Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Serial Novel: Burning Kansas - Chapter 6

If it's coming up on the 15th, then it's time for another chapter of Burning Kansas, the serial novel from my monthly newspaper, The Deadline.

Miss a chapter? Don't worry, you can click on the label serial novel or Burning Kansas and catch up.


Caroline gets some shocking news about the missing children.


Burning Kansas - Chapter 6

Despite the shock and stress of the day, Caroline couldn't help watching his straight back as he rode away. When he was out of sight, she sat on the carriage block and King put his head on her knee.

"That's a good boy," she said, scratching him behind the ears, "So, what do you think of Mr. Blaylock?"

As if in response, the dog growled low in his throat.

"You're probably right. But until we find Emma, it looks like he is our traveling companion. I have to confess, we could be in less interesting company, so behave."

The thought of Emma darkened her mood.

"I should have known she was up to something when I came home and found she hadn't taken you with her. According to the letters Creighton showed me, she's been sneaking off to see this Jacob for almost six months. You've kept her secrets well," she said, giving the dog a final pat before standing.

"Alright King, let's go see if Uncle Donald knows what's going on here. If he doesn't, then we may be out of luck."

The deceptively rusty gate swung open on soundless hinges. Caroline picked her way up the overgrown path with its riot of late summer flowers onto the sagging porch with its chipped curlicue trim. The door flew open before she could raise the brass knocker.

"Caroline, to what do we owe this pleasure? Not that seeing your lovely face isn't reason enough to celebrate."

The Moore family red hair that sparkled on Caroline burned on her Uncle Donald. Tall and thin, his ginger hair flared in a corona of wild curls. Before she could answer, he swept her into a hug that knocked her hat to the ground.

When he released her, she said, "Uncle Donald you know why I'm here."

The confusion and suspicion on his face surprised her. For a moment she thought she might be wrong.

"Caroline, is there something wrong? You don't seem as joyous as I expected. She gave me a letter from you giving your permission. I'm also surprised to see you here. She told me you were in Lawrence and she and Jacob were on their way to see you."

She ignored the bulk of the lie to focus on one word. "Permission? Permission for what?"

"For her to get married. I performed the ceremony right after breakfast."

Emma is married?

The warm afternoon swam before her eyes. Caroline reached out and steadied herself on the door frame.

"Oh my. Please come in and have some tea. It seems we need to talk." Donald took her arm and led her inside with King close at her heels.

* * *

At the end of the block Creighton turned left, but instead of heading toward the main street, he took another the turn into the rutted alley that led behind the house. Curiosity and wariness wouldn't leave him alone. He needed another look.

Slowing his horse to a walk and trying to act like he belonged there, he studied the backyards on either side of him. Laundry, woodpiles, a delivery wagon. There was nothing out of the ordinary. On the surface anyway.

The back of the brick house had the same studied disarray of Caroline's farm. Instead of the brick-like neatness of the neighbor's yards, the woodpile was strewn in front of the door to a sagging shed. The crooked shed doors contrasted with the neat tarpaper roof. An old quilt flapped on a clothesline. Worn and faded, it had obvious been hanging there for some time. What looked like a small chicken coop stood at one end of the shed's overhang, but he didn't see any chickens. Blaylock's practiced eye told him that things were not what they seemed.

Given who she was married to, this is probably a Jayhawker nest. Jacob, what have you gotten me into?

It had taken all of his practiced calm to not react when she told him her late husband was Michael Cassett. That name had been on a Partisan Ranger enemy list since well before Osceola. They'd toasted his death as a victory. It seemed so important then. What surprised him was how little he cared now. It was more ironic than concerning.

"What you be doing back here? Can I help you?"

Blaylock turned in his saddle. The scullery maid had a basket of wet laundry perched on one hip. As she took him in from head to toe her eyes narrowed.

Dammit, Caroline is right. I must look like hell.

He swept off his hat and said, "Ma'am, I am new in town and got myself lost. I thought this alley might be a shortcut to Main. Could you help me find my way please?"

His charm worked. Disarmed, her broad face split into a smile. "Mister, you are all turned around. Go to the end, turn right, and then right again. You can't miss it."

With his excuse to be in the alley gone, he tipped his hat in thanks, gathered his reins, and whistled his way town.

* * *

The cool spotless parlor contrasted the shabby exterior of the house. Caroline settled onto the edge of a brocade settee and took the tea from the black maid.

"Thank you Elspeth. How are you and Moses? Are things going well?

The question carried more weight than her casual tone implied.

"Things go well Mrs. Cassett. We delivered ten special birds to Lawrence this month. Moses is making a late shipment as we speak. One of them wasn't ready to fly until yesterday."

"Good for him. Give him my best. Please leave the tea. We'll serve ourselves."

The woman winked at Caroline and bowed out of the room.

I can't believe Donald is still running an Underground Railroad station out of this house. That is insanity.

Sipping her tea, she decoded the brief exchange. Donald Moore, on his face, was a preacher with a penchant for rare and exotic birds. He raised songbirds and parrots that he sold to wealthy patrons as far out as Topeka and Wichita. On the surface, Moses and Elspeth kept the house and tended their eccentric employer. The reality was much more complicated.

No one paid any mind to Moses in the custom-built enclosed delivery wagon with its false bottom and custom compartments that often carried another type of living cargo.  Neither did Elspeth's occasional purchase of medial items raise any suspicious. Along with the birds, Elspeth cared for the runaway slaves in the secret rooms beneath the aviary shed. Her words, "one of them wasn't ready to fly," meant she had tended someone who was sick or injured.

Well, sanity and the Moores have never been close bedfellows.

The parlor door opened and Uncle Donald swept in carrying a large black ledger and a journal. Without waiting for Caroline, he poured a cup of tea and sat across from her.

"So, where should we begin," he asked.

"At the beginning." 

To be continued . . .

Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Proud Unsung Heroes - The Package People

A new feature on the blog is celebrating those hard-working unsung heroes, The People of the Package. Those models who adorn the album covers, the game boxes, the gadget packages. Unknown, unnamed, yet so happy . . . so freaking happy . . . so frantically freaking happy . . .

Someone thought this photo would make you want to buy this. 

The only rules to #packagepeople are:

1)  They can't be named. They can't be the recording artist or hawking their own goods.

2)  Preferably vintage. No package is safe from me, but vintage tends to be more out there.

3)  If at all possible, the actual item shouldn't be included. This is about how they look with an utter lack of context.

Cameras + Thrift Shops = A bad idea since long before 2014.

Friday, June 6, 2014

#writerfuel - The Conspiracy Theory Edition

Yesterday I finished the audio version of "The DaVinci Code" (oh get off it, it is an awesome story.) There is no conspiracy like biblical-based conspiracy theory. I love me some Knights Templar!

So, for today's #writerfuel, I pulled out a '40s restaurant-ware cup from the local Scottish Rite Temple. When the lodge was closed and consolidated, they sold off several hundred place settings. I have a full set for 8 and a couple of extra cup-saucer pairings for the price of a cheap box set at Walmart.

The "AAS" logo stands for "Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite." Each lodge had its own combination of logos and colors. This set is from the Scottish Rite Temple in Fort Scott, Kansas.

So join me in a cup of tea and we will discuss antiques . . . and who really killed Kennedy . . .

Fort Scott Kansas Scottish Rite Temple china.
One of the enduring symbols of masonic tradition is the Double Eagle.

The 32nd Degree Masonic Double Eagle symbol.
 I could explain it, but this article from "The Builder" in 1923 does a better job. An excerpt is below.If you would like to read more, just give a click here.

"THERE IS SCARCELY a symbol in any of the philosophical or chivalric degrees of the Scottish Rite so striking in design and import as that of the double-headed eagle. . . .

"From whence came this two-headed eagle, and how came it to be associated with Scottish Rite Masonry? The last part of this question is easier to answer than the first, for there is direct testimony that Frederick of Prussia supplied this crest during the formative stages of the Rite, but neither Frederick nor indeed Prussia could claim the exclusive right the use or to bestow it. It is the imperial emblem of Russia, Austria, Serbia and other portions of the disrupted Holy Roman Empire, and Prussia adopted the emblem long after it had flown over Byzantium as the royal arms of the 'Emperors of the East and West.'

"Thus does the double-headed eagle stand today for that which it stood in ancient days, its two heads, facing the Ultimate Sun, reminding men and Masons that there is yet even "more light" for the pilgrim who travels East, and in whose heart is the motto,


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Bag-For-A-Buck Romance Book-Ku

After a contest on the one-and-only Divine Ms. Janet Reid's blog a couple of years ago, I started writing "book poetry." The game is simple. Use the titles on book spines to create poetry.

I created my own sub-genre, I call it "Bag-For-A-Buck-Romance-Book-Ku."

The rules are simple. The books must be pulp or bodice ripper romance, preferably from rummage sales. My fodder came from clearance day at the library sale, where I brought home 3 big bags of Barbara Cartland novels for $3.

Haiku/Senryu form applies:

1st line: 5 syllables
2nd line:  7 syllables
3rd line:  5 syllables

Yes, the rules get bent. The resulting piece rarely references nature and there are grammatical breaks as needed. Hence, the sub-sub-sub genre of book-ku.  Titles can be split to meet the syllable-per-line count. The only thing that can be added is and/a/or/the if absolutely needed to make sense and those words in the titles can also be deleted.

The result?

Romance Book-Ku by Terri Lynn Coop first appeared at anarmyofermas.com on August 15, 2012

The things writers do for fun . . .