Xmas Present         

Santa has the best delivery system.  Ask any kid.  However, if you ask any sailor, they will tell you it’s not Santa that brings the Christmas goodies…it’s the Fleet Angels…the US Navy’s search, rescue, and delivery helicopter squadron.


For over fifty years, the men and women of the Fleet Angels have delivered mail to sailors serving aboard aircraft carriers and other naval ships. Deployed aboard US Naval vessels, they stand plane guard during aircraft sea maneuvers, perform rescue operations, and fly cargo and personnel between ships of the fleet.

They also deliver something more…a laugh, a tear, and a good time. They deliver the USO Christmas Show that features popular entertainment celebrates.  These shows bring song, dance, and laughs to our naval men and women away from their families.   Holidays are heart breaking when you are away from loved ones, but the Angels help add a bright moment to deployed men and women.

Although the pilots and crew personnel have other responsibilities, none brings them more pleasure than their holiday cargos.  This includes the delivery of the holiday mail, which means a LOT of cookies.

Of all the many celebrities who have entertained the Troops, none gave more of himself and his talents to the men and women in uniform than Bob Hope, and no celebrity is more revered than Hope, who started the Christmas Show tradition.

Welcome aboard to the USS John F. Kennedy and the Bob Hope Christmas Show, circa 1970.

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American owes a debt of gratitude to Bob Hope for the joy he brought to our military men and women away from home.  I’m sure he has the heavenly angels in stitches.  Thank you Fleet Angels for delivering Hope.  Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas.


Barbara Marriott


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Wine, Apples, and Cowboys. That’s a Wilcox Holiday

There is nothing like visiting an old western town when the tourists are gone.  A visit to the historic western town of Wilcox will put you in the frame of mind to read or write about the old pioneers as you walk in the footsteps of real and imaginary characters down the historic sidewalks of yesteryear.

Rex Allen Museum Cemetary

Wilcox is in Cochise Indian country and is a living monument to days of danger, cowboys, and Indians.  On Wilcox’s main street is the old train station waiting for the next steam engine to pull in.  Although that will not happen, the station sits nice, neat, and patient.  Across the street is a memorial to Rex Allen, famous cowboy star and singer, and down the road is the Rex Allen museum.  However, old time cowboys and history are not the only delights around town.




There are the famous Wilcox apples.  At Apple Annie’s grove you can pick you own, or buy them picked, delicious and crunchy.

Wine Map








Looking for something less nutritious but more fun? Scattered in the desert around Wilcox is Arizona’s fledging wine industry.  Spend a few tasty hours at the vineyards   It is an education for your mind and pallet.

Want more?  Why not…if its sensationalism you are looking for drive a short distance to Tombstone with its historical saloons, houses, shootouts, and lore.

Singing Winds

After all this, you might want something for your mind.  Another short ride will take you to the Singing Winds Bookstore in Benson.  Reader or not, lover of western history or someplace else, this fully packed old home in the middle of nowhere has some of the finest, newest, oldest, and most fascinating books on the old west.  Winn Bundy is the knowledgeable proprietor.  She’s a wiz at finding the special book you are requesting, or one she thinks you would like.  As you follow, she marches with authority toward a stack and plucks out your book.

If you can’t get to Wilcox, you can still bring a bit of the Wilcox spirit into your holiday with these two easy, special recipes.

APPLE STUFFING FOR YOUR GOBBLER. A kick from the old west.

2 cups chunky chopped apples

Half-cup apple cider

Optional: 1/4 cup raisins and/or pecans.

Marinate the chopped apples in the cider for two hours in the refrigerator.  Drain.  Add to your favorite stuffing.  Moisten the stuffing with a few tablespoons of the liquid, mix well.  Spoon into the turkey cavity before roasting, or cook the dressing in a separate pan and serve as a side.

DRUNKEN APPLES.  Apples and Wine, two of Wilcox’s favorite things.

2 cups of washed, cored, and sliced apples

2 tablespoons of butter

1 tablespoon of sugar

¼ cup of white wine

Melt the butter in a frying pan and sauté the apples slices for three minutes.  Sprinkle the sugar over the slices, add the white wine, and cook on a low heat until the apples are soft, but not mushy, or until most of the wine has evaporated. Use as a side dish with ham, pork, or fowl.

HAPPY HOLIDAY SEASON! Eat well and laugh a lot, its good for the digestion.








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When fiction is true and nonfiction is…fiction

Twisting the Truth

In every written word there is a bit of truth, and a bit of not truth.  Sometimes the not truth is accidental, or misinformation. In fiction where you expect a lot of not truths, you usually get a good shot of truths, facts, or real data.  However, because it is fiction it allows the author to give it a twist.  For example:  In my newest Leo fiction book, which takes place in 1893, Leo goes to dinner at Fort Lowell in Tucson and meets Lieutenant Kingsbury.  There really was a Fort Lowell in Tucson and Lieutenant Kingsbury was the commanding officer.  Only the Fort closed in 1891.  A twisted truth.

Ft Lowell_edited-1

Leo and her attorney father have a house on Myers Street.  It existed in 1893, and the owner was an attorney, only his name was Olson…a twisted truth. Their ranch, the Crooked Button, north of Tucson, did exist; its name was the Steam Pump Ranch.

Crocked Button_edited-1

A train robbery occurred in Pantana and the loot was stashed in Colossal Cave.  Funny, Leo’s train was robbed and the loot was stashed…guess where!  The fun of writing fiction is you can take true facts and give them a twist making the plot more interesting, and more believable.

Patrick O’Brian was a master of this technique.  In one of his sea stories the fictitious Captain Jack Aubrey rushes to rescue Captain Bligh in Australia, who according to history was really in trouble in Australia.  Makes for a great plot!

Contemporary authors abound who use nonfiction in their novels. Susan Albert in A Wilder Rose, (release date October 2013) tells the story of Rose Wilder Lane and Laura Ingalls Wilder, secret collaborators of the Little House books.  Albert bases her fiction on the unpublished diaries and journals of Rose Wilder Lane.  The plot for The Photographer’s Women, by Kathy Gibson, comes from the author’s family genealogy records including diaries, mementos, and newspaper clippings.  Gibson writes of the life of her photographer great-grandfather and his wife, her two sisters, his mother-in-law, and younger sister.  Actual photographs gave her distinct ideas for scenes.

          Aundy, a historical romance set in 1899 Pendleton, Oregon, uses, as part of its plot, the city’s historic Underground.  We see the Underground through the eyes of her protagonist.  Shanna Hatfield’s characters join in card games, sidle up to a bar for a drink, have their clothes cleaned, and enjoy the delights of “soiled doves”, while in the Underground.  In Loveland, Andrea Downing weaves her nonfiction around the terrible winter of 1886 when western cattle ranchers lost 60-75% of their stock.

C. M. Mayo believes there should not be inflexible rules for historical novelist.  The author spent seven years researching the life of Agustin de Iturbide y Green, grandson of Mexico’s first emperor, for her book The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire.  The story, sensitive both politiclly and culturally, stays close to the historical facts.

Jane Kirkpatrick’s novels are based on the lives of actual historical people.  In her newest, One Glorious Ambition: The Compassionate Crusade of Dorothea Dix, she uses biographical facts to show the reader what someone did, when they did it, and the challenges.  Using fiction she is able to let the reader learn the why of what happened and how the person felt in the doing. The combination brings the story alive.  So, when you are reading or writing fiction…look for the Twisted Truth.

The capers of Leo through robberies, kidnappings, and murder will be out sometimes this fall.  Take the Train to Tucson and find the Twisted Truth.

Train to Tucson

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Santa Claus, that clever man, has been finding people even before the days of GPS, Goggle Earth, and Map Quest.  To him it doesn’t matter if you hang your stocking on your fireplace, the barn door, or your ship’s bunk.  However, some deliveries are tougher than others, and there are just so many places a sleigh with seven reindeer power can take you.  So the five thousand plus men on the USS Kennedy in 1970 had little hope Santa would ever reach them.

They underestimated that jolly determined man.  He couldn’t bring them all home for the holidays, but he could make their days brighter.  However, he needed special help, and he knew where he could get it.  He contacted the Fleet Angels.

“No problem!” they said. “We’ll pick up your present and deliver it in prime condition.”  And, good to their word, they did.  Not only did they deliver laughs, but look what else they brought.





As great as these gifts were, nothing is as good as something from home.  In Vietnam Santa loaded the helicopters with a ton of cookies baked by the sailors’ loved ones.  While loading at the airbase the air raid siren went off.  Aware of their important cargo, the helo crews scramble to take off.  They didn’t have time to secure the load, so several crewmen were covered with boxes of baked goodies.  They laughed all the way back to the ships; they knew their cargo would put a big smile on their shipmates’ faces and a crunch in their hearts. To The Fleet Angels of Lakehurst it was just another job well done. May your holidays be filled with laughs, cookies and surprises.

Everyone likes holidays, even evil characters…put one in your story line.

The Fleet Angels of Lakehurst is now available in e-book and pocketbook format.  It is filled with the heroics and humor of these navy helicopter crews whose main mission was performing rescues at sea.  Available at www.amazon.com    








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Legendary Locals: The Good Sport
Sports and the sport hero have been part of us for ages.  The activity we refer to as “sports” has shaped the look and character of our various societies from ancient times.  The massive Coliseum built during the height of the Roman Empire still draws crowds of tourist to its ruined and empty seat structure.  The mysterious “ball courts” of the ancient Native American Hohokums are still a focal point for sightseers where speculation abounds on whether they were for pure sport, or blood sport.
The ancient Greek civilization adds much to modern day behaviors, especially this time of year when the Olympics will be fascinating and entertaining us. Even in pure art we see the influence of sports in pieces like the Discus Thrower. And then there is our language.  Expressions like “Be a Good sport,” “He’s such a Sport,” and the word sportsmanship all speak of cooperation, and a positive attitude.
Even today the Good Sport draws attention and is an icon for society, influencing it beyond the role of entertainment.  How about Tim Tebow!

Sherry Cervi, National Barrel Racing Champion

Marana, Oro Valley and Catalina are no except to the influence of sports figures.  Each has their own Legendary Local which helped shape the character of the community.
Sherry Cervi, National Champion Barrel Racer is the perfect representative of a community that is large, rural, and sparsely populated, an area where the western life and skills are honored.








Hank Leiber and Bryon Nelson golfing at a Red Cross fund raiser.

Oro Valley, a community of sophisticates counts with pride Hank Leiber, who played with the New York Giants and the Chicago Cubs in the thirties, and retired to become a socialite rancher.  If baseball is the national pastime, then Leiber and Oro Valley rank as champions in the forefront of places on the cutting edge of society.







Maren Seider, Olympian athlete.

Even in the tiny town of Catalina the Good Sport represents the character of the community.  Low key, hard working, and generous, few realize that Maren Seidler, the smiling woman they are dealing with, is an Olympian, and National Champion shot putter.

Sports figures are more than good in sports; they are people who, without trying, influence the character of their communities.  Put a good sport in your writing.  A minor character can subtlety drive your hero’s action, and a major sports hero can help you develop an original and creative story line.

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