Find Your Neverland

Neverland . . . that faraway place where Peter Pan, Tinkerbell, and the Lost Boys live and more importantly, play. This magical fairyland, ruled by the motto, “I’ll never grow up,” can’t be found on Google Earth or any GPS. It’s not that the directions of “first star to the right, straight on till morning,” are difficult to follow, it’s just that only those who truly believe can travel the star-lit path.

Occasionally, however, (probably more out of pity than any other reason) Tinkerbell sprinkles her pixie-dust over the unseeing masses, the enchanted mist dissolves and the road to make-believe and creatively twinkles for those who dare to take that all-important first step.

This past weekend the opalescent path led straight to Oklahoma City and the OWFI (Oklahoma Writers Federation Inc) writing conference. For a brief wrinkle in time, all was well with the world. No politics. No racism. No famine. No disease. No hate. No fake news.

Cocooned in the glass and water-fountain folds of the Embassy Suites, like-minded people gathered to share their stories, visions, and ideas. Even those who fancy themselves unimaginative caught the fever and began to dream . . . to hope . . . to play.

Play. One of the most important, yet dishonored four-letter words in the English language.

Play stimulates. Play relaxes. Produces laughter. Spawns peace. Clears the mind. Heals.

Play keeps us sane.

Fifty-two weeks (except for nine days) I sit in a cube and stagnate. I’m not alone. Thousands of others are in the same boat. It takes the all-mighty buck to survive, right? Can’t eat dreams. Can’t put manuscripts in the gas tank. Laughter doesn’t pay the light bill, ya know.
Gotta’ work. Work. Work. Some are more fortune than others in the work area. These folks have found that allusive formula where play and work combine to produce both abundance and happiness. I bow to them.

But to those of us who haven’t yet found this blueprint, I say, “don’t despair. Don’t give up. Embrace every opportunity to run and play. Go to that conference. Take that trip.

Dance in the rain. Sing in the shower. Drink bourbon. Howl at the moon. Eat cake. Ride the horses. Kiss the babies. Pet the dogs and smell those roses!”

Find your Neverland.

Oops! Tinkerbell is calling. Captain Hook’s on the warpath. Gotta fly!

Thanks for the memories. See ya next year, OWFI.

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Book Launch for Dixie Dandelion

I love to think outside the box when it comes to promotion, book signings, and book launches.
For Dixie Dandelion I had a painting party at Pinot’s Palette, in Springdale, Arkansas. Pinot’s is a lot like Painting with a Twist. The owner/artist at Pinot’s, James bent over backwards to make this one-of-a-kind book launch a huge success.
For those of you not familiar with Pinot’s, everyone paints a same picture. All the painting supplies are furnished. Drinks, both non-alcoholic and alcoholic may be purchased as well. Everyone listens to music, drinks, and paints. James gives step-by-step instructions.
In honor of Dixie Dandelion which is a young-adult Western, we painted cowboy boots.
Here are pictures:
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Soiled Doves

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In my new book, The Adventures of Dixie Dandelion, due to be released November 2nd from The Wild Rose Press, Dixie’s best friends are Soiled Doves. So. Who are Soiled Doves? In a word . . . Prostitutes.

In the 1800’s and the Wild West, prostitutes were among the first to populate and establish businesses. Looked down on by society these women often gave generously of their money, funding schools and other organizations. All behind the scenes, of course. From rolling wagons, tents, “bawdy” houses to stately mansions complete with china and crystal, these young women sold their wares for 25 cents up to a dollar and were known by many names: Soiled Doves, Sportin’women, Prairie Nymphs, Fancy ladies and Calico Queens to name a few. To avoid embarrassment for their families, most changed their names to such things as Hambone Jane, Sweet Annie, Black Pearl, Cotton Tail, and Big Nose. Most of the girls were young, illiterate, and poor.

While the life of a soiled dove was anything but glamorous, I took a little creative license and romanticized them in Dixie Dandelion. I modeled Peg Williams, the owner and madam of the White Dove, after Miss Kitty on Gunsmoke, except Peg has blond hair, not red. By the way . . . red-headed girls got more money than any others as it was believed red-heads were more passionate and fiery. True.
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The Soiled Doves in Dixie are: Sassy Annie, Fancy, Debbie Ann, Cinnamon, Rebecca Sue and Mary Lou. As you can guess, Sassy Annie is wild and woolly, dresses in feathers and jewels, drinks whiskey like water, smokes cheroots, and is extremely fond of sugar. In fact she tells Dixie, “Sugar is good for the soul.” She is also a Christian woman, believe it or not and once said, “A whore what’s got Jesus in her heart is a dangerous woman.” She’s Dixie’s best friend and partner in crime.
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Fancy is naive and gullible and can cook like she was born with a spoon in her hand and who also gets Dixie into one mess after another (as if Dixie needs any help in that direction) Debbie Ann is shy and smart, Cinnamon is half Creole with a French Accent that drives the men wild, Rebecca Sue and Mary Lou are corn-fed identical twins.

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I have no idea how I came up with the idea of Dixie befriending the girls of The White Dove, but it was a stroke of genius if I do say so myself. Peg and her girls add spice and humor as well as tender moments to the story.

The Adventures of Dixie Dandelion, coming November 2nd from R.H. Burkett and The Wild Rose Press.

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Who is this Dixie Dandelion?

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My fourth book, The Adventures of Dixie Dandelion is due to be released in November by The Wild Rose Press. Many of you know I’ve been working on Dixie for quite some time — four years to be exact. Dixie first popped into my head when I was writing my first book, Soldiers In the Mist. I had to put her on the back burner to finish Soldiers. I returned to Dixie only to have my second book, a novella, The Rook and The Raven come in and take over. Dixie went to the back of the line again. I started again with her only to have Bethany Ann from my third book, Daughter of the Howling Moon, come roaring in with a vengeance. Alas, Dixie had to wait, yet again. For those of you who know Dixie, you can imagine just how happy she was. She refused to talk to me for awhile but finally her story came through. OMG. What a story!

So just who is this Dixie Dandelion?

Well, the love of her life, Pinkerton Detective Jackson McCullough describes her as passionate. “When life slaps her down, she jumps up, spits in its eye, and dares it to hit her again.” Railroad foreman, Big Mike Donovan says, “She be a stick of dynamite with a fuse of wild scarlet hair.” My friend, sister, and fellow author, Linda Apple claims there is a lot of me in Dixie. I think it’s the other way around. But either way, Linda is correct as I’m convinced I was Dixie Dandelion in the 1860’s. Dixie is a rootin,’ tootin’ cowgirl. She can ride and rope. Drink and smoke. Can’t shoot or cook worth a damn, however. She is well educated as her mother is a graduate of Wesleyan Female College of Macon, Georgia and insists on teaching her daughter how to conduct herself as a proper young lady at all times.

Dixie’s Christian name is Margaret Katelyn O’Shea. Her mother is a Southern Belle China Doll complete with verandas, long frilly gowns, cotillion and money. Her Papa is a wild, Irish rover with flashing blue eyes, gut-busting laugher, a love for fast horses, and two bits in his pocket makes him a rich man. Unable to resist a good donnybrook, he rides away to join the War of Northern Aggression and never rides back. Dixie has her mother’s slim figure and beauty, but her father’s blue eyes, scarlet hair, and temperament. Dixie’s fraternal grandmother, Margaret has the gift of sight. A gift Dixie’s mother refuses to acknowledge or stand for claiming her mother-in-law is nothing but a Banshee Witch. While Dixie has never seen a ghost, she does hear the voice of her beloved Papa at times and often calls on his help when in danger, which is most of the time as Dixie’s middle name should’ve been trouble.

Through a series of events, Dixie finds herself alone on a wagon train. She stabs her step-father when he attacks her, steals a Pinkerton Detective’s horse, and rides to Six Shooter Siding where she is befriended by Peg Williams, a madam of The White Dove and her “soiled doves.” Dixie is fiercely independent and proud. Determined never to be “dependin’ on others,” her stubborn streak throws her into one mess after another much to the chagrin of Pinkerton Detective, Jackson McCullough who calls her his, wild, prairie dandelion, Dixie Belle.

From stabbings, horse-stealing, lynching’s, shoot-outs, Indians, Chinese, The Mollie McGuire’s, and fast horses, The Adventures of Dixie Dandelion has it all. From start to finish Dixie is full of grit and fire. Hold on tight, you’re in for a hell of a ride.

The Adventures of Dixie Dandelion coming November 2016 from R.H.Burkett and The Wild Rose Press.

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Life with Weebles-Take 5: The Hole in the Wall Gang

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Weebles is a perfectionist. Me? Not so much. Take picture hanging for example. Before Greg hangs anything he has to start with math. How wide is the picture? What is its length? How many inches from the ceiling to the middle of the wall? Then he brings out the level. Me? I’m a member of the Hole in the Wall Gang. I eye-ball it, then pound a nail in the wall and hang the sucker. Simple. This drives Greg up the wall. (no pun intended.) Oh! Something else Greg is picky about is holes in the walls, especially if it is his wall. I won’t blow a two foot hole in my walls but neither will I go to great lengths to avoid putting a nail hole in one. Paint covers up a multitude of sins.

About two years ago Weebles made me a quilt. Since I’m a writer and love books, he found some book material and made a quilt out of that. Awesome! I love it. I never had any intentions of using it for a blanket on the bed. It was too good for that. Instead I hung it on the wall of my office. Now, when I say hung, what I ready did was get a handful of nails and nailed it to my wall. The nails were very little. Just left a pin-prick in the wall and in the quilt as well. The naked eye couldn’t see either. When I sold my house and moved in with Weebles, I used the quilt as a chair cover. Yesterday I decided to hang it on the living room wall. Of course I could use help holding up one side while I pounded a nail in the other, so I ask good, ol’ Weebles to help.

First thing good, ol’ Weeb did was google how to hang a guilt on the wall. He came up with two opinions. Here is how the conversation went.
Weebles: “You need to get a dowel.”
Me: What’s a dowel?”
“A long, round stick.”
“How round?”
“Depends on round you want it to be.”
“Ok. Does WalMart sell dowels?”
“I’m sure they do.” (I wasn’t so sure; I’d never seen them in WalMart, but I never went looking for them either.)
“You need to get eye hooks too to attach to the end of the dowel.”
“What size eye hooks?”
“Depends.”
“What’s opinion number two?”
“Get a curtain rod. (Well, hell. Why wasn’t that opinion number one?)
“How long of one should I get?”
Out came the tape measure, and off to Wally World I went while Weebles sewed loops on the back on the quilt to slide the rod through.

When I got home, we had to install the curtain rod brackets first. Out came: the ladder, the level, screwdrivers, pencils, hammer, and drill. Since Greg has no business on the ladder, I was the one that would drill the holes and screw the braces in in. Simple, right? Ohh, no. Not for me. First Greg had to find the center of the wall then figure out the center of the quilt. 2.8″ or 2.7″? What difference does it make? The quilt is 5feet wide and 72 inches long. Surely to God I could center the damn thing just by looking at it. But. I had decided to be good and let Greg handle it. After all, it’s his wall. So, all the math done. Up the ladder I went, drilled the first hole and the damn thing wouldn’t go through the sheet rock. WTH? I’d hit a stud. Really? If I’d been looking for the stud I never would’ve found it, but since I wasn’t, I hit the damn thing first drill out of the box. Greg said that was good because it would support the curtain rod better and the quilt wouldn’t rip. Seriously? It hung for two years in my house and not once did it fall or rip. I guess if I swung like Tarzan from the thing, it would’ve of eventually fell, but only if I’d hung from it.

By this time, Greg was foaming at the bit to climb the ladder and do it himself. So, we tired that. He did ok, but an ulcer grew in my gut and my hair fell out. Nope. Not a good idea. So, up I went to drill the holes, pound the little black things in the hole with a hammer, and then screw the screws in with his drill. Well, this should’ve been a piece of cake, right? Noooo. Everything was crooked. How? Well according to Weebles, because of me. Of course. Who else?

Before we started this little project I’d promised myself I wouldn’t lose my temper. The night before I’d gotten furious at Weebles for almost locking me out of the house. I went to bed so angry I could’ve chewed nails and didn’t get to sleep until two in the morning. I vowed I wouldn’t get this way with him on the quilt deal because he was only trying to make everything look good. So, I drank a beer before I started the whole mess.

Needless to say, about the fifth time I had to straighten up the crooked brackets, I got tickled. Under my breath, I told myself, “I should’ve just pounded nails in his wall and hung the damn thing.”

Both of us were sweating like we’d been picking cotton all day. The sweat and steam fogged my glass. I couldn’t find reverse on the drill to back the screws out. The beer hit, and I laughed like a loon. Weebles was kinda chuckling too, but I think I saw more humor in the whole thing than he did. But. Neither one of us yelled at one another. I didn’t cram the drill up his posterior or throw it through the front window. And about an hour later, we had the quilt hung. Hallelujah! Praise Jesus! The whole thing from start to finish only took about 2 1/2 hours. Simple? Right?

Later that night, Weebles looked over our handy work and made the comment, “See how good that looks? And we didn’t have to pound a lot holes in the wall.”

“Yeah, looks, pretty good.” I answered. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that earlier I’d hung a cork board and two pictures in my office. All without a level, screw drivers, tape measures, or a drill. Just me, a few nails, and my trusty hammer.

Oh! And I didn’t use math one time!

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Life with Weebles-Take 4- The Dance

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Not many of you know but Weebles didn’t always wobble. Nope. When I first met him he was an agile black belt Judo instructor at the Air Force base in Little Rock, Arkansas. Believe it or not he’s also an actor; mostly musicals. Oliver. Oklahoma. Annie Get Your Gun. Fiddler on the Roof and My Fair Lady to name a few. In My Fair Lady he played the role of Pickering. Blew my mind. Not only did he have to dance but sing a solo as well. I don’t know how many of you have ever auditioned for a musical but a big part of one is dancing. I hate that part. I can sing. I can act. But dance? Nope. I have two left feet, and I can never remember the routines even though we rehearse until we’re ready to scream. Weebles didn’t like the dancing part either, but surprisingly he wasn’t bad. Who knew that many years later his dancing experience would be a great help to him?

I’ve heard of instances where mothers can be in a deep sleep but wake immediately when their babies cry. I’m that way with Weebles. Usually I go to bed before Weebles and am floating in dream land when he goes to bed. One night last week, deep in sleep, I woke with a start when I heard him crash to the floor. I rushed to his bedroom to find him flat on this back. He’d caught his foot in the bathroom rug and down he went. His judo training automatically kicked in. He’d tucked his chin and didn’t hit his head. He wasn’t hurt but a fall is a fall and it leaves you shaken nonetheless. Plus, falling is embarrassing and frustrating at the same time. Weebles’ judo background has come to his rescue many times. For those of you not familiar with this martial art, the first lesson learned is how to fall without injuring yourself. But dancing has come in handy at times as well. Below is a post Weebles put on FaceBook that illustrates this fact quite well:

“After all the years of doing musicals at the community theater they really paid off. I was never much of a “dancer” but remembering some of the moves can just make you feel good again. I just wish there was music playing. I was coming up the hall and as I turned the corner, I stubbed my toe. I did a lunge toward the counter, I performed a masterful 1 1/2 pirouette with a 5 tiptoe step into the refrigerator and then a large 3 backward step into the counter. I took about a 10 second bow before returning to couch to critique my performance.”

Garth Brooks sings, “I could’ve missed the pain but I’d had to miss the dance.” In Weebles’ case, it’s really good he didn’t miss the dance.

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Where are Walter, Chet & Peter?

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I grew up watching the nightly news with Walter Cronkite and Huntley-Brinkley. ABC introduced a new guy on the block, Peter Jennings who I fell in love with. He was so handsome, and I loved his voice as he spoke about World News Tonight. Back in the good ol’ days news casters were professional. Sorry to say this is not the case today. Today I don’t watch the news. Why? Gloom and Doom, sarcasm, argumentative, judgmental, prejudiced, egotistical reporting. (Just to name a few) I bet Walter, Chet & Peter are rolling in their graves.

Cronkite, Huntley-Brinkley and Jennings reported the news. Period. They didn’t interject their feelings into their reporting. Well there was that time when President Kennedy got assassinated when Cronkite broke down but the whole country was in tears that day. They didn’t badger presidential candidates. They didn’t ask questions only to argue or interrupt, not giving the candidates a chance to answer or explain. They didn’t dwell on a story beating the life out of it either. And they sure as hell didn’t spin the news to their liking.

I’m sorry for the little boy who was killed by the alligator. BUT. The alligator was not at fault. What the hell where the parents thinking? The sign said “danger alligators, don’t play by the water.” I mean WTF? What did they expect? Now Disney is closed, and they want to kill all the alligators for doing what gators do. And what about the gorilla they killed because the kid jumped in the pit? Again, where were the parents? The news reporters won’t let these stories die. They replay all the footage, they analyze, and offer opinions. Like dad used to say, “opinions are like assholes, everyone has one.” The networks aren’t blameless in this either. Ratings. That’s what it’s all about which translates into money. Since human beings seem to have a love affair going on with gloom and doom, death and destruction, that is what the networks focus on.

Wait a minute. Maybe we aren’t hooked on the bad. Maybe it just seems that way because that’s all the media shows us.

The Media is controlling us. The Media is feeding the hate, stirring up controversy when there is none, concentrating on the bad instead of the good. So, I challenge the networks and the media. For one week, give us 55 minutes of good and only 5 minutes of bad instead of the other way around. Reporters, be professional. Study Walter, Chet, and Peter if you can’t figure it out. One week of concentrating on happiness and peace. I dare ya!

And that’s the way it is. Good night, David. Good night, Chet.

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