Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Hedges


It didn't do it. It wasn't enough. Dad managed his extra cows just fine, but the markets kept centralizing. Prices continued to fall. Soon we were paying for our milk to go clear across the state.
The United States Department of Agriculture  was a big help, vigilantly looking out for the farm equipment and chemical manufacturers in the name of public interest. Our local USDA inspector paid us his routine surprise inspection and found a clean wash basin sitting in the middle of our spotless concrete milk room floor. With a flourish of zeal, the little martinet turned us into a grade B dairy for a month, forcing us to borrow money to operate.
At last, the USDA decreed that stainless steel pipe lines were no longer sanitary enough for the public's milk. We were ordered to replace ours with Pyrex glass pipes if we wanted to continue selling our milk. We sold our cows.
Dad went into debt starting a brood sow operation, just in time for the hog market to begin several years of depressed prices. With Nylon and Rayon, sheep were out of the question. He turned the hay shed into a battery chicken house holding several thousand layers before the egg market followed hogs. "They've got us," he said. "It's nothing but row crops from now on." We could no longer afford a hired hand. We would have to trade our three small tractors for two new big ones. Dad went to Grandpa and Grandma to borrow the money.
I lay on the floor of Grandma's kitchen listening to Dad and Grandpa. Grandpa gave his chair a scooted screech. He cut up a toothpick with his pocket knife and a gathered his brow as the clock in the other room ticked. "Harry," he said. "We ain't loaning you the money for the tractors. You can have it as far as we're concerned, because you're in a position where you need a second start. You won't owe us a thing. But why on earth do you have to tear out the hedges?"
"I don't have the time to go cutting them back every summer, for one thing. And for another, hedges take up farm land. I'd just as soon have the extra corn rows."
"The ground will wash."
"No it won't. I can manage the soil."
"How? By ploughing more in the fall? I just heard you say that you were going to do more of that. You won't hold your soil that way."
"I'll put in terraces if I have to."
"Dad burn it, Harry! There goes the ground you'd save from having the hedges gone. Besides, ploughed terraces wash anyway. If you're fixing to let it wash for a little money now, what's Tom a-going to do when it's his time?"
"That's his problem. Besides, new practices like terraces work or the University of Illinois wouldn't be promoting them." he said, catching by accident my look of astonishment.
Grandpa whisked his pieces of toothpick into his hand and dumped them into his glass. "Know who planted the hedges? It was your granddad and your great-granddad."
"So? I know that."
"Just wondered if you remembered, is all. Well, I can't stop you if you're bound and determined to take the hedge rows out, but you're a-going to do it yourself. I ain't a-helping you."
"Suit yourself," said Dad with an uneasy glance at me.
Grandpa pushed back from the table, found a particular Successful Farming magazine by the door to the dining room and flopped it open to a center-spread illustration. "What does the caption say?"
"It says: 'Farming in the year 2010'" said Dad. "So?"
"Well, look 'ee there at it. See? They've got all the animals in batteries, covered by glass domes and fed by machines. And look 'ee at the crops, going clean to the horizon, cultivated by an unmanned contraption..."
"Well?"
"Well my question is: where are the people? Where are the people in that there picture?"
Tom Phipps

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Garry Harrison was the Best Fiddler Who Ever Lived


My great-granddad Bill Walker had in his service a Mr. Harrison, whom he swore was the best fiddler he had ever heard. He probably knew what he was talking about, because it was an age of fiddlers.
Mr. Harrison's great-grandson appeared with his fiddle at my door one day, saying that he'd heard that I played banjo, and he wondered what tunes I knew. Well I knew a few, since I grew up in a neighborhood where we had big sings and where we socialized with big Sunday dinners and playing music at each others' houses. But my tunes were nothing, absolutely nothing compared to what he knew.  
This Garry Harrison learnt fiddle from his dad and spent all his free time scouring the countryside, hunting for old timers who had grown up before radio. "I've got to get to 'em before they all die off," he said. "Their tunes will be lost and gone for good if I don't."
Soon, I was spending all evening, several times a week, In Garry's living room learning tunes he had picked up from old fiddlers, such as Harvey (Pappy) Taylor of Effingham, Illinois (the second best fiddler who ever lived, shown here in his Stetson), and almost every weekend we would go down to an old school house in Iola, Illinois to sit around, playing music with a whole nest of old fiddlers.
Throughout the time we played at taverns, parties and square dances, Garry was collecting tunes, which he tirelessly kept up until the very last ninety year old fiddler had passed away. By that time, he had collected far more tunes in Southern Illinois than the great Alan Lomax had in the Appalachians. When Carol and I were living on the Navajo Nation years later, he published the fiddle tune compendium, Dear Old Illinois, ISBN-13: 978-0-9793338-0-4.
This past September, before we ever got around to looking him up to play some more tunes, we heard that he had passed away in his sleep. 
Tom Phipps

Monday, October 7, 2013

Deceit Review

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Deceit is an intriguing and highly enjoyable Alternate History Thriller by W.C. Hewitt based upon the tragic sinking of the Titanic and the events that lead up to it. If you are a fan of download W.C. Hewittintense thrillers, you won’t want to miss this one.
Andrew Hoyle is a reporter for the Atlas News Agency who is assigned to cover the raising of the H.M.S. Titanic. He is also fortunate enough to be one of the few news people invited to inspect the interior of the ship once it has been raised.
Within the interior of the Titanic, Hoyle discovers a small, square metal box covered with over 90 years of rust. He secrets it on his person and takes it with him when he leaves. When he pries open the box Hoyle is at first disappointed to find that the box only contains an old photo of a couple dressed in turn-of-the-century clothing and an oilcloth packet with a yellowing parchment. The ancient paper was addressed to one Sir Rodney Deanne, Head to British Intelligence and signed Elizabeth Brunette and Christopher Ryan.
In an attempt to research information on the names on the parchment Hoyle is once again disappointed as the records are sealed and protected under the Official Secrets Act. However, he discovers that Elizabeth Brunette, now deceased, is survived by an only daughter named Sandra who also uses her mother’s surname of Brunette.
Hoyle pays Ms Brunette a visit hoping to learn the answers to this mystery, but Sandra claims her mother was merely a secretary to a barrister, and had never been employed by the government in any capacity.
Nevertheless, she shows Hoyle to her mother’s old desk where she kept all of her papers and personal documents. In short order he pries open a locked drawer to reveal not only Brunette’s personal documents, but also her diaries which detail an incredible, long-hidden conspiracy to sink the Titanic.
I will not disclose the harrowing details of this torrid thriller, but rather I will recommend that you read it for yourself. If you like edge-of-your-seat action and hair-raising chills, you’ll love Deceit.
Review by:
Carol Marrs Phipps

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Junk Picker By Jan F. Drewniak & Don Drewniak




The Junk Picker by Jan F. Drewniak and Don Drewniak is a well-written, witty and highly enjoyable tale. Reading these adventures of Johnny, “Pinball” Drewniak put me in mind of a number of beloved sitcoms from the past such as I Love Lucy, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Andy Griffith, etc., but better because this story is true. The resemblance is not because The Junk Picker is really like any of these sitcoms, but rather because it is written with the same warmth and good humor.
The young son of Polish immigrants leaves home at an early age and through perseverance and hard work develops a great number of marketable skills. Most notably, an eye for collectibles and antiques. This talent leads his friends and admires to call him a “collector” and his critics to call him a “junk picker”. Read this wonderful tale for yourself and then you decide.
I highly recommend The Junk Picker to people of all ages who like to sit back and simply read and enjoy a good story…and come away smiling.
Reviewed by:
Carol Marrs Phipps

Friday, July 19, 2013

Review: A BORN VICTIM

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If you crave heart-pounding, realistic thrillers with believable characters, A Born Victim by rprRP Rochford, may be just what you’re looking for.
Gill Brogan is an unremarkable 27 year-old divorced mother of two who works hard to pay her bills and care for her children, but she has the unfortunate history of being fired from one job after another. She also has a history of being targeted for bullying and mistreatment by her peers, co-workers and her ex-husband, all of which, understandably, make her timid and insecure.
It seems that nothing in Gill’s life ever turns out well, even though she is sure she is not at fault. Perhaps she has just been born to be a victim of everyone else’s abuse.
Meanwhile, someone has been torturing and murdering young women in Britain and posting the sadistic crimes on the Internet for the viewing pleasure of whoever will pay for the opportunity to watch.
Cyber Crime Investigator, Mike Watson, and Police Investigator, DS Lucy Taylor, are determined to discover who and put an end to the heinous crimes before any more young victims meet the same fate.
But the perpetrators prove to be incredibly illusive incredibly clever at covering their tracks,  leaving not even the tiniest  piece of traceable evidence as to their identities at either the crime scenes or online. As the investigation wears on it seems more and more that someone has finally A.Born.Victim.Coverfound a way to pull off the perfect crimes while rubbing it in the faces of the authorities who seek them. But who? Can Watson and Taylor even realistically hope to track down the perpetrators who have thus far eluded an entire police force? And can they do it before Gill Brogan or any other young woman is tortured and murdered to gratify the perverted appetites of the sick lowlifes who enjoy watching?
A Born Victim is a roller-coaster ride of chills and appalling revelations that will keep you holding your breath and turning pages into the wee hours that you’ll not want to miss…but be warned, it is not for the faint of heart.


Carol Marrs Phipps

Friday, June 14, 2013

Review: POSTPONING ARMAGEDDON by UK Fantasy Author, Adele Abbot

510x765-Armageddon 1
a fantasy by
Adelle Abbot

Gerard is a centurion leading a Roman legion. In his legion is Max, who resembles a Neanderthal, seems to be immortal and leads a small legion of his own, made up of other primitives. Gerard refers to Max as his uncle and also seems to be immortal. The two of them oversee the crucifixion of Christ.
A few years later, Gerard's legion is sent to the frontier of Germania. He sleeps with a captive only to be disemboweled by her. Max comes to his bedside and eases his passing away.
Gerard finds himself growing up in Germania, aided by recollections of his earlier life. He is a great help to his politician father who takes him away on a diplomatic mission to the Schonau where he meets his mother from his past life and also meets a striking girl with green eyes called Morion, who is attending the diplomatic meeting for someone called Max. On the way home he steals away from his father and goes to Mandor to take up a life with his past mother. 
He attends the wedding celebration of his cousin in a family made immortal by being related to Max. He sleeps with a woman, not knowing that she is the bride to be, is caught by the cousin and saved from execution by Max who sends him into exile. He is taken away with a bag over his head by Morion and a troop of primitives. By the time they turn him lose far to the west, he and Morion are attracted to each other and plan to meet further west as soon she has taken care of business for Max with a Bishop of Hypolita.
As Gerard travels along enjoying his freedom, he comes upon a monk who has just been waylaid and his companion slain. The monk warily introduces himself as Brother Simeon and offers to pay him to be his bodyguard whilst he travels to Mont St. Michael with eleven sacred scrolls which he believes his assailants were after.
Gerard agrees, and as they begin traveling together, Morion begins appearing to Gerard in his dreams, repeatedly asking him where he is. Simeon discloses that he is the Abbot of Hypolita. At the first town they come to, they fend off an attack in their room by a pair of ape-like primitives whom Simeon thinks are after the scrolls.
At Mont St. Michael, Simeon adds an eleventh scroll and reveals that not only is there a twelfth, but that he is Matthias, a disciple of Christ who wrote one of the very scrolls. There, they fend off an attack in the night by a large group of ape-like primitives. Matthias announces that the thirteenth scroll waits in Britain and that when all of the scrolls are assembled they can be read together to begin the process of rebuilding the world.
On their way across the Channel, they are beset by a tempest with a waterspout. Gerard and Matthias are the only ones to escape when their ship is turned into an inferno by lightning. When they find their way to the abbey at Venta (Winchester) and inquire about the twelfth scroll, they find that it has been declared an unholy work of the Devil. They are seized and tortured before they escape to find themselves pursued by the primitives again. Soon Gerard is not only having more visions of Morion, but of Max as well, and he and Matthias are now having enough close encounters with the primitives that it is clear that Morion and Max are indeed in league with them, attempting to get hold of the scrolls.   
How all of this leads to the postponing of Armageddon would not be fair to disclose to potential readers, but as one can see, it is the beginning of a most unusual and intriguing story which develops and engages the reader very much like the very best fast reading murder mysteries. As far as I am aware, it is quite a new twist to slightly alter biblical and natural history in order to make a good fantasy. In the midst of its first rate entertaining of the reader, it raises thought provoking questions. One can plainly see at the end of the story why Armageddon is indeed postponed, but just exactly who are the demons here? Are they Morion and burly low browed Max and their wolf-men followers? Or are they abbots who order people nailed to timbers in blacksmiths' sheds whilst scheming over plans of enlarged monasteries? 
Whatever the answer, Postponing Armageddon is outstanding entertainment, and as it is with the best films, I was compelled to read it twice immediately.
 Reviewed by: 
Carol Marrs Phipps

Interview with UK Fantasy Author of Postponing Armageddon, Adele Abbot

adeleWhat is your name, where were you born and where do you live now?

Adele Abbot (one T), I was born in York, UK & I live between Leeds and Bradford, UK
Please tell us a little about yourself (something different not contained in your bio).
I’m the daughter of an Indie writer and honorary niece to another
How long have you been writing?
Since 2006
What do you believe is the most difficult thing about becoming an author?
Finding readers! That’s a little mischievous, obviously, putting one word after another to make an interesting and coherent read is probably the most difficult – especially when you have a 4 year old needing your attention. But once you've served your apprenticeship, and I think I have, getting your name out there is difficult and frustrating, I do have a few novels that have fallen by the wayside.
What do you like to do when you are not writing?
Getting out and about, what my son calls ‘Mummy & Daddy’ days.
What is the name of your latest book, and if you had to summarize it in less than 20 510x765-Armageddon-250x375words what would you say?
It’s called Postponing Armageddon. A historical fantasy, dogmatic religion versus creatures we think of as myth and legend about to be made extinct.
Was there any particular thing that inspired you to write Postponing Armageddon?
It was written after I was made redundant as we say here – what you call being let go in the US. It was something to fill my time between looking for jobs. The original idea came from an ages old short story which happened to come to mind.
Is this book part of a series?
I would like it to be. Ideas for volume two are settling down. I guess it depends on how well volume one does.
Would you share a blurb with us?
When history goes off course, can it be nudged back? The second coming of Jesus Christ was supposed to take place in the thousandth year of His era, but it did not happen as scheduled.
Would you share a short excerpt?
Almost on the horizon, a waterspout was visible; a long writhing tail of dark air descending from a bulbous blue-black cloud.
“The Summer Hawk,” I heard someone say – that was the Viking ship which had sailed a little while before us. The men looking over the stern rail had a better view than those of us in the waist and I went back up the steep slope of the after deck which, at the stern, was quite high above the sea level.
Looking back, it was now possible to see great waves breaking about the lean shape of the Summer Hawk. As I watched, lightning scratched a jagged line from the cloud to the single mast, rigging and sparks flew skyward, snatched by that writhing funnel of air. The stern seemed to rise up and twist, the bows disappeared behind curtains of green and black water; the ship slid beneath the waves and was gone in a space of heartbeats. Gone, leaving only a wake to show she had ever been there.
Do you have plans for a new book? Would you tell us a little about it?
I mentioned that I would like to make this a series. A second volume might be placed in Northern Italy, early in the 12th century. The then Pope was a nasty piece of work and there was an attempt by the French to have him arrested and tried before a court of law which failed. I have a feeling that my characters might take a hand…
How long have you been writing? And who or what inspired you to write?
I guess I have to blame my Dad and my Uncle for inspiration. I've been writing since 2006 when I put Postponing Armageddon on paper but I wrote another fantasy between that and getting Postponing Armageddon published. Called Of Machines and Magics, it was actually written second and published first - both are published by Barking Rain Press.
Do you gift books to readers to do reviews?
I do. I’m very grateful for a thoughtful review; they’re worth a lot to me.
How do you come up with the Title and Cover Designs for your book/books? Who designed the Cover of your books?
With Postponing Armageddon it was a lot of discussion with Dad & my Uncle and since it reached the shortlist of the Sir Terry Pratchett/Transworld 2011 competition, that’s set in stone. Of Machines and Magics came out of equally long email discussion with Sheri Gormley, our President & Executive Director. The cover in both cases was created by Michael Leadingham who got the flavor so absolutely right.
Have you ever based characters on people you know or based events on things that have happened to you?
I've pinched names from people I know for my characters – with permission – but if I've based actual characters, it was unconsciously. Events, though, oh yes, especially where they have involved me.
Is there a certain Author who influenced you in writing?
Probably Mary Gentle, who wrote some great fantasy & science fiction, including an historic which certainly wasn't the history we remember. My mentors too – Dad and my Uncle – introduced me to their favorite – Jack Vance. His Dying Earth series drew me into the setting for Of Machines…, a tale from the last days of Earth.
Which format of book do you prefer, eBook, hardback, or paperback?
It has to be hardback but, maybe paperback for bath-time and eBook when the readers get to be waterproof.
What is your favorite book and Why?  Have you read it more than once?
That’s a difficult one. I've read quite a few more than once but let’s say formative rather than favorite, which might put the Egyptian by Micah Waltari and his other books as very influential, though Waltari is not a well known author. And of course, Mary Gentle who wowed me with Rats and Gargoyles any number of times.
Do you think books transfer to movies well? Why or why not?
I don’t think there’s a definitive answer to that one. Apart from a few scenes, Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit both worked well, I thought. Shakespeare usually does. But there are many that just never do – as a character in a UK TV show used to say scornfully: “Straight to video” in a very Yorkshire accent. (Which I have too.)
What are you currently reading? Are you enjoying it? What format is it? (eBook, hardback or paperback)

The Outcast Blade, sequel to The Fallen Blade by Jon Courtenay Grimwood. Makes my toes curl, makes me weep, “gritty, grimy, decadent, compelling” says the Sunday Times. It’s a hefty paperback.
Is there a book you know you will never read? Or one you tried to read but just couldn't finish?
I've been disappointed by Alastair Reynolds’ Terminal World and I’m not quite sure why. I didn't finish it, either.
What do you think about book trailers?
So, so. My father had one made for one of his books; I don’t think it did anything for the title at all.
What piece of advice would you give to a new writer?
Be prepared for a lot of writing to hit the shredder or the delete box. But enjoy it, all the same. When you do get published, don’t worry about the occasional vicious review or posting. You got there, they didn't.
Do you or would you ever use a pen name?
Have been known to! Adele Abbot didn't just happen to be at the front of the alphabet!
If you could be any character in your book, who would it be and why?
Morion – she’s so damned cool.
      Morion – she’s so damned cool.
If your book was ever made into a movie, what actor/actress would you like to see play the main character(s)?
Gerard:          Damien Lewis
Matthias:       Hugh Laurie
Morion:          Anne Hathaway
Max:               Dwayne Johnson
      Have you ever considered writing in a completely different genre? If so, what would it be and why.
I haven’t thought about that. I’d like Adele Abbot to continue to be associated with fantasy – and somewhat out-of-the-ordinary themes.
Do you think the current popularity of eBooks will last or do you believe it is just another passing trend?
I think it’s more than a passing trend. The eBooks on phones is a phenomenon I wouldn't have guessed at and I think that will see them well into the future.
Considering Traditional Publishing vs. Indie Publishing, do you think one has a clear advantage over the other? If so, please elaborate.
The Traditional Publisher lost the war, in my opinion. They were over-confident and self-opinionated and slow and suffocating. The Indies are great, they are nimble enough to take advantage of new technology, new ideas and new authors.
Would you ever consider writing as a part of a team, rather than on your own?
My Uncle and my Dad manage it very well but it needs two (or more) people who complement & respect each other. If such a one comes along, I’d try it out.
Have you ever had writer’s block? If so, what did you do about it?
I think anyone who works on their own must get writer’s block or it’s equivalent in other disciplines. But I’ve got a 4 year old son who is going to be the greatest fantasy writer ever – he’ll keep me fresh!

Where can readers follow you?
Your web site?                       Adele Abbot
Your Facebook page?        Adele Abbot on Facebook 
Your Twitter details?            Adele Abbot on Twitter


Buy Links for Postponing Armageddon: sign up for a preview & get 35% of the cover price…


Carol 1

Thank you for taking time out from your busy schedule to interview with us today. It has been a real pleasure having you here on our blog. I hope you will visit again in the future.