. She flinched away from his touch. “Keine Panik,” he said. “You have good reason to be jumpy, but I can assure you, my mission is to do no harm. I a healer.”

Emil’s tail thumped the floor as if to vouch for him.

“Good Sir,” she said slowly, “if I am to trust you, then you must tell me who you are.”

He hesitated. “You may call me Klaus.”

“I would not presume to be so familiar, Mr. Klaus.”

“You are no ordinary maiden,” he said with a smile. “Perhaps you attend to a baroness–or duchess–in England, I should guess, by your fine speech.”

“Maiden. Maid. What do you take me for, and why do you hold me in such low esteem?”

“Why do you bite the hand that feeds you?” he returned. “And why do you not favor me with your name, young lady?”

“My name is–”

He cocked an eyebrow at her, the same way his dog did. She gripped her long braid and brought it closer to her eye, as if her hair might reveal her name.

“This is not how I braid my hair at night.” That was it–the one revelation that came to her while examining her hair. “This looks lovely, though. Like a herringbone. You must show me how it’s done.”

He laughed, and she remembered that he had been impertinent and presumptuous with her.

“My name,” she said, with every expectation that it would roll right off her tongue, “is…”

Tears sprang to her eyes, or one eye, at least; hot, salty tears ran down her throat which was already raw, and she couldn’t even let out a scream. Just a hiccup. She stared at the stranger sitting at the edge of the bed she’d so mysteriously found herself in.

“What have you drugged me with?” she cried out. “I cannot recall my own name!”

The dog moved closer, standing on two legs to lick the tears from her face, his front paws on the edge of the mattress. She managed a brave smile for the endearing little character but not for the man with the mild German accent.

“Emil found you, Fräulein, badly beaten and buried in a shallow grave,” said the man. “I’ve seen head injuries far worse than yours, and your amnesia is only temporary, I am sure, but very grave. If you’ll pardon that word.” He flashed her a penitent smile. “We found you dressed as a maid. I did not imagine a fine lady would wear her maid’s garments, but you tell me you are no maid. Very well. Until you can tell me your name and title, I shall call you Lady Graves.”


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“Unheard Melodies” – my story won a little contest!

“Unheard Melodies” for Fiction Comp, #1 Week 1 by @carolkean 

Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter –

–“Ode on a Grecian Urn,” John Keats, 1819

This is my entry for the “Fiction Comp – All writers are welcome – #1 Week 1” fiction writing competition hosted by @kyrios.
Writing Prompt:
Having seen the fall and rise of empires…
the death of his loved ones… an immortal tries
his best to not mingle with society by holing
himself up in a cave far away from any civilization.
During one stormy night…
his home becomes the shelter for a stranger
who is the spitting image of his grandson.

Unheard Melodies

Alone in his mountain hideaway, the immortal heaved a godly sigh. The women he had loved! The demi-gods he had sired. Gone, all gone.

On a Grecian urn in a warm, dry part of the cave, fair maidens “forever panting, and forever young” danced under leafy boughs. Frozen in marble–ah! It seemed only yesterday he’d cavorted with them, not thousands of years.

Nor did it seem more than a century since John Keats gazed at those “marble men and maidens overwrought” in a British museum. Immortalized. Silly word. A graven image was no substitute for maidens who panted no more. All his statues, books, paintings, and music were also no surrogate for flesh and blood companions. They did remind him, though, why he had to distance himself from the mortals.

Thunder crashed, making the cave walls vibrate, but Weltschmerz didn’t worry about electronics or storms. He didn’t need human technology. With a swipe of a finger he called up songs from a life he’d led long, long ago.

photo credit: Margit Wallner, pixabay)

Humans. So good at burning cities and libraries, spilling blood, and shutting out the voices of the gods. Then again, the gods had done their share of mischief.

But they’d done so much that was good, and beautiful, and true. Music, math, literature, science, history, art, and more, all existed in “the Cloud.” The nine Muses kept track of things that mortals kept forgetting, destroying, or failing to create in the first place. Euterpe had been saving music from ages past and ages yet to come. It took humans thousands of years of ignoring messages from the gods before they finally learned to capture sound on invisible radio waves. Soon, someone would wake from a dream, take silicon from sand, and build computer circuits. Knowledge would be backed up in an invisible realm so far known only to the gods.


That was what they called him now, the gods, who’d scattered. Did he really hear that name in his hidden cave? The immortal swiped a finger over a tablet, silencing a damsel with a dulcimer in Xanadu. He listened.

Howling wind, that’s all he’d heard.


No mortal knew him by this new name, Welt (world) plus schmerz (pain). As if the world weariness of the gods were more his fault than anyone else’s.

Oh for one more night of nectar and ambrosia on Olympus, with all nine Muses at his table! He especially missed Euterpe, though he continued to see evidence of her across the ages. Mozart channeled her magic in his music, allowing mortals to hear the sublime sounds the gods had enjoyed long before. Euterpe also visited Coleridge in 1797, but the opium-addled poet awoke from a dream unable to remember the ending of “Kubla Khan.”

Weltschmerz remembered. If only the powers of the gods included calling up a panting maiden with a mere swipe of the finger.

“Weltschmerz! I know you’re in there. I’m coming in now, like it or not.”

How odd. Nobody else knew the path through the Black Forest to his mountain home. Weltschmerz blitzed to the cave entrance, a mere slit in the rocks, as a man squeezed through. How dare he?

The man straightened, coming eye to eye with Weltschmerz. They both blinked, leaned closer, and stared. Weltschmerz recognized the high cheekbones and chiseled jawline of his grandson, who’d been dead for–well, he’d lost track of time.

“Gott in Himmel,” the familiar stranger whispered. “You look exactly like the man in my dream.”

Weltschmerz caught a whiff of dog and sheep in the stranger’s wet wool jacket, warm blood, cold wet hair, and the stench of a battlefield.

“Well.” He remembered the hospitality of the ancients, Homer’s exulted Greeks and Germany’s less-celebrated Nibelungs. No greater shame was there than to neglect a visitor. Time to lavish this one with a warm bath, dry clothing, and a feast. “First things first.”

Weltschmerz whisked his visitor to the hot springs deeper inside the cave, saving questions for later. He was an immortal, after all. Biding his time wasn’t an inborn talent. He’d learned it with many a sob of remorse.

His human visitor finally took a place at table, gazing around in wonder, yet accepting the incredible with the assurance of a demi-god. Weltschmerz engaged only in small talk–more wine?–until they could retire to chairs by the hearth.

“A man who pays attention to dreams,” Weltschmerz began. “Silas, you are an anomaly.”

“Indeed.” Silas cast a furtive gaze at all the antiquities. “The dream did not, however, give me a sense that you are a Nazi. I wondered where they–where all the artwork was being hidden.”

“Relax. It was World War One that drove me into this cave, and the Nazis who kept me from venturing out again. The antiquities you see are my own personal collection, and most were new when I acquired them.”

“That’s a scary thought.”

“You have no idea.”

Silas stared into the fire. “I faced a firing squad today,” he said, “and I’m not entirely sure I’m still a real, live human. If my executioners had seen me get up from a shallow grave and walk away, their surprise would be no greater than my own.”

“Not bad, for a demi-god.” The old one steepled his hands. “Your crime?”

Judenliebe. I tried to save as many Jews as I could–until I got caught. I can’t save the world, but there is a way I could go back and save more people than I did. A way to do more good than harm.” He looked intently at his host. “If you’ll help me.”

“We can only do so much.” Weltschmerz felt the weight of the world on his shoulders. As usual. “Sometimes, we think we’re doing the right thing, only to find out later we are the ones who caused the strife we’re fighting so hard to stop.”

“You can help me. I couldn’t have dreamed you exist, much less have found you, if this were not so.”

“Ah, you Germans.” Weltschmerz sighed. “Just when I make good on my vow to stop meddling in mortal affairs, I see Nazi soldiers build nesting boxes and feeders for birds at the front. The Third Reich has a Department for Bird Protection. They protect the flora and fauna, yet they exterminate Jews. What would you have me do?”

“I was executed for treason, yet I didn’t die. I had a dream, and here we are. You can tell me why.”

“No. I’m done. If I had answers, would I be hiding out in a cave?”

Silas folded his arms, unmoved.

“Don’t give me that look, young man. My days as a god among mortals is over. Moses should have been the last straw, telling his so-called Chosen People to throw us away. Then that badass Paul came along. The minute he’d turn his back on his converts, they’d worship their own gods again.” Weltschmerz tapped his chest. “What am I, a wooden idol to smash and burn? To add insult to injury, Paul wrote long letters, full of chastisements, along with promises of an afterlife in some resurrected body, and do these epistles go up in flame like the lore of the Aztecs, or drown like the library of Alexandria? No. Two thousand years later, millions of people call his nastygrams the gospel truth.”

The god heaved a profound sigh. “Still. Whatever thoughts I had about Moses, I wouldn’t even dream of harming the people. Exile is bad enough. Genocide? Where is their God now?”

“The God of the Jews did not send angels to stay the hands of the executioners,” Silas said. ‘There’s a Spiel about free will going on there. But I’m not satisfied to watch innocents die and hope there’s a better life for them beyond this world. I want to do something here and now.”

Weltschmerz laughed, shaking his head pityingly. “Been there, done that, as people will be saying in the future. Just don’t complain to me when your efforts to undo any harm you’ve done lead to worse harm.”

“I want a time machine,” Silas said.

“So, go invent one. You Germans are good at that stuff. In fact, the Nazis already started work on one.”

“You can travel without machines. Help me.”

“I don’t care if you’re my grandson, or his Doppelganger, or a demi-god, or a lunatic. No.”

Silas rose to his feet, slammed a fist to his chest as Kubla Khan himself might have, and recited Coleridge:

I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair

Weltschmerz laughed, without pity, this time.

The Muse had spoken. How could he refuse her?


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Los Alamos Photographer, Author And Scientist Elena Giorgi Brings Images To Los Alamos Reporter

Elena is proof that some of us are descended from the gods!

Los Alamos Reporter

IMG_9101.jpgLos Alamos Reporter followers are being treated to the photos of Elena E. Giorgi. Photo by Maire O’Neill/


Elena E. Giorgi is a scientist, award-winning author and IPA-awarded photographer. She likes to say she spends her days analyzing genetic data, her evenings chasing sunsets and her nights pretending she’s somebody else.

Born in Scotland where her Italian parents lived while her father was working on his PhD at the University of Edinburgh, Giorgi was raised in Tuscany and graduated from the University of Pisa having majored in Theoretical Mathematics. She has  Masters of Science Degrees in Theoretical Mathematics and Biostatistics and a PhD in Applied Mathematics. She is currently working as a Computational Biologist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

“Math is pure and beautiful,” Giorgi said. “It’s like a Michelangelo painting—perfect all around. You can’t be wrong when you follow the steps dictated by logic.”

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Even Steven: a short story that evolved from a 5-minute-freewrite exercise

Thanks, @mariannewest, for the daily 5minute freewrite!
Today’s prompt: Day 348 : 5 Minute Freewrite: Wednesday – Prompt: vinyl.


Steve was done with Stephanie.

Her big baby-blue eyes and blonde curls, her pouty lips, her heaving bosom would not get her off the hook this time.

He almost left her over the leather recliner. It was his. No other chair in the world held him so comfortably. If it was as ugly all that, she could have bought some fancy “throw” thingie with useless tassled pillows to camouflage it. But oh, no, she had to have it hauled off when he wasn’t home. He’d been pretty damn nice about the redecorating, dazed and amazed that this beautiful blonde was moving in and about to marry him. The furniture dated back to his parents’ marriage 50 years earlier, but that didn’t mean it was worn out. All that clean, modern, shiny-new shit at Ikea was what she loved.

He didn’t put up much of a fight when she moved into the house his parents left him and made it “theirs,” by which she meant “hers.” He was in love. She was smart and witty, with a degree in architecture, as soon as she passed all the math classes. He’d taken over his dad’s construction business. Everyone said it was a match made in heaven.

The kind of houses he built were simple, not because he wasn’t smart enough to complicate them with gratuitous gables and peaks, but because he liked things sensible and easy to maintain. It wasn’t because he was lazy or indifferent that he hadn’t redecorated his childhood home. Everything was fine.

Until she moved in.

The Howard Miller chair, he thought, had settled matters once and for all. This was no knock off; this was the iconic and original chair, in excellent condition, worth thousands of dollars, but she would have hauled it off to the Salvation Army. That was where she sneaked off to with the leather recliner, but he retrieved it. The upstairs bedrooms were slated for purging after the wedding, which is why he hadn’t settled a date yet. She didn’t have a ring yet because she refused the half-carat diamond he’d chosen, and he wasn’t ready to siphon several thousand dollars from his savings for a danged rock.

His Budweiser beer stein collection was non-negotiable. She’d made fun of them in her cute, lilting way, but it stopped being cute after so many repetitions. Those steins were going nowhere, and she knew it.

If she had to take it upon herself to remove them, she could have boxed them up and stored them in the attic crawl space above his workbench in the garage, but she wouldn’t risk spiders or dust, probably not even for a Free Shopping Spree at Ikea.

What was it with clowns and spiders, anyway? It was a thing now. Something in the drinking water, maybe, made too many 1990s guys phobic about spiders. Maybe Stephanie planned to marry him just for his fearless, manly way of carrying spiders outside while she screamed like an idiot at the sight of them.

He’d kill a mouse for her, he’d rehome spiders and snakes, but his Budweisers stein were iconic, one for every year since he was born, because his mom went into labor in the middle of Oktoberfest. Back then, women smoked and drank all nine months and tossed babies into the back seats of cars without “safety restraints,” and boys played with cap guns that struck actual gunpowder and set off real smoke, and words like “toxic masculinity” didn’t exist yet. Steve was born in the cusp of 1950s manhood and 1990s gender-neutral-hood.

If Stephanie wanted a less masculine man, the wedding was off.


“Where are they?”

Steve asked her in his quietest, scariest voice, that authoritative bass his dad had used on Steve, Polly and Holly, the twins who caused their mother to get her tubes tied on the delivery table.

Stephanie just smirked. “Where is what?”

“If you sold them,” he said, “I will track them down, and I will get them back.”

Her denim cut-offs and mid-riff shirt distracted him momentarily from his wrath. She was stretching up to the ceiling, taping the wall where his steins used to be, getting ready to paint. Granted, a wall could use painting after so many years.

“Aww, you’re so cute when you’re mad, Stevey.” Flipping her blonde curls over her shoulder, she gave him that look of innocence he now recognized as a red flag waving. Cats had perfected the look, but he saw now that he had been had. She was innately evil and irresistibly cute but he was over “cute,” and he was over her.

“You have 30 days to move out,” Steve said.

She stepped down from the ladder and faced him. “Seriously? It’s me or those ugly, outdated Budweiser steins?”

Cat. Think of her as a cat. Not as a gorgeous little blonde who caught his heart and ran with it.

“It’s not so much about the things,” Steve said. “It’s about your lack of respect for my things. I like your minimalist style, but I’m thinking it may be incompatible with little things that matter to me, and your disregard is a big thing.”

“You can’t kick me out!”

“I said you got 30 days.” He marched up to pack some things, tuning out whatever words she was hurling at him, then stalked out the door and into the late September sunshine. The day was crisp and clear, unlike the brain fog Stephanie had afflicted him with.

Steve squinted at the old Airstream Flying Cloud 28 that Steph would have hauled away by now except she got the bright idea to strip the carpet and turn his mom and dad’s motorhome into a party shack out back. Sample floor tiles and cabinet colors were spread out awaiting a final decision, but he had a moment of clarity and pulled his key ring out of his pocket. The old Airstream fired right up, and he headed off to the salvage yard where he remembered a glimpse of blue and white vinyl tiles in a clearance bin. She’d seen them too and laughed and steered him to the custom-order books. Well hell, whose Airstream was it, anyway, and what if he felt like driving it with no regard for who might see him in the ghastly metal house on wheels?

    First, he stopped at the Salvation Army and inquired about his Budweiser stein collection. He’d guessed right. She hadn’t even tried to sell them, thank God for small miracles, and they were vintage collectibles.
The boxes were still unpacked in the receiving area and he managed to retrieve them without having to threaten violence because Quartez knew the routine, knew what to expect before Steve even charged the door.

“You gotta put that woman in her place, man,” he advised Steve. “Let her know who da man of the house.”

Steve sighed. “Quartez, the 1950s is calling. Apparently you landed in the 1990s by mistake and they want you back.”

“Ha ha. Suit yourself man. But, uh, before you go, I hate to tell ya, she dropped off some of your polyester ties and I don’t mind saying they look better on me than they would on you.”

“Shit!” Steve lunged for the cart piled high with shirts and polyester leisure suits. “She didn’t!”

“She does have a kind and compassionate and charitable side, unlike you.” Quartez lifted his chin, affecting the same hurt look that Steph was so good at, and he had rich brown puppy eyes with long, dark lashes to make ya feel his pain. His faux pain. Gawd.

The man broke out laughing, unable to keep up the act.

“Whatever you took,” Steve said, “just keep it. But I’m taking back the rest.”

“Now ya talkin,'” Quartez crowed.

With all 33 steins

safe beside him in the passenger seat, Steve moved on with his mission. He bought the vinyl floor tiles and made up his mind to install them here and now, in the parking lot. He would do this thing, now, without her input or protestations.

The diamond pattern required extra cutting, but he always had a utility knife at hand, and if that wasn’t sufficient for the job, the salvage store had everything he needed to do whatever the hell he wanted to with his motorhome. His. Not hers, not theirs, but his.

While he worked, his mind replayed scene after scene where she had done some outrageous thing, and he had protested, and she had soothed the savage beast with her feminine wiles. The little cat. Calling him the savage beast, when he was a just a guy, a regular guy, the kind who turned heads–and not just in small-town taverns where the pickings were slim. She met him at a misleading time in his life, dressed up as a groomsman in the wedding of his buddy Mike to her cousin Emily, and she caught the bouquet, and they danced at the reception at an upscale brewery and drank craft beer and fell under a spell of wedding euphoria.

His friends were in awe of her and so was he.

It happened gradually, the way she’d get him to cancel outings with his friends so he could take her where she wanted to go. Parade of Homes, ok, but art galleries full of expensive so-called “art” and snotty artists, no, he’d rather shovel manure at a hog farm.

He cut and peeled and stuck down tiles.

When did the kettle come to a boil–when did it occur to him he missed his old gang and their antics–and why was he in position to be missing them at all?

The floor turned resplendent with the blue and white pattern you saw at Oktoberfests everywhere. Party shack? You bet, Steph, but not the kind you have in mind. This one would take him to weekends of Dirndls, Lederhosen, green alpine hats with feathers, beer steins, sausages and sauerkraut, oompa-band tubas and accordions, beer chants, big Bavarian pretzels, and bosoms.

Stephanie might look like the St. Pauli girl but he’d always been a Bud man.


Beer and sausage sounded good

after installing a floor. Hell, it sounded good any time of day, any season. Steve dumped the vinyl scraps in the nearest bin in the parking lot, maneuvered the Airstream onto the street, and headed to the Tallcorn Tavern where his buddies no longer expected to see him. And that strong, sturdy little brunette at the bar who, according to Mike’s now-wife, wanted to do more than flirt with him. But she said that after he’d take up with Stephanie, and that was the last time he set foot in the Tallcorn. Until now.

He parked the mammoth right across from the open door of the tavern and unpacked two of his steins, one for his own beer, one just in case. Ya never know: a Budweiser kind of woman might be there at this very hour. She didn’t have to be a blonde bombshell with book smarts and a razor-sharp wit. But she would have to like him, as is. He wasn’t going to be anyone’s home improvement project again.

Through the door came laughter and warm light spilling onto the brick sidewalks. The old booths were still covered in red vinyl that was new when his parents were young. The brunette was at the bar. What was her name? Amanda. Mandy. She caught sight of him and broke into a shameless grin and called out his name, and everyone turned to look at the dusty construction worker at the door.

Who said you can’t go home again?

Where did the Oktoberfest blue and white diamond pattern originate?

The diamond pattern in heraldry is called a lozenge and dates back to Otto II of Bavaria.

“Budweiser girls” promote beer for Anheuser-Busch. The first Budweiser girl was in 1883. (Wikipedia)

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“Rape: A Love Story” by Joyce Carol Oates


Rape: A Love Story is one of the most brutal, disturbing, sick, memorable, and riveting stories ever to come forth from the lurid imagination of Joyce Carol Oates.

 Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another’s skin, another’s voice, another’s soul. ― Joyce Carol Oates

I love it!

God have mercy on me, I love it. Me, the squeamish one who flinches at horror and violence and avoids the thriller genre and police procedurals because I believe in rehabilitation versus retribution.

Except when dealing with unrepentant narcissists,

people so evil, they will never change, and the only solution is to rid the world of their criminal presence. That is a very dangerous thing to say, to think even in the privacy of my own head, but thank God for writers like Joyce Carol Oates (JCO), who dares to give voice to the dark thoughts we try not to acknowledge (much less act on!).

Keangarooview: 5 stars!

Teenage rapists, drunk on the Fourth of July, violate a woman

in the most brutal and dehumanizing way and leave her for dead. Oops, she doesn’t die. And her 12-year-old daughter heard it all, hidden behind canoes in a boathouse. No danger of facing the consequences, though: rich daddies can hire lawyers and keep their boys out of jail.

Oh, and the locals will help, gossiping and speculating. Teena McGuire shouldn’t have dressed that way, shouldn’t have walked home on a night of revelry through a dimly lit park, shouldn’t have had her daughter with her, shouldn’t have been at a bar, shouldn’t, shouldn’t, shouldn’t–so, “She had it coming” seems to be the consensus of a community.

There is one force nobody has reckoned with in this town: John Dromoor. He’s the first cop on the scene after Bethie McGuire’s mother is gang-raped. A hero, in more ways than one. This is where the paradoxical title comes into play. “A love story” might connotate romance of the falling-in-love sort, but Romance has a long history of other connotations and themes.

Dromoor is brilliantly wrought, born in JCO’s feverish imagination, informed by JCO’s familiarity with Dostoevsky, Kafka, Thoreau, Lewis Caroll, and the classics. He’s a Gulf War veteran. He’s damaged. ‘One bright, hallucinatory morning in the desert, he saw his soul curl up and die like an inchworm in the hot sand.’


Dromoor is dangerous in a quiet, calm, controlled way,

a latent Rambo (see David Morrell’s original version of that vigilante). For all his disillusionment, weariness, and cynicism, however, Dromoor still has a heart. He cares about Teena, not in the platitude-mumbling way of most people who care, but in a real and visceral way. Love is a verb, and it can be a very active one. It can be the most violent of verbs, and the most platonic. Much of this novella focuses on a 12-year-old girl’s hero-worship of the one man who could show how much he cared, which matters all the more when everyone else was willing to blame the victim and let crimes slide.

The prose is riveting, with that hallmark breathless rush that distinguishes the voice of JCO from all others. The story is gripping, brutal, heartbreaking, horrifying, yet gratifying. You might hate yourself for loving Dromoor so much. It’s easy to see why 12-year-old Bethie is enamored of him, the one man in her life who does more than just care. He acts. Words of love and consolation come easy, but acting on them is a stretch beyond what most people will do. Dromoor’s handwritten not to Teena, Any hour of the day or night. D, is also handwritten in the book, and that one sentence is so high impact, I had to re-read it several times.

That’s the thing about JCO.

I used to copy whole passages, in long-hand, into a notebook, whenever I came across vivid, riveting, memorable prose. Now I have a Kindle, and it’s not the same thing, highlighting the text.

The locals, their gossip, their judgments, the devotion of families, the lengths that parents will go to, in order to bail out their offspring – there is so, so much stuff here, a book club could talk all night long. Lines like this:

Nate crowed. “See? You assholes? What I told you. I’d of been there, you needed to finish the job and dump ’em both. Tied down with rocks. Save your old man having to sell his boat.”

No sympathy for the killers, nor the parents going into debt trying to keep their boys out of prison. Not from JCO. She tackles misogyny head-on, ruthlessly, cutting the criminals no slack.

I’m looking forward to the 2017 movie version, Vengeance: A Love Story, available on Netflix and other venues.

Changing the title from Rape to Vengeance has its merits, but casting Nicholas Cage as Dromoor just shows Hollywood’s total lack of fidelity to authors and their intent. Dromoor is young, more like Robert Patrick[*] in Terminator 2. Any young and unknown actor with a cool, hard Clint Eastwood vibe would have been better than Cage, who runs hot. Smoldering is great, in other roles, but not this one.

Vengeance: A Love Story is a 2017 American thriller film directed by Johnny Martin and written by John Mankiewicz. It is based on the 2003 novel Rape: A Love Story by Joyce Carol Oates. The film stars Nicolas Cage, Don Johnson, Anna Hutchison, Talitha Bateman and Deborah Kara Unger. The film was released on September 15, 2017, by FilmRise. (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)


After their slick lawyer gets them off for a violent assault, four criminals find themselves the target of a cop with his own brand of justice.(Netflix)

I kinda-sorta hate myself for being such a fan of a story that is so dark, so full of retribution. But my sister was raped and murdered in 1975, and her killer(s) never faced arrest, much less the scandal of a trial, much less imprisonment, and I confess that if I were a war veteran, a soldier, a Dromoor, and if I knew (knew! beyond a doubt!) who got away with my sister’s murder, I would quietly set about plotting the demise of the kind of men who rape, kill, and dispose of bodies like roadside trash.

But that is a novel in itself, and so I will just say that JCO nails it – man’s inhumanity to man – yet it is a hallmark of JCO to deliver a ray of hope and something positive emerging from the darkest stories.

I’ve bought three extra copies of this novella to give to friends. That is higher praise than 5 Stars.

I’m afraid to endorse it at the Iowa Cold Cases site, lest it inspire those who’ve lost a loved one to administer vigilante justice, Dromoor style. It could be a thing, you know.  When our local police don’t rein in the bad guys, when the community fails to light a fire under their taxpayer-hired LE to locate the killer among them, when nobody else cares about a life that was stolen, violently, horribly, then desperation is one possible response. Jody Ewing nailed it in an email to me:

It’s a remarkable thing to behold. Hard to describe, really… You see how every single family starts out “knowing for certain” the killer or killers will be caught, and then watch their transition as they move through all these other stages of grief, except it’s a different kind of grief and a different set of stages because there is always THE UNKNOWN and the death was usually SO UNEXPECTED. You’ve heard it said thousands of times, but it’s true: No parent ever expects to have to bury a child.

A journalist with degrees in Social Science and Criminal Justice, a Private Investigator license, and years of studying cold cases, Jody Ewing understands the progression of a case that goes cold:

…. being transported back to that date when the crime actually happened, and then taking note of every development or dead end lead and reading through months and months of interviews the press did with the family, right up until the day the case goes cold, and then noticing the distinct change in how the family addresses the press once it’s gone cold.

Anxiety, nightmares and a nervous breakdown, there’s only so many traumas a person can withstand until they take to the streets and start screaming. – Blue Jasmine (2013)

[*] Billy Idol Almost Played the T-1000 in ‘Terminator 2,’ Robert Patrick Says via @thr

“My agent sold me to the T2 casting director (Mali Finn) as a cross between David Bowie and James Dean,” Patrick said, laughing, “So, I was trying to create an intense presence while I was sitting with Mali. I had this intense stare, which she liked.”

That intense stare – YES!

That is Dromoor. And Clint Eastwood. And my husband. He got it from his father (below, right). Speaking of #COOL, that’s my grandpa on the left. (Yes, my husband has been told he resembles Robert Patrick.)

Biased? Me?

I know what I like!

And I love, love, love Joyce Carol Oates.

“It makes me angry sometimes, it’s a visceral thing–how you come to despise your own words in your ears not because they aren’t genuine, but because they are; because you’ve said them so many times, your ‘principles,’ your ‘ideals’–and so damned little in the world has changed because of them.” ― Joyce Carol Oates, Black Water

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Lessons from Lucy: The Simple Joys of an Old, Happy Dog by Dave Barry

What happens when a cynical, retired, Pulitzer-prize winning journalist who hates self-help books starts taking notes on his old but happy dog–and realizes he’s written a self-help book?

He taps into the wry and intelligent sense of humor that launched his career, and we get to enjoy Dave Barry’s “Lessons from Lucy: The Simple Joys of an Old, Happy Dog.

Keep this book on hand in case someone near you needs a good laugh.

Dave Barry is seventy (I can say that now that shock has worn off), but this is not a memoir, he assures us.  (“Memoir” is a more off-putting word for me than “succubus.”) Also, it really is not a self-help book, but it could be if you let it.

Barry simply observed his happy, carefree dog Lucy, wondered why he isn’t more like her, then…voila!…came up with Seven Lessons to convey in this book.

Ok, there was a lot more to it than a “Voila,” as all writers know, but it reads like magic.

Speaking of magic…. NEWS FLASH!

Dave Berry @rayadverb liked my Tweet!


If you read my blogs, Tweets, Steemit posts or Facebook rants, you know I’ve lost patience with Indie Authors who ask for my time reading/reviewing their books, but they don’t take time to upvote any of my reviews, because I need to get the word out: my word carries more weight if readers do the annoying “upvote” and “Like” thing. Otherwise, my ranking as a reviewer is a numbers game, and #ListenToCarol and #BuyTheBook won’t happen if I don’t have NUMBERS to raise my reputation. Oh, I hate asking people to do the LIKE thing. Hate it! But this is a competitive world, and my kinder and gentler ways are keeping me in the lower ranks.

Dave Barry has been my god (of humor, of writing, of dry wit and total guy-dom) for 30+ years,

Okay, back to the review this Pulitzer-winning author took time to LIKE on Twitter:

Headlines with numbered lists attract readers, as do “Secrets” – the secret to happiness, to success, to the nice neighbor man with 30 skeletons under his basement. So who could pass up Dog Reveals Seven Secrets to Happiness In Our Old Age?  You know it will be comical, because, Dave Barry. What you don’t know: Dave’s secrets!

Like, this Pulitzer-winning public figure who makes everyone laugh is…. shy? For reals?

I’m not saying any more on that, because you need to buy this book yourself. Uncover the secrets one by one, at your leisure.

The whole book is full of wry wit like this:

“I’m not seeking pity, and I don’t want you to think I’m a sniveling whiner. (I am a sniveling whiner; I just don’t want you to think so.)”

Oh so many good lines!

In “Lesson One: Make New Friends,” we see how a dog named Lucy can bound over to any stranger, sniff, and fall in love, while Dave “instantly hates” strangers. (We all do, really, but most of us don’t allow our conscious selves in on THAT secret.) Barry’s reasons for his varying levels of antipathy toward strangers are hilarious and familiar to us all. You will nod knowingly. Oh yes. You will.

Another secret: he doesn’t “hate” in the usual sense of the verb.

Dave Barry delivers the humor we know and love, but he also sneaks in some sly wisdom and something like warm fuzzies, which could undermine everything he ever wrote in Dave Barry’s Complete Guide to Guys, which still makes me laugh out loud years after I first read it. I read it out loud to anyone who’ll listen, and no matter how many years go by, no matter that none of it is new material to me, I laugh harder than the Barry virgins (those who have not yet had the pleasure of discovering this humorist. The Millennials tend not to laugh AT ALL when I read to them from my last-century Barry books.) Furthermore…

  The guy mind does not believe in medical care. Guys will generally not seek medical treatment, for themselves or for others, except in certain clear-cut situations, such as decapitation. And even then guys are not going to be 100 percent certain. “Let’s put his head back on with duct tape and see if he can play a couple more innings,” is the prevailing guy attitude.”

… We are talking about THIS book. And nothing about Lessons from Lucy, not even the threat of “self-help” and that scary word “lessons,” will make you wish you’d never heard of #LessonsFromLucy. I’ve only bought one of Dave Barry’s books (I know, I should own every single one of them), and I’m a huge fan of dogs as well as cynical witty guys. And I’m a cynical gal, so I braced myself in case the 70-year-old Barry is as washed up as old rock stars like, uh, let’s see… not Robert Plant, not Jagger, but…. well, I can’t even think of rock legends who aren’t cool anymore.

I have just one complaint about this book. I found the Rock Bottom Remainders on you-tube, and this band of novelists (Stephen King, for one, and Dave Barry himself) are

not even remotely as terrible as Barry tells us they are. E.g.

“Roy Blount described our musical genre as ‘hard listening’.” Ha!

(Coincidentally, I have been smitten with Roy Blount Jr for, approximately, forever.)


I love Barry’s self-effacing humor. But don’t let him fool you. These authors-turned-musicians in Rock Bottom may not have made the Top 40 or even #100 on the pop charts, but they’re not only waaaay better than Barry lets on, they’re good.

Maybe that’s the way to promote: get everyone thinking “This sounds so awful, I’ve got to see for myself,” than bowl them over with actual talent.

Dave Barry is still cool. He’s still hilarious. There is hope for this world! He says he’s a curmudgeon, annoyed by texting teenagers and Facebook, but he is firmly fixed forever in my mind as that college guy who’d meet his buddies on a rooftop and throw down an old TV to shatter on the sidewalk below–and the moral of the story is that women hearing it will say “Why?” while men hear it and say “Cool!”

I tried to find that column before writing this review, but it was in some newspaper when I was young and single, and now I’m a mother of three, a grandmother of two, and I’m getting phone calls from purveyors of those “Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” gadgets. And I got distracted by a dozen new Talking Dogs and sad-cat videos before finding my way back to the writing of a book review about this author who wrote a hilarious column about men’s idea of fun versus women’s. Hence, the TV anecdote that so perfectly distills and displays the epitome of guy humor.

The chapter on old rotary telephones and children roaring “It’s Long Distance!” nails everything about that pre-Twitter era. And buying too much stuff, and being held hostage by possessions we don’t know how to get rid of. And how we use our time. “I waste WAY too much time on the internet,” he writes, “and a whole bunch of that time consists of my reading something and thinking: *What a moron.* I’m seventy years old; I don’t have that much time left. *Why am I wasting it on morons?*”

It has come to this: My dog has an Instagram account.


For more than two decades, Barry wrote a syndicated humor column for the Miami Herald. He’s written more than 30 books, most of them humorous non-fiction works.

I’ve always wondered if his fiction would be as funny as his columns. (I’ve met novelists who are hilarious on Twitter or in emails but in prose, dry as White Sands.)

A new book by Dave Barry (with dogs!) is just the ticket. I’d have given copies away for Father’s Day to all the friends my age who’ve become grandparents, but the release date is…. 23 October 2018. Dang. Some of them may be dead by then. My peers are dwindling, not because I’m a peerless writer but because too many people my age are dying of something, and I need all the humor books and cat videos I can find to get going after reading Obits each morning.


There is a downside to being first to read an ARC: the long, long wait until you can buy copies for your friends!
Thank you to Simon & Schuster and NetGalley for an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. I will write a longer review with excerpts showing how funny this book really is, but I’m in a holding pattern wondering how many people ever read my longer reviews. How many people will pre-order this book, or even download a free sample chapter, based on Carol’s word? Millions ought to, but the world is like my offspring: my words of wisdom roll like raindrops off a freshly waxed car. You wait. One day your car will be stalled and as you wait for a tow truck you’ll WISH you had this book to amuse you! Ha! And I will say, “If only they’d listened to Carol, and bought the book, and kept a copy in their man purse or their car or their sled dog’s packs.”

My copy is in my Kindle, which would freeze if I ever make it to an Iditarod, but just because I’m a grandma now doesn’t mean I’m getting sidetracked again about why this book matters and deserves to top the charts that The Rock Bottom Remainders aren’t even trying for, because they’re just having fun, and that’s the whole point.

HAVE FUN!! Your dog would. So should we all!

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Novelist/Good Samaritan saves dog hit by car, needs $; bonus, a 5-star book review

Dog hit by car; owner refuses to pay for dog’s broken leg; novelist adopts dog, seeks help raising money for

Saving Ludo’s Leg


Here is the novelist’s story:

Adriana Hartelt Boettcher on Facebook, June 7, at 8:15pm ·

What I at first mistook for a black trash bag in the eastbound lane of Highway 30 was instead a black Lab, struggling to crawl out of the lane after its leg had been broken by a car. Trash bags don’t sit up. I had been going west, but was turned around and blocking the dog within a few seconds. A truck full of guys stopped and helped me block traffic, give the dog water and contact the Tama County sheriff, who was going to put the dog down. I said no. Not today. Instead, the three guys in the truck helped me load the dog into my car and off to Marshalltown vet we went. Only a broken leg and some abrasions and the dog will be fine soon.
I left for my work drive early today, a half hour earlier than I needed to, drove the slower, scenic route and was right where I needed to be to help this dog. Miracles are all about the timing but also something else. I’ve struggled for years to think that I make lives better of those around me. Sometimes, I wonder. Today I felt a glimmer of hope. Saving others can save us, too. And, on Gonzo’s birthday to boot. Thank you, God.

The cop said what?

Apparently the cops see so many dogs on that stretch of road hit by cars or injured because near Tama the owners let the dogs run loose and without collars, so they are now desensitized. However… this particular dog is my own personal starfish. I cannot throw back all the starfish, but I can save this one.

Doggy update, June 11

Adriana Hartelt Boettcher

It took a few days to get things sorted but the previous owner relinquished custody. Doggy is having his surgery on a splintered leg and hairline pelvis fracture. This Friday (or possibly next Monday after a few days recovery), he will come home with me for his forever home… because he has no one else and because it seemed fated. His name will be Ludo (a combination of Lucky- because he IS, Bandit- his old name, and a name ending in O as an homage to his late and great older brother Gonzo). Hence, Ludo. Let me know when you want to meet him. 🙂

Doggy update, June 13

Adriana Hartelt Boettcher on Facebook · GoFundMe

Surgery day is today! Thank you so much to all who helped yesterday; I am humbled and indebted. I’ll pay you back somehow, someday. We’ve reached the halfway mark of the plating surgery cost. Anyone still interested in Operation Rescue Ludo’s Leg, I’m so grateful for your help. Thank you.

More at the GoFundMe site:

Ludo has a splintered leg and hairline pelvis fracture and because of the cost to treat, $1,600, the former owners (who called him Bandit) decided not to. The cost to plate his leg is high, but I’ve rarely met a dog so deserving of a second chance. He is having surgery this week and will come home with me post-recovery, to his new forever home.
Paying for his treatment is a choice I made along with the decision to adopt him. However, any help with his surgery would be very much appreciated as it was not a budgeted expense or planned event, just a miracle of timing for a gentle, lucky dog. Thank you.

This campaign is trending!

$855 of $1,600 goal met

at the time of this post, Raised by 14 people in 23 hours

No, wait –

$910 raised by 17 people in 24 hours!

Donate Now

Created June 12, 2018

If anyone can relate to the horror of a dog owner failing to keep his pet safe, then refusing him emergency vet care, it’s @rhondak of @tarc. Let someone else foot the bill. Or just put the dog down.

Bravo, Adrianna, for stepping up to the plate!

While $1600 is a large sum of money, and adopting a dog will entail even more expenditures for however many years to come, who could just drive on buy and leave this creature to fend for himself? I could write reams about the sanctity of life, our animal companions included.

Small world:

Seven years ago, I reviewed this good Samaritan’s novel!


“Lights in a Black Forest” by Martena Warner

For fifty years, Heinrich Warner chose to forget his past. At night, he dreamed alive again the ghosts of his childhood. By day, he chose to forget them all. But, ghosts do not stay hidden forever, especially in the mind of an old man who can no longer remember what is real…

Her father inspired the fictional version of a boy in post-World War II Germany, exiled from what was then Silesia and is now part of Poland, starting life over again in the United States.

Meet novelist and good Samaritan Adriana Hartelt Boettcher


Martena Warner is the pseudonym for Iowa native Adriana Anne Catherine Hartelt Boettcher. Martena has lived most of her life within twenty miles of where she was born, even raising her children in the same small town where she grew up. Rather than a deterrent to her writing, Martena feels her familiarity with a place and its people is an asset. Although she has been a lifelong writer, “Lights in a Black Forest” is her first novel.

Another Way You can Help

is by voting Yes, this review was helpful – Better yet, spend $3 and buy the book! “Lights in a Black Forest” by Martena Warner

Carol Kean ~ VINE VOICE~
5.0 out of 5 stars a father’s loss, a daughter’s shining memorial
December 6, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase

Beautiful tribute to a father who suffered loss of homeland under the Nazis – and no, not as a displaced Jew, but as a German civilian. When the Red Army invaded, millions of Silesians became homeless in an instant, unless they were gunned down first, or brutally gang-raped. But the novel isn’t about the atrocity of war, per se; it’s a daughter’s search to understand her father, who migrated to Iowa after the war, and stopped at the town with the “Germans welcome” sign. Anti-German sentiment in the U.S. was bad enough after WWI, worse after WWII, but not in Warner’s fictional Iowa town. This novel is rich with countless details that define Iowa, our diverse ethnicity, the traditions our pioneer settlers handed down – thrift, for example, persists in the gene pool, and Warner’s anecdotes are sure to bring tears of laughter or winces of recognition from readers.

The greatest part of the story is a boy who lost his little sister in the woods the day of the Red Army’s invasion of Silesia. The novel opens in the point of view of an elderly, widowed Heinrich who’s losing his memory to dementia. Some days he barely remembers his own name, but he never forgets his ghosts. While he grows old, they remain young, frozen in time at age 14, or whatever age he last knew them. The whole first chapter is riveting and powerful, especially when Heinrich regresses to the little boy who tells himself “I didn’t do anything wrong,” but he hasn’t managed to convince himself of that even at the end of his days. Most of the novel is told from his daughter’s viewpoint. Anna Maria is a young stepmother with an inattentive husband who leaves full-time care of his daughter to her, but her father becomes more of a handful than the toddler, and she faces that awful family crisis: the nursing home. She also searches for the real story behind her father’s fear of the woods, his missing family members left behind in a land that ceased to be Germany and became Poland, and the meaning of that haunting refrain she’s heard since childhood. It sounded like a nickname, Vo-iss Lucy. As an adult, she hears the correct German words but her need to make sense of them makes Lucy all the more tantalizing. To say more would be a plot spoiler. Let’s just say that the answer to Ayn Rand’s “Who is John Galt” had nowhere near the impact of Heinrich’s Lucy.

Well researched, honestly and passionately told, this story should not be missed. It’s an important addition to the scarce literature on how German civilians suffered the sins of their government, how they walked their own Trail of Tears as heart-rending as that of the Cherokees in our own land, and how, if not for the death of one person in time of war, and the survival of another, countless people we know and love today would not exist. I didn’t say it right, but Warner does, and she brings the pain of war home to us a generation after the fact, on a new land. But as she quotes Faulkner at the outset, “The past is not dead. It isn’t even past.” And from page one, Heinrich’s ghosts will haunt you too.

0 out of 5 stars Lights in a Black Forest
By Doug Beard on December 12, 2011
Format: Paperback

This book will change you. Unless you witnessed first hand the mass hatred, torture, death, and displacement of ordinary human beings during WWII, you will be moved by this debut novel. The story centers around Heinrich Warner, a boy during the war, whose experiences still affected him and those around him 50 years after the war ended and 40 years after he emigrated to Iowa.

When I began reading the book, I read because of my acquaintance with the author and read 30 to 40 pages a night. By the end, the nightly page count was around 100 and I read because I was drawn into it. Beyond the book, I was motivated to spend hours reading about German, Polish, and Silesian history and geography.

The way the author smoothly eased into her disclaimer and explanation pages at the end was extremely clever.

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