Five Things Friday: Mini-Interview with Author and Historian Elaine L. Orr

So, while all of the authors that I cajole into getting interviewed on this blog are fantastic, this week’s author is even more exciting, because . . . we’re related! Yes, really! According to her, we are “fourth cousins once removed” because my father and she are fourth cousins. It gets better, though, continue to read the excerpt from Elaine L. Orr’s most recent correspondence to me:

“Our common ancestors are Paul Orr and Isabella Boyd who never left Ireland. At least she didn’t. I descend from their son William, you from their son George . . . We’re some kind of double cousins. I also descend from Elliott Hickman and Nancy Isbell, but through their daughter Artemissa. You are [descended] via their son Temple Elliott Hickman, I believe.”

So, without further ado, please welcome my cousin, Elaine L. Orr!

Willow Croft: As you state on your blog, the “Irish Roots” references your family genealogy, of which you’ve extensively researched, and published your findings in a book. (https://elaineorr.com/orr-family-history/). So, if you could go back in time, what family member would you most like to meet, and why?

Elaine L. Orr: That’s a tough question. It would probably be Sarah Frances Reynolds, daughter of Artemissa Hickman and Jonathan Reynolds. She was a great grandmother on my dad’s side. During the Civil War, Sarah Frances’ father was killed by Confederate Bushwhackers (deserters from the regular Confederate Army). Her mother (someone I’d also like to meet) packed up her kids and drove them in a wagon to Lawrence County, Missouri, where some of her siblings had settled.

Sarah kept a brief diary of the 475-mile trip. They crossed three rivers (the Cumberland, Tennessee, and Mississippi), the latter at Cairo, Illinois. As the oldest of nine (four of whom were seven or under when her father died), I figure she had a lot of responsibility for younger kids. I imagine her keeping track of them during river crossings.

Sarah had seven children of her own and helped raise a granddaughter after her own daughter died. Despite her size (perhaps four feet ten), she was said (by one of my aunts) to have been “a ball of fire.” She learned to quilt from her mother and taught all six of her daughters to do the same. I have a tattered quilt that my own grandmother made – a skill she learned from Sarah Frances.

Willow Croft: Which of the fictional/fictionalized locations in your (multiple!) cozy mystery/mystery series would you most want to live in?

Elaine L. Orr: I finally placed a series in my original home state of Maryland. It’s a family history mystery series, set in the Maryland mountains. I might like to live there, but I’m not big on driving on curvy roads in snow – and it snows a lot at those altitudes..

So, I’d probably pick the Jersey shore, where the Jolie Gentil books are set. However, I would want it to be a town similar to my fictional Ocean Alley, perhaps the real-life Ocean Grove. I love the ocean, especially when it’s stormy – though not during hurricane season.

Willow Croft: Keepers of historical archives can be a unique class unto themselves. What’s the oddest situation you found yourself in while conducting research into your family history (either in person, or online)? Alternatively, what’s the most unusual story you’ve come across in your research?

Elaine L. Orr: In addition to my immediate family’s history, I’m also the historian for the Orr Reunion Association of Mount Vernon, Missouri. Six families from Ireland stayed in touch after coming to America. Thanks to the Internet, I’ve learned about a lot of relatives who went to Scotland, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. It’s given me a real appreciation for how thousands of people can grow from a few. We’ve also married into other race and ethnic groups, including Native Americans. It’s been neat to learn all that.

The oddest situation…Because I post family trees on ancestry, a lot of people contact me with questions. Two have been looking for parents! One had been adopted. The person she thought was her father had passed, so I couldn’t make the connection for her beyond what she had seen in my tree. I was kind of glad, because I had no idea if he ever knew he had a daughter.

The other wanted contact info for a first cousin. I said I would pass on the information (and did), but would not give her a living person’s email or phone. She did track the cousin down on her own. He let me know that, but I didn’t ask about their conclusion. I didn’t like being in the middle.

By far the ‘best’ story happened to a third-great aunt and her family. They just missed a steamer that was to take them from Ireland to the USA because they had not received a communication about a departure time change. They ended up on a sailing ship, which took much longer, and one family member died. However, the steamer was never heard from again. If they had made the first ship, they would have all died.

Willow Croft: If you have family artifacts in your possession, have you ever felt any of them to be haunted?

Elaine L. Orr: I had a teapot that belonged to my great grandmother (mom’s side). While I never thought of it as haunted, it was later stolen. I hope to heck it haunts whoever took it.

Willow Croft: If you had to pick one recipe or dish from any of your mystery series to eat for the rest of your life, which would you pick? Or, what’s the strangest recipe/foodstuffs you’ve come across in your family research?

Elaine L. Orr: Oh, heavens. It would probably be the boardwalk fries that Jolie and Scoobie eat – she with ketchup, he with vinegar. Obviously, I don’t have the recipe! In Final Cycle (a Logland series book), I include a chile recipe that is attributed to Nick, co-owner of a diner. However, I like the chile of a friend (Jodi Perko) so much, that I asked for her recipe. I made it at home; it’s great.

Recipes say a lot about the original cook. My Great Aunt Stell’s (Estella Cochran’s) fruitcake recipe has more ingredients than I would have thought possible, listed in precise amounts. My cousin Doug’s handwritten barbeque beans recipe has ingredients such as:

Various kinds of beans: pinto, lima, butter…whatever
Mustard (not much, just a dash)
Brown sugar
Molasses/sorghum
The above two are linked with a note that says, “Balance these two.”

Bottom line, a recipe is yours once you make it, so you can improvise!

***

I don’t know about you, but I sure hope that purloined teapot is haunting whoever stole it, too. Check out Elaine L. Orr’s included bio (below) for more information about her mystery series and her other literary works, as well links to her websites! Hope you enjoyed the visit from my cousin . . . I sure did!

Elaine L. Orr writes family and local histories as well as four mystery series: the Jolie Gentil series at the Jersey shore, the River’s Edge series along Iowa’s Des Moines River, the Logland series in small-town Illinois, and the Family History mystery series in the Western Maryland Mountains. She also writes plays and novellas, including her favorite, Falling Into Place. Two of her books have been shortlisted for the Chanticleer Mystery and Mayhem Awards, and The Unscheduled Murder Trip received an Indie B.R.A.G Medallion in 2021. Elaine is a member of Sisters in Crime and the Indiana Writer’s Center.

www.elaineorr.com
http://elaineorr.blogspot.com

Monday’s Math Madness!

Wait, what?

Yes, I know, I NEVER talk about math!

Don’t look at me, it was Iva Sallay at Find the Factors‘ suggestion! (https://findthefactors.com/).

An invite, actually, to write a math-themed blog that Iva Sallay could possibly include in her “Playful Math Education Blog Carnival” that Sallay is hosting!

And one that I was thrilled to even be considered for!

I’ve followed Iva Sallay for so long I can’t even remember how we “met” but I kept following “Find the Factors” because I wanted to see if I could improve my math skills, and, at least, reach the level of the brilliant-at-math third graders I sometimes taught.

(I get numbers switched around a lot, like dyslexia but with numbers, and I even have trouble telling time. Ironically, even though teachers and others mocked me when I was growing up, I actually had a job once as a closing manager for a grocery store, and had to count out the tills at night and make the financial reports. And I actually became pretty good at it!)

A later workplace skills assessment even showed me that my math skills were actually within the average range.

Nothing to write home about, but nowhere near as pitiful as I once thought they were (I probably could have gone to school for Marine Biology after all, with some academic support and tutoring for math!).

Speaking of “writing home”, Iva Sallay offered the aforementioned invite to join in the Math Carnival fun after I posted up about the book set I am currently reading.

This book set (three books) showcases a fifteenth-century maritime manuscript by a Venetian mariner named Michael of Rhodes.

I purchased the set at a history conference in Florida, because I loved maritime history (I have an MA in history).

But the main portion of this fifteenth-century manuscript that Michael of Rhodes wrote (and/or recorded, as some of the scholars discuss in their essays in the third volume) is math! And I am so, so intimidated by math.

The book set contains three books: a facsimile of the original manuscript (which includes original drawings, charts, and equations), a typed version of the manuscript, and adjoining pages where the text of Michael of Rhodes folios is provided in an English translation.

Included in the last book is a chapter study written by Raffaella Franci (https://openlibrary.org/authors/OL1328338A/Raffaella_Franci) titled “Mathematics in the Manuscript of Michael of Rhodes”, where Franci dissects the math, and Michael of Rhodes’ motivation in including, of the equations that take up “about half” (Franci 2009, 115) of the manuscript.*

Franci concludes that Michael of Rhodes wrote this manuscript as a fifteenth-century version of a CV, or resume (Franci 2009, 146). After he finished his “service at sea” (Franci 2009, 146), he was hoping obtain a “post in public administration” (Franci 2009, 146).

Raffaela Franci also surmises in the mathematics chapter study that much of the math Michael of Rhodes included in his manuscript went above and beyond what was required as part of his profession (Franci 2009, 146). Franci hypothesizes that Michael’s extensive inclusion of mathematics in his manuscript to one key reason–Michael of Rhodes simply “fell in love with the subject” (Franci 2009, 146).

Even as a self-identified “non-math” person, I’m fascinated. I mean, come on, fifteenth-century math problems that this Venetian mariner did for fun? How cool is that?

Michael of Rhodes starts out with something called “practical arithmetic, or abbacus mathematics” (Franci 2009, 115). And, in addition to algebra, the rule of three, fractions, square roots, cube roots, and more (Franci 2009, 117-118), Michael of Rhodes treats math lovers with maritime/trade “problems”: “Commerce of pepper…freightage…buying jewels…travels…” (Franci 2009, 117-118) and even problems about “playing dice” (Franci, 118).

According to Rafaella Franci, Michael of Rhodes used something called the “Divisione a Galera”–the “Galley Method of Division” for his many calculations (Franci 2009, 119) and Franci provides the reader with a more detailed examination of this method (and other approaches to solving problems) within the chapter study of this manuscript.

Raffaela Franci states that Michael’s personal fascination with mathematics led him to calculate solutions purely as a theoretical exercise, because his solutions are so “complicated” that they “have no practical use” (Franci 2009, 143).

On the lighter side, but just as historically fascinating, is Michael of Rhodes’ examination of astrology and horoscopes in relation to not only successful maritime navigation, but in navigating the murky waters of business deals, health and wellness, one’s own personality assessment, and even in interpersonal relationships.

Some things never change, right?

And, if we embrace Raffaela Franci’s conclusion, Michael of Rhodes created this whole document for what many of us strive for today–a better job!

Source as quoted/used as reference for this blog post:

Fauci, Raffaella. 2009. “Mathematics in the Manuscript of Michael of Rhodes.” Pp. 115-146 in The Book of Michael of Rhodes: A Fifteenth-Century Maritime Manuscript, Volume 3: Studies, edited by Pamela O. Long. Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Links for the book set:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6787496-the-book-of-michael-of-rhodes

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6715591-the-book-of-michael-of-rhodes-volume-2

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6715592-the-book-of-michael-of-rhodes

Wednesday’s Book Looks: Evil and Sin and One Weary Conference-Goer…

 

I have a confession, fellow bloggers and blog readers.

I have committed a dreadful cardinal sin.

I quit reading a book before I was even through. (Don’t worry, it wasn’t any of yours!)

The sinned-against book was the first volume of a massive two-volume history book set. I was almost to the end of the first volume (page 700 and change) and I just couldn’t continue with it. It’s not as if the book was dated (although it was), because I’ll continue reading since I’m a historian, and will persevere through the most dry, academic, smelly, and, yes, dated book there is.

Point in case: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/57659405-picture-history-of-the-u-s-navy.

I rescued the above book from being tossed in a dumpster.

It’s the perfect manifestation of “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” The book’s cover was godawful. I forgot to upload the picture of the book’s cover when I entered the book into Goodreads, but here it is:

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And it kinda smelled too. The book, not the book’s entry on Goodreads. Not of garbage (I didn’t dig it out of the dumpster) and not even of that old-book smell. But it definitely smelled pretty attic-musty. Or of something else I really don’t want to think about.

But I actually enjoyed reading that book. Some of the captions that went with the pictures were hilarious! I loved when the author(s) did the 1956 version of caption-trolling for some of the naval captains included in the book.

Too funny!

Unfortunately, the Civil War book after the above one was kind of a letdown. The Civil War book even had actual photos (been actively trying to un-see the photos of the horse casualties*)–of Civil War camps, cannons, locations, and participants to liven up the (definitely dated) text and I still couldn’t get into the text portions. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7283408-the-photographic-history-of-the-civil-war-vol-1—the-opening-battles

My focus in grad school was maritime history, and military history often goes hand in hand with that, and I still found the book hard to get into, and so I quit. Maybe it was because the history of the Civil War was written in a glamourizing and glorifying manner, and we all probably know it wasn’t like that at all. Even if we weren’t there.

The photos in the book, at least, don’t “lie”.

Please forgive me for committing such a literary cardinal sin as to not finishing a book! I will atone, I promise.

(And by atoning, I mean taking a nap because I am still tired from attending the absolutely awesome virtual steampunk conference over the weekend. The organisers/hosts must be three times as exhausted as I, a mere attendee, am!)

However, before I do that, I’ll mention another book I read during all this history journeying, which actually had at its core a real cardinal sin, albeit a fictional one. (And, so I don’t commit another literary cardinal sin, possible spoilers ahead.)

But it was no less chilling for all that it was fiction. The circle of friends in S. Gepp’s Sins of the Fathers commit a terrible act in a quest for power and status. (Much like many of the world’s wars, don’t you think?)

As we all can guess, power always comes with a price. And sometimes a twisted sort of redemption.

I enjoyed this novella as released from Grinning Skull Press, and can’t wait experience more of Grinning Skull‘s horror vision.

If you’d like to check out this book and the other literary offerings (pun intended!) Grinning Skull Press has to offer, visit their website: https://grinningskullpress.wordpress.com/.

Now it’s time for full-on immersion into evil!

I read the Breaking Rules Publishing anthology The Hollow: Where All Things Evil Lie (Vol. 3), and not just because my own story was in it. Because, you know, it’s horror! And I love “all things” horror. (See what I did there?)

Check it out here…they’re selling it for a discounted price of $5: https://www.breakingrulespublishing.com/store/p428/The_Hollow_Anthology_Vol_3.html.

I wish I could talk about it a little more thoroughly but I generally read anthologies a second time to fully immerse myself in the individual stories, and Breaking Rules Publishing really picked some great ones. I can say this–it is definitely going to be worth the second read. Especially now that I’m freed up from reading about real-life Civil War horror…I mean, history.

My only critique of The Hollow 3 is that I wish it had a table of contents.

Yeah, yeah, I know. I’m a traditionalist book nerd as well as a book-sinner-against.

So, now I’m going to do what all evil things do after a day of chaos and destruction! Yep, you guessed it…take a nap!

*No horses were harmed in the creation of this blog post.

 

Five Things Friday: Mini-Interview with Author Elinor DeWire

Egmont Key Light
Egmont Key Light: https://www.visitflorida.com/en-us/things-to-do/outdoors-nature/lighthouse-egmont-key-st-petersburg-fla.html

St. Augustine Light
St. Augustine Light https://www.staugustinelighthouse.org/

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I am absolutely thrilled about this week’s interview! I had the amazing opportunity to chat with Author (and Lighthouse Historian Extraordinaire!) Elinor DeWire!

Her book that I’ve had forever (I have the first paperback edition of Guardians of the Lights: Stories of U.S. Lighthouse Keepers for you book nerds out there!) was luckily not among the books damaged/lost in a flood. And it was the first book of my maritime history collection, and which eventually led to me getting a Master’s degree in history. While I’ve moved into other academic areas of interest (very recently!), I still love lighthouses, and have used them as settings for a couple of my (unpublished) short stories. And I love to read about lighthouses in fiction, too! (https://willowcroft.blog/2020/12/16/journeys-in-the-round/)

Willow Croft: So, we’ll get this out of the way, straight off. What’s your favourite light you’ve visited and/or lighthouse/light station you’ve stayed over at? What was the best part of your experience?

Elinor DeWire: I usually tell people my favorite lighthouse is the most recent one I’ve visited. That would be Cape Frehel in Brittany, France. Beautiful place and architecturally fascinating tower. That said, I must confess I REALLY love Nauset Beach Lighthouse on Cape Cod. (https://www.nps.gov/caco/planyourvisit/nauset-light-beach.htm) It was the first lighthouse where I did extensive research and even assisted–ever so little–the NPS with saving the Three Sisters lighthouses that preceded the red and white tower currently at Nauset Beach. I’m still hoping they will fabricate lanterns for the two capless Sisters. Nauset has a storied history and is pretty. I am a sucker for a pretty lighthouse!

Willow Croft: I always find a way to work in a mention of food, of course! Could you tell us about some common dishes and/or foodstuffs the lightkeeper and/or their family would eat while in residence?

Elinor DeWire: Keepers at remote or offshore light stations were given a standard supply of nonperishable staple foodstuff from the U.S. Lighthouse Establishment–dried beans, rice, sugar, flour, potatoes, turnips, molasses, salt, etc. I think a lot of fish was eaten, as it was handy nearby in the sea. Soups were served to stretch meat and have something hot on hand on cold days. The late Barbara Beebe gave me her mother’s rose hip jelly recipe, made from the beach roses growing at Old North Lighthouse on Block Island, RI. (https://lighthousefriends.com/light.asp?ID=40) Her family also ate blanc mange, made from seaweed. The late Connie Small gave me her apple pie recipe. There were apple trees on St. Croix Island where her husband was assigned in the 1930s. Of course, chowders were popular too, and coffee was always at the ready.

Willow Croft: As I gathered from your blog, you have a novel in the works. What has been the challenges (and benefits?) in conducting research in regards to the pandemic? Also, I understand that you’re on the board of directors for the United States Lighthouse Society. Were there any challenges with continuing work on lighthouse preservation, continued conservation of existing sites, and fundraising within the former political climate and with the pandemic shutdown and precautions? How have you tackled these challenges?

Elinor DeWire: I have written so many lighthouse books, I am growing a bit jaded with that…not that I have any less love for lighthouses; it’s just a bit of writer’s weariness and the fact that the lighthouse genre is saturated at the moment. I have three novels in print now, all set in late Regency and early Victorian England. I write under a pen name–J.J. Scott–as I feel “Elinor DeWire” should remain dedicated to lighthouses. My novels are heavy on history with a serving of romance and intrigue. My first one, Saving Lord M, was and remains quite popular, a romantic and even a bit supernatural story of William Lamb, Viscount Lord Melbourne, prime minister of England in the 1830s. I was inspired to write about him by the PBS series Victoria, which inaccurately portrayed him. The popularity of the novel surprised me, though I should have remembered that I won short fiction prizes years ago. I’m at work on a 4th novel at present, set in Cumbria, England in 1830. Fiction has recharged my researcher and scribe battery!

U.S. Lighthouse Society–I was brought onto the Board a few years ago to develop the society’s education initiative and bring kids and families into our fold. (Also, the board had been composed of all men for decades, so a woman’s touch was needed!) So far, my education efforts have been well received, and we’re bringing youth into the fold. We expect to offer a kids’ membership soon and do some events expressly for kids. The pandemic has been tough financially. Lighthouse tours are the backbone of USLHS’s income, and of course we haven’t been able to do any tours for over a year. I think the last one was in the southeast USA about 14 months ago. The society has been solvent in the last decade; we have been able to trudge through the pandemic. Tours will resume late summer 2021. The Board will have its first face-to-face meeting this late June in Florida. As for fundraising, we relied on our loyal membership to tide us through the previous administration’s lack of humanities funding (and lack of sanity, period!) and through the pandemic. We are solvent, and we are even in the process of awarding $30K in increments of $1000 to needy lighthouse groups hit hard by lack of tourism. We will slowly resume our normal ops this year.

Willow Croft: In your book, Guardians of the Lights: Stories of U.S. Lighthouse Keepers, you include stories and photos about the keepers and their animal companions, and you have also included them in your The Lightkeepers’ Menagerie: Stories of Animals at Lighthouses. What’s the most memorable companion story you remember from your research? Also, please tell us about your own animal menagerie!

Elinor DeWire: I grew up on a small farm in Maryland; thus, I LOVE animals. My two kids had every kind of pet imaginable as they grew up, though my one requirement was “legs.” No pets without legs! (I am not fond of snakes.) I wrote Lightkeepers’ Menagerie because I had SO MANY little anecdotes about animals in my research files. They seemed so important in lighthouse history. I suppose I am biased toward the stories of cats at lighthouses, as I love kitties and have had many in my lifetime, Currently, I have a tabby and a Maine Coon. In the book, there is a story about Jiggs the cat, who was born at Pigeon Point, moved with the Henderson family to Point Sur, and then died there. He was exhumed when the family moved to Point Pinos and reburied there. I included a picture of his little grave in Lightkeepers’ Menagerie. I think this is my favorite animal story because Jiggs reminds me so much of one of our cats, ignobly named Warhead by my husband, a retired Navy ordnance officer. The mention of Jiggs climbing a woman’s legs under the dinner table is priceless. Warhead did the same thing to an insurance salesman who weaseled his way into our house many years ago. Warhead somehow realized we didn’t care for this man and had no intention of buying insurance, so he did his best to make the man leave. Success!

Willow Croft: I’ve visited a few lighthouses in Florida and up into in Georgia, but I haven’t experienced anything paranormal or supernatural at the ones that I’ve visited. Not even during the St. Augustine nighttime tour that included a visit to the grounds of the St. Augustine Light. (I say I haven’t, even though I did see big, glowing blue “orbs” bouncing around the base of an old oak tree, because it doesn’t really feel like it counts.) Have you witnessed anything paranormal at any of the lights, lighthouses, or light stations you’ve visited? If you haven’t, do you have a favourite ghostly tale to share about a lighthouse you’ve researched?

Elinor DeWire: No ghosts have allowed me to meet them at lighthouses. I am not particularly receptive, though I think the ghost tales and supernatural stuff is fun to write about, and it definitely has an audience. I did several lighthouse ghost tv shows years ago. I wish there was more interest in the real history of lighthouses, but people DO like the scary stuff! Knowing all that I know about lighthouses, I can usually explain away ghosts and supernatural events at lighthouses. A couple of years ago I visited St. Simons Lighthouse in Georgia, famous for its stairway ghost and a dog named Jinx that responded negatively to the poltergeist. (https://www.coastalgeorgiahistory.org/visit/st-simons-lighthouse/) I climbed the stairs alone after hours and heard the clanking and creaking sounds attributed to the ghost. It was just the iron stairway cooling down from a hot summer day. Metal expands in heat and contracts when cool. Bang, screech, groan!!! My favorite lighthouse ghost is a little gray kitty that haunts the upstairs of the keepers’ house at Fairport Lighthouse in Ohio. (http://www.fairportharborlighthouse.org/)  It’s a long story. You’ll find it in Lightkeepers’ Menagerie. I interviewed the woman who lived in the upstairs apartment in the 1980s, a curator at the museum. She was truly convinced the feline ghost was real, especially after repairmen came to the quarters and found the mummified body of a small cat in a wall. Ooooooh! Who am I to say…

ElinorDeWire

Elinor DeWire Links

Find her on Facebook as “Elinor DeWire, Author” and here: https://www.facebook.com/J.J.Scottnovelist/
Find @ElinorDeWire on Twitter
Visit her Author Blog on Blogspot: http://elinordewire.blogspot.com/
Find her Author Website here: https://www.elinordewire.com/
View her lighthouse videos on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCoDc9cP-B8oKTF05jg9t3Iw
Visit her “Lighthouse” Pinterest Boards: https://www.pinterest.com/fineshine/
Find her on Amazon here https://www.amazon.com/Elinor-DeWire/e/B000APJJ0M and here https://www.amazon.com/J-J-Scott/e/B07QQ36XBT
View her education page at U.S. Lighthouse Society (full of resources for teachers and kids): https://uslhs.org/education/educational-materials

Clowns That Don’t Go Bump in the Night…

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What could be better for my forthcoming birthday (September 20) than a whole book of horror stories featuring clowns?

The fact that my story’s among them!

So, “send in the clowns,” and don’t forget to bring balloons and plenty of gifts! Or, you can make my wish (and those of the other authors) come true, and buy the book, here: Bloody Red Nose: Fifteen Fears of a Clown.

Still here? Yes, you. You in the corner, clowning around. Well, I can’t get you an invite to clown school on that audition, but if you want more information about the book, check out Editor Dave Higgins’ blog post: https://davidjhiggins.wordpress.com/abstruse-press/fears-of-a-clown/bloodyrednose/.

Still can’t get enough clowns? Do you take your horror with a splash of humour? Well, Dave Higgins has released not one, but two, clown-featured books. Perhaps this one will help rekindle your childhood dream of becoming a clown. (Or not? I’ll have to read it, myself, to find out.) If you read Deadman Humour: Thirteen Fears of a Clown, please no spoilers. That’s worse than a clown without a smile!

deadmanhumour_72dpi_1600w

 

Sadly, I never did run away to join the circus. Which was probably a wise choice, as I imagine it would have been rather difficult to liberate elephants, giraffes, and lions as a twelve-year-old. Nevertheless, I do have a little bit of circus cred by association with my hometown, where I was raised, which was the winter headquarters of the Ringling Circus. (Until they moved to Venice, Florida.) Which, these days, I suspect that the Gulf Coast of Florida is pretty much all one swath of strip malls and gated communities with some six-million-dollar condos thrown into the heart of Floridian downtowns, just to give the residents a chance to kvetch about the slightest noise after 9 p.m. Or support noise meter companies. I forget which.

But don’t worry, even though more and more of Florida’s wetlands, wild areas, and farmlands are being parceled up and sold to developers by local politicians to become an on-every-street-corner Walgreens, or a toxic-turfed six-bedroom McMansion, you can still find sparkling sequins of circus history in Sarasota.

Check out the circus museum that’s part of the Ringling Museum historio-industrial complex: https://www.ringling.org/circus-museum. (Beware the museum’s staff, though; they can be more terrifying than any nightmare we writers can dream up. And enter into the gift shop at your own risk.*)

If you’d like a more genial experience, visit Bob Horne at his restaurant, Bob’s Train. His knowledge of circus from his own experiences, and his vibrant recitation of circus history, will add life to the museum visit. In fact, his own restaurant is filled with photos and memorabilia from the circus, and is the perfect setting to read certain clown anthologies (Can I drop any more hints?).

If you need any more convincing, yes, the restaurant is in an actual Pullman railroad car. Oh, and on the very same track is JoMar. Yes, that JoMar (look it up!). Which Bob Horne is restoring.

Here’s the link to Bob’s Train: https://www.bobstrain.com/location. (But I can’t promise there will be clowns.)

 

*I was born in Bradenton, and grew up in Sarasota. For those not from the area, that pretty much means I have carte blanche to be as snarky as I want to about my hometown(s). And it’s a gold mine for snarky humorists, let me tell ya.