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Tweaking the work

12 Aug


One of the great pleasures of being a writer is going back and rereading, then reworking something “finished” sometime ago.

Not sure a sculptor nor a painter has that freedom.

Of course, when a work appears in print, it’s a bit more difficult to accomplish. But on the internet? If it weren’t for the easy of editing online I might not publish anything at all.

This online writing studio is like the artist’s studio in that work is in process. I’ve a friend who is becoming a master in what he calls plastic, metal and glass. He uses clay to sculpt a range of beautiful flowers — and was on a rhododendron tear years back. He would lay down layer upon layer of glazes of varying color, fire the work and then carve and gently sand through those layers, revealing the layered colors.

Once he was done with a work, that was it. He could only start again if he didn’t like something.

david statueImagine Michelangelo finishing his great piece David and standing back, only to think, “You know, I shouldda made his manhood a bit bigger …”

I get to go back and tweak my writing (not to be confused with twerking my writing). Change a word or a phrase. Delete whole passages. Add entirely new material. I’m doing that now with my very first book, Through the Glass Darkly, a compilation of short stories I wrote over about a two-year period of time. I’m editing like mad, enlisting others to give me the benefit of their eyes and opinions, deleting stories, adding stories.

I just finished doing that with one of my favorite poems, I’m Sick Today, inspired I'm Sick Todaywhen my youngest was bed-bound with a fever and sore throat.

I guess the challenge is when do you know something is finished? Theoretically, you don’t. Like this life we sail through, the seas and weather change daily — sometimes from moment to moment.

So I’ll continue to review and tweak. And, if you point something out to me about my work that I was myopic about, I’ll think about your input and probably respond by tweaking some more.

Emily Bronte, et. al., wrote her manuscripts by hand. I’m sure to go back and rewrite was a bona fide pain in the arse. Not so bad these days with our technology.

That is one thing I am glad to have access to as a writer. I can go back and tweak to my little heart’s content.


The road to writer’s hell …

12 Jul

The road to writer’s hell …

By L. Stewart Marsden


The saying may as well be about us writers: The road to writer’s hell is paved with good intentions …

For several weeks I’ve had the best laid-out plan for my work for this summer. It has included:

  • Completing rewriting and editing the 2nd edition of Through the Glass Darkly and getting that book uploaded
  • Final edits and rewrites for The Typewriter novella and uploading for eBook download and sales
  • Revisiting The Huguenots, a historic novel on the diaspora of the French Huguenots to Charleston, SC
  • Revisiting The Knighting of Tommy McPhee, a YA novel
  • Working sales for Stinky and the Night Mare
  • Putting together the final elements of Stinky and the Best Sandcastle EVER!
  • Mapping out the second novella pertaining to Roland Dumphreys and his Royal KMM typewriter
  • Mapping out and beginning a new work, The Feral Cat, a suspense/fantasy involving Scottish lore, Indian lore, and the mountains of North Carolina
  • Beginning a new work, The Skitterers, a fantasy/horror piece about the beaches in North/South Carolina (based from my childhood)

Guess what I’ve completed?

Nope, you’re wrong.

Guess again.

You’re getting warmer.

None. Zilch. Nada. Ningún. Zero. Nil.

Two weeks at the beach with the best of intentions. Brought all my computer stuff with the minor exception of my HP TouchSmart screen. Had to buy a laptop (HP 16-inch). Struggled with the new Microsoft desktop software (I HATE IT!!!!!!)

Watched my feet swell up with the heat, sunburn and blister and peel.

Didn’t get to prepare my famous surf ‘n turf meal for my family.

Had a few other challenges along the way … although they weren’t my challenges, but those of my family. Children, specifically.

My 35-year-old son has been battling diverticulitis and several hospitalizations. He missed a family trip (the other family) to Ireland due to being hooked up to a PICC line for ministrations of heavy-duty antibiotics.

He went under the knife this past Friday and I’m headed his way in order to help out where I can. Hope not to get in the way.

Part of me thinks, “Okay, these are valid reasons for not accomplishing the list. Perhaps the list is too long. Perhaps too many items. Eat the cake one piece at a time.

More like one word at a time.

I’ll probably guilt myself for a half-dozen things until things settle down. Settle down, things.

That’s why no poems lately. No short stories. No nothing other than random reactions to sharks, Confederate flags, and other top-of-the-news stuff.

I suppose I’ll live with it.

Does this count as writer’s block?

Honestly, my intentions were good. Really they were.


Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 12 July, 2015



17 Jun



By L. Stewart Marsden


My nephew and his daughter encounter an unexpected swimming mate. Actually, it's Photoshopped.

My nephew and his daughter encounter an unexpected swimming mate. Actually, it’s Photoshopped.





There’s shark activity off the NC coast this week. My family and I are about ten days from driving down to the feeding grounds for two weeks’ of sun ‘n sand ‘n shark bites.

One hapless swimmer was nipped at a beach to the south of where we’re staying. Her boogie board has two very nice impressions gouged out of either side of the Styrofoam carcass. The kind dentists use to make a dental impression. Say ahhhh!

Two others, a boy and a girl, lost portions or all of an arm at the next beach up. In the surf. In the afternoon. Not far from the beach’s pier where fishers have been chumming the waters around the stilted wooden structure. Both were left arm injuries. Apparently liberal sharks.

They were tiger sharks — or bull sharks, say the experts.

According to one website, you are more likely to die from bee, wasp or other insect stings than at the jaws of a shark. Actually, twenty more times likely to die from a cow bite.

Doesn’t take the attention off that meeting of land and sea, though. I’m sure the victims could care less about the remote chances of being bitten by a shark.

My youngest daughter says all sharks need to be killed. Yeah — that’s the spirit … kill the bad beasties.

Meanwhile I’m following Katharine and half a dozen other tagged sharks who meander up and down the east coast. Ba-bum … ba-bum … But it’s not the tagged sharks that cause the heartbeat to flutter.

The shark killed by humans ratio to human’s killed by sharks is something like a million to one each YEAR! I’ll bet the sharks don’t like those odds one bit. American Pharoah stood worse odds of losing the Triple Crown than sharks have of surviving the slaughter of their species.

Imagine what the shark newspapers are saying? What the headlines are … Keep Your Dorsals, Avoid Japan! And any other country’s waters where men worship shark parts over Viagra.

You know who’s fault this is, right?

Peter Benchley.

He’s not around to kick, though. And actually, Benchley became an advocate of shark protection before he died.

Spielburg runs a close second. And he is still around.

Then there’s Shark Week as well as the Sharknado film series.

Oh, god — if we can’t get hysterical over something …

Thank god for Donald Trump and comic relief.

Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 17 June, 2015

So … (my rant of the week)

31 May

So …

My rant of the week.

By L. Stewart Marsden

I had a conversation with my middle-aged daughter the other day. She’s not middle-aged as in her forties or fifties. She is the middle of three daughters. Almost the middle of five, but not. She’s a teen, mere days away from “qualifying” to drive by reaching her sixteenth birthday.

I argued that vocabulary these days has become quite complex. In fact, that groups of people consciously use words and phrases to delineate and segregate themselves from others.

Some of the words and phrases my daughter uses require my asking “What did you mean by that?”

Okay, it’s true when I was in high school there were words and phrases probably alien to my parents and their generation. But they were pretty hokey — CoolPadMan. And more I guess. Pretty lame stuff compared with today’s hot word meanings and phrases.

But I digress.

Ever hear of the language abbee-dabbee? Like Pig Latin, it is a simple insertion of ab after each consonant of a word and the remaining letters. So if I want to say, “Have a nice day,” I’d say

“Hab-av-ab-e  ab-a  nab-ice dab-ay.”

Those practiced at it can rattle on and on in the midst of others — even say some fairly nasty things about people right there — and not be understood.

My daughters and Ex do this. They may as well break out into French or German as far as my ability to understand them when they do.

It’s a bit more than irksome. It separates me from those who are “in the know,” and becomes a way to segregate the ins from the outs. 

Today the practice is used by many. Some of the words and phrases are the fault of technology and social networking. My kids use abbreviations like LMAO in their speech. I’m always running to catch up on the trends so I’m not taken unawares, but it’s a losing battle.

Then there are the irksome practices.

So when did “so” become the must-use first word of each sentence?

It’s very much like the old Valley Girl speak. It isn’t a big thing. I take that back. It is a big thing. To me. It’s why I wrote this little comment.

I’m going to don my parental persona right now (some of you will understand that small bit of information … I’m hoping at least the parents will) —

Just like how you dress, how you talk speaks to others about the kind of person you are. If you are conscious about correct word usage and grammar, it says to others, “I am a well-versed and educated person to whom you should pay attention and heed what is said.” Or not, if you choose to embrace poor grammar and use words incorrectly. I’ll let you decide what the “or not” conjures up.

While street speak and techno-babble and social media syntax separate the user from others, the usage identifies the user with groups that are maybe not so admirable.

Meanwhile, correct word usage and grammar also separate the user from others. It identifies you with a group of people who has an entirely different image. Educated. Intelligent. Able. Promising. Motivated. These and other descriptors come to mind. This group seems to be on the wane. It’s getting smaller and smaller and is less prevalent and even less approved.

It doesn’t mean you can’t slip into other forms of communication. Of course you can. When it benefits you and your audience. When you are trying to be heard and understood. Or, conversely, when you want to alienate yourself from those close about. There’s even a place for abbe-dabbe. But the overriding hope of this writer is that some of you reading this, who practice the undisciplined way of communicating, will reconsider putting effort into learning and using a higher level of speech. Remember what your mother and father probably said more than once — just because you could doesn’t mean you should. 

So, I’m just sayin’ …

As much as these trendy ways of communicating help you to blend in, don’t forget to nurture and develop correct word usage and grammar as well that might help you stand out — in a good way.

The trendy stuff will eventually go away. I hope.

Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 31 May, 2015

Do I contradict myself? Very well, then …

17 May

The Liebster Award

In my About page I made the following statement:

2. As much as they are appreciated for the thought behind them, I don’t respond to nominations — unless, of course, it’s for an Oscar, Tony, Grammy or the Pulitzer. I don’t understand most of the online “awards.” Plus I’m a curmudgeon.

My writing friend Clara Bush —with a bunch of other names in between — has nominated me for the distinction of The Liebster Award. She sent me an email. Said,

Hi Skip,
I nominated you for the Liebster Blog Award. If you don’t know about it, you can check it out here: 
Sounds like a cool thing. Hope you think so. 
I’ve seen the award name about on WordPress. I responded to Clara’s email: Liebster? Is that Maine or Maryland liebster? 
I once ate a huge lobster at Flutie’s down in the canal area of New York City. I mean, HUGE! The animal must have been about a hundred years old or something. The black intestinal vein ran like a thick cord from fore to aft. I had quite a few glasses of wine to drink, and the trip was chauffeured in a limousine, so I don’t remember how it tasted. Wonderful, I’m sure.
So I’ve been on WordPress going on — what? — four years? And along the way there have been those people who have sent me announcements that they had nominated me for this or that award. Don’t get me wrong, I am always flattered at the notion that what I write and post is actually read by anyone, or that after reading my stuff, they like it enough to give me a badge.
But then Clara does it! I mean — CLARA! I don’t remember how we crossed paths … probably a WordPress thing … but she writes these creepy tales that combine my memories of growing up with aliens and Indians and the West. You couldn’t have a better mix. Unless you throw a court scene and Abraham Lincoln into the recipe. I took a screenwriting course at NYU one summer and the instructor said Lincoln and a court scene were paramount inclusions that guaranteed success.
What could I do? I couldn’t say, No, Clara — I won’t accept the award. Well, I probably could. But then Clara would never speak to me again, and when she becomes a recognized best-seller … see what I mean?
There have been a few times during my rather mundane existence that I’ve been surprised by recognition — other than my mugshot showing up in the local post office.
The first was when I was in my teens and was still young enough to be a Boy Scout. I loved Scouting! Nearly killed myself on several camping occasions, but boy did we ever have fun! One of theuwharriecanoing_edited-1
highlights of Scouting was summer camp. This particular summer, I literally stayed the entire summer at Camp Uwharrie, located just outside High Point, NC. I worked on earning my four aquatics merit badges: swimming, life saving, rowing and canoeing. Toward the end of my last scheduled week at camp at dinner in the Mess Hall, the camp director stood and announced a Scout had distinguished himself during his time in camp so much that he was being promoted to camp staff. And not only that — but to the Waterfront Staff!
And he called my name! Wow!
I was overwhelmed with surprise mixed with a little pride, I must say. That summer I was also tapped out into the Order of the Arrow, but that didn’t even approach the impact of being called up to camp staff!
The second surprise came when I was a junior at a Virginia boarding school. A prestigious and exclusive southern prep school, I never felt a part of the tradition. My mom and dad were immigrants to the south from Minnesota after the war. My dialect was influenced by my Midwestern parentage. Yankees, we were called. If my older sister hadn’t been such a looker, I never would have made it.
We juniors were required to attend the graduation of the seniors at the end of school. With a total student population of slightly more than 300, if we hadn’t attended, the event would have been almost a nonevent. During graduation foreplay, many awards and recognitions were handed out. Things like yearbook and newspaper honors and more. The master who headed up the history department stepped to the dais and announced the recipient of the History Award. It was me! Ironic, that. I had been kicked out of my history class for goofing with my pencil, which flew through lincolnassassination_edited-1the air and hit the instructor. Don’t ask me how I managed that. But also, I had for the first time really gotten into a term paper on the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln. This was before the internet — when you actually had to go through the stacks of a library to research a topic.
I got sucked into that process, read everything our school library contained and then my home library and other near-home libraries as well. I loved the process. And I wrote. Typed, actually. On an old Royal manual typewriter. And I drew maps, and illustrations — the whole nine yards. When my name was called I was once again floored. But proud. Neither of my parents were at the ceremony because I wasn’t graduating. They gave me a hardbound book with a wonderful color dust jacket about American Indians. I wish I knew where that book was.
The most recent surprise — other than Clara’s — came a few months after I had performed in a local community theater production of the musical My Fair Lady. I auditioned for and landed the role of Alfred P. Doolittle, the garish and drunkenly father of Liza Doolittle, one of the musical’s main characters. Years before I landed the same role for another community theater in the western mountains of North Carolina, but refused it when my then wife was not cast as Liza. It was a heroic response on my part, I thought.  This time my then-wife was a bit too old to get the role, although she auditioned for it, and accepted a part in the chorus.
My Fair Lady was one of my parents’ favorite musicals. They saw it in New York with Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews, and bought the cast album, as well as movie album. One of Dad’s favorite tunes was Get Me to the Church On Time, sung by Alfred. Sad to say, my dad had died before I played the role.
Dressing room chatter — as with all community theaters (I recommend the mocumentary Waiting for Guffman, by the way) — included gossip about the North Carolina Community Theatre AlfredPDoolittle_insetRegional Awards. One veteran board-stomper who assessed himself far more highly than others did, said no one from our particular theater would ever win anything. We might be nominated, but because of the politics and high competition in our particular region, he basically advised us “don’t hold your breath.”
The wonderful thing about live theater is you never know how things will be from one night to the next. And with several weekend performances, we had more than our share of not knowing. People drop lines — stare vacuously towards the audience hoping someone will cue them. So happened to me on more than one occasion. On one particular night, I forgot a line, and substituted some political remark instead which fit just as well. The audience howled. And it happened on the night the regional theater reviewer was in the house.
A few weeks after our run, the actor who played Henry Higgins emailed me a congratulatory message. I had been nominated for a Cameo Role recognition. I was one of I think eight nominees. So I checked a few months later, and to my surprise, I had won the category! Kind of a blah way of discovering it, I admit, but I was too cheap to buy tickets and rent a tux and make the drive down to Charlotte and sit and eat with dozens of people I didn’t know.
In his book Surprised by Joy! C.S. Lewis talks about those rare instances in life when something so serendipitous, so unexpected and so wonderful happens that we are elevated well above our common state of emotion. The specialness of these particular intrusions on otherwise common lives, sort of makes the living worth it.
So, Clara Bush, I accept your nomination. I am humbled and grateful you thought well enough of my work to include me in your list of nominees.
On to the administrative duties of being a Liebster Award nominee:

The rules for the award …

1. Thank the person who nominated you, and post a link to their blog on your blog.

Check … did that.

2. Display the award on your blog — by including it in your post and/or displaying it using a “widget” or a “gadget”. (Note that the best way to do this is to save the image to your own computer and then upload it to your blog post.)

Here it is: LiebsterRed

3. Answer 11 questions about yourself, which will be provided to you by the person who nominated you.

So Clara asked that I answer the following questions:

1. In the world of literary fiction, who is your hero? Hero=he or she.

Okay, I’m not sure if you mean character or author? If it’s character, then Tess of D’Ubervilles. A strong and compelling character. If author — gosh. Kurt Vonnegut ranks right up there, as does Roald Dahl.

2. The song you listen to in order to get motivated to write? Song= one only, please.

I typically do not listen to music for motivation. Normally I itch to sit down at my keyboard because all these crazy ideas and thoughts and scenarios and conversations have been playing in my mind, and if they don’t get out I’M GOING TO GO MAD!!! Maybe Adagio for Strings.

3. What quote keeps you set on go to complete your goals?

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
— A. Lincoln.

Yeah. Good question. I tend to hop from one lily pad to the other. So focusing on and completing one project at a time is not my tendency. It’s like how I cook. I’ve got something on this burner, and something on that burner, and something mixed in a bowl and the oven warming and something thawing.

4. What animal is your spirit guide?

Hadn’t thought about that. Spirit guide. If you mean my muse, I would have to say it is the Past. While some of my inspirations come from current events, much or most derives from memories of people, places and events. Even a smell can trigger a story. In my newest project, The Typewriter, the physical spiritual guide is a Royal KMM typewriter built sometime in the late 1940s.

5. If you were in a Fahrenheit 451 scenario, which one book would you hide to keep it from being thrown into the fire? Other than the Bible.

You assume a lot with the Bible comment. Well, Fahrenheit 451 might be on the list. Bradbury is definitely a favorite author. And it would make perfect ironic sense.

6. What preparations have you made for the Zombie Apocalypse? List at least 2. And don’t lie. You know you’ve made some.

Not really. And I’m not lying.

7. If you could choose, would you be a vampire, werewolf, or zombie? Why, briefly?

Werewolf. Cause vampires can’t kill you, and I’ve never seen a werewolf with a bad case of fleas. Now if I could be the werewolf in Bouchard’s short story, The Compleat Werewolf, so much the better.

8. What is your pick for the greatest science fiction movie ever?

Not a fair question. The 1956 version of The Invasion of the Body Snatchers is right up there. Anything filmed in black and white pre 1960 was far more innovative and scary that what gets to the screen these days. In my opinion.

9. What scares you? I mean really creeps you out in the creepy way like look under the bed or in the closet way— not like car wrecks, or serial killers, or death of loved ones, but like aliens or alien abduction, or ghosts, or dinosaurs, or…

More than fantasy, the reality of things like microorganisms that reside in our bodies, or the thought that my next-door-neighbor might be making pipe bombs with the intent of visiting the schools my children attend. Or a government that seems okay to back down to foreign intimidation.

10. Your first kiss, would you give it a thumbs up or a thumbs down?

Down, definitely. It was just a brushing of the outer lip skins. And she was like a zombie.

11. If you could time travel, would you? Where to? Past? Future? Would you go back and repeat and/or improve your first kiss?

The past intrigues me more than the future. I’d like to be able to sit down with some of the great names of the past — Twain and Jonathan Swift and Poe and Thomas Hardy. Eleanor Roosevelt. Some of my ancestors.

The kiss thing? Naw. That was then.

4. Nominate other bloggers that you feel deserve the award.

Jots From a Small Apartment. A lovely blog that combines two forms of art: watercolor (typically) and prose.

Ray Ferrer’s Urban Wall Art. Ray illustrated my first self-published collection of short-stories, Through the Glass Darkly. His work was ideal for my purposes.

Sheila Sea’s poetry blog. Concise, sensual and intriguing are the words that consistently come to my mind when I read this poet’s work.

The Outlier Babe’s The Last Half. An oliophonic compendium of various stuff, anyone with enough sense to recognize herself and her life as fitting that of an outlier — and even using the word if you haven’t read Cold Mountain — is an opportunity for something special. Go dip a toe.

5. Create a new list of questions for the bloggers to answer.

Revenge is best served cold …

1. When did you come to realize you are an artist?

2. What did you overcome in order to reach that conclusion?

3. Would you prefer to be famous or infamous … and why?

4. What will your legacy be?

5. What would you like for your epitaph?

6. What are your currently working on?

7. Dinner with any two people, alive or dead, and why?

8. Name and describe one surprise event in your life.

9. If there were do-overs, which one would you?

10. Is literature improving or not? Why do you think so?

11. What is the difference between a stove?

6. List these rules in your post.


7. Inform the people/blogs that you nominated that they have been nominated for the Liebster Award and provide a link for them to your post so that they can learn about it.(They may have never heard of it.)

 Alllllllllll-righty, then! Doing so now.

The Pledge of Allegiance: who wrote it and why, how it changed through the decades and how controversial it remains

2 Apr

The Pledge of Allegiance:

Who wrote it and why,

How it changed through the decades

and How controversial it remains today

By L. Stewart Marsden

Pledge of Allegiance

NatPubSchCelColumbusDayBadge1892Driving my middle daughter to school the other day, she asked why public school children begin the day with the Pledge of Allegiance. A sophomore in high school, she thought the practice was out-of-line in terms of what she thought was worshiping a flag.

I confess I didn’t know much about how the pledge came to be. I knew that over the years it had changed — that the words “under God” were added later. On June 14, 1954 President Dwight Eisenhower signed into law the resolution sponsored by Louis Rabaut, Rep-D from Michigan so doing. I was a little more than five months shy of turning age five.

So I grew up saluting the flag on a stick that protruded from a holder at the front of the classrooms and reciting the pledge as I knew it:

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands one Nation under God with Liberty and Justice for all.

When a kid I saw the 1939 cartoon depicting Porky Pig struggling to learn the pledge. That was a hallmark moment for me, and is embedded in my mind. Porky fell asleep by a flagpole, exhausted and frustrated at trying to learn the pledge. The American flag waving above, he dreamed of a sit-down with none other than Uncle Sam. The eight minute forty-three second production is hard to find, and is otherwise segmented on YouTube — cutting out the Uncle Sam dream.

“You don’t know why you should learn the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag?” asks Sam. “C’mon over here and I’ll show you.”

What follows is a mini-survey of American history from the colonization of the eastern seaboard, to the Declaration of Independence, signing of the Constitution and westward expansion. Truncated and highly patriotic, the propaganda still stirs my heart. You can view the film at

The internet and Google opened vast information as well as very opinionated viewpoints on the pledge.

How did the pledge come to be? Who wrote it? How has it changed over the years? What is the controversy that surrounds it? Which state public schools still have children say the pledge, and which don’t?

I also wanted to know beyond the controversy of the reference to God, how do we stand as a nation on the assertions that this nation provides liberty and justice for all? If the pledge was first penned in 1892, what significance does that bear on liberty and justice for all though the decades to the present? Some form of the pledge has been in existence for going on nearly 125 years.


Francis J. Bellamy

Francis J. Bellamy

The origins — Francis J. Bellamy and — a money-raising scheme?

Francis J. Bellamy was about 37 years old at the time he penned the first version of the Pledge of Allegiance. As his father and uncle had, Bellamy served as a Baptist minister for about 10 years, and apparently due to his unorthodox views was asked to leave the ministry.

According to Israel Wayne in his post, The Socialistic History of the Pledge to the Flag,

“[Bellamy’s] theological views were far from Biblical. He refused to believe in the virgin birth, the resurrection or the ascension of Christ, and somehow erroneously insisted that Jesus Christ was a socialist, like himself. In 1889, Francis co-founded, under the influence of his first cousin, Edward Bellamy, the Society of Christian Socialists.”

Again according to Wayne, the socialism Bellamy and his cousin espoused was the belief that the federal government was to be depended upon and revered. A far cry from communism, wealth and its accumulation were not

Edward Bellamy was far better known than Francis due to his writing — and especially for his novel Looking Backward 2000 – 1887 (1888). In the 1930s the book was touted by such luminaries as John Dewey and Charles Beard as “among the two most influential books published between 1885 and 1935. Some economists ranked it just behind Marx’s Das Kapital as most influential book on economics published in the nineteenth century. Mark Twain was fascinated by the book and invited Edward Bellamy to visit him. William Dean Howells said that it moved the nation more than any other American work. (Howells eventually became a socialist who followed Tolstoy’s type of Christian Socialism.)”

Francis joined the staff of Youth’s Companion, a family magazine owned by one of the members of his Boston congregation.

                “Assigned to the magazine’s promotions department, the 37-year-old Bellamy set to work arranging a patriotic program for schools around the country to coincide with opening ceremonies for the Columbian Exposition in October 1892, the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the New World. Bellamy successfully lobbied Congress for a resolution endorsing the school ceremony, and he helped convince President Benjamin Harrison to issue a proclamation declaring a Columbus Day holiday.”

Part of the plan for the ceremony was a pledge, which remained unwritten until the very last.

Daniel S. Ford, the magazine editor, assigned his nephew James Upham and Bellamy to create the pledge. Bellamy was to create the work, and Upham to market the pledge to sell American flags, a fund-raising effort to support the magazine and other of Ford’s work.

Later Upham challenged the authorship of the pledge when it gained national attention, but Bellamy’s son was able to produce documentation establishing his father as the true creator.

 Why was a pledge necessary?

Wayne lists six reasons Bellamy and others embarked on the enterprise. It should be noted that Wayne represents a more conservative Christian point-of-view.

  1. To embrace the federal government as the panacea for all social ills, and the need for “unreserved trust and dependence on the State.”
  2.  The financial motive of selling of flags. “By 1892 the publication had already sold flags to approximately 26,000 schools, but Ford was convinced that they had not yet exhausted the market. Ford commissioned his staff to sell a flag to every school in America. The task was to encourage the NEA to tack on an official “pledge to the flag” for the celebration of the then upcoming National Public School Celebration for Columbus Day, thereby ensuring nearly universal participation in flag ceremonies (and thus, flag sales).”
  3. By playing on patriotism in his marketing of the Columbus Day celebration, Upham successfully infiltrated the NEA (Bellamy was chosen as the chairman for the celebration) and saturated the public school system. Financial motivation aside, the long-term effect impacted what had previously been student memorization of parts of the Constitution, which eventually waned in favor of pledges and patriotic songs.

                “ … most schools that used to have students memorize and recite sections of the U.S. Constitution, The Declaration of Independence or some other founding document from America’s inception, did away with teaching students what American law says, and focused only on oaths and vows. Now when nearly all students pledge allegiance to the Flag, they think the phrase “wall of separation of church and state” is a stated tenet in our Constitution on which the (Democracy) stands, with tolerance and diversity for all.”

4.  Promote the need to fund government schools. Wayne comments that underfunding had been and remains to be a prevailing symptom of the plight of public education.

5. With the division caused by the War Between the States still a rift in the nation, Bellamy wanted to assuage old wounds and promote unity.

6. Government officials felt that a pledge would serve to create a rock bed of loyalty among the rising tide of immigrants.

 “If new immigrants from foreign lands had felt hope of finally being accepted into a nation that looked past skin color and offered “liberty and justice for all,” they would have undoubtedly been disappointed by Francis and other Pledge promoters views on non-white citizens. Not only did the NEA not offer integration of blacks into the “public” schools until 1966, Francis himself said the following, “There are races, more or less akin to our own (author’s note: he means Anglo-Saxon), whom we may admit freely, and get nothing but advantage from the infusion of their wholesome blood. But there are other races which we cannot assimilate without a lowering of our racial standard, which should be as sacred to us as the sanctity of our homes.”

It took Bellamy about two hours of concentrated effort to write the pledge.

I pledge allegiance to my Flag and to the Republic for which it stands —
one Nation indivisible — with Liberty and Justice for all.


Said Bellamy of the words chosen,

 “It began as an intensive communing with salient points of our national history, from the Declaration of Independence onwards; with the makings of the Constitution…with the meaning of the Civil War; with the aspiration of the people…

 The true reason for allegiance to the Flag is the ‘republic for which it stands.’ …And what does that vast thing, the Republic mean? It is the concise political word for the Nation – the One Nation which the Civil War was fought to prove. To make that One Nation idea clear, we must specify that it is indivisible, as Webster and Lincoln used to repeat in their great speeches. And its future?

 Just here arose the temptation of the historic slogan of the French Revolution which meant so much to Jefferson and his friends, ‘Liberty, equality, fraternity.’ No, that would be too fanciful, too many thousands of years off in realization. But we as a nation do stand square on the doctrine of liberty and justice for all…” []

 The original delivery of the pledge prescribed specific body motions . . .

                 “The original Bellamy salute, first described in 1892 by Francis Bellamy, who authored the original Pledge, began with a military salute, and after reciting the words “to the flag,” the arm was extended toward the flag.

Students_pledging_allegiance_to_the_American_flag_with_the_Bellamy_salute At a signal from the Principal the pupils, in ordered ranks, hands to the side, face the Flag. Another signal is given; every pupil gives the flag the military salute — right hand lifted, palm downward, to a line with the forehead and close to it. Standing thus, all repeat together, slowly, “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands; one Nation indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.” At the words, “to my Flag,” the right hand is extended gracefully, palm upward, toward the Flag, and remains in this gesture till the end of the affirmation; whereupon all hands immediately drop to the side. [The Youth’s Companion, 1892]

 Shortly thereafter, the pledge was begun with the right hand over the heart, and after reciting “to the Flag,” the arm was extended toward the Flag, palm-down.

 In World War II, the salute too much resembled the Nazi salute, so it was changed to keep the right hand over the heart throughout.”


The controversy over “under God”

Why did Bellamy, a minister, omit the words “under God” for the original pledge? It seems at first glance ironic. Yet with the background on Bellamy’s socialistic views, the omission becomes more understandable.

Again, Wayne asserts Bellamy’s and those behind the movement dedication to a secular government. The inclusion of “in God” would have been antithesis to that state.

The pressure to add “under God”

Dwight_D._Eisenhower,_official_photo_portrait,_May_29,_1959Dwight David Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States, but he was first in two religious regards, according to a PBS article God in America. He was first to write and recite the prayer at his inaugural ceremony. This remains a singular distinction. He was also the first president to be baptized while in office.

“Nobody goes through six years of war without faith. That doesn’t mean that I adhere to any sect. A democracy cannot exist without a religious base. I believe in democracy.” — Eisenhower

Reared in Kansas, Eisenhower’s parents were members of the Brethren in Christ Church, a Mennonite derivative.

Of his inaugural prayer, Eisenhower said,

“. . . there was embedded in me from boyhood, just as it was in my brothers, a deep faith in the beneficence of the Almighty. I wanted, then, to make this faith clear without creating the impression that I intended, as the political leader of the United States, to avoid my own responsibilities in an effort to pass them on to the Deity. I was seeking a way to point out that we were getting too secular.”

He supported Rabaut’s legislation to add “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance early in his administration. The looming Cold War with Russia created an atmosphere where religious leaders throughout the nation were up in arms so to speak . . .

In this 1950s Cold War atmosphere, it was not difficult for [Billy] Graham to equate patriotism, loyalty, and the quest for happiness with a Christian ideal. The response to threats abroad

and turmoil in American society … was an awakening of religious impulses.” (Billy Graham, A Biography, by Roger Bruns)

The bill to add “in God” to the pledge was signed by Eisenhower on Flag Day, June 14, 1954.

“From this day forward, the millions of our school children will daily proclaim in every city and town, every village and rural school house, the dedication of our nation and our people to the Almighty. To anyone who truly loves America, nothing could be more inspiring than to contemplate this rededication of our youth, on each school morning, to our country’s true meaning. Especially is this meaningful as we regard today’s world. Over the globe, mankind has been cruelly torn by violence and brutality and, by the millions, deadened in mind and soul by a materialistic philosophy of life. Man everywhere is appalled by the prospect of atomic war. In this somber setting, this law and its effects today have profound meaning. In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America’s heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country’s most powerful resource, in peace or in war.”

Will they? From that day forward? For how long?

On June 27, 2002 the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in California voted 2-1 that the Pledge of Allegiance, specifically the words “under God” violate the Constitutional separation of church and state. If allowed to stand, the ruling would apply to schools in the nine states covered by the 9th Circuit. (

MichaelNewdow0207The decision was made in the case of Newdow v. United States Congress, Elk Grove Unified School District, et al. filed on March 8, 2000 on behalf of Michael Newdow and his daughter. The court ruled on June 27, 2002 that the pledge violated the Establishment and Free Exercise of Clauses protected by the Constitution because of the words “under God.” It therefore could not be recited in public schools. The court further held Newdow could challenge a practice that interfered with his right as a father to direct the religious education of his daughter.

The Elk Grove school district appealed to the Supreme Court on April 30, 2003. The court granted the petition to consider if Newdow had standing as a noncustodial parent to make his challenge, and if the school policy in fact violated the First Amendment.

On June 14, 2004 the Supreme Court announced its unanimous judgment to reverse the 9th Circuit’s decision. The court reasoned (in a 5-3 decision) that Newdow “lacked prudential standing” to challenge the school district’s Pledge of Allegiance policy in federal court because he was concurrently involved in a California family court dispute with his daughter’s mother, and because the mother stated that she wanted their child to recite the Pledge as worded with “under God.” The five justices ruling against Newdow’s standing did not address the constitutional question. Justice Scalia recused himself, and the remaining three justices concurred with the majority opinion to reverse the 9th Circuit Court, but dissented on the issue of standing.” []

For many who hold to more conservative religious views, challenges to the inclusion of “under God” are more than irksome. For others, these two words cause much consternation over the issue of separation of church and state.

To this point Congress has done much to protect and make the phrase immutable and invulnerable, putting into law only the President may make changes to the pledge. However solid the state of the pledge, all is irrelevant if the pledge is not uttered. And where it has been recited most often throughout the decades is within public schools at the beginning of the day across the United States. That has changed.

According to a March 23, 2013 article in the San Francisco Chronicle, the number of public schools that practice reciting the pledge is waning.

Turns out, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance has become passé, considered by some to be an outdated and unnecessary ritual with a constitutionally questionable religious reference and false promises of liberty and justice for all.

Others skip it just to save time.

At Alvarado Elementary in San Francisco, students used to recite the pledge when there were daily morning assemblies. Now they don’t.

Todd David’s fifth-grade son knows it in Spanish and English. His second-grade daughter doesn’t. “When I said it to her, she said, ‘I have no idea what you’re talking about, Dad.’ “

It’s difficult to know what percentage of US public schools still follow the tradition of saluting the flag and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Memes abound on social networks. Blogs do too.

states_pledge_mapA whopping thirty-six states require public schools to lead recitation of the pledge.  Another six states give schools the option of requiring it.  Clearly, it’s absurd to claim that “we no longer
do” the pledge.  Further, many who have objected to the pledge being used in public schools (which isn’t quite the same as being offended by it) have done so because of the phrase “under God,” which wasn’t part of the original pledge at all.  It was added in 1954, sixty-two years after the original pledge was written, during the fear-mongering era of McCarthyism, when invoking God was a handy way for those with political ambitions to prove they were hard on Communism.  My own father grew up saying the pledge without the “under God” insertion.  Anyone who is advocating a true return to tradition would more sensibly call for a return to the secular version of the pledge.


Back to my daughter’s thought that saying the Pledge of Allegiance might actually be the same as worshipping false idols — clearly a no-no in the Old Testament. Does that, then, apply to modern-day Christians?


In his blog, Benjamin L. Corey says yes.

“Should a Christian recite the pledge of allegiance at all?“

Admittedly, I never once asked myself this question until the last year or two. Once I really started to consider the issue from all sides, I was actually really disappointed that it had taken me so long to actually see this issue for what it was. In the end, I have become convinced that reciting the Pledge of Allegiance is something that a Jesus follower probably shouldn’t do.


At the other end of the spectrum, editors of Got support the pledge:RNpledgememe

There is nothing sinful about saying a pledge, as long as the pledge does not take away from our commitment to the Lord Jesus. The Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of the United States certainly does not contain any wording that would usurp the authority of Christ in our lives. The Bible, therefore, does not forbid the pledging of allegiance to our flag.

A pledge is a formalized promise, and there is nothing wrong with making a promise. When a couple gets married, they exchange vows, pledging faithfulness to each other—in the old phrasing, “I plight thee my troth.” When a witness takes the stand in a courtroom, he promises to tell the truth. And when a person lays a hand over his heart and recites the pledge to the flag, he is promising loyalty to his country, recognizing that we are all “under God.”



Once again, it seems that strong belief either way is the result of thinking about it. A wayward dalliance for many. People with too much time on their hands. Idle hands are the devil’s workshop. Like trying to correct a slice or hook for a golfer — or helping a basketball player overcome poor performance at the free throw line. Don’t think about it. Don’t — as a mentor of mine would often say — cogitate on it.

The controversy and the angst over the Pledge of Allegiance is a wonderful example of those freedoms and liberties the very same pledge espouses. You and I have the freedom to disagree over whether “in God” should be included, as well as whether or not public school children should either be remanded to or have the choice of repeating the pledge each school day.

As my dear brother-in-law often says, “Ain’t America great?”



Celebration of the 400th anniversary of Columbus discovering the Americas. Columbus Day.
But it’s ironic that the debate centers on a reference to God that an ordained minister left out. And we can be sure that Bellamy, if he was like most writers, would have balked at anyone tinkering with his prose.
“Edward wrote novels including, Looking Backward 2000-1887 (1888), a critique of American capitalism and its sequel Equality (1897). Edward depicted the year 2000 as being the date that competitive capitalism would have been stamped out in favor of what he called a “cooperative commonwealth.” The theories in the book inspired many “Bellamy Clubs,” which led to the formation of a Nationalist Party, that advocated the federalization of public services. In 1891, Edward founded the “New Nation” in Boston, an organization that for some time promoted his leftist views. Edward had other interests, such as psychic phenomena, which he explored in some of his writings, but for the most part, he limited his novels to socialist concerns.”
“During their lifetimes, Edward Bellamy’s name was much better known than Francis’s. Even today, with almost the whole nation reciting Francis’s Pledge, perhaps more people know the name of Edward Bellamy, although neither are recognized by the vast majority of Americans.”
“… Nationalist movement. Francis worked as a lieutenant in the campaign to nationalize the American economy gradually and peacefully. Occasionally Edward and Francis were mistaken for brothers since both were involved in Nationalism and were only five years apart in age.”
 “In 1935, the philosopher John Dewey and historian Charles Beard ranked Looking Backward among the two most influential books published between 1885 and 1935. Some economists ranked it just behind Marx’s Das Kapital as most influential book on economics published in the nineteenth century. Mark Twain was fascinated by the book and invited Edward Bellamy to visit him. William Dean Howells said that it moved the nation more than any other American work. (Howells eventually became a socialist who followed Tolstoy’s type of Christian Socialism.)”
 SUMMARY OF ARGUMENT Torrents of blood have been spilt in the old world, by vain attempts of the secular arm to extinguish Religious discord, by proscribing all difference in Religious opinions. Time has at length revealed the true remedy. Every relaxation of narrow and rigorous policy, wherever it has been tried, has been found to assuage the disease. The American Theatre has exhibited proofs, that equal and complete liberty, if it does not wholly eradicate it, sufficiently destroys its malignant influence on the health and prosperity of the State. If with the salutary effects of this system under our own eyes, we begin to contract the bonds of Religious freedom, we know no name that will too severely reproach our folly. At least let warning be taken at the first fruits of the threatened innovation.6 Though these words were penned by James Madison over two hundred years ago, they resonate with equal clarity today. The locations may have changed, but the religious bloodshed continues. Madison’s cure for this disease was simple: the greatest protection against religious strife and bloodshed is to guarantee equal and complete liberty for all with regard to matters pertaining to religion. It is this guiding principle that serves as the foundation of the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment. The insertion of the words “under God” by the “Joint Resolution to codify and emphasize existing rules and customs pertaining to the display and use of the flag of the United States of America” (the “1954 Act”),7 and the continued governmental “suggestion”8 that these words be repeated daily in our children’s classrooms, is an unconstitutional infringement on the rights of conscience of every Atheist.

Writing coterie participants wanted

25 Feb


Writing coterie participants

I’ve been uploading to WordPress for going on four years by the fall of 2015.

In the beginning, I was a helicopter blogger/writer/uploader. I would upload something and then ping back and forth from my WordPress site and the rest of my life. My great hope was that I would be discovered in a matter of days and that would be it.

I know no one else does this. Just me.

So my stats, owing more to longevity than anything else, continue to grow. For the first-time blogger, they must appear somewhat intimidating. Believe me, it’s all appearance.

Another hope of mine was to receive helpful critique of my work. The wonder of most people who write, especially at the beginning, is whether or not their writing is at all good. I imagined my website would net a vast wealth of criticisms that would help me improve as a writer. A continued frustration of mine is that lack of written, critical commentary of my work.

I’ve wondered why that is. I’ve come to some conclusions over time, however right or wrong:

  1. Visitors to my site are also bloggers/writers/uploaders. Some or most are new at it, even if they are at an advanced age (sounds so much more intriguing and genteel than elderly, don’t you think?). As such, they are prone to gentleness and niceness. The fear of those may well be that you get what you give. Maybe a kind of “writer’s karma” which behooves them to take the edge off their analytic observances of the writing of others so that their writing is not battered by scathing remarks. Vocabulary that these visitors resort to mostly are words like nice!, like, really, incredible, great! The intent is that their writing receive the same type of commentary;
  2. That when a visitor clicks on the “Like” option in response to a work, it is a passive acknowledgment of the piece. Very much like when you were a kid and had to give a book report. “I like this book very much and think everyone should read it.” Not really a report that is worth much. An easy out. And for those serious writers, kind of disappointing when one puts so much effort and energy into whatever is their creation. After all, putting something online for the world to see is a vulnerability worth more than a mere clicking of the “like” option.
  3. Many are actually afraid to leave a comment because of their inability to put a finger on what it is that they like. “This is really good! I don’t know why, and can’t tell you why − but I do.” Again, it’s indicative that we don’t want to self-explore why something gets to us; why a poem or a story or a song resonates with us. Too much work, maybe? Or, I’m a smartphone, Facebook, iPad, whatever kind of person and getting too close to anyone − specially when that person is me, I am taken out of my comfort zone. And we all know our primary goal in life is to be comfortable.

As a result of this ongoing purturbation (look it up), I’ve decided to challenge five readers of this post to make a commitment. First, if you can’t identify with any of the above, move on to something else to read, and please don’t do anything to let me know you dropped by — please DON’T click on the “like” button. I already know that request is futile, and some of you will.

The challenge is this:

Join me in a group of five who are willing to enter into a reciprocal writing relationship, that being to read and critique work from the members, and to submit work for members to read and critique. As there are so many poet groups out there (and I have nothing against poets — I are one on occasion), I’d like to keep the writing within the framework of fiction, and of prose. So, no playwrights, no screenwriters, no biographers or memoir writers (unless it’s fiction, of course). Short stories, novellas, novels, epics are fair game. Genre is whatever you are comfortable writing (although I will stipulate no pornography).

The critical elements of plot, characters, dialogue, conflict, rising action, climax, resolution, exposition, setting, etc. are the pivotal parts of scrutiny.

I’ll set the time of your commitment to be at least six months, with the hope the time will continue as the group gels.

The written and understood agreement of each member is to respect the legal ownership of the works discussed.


How to participate

I will cap the group at five members, including myself. If your interest is piqued, then email me at skiipwrite at g mail dot com. When the coterie of five is complete, I’ll take this post down. I’ll leave the post up until that occurs.

I’m going to ignore replies and “likes” on this post, satisfied you will email me if you have any interest in participating.

Brutal, gut-wrenching critiques wanted: The Transplant rewrite

6 Feb

Leave me a comment below that you are willing to read and critique “The Transplant,” a rewrite I intend to include in the 2nd edition of “Through the Glass Darkly.” I’ll comment on your About page with the password to the story.

Honor, phishing and identity theft

5 Feb

Honor, phishing and identity theft

By L. Stewart Marsden


I’m not a member of the NRA, nor do I own a gun, but I’m really close to changing that.

About a month ago I received an email from someone I knew. In the email was the statement “open these attachments immediately!”

Because of the situation with this person, I clicked on a link that took me to Google, and several of my own pieces of writing appeared.

What the – ? How the heck did he get my documents?

I know all of you savvy techies are shaking your heads and clucking, tch! tch!

I’d been phished. Had. Horn-swaggled! Put over a barrel! Scammed!

That was about six weeks ago, and I ran my filter and other fix-ums software and figured the worst is over.

Oh, no. Not that simple.

So I coincidentally listened to an NPR report on phishing, identity theft – and something new to me: file hostage-taking. As I listened and learned about the evil and nasty thing hackers and others – the Chinese and the North Koreans and the Russians and all the other BAD GUYS in the world – are doing, it hardened my heart another layer. Even the FBI, CIA and other law enforcement cannot do anything about it!

I’m a self-proclaimed curmudgeon anyway, but those roots have now traveled down the backside of my buttocks, as Forrest Gump would say, down the sides of my thighs and calves (no, this is not an X-rated description), through my heels and along my plantar faciitus to finally split my toes and dig into the ground beneath me!

I’m pissed!

Maybe a thousand years ago there used to be something called “honor among men.” Even “honor among thieves!” But guess what? There is NO honor in Mudville! Civility and common decency have STRUCK OUT!

Obviously my little problem pales in comparison to the other ills in the world that hit the headlines almost hourly.

But, I’m still pissed!

Some jackass – who for whatever reason has it in for Bill Gates and Microsoft, or who got dumped by his girlfriend for uploading to Facebook a nude selfie she sent him, OR lost his job dipping the fries basket at MacDaddies when he picked up a couple of undone fries off the floor and tossed them into the hot oil, has really – REALLY – PISSED ME OFF!!

Obviously this worm, this virus, this evil incarnation of ones and zeros that is wreaking havoc on my computerized life, has dug itself deeply into the cranial cracks and crevices of my PC. Which PCees me off again!

But, I’ll survive this.

Change my debit card for the 4th time in three months. Scrap my PC and buy – ugh! – a cheap Dell. Reboot my vital information.

You, whoever you are − don’t have the capability to survive; to change. You are cast in a mold that relegates you to common hoodlisms, pecking about and doing damage where you will just for spite. You are raca (Matthew 5:22)! Go ahead, look it up. It’s in what is called a dictionary. 

But remember, whoever you are – wherever you are and operate . . . be fair warned!

I’m like Batman! The elderly version, to be sure. Or Liam Neeson – just a tad uglier, maybe. Or Clint the Squint Eastwood – only not so lean.

One day, sometime, somewhere, when you least expect it, someone will come up to you and say,

“Smile! You’re on Candid-we’re-locking-you-up-for-the-rest-of-your-life-you-low-life-scumbag-hacker-Camera!”

May the fleas of a thousand camels infest your and your family’s crotches for eternity!

Yeah, I’m pissed.


Honorable Mention for Stinky

31 Dec


"Stinky and the Night Mare," by L. Stewart Marsden, illustrated by Jessie Luo

“Stinky and the Night Mare,” by L. Stewart Marsden, illustrated by Jessie Luo


Stinky and the Night Mare has garnered an Honorable Mention under the Children’s Books category in the 2014 New England Book Festival!

The book is written by L. Stewart Marsden and illustrated by Jessie Luo. Both are from North Carolina.

Anna Maria Alberghetti Christiana Gabriella Margaret Anne Jones does not want to sleep in her bed — and is in a snit. Whenever she’s in a snit, her dad lovingly calls her “Stinky.” Luo’s soft illustrations beautifully capture the magical essence of the story.

For ages 3 to 6 or thereabouts, this repetitive story draws listeners into participation with the reader, and ends in a fantastical moment.

Stinky and the Night Mare is available on most major online bookseller sites, as well as a growing list of independent book sellers. Want to follow Stinky on Facebook? Go to Stinky and the Night Mare!

The book is Marsden’s first children’s book, and is published through Warren Publishing, Inc., Charlotte, NC.

“This is the first of many Stinky stories,” said Marsden.