Disappearing Husbands: the Old West legitimized abandonment, desertion

Go West, young man, go West! And if you find a wife there, don’t venture away too long on another mission, or she might not wait for you to return. “In a sense, the westward movement legitimized abandonment,” authors Linda Peavy and Ursula Smith state in Women in Waiting in the Westward Movement.

“This book fills a void in Western American history by providing details about 19th-century frontier women’s experiences … a mesmerizing look at the frustrations and hardships faced by women left in charge of the home front and by their husbands, who went to look for gold, land, and adventure in the West. Relying on censuses, newspapers, letters, and photographs, along with journals, diaries, business records, and genealogies, the authors have interwoven six personal histories along with the experiences of 50 families that were separated during the rush for gold in the last century. The correspondence between these wives and husbands provide an insightful view into their daily lives.” —Vicki L. Toy Smith, Univ. of Nevada, Reno  (Library Journal)

51tK4fb6lrL._SX351_BO1,204,203,200_[1] Available records reveal that desertion was a leading cause of divorce in the 19th century.

During the last half of the nineteenth century, thousands of men went west in search of gold, land, or adventure-leaving their wives to handle family, farm, and business affairs on their own. The experiences of these westering men have long been a part of the lore of the American frontier, but the stories of their wives have rarely been told. Ten years of research into public and private documents-including letters of couples separated during the westward movement-has enabled Linda Peavy and Ursula Smith to tell the forgotten stories of “women in waiting.”

Though these wives were left more or less in limbo by the departure of their adventuring husbands, they were hardly women in waiting in any other sense. Children had to be fed, clothed, housed, and educated; farms and businesses had to be managed; creditors had to be paid or pacified and, in some cases, hard-earned butter-and-egg money had to be sent west in response to letters from broke and disillusioned husbands.

This raises some unsettling questions: How does the idea of an “allowance” from home square with our long-standing image of the frontiersman as rugged individualist? To what extent was the westward movement supported by the paid and unpaid labor of women back east? And how do we measure the heroics of husbands out west against the heroics of wives back home?

Deserted wives lacked the status of unmarried women or widows. They often did not have the financial resources needed to carry on family affairs; their legal status was still tied to their husbands, and marrying again raised questions. Was their spouse really gone or would he be back?

“Desertion was a leading cause of divorce in early Arizona” by Mary Melcher, Special to the Courier

… Arizona Territory’s law and that of many other states and territories allowed an abandoned spouse to remarry if one’s spouse was absent for two successive years and his/her residence was unknown. If the forsaken spouse remarried without securing a divorce, their new marriage was considered “as valid as if such a former husband or wife were dead.” Although it was not necessary for an abandoned man or woman to petition for divorce, many still did so.

The biography of one Sharlot Hall Museum Territorial Rose Garden honoree symbolized the confusion resulting from these unannounced separations. Jacob Miller came to Arizona Territory to prospect for gold in 1863, leaving his wife, Jane, in Illinois. After living in Arizona for ten years, he returned home to find that Jane had remarried, believing that he was dead. Jacob then convinced his children to leave with him and move to Arizona Territory. One of these children, Cynthia, became a Rose Garden honoree. She was just 14 when she left home and traveled to Arizona Territory.

sharlot-hall-museum-logo ….Desertion was a fairly common reason for wives to divorce. According to the U.S. government study, Marriage and Divorce in the United States, 1867 to 1886, women in Arizona Territory most often sought divorces due to desertion by the husband or to cruelty. Men in Arizona Territory, on the other hand, most often sued for divorce due to adultery. These were also the major reasons for divorce nationally at this time.

… Sometimes women deserted men. Flora Banghart, daughter of the prominent Banghart family, married John Marion, owner and editor of the Weekly Arizona Miner, on September 16, 1873.  1-po1659p_WATERMARKED_FOR_WEB_t715[1].jpgDuring ten years of marriage, Flora gave birth to two children. She absconded to California with Marion’s good friend, District Attorney Charles Rush, abandoning Marion and her children. He divorced her on grounds of desertion on March 29, 1887.

… Twice as many divorces were initiated and granted to women as to men, surprising given the common idea that 19th century women were very dependent on men. Nearly twice as many women as men petitioned for divorce, demonstrating that women had the necessary independence to leave unhappy marriages. They could not expect alimony; from 1887-1906, just 4.9 percent of Arizona divorcees received it.

During the 19th century, divorce was more common than presumed, especially in the West, where divorce occurred nearly four times as often as in the East and South. Arizona and the West in general provided a new beginning for many. For some, this new life involved leaving old marriages behind.

“Days Past” is a collaborative project of the Sharlot Hall Museum and the Prescott Corral of Westerners International (www.prescottcorral.org). This and other Days Past articles are also available at www.sharlot.org/library-archives/days-past. The public is encouraged to submit proposed articles to dayspastshmcourier@gmail.com. Please contact SHM Library & Archives reference desk at 928-445-3122 Ext. 14, or via email at dayspastshmcourier@gmail.com for information.

REBLOGGED from the Daily Courier. Read more here: https://www.dcourier.com/news/2016/aug/28/days-past-desertion-was-leading-cause-divorce-earl/

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“Framing the Black Panthers: The Spectacular Rise of a Black Power Icon” by Jane Rhodes

211871 Given how much the media has defined for the masses who and what the Black Panthers are, it’s helpful to find a book that specifically addresses the images manufactured by the media, with a comparison/contrast to the facts, which are hard to find. Unless people kept journals and letters, recorded with video cameras, taped speeches, and donated archival material to libraries, and unless historians and hagiographers collect, sift, and present the facts, how do we ever know who said what, who “started it,” who “had it coming,” and what anyone’s intentions are?

I was happy to see Marcus Garvey mentioned in this book. Since reading Jason Overstreet’s “The Strivers Row Spy” last September (via NetGalley), I’ve been insatiably curious about the charismatic and controversial Garvey.



Overstreet’s novel paints a rather dim view of Jamaica’s national hero, an impassioned leader whose followers called him “Your majesty.” In 1920s Harlem, in the United States at any time, that sort of thing sounds off putting, if not alarming. Did Garvey really have such an exalted view of himself and his role in leading U.S.-born descendants of slavery to a new country in Africa? The red, black, and green stripes of Garvey’s flag wave today at Black Lives Matter protests–and in Boston, and other cities, some have demanded that the flag not be flown, because it incites violence. Garvey’s flag (I’ve devoted another blog post to that story) inciting violence? *sigh*

You see what I mean about what people are told, what they believe, what conclusions they leap to.

In 1915 W.E.B. DuBois called for a “negro brotherhood” across the globe, to fight Western imperialism and empower the darker races. Two years later, Marcus Garvey created UNIA (Universal Negro Improvement Association), and his speeches drew crowds of thousands in Harlem. Both men protested injustice and discrimination, both inspired others to work toward a unified front against white supremacy, yet both men hated each other. Garvey extolled black self-sufficiency and repatriation back to Africa.

A great many blacks, however, having been born in America, wanted to stay here. They wanted to make things better here, not start all over in a new place, where the effects of British colonialism were firmly established. In the 1970s, a leader of the Panthers’ Kansas City chapter fled to Africa and joined the Cleavers in exile in Algiers. Rhodes writes that “their experiences embody the longings of many African Americans– to be surrounded and embraced by a nation of black people, to become part of an ancestral community, and to leave behind the hostile gaze of the west.”

However many may wish that, the idea does not seem to be spreading. Even when African Americans migrated north in the early 1900s, the southern economy was said to be undermined, and northern stability threatened, because it’s in the South that “the Negro is most at home, where he is best understood, and reality best liked.” (Ouch.)

Does the hindsight of the 21st Century suggest that repatriation in Africa would have empowered blacks more than integration has in the United States? I’m still looking for the answer to that. The subject is much too big and too complex for such sweeping generalizations or conclusions.

“The black man has been a serf, a tool, a slave and a peon for all the world and has been regarded as less than a man. That day has ceased,” Garvey told a crowd in Madison Square Garden in 1920. He called for backs to reclaim Africa for their own. In creating the Black Star Line, buying a fleet of ships to bring the diaspora back together in the motherland, Garvey attracted the attention of J. Edgar Hoover, and the FBI got him jailed on a sketchy charge of mail fraud. Newspaper editorials lampooned Garvey for dressing like a medieval king and for failing to grasp that “the whole of Africa never did belong to negroes.”

This led me to read a book written in 1890s on the history of Liberia (the nation Garvey targeted), and even then, after Jefferson and Monroe launched the idea of sending free blacks to Africa, the natives there were not accommodating. This is the measure of good literature and good nonfiction: the amount of research it inspires me to take on, trying to learn more about a topic in a book.

Dismissive commentary by the press “was part of the overall discourse of African Americans,” writes Jane Rhodes in “Framing the Black Panthers.” Newspapers disseminated the prevailing ideologies on race. “Black Americans existed only in narrow and closely definable frames– as a threat to the social order and political stability, as violent and impulsive, or as politically naive and immature. Articles about the efforts of established groups such as the NAACP were invariably brief and distanced….Thus, the media…. are central purveyors of the framing of black America.”

“The media.” Rhodes asserts, “had a stake both in maintaining the status quo and in promoting social transformation.” We can figure out what the media told the world about the Black Panthers, but even public surveys don’t reveal how audiences really interpret the media’s message. The FBI “put considerable energy into feeding misinformation to the media,’ Rhodes says.

Rhodes provides an extensive bibliography and links to source material. I especially like her chapter on critical memory vs the “nostalgic impulse,” with quotes from Houston Baker, e.g., while nostalgia “writes the revolution as a well-passed aberration, critical memory judges severely, censures righteously, renders hard ethical evaluations of the past.”

What images do we associate with this #BlackPower movement? A scene in the movie “Forrest Gump” shows us the iconic  guns, berets, upraised fists, and phrases such as “pig” for cops and “power to the people.” Giving credit where it is due, blame where it is owed, would be a daunting task for anyone, but Rhodes tackles it. Her conclusion, I think, is that the Panthers used the media to gain notoriety and momentum at a time when the government sought to silence them by any means possible; meanwhile, the media had their own agenda, which is to sensationalize news and sell stories. Even half a century later, news reports of violence against the Panthers and *by* the Panthers are so numerous, so varied, I have to commend Rhodes for her years of effort and research.

  In all, this book pulls together in one place a lot of scholarly research. I’m still in a muddle about Marcus Garvey, but my own research is far less exhaustive and organized as that of Jane Rhodes. Garvey, exiled from the United States after serving his time in jail (for what many say was a bogus charge), had no connection to the Panthers, but the way he has been portrayed in the media strikes me as similar to the negative publicity heaped on the Black Panthers. Anyone who cares to enlighten me can comment on my assorted Garvey posts here at my blog.

Jane Rhodes Jane Rhodes is Professor and Chair of American Studies and Dean for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Macalester College.

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“Turning in Circles” by Michelle Buckman: Sisters + Bad Boys in Small-Town South = a stunning and poignant coming of age novel


Michelle Buckman’s distinctive voice, vivid and authentic characters, and brutal honesty are very much in evidence in her seventh novel,”Turning in Circles.” Stunning, suspenseful, and poignant, this coming of age story is set in the South, in a town so small it barely seems to have come blinking into the 21st Century. There’s something about the literary spirit of America’s South– some knack that sets writers like Michelle Buckman 223832 apart from  authors whose roots are elsewhere.

Taut with suspense, yet rich in descriptive detail and character development, the story grips us from the opening lines and won’t let go. I love the deceptively simple, timeless opening: My sister lay sleeping in the sun on the beach beside me. Narrated in hindsight by a heroine who’d give anything to rewrite a chapter in her life, “Turning In Circles” haunts us with what-ifs. Every decision we make has consequences, not just for us, but our loved ones, our neighbors, even our pets, and for the whole community.

Savannah and Charleston, so close in age they’re practically twins, are named after towns that “epitomized the South and all a Southern woman ought to be, as if we lived back in some historic generation when women wore long gowns and went about with escorts to teas.”

More than sisters, they’re kindred souls. They’ve always kept each other’s secrets, always had each other’s best interests in mind–until Dillon, the local bad boy, adds Charleston to his collection of conquests.

In an age when other teens are immersed in video games and cell phones, these girls are busy with chores on the family farm. Their best friend and neighbor is a hard-muscled, calloused guy named Ellerbe who rides a horse to school. Ellerbe is the best teen hero I’ve seen in all the fiction I’ve read in the past ten years. Or twenty. How do we get our teenage daughters to look beyond vampires and werewolves to the sterling virtues of the boy next door, who is in fact nothing short of awesome?

f2e5da8a18caf74dd28f00565c4bb572 Ellerbe’s beloved Snow is as near and dear to his heart as Daddy’s mare­, Boudicca–“the pride of the county–­a beautiful buckskin Lusitano.” The local sheriff will stop at nothing to acquire Boudicca for himself, even test a father’s love for his wayward daughter. When Dillon lures Charleston into assorted law-breaking antics, she’s not to the only one who will suffer the consequences. Most kids get away with all sorts of mischief, but sometimes, thoughtless, reckless teenage behavior has tragic consequences.

While a sense of impending doom keeps us turning pages, the prose sparkles with rich, warm, and loving details. Though danger lurks and a beloved sister strays from the straight and narrow path, a leisurely sense of summer in the South takes readers to front porches, or among families over the dinner table. Every detail matters, every observation, every incident.

Several subplots emerge, naturally and inevitably, reminding us how the rich but troubled history of families is also the rich history of the troubled south. The racists, the innocents, the broken homes; the vicious dog fighting, petty vandalism, and bullying; the sheriff protecting the good ol’ boys; the judgments we make against others, not knowing the facts. “It doesn’t take long to figure out where a person’s loyalties lay,” Savannah observes.

One of the most stirring subplots involves Hickory, a 35-year-old black man with the mind of a child. Charlie and Savannah have nothing but affection for him.They wouldn’t dream of hurting him.

“I loved Hickory,” Savannah reflects. “Every afternoon, he stood at the end of the dirt road that led from his house to Brown School Road and waved cars by as if he was conducting an orchestra.” Tell Hickory it’s hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk, and he’ll set off with an egg to fry. The scene is almost slap-stick funny, but sad, and every maddening detail in the story is portentous.

Savannah nails the mood and attitude of her world. There’s Jim Miller, who “developed a thing for Hickory’s mama back years ago. Folks said he couldn’t do enough for her boy in those months when he first got it in his head to win her over.”

And there’s the new teacher at school: “No one knew much about Mr. Jefferson or if he had even been a teacher prior to that. What we did know was he was cousin to Sheriff Darlington, moved in from the other end of the state, but everyone in town was related some how or other through blood, property or feud.”

Then there’s Tasheika.

Tasheika “wasn’t just black; she was a gorgeous girl with chocolate skin and a beautiful blonde, white mama with a figure to die for. Whatever political correctness and blurring of racial differences had come about in the rest of the world had skipped right over Mr. Jefferson’s heart. He was still living back somewhere between Mama’s historical romance novels and modern day. Knowing what I did about him and how I’d seen him look at her mama …I’d say it burned him to the core of his soul to think of a black man married to that pretty blonde lady. So he was out to get Tasheika.”

Savannah takes us step by step through the gradual escalation of conflict, like a stew heating in a pressure cooker that’s gonna blow. She reflects on what happened, wondering if she could have done things differently.

“God granted us the free will to sow our seeds as we see fit,” Savannah says, but she cannot bear seeing her sister’s exercise of free will. It’s Ellerbe whose wisdom helps her put things in perspective.

The theme will hit hard and true for anyone who’s ever watched a loved one make bad decisions, and tried to steer them from the wrong path, only to see one misstep lead to another. From the serenity of the opening scene, “the peace of the whole world around us” and God’s glory “shining down in that everlasting blaze of South Carolina sunshine,” Savannah pulls us with her, inexorably, as her world spirals down, down around her, and finally shatters. It’s a journey nobody wants to take, but at the end of that tunnel, a shining light named Ellerbe brings Savannah back into the circle of life.

What makes one sibling so headstrong and foolish, the other so sensible? This is only one of many questions that would make “Turning In Circles” a great subject for the high school classroom. If I had to choose between “Rome and Juliet” and this story, I’d choose this one. Romeo was an idiot, while Ellerbe’s heart is true.

Ah, Ellerbe: “His hands were strong, like rest of him, used to hard work under the hot southern sun.” He’s good at physics. No matter what, he’s always there for Savannah. She may be slow to realize that, but she does notice “his hands, his ragged nails, cracked and broken from hauling hay, fixing fencing boards, mucking stalls, or whatever. I’d seen him use his nails to pry up boards and watched him smash ice from troughs in the winter with his bare hands.”

Savannah may not be ready yet to think of Ellerbe as anything more than a friend, but she knows Dillon is nothing but trouble. He’ll just “turn you into some gross saying on the bathroom wall like with Erin,” she warns, but Charleston, like teenagers everywhere, believes bad things happen only to other people.

Even when Charleston’s whereabouts are sure to get her grounded, should their dear, devoted parents found out, Savannah feels she has to cover for her sister. Loyalty is everything… right? And yet, the harder Savannah tries to reason with Charleston, the farther her sister, her soul mate, heads down the dark road that good girls fear to tread.

Their sixteenth summer began so well, that day on the beach: “Right then, no one could have convinced me life was less than perfect or that heaven was more than a whisper away for either of us, and on that day I would have been right,” Savannah reflects.

The final lines are as simple, and as epic, as the opening lines: “and we continue to stroll hand-in-hand down the beach, the rain misting around us,” Ellerbe’s horse “plodding along behind to the beat of time moving on.”

Did I mention that Ellerbe is the best teen hero I’ve seen in forever?

Millions of young readers, I hope, will agree.


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Wingspan: The Sky Is Not The Limit (TTL Series Book 2) by Diane Ryan

41gsmttt47l     71mwzngqswl

ANOTHER YOUNG MAN is killed in his prime, with so much to live for–(“He was halfway through season two of Game Of Thrones and had just ordered season three from Amazon. Everything pointed to a man who was not planning to die”–ha! Love it!)–and so much to prove, he just can’t move on–until Diane Ryan soars again with the second riveting, electrifying tale in the “Talking to Luke” series. 

Twice in a row, Ryan has knocked me out with a remarkable novel in this world of mediocre books (from the Big House books, from the indie glut). Her stories are vivid, passionate, strange and wondrous, sensuous and totally real. Her southern settings and characters come to life no matter how minor the character – even a pet cat or dog – though after reading Diane Ryan novels, you may never again think of animals as “just” pets. Kobi, Nero, Astrid, all the critters are as real to me as the people, and I have to keep reminding myself the people are mere figments of one woman’s imagination.
The opening pages take us up in the air with Kip, a veteran pilot who knows what he’s doing and loves every minute of it. We’re in good hands with this man, and with the author who’s taking us along for the ride. The prose seems effortless, and Ryan puts us so firmly in the pilot’s POV (Point of View), we feel every hitch and every stomach-turning, then heart-stopping, new glitch. The most chilling thing about this? A real-life news story, and a pilot like Kip, inspired this scene. It isn’t “just” fiction. (If there’s a bright side, the real life story was not a conspiracy gone bad.)
Whether Ryan writes in first person or third, you can count on a singular voice that’s honest and  compelling. Chapter One opens with Kip: “Easy on the yoke, back by degrees, and she levels off–she’s a tight little aircraft, and I’m glad the boss put her in service. I’m the first to take her up with passengers, and I glance around to make sure they’re all happy. Three faces beam back at me, a mother and two half-grown kids, a girl and a boy….They paid more than a hundred bucks for a twenty-minute ride–have to make sure they get their money’s worth. I’ll take them down the beach, let them see their hotel from the air, swing around to open water and hopefully catch a tailwind home.”
Or not.
The electrical system fails. With no warning, the engine sputters and dies.
“… The failures in this fixed-wing–they don’t happen. Not like this. Not one right after the other, totally unrelated malfunctions…this probably won’t end well. The four of us are about to make the six o’clock news–I’m just not sure yet what kind of story it’s going to be.”
Oh Kip!

Chapter Two opens with Tania, and not the way we want to remember her from Book One, with Luke. Their little miracle of a son is suffering symptoms that eerily parallel the lurid details of the preceding scene.

Readers, I urge you to start with Book One canyons-6-3-600x900 (see my review at The Leighgendarium), even though Book Two can stand alone. You’ll miss out on a lot of history and unfolding drama if you don’t first meet the ghost of a Civil War soldier who is too angry, too stubborn, too young to die. Luke haunts the site of his death, an old schoolhouse that’s slated to be razed along with two Confederate artillery bunkers –until Tania, a paranormal researcher with a gift no gadget can rival, detects Luke’s presence.

 54552744_1392321215  And soon she was lost, freefalling, in the very solid, very real arms of this man, her husband, who’d crossed far more than a continent to be with her this way.

 Even if you haven’t already come to know and love Luke and Tania, you will by the end of Chapter Two in Book Two, as their son is airlifted to a hospital emergency room:

… the pitch of the engine noise changed and the earth fell away. Up, up they went, so fast it made her head spin. Below them Luke watched, feet braced apart at shoulder width. Standing exactly how he’d stood the first time she saw him in the viewfinder of her best friend’s video recorder. Except this time he wore leather, not wool. And he was so real–so there–watching them leave, getting smaller and smaller as the helicopter spun toward the skyline and carried them away.

Tania’s “best friend,” the blunt and brutal BFF-from-hell, is the kind of woman who alienates people more often than she endears them to her. Why does Tania put up with Lily? Hang in there, and the generous, brave, valiant side of Lily emerges in scene after scream-worthy scene. Petite and beautiful, tough and agile, Lily takes quite a beating in Book One, physically as well as emotionally. Not until the end of Book Two do we even fathom what this grizzly bear of a girlfriend endures and overcomes. Lesser mortals just give up and never walk again, or die.

The way she talks may set your teeth on edge, but I know a Lily in real life. This one comes with the quiet swish of canes and thump of their rubber tips on carpet. She talks like this:

“How’s the brat?” Lily asked.

“Do you still have that evil cat?”

“What about the ghost stuff? Still messing around with that?”

Careful, Tania. Minefields abound. “No.” That answer seemed safe enough, and it was true. “That ship has sailed.”

“Hmmph,” Lily said again, but this time the inflection was different… “That’s too bad.”

Tania blinked. “What?”

Who would guess that Lily would come up with a reason for Tania to resume her former pastime as a ghost hunter? That ship has sailed, Tania says. No way. Not gonna go there again. No more helping a stuck soul move on to the next world.

From the sound of Lily’s voice, the other shoe was about to drop. And it did. Except it didn’t just drop. Lily took it and threw it down. Stomped it. Smashed it into the dirt with her canes. “He volunteered for …”

Okay, now Tania can’t say no to Lily, but how will she explain to her husband what she’s about to get herself involved in? Ghosts are unpredictable. Even if they mean well, they don’t know their own strengths. In a fit of frustration and rage, they can hurl heavy objects dangerously near whatever mortals may be in the way. As another reviewer said so well, Luke “knows how dangerous spirits can be, even unintentionally. His fierce need to protect his family wars with Tania’s equally fierce need to help a man stranded on the other side… Consequences be damned. I wanted Tania to help this man.”

The conflict between Tania and Luke is exquisite. They’re both equally right, and equally wrong (especially in how they say things), and totally believable. How often do romance novelists *nail* the dynamic between two people so in love they can’t imagine life without each other, until they actually start living together? What we love most about someone often becomes what we hate most about that someone.

The science surrounding Tania’s ghosts is what really ratchets up this paranormal into the realm of the believable:

“Energy in the human body is measurable,” she said. “We generate between ten and one hundred millivolts by the exchange of sodium and potassium through cell membranes, like a battery. Our heart gives off an electrical pulse that causes it to beat. Our brain waves are detectable with modern equipment. What if, in the act of dying, that energy is released? The effects of energy are finite, but energy itself is never destroyed. It just changes form.”


“And what if it changes into something that falls on the extreme end of the spectrum, undetectable by conventional means, but no less real? And taking it one step further, what if something happens during the act of dying that interrupts that transition? Extreme violence. Overwhelming emotion. A good old case of mule-ass stubbornness–who knows. But what if that person’s energy doesn’t quite make it off the spectrum, but lands somewhere between the known range and the unknown…can’t go forward, can’t go back. Stuck. What then? And how long until something else happens that blows them out of the rut and back on track for wherever they need to go?”

Having written the same way about electrical activity in the brain surviving death in my own novel in 1990, it’s no surprise I’d love Tania’s theories and explanations so much. Call me biased. My husband is an electrical engineer specializing in high-frequency power amplifiers, but I don’t even want to know if he’d say Tania’s account of electromagnetic impulses and RF signals in this novel would hold up in real life. Has he ever seen a ghost? No. Have a gazillion southerners from Virginia to New Orleans and beyond seen ghost first-hand? Yes! Anne Hite’s “Ghost on Black Mountain” comes to mind. 51dkegjjmql-_sx318_bo1204203200_ (Hite believes, 100 percent, that she was visited by her grandmother’s ghost the hour of Grandma’s death.)

A little back story may be in order. In “Talking to Luke” we met Tania’s former team member Geoff, who now has his own ghost-hunter cable TV show out west. Tania, tasked with summoning help on behalf of Kip, recalls that her favorite Civil War ghost “was just…stuck, for all those years. So I called my friend Geoff Winchell, and he called a friend of his with some experimental equipment, and they brought it to a common location. It was like a massive EMF pump, and it turbocharged the free energy available in the air. And that allowed our ghost to take the next logical step.”*

*Just not in the direction anyone had intended.

I want to say more about this story — the tension between Tania and her husband, the unfolding clues about the cause of the tragic air crash, the animal rescues, the dialogue, the wit and humor, the splendor of all that is Luke and Tania together, the agony of making decisions that serve one person at the expense of another — it’s such a long list of wonders, I can only say READ THIS BOOK so I don’t have to write a book saying what a great book this is.

bdljrn1i_400x400 A fluffy white tail poked from the base of the drapes, the rest of the dog hidden behind their floor length folds. Kobi fancied himself invisible as long as his face couldn’t be seen, and (Tania) would never shatter that delusion.

And read this review (I’ve included excerpts only, below):

5.0 out of 5 stars Never before has it been so easy to believe in ghosts…and to love them., February 22, 2017  By   ObxFiction

We’re told that once we’re gone, we’re gone. There’s no coming back. That whatever business we left behind, will forever remain unfinished. Wrongs committed against us left without justice. Questions left painfully unanswered. But what if those wrongs were enough to keep us from being gone completely? To mire us in a place of anger and frustration, stuck desperately needing our own answers? And maybe, just maybe, a way out. And what if one person on earth could actually help?

…. Never before has it been so easy to believe in ghosts…and to love them. And if you’ve ever wondered – truly wondered – just what happens in that other dimension, how it happens, if that human energy that makes us who we are really does remain intact somewhere, unchanged and conscious, this author has the answers. Are they hard and fast, proved science? Irrefutable evidence that ghosts are real and here and just waiting to communicate? No. But she damn sure makes it feel that way.

…In Wingspan, we’re not just picking up where we left off with Luke and Tania. We get a funny, sexy, touching look into their lives together. We get to see them deal with near tragedy. And we get to see just what they mean to each other two years down the road, with a child who, by all accounts, and just like his father, has no business existing at all. They have a lovely life together. Until Lily calls, and in true Lily fashion, not only rocks the boat, but damn near sinks it. Who you gonna call? Evidently not Ghostbusters. And Luke is none too happy.

… Seeing Luke and Tania’s near perfect world rocked to it’s core was painful, and left me angry at both of them. But make no mistake, I was filled with just as much empathy for them.

… I love the characters, the detail, the sense of place Ryan masterfully constructs. I love the true human emotion, the interactions, the conflicts and resolutions. At no point did I feel I was reading a “ghost story.” Because nothing felt beyond the realm of possibility. Not one thing. Not one character. Ryan has obviously done extensive research on aviation as well as the paranormal, and no detail has been overlooked. I also appreciate the inclusion of animal rescue. Pilots N Paws is a a wonderful organization and one dear to my heart.

========== SYNOPSIS =========

Former paranormal researcher Tania Porter is no skeptic. More than most, she knows that a truth with no explanation is just as real as any fact with decades of science behind it. Her husband, for example. His physical presence on this earth defies all logical explanation, yet he exists, and so does their child.

But after two years, the reasons for his second chance still elude them. They’ve almost stopped questioning, until someone else’s tragedy lands on Tania’s doorstep. A twenty-minute sightseeing airplane tour goes down and all souls on board are burned to death—a mother and her two children, plus a handsome, charismatic pilot loved by everyone who knew him. This strikes a deep chord with Tania’s best friend Lily, who lost her soulmate to a fiery car crash several years earlier. When unexplained paranormal activity rocks the hangars at the now-defunct Santa Rosa Scenic, Lily knows just who to call. She appeals to Tania for help, and sets off a chain reaction of angst, devastation, and blistering ultimatums that threaten to rip the very bedrock from Tania’s world.

13521098_896116583844770_597508706_n-600x408Preston Leigh (founder of the award-winning “Leighgendarium” site) meets Diane Ryan, aka Rhonda Kay, in Virginia


Diane Ryan is a pseudonym for a very real person living and writing in the mountains of Southwest Virginia. She is married with two grown children and more pets than good sense dictates.

Her heartfelt passion is saving animals. In the past, she has rescued horses and wildlife, but currently focuses on dogs imperiled by cultural indifference toward animals in Appalachian communities. 61FuCVpfmVL._UX250_[1]She is the Executive Director of a 501c3 rescue that regularly transports unwanted dogs from areas of shelter overcrowding to regions of high demand, where No Kill methods are firmly established. She has also worked with Pilots N Paws to rehome rescue-dogs.

For at least the entirety of 2017 (this novel’s year of publication,) 100% of the proceeds from the sale of this book will go directly to animal rescue in Southwest Virginia. The need is very great. If you have purchased this book in print or electronic form, you have played a vital role in the very real lifesaving efforts underway in Appalachian communities to save animal lives. Your contribution is deeply appreciated.

https://www.facebook.com/authordianeryan   Follow me on Twitter! @DianeRyanRK

Wingspan: The Sky Is Not The Limit. (TTL Series Book 2)

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Confidentially, DON’T READ THIS


This is only a test.

I believe I could publish international secrets in my blog, and they’d be safer here than in the Pentagon’s email servers. Why? Hardly anyone reads my blog, unless I send a link, and even then, without a bribe — e.g., “Look! You’re mentioned here!” — I can safely say that nothing I blog about has ever attracted attention unless I purposely SOUGHT that attention. Even if I post links onTwitter, Facebook, and Pinterest, I’m still confident I could publish CONFIDENTIAL stuff and it’d be hidden in plain sight.

Then again, I don’t usually publish anything negative about the living.

I’m grateful to Vicki in New York, “KoolAidMoms” in Michigan, novelists David Lawlor (Dublin, Ireland), Beth Camp (the West Coast),  John Monk, Carol Ervin, and Diane Ryan  (Virginia, or close enough), and “American novelist/ outlaw traditionalist” Mord McGhee (whereabouts unknown to me, unless I trawl the internet). Thanks for reading me, my friends. If I missed any loyal readers, my apologies – I’m only glancing at recent comments on my blogs.

Why do I bring this up?

Someone believes I posted something that made someone look bad, and that I left “obvious” clues as to who I was talking about. In fact, I was excoriated for it. I’ll apologize for the *way* I say things, but what I said needed to be said, or I’d have “Put Up and Shut Up” like the “good girl” my German forebears expected me to be.

Consultants are paid exorbitant fees for offering the observations, insights, and research that I offer, for free, but it never ceases to amaze me: the more a novelist or a business or a corporation professes to welcome customer feedback or reviews, the more sensitive and defensive the recipient will be if “Be Honest” is offered.

LESSON: Let others suffer. NOTE TO SELF: Never offer constructive criticism, unless it’s couched with the kind of disclaimers I see as a waste of time, at best. (At worst? Nope, not gonna say. Not even here, in the blog that could contain international secrets, and who’d notice?)

If anyone wonders what I’m talking about, specifically, it doesn’t matter. One author yanked his novel down from amazon after I gave it a 3-star review, and 3 means the book is “okay,” not terrible, but the world is full of sensitive, defensive, and militant people.

Therefore, I resume my hermitude. TTFN!









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He won! Science Fiction Fans, your ~VOTES~ counted! P&E polls 2016

Chet Gottfried you totally deserve first place! CONGRATULATIONS!


d5156a-chet-tshirt-small  cncp9frwcaeccx3

The amazing Chet Gottfried, photographer, novelist, short story writer and contributor to Perihelion, shared some of his secrets for capturing incredible, gorgeous, and amazing images of bugs (not the staph kind, but spidery and insecty bugs)in the November 2016 issue of Perihelion. But then – alas – while filming a glider landing, Chet stood too close to its path.  “A wingtip knocked me over and broke several vertebra in my neck   (C2, C5, C6, and C7),” he writes. “C2 means I’m wearing an oversize neck brace; the other ones resulted in some nerve damage to my upper right arm (at first useless) and two fingers. All will be brought to rights. It’s only a question of time (along with the work of some excellent doctors and physical therapists).”

Diane Ryan, you also earned a Top Ten badge on your first published science fiction story!

#10. Space Horses, Diane Ryan, Perihelion SF Magazine, [link][comments]

While I did nominate some of the winners, other people nominated a lot of writers whose short stories premiered in Perihelion, or whose novels were reviewed here. These authors earned high praises from the Perihelion Book Critic:

Standings for Science Fiction & Fantasy Novels

2. Titanborn, Rhett Bruno, Random House Hydra, [link][comments]
7. Into the Horsebutt Nebula, Chet Gottfried, ReAnimus Press, [link][comments]
10. Machinations, Hayley Stone, Hydra/Random House, [link][comments]
11. TreeVolution, Tara Campbell, Lillicat Publishers [comments]

26. CTRL ALT Revolt!, Nick Cole, Castalia House, [link]

And these esteemed authors, though I ran out of time to review these particular novels:

13. Liquid Gambit, Bonnie Milani, Createspace, [link][comments]

20. Ghosts of the Golden Triangle, Mord McGhee

Magazine/e-zine Cover Artwork #2. Daniel Beaudin

fullcover050   12-DEC-2016 On many alien worlds the Earth legend of Santa Claus is eagerly adopted, often with some minor variations to suit the local culture.  Cover by Daniel Beaudin.  [link][comments]

Science Fiction & Fantasy Short Stories

6. Snow Sharks, Mord McGhee, Perihelion SF Magazine, [link][comments]

7. Quantum Rose, Jude-Marie Green, Perihelion, [link]

10. Space Horses, Diane Ryan, Perihelion SF Magazine, [link][comments]

12. An Undiplomatic Incident, Paul R. Hardy, Perihelion SF Magazine, [link]

In other news:

1. The Horror Zine, as always, got the most reader votes, followed by #2. InD’Tale Magazine,  #3. Perihelion




And now, back to my obsolete post

Critters / Critique.org is once again happy to host the annual P&E Readers Poll. predlogoThe Preditors & Editors™ Readers’ Poll honors print & electronic publications published during 2016. The poll opens Dec. 24 through Jan. 14.  Check back for final results to be posted soon after the poll closes!

The usual #1 finisher has a much wider audience than science fiction does. For sure, she is hard working, passionate, and helpful to writers who aren’t quite there yet, with reams of comments from voters. Rightfully, she has been recognized and honored, every year. FOR A CHANGE, if only this one time, this one year, it would be awesome to see an equally deserving editor claim that honor.

#1 Ezine Editor sam-and-rana  1401

In September, Sam was rushed to E.R. and nearly died of a mysterious bone infection. He spent his seventieth birthday in Rehab, the following weeks in a wheelchair, yet he sounded cheerful and upbeat through all the pain. Now he’s walking again on his own two legs. Despite all the disruptions, the lost time, and the hazards of nature that trap a wizard of a mind in an aging, i.e. physically declining human body, the December issue of “Perihelion” was one of the best ever.

 Just once I’d love to see Sam take FIRST PLACE for his stellar job launching Perihelion Science Fiction ezine, offering it free online, yet paying professionals for fresh, original cover art, comics, short stories, reviews, and nonfiction essays.

~BONUS: Voters are automatically entered into a drawing for prizes from sponsors~ 

Note: your name and email address will be required to vote to prevent fraud. Entries for each category are listed in alphabetical order.  Click on these links:

http://critters.org/predpoll/fictionzine.shtml – Fiction Magazine/e-zines page

Cinsearae S. [link][comments]
David Stegora [link]
Don Webb [link]
Jeani Rector [link][comments]
Jessica West [link][comments]
Joanie & Jenni B [link][comments]
Julie Ann Dawson [link]
Michele Dutcher [link]
Sam Bellotto Jr. [link][comments]

To cast your vote, you must type in a legit name and email address (it won’t get sold to scammers!), then prove you’re not a bot by typing a name into a little box. Soon you’ll get an email asking you to verify your vote. It’s worth it. (Your name might even be drawn for a prize!)

You can also take a minute to type a comment next to Sam’s name. E.g.

— I vote Sam Bellotto because of his commitment and passion for writing and his pleasure in sharing good science fiction for free, online…

–a good eye for talent.

–The essence of what a good editor should be.

–Sam is a professional, helpful editor who produces a high quality e zine offering an excellent variety of work.

–Sam Bellotto is not only a great author in his own right, he is an editor with an uncanny eye for the best short stories.

–A consummate professional and multi-talented writer.

–Sam Bellotto rocks

–Bellotto is a professional, thorough and supportive editor with an eye for detail.

–Sam Bellotto has a good eye for the unusual.

— Sam is one of the very few editors who will actually include helpful comments on his rejection letters.

–Sam is definitely a top-notch editor.

–Sam Bellotto has been the best editor I’ve had the pleasure of working with.


— Sam is a marvelous editor. I sent him two mediocre stories and he was patient enough to tell me why they didn’t work. He’s helped me shape stories into publishable, and readable, texts.

–I’ve worked with several editors of online magazines and Sam is, by far, the best editor I’ve worked with. He has a great eye for detail and knows how to help writer cultivate a story. He’s both accepted and denied my stories and I’m better for what he’s done for my work.

–Sam Bellotto is one of the few editors that will actually work with the writer on creating the best possible story for the ezine.

— a great eye for talent. This is a must go-to page every month!
THANK YOU, Critters / Critique.org, for hosting the annual P&E Readers Poll.

Good luck to all entrants!





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Letitia Carson, freed slave, doesn’t ‘put up and shut’ up in Jane Kirkpatrick’s award-winning historical-fiction novel”A Light in the Wilderness”

A Light in the Wilderness: A Novel by [Kirkpatrick, Jane] A Light in the Wilderness: A Novel by Jane Kirkpatrick brings to life a little-known woman who made history. Earning her freedom and keeping it at a time when  laws prohibited blacks from living in Oregon, Letitia Carson, a freed slave, not only continued to live in Oregon, she became the first black woman to own land in America–and there’s more, lots more. Great story, even greater because it’s a true story, for Black History Month. 15349688_441261402664612_3336141896203014445_nLetitia Carson in Douglas County: The Carsons and the Lavadours, 1868-1886 from Facebook’s Friends of Letitia Carson page.

 SHE COULD BE A VICTIM, or she could fight for the rights only white men enjoyed under 19th Century law. Letitia Carson, a freed slave, decided not to “put up and shut up.”

Her story is all the more remarkable because it really happened. The list of nonfiction books and journals that assisted Kirkpatrick’s understanding of Letitia fill up several pages. A common theme is the Struggle for Civil Rights. There’s Miscegenation Law and the Making of Race in America; From Slavery to Segregation; “Breaking Chains: Slavery on Trial in the Oregon Territory;” “The Brazen Overlanders of 1845;” and more. One of the most poignant titles is “Help Me to Find My People: The African American Search for Family Lost in Slavery.”

“History is the spine of my stories, with characters providing the flesh and blood of life”, Jane Kirkpatrick tells an interviewer in an Afterword to “A Light in the Wilderness.”

Facebook has a “Friends of Letitia Carson” page. It’s full of information that confirms what Kirkpatrick writes about in the novel. E.g. “Here is the latest article about Letitia Carson vs. Greenberry Smith, in 1852-1856. It is being published by the Oregon State Bar Association in their official Journal, the Bulletin. Circulation is 19,000, including all 17,000 lawyers, judges, legal clerks, law professors and other members of the Oregon State Bar:” http://www.orww.org/…/Letitia_C…/Library/Zybach_20161001.pdf

Kirkpatrick says she was taken aback by a reporter who asked “what business did I have writing of Indians when I wasn’t one,” but she didn’t set out to write about an Indian woman. She wrote a story of a Marie Dorion, a strong womanwho happened to be an Indian. “That’s how I approached Letitia’s story, about a strong woman who also happened to be African American,” she adds.

“Ordinary” women like Letitia often show extraordinary courage and strength, not just in the challenges of homesteading in the 1800s American West, but in all aspects of life.

She became the first African American woman to own land in the United States. Her place in history is not well known to most Americans, but historical fiction is a great way to change that. A carefully researched novel like this one brings the past to life and lets us travel another time and place.

“History is the spine of my stories,” Jane Kirkpatrick tells an interviewer in an Afterword to the novel, “with characters providing the flesh and blood of life.”

A Light in the Wilderness won the 2015 WILLA Literary award for Best Original Paperback


Where I as a writer would say “Two men stood arguing in front of the Platte County courthouse,” Kirkpatrick adds concrete details, as if she’d time-traveled the scene: “Men’s voice sliced the air like whips of a field marse, sharp and stinging, The air was heavy as a wet, wool quilt, yet dust billowed around the two men as it did when bulls scraped the earth.” Not only is her prose vivid and illuminating, it’s poetic.

Opinion goes against the man named Davey Carson, but Letitia believes he’s innocent of the charges against him, even when others brush past him, “leaving the Irishman like a shriveled pickle in the bottom of the barrel, no one wanting to touch it.”

Letitia knows the feeling. She knows the rules and shows her papers when asked, “only to endure the sneers and snarls of ‘free black’ as though the word meant stink or worse, a catching kind of poison spread by being present near her breath.”

Letitia counts her blessings, though, not just the offenses against her. “She’d earned money helping birth babies, enough to buy a cow.” She was on her way to Oregon, “where people wanted to join the States as free. She’d be free there too, and without slavery and its uncertainty hovering like a cloud of fevered mosquitoes.” She could try her hand living alone, or “if she married and had children, they’d be born free and no one could ever sell them away from her. What property she had would be hers to keep. Like the cow she owned.”

Her cow is usurped by the disgruntled wife who wants to keep Letitia with her on the Oregon Trail as cheap labor, but Letitia stands up for herself, keeps her milk cow, and even dares to tell her former masters that she would find her own way to Oregon rather than “earn her keep” by serving them along the trail.

A kind Irish immigrant, none other than the unjustly maligned Davey Carson, gives Letitia a housekeeping job. He doesn’t take advantage of her in any way. He wants to offer her more, but it’s illegal for whites to marry blacks. Letitia agrees to a union that is not legally recognized, but loyalty and devotion transcend the law.Letitia Carson´s daughter Martha, son-in-law Narcisse Lavadour and grandson Nelson, circa 1892. Award-winning novelist Jane Kirkpatrick will make several appearances in the area promoting her book about Letitia Carson, “A Light in the Wilderness.” Letitia’s daughter Martha

Just when things are going well, with a newborn baby boy in Oregon, new troubles arise. “Herd’s growing. Garden sendin’ up shoots. We selling butter and cheese and beef this year… Why you want to leave that” in search of gold?” Letitia asks Davey, who wants to join the hoards of men heading to Sutter’s. She’s also “worried about that exclusion law” and what’ll happen to her and the children and the farm if “anyone of color has to leave Oregon,” but Davey doesn’t think anyone will enforce “the crazy law” even if voters do make Oregon a slave state when it joins the Union.

Not only does the exclusion law pass, but so does “a law forbidding persons of color to testify against a white man. If a white neighbor stole something from a colored man, the courts were no recourse.”

Despite all Letitia’s concerns and pleas, Davey rides off in search of gold. Sure enough, two horsemen show up, ordering the “wench” and her “mulatto brats” to leave. You’ll have to read the book (or wade through various history journals) to see if Letitia stays or goes. I’ll leave you with this:

“She was powerless to change the law, but she could change how she defended against it, what stories she told herself, a slave of anger or a free woman. Her children required it. She didn’t know then how much.”

1498931_270201256437295_7001050496383351915_o  photo borrowed from Friends of Letitia Carson  Facebook page
“Now more than ever,” to use a phrase I’ve come to hate, this novel deserves more attention.

Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC, which I’ve had since 2014 but didn’t finish until now due to the eye strain of formatting issues. A clean, readable manuscript gets my attention but broken text and anything that makes me work harder will lose me.

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