August 4, 2019

Views of New York

From Author, Carole Ann Moleti: 
The Non-Sleeping City

I opted to stay close to home for a political event, so I was not in Manhattan on 7/13/19 when the power went out for a few hours. But I was no longer unsure what to focus on for this year's Fifty Author's blog from New York. The latest power failure--and the simultaneously disturbing and hysterical images of battle hardened New Yorkers dealing with the aftermath allows me to offer a historical montage of what happens when "The City That Never Sleeps" is plunged into darkness.

I was a college student in 1977. NYC was in bankruptcy, and decaying before our eyes. Half of the campus of Lehman College was boarded up. Construction on the new buildings was halted for three years when the State Dormitory Authority went into default.

The Bronx was burning down, so that landlords could collect insurance money and get out. Son of Sam was murdering young couples sitting in parked cars, in my neighborhood. I knew Donna Lauria, one of his victims. The filthy, graffiti adorned subways were so dangerous you were always relieved to see Curtis and Lisa Sliwa--or pair of their Guardian Angels standing side by side near the subway car door as the train rattled through the long dark tunnels.

I had a summer class on the sticky, sweltering evening of July 13, 2017 and was anxious to get home to go for a swim. I'd just left the campus when the power went out, glass started breaking, the looters took to the streets, and I barely got to my car in time. With no traffic lights, my gas tank on empty, I battled my way home prepared to run over anyone who swung at my windshield with a baseball bat.

The legendary Sister Mary Assumpta and certain other Sisters of the Divine Compassion maintained order in a classroom of 52 students with iron fists, yardsticks and rosary beads as lassos. They'd taught us more than we gave them credit for: Never flinch or you’re done for.
For some vintage images from the citywide blackout of 1977--and haircuts--check out this clip from The New York Times:
In the summer of 2003, the power went out in NYC and multiple others cities in a chain reaction failure of the power grid. Midday, in the blazing heat (hint: climate change and energy inefficiency is straining the power grid past capacity). Luckily, I was upstate, which also lost power, but it was a lot cooler.

In the summer of 2011, there was an earthquake that had New Yorkers fleeing swaying skyscrapers into the streets and Hurricane Irene with long-term power outages in the same week.  I was using dry ice to keep my milk cool and writing by flashlight for at least a week. Odd coincidence.

Then, in 2012, Hurricane Sandy roared through the Tri State Area (during which they actually tried to evacuate Coney Island but that's another topic). Many people were out of power for over a month. My husband had to siphon gas out of our lawnmower so he could go get on line to fill the tank. I had to change dressings on a wound my son had sustained in an unrelated incident with a flashlight held under my right armpit.

On July 13, 2019, forty-two years to the day of the Big Blackout of 1977, J-Lo's concert was cut short. The lights of Broadway and Times Square East went dark, but Times Square West stayed lit. Major subways lines stopped dead, and people had to be evacuated from trains stuck in the tunnels, in oppressive 80 plus degree temperatures, which is the most scary (and disgusting) part, with all those aromas, rats, bugs...

And most New Yorkers took it in stride, because it was only half of the West Side this time. And some actors continued Broadway shows on the street. The inhabitants of in NYC, and the entire Tri State area may have PTSD after the horrific events of September 11, 2001, but we're battle hardened. There's always someone that will try and take advantage of a bad situation, but most New Yorkers in 2019 are in a much more united we stand, divided we fall mood than we were in 1977--and candlelight vigils were already planned to show solidarity with immigrants, so many of us had illumination right at hand when the need arose.

Carole Ann Moleti lives and works as a nurse-midwife in New York City, thus explaining her fascination with all things paranormal, urban fantasy, and space opera. Her nonfiction focuses on health care, politics, and women's issues. But her first love is writing science fiction and fantasy because walking through walls is less painful than running into them.
Excerpts of Carole's memoir, Someday I'm Going to Write a Book: Diary of an Urban Missionary range from the sweet and inspirational in A Quilt of Holidays to the edgy and irreverent in Not Your Mother's Book: On Being a Woman.

Carole's work has appeared in a variety of literary and speculative fiction venues. Short stories set in the world of her novels are featured in several of the Ten Tales anthologies. The Unfinished Business Series, a three volume paranormal romance, was published by Soulmate.

From  Author, Eleanor Kuhns:
Paul Bunyan, lumberjacks, and Simply Dead

Paul Bunyan and his blue ox Babe are part of the mythos of the frontier United States. The stories about his exploits are part of a uniquely American body of stories; the tall tale. Usually accompanied by Babe, an enormous blue ox, Paul Bunyan roamed the country performing feats that showcased his size and superhuman strength.  He is credited with forming landscapes like the 10,000 lakes of Minnesota (his footprints) and the Grand Canyon. (by dragging his axe through the ground.)

Like so many folktales, the stories about Paul Bunyan contain elements of the truth. They portray an exaggerated and idealized version of the lives of lumberjacks – as it was before 1945 when only hand tools were used.  (Logger is the term for the men who do this work in the 21st century.) A job done exclusively by men, lumbering was seasonal and was frequently migratory as the lumberjacks traveled wherever the trees were being harvested. American lumberjacks were first centered in north-eastern states such as Maine, where Simply Dead is set.

In an era where wood was used for everything, especially those all -important masts for the sailing ships, lumbering was an essential job and lumberjacks were much in demand.  It was physically demanding, dangerous and low paid. Before various kinds of machinery took over some of the jobs, all of them were done by men with axes, cross cut saws, ropes and other simple equipment.

The high climber (also known as a tree topper) used iron climbing hooks and rope to climb a tall tree. He would chop off limbs as he climbed and then chop off the top of the tree. Other specialized skills included chokers and chasers. The choker setters attached steel cables (or chokers) to downed logs so they could be dragged into the landing. The chasers removed the chokers once the logs were at the landing. Despite the common perception that all loggers cut trees, the actual felling of trees was also specialized job. Chokers and chasers were entry level; the fellers were a higher level and a position the chokers and chasers aspired to.

The cut logs were ‘skidded’ down a road or, as was done in Maine, floated down a river to a sawmill. Every spring, logs were floated down the rivers to Falmouth.  Log rolling, or controlling the logs by walking on them as they floated, was considered a great skill and is still demonstrated in Maine as a tourist attraction.

The lumberjacks prided themselves on their physical strength and their ability to do this hard and dangerous job. With few females present other than the wives of cooks and foremen, this was a very masculine culture that glorified competitiveness and aggression.

In Simply Dead, Rees first meets a lumberjack when he travels into the mountains in search of the men who abducted the midwife’s daughter. And a threatening and frightening individual this man is too.

By the 1960’s and 70’s, many of the jobs formerly done by the lumberjacks had been taken over by specialized machinery. Taking down trees is still treacherous and risky. Just ask the man hired to remove the dead trees from your yard.

All that’s left of the culture personified by Paul Bunyan are the stories and the statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe, most notably in Minnesota and Bangor, Maine.

Eleanor Kuhns is the 2011 winner of the Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel. A lifelong librarian, she received her Masters from Columbia University and is currently the Assistant Director of the Goshen Public Library in Orange County New York.

Website URL:
Blog URL:
Facebook URL:
Twitter: #EleanorKuhns

From Author, Frankie Y. Bailey:
If Someone Made a Movie
I think most writers hear this question sooner or later – from the moderator of your panel, or a reader who stops to chat as she’s buying your book, or maybe it’s a question you ask yourself. I think you’ve guessed from my title what that question is:  “Who would you want to play [name of protagonist] in a movie?”

Let me admit up front, I have spent more time than I should have on the Internet trying to come up with a good answer to that question. After all, Lizzie Stuart is my character. I should know who I would like to play her in a movie – or on a television series. So, I’ve looked at photos of the talented African American women who might portray Lizzie, my female sleuth. I keep looking and thinking, and I still don’t have an answer.

Not that I’m anticipating needing to know. First, Hollywood is not sending me or my agent emails begging to option my series, and second, even if a director were interested, I would probably have no say-so at all regarding casting. And, then, there’s the third issue. Lizzie is a first-person narrator. She doesn’t spend a lot of time looking at herself. She only comments about herself in the context of haircuts or pet hairs on a skirt. I know that other characters find her attractive. But I – perhaps intentionally -- have never tried to imagine her face feature-by-feature.

You’ll notice that there is an illustrator that we assume to be Lizzie on the cover of both Death’s Favorite Child and A Dead Man’s Honor. These are new covers, created for the books as they were being reissued. I really love the look of these covers and the connection they establish among books in the series. But I also really liked the covers on the first editions published by Overmountain Press on which she did not appear. And I thought it was really cool when “In Her Fashion,” my first short story in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine (July 2014) included both an illustration of Lizzie and of another character in the story. (If you’d like to listen to that story, it’s at

I’m fine with all of this because I’m interested in how other people imagine Lizzie. I may never find a photograph or see someone on the street or movie screen and think, “That’s her! That’s Lizzie!” It’s more important that I, as author, know who she is and how she thinks and feels.  

I have a much better idea how John Quinn (the Philadelphia homicide detective that Lizzie meets in Death’s Favorite Child) looks. Lizzie describes him to the reader. I would be able to pick him out in a crowd. And, no, I don’t know who should play him in the movie. But I do know the feel of the chemistry between Quinn and Lizzie that would be crucial to make their relationship work on the screen. I have spent some time looking at white male actors because Lizzie and Quinn are an interracial couple. But they aren’t a “cute couple” (in the cozy sense). In fact, if I ever “saw” them in a cafĂ©, they’d probably be having a rather intense conversation about suspects. 

Her mystery novels feature Southern-born crime historian, Lizzie Stuart, in five books, beginning with Death’s Favorite Child and A Dead Man’s Honor. The books are being reissued by Speaking Volumes. Frankie’s two near-future police procedurals feature Albany police detective, Hannah McCabe in The Red Queen Dies and What the Fly Saw (Minotaur Books). Frankie has also has written several short stories, including “In Her Fashion” (EQMM, July 2014), “The Singapore Sling Affair” (EQMM, Nov/Dec 2017), and “The Birth of the Bronze Buckaroo” (The Adventures of the Bronze Buckaroo, 2018). She is currently working on a nonfiction book about dress and appearance in American crime and justice, a historical thriller set in 1939, and the plots of the next Stuart and McCabe books.

Frankie is a past executive vice president of Mystery Writers of America and a past president of Sisters in Crime.

Twitter:  @FrankieYBailey

Amazon: A Dead Man’s Honor

Amazon: Death’s Favorite Child
(all info provided and released by participating authors)


  1. Thanks to all of you who shared. It was great seeing Frankie and Eleanor here, as I've met both of you. Carole, I hope to meet you at some point.


Follow 50 Authors from 50 States blog for the latest