Lin's Blog: Musings

Lin's Blog: Musings

The Challenge: Seven Things You Don't Know About Me as a Writer

by Lin Waterhouse on 03/20/15

My friend KD McCrite has challenged me to come up with seven things you won't know about my writing. Ok, so here goes:

1. I've been writing as long as I can remember. My earliest efforts were writing letters. I loved corresponding via mail with anyone who would write me back. I had numerous penpals, some in this country and many abroad. I also carried on a long-standing correspondence with my Great Uncle Hugh who wrote me largely-illegible letters until the day he died. Just before he passed, he sent me a pen he used over the decades that he worked for the Frisco Railroad. I was just a young teenager when he died. I kept the pen for many years, but I don't know what eventually happened to it. I'm very sad that I lost it. Sorry, Uncle Hugh.

2. In high school, I wrote a silly tale about an old lady who climbed a tree for some forgotten reason and wouldn't come down. My literature teacher read it in class, and I never could figure out why she thought it was worth reading.

3. My freshman year in high school, I wrote a long, humorous narrative entitled "My Life as a Freshman." I know, really original. It actually became quite notorious because I named names and detailed events. The reaction was quite a learning experience for me; although, I still can't keep my mouth shut.

3. I was editor of my high school newspaper, and in college I worked on the college paper. The college paper printed one of my studies from my statistics class--a great honor for me at the time.

4. In my Mommy years, I let my writing go largely dormant. However, I was in much demand to write skits for an annual talent show. My greatest achievement was a short sketch performed to the song "Teddy Bears' Picnic."

5. While working as Community Service Coordinator for Arizona's Yavapai County Adult Probation, I created brochures and booklets detailing the program. I also put out a newsletter outlining the accomplishments and goals of my little department. My boss told me to stop because the written stuff made it "look like I had nothing else to do."

6. After moving to the Missouri Ozarks where my husband grew up, I launched a serious writing career. I wrote my first novel Bred to the Bone: Deadly Secrets at Hunter's Millbut couldn't sell it to a publisher until after my non-fiction book West Plains Dance Hall Explosion was picked up by the History Press. Books about local history have a way of making the authors minor celebrities in their small ponds. I spoke at dozens of local organizations' meetings about the explosion that killed 39 people, and I wrote for regional magazines and the local newspaper focusing on Ozark history and curiosities. What fun those years were! Also, I met some dear friends there, especially KD McCrite.

7. Two years ago, I opened a whole new chapter of my life by moving to northern California to be nearer our children. My husband's diagnosis of Parkinson's Disease had made that move a necessity. Bred to the Bone: Deadly Secrets at Hunter's Mill was rereleased in January by a new publisher, and the second book in that "deadly secrets" series, "Ghost of Timmy Wahl," will come out next year. I also edit the occasional manuscript for paying customers. Life is good!

Golden Years in the Poorest County in the Richest State

by Lin Waterhouse on 03/15/15

Like so many others before us, my husband and I succumbed to the urge to move closer to our children and grandchildren in our Golden Years. (Kind of a reverse "nesting," I think.) After living twenty years in southern California, six years in Arizona, and thirteen years in the Missouri Ozarks, my husband and I moved to northern California.

We couldn't afford to live in what's called "the bay area." The cost of living there is one of the highest in the world. Even people like teachers, firefighters, and police officers can't afford to live in the areas in which they work unless they bought their homes long before the home values zoomed into the stratosphere. I have read that an income of $140,000+ is necessary to qualify for a loan on even a modest home in San Francisco and its suburbs. To live in one of those lovely places with a expansive view of the bay is prohibitive for all but multimillionaires.

So, we live in Lake County, the poor stepsister of nearby San Francisco, Sonoma, and Napa Counties. The former has the beautiful bay and the Golden Gate Bridge. The latter two counties are Wine Country to those people who seek the perfect Chardonnay. Lake County's claim to fame is beautiful Clear Lake, the largest freshwater lake in California. Thrusting from its depths is Mt. Konocti, a dormant volcano, dramatic in its black sillouette against the shimmering lake. Surrounded by mountains and vineyards, the lake is the ultimate photo-op.

Only problem with that beautiful lake is its pollution. Although not much rain falls here, when it does it washes heavy metals from the tailings of mines established clear back in the 19th Century. Fertilizer from the agriculture surrounding the lake also washes down its steep slopes encouraging a proliferation of cyanobacteria or "blue green algae" that blooms throughout the waterway. As the growth dies, it rises to the surface forming a toxic, stinking, rotting crust on the water.

The smell of the algae cannot be explained! It's a stench, pure and simple, that fouls the air throughout the summer months when boating, bathing, and swimming should be at a peak. Even eating on the decks of the restaurants positioned for the spectacular view of Clear Lake is virtually impossible unless your sense of smell has departed you. Needless to say, Clear Lake is no longer the destination of summer fun seekers.

The federal government has established the area of old mines as an EPA Super Fund Site. Other efforts to clean the lake have been mixed, and residents voted down three recent attempts to establish a tax to improve the situation. A majority of residents of Lake County, already a disadvantaged and disallusioned lot, seem to have given up.

Here at our home in Hidden Valley Lake, a gated community of 7,000 residents, we enjoy beautiful vistas, mild winters, and tolerably hot summers. Lake County claims the cleanest air in the U.S., even with the lake's pungent odor. We are lucky to have medical care within a ten-minute drive, and a thirty-minute drive over Mount St. Helena gets us into the heart of wine country and to two large hospitals. Our grandchildren love the community's clean little lake that is the heart of our town. Living twenty miles from the beautiful, but smelly, Clear Lake, we treat winter visitors to a scenic drive around the lake's periphery, and in summer, we avoid it like, well, like the plague.

Living in the poorest county in California has its benefits: Home prices are a fraction of those in surrounding counties, and taxes are relatively affordable. In some ways, we love to be able to enjoy beautiful vistas without the scourge of tourists and high prices. However, the county is a financial disaster with little hope of quick renewal. Until the day comes when the lake is clean and visitors discover the allure of Lake County, we will enjoy the relative seclusion and peace of our retirement home. Y'all come see us!

When History Comes in Tiny Missives

by Lin Waterhouse on 05/15/13

I’m sitting alone in the meticulously-restored Ozark County Historium with an achingly-beautiful rendition of Ashokan Farewell playing on my Kindle. (You all know the song from Ken Burns’ Civil War series on PBS.) In such surroundings, it’s easy to become nostalgic when viewing the collection of old postcards on display in this museum we are so fortunate to have on the Gainesville square.

The cards date from the early days of Ozark County through the 20th Century when thoughtful remembrances were written on the back of a postcard instead of in an email.

Judy Lyons loaned her series of rare postcards that show a dramatization of a robbery on Lick Creek c. 1912. Three disreputable fellows hold up two men in suits and get away with their belongings. However, the victims track down the robbers who have drunk themselves into blissful oblivion, and the aggrieved men mete out simple justice. “Ta! Ta! Poor Devils” is written on the bottom of the last card showing the dead robbers and the victors mounting their horses to ride away with their restored booty.

A particularly endearing set of cards were sent from early Ozark biographer S. C. Turbo to his niece Stella Upton in 1909 through 1912. Turnbo died in 1925, outliving Stella who died in 1914 at the age of 17 following the death of her daughter Stella Martin Luna. One photo shows the diminutive Stella Upton wearing a frilly dress and heels standing on the porch of the Breeding Store in Locust. I can’t help but wonder what event she was dressed to attend. I hope her short life was happy.

Another collection of postcards illustrates an urban view of Gainesville from the early 1900s. A synopsis of the 1910 census, displayed with the postcards, names 43 heads of households in the town – a judge, laborers, stock dealers, county officials, a laundress, barbers, and  innkeepers – all part of a vibrant community at the turn of the 20th century.

Later Gainesville is enlivened by postcards from the 1930s through the 1950s – a time that many folks still fondly remember. The old rock jail must have been a proper punishment, a misery of heat and cold for those who crossed the law back in the day.  The pictures of a bustling square recall days before Walmart and Target.

The lakes, other Ozark communities like Dora and Zanoni, the mills, and the people star in other groupings of postcards.

The faces of long ago people particularly tug at my heart. The parents of the Ferrell triplets born in 1908 near Thornfield proudly dressed their children in frilly lace for a precious photo. Ike Shaw and Ted Upton stand proud in their World War I uniforms. Groups of fresh-faced school children, Wanda and Bently Silva with their spotted dog, ladies in huge hats and men in overalls and suspenders – all evoke people and places lost to the years.

Life and times, happy and hard, are on display for thoughtful consideration through May 31.



History Viewed in Real Time

by Lin Waterhouse on 03/10/13

One of my Facebook friends Steve Colyer posted a set of truly beautiful and haunting photos from the old-world Italian cities of Pompeii, Herculaneum, Stabiae, Oplontis and Boscoreale. These Italian communities were lost to the world in late August AD79 when an eruption of Mt. Vesuvius sent a blast of deadly heat and gases into the towns killing the populace as they slept or went about their early-morning duties.

Following their probably (and hopefully) instantaneous deaths, the bodies of those who had lived in those cities were covered with a thick layer of molten lava. Once cooled, that shell of rock preserved the world of  these ancient Italians to lie hidden for almost 1800 years, a time capsule of Roman life in the first century AD.

I remember seeing many of these same photos in an edition of Life magazine when I was a child. I was fascinated by the stark beauty of them then. Today, I find them just as compelling.

The people of those Italian cities were enjoying a good life of prosperity and comfort in a time when Roman culture was at its apex. They must not have had warning of the dire state of the volcano with which they lived. Perhaps they were used to its grumbling and spitting nature and never suspected that it would unleash sudden and horrific death and destruction on them.

Surely if they had known, they would have taken their children and their belongings to safer ground. Maybe some people did, and the ones we see turned to stone in these photographs were the doubters and naysayers oblivious to the power and threat of Vesuvius.,or.r_qf.&bvm=bv.43287494,d.aWc&fp=477ce06ae4a88482&biw=1280&bih=685

We are all voyeurs of a sort as we view these pictures. I'm touched by the spectacular fresco of a man and his wife discovered in what was probably a middle class dwelling in Pompeii. The bodies of an adult male and female were not found in the ruins; however, the bodies of seven children lie preserved for posterity in a room of that house. Did the parents escape? Surely, they would never have left their children behind. Maybe they were incinerated to ash leaving no trace of their presence. Had they gone out for an early morning jog when the cataclysm occurred? We'll never know.

Other bodies lie in the streets. Were they running from the horror spewing from their mountain or were they simply going about their business that morning. We know it was morning from historical reports of the deadly eruption and because so many of the bodies still lay in their beds. Men and women -- and in some cases, children -- cuddled together in sleep (or in fear) where they died. The pets and farm animals of the town were also cast in volcanic rock for our wonder. A long-nosed dog and what appears to be a pig pique our questions about the lifestyles and traditions of that time and place.

If our world suddenly came to a lurching halt and we were preserved for people two thousand years in the future to study, I wonder what pictures of life would we project. Would future voyeurs understand children cuddled in bed with what the citizens of much-advanced societies would surely view as wildly primitive communication devices that we know as ipods, and what would they think of bedside tables and desks in our homes piled with cellphones, laptops, Kindles and chargers -- all ever-present in our modern homes. Would they chuckle or maybe shed a tear over our abrupt passing?

To me, these ancient ruins of even-more ancient cities are part of the fascination of history. As life rolls on, our curious eyes can look back upon people, flesh and blood just like us, who lived, loved, and toiled in a world forever lost to our comprehension. Look at the pictures and see what you think.

2013: 364 Days of Opportunities

by Lin Waterhouse on 01/02/13

Since I'm new at this blogging thing, I'll just start out by wishing all of you many happy days in 2013. I know 2012 wasn't a banner year of success for many of us, but we now have 364 days left in the new year to make it truly a special time in our lives.

My wonderful literary agent Jeanie Pantelakis capped the past year by getting married on December 23 to her best friend (so she tells me) Robert Loiacono. I'm hoping their life is one magic romance novel with only happy endings. Congratulations, Jeanie and Robert.

Good luck to all of you. We'll talk again soon.