Stodghill Says So

An opinionated posting on a variety of subjects by a former newspaper reporter and columnist whose daily column was named best in Indiana by UPI. The Blog title is that used in his high school sports predictions for the Muncie Evening Press.

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Location: Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, United States

At the age of 18 I was a 4th Infantry Division rifleman in the invasion of Normandy, then later was called back for the Korean War. Put in a couple of years as a Pinkerton detective. Much of my life was spent as a newspaper reporter, sports writer and daily columnist. Published three books on high school sports in Ohio and Indiana. I write mystery fiction for Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and others. Three books, Normandy 1944 - A Young Rifleman's War, The Hoosier Hot Shots, and From Devout Catholic to Communist Agitator are now available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other booksellers. So are four collections of short mysteries: Jack Eddy Stories Volumes 1 and 2, Midland Murders, and The Rough Old Stuff From Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine.

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Friday, August 25, 2006

A Publisher, a Book, a Few Random Thoughts

I don't think a man's supposed to be as busy as I've been during the month when he turns 81. Isn't that the time of life when people sit glassy-eyed in front of a TV set all day or hobble down to the nursing home lobby to sit glassy-eyed in front of a TV set all day?
So why do I have to be different? "Because you always have been," my wife tells me. She's right, of course. She's always right, and that's something else she often tells me.
"I'm just kidding, Jackie. No, seriously, I didn't mean a word of it and really would like to be served lunch today. Well, then, how about supper?"
Oh well, I wasn't hungry anyway.
So back to the subject. This month I've had a book published, received a contract for a short story, submitted two more to different publishers, finished up writing a couple of others, written an occasional blog and attended to a pair of websites. Along with that I've made too many posts on a publisher's message board, made two trips to the VA center, buried a hamster, bought another hamster, been attacked by a hamster and cussed a lot because there aren't enough hours in the day even though I'm up and at it at 5 a.m. or shortly after.
No, I'm wrong. The subject was a publisher. In this case PublishAmerica. There are people out there that bad-mouth it so let me tell you my experience with the firm. Remember, please, that I've been dealing with various sorts of publishers for more than half a century. Since 1946 to be precise. I've dealt with good ones, bad ones, fair ones, unfair ones, honest ones, lying ones, cheating ones, greedy ones, sloppy ones, lazy ones and a couple of dozen other varieties.
Considering all that it was downright annoying when PublishAmerica turned me down flat when I made them an offer I thought they couldn't refuse. And those bad-mouthers accusing them of accepting anything and everything, what a crock. Now when things don't go quite the way they want, those kind of people go off in a huff and write nasty posts on websites. Rank amateurs do that sort of thing. Being an old hand in the world of publishing, I just dusted off an old manuscript, something I had written for family members and a few friends, and fired it right back at PublishAmerica. Hey, like most people who earn a living from writing I've been rejected by the best and the worst so one more turn-down didn't bother me, just set me off in another direction.
It was on May 15 that I sent my second manuscript to PA. On July 31 the book was in print. Between times I was in contact with some of the nicest, most competent people I have ever encountered. Professionals in every respect. I don't stun easily after all these years but I was stunned by the efficiency and workmanship of Yael, the cover designer. Not only did he do a great job, he did it in three hours and he didn't have much to work with. The editor that handled my copy had the proof corrections made and back to me in twenty minutes. Then came the capper - the finished product exceeded my expectations in every respect.
So what sort of person spends their time complaining about a company like that rather than acting like a professional in the writing game? Those that know nothing about the business, expect miracles, make unreasonable demands. In other words wannabes. Amateurs who feel it necessary to broadcast their shortcomings to the world. They may be forgetting one thing: the publishing world is a small one and every time they vent their frustrations with a nasty comment they are hurting their chances of acceptance with all publishers. They do read that stuff, you know, they do remember names. Like everyone, though, they ignore anonymous submissions of any kind. If a person lacks the courage to sign his name to something he has written he is not worthy of attention.
Sure, some people that don't write too well have had books published by PA. So where's the harm in making someone happy without charging them to do it? But there are other PA writers - quite a few of them, actually - just as good as those published by any New York publishing house you can name.
So would I recommend PublishAmerica to others? You bet I would. The company isn't perfect, of course. No company or individual can claim to be so. But you won't find a publisher staffed by better people or one that will do a better job. That's as high a recommendation as I can hand out. Now I'm going to see what I can do about lunch. Oh, it's ready? Thanks, Jackie, I knew you didn't mean it.

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Monday, August 21, 2006

She was just a tiny friend, but her loss is a big blow

We buried Zoe today. No big loss, many people would say. After all she was just a hamster. Something for kids to play with, then toss aside when they grow tired of it. But they're wrong, those people who feel that way. A hamster may be tiny but one becomes as much a part of your life as a dog or a cat or any other creature you welcome into your home.
Zoe was with us for two years and that's about par for the course with a hamster. They don't know that, of course, so they think it will just go on forever and ever. That's for the best because they are happy little animals that like to sleep all day and play all night. You wouldn't want them to know that one day it will all come to an end.
Zoe was our thirteenth hamster. She tolerated Joey, the fourteenth, but kept close watch to make sure he wasn't getting more treats than she was. She learned to beg by watching her predecessor, Sadie, and became an expert at it. She'd stand on her back feet and paw at the bars on her cage with her front ones, the ones she'd use as hands, and it was hard to just walk on by and ignore her. She loved to eat so at intervals throughout the day you could hear her nibbling on those hard little pellets they thrive on. She had an old bone she liked to knaw on and sometimes she'd carry it from one floor of her cage to another or even try to make it fit in her house. She'd really get excited, though, when you gave her a couple of sunflower seeds or a dried raisin. Then around our bedtime Jackie would give each of them a small piece of carrot, lettuce, apple or grape. Zoe's were put in a little box on the top floor of her cage so she'd make several trips up there during the evening to see if the good stuff had arrived yet.
It seemed fitting, I suppose, that when she died Zoe had a little piece of one of those pellets in her mouth.
Zoe came home with us from a pet shop because she was being picked on by a hamster bully. Jackie felt she had to be rescued. I said it would work out the same if we took the bully with us, but that wouldn't do at all.
Hamsters are great escape artists but Zoe waited until the last week of her life to stage her only breakout. It wasn't a breakout, really, because she was walking around loose on a coffee table as all hamsters enjoy doing. Neither of us noticed that Zoe had jumped down to the floor and vanished. When we did start looking for her she came out from a hiding place as soon as she heard Jackie's voice. After that she received a lengthy back massage, something else she enjoyed, so that may have been the motive behind her disappearing act.
So now Joey won't have anyone to visit when it's his turn to run loose on the table. But then in a week or two Jackie will decide it's time to make another trip to the pet shop and he'll have company again.
That doesn't mean we'll forget Zoe. Not anymore than we'd forget Sadie or Chigger, our first hamster, or any of those that came between. Each hamster has its own personality so when you get to know them they are as different as dogs or cats or humans. So the next arrival won't replace Zoe, she'll just be a new friend to learn to care about.
Now Joey's not the kid any more, he's the patriarch. He's a wild and crazy little guy that loves to show off and be the center of attention. As Sadie tolerated Zoe and Zoe tolerated him, he'll look upon the newcomer with suspicion, then come to tolerate her. But all too often I'll laugh at his antics, then recall those two or three years that a hamster lives and be glad he doesn't know about that.
And now and then we'll talk about Zoe just as we talk about all those that came before her. Yes, Zoe, we'll remember you. And miss you.

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Saturday, August 19, 2006

Make Your Comments - I'm Ready For Anything

I may have made a big mistake in activating the comment box, but I did it anyway. First, though, I must again plead guilty to the charge of Blog Neglect. Why? Because I just had a book published and that takes an amazing amount of time spent doing things you'd rather not be doing. Then there was a short story to finish up and submit to Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. As if all that were not enough, there was another story to wrap up and submit to Amazon Shorts and two websites that need daily attention. That's why I get up at 5 a.m. and why I should be found not guilty due to extenuating circumstances.
Now back to that comment box. It can be found at the bottom of this and all future blogs. It means anyone in the world can post every nasty thing that comes to mind about me, this blog, my ancestry and so on. In self defense I'll say right now, "The same to you, fella!"
This feature is the result of a phone call from John Stodghill. Yes, for the first time in my life I talked to a Stodghill other than the few members of my father's family I have known. This came about because of an earlier blog about finding a lot of other Stodghills when I checked the name on Google. Turns out that many of them are related to John and all have made great successes of their lives.
While I wrote about there being an excess of Stodghills, none of whom I had ever met or even talked to on the phone, John says it isn't so. From his boyhood days he has checked up on people bearing our name and informed me that there are only 200 families of Stodghills in the entire country. There are those out there who might say 200 is enough, of course.
So John thought I should have a comment box and said I could do it if I really tried even though I admitted to being a computer klutz. So I tried and he was right, I did it. So comment away.
John lives in North Carolina but is a native of Indiana, having grown up in the Vincennes and Bicknell area. Just in case you're not a Hoosier the latter name is pronouced Bick-NELL. We Hoosiers do things like that with the names of our towns. Brazil is BRAY-zil. Peru is PEE-rue. You may not be ready for this, but Chili is CHI (as in child)-lie as in what some of us do now and then. CHI-LIE, got that? Paoli, that's Payola as in what people get for doing things they shouldn't do and Galveston is Gal-VEST-on. Then there's Loogootee. Now why would anyone name a town something like that? As best as can be put on paper, it's pronounced Luh-go-tee. You have to say it fast before your tongue gets in a knot.
Now back to the Stodghills. John said they originally came over from Sweden and are of Viking stock. That means I'm half Irish, one-quarter German and one-quarter Swede. If that isn't an excuse for odd behavior I don't know what would be.
They settled around the Ohio River, which is where my grandfather's family lived. I think a lot of them migrated down the Ohio and then up the Wabash. That would explain why Stodghills can be found in and around Vincennes. John took a little of Indiana with him when he left for North Carolina and now his home is surrounded by trees and cornfields. I'll bet he gets a little misty-eyed when he hears "Back Home Again In Indiana." I'll admit it, I do.
Back when I was writing a daily column for one of the newspapers in Muncie there was a fellow who got sick and tired of it when I wrote about certain things over and over again. He never hesitated to let me know how he felt. If he should stumble upon this blog I can just hear him: "Enough already about the Stodghills."
Oh no, now there's a comment box for people like that!

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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Defying Medical Science, Stodg Turns 81

They haven't declared it a national holiday or even invited me to the White House in honor of my 81st birthday, but maybe they should. Why? Because I got this far despite breaking every rule in the book. Or perhaps it was because of breaking every rule in the book.
I am and always have been the poster guy for rule breakers. If they said that I shouldn't I decided I should. If the medics said don't do it, I did. When they said, "Don't put beans in your ears" to kids I went in search of beans. When they said don't eat this, I ate it. When they told me not to smoke, I lit up and went on my way. When warned against the demon rum, I signaled the bartender and said, "Set 'em up all around."
Now none of this was by design. It's just the way I am. What the heck, if you only do the things that good little boys are supposed to do, where's the fun in life? Where's the adventure, the excitement? Those have always been the things I look for: fun, adventure, excitement.
Sure as anything some somber person will start pointing out the horrible examples of what has happened to others like me. Strange, though, that none of them were around when I was 18 and was handed a gun and told to go out and shoot people. They weren't there to warn me those other guys might shoot back and that could be hazardous to my health. Nor were they anywhere to be seen when at the age of 26 I was again handed a gun.
No, those people just show up when they have a terrible fear that somewhere, someone might be having fun, might be enjoying themselves or be doing something they wouldn't do themselves because they have been told they shouldn't. It seems they believe they can tip-toe into the grave in a nicely preserved body and that this is a goal, a desire, that guys like me should share. Sorry, that just ain't my style.
So anyway, here I am and most of my friends who gave up everything they enjoyed and began jogging and stuff like that are dead. My idea of good advice to follow came from the writer Jack London: "I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time."
Certain things have helped me outlive several projected lifespans, of course. For example, I was very careful in choosing my parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. Just about all of them smoked like chimneys, drank like they were dying of thirst, ate anything that tasted good, took all kinds of chances and lived well into their eighties or nineties. Who was I to point fingers and say, "Naughty, naughty, you're setting a bad example?"
And then there were people like Eddie Wolfe, my old platoon sergeant who literally dragged me out of some tough spots. And Nick Scala, who made a habit of shooting people that were about to shoot me. There have been others, too, probably a lot of them.
So anyway, if I've offended some people by living the way I have and by writing this, I apologize. On second thought, no I don't.

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Saturday, August 12, 2006

HEAD ON Heads Right Off My Shopping List

I don't watch much television and when I do there are certain annoyances that must be accepted. Sometimes they are commercials, sometimes trailers for upcoming shows that usually feature people being shot and various things blowing up. Or, on occasion, predatory-looking women trying to appear sexy.
One recent commercial, however, has gone far beyond the bounds of mere annoyance. If you watch any television at all you've seen them, those Head On ads in which a woman with a voice similar to the sound of a fingernail being rubbed along a blackboard repeats, "Head On, applied directly to the forehead" over and over again. Not being a blithering idiot, I got the message the first time she said it. After that it went from being irritating to downright maddening.
When my father was an ace salesman for Lever Brothers - that's the soap company that made Lux, Rinso and Lifebouy during his day - he said he used this technique when calling on grocers: "Tell 'em what you're going to tell 'em, then tell 'em, then tell 'em what you told 'em." But he used finesse in his approach, something that Head On huckster doesn't know exists.
For all I know Head On may be a fine product, but I'll never buy it because of those commercials that keep repeating the same message ad nauseum. Perhaps those responsible think it's a great attention getter, and they're right. Not in the way they're hoping for, though.
No, I'll never buy it or any other product the company sells. If someone offers Head On to me in the unlikely event that I get a headache I'll turn them down. This will not put much of a dent in the firm's profits, of course. I wonder, though, how many others have had the same reaction to that most annoying of all commercials. A great many, I'll bet.

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Sunday, August 06, 2006

Normandy 1944 - The Book's Finished, But Not War

War dominates the headlines these days, just as it has a good share of the time down through the centuries. Remember the First World War, the one people called the Great War while it was forever contaminating the landscape in Flanders and many other locations? It was billed as The War to End All Wars.
Yeah, sure. In fact it didn't end at all in 1918, just simmered for a while and then took up where it left off in what came to be known as World War II. A popular song proclaimed that when this one was over there would be joy and laughter and peace ever after. Even before that there was war in Spain and the Far East, probably a few other places. Then came what was laughingly referred to as a "police action" in Korea. The soldiers involved could easily have been fooled into believing they were involved in a shooting war. Then came Vietnam and. . .well, you get the idea.
Man's determination to kill other men may take a short breather now and then but soon the blood begins to flow once more. And when they go at it, with those on both sides believing they are fighting for a noble cause, the men aren't the only ones to die because bombs and bullets don't discriminate. Little kids, babies, women, the elderly and even helpless animals bewildered by a world suddenly gone mad also end their lives in pain and agony. In recent years they've given that aspect of war a name: collateral damage. Sounds better than killing kids, I guess.
So now I have a book on the market, a book devoted to war and killing and watching your friends die. It's billed as The Battle of Normandy, neither glamorized nor sanitized, as seen from ground level during the bloody summer of 1944 - the personal experiences of an 18-year-old 4th Infantry Division rifleman. . . Yes, that pretty well sums it up.
And, oh, yes, that's the 4th Infantry Division that fought in America's major battles in The War to End All Wars. And in Vietnam and on the streets of Baghdad today. My regiment, the 12th Infantry, is one of those in the 4th Division. Long before I came along it fought at Fort McHenry while Francis Scott Key watched from the distance and wondered if the flag would still be flying there in the morning. It was at Gettysburg, too, and Antietam and in those battles with Indians in the hills and on the plains of the Old West. On and on it goes, and always for some good cause that will make the world safe and secure forever and ever.
Now those pathetic individuals called diplomats and politicians are talking about "a lasting peace" in the Middle East. What was it I said before. . .yeah, sure.

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