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To all who read this, Happy New Year.  Have a blessed and prosperous 2016.  And when you look back and think about this year 2016 once it has passed, you can say, “It has been a good year.

For my family and me 2015 was a good and an eventful year.  Our children and grandchildren and we had been blessed with health and good fortune.  We have downsized putting our house of 36 years up for sale and purchasing a much smaller house.  I had my first vehicle accident in 60 years of driving, but on the plus side managed to get three of my novels published as eBooks with another one, “Beyond the Law”, to be published soon.  Best of all we were able to celebrate the Christmas season together with most of the family.

 

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I think many of us often fail to celebrate the little gains, successes and occasions that come along every day even on rainy days.  Meeting an acquaintance you haven’t seen in years, shedding one pound of belly fat, finding an unforeseen bargain at the store things like that all seem so insignificant in the scheme of the universe.  Thinking about this I decided to celebrate today.  I just learned that my new novel Storms Over Hawking Manor was accepted into the eBook “Premium Catalogue” at Smashwords.  This means the novel will be distributed to Kobo, Barns and Noble, Amazon and all companies that sell eBooks.  A first for me, and reason to celebrate is that I managed to get the book listed as “pre-order”.  It will be in these company’s catalogues before October 15th when it will be released.  I’ve also decided to start it off with a great special of $2.99 seeing we’re approaching the Christmas season and it’s the season of giving.
Storms_copy (1 use)Storms Over Hawking Manor is a continuation or sequel of Secrets of Hawking Manor.  I had a lot of fun writing it and had decided to give it a surprise ending.  For anyone wishing to get a feel for what the story is about I’ll include the first few pages of the novel.

Part of Chapter 1: The Trial

The momentary silence in the courtroom hung like a swollen cloud over the men seated opposite the prisoner’s box.  A battle raged within Henry Carstairs’ heart.  He sat near the front of the room next to his brother, Benjamin, and Simon Lawson, Christopher’s father.  Henry stared across to the man, his former friend, seated in the prisoner’s box.  This man had poached for months in the woods of Eagleridge, part of Hawking Manor’s estate, and he had shot Christopher, Eagleridge’s manager’s young son.  The youth had been Benjamin and Henry’s dear friend.  He had come upon this poacher suddenly not realizing who he was.

Henry, along with Christopher and Simon his father, had set out on a cold, wet day a year before this trial to catch the unknown man who had come regularly into the Eagleridge woods to poach.  It was Christopher who had sighted the poacher first.  He had wounded the man who was in the act of gutting a deer.  The thief had refused to heed the youth’s warning.  Not knowing the poacher was Eugene, a former Dragoon, an expert with various weapons; Christopher did not realize how dangerous this thief was.  Although the poacher bled profusely from Christopher’s bullet, he had fired a shot in return that had mortally wounded Christopher before Henry and Simon had been able to come to assist the youth.

Now, seated in the courtroom all the grief that day, now months past, had brought into his life crowded back into Henry’s heart.  As he had done many times he wondered again, if he had not planned the capture of the thief carefully enough back then and was in part to blame for Christopher’s demise.  He recalled again the hours he had sat with Simon and Christopher and mapped out strategies to catch the poacher.  “What could I have done differently?” he silently lamented again.

Henry and Benjamin had expected the judge to pronounce Eugene Fairham guilty as charged.  But hearing the judge’s words, “An eye for an eye, a life for a life, Eugene Fairham this day of our Lord, the fifth day of November 1854, I condemn you three days hence to hang by the neck until you are dead,” chilled both young men to the core.  Henry glanced at his former friend.  He saw none of the man’s prior spirited energy, his disdain for problems other men deemed insurmountable, his unbridled, sometimes callous humor, nor his unveiled love for life.  Now he sat in the prisoner’s box and appeared to be a man drained of self and bare of the will to live.  He sat motionless with his eyes cast to the floor.  For a moment Henry wondered if Eugene was cunning enough in that fashion to try to gain the court’s mercy.  “He’s play acted persuasively many times,” Henry murmured silently, but slowly shaking his head he banished the thought.

Muffled coughs in the back of the room and the suppressed sobs of a woman seated behind the prisoner’s box broke the silence.  It was then that Simon turned to Henry and Benjamin and whispered, “It will not bring my son back, men.  Your former friend, Henry, also is the son of a mother.  I ask you to plead for your former comrade in arms.”

Simon’s words touched Henry.  He and Benjamin had testified against Eugene, but after hearing the sentence pronounced, he wanted to shout out, “No, Your Honor, not that!”  But the remembrance of holding the mortally wounded Christopher in his arms and hearing his last words again, “I saw his face,” as the youth had dreamed the night before losing his life had sealed Henry’s mouth.  Now pity for his former friend welled up inside of him.

Henry saw Eugene turn to glance at the sobbing woman seated behind him.  He stared at her for a long moment.  Then in the stillness of the room the people heard him whisper painfully, “Mother – please don’t cry for me.”

Seated near the entrance to the courtroom and hidden from Eugene’s view Benjamin noticed a young woman, elegantly dressed in black, her face hidden by a dark veil, weeping silently.  Benjamin wondered who she might be and why the verdict touched her so deeply.

Henry saw Eugene turn and face the judge again.  He looked at a defeated man, one without hope, a man he had known to be full of life and energy, willing to lay down his life in the service of Her Majesty and his country.  He also noticed the woman dressed in black holding a white handkerchief in her hand weeping silently.  He too wondered who she might be.  She wore a veil, and he could not see her face.

Slowly Henry rose from his seat, “Your Honor,” he stammered.  “On behalf of the father of the youth who lost his young life by the hand Eugene Fairham, the condemned man, I plead for mercy for the prisoner.  My former friend and comrade in arms in our monarch’s service once served this nation with valor and distinction.  The horsemen had none more fearless than he was.”  Henry’s eyes fixed on the judge were filled with sadness.  He repeated once more almost in a whisper, “I plead for mercy for him.”

The judge, who was Samuel Carstairs, Benjamin and Henry’s father’s, friend was also a distant relative of Rebecca’s mother, Lady Lydia.  He stared at Henry for a long moment.  He muttered words Henry could not understand.  Turning quickly and casting a stern glance at Eugene the judge accidently dislodged his wig.  Righting it he turned his eyes to Benjamin.  His Lordship held Benjamin in high esteem.  He had met him at the christening of Henry’s son at Hawking Manor.  At that meeting with Benjamin he had learned of the young Carstairs’ years in North America, and how he had come to be on that faraway continent.  The story had intrigued him.  He, therefore, had sought Benjamin out during the christening festivities to learn all he could about the New World.  Now he commanded, “Stand, Benjamin Carstairs.”  Benjamin stood up quickly.  With his blue eyes, blonde hair, tall and trim youthful figure he looked handsome and strong.  “How say you?” his lordship demanded.

“Thank you for hearing my brother, Your Honor,” Benjamin began.  “The father of my friend, forever young, wishes that the blood of the one who took his son’s life will not be laid at the feet of his departed son.  Like my brother, I too plead for mercy for Eugene Fairham.”

“What would you have the sentence be then,” the judge called out leaning forward toward Benjamin from the bench above.

“Banish him, Your Honor,” Benjamin replied respectfully.

Mumbling to himself the judge addressed Henry again after considering what he had heard for a considerable time silently.  “At your behest it shall be done,” he finally said to Henry, and he banished Christopher’s murderer to the far away continent of Australia with this warning.  “Eugene Fairham, murderer of Christopher Lawson, should you ever set foot on Brittan’s fair soil, henceforth know you this, you shall receive mercy no more.”

Once Eugene had been led away the three men made their way from the courthouse to the market square and the nearby inn where they had quartered their horses while they were at the courthouse witnessing the trial.  They had stayed each night with Henry and Benjamin’s relative, Hannah, and Sydney, her husband, at their estate on the outskirts of Nottingham.  The men had said their goodbyes in the morning wishing to ride homeward soon after the end of the trial.  Once they were ready to depart from the inn and make for home, one of the stable hands approached them cautiously.  He gave a cough and began, “If I may be so bold gentlemen to give ye a warning, ye may do well to keep a sharp eye out fer a pack of knaves hereabouts.  Dey robbed travelers in de forests of the county.  The sheriff and his men been looking for de robbers fer days now.”

With their coats drawn tightly around them to keep out the chill of the wind the three men set out through the streets of Nottingham.  Five Oaks lay more than seven hours away by horse.  Leaving the city behind, they rode into the countryside silently.  Each man appeared occupied with his own thoughts, thoughts they all deemed too private to broadcast or share.  Beads of water slowly dripped from the fur of the animals from the rain falling mist-like from the darkened sky.

Simon, for much of the time, thought of Christopher, his beloved son that Eugene had taken ruthlessly from him.  But with the sight of the countryside before him his thoughts in time turned to his wife.  She had been his strength in the days following of his son’s murder.  He could almost feel her hand on his cheek again when she came to stand beside him at the window from where he had often watched Christopher teach his dog new tricks.  Before departing from Eagleridge to ride to the trial he had stopped and had stood there for a long moment, as if to see his son appear in the yard again.  His wife had placed an arm around him, stroked his cheek with the other hand and had whispered to him that she was sure she was with child again.  In his thoughts he heard her words again, “I pray to God, my dear husband, that when the sun shines hot again, I will be able to make you a present of a son who will be as dear to you as our Christopher was.”  A fleeting smile crossed his face.  In his heart he knew a son or another daughter would be a delight to him.

Henry’s heart and mind had been in turmoil during the trial.  Leaving the city his thoughts still remained greatly troubled.  He recalled holding Christopher’s lifeless body in his arms.  He saw again the hopelessness in Eugene’s face once the judge had condemned him to the gallows.  Sylvia’s words scribbled on a small piece of paper, “I was delivered of your daughter some few days ago,” punched into his thoughts also.  The knowledge that Louisa had fled from Hawking Manor, because of his unfaithfulness cried out in his heart and tormented him.  He longed to take his wife into his arms, to kiss her lips and neck tenderly, to caress her, to beg her to forgive him and wipe away his guilt.

He had dreamed on many now lonely nights of holding his son in his arms again.  He recalled the words of his father.  They still echoed in his thoughts and tore at his heart.  “Your wife and son have left you, but you may take some comfort in seeing your daughter and the woman who bore her.”  He remembered too that now on his return to Hawking Manor he might have to face David, Sylvia’s husband.  For a moment he wondered what David would do, if he found out that he, Henry, was the father of Sylvia’s, his wife’s, second child.  Having to look into David’s eyes weighed heavily on Henry’s thoughts.  He was numb to the cold of the day, but his thoughts chilled him to his core.  He glanced over to his brother riding silently besides him.  Benjamin’s nearness seemed like the only ray of light in his life at the moment, but even that light shone dimly within him, as he briefly recalled how as a youth he had often tormented him making his brother’s life unpleasant.

Unlike Henry’s face no clouds stood stamped on Benjamin’s mien.  He still rejoiced in his long sought after homecoming from the endlessness of the North American continent.  The nearness he now felt to all his loved ones that he had missed greatly while searching for Clarissa, his uncle’s daughter, among many tribes in the New World for several years still delighted him every waking moment.  That Clarissa and his friend Albert had discovered special feelings for each other pleased him greatly.  Most of all Rebecca and Willowdowne Park occupied his thoughts and started him dreaming.  In his mind he saw Rebecca ones more in Hawking Manor’s garden stretching up to a branch of the tree under which she stood attempting to reach some of its pink blossoms.  She had been a girl when he had been taken away from home by the ship the Fortune Four.  That day in the garden after his return, when he came upon her he saw a beautiful young woman.  He had realized at that moment, when he had greeted her, had run to her and had embraced her tenderly, that he now loved her not only as a young friend, but also as a man loved a woman.

“I love you, Rebecca,” he silently whispered riding along.  Her sweetly angelic face swept into his daydream.  Smiling to himself he wished he could touch her soft lips with his own.  He had never done so, but it had not been from lack of wishing for it.  He thought of the day when Lady Lydia with Rebecca and Victoria had come to Hawking Manor, and Rebecca had hoped to go riding with him alone, but on the spur of the moment many others had decided to accompany them.  To Rebecca’s chagrin Anne, Louisa’s sister, had ridden along Benjamin’s side glued to him from the outset.  To change her fortunes Rebecca had spurred on the horse she rode and wildly bolted past Benjamin.  He could not help but see the mare charge away with her.  He had feared for her safety.  Galloping after her in an attempt to rescue her, he quickly found that she had planned the horse’s flight.  Thinking of it Benjamin’s smile widened and inwardly his heart sang.  “Sweet and angelic with a touch of mischief thrown in she is.”

For a moment his thoughts turned to Nelson the good friend he had left at the American River where they had mined gold together.  They had travelled on a clipper ship from Boston to San Francisco.  From there they had ridden horses to the river where Nelson’s uncle had claimed gold could be found.

Benjamin had not only found gold at the American River, but at a chance meeting with Lord Chandler’s son, Reginald, he had acquired that family’s estate, Willowdowne Park a beautiful, old estate only hours removed from Hawking Manor.  Reginald had inherited the estate, but found it a burden.  He had come to the New World to seek adventure, and had offered to sell the estate to Benjamin.  Thinking of Willowdowne brought another smile to his lips.  “One day it will be home to Rebecca and me,” he whispered.

As the three riders rode along in the countryside in silence the rain lessened, but the clouds remained swollen.  Late in the afternoon the three men stopped at an inn in the small village they had entered.  A sign much blighted by the sun and weather announced the establishment to be the Fair Country Inn. There they intended to rest the horses and refresh themselves for an hour.  Seven other horses were tethered under the roof extending out from the inn.  Two surreys stood not far removed from them.  “We shall not be alone here,” Simon remarked as they dismounted and secured their animals.

Inside the inn five rowdy and unruly fellows came immediately to their attention.  Three small groups of other patrons appeared to have distanced themselves from these men.  These five were giving the innkeeper a great deal of trouble with their boisterous demands.  They also took liberties with the two barmaids. The women tried to keep out of their way, but the scoundrels grabbed at them every time they came near or past them.

Henry, who at first had advised Benjamin not to interfere, finally grew weary of the men’s mistreatment of the females and of their coarse speech.  He rose and slowly made his way to the table where the five sat.  The tallest and loudest of the bunch had reached out his big hand to the barmaid passing his table, and catching her pulled her onto his lap before Henry arrived.  Disregarding her squeals for freedom from his roving fingers he was about to slip his free hand into the top of her dress.

“My good man,” Henry began, “you will do well to give the damsel her freedom.  Her shrieks will rouse the dead and bring the sheriff before long.”

The tall man bared a grin that showed several of his teeth missing.  Those remaining were stained an ugly brown.  “Men, did yer ‘ear the gentleman?  A noble man ‘e is.  ‘E wants to rescue the wench,” he snarled.

While all five of the unruly group of men grinned at Henry, their eyes remained cold with distain.  “Yer might show ‘im, Tom, ‘ow we deal with gents,” one of the men growled.

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Almost two month have passed since I added a post to my blog.  Yes, I have been busy working on a couple of my novels, trying to keep ahead of the grass and weeds in the yard, starting to get ready for our move to a smaller house.  Yes, life will always provide the excuses to leave things for tomorrow to do.  I should mention that we also did an eighteen day Panama Canal cruise, but there were all these things to do on board the ship and all those sights to see at the eleven stops along the way to do what could be done tomorrow.Panama Cruise

I know, I know I could have just dug into my files and posted one of the many pictures there or posted a poems I had written in past years, poems I also had left to look at for tomorrow.  This morning I decided to take a quick sneak peak into my past written work, the poems,short stories and so on, but I only got as far as this poem, because there were other things begging me to do just then and I could always take time to look at that work tomorrow.

You Would Not Let Me Go

Your mercy was new each morning,

Even though I walked my own way.

You nudged me and directed my going,

Even though I took no time to pray.

I wandered and played without caring,

Even though you had a claim on my soul.

Life in the fast lane suited me better,

Even though you longed to make me whole.

My goals were to search for fortunes,

Even though you gave your life for me.

Choosing to chase the wind, I found no meaning,

Even though your blood could have set me free.

You loved me long before I knew you,

Even though I had willed to stray away.

You called me, touched and sought me,

Even though I still refused to obey.

Then one day you showed me Golgotha,

Even though my sin nailed you there.

Your last breath was to forgive my transgression,

Even though I had not asked for your prayer.

You rose and returned to the Father,

But you asked me to be still and know

That you chose me to share in your glory,

And that you would never let me go.

                                    (WHM )

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It’s that time of year when it is not unusual for bear, deer and even cougars to show up occasionally in the backyard.  We love it when the bear come and just play, when the deer come to graze but stay out of the garden, and when a cougar just P1000544quickly passes through.  We saw three black bear cubs recently having fun climbing a small tree.P1000551 First their mom tried to shake them out of the tree, but eventually she just let them play until  they had enough and climbed down on their own.  The deer lately have behaved too sticking to the grass out back.  Thankfully, we had no recent visit from big cats.  The cubs’ mother also just slipped out of the thick underbrush for a few seconds.  Usually they come into that patch of grass and stay awhile.  Maybe since I had the lawn mover out there a few days earlier she was a bit hesitant to stay any longer.June July 2013 004DSCF0117

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I added my last post four months ago,  Since that time have I been hiding?  My aim was to spent many hours at my keyboard proofreading, editing and formatting one of my novels for eBook readers.  Last weekend I reached my goal yo my great satisfaction.  A couple days ago this novel, “Beyond the Breaking Point” could be found in the Smashwords’ store.  As of today Kobo readers can find it there, and soon Barns and Noble and most other eBook retailers will handle it as well.

Beyond the Breaking Point

Beyond the Breaking Point Cover

 It appeared that Montgomery Moserly had everything a young man could wish for – good looks, talent, a close family, a girlfriend, a job he loved and notable financial prospects.  But by chance he became the only witness to a targeted shooting that left the victim dead.  He took every precaution not to be detected by the two killers by hiding in his car.  He also had the good fortune to have a camera in his Mustang and took photos of the shooters, their vehicle and the license number before he reported the incident to the police.  His statements to the police, he thought, would be the end of his involvement in this brutal event, but a crooked cop trying to keep the killers and their gang from being discovered wanted no witnesses.  He passed Monty’s name on to the gangsters and kept them informed of his daily routines.

The killers and their boss launched an intense hunt for Montgomery with one goal in mind – to speedily silence him.  It quickly became apparent to Monty that he would not be safe at home, on the road or any place he could think of to hide.  He had wronged no one but his safe, promising world had crashed suddenly.  The killers hunted for him relentlessly.  Often their attempts to find and silence him seemed secured, and he saw no way open to escape.

His ordeal also affected his family who daily feared for his life.  The girl with whom he had been close for several years felt it best to move on to avoid any danger to her own life.  Through the unsolicited assistance of strangers and a young woman fighting her own battles with whom he worked Monty managed to avoid becoming a statistic a number of times.  On some occasions he saw no way left open for him to escape.  All hope seemed futile.  Even praying appeared to be too late.

The more often he slipped through the killers’ traps the more intensely they hunted him.  The daily attacks on his life eventually took him beyond the breaking point.  In this state of mind he became convinced the only way out of the dangers he faced was for him to hunt his hunters.  In desperation he set out to track down the individual who gave the orders to kill him thinking that by eliminating him he would regain his freedom and the bright future his years of study and hard work had promised him.

That he fell in love with the woman who came to his rescue a number of times complicated matters still more for him.  He could not dare to involve her and expose her to the danger he faced.  He knew all would be lost unless his plans to expose the gang were successful.  But he faced professional killers and his chances to succeed appeared close to zero.  He had not only witnessed a murder, but he also had too much evidence of the Assistant Captain’s involvement with the gangsters trying to silence him for his own plans to be successful.

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Have you noticed?

My wife and I watched early in the morning on the 11th a touching Remembrance Day ceremony televised from our country’s capital. As the cameras panned across the scene and the crowd I noticed two things that disturbed me.  Most obvious and standing in sharp contrast to what we saw at that kind of ceremony even just five years ago the number of heavily armed policemen and women shocked me.  It wasn’t the only thing that bothered me about what I noticed among that massive crowd on Parliament Hill.

Later, at eleven we watched a wonderful Remembrance Day ceremony in our town that was witnessed by many local citizen.  While less noticeable and less heavily armed the police presence making the rounds near the cenotaph stood out to me.  Have you noticed what changes have occurred in our great country in just a few years that even at Remembrance Day ceremonies where we honor those who had been willing to die for our freedom we may not be safe?  Are we taking notice and are we ready and willing to stand on guard?   Remembrance day poppy 2

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I’ve neglected to add posts regularly during the last month.  Proof reading and editing six full length novels that I’m getting ready to publish in eBook format demanded much of my time. I have only managed to read two or three books in that time at late hours when my tasks became overwhelming.

It’s the book I’m finishing to read now on my Kobo Arc I want to share.  Written by Susanne Clarke “Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell” is a story of a magician trying to restore the art of magic in England.  After reading the first four or five chapters I had it in my mind to quit.  I found the pages to that point boring.  But I decided to labor on for another chapter, and as if by magic the story began to catch my attention.  One curious element I notice now, whenever I boot the reader up and select the novel to continue to read it, makes me wonder if the author has added a diabolical twist to the book.  Can you believe it?  As the time I read the story increases so does the time remaining to read according to the tablet.  Obviously, I now must read to see if or how the story will end. magician 4

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Remembrance day poppyIt’s Remembrance Day today.  Have you ever wondered why we wear a poppy and why we gather to remember?  Our youth, I’m sure are wondering about it.  Without anyone pointing them to the answers they might get the mistaken idea that what happens on November 11 each year glorifies war.  So what is it we should never forget?  What should we always remember?

Yes, we should remember those who gave up their life fighting against oppression.  They did not go to glorify war.  They joined in the battle, because evil regimes threatened their loved ones’ freedom and oppressed other people.

We must never forget that freedom and peace sometimes comes at an enormous individual and collective price.  How fortunate people in this country are can be seen in the fact that few who have never experience war firsthand really understanding what it means to have lost all basic freedoms and to live in fear daily.

It is vital that we now always guard the freedoms we have lest we lose them.  No group, no country is immune to those with evil and selfish goals and ambition and would not stop short to enslave others to reach those goals.  field of poppies 4

Years ago I wrote a poem in memory of my father who was killed when I was five.  He was not a soldier, but he was a citizen of a country held in the grip of an evil dictator and his hordes of henchmen.  Near the end of the war all males older than fourteen had to report to defend against advancing armies.  The Russian army had advance close to Breslau or home, then a city in East Germany, now called Wroclaw in Poland.  A few weeks earlier we and all civilians had been ordered to flee to points west and south.  That late winter he lost his life.  We have never been able to find out where he is buried.  One unsubstantiated report we did receive said he was shot while forced to dig a mass grave.  The poem below, “Did the Bugle Weep for You?” I wrote years ago a day or two before Remembrance Day.

Did the Bugle Weep for You?

My father, young and full of hopes and dreams

Of life yet to be lived for many days there after                                      Bugler at dusk

Of your mother’s smile, your wife’s soft touch

Of your sons’ and daughters’ smiles and laughter.

In the last days cold duty called you to take arms

To defend against advancing army’s guns

An army of men also with dreams and hopes

For their future days and waiting loved ones.

My father, young and full of hopes and dreams

A dictator’s senseless war one cold, dark day slew

Your hopes, your dreams and your life still young.

At the end of your day – did the bugle weep for you?

(WHM in my father’s memory)

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We often let the weather or circumstances                        At Lake Louise

keep us from enjoying the day.

Over the years I’ve learned that when

I choose to smile in the rain,

the sun appears not as distant.

Try this week’s two brain teasers.

Which four days of the week start with the letter “t”?

What is green, grows and has wheels?

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By the end of this week each day will begin to give us a little more daylight.  I have always likened wisdom to light, a condition that lets you see more and more clearly.  So this weeks encouraging words are:

 Seek wisdom.  It is more valuable than treasure.

Sunrise over the strait

Sunrise

And now for the challenger:  You can make only three words from the letters a,e,d,d,l,r,s.  What are they?

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