Anns Cottage Blog
Author Ann McAllister Clark - muses about books, authors and St. Augustine, Florida
Senator John McCain – Bravest of warriors, elegant statesman, loving family man.
His astute leadership and absolute love of America
will not be forgotten but emulated for decades to come.
“Great minds discuss ideas.
Average minds discuss events.
Small minds discuss other people.”
Well…now I know what it is like to go through a hurricane. It is an adventure I hope I don’t have to go through again. The rain and wind howled and battered up against the house for almost 24 hours. Our little neighborhood of about 100 houses was told by Emergency Services to ‘hunker’ in place because we are 34 feet above sea level. So we didn’t leave. We were surrounded by other neighborhoods with mandatory evacuation orders. As of a couple of hours ago we have electric – thank you Texas and all the states that sent their power companies to help out the more than 100,000 without power.
We hear from friends who did evacuate that they had to get all the way up into Georgia before they found one room left.
I know that the downtown district of Old St Augustine had at one time two feet of water in the entire area. The city is hundreds of years old with sewer systems patched and repaired over and over – the systems don’t drain well and the city is only about 5-6 feet above sea level. The water 8-9 foot surge from the ocean and the Intracoastal water way along with high tide caused water to flow all the way into town and out to the US1 highway – covering that important highway. We have five or six bridges in the area that were all closed so those that refused to leave had to stay.
Now, at noon we see that we are ok – nothing broken, a yard filled with debris but nothing we can’t handle. We can’t get into St. Aug because the crews want everyone to stay out of their way!
Thanks to all for your concern.
“Great minds discuss ideas.
Average minds discuss events.
Small minds discuss other people.”
“Keep away from people who
belittle your ambitions.
Small people always do that,
but the really great make you feel
that you, too, can become great.” – Mark Twain
I write fiction because I am fascinated by the human spirit and how it ebbs and flows, twists and turns over a lifetime. I see so many social circumstances I want to explore and have always found it freeing to explore these conditions in fiction. I see writing fiction as a delightful part of my future.
Today I published my first Facebook page:
It took me several starts and stops but I think it is up. It will take me time to get it where I would like it but its there! I hope you will visit it. I have many, many photos on my computer but I am having a time of getting the appropriate photos on the page. I tried it once and two relatives popped up on the banner! I don’t think they would like that. I did get them off and a picture of the St. Augustine Lighthouse up there instead. I hope working on the Facebook page doesn’t keep me from the fiction writing.
On Wednesdays I am going to publish on the Facebook page WEDNESDAY WRITERS WISDOM and quote cleaver writers quotes.
Both Morgan’s Redemption: the first of the Morgan’s Bridge series and A Bone In Her Teeth: the first of the St. Augustine Mystery series are now available on amazon.com I don’t yet know how to place the URL for the buy link but I’m learning! Let me try...http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=A+Bone+In+Her+Teeth Oh I think I did it! And here is the link to the Morgan’s Redemption book. http://www.amazon.com/Morgans-Redemption-Ann-McAllister-Clark-ebook/dp/B0176N78D0/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1446392328&sr=8-3&keywords=Morgan%27s+Redemption
Take time today to dream of something kind and quiet.
photo by Ann M. Clark
August 2015– a friend in Michigan asked how we cope with the summer heat in St. Augustine. Actually, Georgia and Alabama are usually hotter by a few degrees than Florida.
Florida is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico both of which help to cool the state. But I can’t deny that on that first summer after arriving from Michigan fifteen years ago I really thought there was a chance I might see some spontaneous combustion of little fires on the cement driveway! It was so hot I thought there must be an emergency and when I checked the local weather they just mentioned a hot afternoon. HA! Didn’t they know the driveways were about to be in flames?
We usually stay inside with the windows and doors shut and the air-conditioning running until the temps go down a bit. WE do that but not everyone does. People play and work outside like anywhere else. They get used to the heat. When the humidity is high it is harder to cope. 90* to 100* degrees is typical of St. Augustine’s July and August temperatures I think. And after about three years I didn’t look around anymore for little fires on the driveway.
It is October here in St. Augustine. I watch the auto tags on cars and see all the Snow Bunnys arriving in town. Some will stay for the winter while others are stopping for awhile on their journeys. Its still early so yesterday’s visit to the beach was pleasantly uncrowded. The temperature was just right – low 80’s, the waves entertaining and just a light sea breeze.
So far – everybody knock on wood – the South has not had a hurricane to frighten us into scurring up into Atlanta to visit relatives. The relatives are probably giving out audible sighs of relief.
The thing about a hurricane is the flooding – first from the tides washing in and then from the constant rain. Then the wind is terrifying. It comes in waves like being flung in from the sea. It batters up against the house walls and is very scary. We only had 50 mph or so a few years ago when we came close to a hurricane and that was fearsome.
Where Writers Get Their Ideas?
It’s magical really. Well, at first it may seem that way. Creative thoughts, words and phrases running through a writer’s mind as she is writing. Sometimes it feels the words are like ribbons spilling out of our fingers, pens, pencils or keypads as if someone or something else is actually gathering them up and pushing them out on the page. When that happens I always send up a sincere ‘Thank You’ to the goddess of verbiage and thoughts. Yes, it is magic and when it happens I take a big breath and stay with it as long as I can.
And then I remember all the studying I have done – many college classes and dozens of writing books over the years. I read classics – Russian, English, and mostly American.
Writers get this question all the time – “Where do your ideas come from?” Ideas come right from a compilation of life and the writer’s experiences – encounters and events or things she has witnessed or researched. Writers have a way of filling up their internal and invisible sponge with all that moves before their eyes and ears and all the minutia of life. A writer is voraciously curious and thirsty for interest. A bit of this person, a little of that person, saved notes of conversation and pieces of experience all go into the vault of ideas. So ideas come from just about anywhere and go into the big soup pot of a rich mix. And then at the end of this wash of creativity comes the real work. Revision, revision and then more revision. The work never seems completely right and some writers may revise a dozen times or more.
I watched much of the George Zimmerman trial in Sanford, Florida. I suspect many writers watch court cases on TV or better yet in their own county courtrooms with thoughts of incorporating what they see into their stories. We have files of interesting newspaper clips and magazine articles to be used at a later date for inspiration or research. I took notes on the attributes of the detectives, lawyers and court proceedings during the trial in Sanford. I used those notes to describe the detectives in A Bone In Her Teeth: A St. Augustine Mystery.
Traveling through the streets of Gettysburg, Washington, DC, and Antitam and walking many battlefields helped me immensly with description in my historical novel, The Chrysalis: An American Family Endures The Civil War.
I just finished reading Justice Sonia Sotomayr’s memoir, My Beloved World. When she was a young girl of about eight years old, she faithfully watched the weekly television program, Perry Mason and decided she wanted to be a lawyer! And then she diligently pursued that direction in every single aspect of her educational life all the way to her seat on the United States Supreme Court. I used her early years for inspiration in Morgan’s Redemption
Where do we get our ideas for writing? Everywhere and anywhere.
Life sometimes has a way of temporarily slowing us down. Its how we get up that counts:)
MAY,2012 – A lovely venue at which to enjoy a book signing! The museum workers set up a table on the back veranda of the Lighthouse Museum where a gentle breeze cooled visitors as they came by before beginning their path up to the tower to climb over 200 steps for a magnificent view of St. Augustine and the ocean. I have not done the climb but many of my family have been up there.
Have you ever climbed a lighthouse tower? What was your experience?
I have included below a short history from Wikipedia of the St. Augustine light tower and all that has been done to preserve it.
St. Augustine was the site of the first lighthouse established in Florida by the new, territorial, American Government in 1824. According to some archival records and maps, this “official” American lighthouse was placed on the site of an earlier watchtower built by the Spanish as early as the late 16th century. The Map of St. Augustine depicting Sir Francis Drake’s attack on the city by Baptista Boazio, 1589, shows an early wooden watch tower near the Spanish structure, which was described as a “beacon” in Drake’s account. By 1737, Spanish authorities built a more permanent tower from coquina taken from a nearby quarry on the island. Archival records are inconclusive as to whether the Spanish used the coquina tower as a lighthouse, but it seems likely given the levels of maritime trade by that time. The structure was regularly referred to as a “lighthouse” in documents dating to the British Period beginning in 1763.
In 1783, the Spanish once again took control of St. Augustine, and once again the lighthouse was improved. British engineer and Marine surveyor, Joseph F.W. Des Barres marks a coquina “Light House” on Anastasia Island in his 1780 engraving, “A Plan of the Harbour of St. Augustin.” Jacques N. Belline, Royal French Hydrographer, refers to the coquina tower as a “Batise” in Volume I of “Petit Atlas Maritime.” The accuracy of these scholars is debated still; Des Barres work includes some obvious errors, but Belline is considered highly qualified. His work provides an important reference to St. Augustine’s geography and landmarks in 1764. Facing erosion and a changing coastline, the old tower crashed into the sea in 1880, but not before a new lighthouse was lit. Today the tower ruins are a submerged archaeological site whose smooth stones may still be seen at low tide.
The 1824 lighthouse was established on the site of the Old Spanish watchtower.
Early lamps in the first tower burned lard oil. Multiple lamps with silver reflectors were replaced by a fourth order Fresnel lens in 1855, greatly improving the lighthouse’s range and eliminating some maintenance issues.
At the beginning of the Civil War, future mayor Paul Arnau a local Menorcan harbor master, along with the lightkeeper, a woman named Maria De Los Delores Mestre, removed the lens from the old lighthouse and hid it, in order to block Union shipping lanes. The lens and clock works were recovered after Arnau was held captive on a ship off-shore until he revealed their location.
By 1870 beach erosion threatened the first lighthouse. Construction on a new light tower began in 1871 during Florida’s reconstruction period. In the meantime a jetty of coquina and brush was built to protect the old tower. A trolley track brought building supplies from the ships at the dock.
The new tower was completed in 1874, and put into service with a new first order Fresnel lens. It was lit for the first time in October by keeper William Russell. Russell was the first lighthouse keeper in the new tower. He was the only keeper to have worked both towers.
For 20 years the site was manned by head-keeper William A. Harn of Philadelphia. Major Harn was a Union war hero who commanded his own battery at the Battle of Gettysburg. With his wife, Kate Skillen Harn, of Maine, he had six lovely daughters. The family was known for serving lemonade out on the porches of the keepers’ house, which was constructed as a Victorian duplex during Harn’s tenure.
On August 31, 1886 the Charleston earthquake caused the tower to sway violently, according to the keeper’s log, but there was no recorded damage.
After many experiments with different types of oils, in 1885 the lamp was converted from lard oil to kerosene.
During World War II, Coast Guard men and women trained in St. Augustine, and used the lighthouse as a lookout post for enemy ships and submarines which frequented the coastline.
In 1907 indoor plumbing reached the light station, followed by electricity in the keeper’s quarters in 1925. The light itself was electrified in 1936, and automated in 1955. As the light was automated, positions for three keepers slowly dwindled down to two and then one. No longer housing lighthouse families by the 1960s, the Keepers House was rented to local residents. Eventually it was declared surplus, and St. Johns County bought it in 1970. In that year the Keepers’ house suffered a devastating fire at the hands of an unknown arsonist.
In 1980 a small group of 15 women in the Junior Service League of St. Augustine (JSL) signed a 99-year lease with the county for the keeper’s house and surrounding grounds and began a massive restoration project. Shortly after the JSL adopted the restoration, the League signed a 30-year lease with the Coast Guard to begin a restoration effort on the lighthouse tower itself. The lighthouse was subsequently placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1981 due to the efforts of local preservationist and author Karen Harvey.
The antique lens was functional until it was damaged by rifle fire in 1986 and 19 of the prisms were broken. Lamplighter Hank Mears called the FBI to investigate this crime. As the lens continued to weaken, the Coast Guard considered removing it and replacing it with a more modern, airport beacon. Again championed by the JSL, this plan was dismissed and the 9-foot (2.7 m)-tall lens was restored. Joe Cocking and Nick Johnston, both retired from the Coast Guard, worked tirelessly to perform this, the first restoration of its kind in the nation. These two experts work with Museum staff and continue to care for the lens. Volunteers from Northrop Grumman Corporation and Florida Power & Light clean and inspect the lens and works every week.
Today, the St. Augustine Light Station consists of the 165-foot 1874 tower, the 1876 Keepers’ House, two summer kitchens added in 1886, a 1941 U.S. Coast Guard barracks and a 1936 garage that was home to a jeep repair facility during World War II. The site is also a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather station.
from A Bone In Her Teeth, chapter one…
When an evening Atlantic high tide seeks the many inlets of St. Augustine, Florida it washes a slow undulating torrent of briny water up into the San Sebastian River and turns the backwater marshes deep and dark with eons-old mysteries. Six hours later at ebb tide the waters flow back into the ocean leaving behind ponds and pockets rich with the salty evolution of plants and animals. The vegetation, mollusks, silt, and sea creatures nearly glow yet hide all their murky secrets and life-forcing activities. Then, a stillness – a waiting for the return of the voyager, the sailor back from the sea – until the quickening of flood tide, sea breezes and the pull of the Earth’s moon cause the whole cycle to happen again.
November 15, 2011
Many book lovers came to my book signing for A Bone In Her Teeth, a St. Augustine, Florida mystery. The Wolf’s Head Bookstore in St. Augustine hosted and it was a success for them too! We scheduled it during the Uptown Saturday Nights event that is held on the last Saturday of each month. So the streets were filled with folks wandering around the antiques shops, art gallerys and gift shops. It was a fine time!
Please visit my website: annmcallisterclark.com to see the cover designed by John Potter of escapekeygraphics.com. He is located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Thank you for visiting.