Gettysburg — 100 Years Ago

It was 150 years ago this week when the Civ­il War bat­tle took place in Get­tys­burg. Our nation was divid­ed and broth­er fought broth­er to the death. This week reen­ac­tors are reliv­ing that bat­tle for tourists and his­to­ry buffs. But what hap­pened 100 years ago on that bat­tle­field?

One hun­dred years ago, my local news­pa­per cov­ered the full four days of the 50th anniver­sary of the Bat­tle of Get­tys­burg. Thou­sands of Civ­il War vet­er­ans arrived in trains filled to capac­i­ty. With tem­per­a­tures over 100 degrees, 15,000 old and fee­ble vets sat in the stands on the first day of the semi-cen­ten­ni­al cel­e­bra­tion. An esti­mat­ed 55,000 arrived all togeth­er. As the tent city and avail­able hous­ing filled to over­flow­ing, many had nowhere to go. They slept on the ground with only their cloth­ing to pro­tect them.

One of the sched­uled events was the charge of the sur­vivors of Pickett’s divi­sion. The old men in grey, bear­ing their guns, charged up the hill where the ene­my, the remain­ing men of the Philadel­phia Brigade in blue, met them with weapons ready. Those in grey went over the wall, and they all shook hands.

One unad­ver­tised reunion took place when a fife and drum corps of men in blue tramped up and down the Con­fed­er­ate part of the tent city, stopped in front tents and played a fan­fare which brought out the men in grey. They all shook hands or threw their arms around the ‘ene­my’ shoul­ders.

On the last day Pres­i­dent Wil­son spoke briefly. At noon the Stars and Stripes that flew from every flag­pole were low­ered for ‘Five Min­utes for Mem­o­ries’ while the vet­er­ans in blue and gray stood, along with cur­rent reg­u­lars of the army, all with bend­ed heads and hats to their hearts.

Thus were the wounds of war offi­cial­ly put to rest. I’m sure that many had not wait­ed for fifty years to reach that peace and under­stand­ing. Wouldn’t it be won­der­ful if all nations and all fac­tions could reach the plateau observed by those men?

News From The Past

Does your news­pa­per pub­lish week­ly reminders of our past? Mine does. One week they tell us what hap­pened 25 and 75 years ago. The next week they give us the lat­est from 50 and 100 years ago. (They’ve been in busi­ness a looong time!) It’s always enter­tain­ing, and often eye-open­ing.

Here’s a stun­ner for you. Only twen­ty-five years ago one of our local hos­pi­tals phased in a total smok­ing ban for all vis­i­tors, employ­ees, physi­cians, and patients. Up until then, smok­ing had been allowed in the cof­fee shop, in employ­ee and physi­cians lounges, and in patient rooms (by the patient). And, this was the first hos­pi­tal in our coun­ty to issue such a ban. Wow! Now the smok­ing ban is almost uni­ver­sal.

It’s so easy to for­get the time-line of our more recent his­to­ry. Have we always had zip codes in our address­es? Nope, that began fifty years ago. Our coun­ty, along with the nation, began using the Zon­ing Improve­ment Plan (ZIP, or course) in 1963.

Sev­en­ty-five years ago state police were hap­py with their crack-down on speed­ers. They were so hap­py, they began think­ing of doing the same for the slow-pokes who bot­tled up traf­fic. There was no law set­ting a min­i­mum speed, but they thought thir­ty miles an hour on main roads would be about right. They exper­i­ment­ed with loud-speak­ers to install in the six hun­dred patrol cars. They hoped to devel­op a speak­er that could be heard sev­er­al miles down the road “to break up those traf­fic jams caused by bee­tle dri­vers by bark­ing to them to speed up or get off the high­way.” Don’t think that ever hap­pened!

One hun­dred years ago, the cir­cus came to town. In 1913 the Hager­beck-Wal­lace Cir­cus was the sec­ond largest in Amer­i­ca (the Rin­gling Broth­ers and Bar­num and Bai­ley Cir­cus was num­ber one). There was a large crowd in town brought by trol­ley cars filled with peo­ple. Many oth­ers came by steam roads (what­ev­er that is-a mis­print maybe?) and drove in. The streets were lined with peo­ple. Ele­phants and camels walked. Hors­es pulled bright­ly-col­ored wag­ons. There were a dozen cages filled with wild ani­mals. Six (count them) beau­ti­ful women rode pranc­ing steeds. There were four bands, and (let’s men­tion this again), a large num­ber of ladies. Per­form­ers on horse­back, fun­ny clowns, and a steam cal­liope round­ed out the parade that took sev­er­al hours to pass through the city streets. Way before my time. I’d have been right there sit­ting on the curb, dream­ing of join­ing the cir­cus. What a glo­ri­ous life! (Yeah, as a kid I did dream of the cir­cus. Can’t remem­ber actu­al­ly see­ing one, but I prac­ticed my skill for months. I’d be a cham­pi­on ball-bounc­er. Hey, I was a kid, a young kid.)

How about you? Did any of these news items from the past spark a mem­o­ry, a desire, a gig­gle?

Meet and Greet at Malice Domestic

If you are a mys­tery writer, maybe even if you are a ded­i­cat­ed mys­tery read­er, you know what Mal­ice Domes­tic is. Or, maybe you don’t. It’s a fan­tas­tic con­ven­tion filled with mys­tery authors and even more mys­tery read­ers. It’s a grand week­end to put the two togeth­er. There are pan­el dis­cus­sions, shared meals, auto­graph ses­sions, and award pre­sen­ta­tions. And I attend­ed my first one the first week­end of May at Bethes­da, Mary­land.

An in-per­son con­fer­ence intro­duces you to a lot of peo­ple. New faces. New names. But, since I’ve been a mem­ber of the writ­ing com­mu­ni­ty, espe­cial­ly the mys­tery writ­ing com­mu­ni­ty, for quite some time as a read­er AND a writer, I know many names. I’ve seen many faces look­ing back from web­sites and blogs on my com­put­er. And, won­der of won­der, some of those names and faces know who I am from see­ing my posts on those web­sites and blogs. I have even met a few of the writ­ers in per­son.

A gath­er­ing of 500 or 600 peo­ple can be over­whelm­ing. The thing is, you can’t be shy. (Bit of a prob­lem with that, as I’m sort of a nat­u­ral­ly shy per­son, but I over­come it quite well, I think) I met peo­ple I’d nev­er heard of before, and peo­ple who I already thought of as friends, even though I’d nev­er met them before.

I belong to the Gup­py chap­ter of Sis­ters in Crime, so I knew they were plan­ning to lunch togeth­er on Fri­day. Meet by the hotel front door, I’d read. So, I grabbed my cam­era, met, and lunched with the Gup­pies. We were spread out over sev­er­al tables. Here’s a few pic­tures of that event.

Late that Fri­day after­noon, I chat­ted with a few peo­ple. When I met Chloe. she had din­ner plans, but asked me to come along. So I end­ed up hav­ing a love­ly din­ner with five ladies from Neva­da. Besides Chloe, they were Mar­i­an, Martha, Susan, and Judy. They wel­comed me into their group, and, of course, I took a pic­ture.

the ladies from Nevada

the ladies from Neva­da

I attend­ed the Sis­ters in Crime break­fast on Sat­ur­day morn­ing. As I came in I glanced around at tables fill­ing up and saw a lot of unfa­mil­iar faces. I was gra­cious­ly accept­ed at the clos­est table, and as oth­ers joined us, I dis­cov­ered I was seat­ed with two of the hon­ored atten­dees, Lau­rie R. King and Lau­ra Lipp­man. (I didn’t have my cam­era with me. Sor­ry about that.)

Sat­ur­day night was the big blast–the awards ban­quet. As I milled among the

Susan Boyer-Agatha winner

Susan Boy­er-Agatha win­ner

mul­ti­tude at the pre-din­ner cock­tail par­ty, meet­ing quite a few writ­ers that I knew in per­son or elec­tron­i­cal­ly, I heard my name. There were my five Neva­da friends. They’d scored a table for six, and had a chair with my name on it.

I’d signed up to sit at one of the Hen­ery Press tables, so I met more peo­ple. And, I had my cam­era when one of their authors won the Agatha teapot for Best First Mys­tery.

Sun­day after­noon as I sat in the lob­by wait­ing for my hus­band to pick me up, I chat­ted with authors I’d met ear­li­er dur­ing the con­ven­tion. Of course, I went home with a ton of new books, for, as a mys­tery author, I’m def­i­nite­ly a mys­tery read­er. I tru­ly enjoyed attend­ing pan­el dis­cus­sions and lis­ten­ing to authors tell about things their books had in com­mon. One was cooking–with sam­ples. One was the invis­i­ble woman sleuth. There were so many, I couldn’t pos­si­bly attend all of them. How­ev­er, it was great to meet and greet new authors and new readers–probably my favorite part of this con­ven­tion.

How about you? As a read­er, or pos­si­bly as a writer, do you go to con­ven­tions and con­fer­ences? What is your favorite part? The class­es? The pan­els? The dis­cus­sions? Or, like me, meet­ing oth­ers who share your pas­sion.

It’s a Mystery

I love to read mys­ter­ies. I love to be amazed, astound­ed, and com­plete­ly mys­ti­fied by the events as they hap­pen. How did that ama­teur sleuth think that, or solve this prob­lem? I love twists and turns. The more the bet­ter. And unex­pect­ed events? Oh, my!

But, since I’m a writer, I’m think­ing all the time—how did the author come up with that? She’s good. (Or he.)

Okay, since I’m a writer, I’m also thinking—how the heck am I going to come up with all those twists and turns for my work in progress? Gee, I’ve done it before. Can I do it again? There’s always the advice, that when you come to a spot where you don’t know what to do—shoot some­body. Oh, dear, that sounds dread­ful. I have already killed off two peo­ple, but so far, no guns. And, I think, two bod­ies is quite enough (for now, any­way). So, how do I keep that inter­est lev­el up?

Day before yes­ter­day, I want­ed to put Jo, my ama­teur sleuth, some­place dif­fer­ent. Let’s see, she’s been—oh, heck. She’s got a day off. Put her on a tour boat. Fine, I put her on a tour boat, but the whole thing wasn’t going any­where, so yes­ter­day, the tour boat was stopped by the Coast Guard. Okay, now what? Before I turned off the com­put­er last night, when the Coast Guard heard Jo’s name, they informed her she was com­ing with them and bod­i­ly lift­ed her off the tour boat and into the Coast Guard cut­ter.

So, today I’m wondering—why did they do that? At the moment, I have no clue. So, either I fig­ure out an answer, or I for­get about the Coast Guard cut­ter, and maybe even the tour boat. I’ll keep think­ing though. FYI — some­times these for­ays into the unknown dis­ap­pear, but some­times they turn into an incred­i­ble plot point.

So, the mys­tery is—which will it be?

Adding Pictures to My Life

Collins farm house

Collins farm house

This is the house where I lived from fourth grade until I left home. It’s in the north­west cor­ner of Wash­ing­ton state—Whatcom Coun­ty, to be exact. (Since I now live in Penn­syl­va­nia, I must add the word “state,” as I’ve dis­cov­ered the naked word “Wash­ing­ton” always means Wash­ing­ton, D.C.)

Now I live in Penn­syl­va­nia with my hus­band. When our chil­dren were most­ly grown, we got into boat­ing on Chesa­peake Bay. The pic­tures of our lives changed.

We boat­ed on the bay, south on the Intra­coastal, and north into Canada’s canals. But we remem­ber Chesa­peake Bay. We had a sail­boat — Cloud Nine, then a mini-tug cruis­er, Ivory Cloud, and final­ly, a sec­ond mini-tug cruis­er, Sun­set Cloud. We named the last one delib­er­ate­ly, for the sun­set of our boat­ing expe­ri­ence. We were then, and still are, land-based, but we enjoyed these pic­tures in our lives. In fact, I enjoyed it so much, I’ve placed both my mys­ter­ies on Chesa­peake Bay. I have many pic­tures and mem­o­ries to guide my writ­ing.

The Four Diamonds

Last week the lead arti­cle in our local news­pa­per brought tears to my eyes. I’d remem­bered the sto­ry while it was still hap­pen­ing in 1972. An eighth grade boy named Chris Mil­lard had writ­ten a sto­ry called The Four Dia­monds. He was a can­cer patient and the Can­cer Soci­ety was using his sto­ry, with his approval, of course, to raise funds. There were inter­views, sto­ries, and, lat­er that year, the obit­u­ary when he died. He was coura­geous and great­ly missed.

In fol­low­ing years, the sto­ry was told again. But I hadn’t heard too much about it in recent years. Until this year. The woman who had been his teacher real­ized that the cur­rent stu­dents knew noth­ing about his sto­ry. So she and the boy’s father told bits about it for the news­pa­per.

The teacher had asked her stu­dents to write an auto­bi­og­ra­phy, but Chris told her, since he was so sick, and knew how the dis­ease would end, didn’t real­ly want to. She sug­gest­ed he write what­ev­er he want­ed to, and he did. His father said he nev­er showed his work in progress, but occa­sion­al­ly said, “I’ve got anoth­er dia­mond!”

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, I’ve nev­er read his sto­ry, The Four Dia­monds. But I do know that it impressed every­one.

I expect I’ll learn how to do this bet­ter, but here is the link to that arti­cle: http://lancasteronline.com/article/local/826208_Elizabethtown-eighth-grader-who-died-of-cancer-wrote-story-in-1972-that-inspired-the-Four-Diamonds-Fund.html

My first blog post

My new blog is a work in progress, so please excuse any weird­ness. I’m tak­ing a class, so it will improve, right? I will learn how to add a pic­ture of my choice to the head­line ban­ner. Although the cur­rent one is quite nice, it doesn’t have the feel­ing I’m look­ing for.

My sec­ond title, or what­ev­er it is called, is MYSTERY, HISTORY, AND SPOOKS, OH MY! As the Grand­ma Moses of Mys­tery, I write mys­tery, so that accounts for the first word. The mys­tery part refers to com­ments about his­to­ry in my first mys­tery, Yesterday’s Body, but that isn’t my entire rea­son for “His­to­ry.” The sequel to my first book (I’m writ­ing it now) is For­got­ten Body and takes place dur­ing reen­act­ments of the War of 1812. (Hey, it’s 200 years since that hap­pened. Did you know that?) Plus, a YA I’ve writ­ten and is cur­rent­ly knock­ing on a publisher’s door has a 1946 com­po­nent. That’s his­to­ry too, right?

Now for the “Spooks.” Well, prac­ti­cal­ly every­thing I write has a bit of woo woo embed­ded. Yesterday’s Body has an imag­i­nary cat. Death of a Hot Chick has a ghost with an agen­da. And the so-far unpub­lished YA? Well, that has a ghost and sort of time-trav­el as well. Even my short sto­ries that have been pub­lished are a bit woo woo. (You can read them on my web­site: www.normahuss.com)

Tues­day is my next les­son. Come back to see what impres­sive things I’ve accom­plished with the aid of Pep­per O’Neal’s class.