the Unending Journey of the Wandering Author

A chronicle of the unending journey of the Wandering Author through life, with notes and observations made along the way. My readers should be aware I will not censor comments that disagree with me, but I do refuse to display comment spam or pointless, obscene rants. Humans may contact me at thewanderingauthor at yahoo dot com - I'll reply as I am able.

Location: New England, United States

I have always known I was meant to write, even when I was too young to know the word 'author'. When I learned that books were printed, I developed an interest in that as well. And I have always been a wanderer, at least in my mind. It's not the worst trait in an author. For more, read my writing; every author illuminates their heart and soul on the pages they write upon.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Fiction Contest Entrants

This post will remain at the top of the blog while entries remain open. To see the most recent post, just scroll down to the next entry. When entries are closed, this will be dropped to 29 September when it was first posted.

To date, the following people have entered my Longer Fiction Contest:
DBA Lehane
Mike Cunningham who also showcases some of his work on this site*
Ian Healy who showcases his fiction here (Withdrew 30 January 2007)
Susan Abraham

*May appear garbled in Firefox

If you would like your information corrected or amended, simply let me know. If you don't see your name here, I may not have had a chance to read your e-mail and add your information yet. If, after a reasonable interval, your name still doesn't show up here, contact me again. If you would like to recheck the rules, click here.

08 February 2007: Please note the following change to the rules. I had posted on 30 January that the deadline would be moved to at least 01 March, and noted an exact date awaited responses from the three entrants I have not yet received entries from. I have not yet heard at all from one entrant. However, due to a request from another, recent problems with my shoulder, and the fact that my own job will, with little warning, require most of my time for the remainder of February, I am moving the deadline to 31 March 2007. This is a final change. I'm sorry for all the uncertainty; I will be contacting each of the four existing entrants individually.

22 February 2007: I am dropping this post back to 29 September 2006, but I adding a prominent link in my sidebar as a reminder that the contest remains open. This is to minimize confusion, and allow readers to more easily locate new posts.


A Sad Day for Genealogists

Earlier today, I received an alert by e-mail that Ryan Taylor a genealogist and librarian who worked at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and often taught on genealogical subjects, was missing. I did not know Ryan Taylor; I may have met him on my one visit to the Allen County Public Library. I have vague memories of a helpful staffer who resembled his picture.

I had too little time, and was too focused on learning more about one of my family's mysteries, to recall clearly anything beyond my triumph in solving one more bit of that mystery. Yet all I have learned of him today from those who did know him convinces me I wish I had met him, and had the chance to really talk with him.

Tonight, I recieved another e-mail. A body had been found. Although positive identification has not yet been made, the description matches that of Ryan Taylor. At this time, foul play is not suspected. I felt it would be disrespectful to his memory, and to all he has done for the genealogical community, to fail to note his passing.

I am sorry, I would much rather have had a less depressing subject for my next post. Yet some days are like this. Other days overflow with joy rather than sadness. I hope all of my loyal readers have known far more of the latter than the former, yet sooner or later the former days will come. Life goes on, but before you go on with your own life, please say a little prayer for Ryan Taylor and for his family and friends. And perhaps another that I may have occasion to write with a less heavy heart next time I post.

Labels: ,

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Please Help Honour Emily Keyes

Emily Keyes is the girl who was shot in a Colorado high school yesterday by a crazed gunman. The death of a 16 year old girl in such a senseless way is a real tragedy, which should not go unmarked. I think it is fitting that everyone honour her memory in the way requested by her family.

The following quote is taken from Yahoo! News / Associated Press: "In memory of Emily we would like everyone to go out and do random acts of kindness, random acts of love to your friends or your neighbors or your fellow students because there is no way to make sense of this," Gonzalez [speaking for Emily's family] said. "It's what Emily would have wanted."

It's a pretty good way to honour anyone, in my opinion, and if that's what Emily would have wanted, then I hope that's what she gets. I want to thank all my readers in advance, on Emily's behalf, for their efforts to honour her.


Sunday, September 24, 2006

Longer Fiction - A Contest - Revised Rules

I've been toying with the idea of sponsoring a writing contest, and I've finally come up with an idea I like. The rules are a bit flexible at the moment, due to the nature of the contest, but entries may be novellas, or short collections of stories or poems. Any genre is acceptable, although I reserve the right to ignore without comment any entries which promote hatred, bigotry, or racism.

The prize, to be awarded to at least one winner (in the case of a tie, I may award multiple prizes), is one some of you may find intriguing. I am a pretty fair editor and typographer. I will work with you to edit the winning entry until it is as polished as possible, typeset the manuscript as a small book, and provide you with a file you can submit to - which will give you, at no cost, an electronically published book visitors to Lulu may buy.

If you would like to have the book assigned an ISBN and made available through various online booksellers, you will have to pay that fee yourself. However, you will still have all the preparatory work done for you. If you are also an artist or photographer, you may submit cover art or illustrations with your manuscript. You will probably want to limit interior illustrations to greyscale to keep the book's price reasonable.

If you intend to provide your own artwork, please make advance arrangements with me so you don't overwhelm my inbox or exceed my e-mail's limits. If you do not provide a cover illustration, I will locate artwork or a photo that is available with an "attribution only" licence, and use typography and judicious manipulation to provide a suitable cover. The exact process followed in editing will be worked out by agreement between the Wandering Author and the winner.

Due to the length of submissions, I will not be able to publish them here, much as I would like to do so, but I will review entries unless the entrant specifically requests otherwise. To avoid being swamped by writers with already complete manuscripts, should word of this contest spread, I reserve the right to limit the number of entrants at any time.

To enter, e-mail me at thewanderingauthor at yahoo dot com with "Wandering Author Contest Entry" in the subject line. Include your name, or the pseudonym you want to use for your book, e-mail address, and blog or website. As long as I get your e-mail before I close the field to new entrants, you've reserved a spot in the contest. I will post the names of every entrant in a sticky post at or near the top of this blog.

I hate to have to do this, but to avoid legal tangles, anyone under 18 may enter, but only if their parents provide signed consent for them to do so. I will send my mailing address on request, for the purpose of sending a signed letter of consent. Upon receiving your request for my mailing address, I will reserve a spot for you until I get your parents' consent.

The tentative deadline for sending completed submissions to me is 31 January, 2007. It is my hope that will give everyone who is interested time to polish up their entries. The deadline will not be moved forward under any circumstances, but if enough of you have trouble meeting that deadline, I reserve the right to extend it as seems appropriate. If any of you do have trouble, please let me know as soon as possible.

Your completed entry should be between 18,000 and 50,000 words, give or take a few hundred. You should submit it in one of the following formats: WordPerfect 12 or earlier, MS Word 2003 or earlier, AbiWrite, ASCII or ANSI plain text, or RTF. Submissions that include active macros will not be accepted! Do not include photos or artwork you do not own the rights to!

E-mail your submission, as an attachment 9 MB or less in size, to me at thewanderingauthor at yahoo dot com and include "Wandering Author Contest Submission" in the subject line. Include in the body of the message a statement that you are the sole owner of rights to your submission; if you don't object to a review, add that you assign the Wandering Author the non-exclusive right to quote from that submission.

Since it isn't clear right now if most of the entrants will send in their submissions early, or wait until closer to the deadline, it is impossible to predict the exact date the winner will be announced. I will announce that date as soon as I have enough information to do so. Any extension of the deadline, or clarification of these rules, will be added to this post, so save a permalink to it if you plan to enter.

The Wandering Author will decide the winning entry or entries, but may at his discretion seek the opinions of others. I offer the following guidelines to those considering entering. I have read fiction in all genres that I enjoyed; if it is well written and has an interesting story and characters that is all I ask.

I do find most formulaic genre fiction, that which focuses on the expected elements of the genre to the exclusion of all else, distasteful. It also seems to me that the quality of poetry is a more subjective matter than perhaps any other form of literature. Which is not at all the same as saying poetry cannot win.

I can ignore minor factual errors; I'd simply suggest you correct them during the editing process. However, unless you are explicitly writing alternate history, or fabricating a completely new fantasy or science fiction world, a setting which rings totally false is more than enough to ruin a story for me. Even then, the setting should have some internal consistency.

I must rule out "fan fiction", for legal reasons at least. In any case, I think only the greatest of writers could make such fiction work for non-fans. Young adult fiction is fine; I won't absolutely rule out fiction for younger children, but I won't encourage it, either. Finally, while I don't mind stories with a moral or a point to them, it needs to be a part of the story. There are few things as dreadful as a tract thinly disguised by a few splatters of fiction flung on.


Plans, and a Few Questions for My Readers

I still have a long list of posts I want to write; I am becoming resigned to the idea that by the time I have written one, I'll have ideas for six or seven more jotted down. In the meantime, I have a few plans I'd like feedback on from my readers. Earlier, I mentioned starting a blog devoted to a serious dialogue among writers.

I am not ready to begin this yet, since what I envision will require some planning to set up right, but I do intend to go ahead with this. If any of my readers who are also writers are interested in becoming contributors, please leave a note in the comments section. You don't have to be at any particular level of experience.

What I have in mind is a blog that will cover, from various viewpoints, what it means to be a writer, what our responsibility as writers is, and what we can do to grow as writers and to advance our careers in the world as it exists today. If there are other areas you think should be covered, mention them in the comments section and I will consider your input.

I'd also like to hear from all of my readers. Do you use a bookmarking service, and if so, what services would you like to see me add to my sidebar? My own favourite is Diigo, as I mentioned before. However, I'm there are others some of you prefer using. I don't want to end up with a blog with inches of shortcuts to one service after another, but I'd be interested in which ones my current readers feel are lacking.

I will be posting soon about the special merits of Diigo, and how to get the most out of the service. Perhaps some of you will be inspired to start using it. I also intend to continue adding blogs to my blogroll, and to slowly begin checking out the blogrolls of the blogs I already link to for more intersting blogs to add. This will be a long, slow process.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Book Meme

I hadn't intended to let so much time pass before I posted here again. After working on the 2,996 Project, I felt wrung out and worn out. I assumed at first it was simply exhaustion from too little sleep. It has become obvious, however, that I was also battling a nasty bug that was sapping all my energy.

I hope to post more often, but I still don't feel wonderful, so I'm not making promises. On the other hand, perhaps the worst part of this illness has been the lack of physical or mental energy to do any writing at all. My desperation may just drive me to the keyboard no matter how awful I feel.

I've been tagged by a very funny, wonderfully observant writer named Susan Abraham; if any of you haven't yet read her blog, you don't know what you're missing. Thanks, Susan, for getting me posting again. Not only have you given me reason, but I don't need to expend the energy to plan this one out; all I have to do is fill in the answers.

1: One book that changed your life?
It's difficult to answer this, because so many books have left their mark on me. So many titles come to mind, whose influence still ripples through my life today. The first one I can remember is Mark of the Horse Lord by Rosemary Sutcliffe. It opened up the past for me. I suppose I might have discovered an interest in history later, but as it stands, this book sparked my interest in history, and shaped many of my thoughts and ideas as I grew up.

2: One book you have read more than once?
Lots of them, actually. One of the first I deliberately re-read (that is, a book I chose to re-read, rather than one I found myself reading again simply because nothing better was to hand) was The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien. I first read it when I was eleven or twelve, and I was so fascinated by it I re-read it within a year or two.

3: One book you would want on a desert island?
A boat building manual... If I were stuck on a desert island with only one book, the only thing that could keep me sane would be the goal of getting to a library as quickly as possible. No matter how good the book, I couldn't live with just one.

4: One book that made you cry?
I've read enough books even this question brings to mind a long list, but one book stands out - I cried for weeks after reading it whenever I thought of it. The Diary of Anne Frank was sad just from its descriptions of the hardships those in the "Secret Annexe" had to endure, but knowing the fate of its author is more than tragic enough to make it stand out.

5: One book that made you laugh?
The Case of the Toxic Spell Dump by Harry Turtledove. Before reading this book, if anyone had suggested it would be possible to write a novel length collection of puns within a story interesting enough to keep me reading, I would have laughed at them. They would have had the last laugh, though, the moment they handed me this book.

6: One book you wish had been written?/One book you wish you had written?
I wish someone had written a book powerful enough to end the very possibility of mindless hatred throughout the world. / I wish I could write such a book myself, but if we're talking of existing books here, Fitzempress' Law by Diana Norman, or Hawk of May by Gillian Bradshaw come to mind. Or perhaps To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis. I don't know; it's hard to make up my mind on this. There are a lot of books wonderful enough I wish I'd written them in some sense, but in another sense, it's the books inside me I most want to write.

7: One book you wish had never been written?
This is an easy one, and there is only one choice for me. Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler. The world would be a far, far better place if that deluge of hatred had never been vomited forth into it.

8: One book you are currently reading?
I'm currently reading Hammerfall by C. J. Cherryh for pleasure. She has a remarkable gift for creating intricate, detailed, believable worlds. And I'm currently re-reading IBM and the Holocaust by Edwin Black to understand the subject matter more deeply, now that I'm used to the utter impact of what he reveals. This is one of the most significant books, in my opinion, for what it can tell us about where our society could easily go. Some dispute his conclusion that IBM was aware of, and complicit in, the Nazis' activities during World War II, but even if you dismiss that part of the book as inaccurate (which I'm not at all sure I do) there remains the point, which no one has disputed but no one ever seems to have realised before, that the Nazis were in fact the world's first Information Age government. The implications are terrifying.

9: One book you have been meaning to read?
Nearly every one I haven't yet read... I've really been meaning for a while to read more of Christine de Pisan's writings than I have.

10: Now tag five people. Let me see, I need five victims... uh, I meant to say, I need to think of five bloggers whose reading habits might prove interesting and who haven't been tagged yet. Okay, Brandon, Beth, Aperire, Miss Kitty, and BluJewel. If any of you find this a hardship, I won't be offended if you pretend you didn't notice, but I really would be interested in seeing all your answers.

Friday, September 15, 2006

The Wandering Author Will Return

To all my regular readers, I'm sorry for an absence that is already longer than I'd planned. I am very pleased with what we accomplished at the 2,996 Project, but the size of the response was more than expected. In an effort to preserve the spirit of what we intended, and strengthen our commitment to return next year, I spent more time than planned.

I had a few other commitments, and I'm too tired to write a 'real' post tonight. I haven't even finished Sgt. Major Strickland's tribute yet, although I am satisfied I do at least have something up to honour him. I do plan to return tomorrow or Saturday at the latest. I'll look forward to reading all your blogs as well. Thanks for your patience.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Tribute: Sgt. Major Larry Lee Strickland, US Army

Sgt. Major Larry Lee Strickland was planning to retire at the end of September, after thirty years in the Army. He had reached the highest rank any enlisted man can attain. During his service, he earned the respect and the admiration of the men and women he served with, and of the men and women who served under him. For ten years, he had advised the highest ranking generals in the Pentagon on personnel matters.

That morning, he was not even supposed to be at the Pentagon. It was his day off, and a nice clear morning; he should have been off fishing, or perhaps gardening. Although he enjoyed both of these pastimes, and had an additional reason for staying away, since at the end of the month he would lose whatever leave he had not yet used, he was so dedicated to his job that he showed up anyway.

There was to be an important briefing the next day on the future of the Army, and he wanted to make sure it would go well. Even though he would soon be leaving himself, he was so concerned with the service he had dedicated himself to for so long that he voluntarily exchanged a days recreation for the chance to help it move forward. Sadly, he was not to get that chance.

That was the morning a plane slammed into the Pentagon, cutting short Larry Strickland's life and postponing the briefing he'd hoped to prepare for. Although he was a warrior who offered up his life in service to his country, he surely never expected to die in a surprise attack by civilians in the heart of his own country. Yet even though could never have forseen the circumstances, Sgt. Major Larry Strickland died for his country just as surely as if he had fallen on a battlefield defending it.

That is true, not because of the nature of the attack which took his life, and not because of any of the events or the rhetoric which followed. It is true simply because Larry Strickland was there that day, and lost his life, because of his dedication to his country, and his determination to do his best for it even in the small things. He tried that day to do everything he could for his country, and lost his life as a result. No warrior can say more than that.

I apologise to the family and friends of Sgt. Major Strickland, and to his memory. Surely he deserved better treatment from the blogger who volunteered to write his tribute. I learned that tribute had not been written late last night, and so I determined to do what I could. My tribute is not yet complete, and I will update this post when it is done, but in the meantime, I felt it was better to post at least a brief tribute in his honour. This was originally posted on September 12th at 6:20 am; I chose to set the date to 9-11 as part of my tribute.

Tribute: Firefighter Francis Esposito, FDNY

Pause for a moment, and forget the statistics, the analyses, the politics. While you read this, remember only that each person who died five years ago was an individual, important for that reason alone. To most of us, Francis Esposito is a stranger, a name on a memorial carved in stone, or floating in cyberspace. To his family and friends, he was much more than that. No tribute can ever embrace all the memories, all the love only they will ever know. But it is fitting, especially on this day, to reflect on what we do know of Francis Esposito, and the lessons we can learn from his life.

He was born August 14th 1969 in Brooklyn, but his parents soon moved to Staten Island. As a boy, he was a lovable rascal who once helped drop his little brother down a laundry chute. Yet he was capable of much more than just pranks and jokes. He helped his father build the
family's home
on Staten Island, and in the process learned skills he would use throughout his life.

The Esposito home was the scene of many happy Fourth of July celebrations for family and friends. Francis and his brothers would begin planning the festivities months in advance, striving to do even better each year than they had the year before. Clearly, making other people happy was very important to Frank. His was a close and loving family, eager to be a part of one another's lives, always finding time to do the things they loved together.

He and his father and brothers built a vacation home in upstate New York, where Frank would often go to hunt or ride his dirt bike. They were also excellent pool players, who formed a team and won the Staten Island Eight Ball League division championship two years running. These wins were no surprise to anyone who knew Frank. He had a passion for excellence, and it showed.

After graduating from Tottenville High School on Long Island, he went to work as a drywall finisher. He was more than conscientious, insisting upon perfection in all the work he did. The fun loving lad was growing into a man who retained his sense of humour, yet
"knew a lot about everything, and never froze under pressure."

With such qualities, it was perhaps natural Francis Esposito set his sights upon becoming a New York firefighter. It took seven years, but at last, in 1999, he was offered the opportunity. It came just weeks before his wedding, but he was already so dedicated he postponed his honeymoon so he could fulfill his new duties. He soon bought the midnight-blue Harley-Davidson he'd always dreamed of owning, and kept it so immaculate his friends teased him about his affection for it. That didn't stop him from wiping fingerprints from the paint and polishing the chrome until it sparkled.

They may have teased him, but his drive for perfection was genuine enough to win the respect of co-workers and acquaintances, and the admiration and love of friends and family. Yet he never let his idealism dampen his sense of humour. He entertained everyone who knew him with jokes, tossing off one-liners as expertly and effortlessly as everything else he did. This, along with his other qualities, helped him earn the friendship of his new comrades in the fire department.

Frank was meticulous in refurbishing and caring for his house. He was proud of it, and of his beloved wife Dawn. They planned to spend their lives together, travelling, trying new restaurants, and relaxing on their boat, the "Dawn Marie." He was always taking on new projects, extending his skills. Sometimes he grew so absorbed he didn't even remember to eat, unless there was crab on the table. Frank could never get enough crab, even though he often caught his own. He also liked watching thunderstorms, and once took members of his extended family to Manhattan to watch him perform as DJ in a club there.

Just days before his death, on Labor Day, Frank and Dawn were sailing in New York Harbor when he noticed that the boat was sinking. He calmly told his wife to "hold the wheel" while he took care of the situation. She was confident in his abilities, a confidence that was not misplaced. He fixed the boat, as he managed to fix most things in life, quietly and without fuss.

After Francis Esposito completed his training, he was assigned to Ladder Company 79, in West Brighton. In January of 2001, he was transferred to Engine Company 235 in the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn. Not surprisingly, he was regarded by his colleagues as a great firefighter. On the morning of September 11, six firefighters from Engine 235 raced towards Tower Two of the World Trade Center. One of the men remained behind with the apparatus to connect the hoses.

The others, including Firefighter Francis Esposito, headed straight into the blazing building, without hesitating or looking back. He was so determined to rescue others from that burning hell he willingly went forward. In spite of the obvious danger, he overcame his instincts, which surely must have urged him to turn and flee from such a terrifying scene, he subdued whatever fear he felt, and he did his job. He took part in the heroic effort that saved so many thousands. He shares the credit for keeping the horrific death toll from rising much higher.

In the process, he lost his life. He died so that others might live. He didn't sacrifice his life for his family or his friends; instead, he died saving the lives of strangers. No man can ever hope to do more than that to prove his selflessness, his bravery, and his compassion. Such a man is alwasy a great loss, most of all to those who knew him, but also to the whole world. We are poorer today because Francis Esposito is no longer among us.

In their gratitude, the City of New York renamed a small portion of Arden Avenue on Staten Island in his honour. You might feel, and with justice, that such a man deserves far more. In fact, no politician has it in their power to bestow honours equal to those Francis Esposito earned five years ago. That is not to say more should not be done, despite the inadequacy of any effort.

Yet consider, he died precisely because he was a part of the team which saved thousands of lives. Every one of those individuals who might have died, but did not, is a living memorial to Francis Esposito. His was the effort, and the sacrifice, that helped to save them. Not only that, but even when the last survivor has died, those of their children born after 9/11, who would not otherwise exist, and their children after them, represent a living memorial to him as well.

No one can say which firefighter saved which person's life on that day. But each man aided the others, and none among them could have accompished so much without the help of their fellows. So everyone who owes their existence to the rescue effort is a living memorial to each and every man involved, including Francis Esposito. For as long as mankind walks the earth, there will be those who would not have been born, if Frank and his fellows had not made the sacrifices they did. Time cannot erase such a memorial, forgetfulness cannot make it less real.

Few of us can ever hope to match Frank Esposito's greatness, but each of us who reads his story and is inspired, in whatever small way, to emulate his bravery, his compassion, and his desire to do the best he could, continues to honour his memory. He was the kind of man who would appreciate a real, living, breathing memorial, one which makes a concrete difference in the lives of others, far more than a bronze statue or a street or building bearing his name. May each person who reads this remember Francis Esposito, and strive to be a better person because of him.

Frank was always close to his family. Before you go, please take a moment and pray for his parents Michael and Dorothy, for his wife Dawn, for his brothers Dominick, Richard, Vincent and Michael, and his sister, Catherine. Pray for his many nieces, nephews, and cousins, and please take a moment to remember another who died that day, Frank's cousin Lieutenant Michael Esposito, who was promoted posthumously to Captain. Finally, read this moving tribute, written in memory of all the emergency workers who lost their lives, including Francis Esposito.

© Copyright 2006 by the Wandering Author - All Rights Reserved
The Wandering Author hereby grants non-exclusive rights to reproduce, in whole or in part, this work in any media or form whatsoever, provided such republishing or reproduction is for the specific purpose of honouring the memory of Francis Esposito. Reproduction for any other purpose without written permission from the author is expressly forbidden.

Tribute: Lindsay Coates Herkness III

Lindsay Coates Herkness III was born on the 8th of February 1943. His father was a military officer who graduated from West Point in 1939. At the time of his death, he worked for Morgan Stanley as a senior vice president. He lived on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, in a bachelor apartment which suited his tastes and lifestyle. He shared that apartment with his beloved basset hound, named Beauregard Hound.

He loved to play squash at the Union Club, where he was a member with his own personal cubby. His friends considered him a ladies' man and a "true bon vivant", yet he chose to be behind his desk every morning before eight. Such a seeming contradiction reveals the complexity of this principled man who set an example for everyone who worked under him, putting his clients' interests first. He stood by his principles, threatening to quit "on the spot" when he learned his assistant was due to be downsized.

A man known among his many friends for his wit and sense of humour, he once designed a Christmas card with a picture of himself in top hat at Wimbledon, being hustled away by two bobbies. The caption read, "I only recommended to Her Majesty that she fund an IRA account". He had custom cards designed and printed each year, often including illustrations of his dogs. The supplier of these cards remembered him as a great guy who was "fun to work with".

Even one of the porters who cleaned his office mourned the passing of this likeable man. And Lindsay took the time to travel to Maine the month before he died to attend his step-sister's birthday party. Clearly he cared about the people around him, and genuinely liked them, and they responded in kind. After the tragedy, a worker on the hotline set up for Morgan Stanley employees and their relatives and friends noted others' love for him was "tangible", evidenced by the fact he received the most calls, "as well as the most urgent calls".

He inspired affection and loyalty in those who worked with him, and women seemed to adore him. One woman contacted him after seeing a "dashing" picture of him holding a tennis racquet in a full page ad. He asked her out, and they dated several times. Lindsay made no secret of the fact that he was a confirmed bachelor, yet she found him mesmerizing. She found his lifestyle, his energy, even his world irresistible.

Another woman thought of him as her "Knight in shining armour". She saw him as a "superman who could be on the go 20 hours a day", then "return to work at 7am for another action packed morning, noon and night". Despite the fact his life was cut short, she felt he had been able to do so much, and brought happiness to so many.

The story of how he broke into the business reveals how witty and charming he could be. Fresh out of business school, he secured free passage on a cruise ship in exchange for conducting an investment seminar on board. By the end of the cruise, at least a dozen wealthy widows were begging him to manage their investments for them. Lesser men might have taken advantage of such a situation, yet it is clear from the reactions of everyone who knew him that he was conscientious and took good care of those who entrusted their interests to him.

He didn't have to come to work on Saturdays, and surely a man with such a love of life could have found other things to do, but he came in on Saturdays to make sure all his clients were well taken care of. He was "always willing to share an idea" with colleagues, and "very helpful to the new kid on the block". He used to "glide around the office from broker to broker", talking, laughing, but always with a purpose. No wonder his co-workers respected this "intelligent, worldly and kind" gentleman with his quick wit and confidence.

One friend described him as "a rare bird, his personality and presence so arresting and impossible to grasp". She also noticed his tendency of "gliding purposefully down a corridor", with "one hand thrust in his pocket and his eyes full of intent and sparkle - like a hummingbird, with so many blooms to probe before the day's end". No wonder friends and acquaintances found the man who inspired such an unusual but vivid portrayal fascinating.

A classy man with his "own unique brand of fun", he nevertheless worked harder than many other, lesser men. Devoted to his own business, he still found the time to offer "words of encouragement" to another man setting up his own investment business. Such contrasts suggest depths of character not often found in any man, let alone one so unfamiliar with adversity his close friend could say "there was never a cloud in his sky".

Yet at the very end he met adversity bravely, and head on. After a plane flew into the tower where he worked, he decided to stand his ground. Remaining where he was, around the 70th floor, he stated, "This is the strongest building in America.", and went back to his desk. In the harsh light of hindsight, this may seem to have been a foolish choice. However, at the time he uttered those words, no one was expecting the towers to collapse.

As a leader, he may have tried to set an example of bravery and so avoid spreading panic. No one knows exactly what he thought that morning, but if he suspected this might be a terrorist attack, perhaps this was his way of refusing to yield to them, of defying them. In light of what we know of his charcter, I am sure he believed he was doing the right thing. If such an icon had shown anything but calm confidence in this terrifying situation, who knows how many might have panicked?

His example probably helped ensure a more orderly evacuation, enabling more of the occupants to escape than would otherwise have been the case. Surely he remembered the chaos during the 1993 bombing, when it took so long to empty the buildings. He had every reason to do whatever he could to prevent a recurrence. He may have saved lives that day, and no man can forsee all that lies ahead.

If he erred, it was an honest error. I believe he deserves credit for making the hard, the least obvious, choice, one that would take away everything he had. So this extraordinary man died as he lived, gallantly and on his own terms. Lindsay, I wish I'd had the pleasure of knowing you while you lived, and I'm grateful for the chance I had to get to know you a little now.

I'd like to extend my apologies to all those who cared deeply for Lindsay Herkness, and who may have tried in vain to find his tribute yesterday. Technical issues prevented some posted tributes from appearing, and those of us who became aware of the problem attempted to provide substitute tributes as soon as we could.

Please Honour Candace Lee Williams 9-11

I offered to help D. Challener Roe, the originator of the 2,996 Project, research Candace Lee Williams, since he was so busy dealing with the details of the project. I do research for a living, so it seemed I could help in this way. In the process, Candace also earned a very special place in my heart.

Please take the time to read his wonderful tribute to her. And please offer up prayers for her, her family, and her friend Erin. I have gained so much from the work I have done on this project, despite the tears.

And I'd like to take the chance to thank him for coming up with the idea for the project, and for all his hard work and dedication in making it a reality, in spite of a devastating computer crash this past weekend, as well as his illness. I hope you will all stop by and give him your thanks.

Welcome, Visitors!

While I would like to welcome all of you who are visiting my blog to read the tribute to Francis Esposito, and you are certainly welcome to look around if you like, I urge you to first return to the 2,996 Project with its list of tributes, and to read some of the other tributes that have been posted.

If you remember to return to my blog, I will take that as a compliment. If not, the tributes are more important anyway. I apologise for my somewhat choppy writing style right now. Writing my own tribute, and reading some of the others, has been an emotionally wrenching experience.

I fear I did not do Francis Esposito the justice he deserved, although I did give him my best. His tribute was one of the hardest things I have ever written. Simply signing up for this project had more of an impact on me than I'd expected. When I saw the name of the man I'd been assigned, I was overwhelmed.

In many ways I feel a very personal connection to Frank now. I am sure I will remember him on every anniversary, and at other times as well. I hope that some of my readers will remember him as well. And I ask any of my readers who may know a member of his family, please, if you do not think it will be more painful, forwared a copy to them, with my best wishes.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Brazilian Independence Day

Although I have since found at least some of the family legends were true, but that the family's speculations based on those legends were not, I have long celebrated Brazilian Independence Day. When I was younger, I believed it was possible that the man who made Brazil independent that day on the banks of the Rio Ypiranga, Dom Pedro I, was my ancestor.

That was more than enough reason to celebrate the anniversary of the day he swore: "By my blood, by my honour, and by my sword, I swear to set Brazil free!" From that day, 7 September 1822, he became Brazil's first Emperor. Oddly enough, many people have observed that I look a great deal like portraits of the second Emperor, Pedro II.

That, of course, only increased my belief I must be descended from this family. Even after I found proof that, if there is any family link, it must be further back than Pedro I of Brazil, I continued to enjoy celebrating the holiday. This year, the first since my daughter married a Brazilian man, should have seen another private celebration of a holiday most Americans ignore.

Yet somehow, I didn't have the heart to celebrate after reading some of the tributes to those who died five years ago on 9-11. It seemed somehow disrespectful. So I didn't celebrate, and I didn't even write a post to mark the day until it was nearly over. Still, I find I can't forget entirely the holiday I considered my own for so long.

Independincia ou Morte!

Monday, September 04, 2006

Future Thoughts

I currently have a long list of interesting blogs to add to my sidebar. I hope to get that done next weekend, if I can sort through all the bookmarks. That is one of the drawbacks of being a compulsive collector of everything interesting I find on the web.

I use Diigo as my primary bookmarking site, and they do offer tools to make sorting easier. My problem is that I have so many links, and often I am rushed, so I don't give enough thought to the tags I save with each bookmark. I am slowly learning the lesson that a few seconds spent when I first save a bookmark is a few minutes saved when I search for it.

I am toying with the idea of writing up brief "reviews" of the blogs I link to, although that may be more than I care to tackle right now. I still plan to post on all the topics I've mentioned before and haven't gotten around to yet. And I want to explain the benefits of Diigo; I really believe the services they offer are unique and indispensible.

Although I prefer Diigo over all other services, a server outage convinced me of the benefits of keeping bookmarks on several different sites to increase the chance of being able to access them in an emergency. I want to add buttons to simplify bookmarking my posts to other services for those who use them. I'd be interested in hearing which services my readers would find most useful.

I am also toying with another idea. I love this blog, and I have no plans to abandon it. But it would be nice to set up a blog where those of us who are writers could discuss writing in more depth. Yes, it is possible to carry on something of a conversation through comments, but that is a very limited dialogue.

What I have in mind would be a hybrid between a blog on writing and a writer's group. It wouldn't replace either one, but offer its own unique opportunities for serious discussion among writers of issues that concern us all. I know most of my readers are writers, and I'd be interested in hearing what you think. I'd love to have any and all of you participate, of course.

Then again, I suspect that will take time to set up, if we go through with it. I think most of you can understand the flood of wonderful ideas; you'd like to do something with each of them, but there's just not time. And of course (Inter)National Novel Writing Month is coming up. I really want to try that this year. Still, that would give us time to consider the idea, and plan behind the scenes to make it the best blog we can possibly put together.

Writing Challenge Begins!

I have begun the writing challenge today. It will be a multiple viewpoint story. I've written the first part, which ought to have ample openings for additional viewpoints. I've already sent it on to Brandon. Following Brandon will be Amin, Susan, Sara, and Lehane, in that order. The goal is to finish in time to let Lehane write his part and get it back to me Friday, before he's cut off from the Internet for the weekend. If that doesn't prove possible, don't sweat it. When it's finished, I'll be posting it here.

There are a few simple rules.

1: Each participant has 250-300 words for their segment.

2: Each segment is to be told from the viewpoint of a different character.

3: No one may alter what has already been written.

4: Individuals often notice different details, focus on different things, or interpret the same thing in different ways, so the stories may vary widely. However, the viewpoint character must be someone who is already mentioned, or who could reasonably have been overlooked, by the narrators who have gone before. Note they do not have to be mentioned as an individual. (If a "group of boys" appears in the story, your viewpoint character can be one of those boys, for example. The point is to leave the possibilities as open as possible, without contradicting what has already been written.) Also, unless a plausible explanation is included or implied for their having done so, the previous narrators may have overlooked details or focused on different parts of the action, but no narrator is assumed to have been actually lying.

I hope you all have fun with this! I will post the completed story as soon as I get the final portion back.

Saturday, September 02, 2006


Despite the fact Moonstruck didn't win so much as an honourable mention in the Lonely Moon Short Fiction Contest, I am celebrating today. In the first place, I read the competition, and nearly every story entered was good. Most were excellent.

I chose to write within the guidelines of the contest, but also, deliberately and as an exercise for myself, to write so the theme and details would reflect the photo and the "Lonely Moon" concept as closely as possible. This limitation is not part of the contest rules; it was my own idea to test myself and see what I could do.

The moon, loneliness, and the image in the photo are all integral parts of my story. The moon appears twice, once in the opening "vision", and once in the closing scene. Selene's loneliness is one of the central themes, and I used imagery from the photo twice, once in her "vision", and once as her mind cleared. Even her name is symbolic of the Moon.

I may or may not have written a better story without my self-imposed limitation. That isn't the point. I set myself a goal, and I achieved that goal. Whenever we as writers achieve the goals we set ourselves, we win. To develop our individual writing skills, we each need to set our own goals, then struggle until we reach those goals. When we do so, we improve our writing abilities, and that's the best prize of all!

Now that I've made my point, I should add that I actually have two reasons for celebration today. I wrote a story that fulfilled my goals for it. And my two kittens, Tristan Brighteyes - Hero and Stargazer LittleGirl, are one year old today.

This is their official birthday, the rain held off long enough to let them take a nice, long walk outside on their leashes, and they enjoyed themselves very much leaping up tree trunks and chasing and catching bugs! After Stargazer's adventure last month, I am just overjoyed to see those small, wondering, happy faces sniffing everything within reach.


Selene stared at the sky, transfixed.

A glowing crystal ball hung there, a faceless grey being with masses of hair bending over it, huge paws clutching. Such an eerie sight must have meaning. Perhaps it was a sign or portent. She struggled to understand, until clouds broke apart in her mind, and light shone through.

It was only the moon, piercing the overcast from today’s storm. She must have wandered onto the balcony outside her room, still feverish, and been captivated by its intense, pure light. She’d stood there a long time; the cool air had washed away the unnatural heat within.

She laughed softly to herself. The experience had been strange, but wonderful.

Selene couldn’t resist trying over and over again to view the world in that way, seeing it as if for the first time. She tried to explain her vision to her friends, who laughed and christened her “Moonstruck”.

She struggled to learn, to express what she saw and felt, but they only avoided her. Lonely, she couldn’t put her new gift aside, even to keep her friends. Solitude drove her on, spurring her to reach out to others with words. After a long, long time she succeeded.

Moonlight through her study window illuminated the row of books she’d written, the awards she’d received. Selene, her hair in the shadows pale silver, sat quietly. She recalled that distant night and smiled. Perhaps it was a portent after all, marking the night a poet and writer was born.


Friday, September 01, 2006

To My Regular Readers

I had a wonderful day yesterday with my cousin from Ireland and her husband. I'd love to post more about that, but I have little time for anything right now. I do apologise to all of my regular readers for the temporary shift in focus of this blog. It is not, as I stated before, my intent to maintain a journalism blog. There is a place for journalism, but I find more challenge and more satisfaction in truly creative writing.

Many of you have already seen my post of the 29th of August. This is a serious matter, and the people involved need my help. I want to do what I can for them, then get back to the writing I most enjoy. I planned on at least going on with my writing challenge; since one of the writers involved is moving this weekend, and will be offline until next week, I have decided it is best to delay the challenge until he is ready to take part.

I have decided to make it a multiple viewpoint story. I will write the first part, making sure to leave openings for additional viewpoints, then send it on to Brandon, Amin, Susan, Sara, and Lehane, in that order. Susan and Lehane, I'm not sure if I have your e-mail addresses. I'll check, but if I don't, and you'd rather not post them in the comments, my address is in the footer, a long way down the page.

The story will follow a few simple rules. 1: Each participant has 250-300 words for their segment. 2: Each segment is to be told from the viewpoint of a different character. 3: No one may alter what has already been written. 4: Individuals often notice different details, focus on different things, or interpret the same thing in different ways, so the stories may vary widely. However, the viewpoint character must be someone who is already mentioned, or who could reasonably have been overlooked, by the narrators who have gone before. Also, unless a plausible explanation is included or implied for their having done so, the previous narrators may have overlooked details or focused on different parts of the action, but no narrator is assumed to have been actually lying.

I do want to assure you my blog will return to normal shortly. I plan three more posts on the subject of the USDA employee's threat to their critics, then I will leave the work to others. One will be a clearer explanation of exactly why I take this matter so seriously. The second will be instructional, offering those opposing the USDA ideas for getting their side of the story out effectively. This may prove to be such a long post I will have to break it up into several sections. On the positive side, if any of my readers have causes they care about, my ideas could be readily adapted. The third post, which I may not get to for a while, since it is less urgent, will be an exploration of the reasons I personally support this cause.

Whatever your opinion on the issue, please understand that I would be much happier if I didn't feel this was necessary. There are things I'd much rather be writing. I don't expect everyone to agree with me, but I do believe strongly that something must be done, and I am the person in a postion to do it. I hope you will consider reading my views on this, or at least that you will return in a day or two when things begin getting back to normal.

USDA Employee Threatens US Food Supply - Silence Follows

On Tuesday,, a web site opposed to the USDA's proposed National Animal Identification System, received a terrorist threat. A comment (#21) left in response to a post announcing Vermont's rejection of a crucial part of this program read "Thanks Vermont, for opening an avenue for those that wish to use animal diseases as a bio-eco-terrorism tool. We would have tried to start along the SW border but that’s now just to [sic] obvious. Thanks! We’ll take the NE corner and work our way in that way. -ABET".

The owner of the site, Walter Jackson, was understandably concerned. His site logs the IP address of commenters, so he did a WhoIs lookup on, the source of this comment. He was able to identify this IP address as one registered to the USDA Office of Operations! When he learned this, he contacted the USDA. Instead of referring the matter to the FBI, they opted to handle it internally. He also notified his readers of the situation in a new post.

Various concerned readers attempted to alert the media about this issue, but so far it has received no mention in the news. Since it is difficult to imagine multiple media outlets failing to look into such a story, it appears the USDA has successfully convinced the media the issue is not a serious one. It is, of course, not unusual for a government agency to seek to downplay such news, especially when they are in the midst of attempting to quietly implement a controversial new program with minimal fuss.

How seriously should this threat be taken? Certainly, in the past, firefighters have actually set fires in reaction to cutbacks in personnel or budgets. In the early 1980s, after the adoption of Proposition 2 1/2 in Massachusetts forced cities and towns to trim their budgets, arsonists set a string of fires in the Boston area to 'prove' the need for more funding. So it is not unheard of for disgruntled public servants to threaten and to actually harm the public if policy decisions go against their wishes.

In the past, food and medicine on supermarket shelves has been poisoned or contaminated. There is no reason to suppose farm animals could not be infected by someone whose job it is to ensure their health. Past experience, then, suggests such a threat must be taken seriously. Yes, it is possible whoever posted that threat, bitter over a setback to a program the USDA has invested significant time and money in promoting, was simply venting a bit of spite and seeking to 'make a point'.

That doesn't mean we should bet the lives of the public on that possibility. Such a crime needs to be thoroughly investigated. Consider; somewhere out there is a government employee so blind to consequences, so incapable of controlling their actions, that they posted this threat. Whenever a high school student calls in a bomb threat to his school, he is caught and prosecuted. Any government employee, committing a similar offence by threatening the very sector they are supposed to protect must expect the same or worse.

Yet someone veered so far out of control they ignored that possibility and issued a threat that by its nature cannot be ignored. Were they expecting the USDA to protect one of their own? In light of the zeal the USDA has shown in pressing forward with this program despite significant objections from many of the farmers they are supposed to serve, did the prevailing attitude among their colleagues subtly encourage this kind of behaviour? We cannot know without a thorough, outside investigation into the matter.

There is some reason to suspect the USDA's official attitude towards those who call for a reconsideration of this program is dangerously extreme. In the aftermath of this threat, Walter Jackson and others have learned, by searching the logs of visitors to their web sites, that the USDA has apparently been monitoring their sites for some time, and leaving comments under presumably false pretences in at least one other case. (Scroll down to the third update to this post.)

When news broke that the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security were monitoring private communications in an effort to combat terrorism, many citizens were shocked and horrified. So what are we to think when we discover the USDA is monitoring 'dissidents'? 'Intelligence gathering' by a government department for no purpose other than harassing, hindering, and outmaneuvering those who object to their proposed policies is the sort of heavy handed interference we might expect in North Korea, but here in "the land of the free"?

We know employees at the USDA are so driven to push NAIS forward that at least one of them has already resorted to a foolish, illegal act out of pique at a setback to that program. We have learned that they are so obsessed with overcoming opposition to the program that they are spending a significant amount of time lurking on web sites maintained by those who oppose them. What other details would be revealed in the light of a full-scale, thorough, public investigation conducted by some outside agency?

Since the USDA decided to handle this investigation internally, we cannot know the answer. We cannot be sure colleagues who share the would-be terrorist's outrage at 'interference' with their cherished program will not fumble the investigation, or worse. We certainly cannot be confident other USDA employees, suffering from an excess of misplaced zeal and on the verge of dangerous actions of their own in this heated atmosphere, will be identified and dealt with appropriately.

Yes, these are speculations, but they are based upon the facts we do know. Had the USDA immediately called a press conference on the 29th of August to announce the existence of this threat and the involvement of the FBI, there would be little reason to worry now. But their silence is worrisome. Public statements in response to rising publicity will no longer be reassuring; only those who don't need to be forced into the open are likely to prove trustworthy. Those who come forward only to avoid even more exposure are still doing the best they can to hide the truth.

There are those who would harm the United States; we have seen what they are capable of. But we must remember that some of the worst decisons in history have been made by men sure they were acting "for the good of society". Such beliefs urge well-intentioned individuals forward, secure in the knowledge they are only doing what they 'must' to ensure the only 'reasonable' outcome. I'm sure most employees who work at the USDA would never go this far. Yet they may not understand what some of their colleagues are capable of, and may aid and support them without understanding what it is they intend.

We must keep in mind it is the USDA which monitors our food and ensures its safety. Who would be better placed to introduce disease into our farm animals? Even if only one or two actually do this, the results would be horrendous. And the threat has already been made. We can choose to heed that warning, or we can turn a deaf ear and wait to see what happens. If we fail to investigate, we will never know if an outbreak of disease is natural or not. Those who work with animal diseases are in an ideal position to arrange matters so the results of their actions appear natural.

The only way to ensure we ever learn the truth is to act now. The media must cover this story, and its followup, aggressively. The FBI must investigate the criminal act that has already occurred. They must explore the possibility others were involved. And Congress must investigate the USDA as an organisation, and the policies they are trying so hard to keep us from discussing. Our legislators must examine the direction the USDA has taken, consider the objections to their proposals, and hold hearings to discover whether the atmosphere within the department has encouraged these problems.

These events have shown real flaws exist within the USDA. They throw into question the USDA's leadership, administration, and policies. Only an exhaustive Congressional investigation can reassure the public that our food supply is safe in the hands of such a flawed agency. If those committed to adopting NAIS were so obsessed with ensuring its success, we must assume they made light of real problems. We need to listen to the small farmers, whose lives are most affected. We must reexamine the proposal, and either radically alter it or abandon it altogether. After all, its advocates feared free and open discussion of its merits and drawbacks.

To those who object that this is almost entirely based on speculation, you are right! That is all we have to go on since the USDA elected to avoid a public investigation. It would be far better to displace these speculations with facts. The best way to do that is to promote a thorough investigation on all levels. No other actions should be taken until all the facts are known, and all the issues openly discussed.

It is those who resist open discussion who limit our knowledge and fuel our fears. If our speculations are unfounded, refute them with the results of an exhaustive investigation by Congress and the FBI. It is those who want to act before public discussion runs its course who have stooped to the level of making terrorist threats. Responding by speculating about their possible actions and motives hardly seems unjustified.