A happy New Year to you all and let’s start with a good story!
Finally, Francine, the bright and beautiful West Virginian, came down the mountain in, Francine – Dazzling Daughter of the Mountain State. A corporate novel which heralds Francine’s meteoric rise at a New York-based international mining conglomerate, in spite of all odds. Kirkus Reviews, the reputed and critical Indie books reviewer, spiked it “A dramatically taut tale propelled by artful characterization and political relevance.”
“Why not solicit an agent for this fascinating story and have it traditionally published?” asked several reviewers of the manuscript. I may still do that but it simply takes too long. Count some 18 months before it is on the bookshelves, if ever. I don’t have that time!
How did Francine come to life?
That’s a great question. She was one of those fabulous young women growing up at William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. I had good laughs when I met them in the midst of our daughter’s sorority circle, their sorority house, and the sunken garden.
True, Fiona of Enchanting The Swan was also born at William & Mary! Quite an inspirational college for a writer you would say. But it was the mountains of beautiful West Virginia that spirited Francine’s story. And the contrasting devastation of its coal country. How could such exaggeration of bad economic and environmental management destroy so many happy families, living in peace and suddenly thrown into desperation and suffering? A repetition of Upton Sinclair’s gripping tale of King Coal?
Francine is graduating first in class at William & Mary’s Mason Business School in 2010,
when she is confronted with the horrible mine explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine near Whitesville along Coal River in West Virginia. Twenty-nine miners lost their lives due to gross mismanagement of mine safety. It spurs her to forego a lucrative career in investment banking and join OHARA Mining Inc., the New York-based international mining company which has its roots in West Virginia. She will never forget the fate of those twenty-nine miners and attends the unveiling of their memorial in Whitesville in 2012 on behalf of her company. Her whole life will be dedicated to advance the lives of the company’s miners she works for.
Why place a novel about a promising girl in a mining company? Why not jewelry, fashion or music like A Coal Miner’s Daughter? agents asked whom I offered the story at Writers conferences. The question troubled me. Why not? Those agents did not want to get “their hands dirty.” They feared readers wouldn’t either. They worried about the novel’s support of the miners’ fight with the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and overreaching environmentalists. It would choke off a certain group of readers. Well, so be it: Francine took up the fight, and she made it up in the corporate world. To their credit, Kirkus Reviews recognized her perseverance and the miners she stood up for, and gave the manuscript a resounding positive critique. https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/john-schwartz/francine/
Born in Beckley, Francine’s journey in her international mining company takes her to many different places, in the U.S. and abroad. She’s propelled by the sight of closed mines along National Road 3 and in southern West Virginia. She vividly remembers the monument dedicated to the West Virginian miner at the Charleston Capitol.
Throughout the novel, she faces difficult issues, from fights in Congress and with a belligerent anti-coal EPA
to labor, financial and pollution problems with OHARA’s gold and bauxite investments in the Guyanas of the Caribbean.
Georgetown Guyana, Paramaribo and Suriname River, Suriname.
And she battles with China on corruptive practices. She participates in rallies of the United Mine Workers with Senators Shelley Moore Capito and Manchin speaking for miners’ rights for health care, and pensions.
But it was Sergeant Lanny A. Perdue of the Charleston Capitol Police who brought me onto Francine’s trail.
Charleston was not the place to start my search for her, he told me. Go down south, to Beckley. As of that critical moment, the search for Francine went on. I found her home in
Beckley, on Timber Ridge Drive,
visited Woodrow Wilson Highschool where she graduated
and admired the spectacular West Virginian scenery where she went trout-fishing with her father in the New River Gorge
And so Francine’s intriguing story developed, much of it playing in New York, starting with her troubled walk in Central Park.
Just one click takes you to a good read!
Your all-weather reporter of Views of a Foreigner has been snooping and sniffing around town and found some remarkable new Washingtonian cooking recipes. Among others, those that Michelle puts on her website for school kids that are widely rejected; recipes that really put your kitchen on fire.
I was strolling along Pennsylvania Avenue near the White House, stumbling on at least fifteen to twenty police cars with stern-looking policemen staring at me.
Granted, I look a bit weird with my Martian face, but can I help it? Anyway, my eyes caught little pieces of paper tied to the fence around the White House premises. Wondering what they were, I opened one and it had clear instructions by Michelle for passers-by on how to steam healthy broccoli that former President George H. Bush refused to eat. You remember that when he made that public, some ten hazmat trucks threw tons of broccoli in front of the White House sent by angry farmers.
That was the main reason why they blocked off the whole space in front of the White House with killer fences as if you are entering a high-security prison. Well, in view of the November 2014 congressional elections Michelle wanted to make good with the farmers and pinched this message on the fence: just drop your garden broccoli in a pan with boiling-hot water and all you have to do is go back to your TV and continue watching your soap until you smell something burning and then it’s ready to serve for dinner later. Now I hear Michelle is being sued for multiple kitchen fires.
But what surprised me more was that the paper went on with clear instructions on how to climb the fence and enter the White House premises.
Shocked, I showed it to the stern-looking policeman.
He said he belonged to the Secret Service and that he was not allowed to tell the truth. Pressing him that I was a foreign reporter from Mars who would send in the Martian army on pre-election day to carry out illegal voting for Republican candidates, he caved and said the instructions meant to encourage reckless pedestrians to jump the fence so that TV would direct attention to the beleaguered inhabitant of the White House to defend his broccoliramacare program.
He ended by saying, “And this is the truth.”
Walking along in the sun on a typical Indian summer day in Washington D.C., I ran into a grey-haired employee of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), more commonly known as the EDA (Environmental Destruction Agency). A huge oversized building full with oversized people from eating too much broccoli.
I recognized him because he proudly carried his ID-card on his extensive chest. Presenting him with my Martian press card, he asked me greedily what I wanted to know. He said they were so maligned by the American People that he really wanted to set the record straight. When I told him we had a lot of coal on Mars that we happily used to warm our underground cities, he became very agitated.
“Coal is bad for your health,” he assured me.
“How do you know?”
“It’s causing Carbon Dioxide and will kill you, even on Mars,” he explained.
“But we use it for cooking, heating, electricity and by the way, aren’t you exhaling that stuff?”
“Too much of the same good cannot be good. We recommend people that they hold their breath,” he said, with a straight face. “Inside the EPA building, all employees are required to hold their breath. Those who do it longest get a bonus of one hundred thousand dollars and then get promoted away to the CIA but still stay on the payroll. I know because I am.”
“Gee, what wonderful things taxpayer money can do. Do you know anything of that secret space plane that came back from the sky?”
“Of course, don’t you know? It was an EPA spy plane to prick holes in the ozone layer to let out the CO2 into the stratosphere and at the same time import radiation from the sun to promote global warming.”
“But I thought you guys were fighting global warming,” I said, astonished.
“Nobody wants to believe us, so we must find other ways to prove our point.”
“How smart! Killing two birds with one stone. But with those windmills you are supporting you already kill so many birds that soon you won’t have any left to prove points with.”
“Don’t worry,” he said, convincingly. “We have the United Nations Panel on Climate Change, and they concoct the best lies ever with tax-free money.”
“Yeah, “I said. “We on Mars often wonder how they do that. When we put our laser thermometers through your ozone holes to measure Mother Earth’s temperature, you have not warmed up for the last eighteen years, and actually got colder; your seas have not been rising, and the Antarctic ice has increased. How come this discrepancy?”
“Discrepancy?” he mocked. “Ever heard of computers? You cook-up what you put in and you get out what you want. Who says it isn’t true? Computers are always right. Ask Microsoft or Apple or even Al Gore.”
“But isn’t that falsifying science?” I asked.
“Not if you get paid for it. They have to feed their kids, too.”
“With broccoli, I guess.”
“Our Commander-in-Chief’s standard evening dinner served by his Michelle,” he said, winking his eye, and walked back to his office.