authorChristensenBorn in 1935 in Iowa, Madonna later lived in South Dakota, Maryland, Virginia, and now relaxes on the banks of Worlud Pond in Sarasota, Florida, with her husband, Gary.

After cutting her writing teeth on family history, Madonna published her first essay at age 50, earning $50.00. While she believes that writers should be paid for their work, the reality is that much of it is gratis. That’s how beginners build a resume. No longer a novice, and sometimes paid for her work, she also donates material to publications that support a cause.

Madonna’s writing has appeared in more than 100 publications and has garnered three Pushcart Prize nominations. Although she doesn’t know weeds from wisteria, she frequently writes for Florida Gardening magazine (with help from her Master Gardener husband). She’s a past Contributing Editor to Writer’s Magazette and Yesterday’s Magazette. Currently, she’s a monthly columnist for Extra Innings and Today’s Senior, a feature’s writer for Unique Me magazine, and is editor/publisher of Doorways, a local memoir anthology.

Madonna says: Years back, engaged in genealogy, I discovered cousins with a unique background. Through correspondence with the women, I gathered photos, newspaper and magazine articles, and their blessing to tell the story. My article, The Last Dance, followed the careers of Hazel, Gladys, Dorothy, and Evelyn Jones, members of a 1930s all-girl band, The Texas Rangerettes. Following publication, I received a letter from a woman in Los Angeles who wanted to write a screenplay using my story. The contract she offered gave her all rights to the material for three years. She would need additional time to find backers for the film. My lawyer made revisions, which she rejected, so I declined the project. To this day I find nothing to indicate that she ever wrote a screenplay or produced a film on any subject. She has one film credit as an actress. However, convinced that the Rangerettes story had universal appeal, I published Swinging Sisters in 2004.




coverpatricideA spare, elegantly simple exploration of father-son love and father-son hate. Equally strong passions, left unbridled, one can be harmful, the other deadly.

Based on a real event, Patricide begins with a brutal homicide on the Iowa prairie in 1920. Told by several observers, the subject is handled with the respect befitting these salt of the earth people, bewildered by the horrifying act of fifteen-year-old Carl Jess.

What drove this boy to patricide? What was his motivation? Did he believe he had something to gain, or was he deranged?

While the community wrestles with these questions, attempting to sort fact from speculation, the men closest to the case examine their relationship with their sons.

There’s John Glover, a former lawyer and now justice of the peace and an ordained minister, highly respected as one of the town founders. He and his unmarried, middle-aged son, Lyn, have had a tight bond since Lyn’s mother died when he was nine. Lyn, always known as John Glover’s son, struggles to find his identity.

Sheriff Joseph Gill has not fully grieved over losing his son in the war two years past. He resents his wife’s affection for Carl Jess. “He just needs mothering,” Grace explains.

Carl’s lawyer, Lou Dwinnell, the father of two young boys is saddened to learn that Carl’s father never so much as patted his son on the head or spoke a kind word to him.

Willis Overholser, father of three sons and a daughter, publishes the local paper, chronicling for many years the residents’ lives and deaths.

The killer, Carl Jess, has a point of view, too.

Stirring the pot is Augusta Duvall, the first female reporter for the Des Moines Register, who publishes a sensationalized and somewhat fictional portrayal of Carl Jess. She also stirs romantic feelings in John Glover, 50 years her senior; they become the target of gossip.

Patricide will have readers contemplating their life and family relationships.

Given circumstances similar to Carl Jess’s, who among us might commit murder?
coversistersSwinging Sisters is a one-of-a-kind book, because there is no other story like it. Swinging Sisters is a glimpse behind the curtain at one of many female orchestras that roamed the country during the Depression. Considered novelty acts, these musicians were applauded more for their looks than talent. Club owners claimed that when it came to “canary bands” men looked first and listened second. But these early feminists challenged chauvinistic views and proved they could compete in a man’s world, paving the way for hundreds of female bands to flourish during World War II.

Come along for the ride as the Texas Rangerettes tour the country in a 1928 Packard hearse. They garner headlines in Variety and Billboard before taking a fork in the road that has Paramount Studio cameramen camping on their doorstep hoping to film a history-making event featuring five of the band members. Time magazine gives them two paragraphs in the February 7, 1938 issue. Based on a true story, Swinging Sisters celebrates the life of a family rooted in the Irish famine who achieve success in two diverse fields.
covermasqSome novels do not fall into a particular genre. Some books defy the mold of either fiction or nonfiction. Truman Capote is credited with originating the nonfiction novel: In Cold Blood, his account of a quadruple murder in rural Kansas. Combining the techniques of a journalist with his writing style as a novelist, he wove facts into fictional scenes and dialogue.

This is not to suggest that Masquerade reaches the caliber of Capote’s seminal work. But like In Cold Blood, the core of my story is true and required blending fact with fiction. Like Capote making the acquaintance of people in Kansas, I have personal knowledge of the man depicted in my book. Actual people, names, places, events, statements from FBI documents, and excerpts from periodicals are used fictitiously. Fictional characters, who do not portray anyone living or dead, mingle with real people from the past, many of them public figures. Some names are altered, others are real. After years of research and writing, I lost track of which characters were actual people and which stepped into the story of their own volition and conned me into giving them voice and action. I hope the variegated threads are seamless enough so that, fact or fiction, it doesn’t matter to readers. 

The dismal economic times of the 1930s fostered a spree of major and minor crimes, including an army of con men roaming the country. One young Hungarian immigrant’s genius for masquerade extended to impersonating noted people in order to prey on industrialists and celebrities. His success prompted J. Edgar Hoover to write in the American Magazine, May, 1937:

“We sometimes refer to September 28, 1934, as Celebrity Day. That was the date of the great roundup, when we took into custody a German baron, several sons of American ambassadors, a few popular polo players, a member of the Wickersham Committee, a third assistant solicitor general of the United States, an Army colonel, a government undercover man, an around-the-world flier, a motion picture magnate, a number of house guests of industrial giants and multimillionaires, and the manager of the world’s biggest doll factory. But this crowd of important men sat in only one chair. They were all represented in the multiple personality of a single individual, George Robert Gabor.”

After the imposter’s 1936 deportation, Hoover said, “We haven’t heard of him again, and we don’t want to. But you never can tell.”

Within months, the Bureau suspected Gabor had returned, but they failed to find him. In 1942, a ruse by the swindler led the FBI to close the case. Hoover never learned that he, too, had been conned.
coverdollsAs touchstones to the past, dolls validate childhood, a span of years that often seem like a fragmented moments in time. With their life-like faces, blemished complexions, and snarled hair, childhood dolls hold sway with a magical power that rarely wanes, and often grows. 

From this charming anthology featuring more than 60 reminiscences, readers will learn that dolls can make—or break—friendships. Dolls are enjoyed alone or with a friend; they fuel creativity and imagination. Dolls teach sharing, nurturing, and loyalty; they assuage loneliness and hurt feelings; they calm fears and keep secrets. Dolls teach values and lessons, to adults as well as children. Dolls share adventures with their owners, and without them.   

Separately, two girls brought a treasured doll with them to America when they fled Nazi Europe with their family. Another girl lost her doll to that war. One girl disowned the doll she received for Christmas, while the same type doll was yearned for by others. More than one doll met an untimely fate. A childhood doll softened a poignant reunion between two sisters after a rift had kept them apart for several years. One woman became reunited with a childhood doll through a serendipitous circumstance.  

In the vignettes revealed here, not all dolls are pretty—except in the eyes of the beholder. Not all dolls were wanted; some were disappointing; not all became favorites, but each is memorable.
covertoysIn Toys Remembered, men reminisce about their childhood toys. Although many toys and games are common to a particular era, each boy’s experience is unique. The locales represent a cross-section of America, as well as the Philippines, Canada, England, and Latvia. Some stories are poignant, others are humorous; some are serious, others are tongue-in-cheek; still others slip into fantasy or whimsy, or are creatively dramatized.

The dictionary defines a toy as something a child plays with or uses in play. So, is a stick strummed across a picket fence a toy? When in the hands of children, do maple tree seed pods become toy helicopters? Was the old Underwood typewriter on which Nelle Harper Lee and Truman Persons (later Capote) pecked out stories, a toy? Must a toy be tangible, or might it be as weightless as a whisper secreted in a boy’s small fist?

Keep an open mind, for these reminiscences are not only about toys; they are about indoor and outdoor games and the arena in which they were played. In sum, this anthology is about boyhood. Boyhood remembered. One writer in this collection called it, “The magic and wonder and marvel of that time of life; the simplicity and innocence of childhood.”

Step back and enjoy the magic.
covershoesThis skillful tribute to her mother by Madonna Dries Christensen will be treasured by her extended family for its careful curation of dear family history. The rest of us will enjoy the lively stories and nod in recognition of characters who have their counterparts in our own families. With her thoughtful narration and gallery of old photos, the author hopes to inspire others to record family memories while there is time. Enjoy this collection and start your own!

~ ~ Becky Haigler, editor, Silver Boomer Books, and author of not so GRIMM: gentle fables and cautionary tales.




Madonna’s Causes:

All books are available from Amazon and other bookstores. All royalties from Swinging Sisters go to the Sisters of the Incarnate Word, Victoria, Texas; all royalties from the other books go to Down Syndrome Association of Northern Virginia.


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