Finding Inspiration in “The Merry Widow Waltz”


THE MERRY WIDOW (MGM, 1925), starring John Gilbert and Mae Murray, inspired the following scene between “Effie Butler” and her guardian, “Reverend Gideon Baldwin,” in Chapter 17 of THE PRINCE IN THE TOWER.

“So tell me about the Confederate ball.”

“Well . . . from what I understand, most of the men are re-enactors, so they’ll be wearing Confederate uniforms, and most of the ladies will be dressed like me.  A band will play period pieces that we can dance to.”

“Can you waltz?”

“No, but I wish I could.”

“What time is your date?”


“Good.  I’ll teach you.”

He directed her to the center of the room and rearranged the furniture, clearing space beneath the chandelier.  Then he turned the CD player on and as “The Merry Widow Waltz” began to play, bowed before her.  “May I have this waltz?”

His kingly manner surprised her as she drifted into his arms and waited for him to begin.  Effie tried to concentrate on the steps he was teaching her, but the scent of his aftershave and the touch of his hands were distracting.  In attempting to follow his lead, she tripped over his foot. He laughed, so did she, and they resumed waltzing.

“Where did you learn to waltz, Mr. Baldwin?”

“In high school and my name is Gideon.”  He smiled, revealing a perfect set of teeth, and Effie felt the full force of his magnetism.

Cardinal Caught on Camera


Another day.  Another storm.  Another cardinal.  This one usually flies away before I can take his photo, but I caught him off guard today.

I’m a dinosaur in a digital age.  I don’t own a digital camera and haven’t bought any 35 mm film for my vintage camera in several years.  (I wonder if film has become obsolete since i last bought it?)  What would I do without a cell phone?  It may not be a good camera, but it sure is convenient..

Sunsets and Literature

photoMA31367462-0002How can anyone describe something as spectacular as a sunset?   Nothing can take the place of a photograph, can it?  Augusta J. Evans (1835-1909) creates a credible word picture of a sunset on page 116 of ST. ELMO, and the twilight that follows sets the eerie stage for the entrance of the Byronic protagonist “St. Elmo Murray.”.

The sun went down in a wintry sky; the solemn red light burning on the funeral pyre of the day streamed through the undraped windows, flushed the fretted facade of the Taj Mahal, glowed on the marble floor, and warmed and brightened the serene, lovely face of the earnest young student.  As the flame faded in the West, where two stars leaped from the pearly ashes, the fine print of Edna’s book grew dim, and she turned the page to catch the mellow, silvery radiance of the full moon, which shinning low in the east, thew a ghastly lustre on the awful form and floating white hair of the Cimbrian woman on the wall.  But between the orphan and the light, close beside her chair, stood a tall, dark figure, with uncovered head and outstretched hands.

She sprang to her feet, uttering a cry of mingled alarm and delight, for she knew that erect, stately form and regal head could only belong to one person.

“Oh, Mr. Murray!  Can it be possible that you have indeed come home to your sad desolate mother?  Oh!  For her sake, I am so glad!”



It’s no secret that Augusta J. Evans is my favorite novelist and that ST. ELMO inspired me to write THE PRINCE IN THE TOWER.

A Literary Take on Icy Weather



The following passage is an excerpt from INFELICE, written by my favorite novelist, Augusta Evans Wilson (1835-1909).

“Walking to the window, he stood for some moments, with his hands folded behind him, and he noted the splendor of the spectacle presented by the risen sun shining upon temples and palaces of ice, prism-tinted domes and minarets, and burnishing after the similitude of silver stalactites and arcades which had built themselves into crystal campaniles, more glorious than Giotto’s,–the pastor said:–“The physical world just as God left it,–how pure, how lovely, how entirely good;–how sacred from His hallowing touch! Oh!  that the world of men and women were half as unchangingly true, stainless, and holy.”

Feigned Indifference

photoMA31378394-0007 I have three rescues.  “Brack,” the American short hair on the left, is named after my dad.  He belongs to Mom but I’m his caretaker.  Brack is about 18 or 19 years old now.  He is blind but healthy and smart.  He knows where everything is: the food, the couch, the bed, the litter box–all the necessities of life.  The other cats are somewhat afraid of him because he sits and stares at them, but they don’t know that he can’t see. I rescued “Abigail,” the calico on the right, from a shopping center parking lot.  She was a kitten at the time living in the bushes next to the restaurant Boston Market.  Rather than call her “Boston” (too masculine a name for a female), I named her after Abigail Adams of Boston.  *Abigail is small and shy.  The other cats pick on her.  Apparently, she thinks that if she looks away, they won’t see her because she can’t see them.  Cats are experts at feigning indifference. photoMA31378396-0006 Like Abigail, “Pickles” (the black and white cat on the right) is a feral cat.  He used to sneak on my porch at night looking for cat food.  When he started acting a bit tame, I made the mistake of touching him.  He snapped at me and disappeared.  After I started taking the required rabies shots, he decided to show up again.  He’s now domesticated and likes people but bullies the other cats.  He is a big cat–a very big cat.  Naming him was not easy.  “Goliath” or “Samson” might have been good choices, but I chose to name him “Pickles,” a fictional cat with big paws in a book called THE FIREHOUSE CAT. My cats often sit within a measured distance from each other with their backs turned.  They seem to be saying something like, “One’s company, two’s a crowd.”  They don’t like each other and make no secret of it.  They like people and view other cats as competition.  In the world of cats, body language says it all. *Abigail is my “Writer’s Companion.”  She has collaborated with me on many projects, including newsletters, fiction, non-fiction, photography, and research.  She’s a computer geek. photoMA31378445-0001

Late Night Journalism


Have you ever written what you thought was a brilliant post, and all of a sudden, you hit the wrong key and deleted the whole thing?  Well, that’s what just happened to me. Ironically, the post was entitled “Why Write?  Why Bother?”  Indeed, why bother?  It’s almost 3 a.m.  That’s what I deserve for writing in the middle of the night when I should be sleeping.  So rather than try to recreate what might have been the best post–or the worst post–I’ve ever written, I’m going  back to bed.  Goodnight! :-)





Leatrice Gilbert Fountain (1924-2015): Daughter of Hollywood Legends


Leatrice Gilbert Fountain was simply the most fascinating person I have ever met. I wrote her a fan letter years ago after reading her book DARK STAR: The Untold Story of the Meteoric Rise and Fall of Legendary Silent Screen Star John Gilbert, her father’s biography. She responded with a letter and an invitation to join the John Gilbert Appreciation Society.  I joined and eventually became president of the Society.
As president of the JGAS, I had the privilege of getting to know her well.  I interviewed her, consulted with her on the JGAS newsletter, and attended film events with her. I was in awe of Leatrice.   She had every ounce of her father’s charm, if not more.  She was larger than life, and yet she made others feel important.
She loaned me many photographs when I interviewed her for the SILENTS MAJORITY: Online Journal of Silent Film. Among the beautiful stills was a newspaper clipping with a…

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Every Writer Needs an Editor


Every writer needs an editor, but not every writer can afford one.  Abigail fancies herself as my editor.  Here is a sample of one of her markups:





Even with Abby’s help, I don’t think I’m going to win the Pulitzer Prize any time soon.   Both of us are suffering from writer’s block.