Today’s guest is Pat Crumpler, a triple threat creative who’s elementals are Earth and Water as she loves the mountains and the oceans, something reflected in her three book FINS AND FABLES series, no doubt.
I’d like everyone to stand up and give Pat Crumpler a big round of applause for taking part in our exciting adventure.
Pat is an artist – she has a BA in Fine Arts and a MS Educational Media and has illustrated children’s books – a speculative fiction author – she’s won eight Royal Palm Literary awards – and she also writes romance and science fiction. In her own words, “I write what the muse directs!”
Her books include BENEVOLENCE from First Realm Publishers, the FINS AND FABLES children’s three book series, an adult fantasy, SORROW SONG, and an anthology, DETECTIVES, SPIES, AND WEIRDOS, with Carpewordum. In her free time she’s had fifteen short stories published in various anthologies.
Pat and I talked about the power of mountains and oceans, music in the creative process, the muse as slavedriver (but never seek reparations), living in two places at once (almost. Kind of), the fun of writing romances, romance writing guidelines, meeting, fighting, meeting again, black moments, cons, getting agents, going with a Big 5 publisher, princes and princesses not recognizing each other and more.
Pat’s CarpeWordum blog
An excerpt from Pat Crumpler’s Spiritual Adviser (an unpublished romantic paranormal novel now in “finals” at Florida Writers Association’s Royal Palm Literary Awards competition. If Pat wins an award, it might help a publisher look at her book. So get out there and vote! Vote like you’re in Chicago; early and often!)
Somewhat unnerved by Miles’s remark, she mentally mapped out her day. First stop would be the bank to deposit Keith’s monthly check. She would have to ask him to have it electronically transferred the next time she talked to him. Then on to the library. She wanted to use the ancestry program to check for obituaries. Perhaps she could find out more about Timothy and Christopher Cisco. After that, she needed to stop at the grocery store.
The Maryland Alliance Bank on Broad Street didn’t have a guard. That struck her funny considering the evil lurking in the nooks and crannies of the town. I guess this town’s brand of evil doesn’t include robbery.
Standing third in line, she hardly noticed the small woman in front of her.
The woman turned around and smiled at her. “Good to see you again, Jennifer.”
Jen strained her memory for recognition. The lady with dark hair streaked with gray, wearing a suit with black and white checks did look familiar. Zelda Silverstein—the current Madame Zelda.
“Hi, Zelda. I didn’t recognize you out of uniform.”
“Uniform. That’s cute. So, how’s things?”
Jen smiled. “You’re the Seer.”
Zelda grabbed Jen’s hand and peered upon it. “Yes, it’s all here. Your existence takes twists and turns daily.” She lowered her voice to almost a whisper. “And your sex life sucks.”
“Wow. Maybe you do have the gift.”
“Nah. I say that to everyone. It fits most people. Even me, especially the sex life part.”
Oh, no. Here we go again with Zelda’s lack of action.
“Don’t worry. I’m not going to bore you with my lackluster love lustings.”
“Wow, maybe you do have the gift!”
“Next!” the cashier called out. Zelda took her turn at the window.
When Zelda concluded her transaction, she waited for Jen to come to the counter. “I like you. Lee likes you, too. Come see me. How about today?”
Jen handed the cashier her check and deposit slip. “Today? I’ll check with my social secretary. She closed her eyes and opened them. Okay. Secretary says I can fit you in, say… lunch-ish. How’s that?”
“Sounds great. Eat before you come. The Great Zelda doesn’t cook. See you.”
Zelda left the bank speaking to practically everyone on her way out.
Having completed the first chore on her list for the day, she focused on Number Two which turned into a bust because the library’s computers were down. A geeky techno-nerd hovered over the main computer while two library workers hovered over him. There was no sign of the Library Empress.
With extra time on her hands, she filled her car with gas, and then browsed through the Goodwill store searching for affordable cashmere sweaters. What had been fun hunting while married to Keith might well turn out to be an action of need now. Good thing she had the experience. No cashmere, Ralph Lauren, or Donna Karan. Jen felt amazed at the lack of necessities in this thrift store. At least she managed to bag an apparently unused pair of black Bally pumps for $7.99. After a visit to The Finger, she headed for Zelda’s house.
Zelda, now in her official uniform, let Jen in. “What can the Great Zelda do for you?”
“You invited me.”
“Right. While you conduct your Hampton Family Tree search, maybe I can save you some time and give you something you won’t find on ancestry software.”
“How do you know I’m searching the Hampton Family?”
“I’m the Seer, remember? Also, the young library clerk lives next door and I asked her what you were doing. Didn’t Lee warn you about me being nosey?”
“He didn’t use that term, exactly.”
“Don’t I just love that man. If I was forty years younger….mmmm. What are you looking for?”
“I want to know about Miles Hampton’s wife and children after, you know…”
“After his demise? I’ve already told you what I know about Virginia and her children after the explosion. Why do you care?”
“I want to find out about the family. What happened to his kids and the kids after that. I saw a picture of Virginia and Miles. I’m curious. I care. And, I agree with your Grandmother. Miles couldn’t have done those things.”
“You base your feelings about his guilt on an old photo?”
“That, and,” Jen put her hand in the middle of her chest. “What I feel here.”
“What will you do with the information? Write a juicy expose or magazine article? You aren’t going to invite a television crew to film your house and claim ghosties?”
“Zelda,” Jen said, with a small crack in her voice. She shuddered. Ghosthunters. “No.”
“Nah. I didn’t think so. I trust you. Based on what I feel,” Zelda put her hand in the middle of her sagging breasts, “here. But I can’t see what good it will do to know the history of people long gone.”
“For my own satisfaction. I look at the furniture that Virginia probably picked out. I wonder who ordered the stained glass window designs. Who choose the Mansard roof? Whose idea created the overlapping oval slate shingles? Lots of little reasons. You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to. I can research and maybe find out bits of information. But since you offered, it might be more fun to hear it from you.”
“Didn’t Lee warn you not to pay attention to what I told you?”
Jen couldn’t hold back the smile. “Of course he did. But I think there might be a few nuggets of truth in your tales.”
“More than nuggets, sweetie. I know stuff that’ll knock your socks. Want some tea? I don’t mind cooking tea.”
“Yes, please. Uhm, regular tea, right?”
“Hmmmm. I might throw a dash of something in mine, but your cup’ll be straight up.”
Jen waited at the table covered with the sun, moon, and stars cloth. She heard Zelda moving in the kitchen. Before long, the kettle whistled and shortly thereafter Zelda came in with a tray. Next to the cups sat a plate of Oreo cookies. “I guess Zelda, Gifted Seer, doesn’t bake, either” said the invisible secretary.
The two gals sipped the tea quietly. Zelda pulled her Oreos apart, licked the filling and dunked the cookie wafers. Jen envied Zelda’s joie de vivre. Jen accepted the thought of being wonky, but couldn’t bring herself to enjoy Oreos like that in front of someone else.
After Zelda cleared the dishes, she came back to the table with a shoebox. “Jeezy had an advantage over the other youngsters in town in as much as her daddy was the town’s photographer. He developed pictures for the newspaper, too. You might enjoy some of these images.”
Zelda dumped out the box on the tablecloth. As Jen picked them up one at a time, the Gifted Seer sorted through and selected a handful of pictures. She put two wide-angle photos aside.
Jen turned over each photograph Zelda selected and read the captions aloud. “Town Hall. Library. High School. Police Department. Stanton Owings, Police Chief. Railroad Station, Ratterlee Buggy Factory. Factory! Is this the factory?”
“Yep. Look at this one.” Zelda held a photo of a teenage girl, her long flaxen sausage curls tumbling over her shoulder. A lovely cameo centered the neck of a pin-tucked blouse. Unlike other images, this young lady smiled at the camera.
Jen took it and turned it over. “Oh. Zelda Rothberg. She’s beautiful.”
Zelda nodded slowly. Then she handed Jen another photo. The young man, clean shaven, had bright eyes and golden hair. A slight smile bespoke his inner nature.
Jen didn’t have to turn it over. “Miles.”
“Jeezy helped her father in the dark room. She produced a lot of these pictures herself secretly from the glass negatives. She told me a lot about her life, and gave me her stash of pictures.” Pointing to the two wide photos she gave a mild whistle. “Check these out.”
Jen held the first one, a baseball team. Her eyes followed a hand-drawn arrow. Miles stood proud in this uniform, just as handsome as the newspaper photo of him in his police squad. The second wide-angle shot showed a group of young men, stripped down in he-man undershirts and work pants digging what could have been a basement. Perhaps a photo for the newspaper, the caption on the back said, “Young men volunteer their services in building the new Presbyterian Church.” Taking a magnifying glass from Zelda, Jen saw the image close-up, revealing Miles’s rounded, muscled shoulders rippling as he pushed a shovel into the turned earth. The invisible secretary gave Jen a shove. “Ooh, ooh, Miles! You brawny, strapping cutie, you.”
Jen cleared her expression, lest she be caught drooling, but she knew the Seer understood. “Do you think we’ll find photos of Miles’s children?”
“Some of them.”
“Uh, what do you mean by that?”
“Got your socks on tight?”
Zelda left the room and came back with an old Whitman’s Sampler box. “Jeezy excelled in her studies, but when she turned seventeen her grandfather in New York sent for her. The story was she went to help with their fur business because some of the relatives got the flu. She dropped out of school and came home a year later. Jeezy really went to New York to have her child.”
Jen sucked in air making the sound, “Auuhhhh! Miles’s baby!”
Zelda nodded. “She broke up with Miles while she stayed with the relatives.” She opened candy box showed folded, yellowed letters.
Zelda held up one letter. “Miles would have done the right thing, but Jeezy knew it would have ruined him. He couldn’t have succeeded in any career with the reputation of moral turpitude and she doubted he would have converted to Judaism. So, Grandma sent Miles a ‘Dear John’ saying, she wished to break up their relationship. Would you like to read Miles’s reply?”
Jen read the letter. Words written in the calligraphic style of the day, bespoke of his love for the young woman. No begging, for she knew Miles wouldn’t beg, but the letter told of his disappointment and the advice to think it over. “Poor Miles.”
“My grandmother knew she couldn’t keep her little Emma so she let her aunt’s neighbors–a childless couple, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Caulfield adopt the baby.” Zelda riveted her eyes on Jen for a moment.
The name sunk in. “Caulfield! As in Johnny Caulfield?”
“The very same. Jeezy returned to Livonia and helped her father in the studio while he searched for a suitable husband. One day a new young lady came into town and had her portrait done. As soon as Jeezy met her, she knew Virginia Carvelle would be perfect for Miles.”
Zelda shuffled through the photos and handed Jen a three-quarters view of another young lady.
Jen had seen that face before. “Virginia.” She turned the photo and read, “High School Graduation, 1888.” “She’s pretty. I like the pose.”
“Jeezy called it right on. Miles fell like a brick and they married. Meanwhile, Granny got her own man. A new photo emerged from the pile. “Here, look at this.”
The picture showed lovely young Zelda and an older, obese, bearded man. Jen turned the back. “Zelda and Abraham Zeigler, Wedding Day. Oooh, poor Zelda! He’s old, and gross.”
“But,” the Gifted Seer said, “in those days the list of men who would marry a fallen girl had to be a short one. Abe’s wife had died, his children grown, and he had a good profession, a pharmacist. He had enough money to provide well. Jeezy said he was nice to her, gave her more freedom than a lot of other women.”
Another photo of Zelda, Abraham and two children came from the stack for Jen’s inspection.
“Jeezy did what good wives do and gave Abe a few more kids.” The modern-day Zelda touched the picture over the girl’s head. “That’s my mother, Sylvia. Sylvia didn’t take well to motherhood. Demons tempted her.”
Jen felt a flash of fear. “Demons?”
“Drink and sex. I guess I inherited a bit of her appetite. Not for alcohol.”
Jen knew what she meant.
“Sylvia, I never called her mother, abandoned me and Jeezy raised me. I didn’t know Abe. He died before my birth.”
“Too bad Sylvia turned out so wayward,” Jen said. “Must have been hard on you.”
“I fared much better being raised by Granny. Jeezy must have had bad genes, because not only Sylvia fell from grace, but Emma turned out to be a hellion. Sylvia’s brother, Herman, became a zombie.”
“He turned out okay, if you like people who have stones for hearts. I suppose you want to hear more about Emma.”
“Uh huh, please.”
“You see, even though the adoptive parents did their best, Emma became a wild child. Jeezy kept track of her, and somehow Emma found out her birth mother lived in Livonia. At sixteen Emma came here searching, but never discovered who. By then Jeezy had become a widow and made her living by palmistry and renting rooms. Can you guess who she rented a room to?”
Zelda fished out another photo. “Behold! Emma Caulfield.”
A beautiful teenager with wild curly hair and a defiant expression resembled Miles in her facial features.
“There’s more,” Zelda said. “Emma let Marcus Ratterlee support her, and she got pregnant. The girl went home to momma and dropped the kid off only to return to Livonia, where Marcus did his thing again. After that, Mr. Caulfield came and forced Emma to return to New York where they stayed, all five of them.”
“And?” Jen leaned forward to hear the next scorching news flash.
“I think that’s all for today.”
They sat in silence for a few moments. Jen let the disclosures settle in to her mind. “You’ve told me a lot. Why?”
“Didn’t you want to know?”
“Yes, of course. But…”
“Then quit asking foolish questions and enjoy the history. I have my reasons.” Zelda quickly gathered up the photos and returned them to the box. “I’ll call you sometime for the rest of the story.”