Sunday, November 11, 2012

Interview with a WWII Veteran

I have never been to war and never been a soldier, but I respect those who have. Some of these soldiers sacrificed a few years. Others sacrificed everything, ending up killed, disabled, or forever changed in such a way that life can never be whole again.

I honor that sacrifice and I certainly appreciate the freedoms they have fought for. I might disagree with politicians, and get discouraged by campaign nastiness, but the underlying truth is that our country was built by and still depends on great minds and valiant soldiers.

So on this Veteran's Day, I would like to give thanks to the men, women, and dogs who have served our nation during war and peace and natural disaster.

To remember or veterans, I'd like to reprise an interview I did with my good friend Lawrence Kennon, a WWII veteran. He is still working on his book. It is hard for him sometimes to recount those stories of war -- hard for him to bring back those ghosts and make them come alive again on the page. Hopefully this winter, he and I can hole up with a nice bottle of red wine and finish it up.

Rachelle: Lawrence, you told me you served in WWII. Can you tell me where and when?

Lawrence: 1941 to 1945. European theatre of operations. I was stationed in Great Britain. You need to know that I was in the Army Air Corps. We had no such thing as the air force then. General Hap Arnold organized the Air Corp as part of the army and I was in the heavy bombardment...4 engine bombers. He saw the need for air power during the war. We didn't have any and he saw the need for it, so he worked with Pres. Roosevelt and organized the Air Corps which later became the Air Force.
Lawrence Kennon - Air Corps
Rachelle: Can you tell me a little about your role there?

Lawrence: Our main task overseas ...or main orders were...we flew up into the North Sea from Great Britain and flew around in the North Sea and jammed the German radar...that was our main task. We had to fight fighters off so that our other planes could go in and bomb them. I didn't know that until later -- the details, that is. I just knew we were jamming their radar. You see, we had the Norton bomb site to let us drop bombs acurately, but the Germans had it too. It was highly secret, but they had it. All they did was reverse it and they could shoot us down just like we could bomb them.

Rachelle: That sounds dangerous. Which mission do you remember most?

Lawrence: We went down into Germany. The orders were to bomb a little town – Dresden, I think it was. We came back out..well...we thought we were clear...but we were shot down with anti-aircraft fire. We abandoned the plane, jumped out in parachutes, went into the North Sea and I was picked up by Air Sea rescue, which was stationed in France. They took me back to France and kept me a couple days out, then sent me back to Great Britain, where they assigned me to another crew...another plane.

I shall never forget Air Sea Rescue's code name that day was Colgate. We used words like Colgate, Pepsodent, Lucky Strike, Camels. But I remember the code name that day was Colgate.
There were 8 crew members that day. Seven of us were picked up. We never knew what happened to the 8th. He was a good boy. A friend.
Rachelle: Do you want to talk more about the war, or should we talk about your trip to Washington?
Lawrence Kennon - Now
Lawrence: Let's talk about the trip. The trip to Washington, for me, was a real experience. It was really a good trip. It was organized by a group called Honor Tour.
Rachelle: Was it all WWII vets?
Lawrence: Yes, but from different branches. Our group met in Poplar Bluff and we rode a coach to St. Louis, where we boarded a plane that flew us to Baltimore. From Baltimore, we took a coach again to Washington DC. They put us up in the Drury Motel, fed us all our meals and Saturday we spent the day visiting the different memorials. I was impressed with all of them, but mostly with the World War II memorial. It's really a fabulous thing – 50 columns, each named after one of the states. IT has 40,000 gold stars...each star represents 100 people who lost their life. That's a lot of people, isn't it? *shakes head sadly* War is obscene.

It's built in 4 sections, Pacific on one side and Atlantic on the other. There are eagles on each section...I think there were 4...they weigh 2 ton a piece. Can you imagine that? Each state's name is on a column with a big wreath.
The other thing that impressed me tremendously was FDR memorial. That one is built in 4 sections, each representing a term inoffice. I think that's why I was impressed with it. That was my time. He died while I was in Great Britain fighting, so he was my president. The other thing that was really fascinating was the Navy museum...all of the navy from the beginning up until the present day. Every school student should have to go through that. *chuckles*
Rachelle: What made you smile on your trip?

Lawrence: *grins* There was a 3-star general who had served in Afghanistan. He was due to go back again soon. He asked me why we wore off hats tilted off to one side. I said, "It's because that's the way the ladies like them." He chuckled at that.
Another funny thing was when I saw a lady and her husband. She was British -- I could tell that by her accent -- and she asked me where and when I had served. I said "A little town called Tring." Her husband said "That's where we live. Right by the runway." Can you imagine that?
Rachelle: What was the most moving experience of your trip?
Lawrence: We watched the changing of the guard at Arlington Cemetery is very moving...very impressive. Those soliders who do that...they devote their entire life to bein absolutely spotless and perfect. They change the wreath on the unknown soldier.
Rachelle: It sounds like you enjoyed your trip.
Lawrence: It was a great trip for me. *touches heart* I've been carrying some ghosts around with me all this time...50, 60 years. I finally left those behind. Some of my friends who died over there...I never could bury them. This trip, I did. When I went to Arlington Cemetery, that's when I really...really I don't know how to say it. I just accepted the fact that my friends had died and that was it. I had closure on it. I buried them. I'm grateful I had that chance.
Rachelle: I am too. Lawrence, thank you for sharing your experiences with us. I hope more veterens are able to go on the Honor Tour. They deserve it!

Although Lawrence is still working on his book, if you or someone you know, would like to learn more about World War II, my friend K.F. Kirwin has compiled a book of her father's photographs taken during the war. Like Lawrence, he was a pilot, although I don't think they ever knew each other. Unlike Lawrence, Kitty's father was never able to talk about his ghosts, so many of the people in the photos are unidentified. Kitty would love to hear from anyone who recognizes people in the photos.
Let's also keep in mind that dogs serve bravely too. Although they don't understand the politics, the borders, or the religious differences of the those they are fighting for, vs. those they fight against, they work hard, face danger, and deserve our thanks. Here is another link to a book my mother recommended -- and one that she helped provide to school libraries. It's about a military dog named Rex and it is one of the best books I've read this year.  I plan to do a full review of it down the road...but why wait for the full review?  It's available in Kindle, paperback, and hardback editions.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Thankful for my Readers

Our Coffin Hop winner is Penelope Crowe. Please contact us by sending a DM to @RachelleReese or sending an email so we can get you the Trick or Treat bag. 
It's Thankful Thursday, so I'd like to give thanks to all the Coffin Hop participants and everyone who stopped by. And especially, to all of you who took the time to download our free Kindle offerings. I hope you enjoy them. Please remember, to write a review. We are extending our review policy to all our books -- write an honest review, let me know where you posted it and how to contact you, and I'll send you a coupon for a free ebook.'s what you all accomplished and what we're thankful for as we welcome in November.

Bones of the Woods hit #3 in the Kindle Short Stories category. This is our first time ever in the Amazon Top 10 list, so we are thrilled.
The Reunion hit #32 in the Kindle Contemporary Fantasy category.
And our latest book, High Rollers hit #45 in the Kindle Contemporary Fantasy category.

It was a fantastic week..and it was nice being airborne. I'd also like to thank this hawk for posing for a few pictures, even though he had his eye on a chicken dinner (which he did not get, by the way). 

And remember...if you have not read my story The Big Hill, you still can. It's in the America's Next Author contest, so I would appreciate your vote.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Ride the Ghost Train with Regan #coffinhop

The journey began on the Dime Store Novel blog at the Black Cat, a little joint near the train station. Regan Worth and Hanover Fist are waiting there for you. Well, at least they should be waiting. Sometimes Regan runs a little late so we might as well take a few moments to talk about some business before you go. (If you're already on the train, you can pick up the story as they get on the train or after the champagne shows up.)

Black Cat
First, the free stuff. We are going back in time. Today and Halloween, we giving away the Kindle edition of our first short story collection, Bones of the Woods.

Next, the contest. We have a trick-or-treat bag full of goodies. Each day, we'll reveal one of the goodies. At the end of the coffin hop, there will be one goodie that will be a surprise. And it will stay a surprise because on the last day, we'll announce the winner.  How do you win? By entering as many times as you can. To enter, leave a comment with your email address on this blog and/or on the Dime Store Novel blog. You can enter each day of the tour, on both blogs.

And the first prize in the trick-or-treat bag is.....
a signed copy of Rips in the Weave. You can read where it all the swamps.

Prize number 2 - A pair of six-sided dice. If you've read High Rollers, you'll know their significance. Just hope they don't roll snake-eyes too often.

Prize number 3 - a tube of lipstick. Yes, it's another plot item from our latest book, High Rollers. But warning-- if you put it on, we are not responsible for what happens.

Prize number 4 - an ebook coupon for Mind of a Mad Man. Some of the stories in it will make your blood curdle. Others are just plain ghostly.

Prize number 5 - a rock. But not just any rock -- a genuine piece of Missouri tiff, as featured in the "The Bones in the Forest", the first story in Bones in the Woods. least we're not giving away a bone.

Prize number 6 - a handmade mojo bag to keep the evil spirits away. But remember, it only works if you keep the herbs in it fresh. After all these years, Hanover still hasn't learned that.


My story The Big Hill is in America's Next Author contest. I'd really appreciate if you'd read, review, and vote for it.

There are a lot of fabulous writers on the Coffin Hop...and lots of treats to be had. So make sure to visit as many stops as you can.

And most importantly, have a SCREAMING FUN (but safe) HALLOWEEN!

Now, head on over to the Black Cat. I'm sure Regan and Hanover are getting anxious to get going.


Monday, October 22, 2012

High Rollers - Released for Kindle

To celebrate Halloween, we are releasing High Rollers, the first book in the Dime Store Novel series to feature Regan Worth, the daughter of Jazz pianist and bootlegger, Blazing Fingers Worth.
Regan Worth
Halloween is an apt time to release a book about Regan because she has the ability to see and talk to ghosts. Regan is a wild party girl, so some people think the ghosts she sees are drug-induced. But Regan knows better -- she's been seeing ghosts since she was 5.

When High Rollers begins, Regan is an adult -- still living with Daddy, but then he pays the bills. He also lays down the rules and he tells her she can only attend the christening of a new riverboat casino if Hanover Fist accompanies her. Regan is not happy, but she pays Hanover to accompany. On the riverboat, strange events occur and Regan runs into a gangster who has a keen romantic interest in her. When a jazz singer is murdered, Regan finds herself in need of Hanover's help once again.

Although High Rollers is the 6th Dime Store Novel, it is a story in its own right. Therefore, you can pick up the series here and go back and read about the rest of the characters. We hope you will. In fact, if you review High Rollers, we will send you a coupon for one of the earlier Dime Store Novel ebooks.
To celebrate the release of High Rollers, Regan will be leading a ghostly tour through some haunted areas during Coffin Hop. Coffin Hop runs from 10/24 through 10/31. During this time, we will be giving away all sorts of goodies. We'll also have a drawing for a trick-or-treat bag filled with fun prizes.
And don't forget -- you can still read and vote for The Big Hill in America's Next Author contest.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Thankful for Frost

I know what you're saying...thankful for FROST?  Can't you just enjoy this nice autumn weather and leave frost out if it for a month or so?

Actually, we had our first frost here in Southeastern Missouri about a week ago. It was a light frost and most of the tender plants survived it. A few days later, our cow Pierrot gave birth to a calf. She is lavender with a white face, just like her mama.

Frost and Pierrot
We tossed around a few names -- Snowball, Snowflake, Lavender Girl -- but we decided on Frost. She's a strong, playful calf and we are thankful for that.

Of course, I AM enjoying the fall colors. And I am thankful these high winds have not blown them away. Here's a picture of one of my favorite fall colors.
And here's kind of an impressionistic view of the our hillside this morning.
Here's a picture of the cows waiting for breakfast. The trees behind them are brilliant in the morning sun. But I'm not sure the cows care. One thing for sure though...they were thankful to see John open the bag of grain. Cows are always thankful for breakfast. By the way...that's Princess in the foregound. She's Frost's grandmother and one of our oldest cows.
I'm also thankful for everyone who has read, voted for, tweeted about, and shared my story The Big Hill, which is entered in the America's Next Author contest. Please read the story, if you haven't.  And remember...coffin hop starts NEXT WEEK! We have lots of  hauntingly fun blogs, prizes, and freebies planned, so stop by. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Inspiration - The Big Hill

A lot of readers ask what inspires a story, a scene, a character. For me, inspiration comes from a lot of different places -- usually something totally random. Not all the inspirations make it into stories right away. But sometimes they do. Such is the case with The Big Hill, the story that is currently entered in the America's Next Author's contest.

I got the inspiration for The Big Hill after a day of sledding down the hill we coincidentally call The Big Hill. There's a reason we call it that -- it's big and it's fast. Here's a clip from one such sled ride. John is standing midway down the hill. That's our dog Hooch trying to outrun the sled.

After a few hours of going down The Big Hill, John and I walked back to the house -- exhausted, but exhilirated. He said, "I hope we're still doing this when we're ninety."

We held hands and walked the rest of the way home, laughing about our ride, the idea for The Big Hill already blossoming in my mind.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Thankful for Autumn Mornings

It's Thankful Thursday. What a great idea -- a reason in the middle of the week to stop and express thanks. Today I'm thankful for so many things.  Mickey's bloodtest came out great. His remission is stable. All our pets and farm animals are healthy and happy -- I give thanks for that every day. And autumn is here at last. I'm also thankful that my story "The Big Hill" was accepted into the America's Next Author contest. This is especially exciting because you can read my short story for free and comment on it. I love to hear what readers think.  I'll be talking a little more about my inspiration for The Big Hill in a later blog. But since it's Thankful Thursday, I want to talk about how thankful I am that I get to take a walk each morning in this beautiful world and I want to share a part of that walk with you.

As we walked up the dirt road this morning to the farm, the sun was beginning to peak through the trees. The leaves are just starting to turn here, so there are hints of yellow, red, and a touch of orange. The sun rays made the leaves glow even more, especially when in burst through in all its glory.
I hear those rays are called God Rays by videographers and photographers and I can see why because they brush a bit of magic onto everything they touch.
After we fed the cows, we were ready to head into the woods.

 Some trees are further along in their autumn journey than others. Here's a bit of nice red.

Part way down the trail, the sun joined us once again to light up the gorgeous autumn colors.
I hope you enjoyed taking a walk with me this fine autumn morning. What are you thankful for today?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Mickey's Celebration Lunch

Those who have been following the Dime Store Novel blog  or @RagabashGirl on Twitter know that one of our dogs, Mickey, has been fighting lymphoma.  Today Mickey celebrated his 2nd cancer-free month. He went to the local vet for his monthly check-up and bloodwork. We decided to treat him to lunch at Famiglia's, a Farmington restaurant that has outdoor seating and welcomes canine guests. It was a beautiful day for lunch al fresco.

Steve made Mickey some fettucini with a little hamburger. Mickey sat on my lap and slurped it down. He even shared a bit of our spinach-artichoke dip with crostini.
As you can see, Mickey enjoyed it immensely. 

Of course, we enjoyed our lunch too. John had the Italian Truffle Ravioli, a new item on the menu, and I had today's special -- a grilled chicken sandwich with carmelized onions, bacon, and smoked gouda. It was tasty. We are thankful for each day of Mickey's remission. Read what other pals and people are thankful for. What are you thankful for this week? Join the Thankful Thursday blog hop.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

When Life Gives You Lemons - Helping a Friend

"When life give you lemons, make lemonade." It's a phrase a lot of us heard uttered by our parents or grandparents. Well, that's fine, if you have enough sugar to balance the tartness. Unfortunately, sometimes the tart outweighs the sweet and you find yourself needing a little help from your friends -- or even from strangers.

Francy and her dogs
Such is the case for my friend Francy Dickinson. Like me, Francy is an indie author. You might know her by her @SeniorCareTips handle or by tweeting with her dogs @MissBusyBiz and @Kirbee_Dude. You might follow her Senior Care Tips blog -- and if you have seniors in your life, you will find some very helpful tips there. Or, you might not have heard of her at all. If not, I hope you take the chance to get to know her.

I took that chance in May 2011, when I was introduced to her on Twitter and invited to join the @WritersThatChat group. I'm happy I did. Francy is a bright, compassionate person with a lot of really fun stories and experiences. Although her lemons are many -- her husband George, whom she dearly loves, is suffering from Alzheimer's -- she approaches life with vigor and good spririts. She is there for me in my sorrow and my joy. She is always there for everyone who knows her.

George, a veteren reading
My Dad’s Pictures From WWII
by K.F. Kirwin
Unfortunately, life threw Francy another lemon -- one she doesn't have enough sugar left to sweeten up alone. Francy, George, Missy, and Kirbee are losing their home. They will have to move, which will be very bad for George. Fortunately, a family friend is willing to pay first months' rent, plus deposit. But, as anyone who has moved knows, it'll take a lot more than that.

To help Francy meet expenses, her anipal friends are hosting #PinkPawty on October 3rd from 5 PM to 9 PM EST. If you've never been to an anipal party before, they are a lot of fun -- music, dancing, giveaways, virtual food and beverage, and lots of antics by the anipals. My tweeting dog @RagabashGirl will be spinning discs from 5:30 until 6:30. I have also posted a Chip-In link in the margin of this page.

If you want to learn more about Francy and her plight, PepiSmartDog wrote a fantastic article on his site.

Oh...and Rags says, she will take advance requests only -- to hard to find discs and dance at the same time. So if you'd like to hear anything special at the #PinkPawty, comment here.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Farm Stories - A Calf Named Autumn

Most of my family and old friends can't believe I live on a farm. You see, I was the consummate city girl in high school and college. I loved the nightlife -- good restaurants, sophisticated bars, nightclubs, theater, concerts, and poetry readings. I loved the nightlife so much, I seldom spent a night at home.

Fast forward to 2000. John and I decided to leave suburban St. Louis and move out to some land we'd bought in the country, adjoining his parents' farm. At first life was much less stressful. No traffic, no nosy obnoxious neighbor complaining that our dog barked too loud. Of course, the pace was hard to get used to. Out here in the boondocks, people don't keep time the same way they do in the city. "In a while" might mean hour or a week. That first year, it drove me nuts, especially as June turned to July and our air conditioning was not yet installed. But the endless songs of nature right outside my open office door made the waiting worth it -- whippoorwills, frogs, crickets -- sounds I'd never heard in the city. Poetry I never would have heard if we hadn't moved to the forest.

Our first attempt at farming was raising chickens and ducks. I laughed at the tiny baby ducks swimming in the guest bathroom tub -- well, of course they needed to swim and what better place? They were too tiny to take outside in the cold.

Autumn - born 9/25/12
After John's Dad passed away in 2004, we inherited the cattle -- a small herd of around 15 head of beef cattle, depending on the time of year and how many calves have been born. Raising cattle was a whole new adventure -- and a lot of work. But one of the happiest moments is seeing a newborn healthy calf. I'd like to share this moment with you.

Meet Autumn. She was born on Tuesday, probably sometime in the wee hours of dawn. When we went up to feed the cattle at 7:30 AM, our dog Max found the afterbirth in the field. That was our first indication that Autumn had been born. Her mama Resurrection (how she got her name is another story for another day...suffice it to say, she was born around Easter), brought her up to show her off.

Autumn and John
She's a calm calf too. A lot of calves are skittish around people. Not autumn. She let John walk right up to her and pet her. Of course, about that time, she cried out for her mama. We had a moment of panic -- where was Resurrection and the rest of the herd? Our cows sometimes like to escape if they can find an opening, and there had been storms the night before.

John called -- sooop! Which is how he calls them up for grain. Autumn cried out again. Fortunately, it wasn't long before we heard Resurrection holler back and all the cows came winding up the hillm expecting a treat. They hadn't been out at all. They'd just been down the hill grazing.

Did your life take an unexpected turn? Are you doing something your friends and family would never have imagined you doing?
Leave a comment and tell your story. And let us know -- would you like to hear more stories about our life on the farm?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Remembering 9/11 -- and how lucky I was

Some say the events of 9/11/2001 shaped America in the 21st century -- and even the world. I can't say those people are wrong. What I do know is that, looking back on that day 11 years ago, I was a different person. And, I realized later, a very lucky one.

I learned about the planes striking the Twin Towers when my sister-in-law called. I was hard at work on a proposal to write a course about Windows XP. When she told me, I thought she was pulling my leg. But then I went up on the Internet and saw the footage of the first strike. She wanted me to go up and be with my mother-in-law because she didn't want her to be alone when she heard the news -- my father-in-law was still alive, but was out in the woods. Instead, I sent John up to tell his mother and I called my mother.

We live in Missouri and my Mom lived in California. When I called her, she had just woken up and hadn't heard. I remember sitting on my back porch, looking out into the peaceful woods, and telling her. "Mom, we're going to war."

She said, "What do you mean?"

I said, "We've been attacked. How can we not go to war?" Now, I was a pacifist -- I still am. But I couldn't imagine any other response to an attack on American soil.

She asked, "Attacked?  By who?" Although my mother had lived through more wars than I had, she had only been a young child the last time America was attacked.

"They're not saying. But I think it was Osama Bin Laden." How did I know that? I didn't. I had just read an article about Muslim extremists and Bin Laden. It had stuck in my head.

We talked for awhile...I talked to a lot of people that day. Friends, family, even a Pakistani coworker because I was worried about how people would treat him. He was a person just like me...regardless of his religious beliefs or where he was from.

The eeriest thing I remember was the next day. The day of silence. My brother-in-law and I drove to St. Louis to present our proposal for the Windows XP course. On a typical day, a number of planes fly overhead. You never notice them. That day I noticed the lack of them.

We didn't get that project and money was tight that fall. But sometimes projects fall through for a reason. Another project had fallen through during the summer -- a project that would have put me at JP Morgan on 9/11/2001.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Drama Days - and more to come

I've always been a drama geek. I acted in plays during high school and even went back after graduating to write and direct a melodrama. A few years ago John and I wrote and produced a mystery dinner theater production called The Soul Solicitor. I played the mourning widow -- and, of course, one of the suspects.
The Cast of The Soul Solicitor

The play was about zombies back before zombies were cool. Our zombies dressed like clowns. Everyone had fun, but the highlight was when my friend, Katie Miller, who played the neighborhood busy body, leaned over confidentially and told me that Kevin (one the zombies) had flipped off a preacher.  Come to find out, it was only an exercise in counting. Kevin's character was supposed to be missing a finger. When the preacher asked him how many years he'd worked for the company where the murder took place, Kevin held up his index finger and his middle finger. The preacher said "Didn't your index finger get bit off by the dog?" So, wanting to correct his lapse in character, Kevin lowered his index finger. Voila...the bird.

Anyway, the preacher found it all very funny. Everyone laughed. No hard feelings.

So I guess it's fitting that after writing a couple of short story collections, we decided to create a podcast. We started Shadow Realms. Click here to subscribe to the RSS feed.

Each episode is approximately 30 minutes long, so it's great for lunch hour relaxation. Right now, we have recorded versions of several of our short stories. We will soon also have excerpts from some Dime Store Novel books.

Speaking of audio and dramatization. We're thinking about creating dramatized audio books of the Dime Store Novel series. If we did, would you give them a listen? Let us know what you think.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Playmaking for Girls -- an inspiration

Today I came across an article about how Synchonicity Theater, a non-profit group in Atlanta, Georgia, has been running a workshop called Playmaking for Girls. The workshop is held at detention centers and group homes. Girls who have ended up in these places for all sorts of reasons spend a week writing, directing, and acting in a play.

This is inspiring to me on so many levels. It encourages self-expression through the arts, gives the girls a reason to improve their reading, writing, and public speaking skills, and instills self-esteem where there might have been only self-doubt.

I am a firm believer in art as a gateway to the soul. Art can soothe. Art can inform. Art can elevate. Kudos to the Synchronicity Theater and the women who devote the time to running these workshops and encourage these girls to express their souls through art.

Learn more about Playmaking for Girls.
Learn more about Synchronicity Theater.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Learning to Quilt

Last Mother's Day, I traveled to California to visit my Mom. While I was there, we talked about her quilting projects. She had a lot of them -- so many she worried she'd never finish them all. She had been diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis (a smoker's disease, although she'd never smoked). I helped her with one of the quilts, a very detailed Christmas quilt, by ironing the patterns onto the fabric. I was careful to make sure the pattern in the fabric followed the piece it would represent. The stripes slanted so that they appeared to twist around the candy cane. The horse's mane flowed in the direction it should.
A few weeks later, she told me she'd finished the square we'd built together. She was pleased with how it had turned out.

When she passed away a few days later, I promised myself I would finish what she'd started. In the week following her funeral, I realized just how daunting that task would be. I chose half a dozen projects and brought them home with me. The Christmas quilt is too complex for a beginner, but my goal is to finish it someday.

Part of the border -- my Mom's work
About a month passed. The projects sat packed in the suitcase. Eventually, I brought myself to begin. I chose an appliqué project -- a Halloween quilt for my niece. My Mom had already completed the borders. All I had to do was complete the center piece, stitch it together and quilt it.

Another part of the border - my Mom's work
My Mom had already partially appliquéd the cape, so I finished sewing it on, struggling to make my stitches disappear the way hers did. She had left a scrap of paper with the words "Witch's hat," on the table near her bed,  so that's where I went next. I dug through the fabric and realized I had not brought home the fabric for the hat's brim -- perhaps Mom had not even chosen it yet --  so I visited the local quilt store and chose a fabric. When I started to pin the hat onto the fabric, I realized the cape was not angled correctly. Lesson 1: Even Mom didn't always get things right the first time. It turned out to be a valuable lesson.

I unsewed the cape, repositioned it and appliquéd again. This time my stitches were better too. I added the hat. As I stitched around the tricky curves, I could almost hear my Mom's voice directing me in how to take the corners, how to make the points lie flat.

Hat and face
Now it was time for the arms and face. The face required embroidery. A skill she'd taught me many years ago. I was surprised how easily the rhythm of the stitching came back to me.

The skirt and legs were easy. As I stitched, I thought about my Mom...the things we'd shared over the years, her beautiful smile when she saw me in May, the twinkle that never ever left her eyes. Those thoughts made me sad and happy all at once.

The bodice - satisfied at last
The bodice gave me fits. I sewed and unsewed three times before we were satisfied with how it lay. After the second time, I let it sit on the ironing board for a week. It was close enough, I told myself. If I keep unsewing I'll never finish. Last night, I unpicked the stitches, laid it out again and sewed. At last, I've got it right. I'm satisfied and so is Mom. I still need to add the bra, but the framework's there. I'm ready to move on, with the quilt at least.
The witch so far