Tracy S. Morris

Quirky Mysteries, Funny Fantasy and Silly Scifi

Look what came in the mail today! 

Written By: Tracy - Jun• 15•15

It’s my contributor’s copy.

  

Success Principles You Can Learn From J.K. Rowling

Written By: Tracy - Jun• 12•15

 
I stopped blogging writing advice a while ago, because there are so many writers who blog about writing that I felt that I had nothing new or original to contribute. 

But a few weeks ago my husband asked me to give a talk to a business team about J.K. Rowling.  

I think the decision to ask me went something like this: 

“We need someone to talk about J.K. Rowling and Success.  Who would be good for that?”

“I think Godsey’s wife writes fantasy.  She might know something about that.”  

So with note cards in hand, I talked to a bunch of professional types about wizards and broomstick footsockbasecricketsport.  

But what I really talked about was J.K. Rowling as a writer.  Here are my notes:  

If I asked you to name a famous writer, you probably said JK Rowling.  

JK Rowling’s Success Principles. 

1. Get Started – it took her 7years to finish working on the First Harry Potter book. During that time, her mother died, and she was a single parent living on public assistance. She had a lot of distractions in her life, but she didn’t let them stop her.  

2. Keep your goals in front of you, begin with the end in mind, have a plan. – One of the first scenes she wrote was the final scene of the last book. When you are a writer, the first third of the book is the easiest to write, because it’s all so new. Then comes the “muddy middle,” when it feels like writing is an uphill slog. Rowling’s had a goal, the end of the book. As she wrote, she never lost sight of her goal.  

3. Don’t quit – Harry Potter and the Philosophers stone was rejected by twelve publishing houses before Bloomsbury accepted it for publication. If Rowling had given up after her first rejection, the entire Young Adult Novel industry would never have been born. 

4. Set new goals – shortly after the end of her Harry Potter series, Rowling wrote The Casual Vacancy. She also started a new mystery series under a different pen name. Whenever you achieve a goal, you need to set a new goal to strive for. 

With that being said, I had a goal tonight of not taking up too much time. I’ve achieved that goal. So my next goal is to get back to my seat without falling on my face.  Thank you all for listening. 

The ozarks At Large Interview

Written By: Tracy - May• 30•15

The interview I conducted with KUAF for Ozarks At Large went live on Wednesday.  I’m happy to report that I managed to sound fairly intelligent. 

You can hear the clip on their website

I Get To Be Scholarly All Over The Radio

Written By: Tracy - May• 12•15

Talking about these guys.

Sometimes in the name of promoting my work, I get to do really cool things. Including talking about stuff I love. 

Because I wrote an essay for The Comics of Joss Whedon, I went on my local NPR affiliate, Ozarks At Large to talk about Avengers. 

Part of the discussion veered into the history of comics, in which I pointed out that comics weren’t always as squeaky clean as we thought they were.  Before the Comics Code, comic books grew out of pulp fiction.  superman had roots in John Carter of Mars.  Batman has more than a passing resemblance to The Shadow (albeit without guns and with pointy ears instead of a fedora).  It was great to delve into some of the material that I touch on in my essay. 

My only moment of drain brammage was when Kyle Kellams asked me about my other recent work.  I was able to talk about Alternate Hilarities:Vampires Suck.  But because he asked me about recent work, I completely blanked on mentioning that I have a book series out!  So yeah, I meant to menton Tranquility, and completely forgot about it.  

If you want to hear my interview, it will be out tomorrow (Wednesday) on Ozarks at Large at Noon and 7:00 P.M.

 

Eta: due to the multiple elections in the area, my story got pushed out.  Actual news does that from time to time.  But it should air sometime soon.  I’ll post the time when I Know it. 

A Message From the Founder of Mother’s Day: Stop Celebrating Mother’s Day

Written By: Tracy - May• 04•15

 

 You have to feel sorry for Anna Jarvis.  All she wanted to do was honor her mother.  Instead she ended up creating her worst nightmare. 

Like all of us, Anna had a mom, and her mother had big ideas.  Anna’s mother, Ann Marie Reeves Jarvis believed that mothers had the power to make the world a better place. 

As Anna grew up, she watched Ann form social clubs to improve health, medicine and sanitation for children.  During the Civil War, she had the mothers in her clubs pledge to remain friends no matter what side of the conflict they were on.  After the war, she organized a Mother’s Friendship Day to reconcile those divided families. 

When Ann passed on, Anna wanted to honor her.  Her mother had hoped for a day honoring mothers, and Anna thought it was a fitting tribute.  

The first year, Anna had a few friends over to observe the day her mother passed away.  Within six years, President Woodrow Wilson made it a national holiday called Mother’s Day.

Then Anna watched it all go sour. 

She’d intended for the holiday to be an inexpensive observance.  She wanted people to spend time with their mothers, and write letters of thanks.  Instead they started buying cards and candy.  People were making money off of her holiday.  

There is a story in the Bible that Jesus saw businessmen profiteering off of the Temple.  He became so enraged that he flipped over their tables and drove them out. “How dare you turn my father’s house into a den of thieves.”  

 Anna must have felt the same way: how dare you turn my mother’s holiday into a day to make money.

And although Anna had no children of her own, this mother of Mother’s Day started attacking her own “child.”  She filed a lawsuit to stop at least one Mother’s Day festival, and was arrested for disturbing the peace at a war mother’s convention where women sold carnations to raise money.  

In later years, Anna told reporters that she wished she had never started Mother’s Day.  And in a bittersweet ending, she spent her final years in nursing care surrounded by the cards and flowers she hated.  All sent from fans who wanted to thank her for starting Mother’s Day.

Travelogue : Beware the Evil Oil

Written By: Tracy - Apr• 28•15

 

Quapaw Bathhouse

This weekend, for Hubby’s birthday we went to Hot Springs for a day out without the kiddos.  

I’ve been down to Hot Springs maybe a handful of times in my life.  Hubby lived there for two years while he went to the Arkansas School of Math and Sciences (and the arts) (I like to joke that he went to Special School).  

The town is built over a series of – say it with me now – hot springs.  It’s known for it’s bathhouses, and a racetrack that’s all that is left from a time when Hot Springs was the mob-controlled precursor to Las Vegas.  You can literally walk down the street and see water flowing out of the ground in places.  Some of the fountains where it flows actually put out steam in summer. 

We stayed at a Bed and Breakfast known as Breakfast at Tiffany’s, which was located in a log home on secluded acreage with a front porch, porch swing and hummingbirds.  Hubby and I checked in and sat on the swing watching the hummingbirds all afternoon.  Then we found a Cajun restaurant  for dinner out on Lake Hamilton called Cajun Boiler.

DeGray Lake

DeGray Lake

There are several lakes in the region. The next day we drove over to DeGray lake and rented bycicles from the lodge.  We biked all afternoon, then headed into town for dinner. 

Unlike Branson or Vegas, there aren’t a lot of big entertainment shows.  But there is a magic show – Maxwell Blade.  We bought tickets to see him, then looked around the bathhouse row district.  

We went into one of those flavored olive oil places.  This one was called Evil O (olive spelled backwards).  We went in and sampled some of their products, which included food rubs and marinades.  Most of them were excellent, and we might have bought something if not for what I did next. 

I’m not a big fan of spicy things, but hubby gave me a chipotle oil to try.  He tried it first to make sure it wouldn’t be too hot for me. And it wasn’t.  At first. 

Then I swallowed it. 

Jesus wept, ya’ll.  It was bad. 

The Buckstaff Bathhouse

 

I don’t know if I got capsaicin on my vocal chords or what, but it burned.  And then I coughed, and the burning spread all over my throat.  By the third cough, the insides of my ears were on fire.  I stumbled out of the store and my husband and the owner followed, trying to get me to drink water and eat bread.  

Neither helped.  The oil caused the peppery stuff to stick – much like I imagine napalm sticks to things. The water just spread it.  And now it mixed with my mucus.  So just when the fire seemed to be dying down, I’d cough again and unleash a new firey hell on my throat. 

By now, hubby figured that he’d better move me, because seeing me out front of the oil business might drive customers away.  If it did, I’m sorry.  

There was a famous cupcake place next door called Fat Bottom Girls.  (At least, they were on food network).  I asked hubby to get me some milk please.  Did I want a cupcake with that? 

Nosirree Bob.  

Hubby says that’s how he knew I was in a bad way.  I didn’t want a cupcake.  

I drank a 16 oz glass.  It took the whole thing to quench that fire. And for hours after that, I had flare ups if I coughed.  And I was so keyed up that I just wanted to go somewhere and cry for some weird reason.  

Bates Motel

The Bates Motel?

We window shopped a bit longer, then wandered over to Deluca’s pizza, which is located near a motor inn that looks – I swear to Bob – like the Bates Motel. 

If anyone knows what’s up with that, please drop me a note.  

We walked off dinner in the park behind the bathhouses until time for the magic show.  

Hubby was ready to head back, but I wanted Ice Cream (wouldn’t you after a day like that?). We stumbled on Dolce Gelato.  This was my first experience with Gelato.  I’m going to have to pull out the ice cream mixer and experiment. 

We were in a hurry to get back and pick up the kids Sunday, but we made a point to stop at Burl’s Smokehouse in Crystal Springs.  It’s a great place to get sandwiches to go. Particularly on homemade bread. 

 

 

Just in Time for the Avengers!

Written By: Tracy - Apr• 23•15

This is ironic. My last post was about how I don’t watch much TV, and now here I am blogging about a media tie-in project.  Maybe I shouldn’t have stated that I don’t watch much TV.  Instead I’m selective about what I watch.  Yeah. That’s the ticket.

Because Of that sweet, sweet tie in money Avengers coming out, I have a very important announcement ™.  An essay that I wrote comparing and contrasting Dr. Horrible’s Singalong Blog with Watchmen  will be in The Comics of Joss Whedon: Critical Essays. 

My paper is titled “Joss Whedon, Alan Moore and the Whole Horrible Future.”  The collection will be out in the fall from McFarland.  

The details are here: http://www.mcfarlandbooks.com/book-2.php?id=978-0-7864-9885-7

I don’t typically think of myself as an academic, but this is the third pop culture analysis essay that I’ve had published.  The other two were on the shows Alias and Supernatural for Smart Pop books.

A Breakdown of Network Programming: Or, why I don’t watch much TV

Written By: Tracy - Apr• 20•15
These shows all seem to  have something in common. Could it be the marketing?

These shows all seem to have something in common. Could it be the marketing?

I was one of those kids who grew up with a TV on in the house all the time.  So I remember things most people my age don’t, like Carter being president.

So it’s a little surprising that I don’t watch TV.  Not much anyway (if you wave a Marvel superhero in front of me, you can usually get my attention).

By contrast, my husband’s family watches TV all the time.  All. The. Time.  Like, that’s what they do at family gatherings.  Christmas this year was an excuse to binge watch Turn (which is great).

It’s a little ironic, too.  Because my husband is more hypervigilant about how many hours of screen time our kids get.  I’m all: meh.  I have vacuuming to do.  Here child: watch more My Little Pony.

Maybe my lack of TV enthusiasm comes from knowing what my choices are.  The odds that something is on are good, but the goods are a bit odd.

Here is my interpretation of the major networks.

CW: Wangst! Young, hot sexy Wangst!

SyFy: we hate science fiction!

HBO and AMC: we don’t!

SyFy: well dang!

FOX: we’re sorry we killed Firefly! Really, really sorry! If we gave you another season of X-files, would you forgive us?

ABC: think of us as the Disney Channel for grownups.

Disney: We’re basically one big commercial!  Filled with more commercials! How Meta is that?

CBS: get off my lawn you dang kids!

History Channel (circa 1990): that H logo? Stands for Hitler. All Hitler, all the time.

History Channel (today): what history? Have some pawn shops and alligators.

Lifetime: we like to show movies of abused women.  Because that’s empowering.

PBS: Come for Sesame Street, stay for Dr. Who

 

I’d like to have commented on more, but as I mentioned before, I don’t watch that much TV.

 

History Ya’ll : That Time We Misplaced A Founding Father. 

Written By: Tracy - Apr• 13•15

Engraved Portrait Of John Paul JonesSome of the stories around the American Revolution almost have the ring of tall tale legend to them.  One of these was that when John Paul Jones came under fire from the British on the High Seas, they demanded that he surrender. Outmanned and outgunned, he supposedly said: I have not yet begun to fight. 

His life makes for interesting stories, but what happened to John Paul Jones after he died is just as interesting.

In a pickle

After the American Revolution, John Paul Jones served the Russians under Catherine the Great before returning to Paris to once again work with the Americans.  Before he could take up his post – negotiating for the freedom of Americans taken prisoner by Algerian Pirates – he died face down in his bed from kidney failure.

At the time, France was in the midst of the revolution.  Although the French king had yet to be deposed, he and the rest of the aristocracy weren’t very popular.

In this turbulent time, The American minister to France, Gouverneur Morris (no relation to me) didn’t want to draw attention with an elaborate public funeral.  So he asked Jones’s landlord to bury him quietly for as little as possible.

But the commissary whom they applied to for a burial permit was a fan of Jones.  So he offered to pay Jones’s funeral. For a charity funeral in revolutionary France, the commissary paid a princely sum: 462 francs. Approximately three times the cost of an average funeral. 

With this fee, the commissary paid for an expensive lead coffin, and a large quantity of alcohol.  The alcohol essentially pickled Jones’s body, just in case the Americans might ever want to come get it.  

113 years later, the Americans finally decided to do just that. 

The Bored Ambassador

Horace Porter was as close to American aristocracy as one came to in 1897.  His grandfather had been a colonel in the American Revolution, and a founding member of the society of Cincinatti.  His father had been a Governer of Pennsylvania.  

Horace had an Ivy League education, followed by a distinguished military career.  He served under Grant in the Civil war.  Robert E. Lee borrowed his pencil to make notes on his terms of surrender at Appomattox Courthouse.  He was invited by President Lincolon to attend the play at Ford’s theatre in the presidential box (Mary Todd Lincolon was his cousin), but he declined.  (He did a lot of other astounding things, but for the sake of brevity, I won’t touch on them.  Look him up!)

In 1897, president McKinley appointed him as America’s first full ambassador to France. As a foreigner in a strange country, he no doubt needed something to fill the hours in between  state dinners, signing paperwork and reading dispatches.  So when he realized John Paul Jones was buried in Paris, he decided to visit the grave.  (Horace had been the driving force behind finishing Grant’s tomb – and presumably he knew firsthand that grant was buried there).

Except, there was no grave.

The Hunt

When Jones was buried, his few friends in predominantly catholic, Revolutionary France put him in a cemetery for Protestant foreigners.  Then they failed to properly fill out the paperwork.

At the time, the land was the property of the crown.  Sometime later, the French government sold the land.  It became a vegetable garden, then a place for animal fighting matches.  And a dumping ground.  Now the cemetery had a grocery store, laundry and apartments on the land, as well as several wells.

All Horace Porter had to go on was information in a letter sent to Jones’s  family.  It took him six years to find the property.  Then the owners wanted to charge him to dig for the body, figuring that the wealthy US government would pay.  Eventually, Teddy Roosevelt stepped in, securing funds from congress. 

The Find

Workers had to excavate the cemetery working underground – below the buildings.  The work was hot and gruesome.  Workers eventually uncovered five lead coffins.  The third of which was the best made.  This one proved to be Jones’s.  When workers removed the lead, they discovered that the body was so well preserved that the face was still recognizable.  Morticians made a positive ID by comparing the corpse to a life-sized bust of Jones.  **

The Second Funeral

John Paul Jones died a sad, ignoble death.  Most of his friends gave him the brush off.  He died alone and few people went to the funeral.

By contrast, his second funeral would put the more recent funeral of Richard III to shame.  France accorded him full military honors and an escort across the ocean to America.  There multiple cities argued over the right to inter him.  Eventually he was laid to rest in Annapolis, Maryland.  There president Theodore Roosevelt eulogized him.

And at long last, a man who is considered by many to be one of the fathers of the U.S. navy was laid to rest at the Naval Academy Chapel in Annapolis.

And in a strange twist of karma, Gouverneur Morris also died ignobly –  from internal injuries after trying to clear his urinary tract with a piece of whalebone.  He’s buried in an easy to find grave at St. Ann’s church in the Bronx. 

 

** you can actually see photos of his preserved body online if you Google them.  It’s no more graphic than a photo of a mummy in a National Geographic article.  But I won’t post them here, just in case there are kids, or people eating, or kids eating.

In Which I Dust Off My Soapbox

Written By: Tracy - Apr• 07•15

Recently it’s been called to my attention that a certain subset of people out there believe that any woman who has had a C-section isn’t a real mother.  

Now I’ve generally got a very live-and-let live attitude in life.  If you want to go around believing the world is flat, or you want to worship Marduk or wear tinfoil hats because it keeps aliens from reading your thoughts, then I’m content to leave you alone and let you go on your merry way. 

But I’ve had two emergency c-sections.  One for each kid.  So not once, but twice in my life, I tried to squeeze a human being out of my body, labor pains and all, only to be told that if the doctors didn’t rush me into surgery and cut me open, the baby would die and I might too.  

Oh, and if this spinal block dosen’t take effect, they would have to put me to sleep while they did it, and there is a slight chance that I might not wake up. 

Now let me tell you about my week:  the baby started teething the morning of a birthday party, complete with fever.  The three year old had a runny nose.  Both developed into a cold by the end of the sugar-fueled day.  In the course of this week, I’ve spent most nights walking back and forth from each child’s room administering care, and have been thrown up on twice by each child.  

I feel like a real mother.  And if you ask my kids, they’ll tell you that I’m their real, authentic mommy.  

So your opinion does not matter.  

And fair warning: if we ever meet face to face, please make sure I haven’t had a week like this last one before telling me you don’t think I’m a real mother.  Because I will punch you in the throat.