Saturday, December 31, 2011

Return of the Desert Darlings!

What better way to close out 2011 and begin 2012 than with a replay of one of my most popular posts?  Have a wonderful New Year everyone. Stay safe....

Prostitution has always gotten a bad rap and during the Great Depression it was a topic of widespread comment and concern.  Many Americans believed that the economic crisis might lead to social and sexual chaos and cited the increase in prostitution as an example of this. Sadly, they failed to understand that in many cases, prostitutes were not the morally weak, selfish, power hungry femmes of early films such as Baby Face and Blonde Venus, instead they were women, single women and single mothers, who like the men of the Hoover Dam, did what they could to stay alive. The idea of the male supported family was prevalent, welfare was non-existent and women had few economic opportunities available. Ads like those below were common.

 LV Evening Review Journal 6/24/31

LV Evening Review Journal 8/18/31


In 1930, Las Vegas was a railroad town with a population of just over five thousand. Due to a zoning glitch when the town was originally laid out, two areas in North Vegas, what is now the downtown area, were exempted from the laws that restricted gambling, alcohol and prostitution. One of those two areas, known as Block 16, became famous for its easy access to prostitution.  The bars and casinos in this area had tiny shacks in the back where their clients could be serviced, and one establishment, the Arizona Club, built a second floor to house a bordello.

Between 1930-1931 an estimated 40,000 unemployed men arrived in Las Vegas in hopes of getting one of the 5,000 jobs that would be available at the new government works project later to be known as the Hoover Dam. The legalization of gambling in 1931 brought visitors and gamblers in record numbers, and the liberal divorce laws introduced in the same year increased the population as well.  Block 16 thrived. The girls paid the city doctor $2 a week for a medical clearance, which kept them off the law’s radar. At one point, an estimated 300 women worked the area as prostitutes. Brothels and speakeasies were scattered along US 93/95 between Las Vegas and Boulder City, the government sponsored town built for the Hoover Dam workers. In 1931, the Railroad Pass casino opened just beyond the gate of the Boulder Canyon Project Federal Reservation. Behind the casino on the hillside, tents and small cribs were set up where prostitutes performed their services.



And they were very popular with the men from the dam.

Oral history records reflect that there are fond memories of the prostitutes. An entry from the diary of a Hoover Dam medic states he paid “$2 to Babe to blow it.”  Quite a job, I must say, considering that men at the dam made an average of $5 a day.

In my upcoming novel, Ragtown, Mae and Sally are sisters that work the cribs behind the Railroad Pass. While their presence in the novel was originally intended to be minor, Sally and Mae took over at some point and decided they had a story of their own to tell. Two women, just trying to survive.  And as Sally states, “the dam isn’t the only dangerous place to work in the desert.”

Desert Darlings

What better way to close out 2011 and begin 2012 than with a replay of one of my most popular posts?  Have a wonderful New Year everyone. Stay safe....

Prostitution has always gotten a bad rap and during the Great Depression it was a topic of widespread comment and concern.  Many Americans believed that the economic crisis might lead to social and sexual chaos and cited the increase in prostitution as an example of this. Sadly, they failed to understand that in many cases, prostitutes were not the morally weak, selfish, power hungry femmes of early films such as Baby Face and Blonde Venus, instead they were women, single women and single mothers, who like the men of the Hoover Dam, did what they could to stay alive. The idea of the male supported family was prevalent, welfare was non-existent and women had few economic opportunities available. Ads like those below were common.

 LV Evening Review Journal 6/24/31

LV Evening Review Journal 8/18/31


In 1930, Las Vegas was a railroad town with a population of just over five thousand. Due to a zoning glitch when the town was originally laid out, two areas in North Vegas, what is now the downtown area, were exempted from the laws that restricted gambling, alcohol and prostitution. One of those two areas, known as Block 16, became famous for its easy access to prostitution.  The bars and casinos in this area had tiny shacks in the back where their clients could be serviced, and one establishment, the Arizona Club, built a second floor to house a bordello.

Between 1930-1931 an estimated 40,000 unemployed men arrived in Las Vegas in hopes of getting one of the 5,000 jobs that would be available at the new government works project later to be known as the Hoover Dam. The legalization of gambling in 1931 brought visitors and gamblers in record numbers, and the liberal divorce laws introduced in the same year increased the population as well.  Block 16 thrived. The girls paid the city doctor $2 a week for a medical clearance, which kept them off the law’s radar. At one point, an estimated 300 women worked the area as prostitutes. Brothels and speakeasies were scattered along US 93/95 between Las Vegas and Boulder City, the government sponsored town built for the Hoover Dam workers. In 1931, the Railroad Pass casino opened just beyond the gate of the Boulder Canyon Project Federal Reservation. Behind the casino on the hillside, tents and small cribs were set up where prostitutes performed their services.



And they were very popular with the men from the dam.

Oral history records reflect that there are fond memories of the prostitutes. An entry from the diary of a Hoover Dam medic states he paid “$2 to Babe to blow it.”  Quite a job, I must say, considering that men at the dam made an average of $5 a day.

In my upcoming novel, Ragtown, Mae and Sally are sisters that work the cribs behind the Railroad Pass. While their presence in the novel was originally intended to be minor, Sally and Mae took over at some point and decided they had a story of their own to tell. Two women, just trying to survive.  And as Sally states, “the dam isn’t the only dangerous place to work in the desert.”

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Costa Rica's Gift of Happiness

There are few places in this world that my husband and I agree would be a great place to visit and possibly live.  Now that he has retired, we have been talking about the 'places to live' part even more, and one country keeps coming up. Costa Rica. The happiest country in the world.  A place where he can do whatever it is that he does all day and I can write, or teach, or just got lost in the culture.   The problem is, we've never visited Costa Rica so we can fall in love with it (as I know we will) and I want to go. I really want to go.
Insert Me-and a writing notebook

So cruising around the internet as I often do, I stumbled upon a sweepstakes that has me pretty excited.  I must confess, I am not a huge fan of contests or giveaways, simply because I never win.  I know everyone says that, but I really. Never. Win.  However, some of you are a bit luckier, and because I am such a kind person (and hope you will think of me as a possible 'companion' if you win) I have to share with you.

The Costa Rica Tourist Board is giving away one week, all expense paid trips to Costa Rica. Yes. One week in the Happiest Country in the World.  They are giving away one a day with about six weeks left in the contest, and you can enter daily.  That means I have forty-ish more chances to win, and so do you!

Possibly the coolest little guy ever

There are five different adventure packages that you can choose from and you must choose when you enter. Just watching the videos for each made my heart long for a walk through a rainforest, a nap on the beach, or a romantic dip in a hot tub in paradise.  The five happiness packages are tailored to different interests and include the Authentic, Adventure, Wildlife, Romantic and Adrenaline Happiness packages.  (It was a difficult choice, but I went with Adventure.) 
 
So visit the Costa Rica Tourist Board Gift of HappinessFacebook page, like it, then click on the Gift of Happiness on the left to enter.   

And remember who sent you there---

Saturday, December 17, 2011

12 Blogs of Christmas: Favorite Books

As a writer, I think there is no better gift at Christmas than a story.  For the 12 Blogs of Christmas, I took book suggestions from several others and had quite a response! From traditional, to humorous, to contemporary and a few that some wouldn't think of as a Christmas story, the list is quite diverse and entertaining.  Click on the book covers for more information, and be sure and visit all of the author blogs below in the 12 Blogs of Christmas!

My blog, I go first! One of my fav books ever is The Ice Harvest by Scott Phillips. It's Christmas Eve in Wichita and most people are home celebrating with their families-but not Charlie Arglist. He's trying to tidy things up, so to speak, before he leaves town with the million dollars he has just stolen. Although I love Christmas cheer and happy thoughts, I like this book because it's a reminder that 'other things' are going on while the rest of us are celebrating---and not always the kinds of things we want to think about. And I have a mad writer crush on Scott Phillips.
 
Karen DeLabar is all about romance.  "I love reading it, writing it and experiencing it. My "go-to" book during the holiday season is The Gift which is a collection of three Nora Roberts books, Home for Christmas, All I Want for Christmas, and Gabriel's Angel. The three stories are short and can be considered romance fluff, but this time of year a little fluff is okay. Plus, they encompass everything I love about the holiday: magic, hope and love." Visit Karen's blog to discover some great Christmas movies with the 12 Blogs of Christmas!
 
No, Natalie Kenney the Toys'R'Us Big Book doesn't count. But your second choice certainly does! "I love Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum Mystery Series and she wrote a Christmas-themed Plum story: Visions of Sugar Plums. It's so difficult to choose a favorite book of any kind, but this one has tons of laughs, a hot guy, and a little Christmas spirit. What more can a gal ask for?"  Natalie is sharing some unusual, traditional and fun Christmas cookies on her blog during the 12 Blogs of Christmas. 

 "I have always had a love/hate relationship with life Christmas" says author D.C. McMillen. "It is for that reason that I recommend You Better Not Cry by Augusten Burroughs. If you have ever confused Santa with Jesus (and who hasn’t?), tried to create an edible masterpiece in the kitchen without bothering to follow a recipe or waking your parents’ (and who hasn’t), or if you have ever felt undeserving of a perfection you cannot help but relentlessly strive for (and who hasn’t?) then this is the book for you. Filled with acerbic observations, witty commentary, and a consistent stream of self-depreciating humour, this is the perfect book to read while sitting in front of your freshly decorated tree and sipping a glass of red. Until you laugh too hard and accidentally snort wine out your nose. In honor of the 12 Blogs of Christmas, D.C. is toasting us with favorite Christmas drinks on her blog today! 
 
Erica Lucke Dean is all about a traditional Christmas. "I want to create a completely vintage feel in the house during the Christmas season.  It makes me feel like I'm back in my grandmother's farmhouse.  I like Dickens' A Christmas Carol for that very reason. Bring on those Ghosts of Christmas past. I'll be wearing my very best flannel nightie."  To share some special Christmas memories, visit Erica today, one of the 12 Blogs of Christmas.
  My favorite Aussie, Ciara Ballintyne chose The Hogfather by Terry Pratchett as her favorite. "The Hogfather is the Disc's equivalent of our Santa, but his sleigh is pulled by four hogs. An assassin has been commissioned to kill the Hogfather, which he plans to achieve by causing children to stop believing in him. To encourage children to believe in the Hogfather, Death takes his place to deliver all the presents. If the Hogfather dies, the sun will not rise."  Ciara is spotlighting some unusual Christmas decorations for the 12 Blogs of Christmas, so check those out!
 No, Wendy told him with a little smile. Only until Christmas. Then we have the capon.
Why is Justin Bogdanovitch's recommendation Stephen King's The Shining? "Well, long ago, while reading it for the first time, I had to look up what a Christmas capon was (how it was invented by the Romans also lands in Stephen King country). But back to The Shining...It takes place in the lead up to winter, the promise of the holidays brings a semblance of family unity even to the Torrance family. The ghosts come out before Thanksgiving. Danny eventually meets the dead thing in room 217 and it wraps her hands around him in a terrifying embrace. After Thanksgiving, when Wendy contemplates how to cook that special Christmas capon, the bruises on Danny's neck have faded. The Torrances, like any family, look forward to Christmas. Unfortunately, at this moment in the novel, they are in the calm eye of a monstrous hurricane force. I try to read The Shining or watch the Kubrick film sometime during the holiday, just to get in the mood; it's a perennial favorite!" For the 12 Blogs of Christmas, Justin is highlighting Christmas Faux Pas on his blog!

Now for something safe for the kiddies...
Raine Thomas says, "I love the Grinch! My favorite Christmas story is How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss. My parents always let us stay up to watch the annual showing of the movie on TV, and they would read us the story before bed on Christmas Eve.  I've continued this tradition with my own daughter." Raine is entertaining us with Christmas music today, one of the 12 Blogs of Christmas!

Maureen Hovermale dug herself out from a pile of books and assorted bookmarks to address the subject of Christmas books properly: Charles Dickens is the MAN. Forget about Ebenezer, turn your eye on the Messrs. Snodgrass, Winkle, and Tupman and drink a glass of hot brandy-and-water while you’re at it. The best quote ever concerning Christmas is by Charles himself: Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth; that can transport the sailor and the traveller, thousands of miles away, back to his own fire-side and his quiet home!  ~Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers, 1836
For the 12 blogs of Christmas, Maureen is treating us to Christmas lingerie and other sexy holiday apparel (like fuzzy socks) today!


 As a kid, Amberr Meadows was a timid little bookworm, but she always dreamed of what it would be like to be one of the bad kids. "In real life, it never would have happened, because my mom would have killed me, but my rebellious daydreams were safe. I discovered The Best Christmas Pageant Ever in movie form first, and immediately after I saw it, I had to read the book, by Barbara Robinson. (Even then, I was of the opinion that a book is almost always better than the movie based upon it). The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is about a family of cheating, stealing, swearing, smoking kids who hijack the annual Christmas Pageant at the church and make it best one ever (hence the name). I thought the book was awesome, because it proved that even the most unruly kids could be kind, too." Amberr has some favorite and delicious holiday foods on her blog today for the 12 Blogs of Christmas!

Ever wonder how Santa gets down the really tiny chimneys?  Some houses have no fireplace and hence no chimney.  How is it that Santa manages to leave presents at those houses?  Melody Ann Jones-Kaufmann was one of those kids.  She had these questions and more.  "My Dad was smart enough to buy me a book about Silver Spurs, one of Santa’s elves.  This tale, written by Robert R. Knigge, answers those nagging questions that trouble logical children like myself.  I found that I as a parent had to answer those same questions and thus I passed my beloved book on to my children.  I suspect one day I’ll be reading it to my grandchildren because logic like the force is strong in this family."  Melody is taking a look at favorite Christmas toys, old and new, for the 12 Blogs of Christmas!


One Marie Patchen's fondest Christmas memories of books was the year that her grandfather bought her the entire boxed set of Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie series. "I read those books until they fell apart, and each book contained a special Christmas story, from the Big Woods of Wisconsin to the open plains of Kansas. That original boxed set is long gone, but a few years ago, my sister surprised me on Christmas morning with a new set.  She had searched the internet far and wide until she found the exact same set that I'd first received from my grandfather so many years ago.  Christmas was always an interesting affair in the Ingalls' household, and thanks to my sister, I got to re-live the experience." For the 12 Blogs of Christmas, Marie takes us down memory lane with Classic Christmas Cartoons...


These are some of our favorite books. What are yours?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Gift of Me

As writers, we pride ourselves on our ability to tell a story.  No matter the genre or the length, everything we do, in essence, is a product of us constructing a sequence of events and writing it in a way that others will find enjoyable.  I like to think it is our gift.   

Although we love to share our own little darlings, we should also consider that writing is not our only talent---we have the ability, and the desire, to share stories, regardless of who wrote them. We are storytellers. And at Christmas time, for some people, a story can be the greatest gift.

We've all read at least one book to a child, and delighted in their appreciation.  Some of us have read to a church group, or to family or in front of a class. Regardless of the audience, it is an experience like no other. It is a way to share something we love, a story, and see the effect it has on another.    

In the coming week, I will be reading to a group of senior citizens.  It's not the first time I've done this, nor will it be the last.  But this time, I won't be reading something I wrote, because it isn't about me.  This is a way to give something to them, a generation of people that have given so much for all of us, and it is something that they will appreciate more than a pair of socks, or a card, or a flower.

It is the gift of me.  My time and my talent for storytelling. I can assume we will discuss it and then share memories that the story may evoke.  We may laugh, we may cry, we may break into song. But in return for this, I know I will get smiles and hugs and encouragement.  Their gift to me.     

As writers, storytellers, I like to think that we have a gift---isn't this a great time to share it?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Christmas Fiction: The Fix-It Box


Trees are going up, Santa is on every corner and parties are everywhere.  But Christmas is also a very difficult time for so many people.  Please remember to keep them in your hearts.  

I wrote this short story ten years ago and thought I would share it this week.  I hope you enjoy.  


The Fix-It Box
by Kelly Gamble

Poker in hand, I watch as the small fire burns in the fireplace. I can attack the logs and attempt to stir the flames, or I can let them die naturally. This is my first fire, and I'm not very good at it. Frustrated, I lie in the middle of the floor, small bicycle parts surrounding me, strung in every direction. With Christmas morning only hours away, I am considering giving up. I am not much of a single parent, and would have never chosen to be one. But David made that choice for me.
Slowly, the fire burns, hanging on to what life it has. I try not to focus on the dancing flames. They entrance me and keep me from the task at hand.  As is typical of this time of year, my mind is flooded with memories and although I am trying to focus on the assembly of my son’s bicycle, I am overwhelmed by the thoughts of those who have tried to help me over the past year.   
My family has tried to convince me that I am not to blame. They tell me that I should get on with my life and try to forget the past. My father calls David a coward; my mother never mentions his name. Jacob, my brother, at a loss for anything else to say, simply reminds me in his cheerful tone to ‘keep my chin up.’  None of them will be over for Christmas this year.
I look at the directions again, this time attempting the Spanish version. I don't speak Spanish, but it sure can't hurt. My anger grows as I realize what a waste of time this is. I at least need tools, but I can't bring myself to go to the shed where David kept his fix-it box. That was his place, and I'm not ready to enter it.   
I have talked to three counselors. They wait while I voice my questions, then wait again for me to answer them myself. If I had the answers, why would I spend what little money I have on them?   I have quit going to therapy, quit trying to make sense of the nonsensical.  There are no answers.  He left no note, he showed no sign that he was unhappy. Although I have never considered death a choice, it is the choice David made.
I consider throwing the directions in the fire.  There are too many pieces; the puzzle is too much for me.  Instead, I regain my supine position amongst the parts and cover my eyes with the paper.
I try not to think selfishly, but it's the little things I miss the most. Someone to change the light bulbs, to fix the television, to make sure the oil is changed in the car; someone to put a bicycle together for our eight-year-old son. Jimmy. He's now the man in the family and tries to protect and comfort me. It's hard for me to look at him sometimes. I can't remember when I last saw him smile.
As I lay among the pieces, I scream. "I hate you for what you did to us!" Then I curl into a ball, crying myself to sleep as I often do; missing David's smile, his scent, his touch.
I wake when I feel a cold chill as the front door opens. I turn as I hear it close, and see my husband, dressed for the weather, standing in the entry.  As he removes his coat, he looks at me and forces a smile. I cannot speak.  Closer, closer he moves toward me and sits with me amongst the puzzle.  He looks into my eyes, and touches my cheek.
"I'm sorry," he whispers with finality, as if there is nothing more to say.
I have no way to respond. I watch silently as he begins putting together the bike, using the tools from the fix-it box he thought to get from the shed. He talks as he works, showing me how to use the many gadgets that are in his precious box. "You can fix just about anything with this stuff," he says as he begins replacing the tools in their designated slots.
"But not everything," I manage to whisper.
I want to know why he chose to leave us, but I am afraid to ask. More importantly, desperately, I just want him to stay. Without looking into his face, I say, "I can't do this without you."
He leans toward me, gently kisses my forehead and traces the tear that runs down my cheek. "I will always love you," he whispers as he stands and turns to leave.  As I feel the cold chill of winter rush in again, I realize David has no answers.  There is no reason, no resolution.  If he cannot account for his actions, why do I continue to expect an explanation?  I cannot continue to allow myself to die inside because he chose not to live.  Suicide was David’s choice; it is not mine.   
I wake Christmas morning to the sound of Jimmy running down the hall. I'm sure I look a fright, still in my clothes from the night before, but Jimmy's eyes are focused on the bike: or what resembles one.  He kisses me on the forehead, just as his father used to do, and says “Merry Christmas, Mommy.”
It is our first winter without David. The laughter that had always filled our home on Christmas Day isn't present this year. I go to the restroom to clean myself up and take a long look in the mirror.  I am here, I am alive, and I can do this.  I dress and comb my hair, and Jimmy and I make the best of our party of two. 
The gifts are all open, but one small box remains under the tree. Jimmy picks it up and hands it to me. "It's for you."
I tremble slightly, holding the small gift in my hand. "Open it," Jimmy urges.
Inside the box is a small key, one that I recognize. I pick it up, hoping its weight isn't more than I can bear.
"It's the key to Daddy's fix-it box," Jimmy says softly. "If we learn how to use all that stuff, maybe we can fix some things, too." He glances briefly at the bicycle, and then lowers his eyes, cautiously waiting for my response.
I gently take him in my arms, feeling a tear trace the same path that it had the night before. "Thank you, Jimmy. It's perfect."
As I rock my son, I clutch the key tightly in my hand, wishing the items inside the box could fix everything. I glance at my fire, which struggled through the night but survived. I have to smile.
I have the tools. It's time to learn how to use them.

 ******************