Category: A Writer’s Life

That Infamous Hook

That Infamous Hook

Another oldie but goodie revisited…

As a writer, I am forever reading and not just for pleasure. Lately, thanks to my critique partner who happens to be an editor, I’ve been reminded of the infamous hook and the need for a novel to have one during the first 100 words. So I spent most of yesterday reworking the first page of my current work-in-progress, all in an attempt to add a really good “hook.”

Then this morning during one of my breaks – yes, writing magazines make great “break” reading – I was again learning all about hooks and how in the current market, a good hook is even more essential.

“So what is a hook?” Besides being the quintessential villain in the movie of the same name, apparently a good hook is everything in making your story a success. In today’s market, with it’s over abundance of books all vying for the public’s attention, a hook is that very sentence or catch phrase that makes your reader ask, “What happens next?”

Perhaps it’s best explained this way. As a reader, it’s that phrase that first sparks a flame inside you. It’s those words that make you think, I really want to read this story, and without those words, that phrase, you close the book or discard the ebook sample simply because it didn’t capture your attention.

Finding that perfect hook is very frustrating for an author. This is the eighth time I’ve rewritten my first page in hopes of pleasing the reader inside me. If I’m not impressed, my potential readers won’t be either.

…and so my own search for that magical, infamous hook continues.

Good luck to us both as we continue our search through seemingly endless revisions in search of that elusive hook. Or as Robin Williams’ version of Peter Pan would say, “It’s Hook or me this time.”

Thanks for reading!

Confessions of a Dark Fantasy Writer

Confessions of a Dark Fantasy Writer

In 1994, I had a horrific car accident almost ending my life, since that fifteen-day stint in the hospital I have vowed to live my life fully which includes facing my fears. My first confession, I am afraid of things that <em>don’t</em> go bump in the night.

Seriously, I can handle the occasional “bump.” Like when you hear a click in the night that wakes you up only to hear the next sound being the heater starting up. Or the loud thud that scared me so bad I caught my breathe and wanted to wake my sleeping husband.No, he was not in bed beside me and yes, he was the originator of the thud as he moved around the house in the dark.

These things have explanations and I can handle them. What I can’t handle are the noiseless things that move in the night or the unseen things that a part of you senses, but you cannot see or hear. Those are the things that totally freak me out. Yes, they may be part of my overactive imagination, but what if they’re not?

Originally published Jan 15, 2010

My husband has spoken a few times about going to California for a week on business. I would be left home alone to write to my heart’s content. My second confession, I really don’t want to be alone at night in this big new-to-us house. Because of the design of this room I call my office; I must sit with my back to the doorway. Last night when I could not sleep and sat here diligently working at my desk, every once and while I would look up at the open door leading to the rest of the house. Just in case. You never know what lurks silently in old houses.

My third confession is that when I was a child and yes sometimes still, I would fear cars and trucks coming up the road by my home.  Don’t ask me the origin of this phobia; it really makes no sense. All I can think is that the grill on the cars from the 1950s and 60s left a deep, tortured impression upon my psyche.  Anyway, to this day I sometimes fear a vehicle “sneaking up” behind me.

So why do I love horror fiction enough to write it, am I in some subconscious way a masochist desiring to scare myself into insanity? No, probably not.

I think it’s for the same reason that as a child I use to love reading ghost stories or as a teenager babysitting my niece I read the <em>Amityville Horror</em> in one setting. Reading horror does for me what other books do not. It entertains me and at the same time forces me to face my fear.

And so I continue writing my own horror novel based on a place I once lived. My last confession, I am so glad we moved because in a certain point in the story my heroine who is <em>roughly</em> based on me has a near fatal fall… Yes, my own writing scares me.

A Writer’s Life – PRESSURE!

A Writer’s Life – PRESSURE!

Pressure, we all deal with it. Whether it’s from a self-imposed deadline or from your friends and family wanting to read your next story, the stress to get your next story out there can be overwhelming.

Not in the Brochure – Marriage

Not in the Brochure – Marriage

THIS wasn’t in there. Sure, there were lots and lots of great, happy things like kissing and hugging, traveling with your wonderful life partner. Having babies and playing with them, nurturing them…and don’t forget the family dog and the sunny pictures of beds filled with smiling faces…you, your children…and Fido.

Yes, those were all in there. But there’s a reason why the conscription vows include in sickness and in health–

What? You caught that, did you?

Yeah, conscription, because some days there are no smiling, happy, healthy faces and marriage, even to the best of partners, can feel like a compulsory duty.  Like when your spouse has a lung condition (or insert another severe disease) and aside from consoling and attempting to play nurse (that seriously was NOT in the brochure) you can’t force him to do what he doesn’t want to.  <Sigh> Only Momma could that!

Today, we are both sick. Like some loathsome intruder, the virus hoped on board my husband and entered our love nest! And in the process of kissing and hugging (yep, they were IN the brochure!) we are now sharing that nasty slut name Virus!

Yeah, “Les, Honey, time for those new glasses!”

 

But today is today and hopefully, we will both feel better soon. Our nest is empty aside from our cat (no, don’t get me started on HIM!)

And, the brochure? Well, they did get one thing right, even on the darkest day, my husband still makes me smile and more often than not, laugh as if it is his mission in life. I like to think, I do the same…

Thanks for reading! May your good days be plenty and your bad, barely a memory.

 

 

The Worst Pain of My Life – Fibromyalgia

The Worst Pain of My Life – Fibromyalgia

This is for those who have been diagnosed with this little-understood disease, Fibromyalgia.

The Worst Pain of My Life

Five times, yes, five times, I had gone to the Emergency Room. Each time with increasing pain seeking help. I knew something was very wrong, but what?

Five times that I don’t regret. Every time I learned something  about the system…and my body. Five times, each more painful, each receiving temporary relief…until this last time. Last week. Thursday.

Last Thursday

Les and I entered the Emergency Room. I was crying, whimpering. I was on Tramadol, 50 mg, and Arthritis Strength Tylenol round the clock, neither was touching the pain. It was unbearable. I had even considered killing myself.  I wasn’t sleeping. I was hurting too much.

Thankfully this was deemed “new” pain. They had found my a broken rib on an x-ray a month ago. Yet, the pain was never where the broken rib was said to be. When I mentioned that to the previous ER doctor, he had replied, “Referred pain.”

None of it made sense, yet the pain was still there and getting worse.

Last Thursday. This time I saw a VA Nurse Practitioner. We argued. I cried. She had an insight. She believed I was having a Fibromyalgia Flare.

I received two injections, Toradol in one shoulder and anti-inflammatory medication in the other.  Because the pain was still too intense, she gave me Valium to relax me and sent me home with Diazepam.

me in my natural habitat

Background

A few details of my background. I was raised a farmer. I am a twelve-year military veteran.

For the last eight years, I have acted as the “arborist” on our tree farm. I am no stranger to hard work and intense labor. I am no lightweight to pain. I have given birth without medication, shattered bones in a near-fatal car accident and suffered through endometriosis and a near-ruptured appendix. Yet, this, this has been the worst pain of my life…

Now

The pain from a torn rotator cuff and the broken rib are still there, but I’m sleeping again and I’m working again. Life is good, the pain is manageable and I am working with the VA toward healing and hopefully, managing the Fibromyalgia better.

Fibromyalgia?

The best definition of Fibromyalgia I have found came from https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/fibromyalgia

“Fibromyalgia is also called fibromyalgia syndrome. A syndrome is a group of symptoms that happen together. People with fibromyalgia experience aches and pain all over the body, fatigue (extreme tiredness that does not get better with sleep or rest), and problems sleeping.

It [Fibromyalgia] may be caused by a problem in the brain with nerves and pain signals. In other words, in people with fibromyalgia, the brain misunderstands everyday pain and other sensory experiences, making the person more sensitive to pressure, temperature (hot or cold), bright lights, and noise compared to people who do not have fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia has been compared to arthritis. Like arthritis, fibromyalgia causes pain and fatigue. But, unlike arthritis, fibromyalgia does not cause redness and swelling, or damage to your joints.”

Fibro Flares

For those who have Fibromyalgia, this is the best information I have found regarding Flares…

https://www.healthcentral.com/slideshow/top-causes-of-fibromyalgia-flares

Other good information regarding Fibromyalgia…

https://www.webmd.com/fibromyalgia/ss/slideshow-fibromyalgia-overview

 

Support

There are a number of groups online providing information, support and adding comic relief when you’d rather laugh than cry. Here are a few:

Facebook:

The Fibro Warrior

Women with Fibromyalgia

Living With Fibromyalgia Group

 

Other Online Groups:

Fibromyalgia

And for those of us living with Chronic Pain in Arizona

Chronic Pain Support Groups in Arizona

 

 

 

 

One Tin Soldier – Flashbacks of Childhood

One Tin Soldier – Flashbacks of Childhood

Remembering the 1960s

Good Morning, All, Happy Sunday! <3
 
I woke up with this song in my head/heart. For those who haven’t lived as many years as I have, it originally came on the scene when I was a child and was later linked to the movie, The Legend of Billy Jack. The song, One Tin Soldier.
 
The video below hasn’t been out as long and it really brings home the song’s message, and apparently childhood memories not suitable for any child. 
Memories of Vietnam and the Evening News
 
For those of us who remember the Vietnam War, even after more than forty years it still makes me physically ill.
 
Warning, the rest of this post may bring back memories of Vietnam.
 
I was only a child when they started showing the Vietnam War on our television screens daily. No, not the reports and commentary, but the actual footage of the war itself. I remember it being so real, so loud, and above all, frightening to an impressionable child.
 
https://prologue.blogs.archives.gov/2018/01/25/vietnam-the-first-television-war/
 
Meanwhile, across the seas, our boys, most involuntarily drafted into giving their lives to fight in a place most Americans had never heard of, Vietnam, were fighting and dying for our country, for us. The history books make it so factual and easy to swallow, for those who lived it and watched it, it was
anything but.
 
Warning: More footage of the Vietnam War, I remember seeing much of this on the evening news. https://www.military.com/…/vietnam-war…/3620986998001
 
And, this…can you imagine the conflicting thoughts of a child or anyone else, here at home, over this war? And then, our boys, and the women, nurses and other support personnel, after all they’d been through, coming home and being misunderstood oftentimes, hated, for serving our country, giving their lives for us… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l0ggRGlfljs
 
Finally, one last post..https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=89_3DgW_7mg, If you don’t watch any of the others, you might consider watching this…
My New Adventure Begins…

My New Adventure Begins…

Better known as, what the hell was I thinking??

As I lay there on my bed, that first night, in an open room full of other women, I’m not exactly sure what I was thinking. But one thing’s for certain, I was more concerned about survival than deep, introspective thought.

As the sound of sniffles reached my ears and I realized someone a few beds over was crying, my first thought was that she was going to be eaten alive. I don’t know how I knew, but somehow I did, that crying was not an option, not here, not in this foreign place.

Every instinct inside me was set on one thing and one thing alone, making it through the next six weeks. I knew that if I could do that, I could face anything the Air Force had to throw at me. I just had to get through basic training and believe me, that was harder than you think.

From the moment we arrived, the Military Training Instructors (MTIs) or TIs as we called them, were using that loud, authoritative voice. You know the one, it’s the one your parents use on you when you’ve done something really bad. But this yelling was continuous and repetitive and the very last thing you wanted was for that person, male or female it didn’t matter, to focus in on you.

Aside from the uniforms, this could have been the room I lived in for 6 weeks, and, yes, I promise you, my bed really did look that good.
A typical dorm room and yes, my bed really did look that good.

We had two TIs, one male and one female. She was tall with platinum hair and her heels clicked when she walked. I still cringed at the sound those heels make within my head.

But I also remember her fondly, because about midway through, when she could have booted me out, she pulled me aside and our little chat, not more than a few words, made all the difference. As for the other TI, he was a total and absolute egotistic jerk, but I’m getting ahead of myself. We’re still on that first night.

Aside from the urgency of getting ready for bed as quickly as we possibly could, what I think left the biggest impression on me that night was what would become a nightly occurrence, “Taps,” being played over the loud speaker. That was the signal that it was time for lights out and we better be in our beds or there was hell to pay. Maslow had nothing over the Air Force, the first notes of “Taps,” both instilled fear as well as commanded us to sleep, no salivating necessary.

The other immediate and lasting impression came the next morning at 5 AM, “Reveille.” Imagine that insistent bugle playing full blast over the speaker above your bed. To this day, that damn tune brings back the urgency to get moving and the humid smell of early mornings at Lackland. Bottom line, by the time that song was done, you had to have gotten dressed and downstairs into formation. If you were lucky, you might even have a few seconds to relieve yourself first, but being late for formation was bad, really bad.

And that brings to mind the dreaded AETC Form 341, we had to carry three of them at all times with our name, squadron number and flight number already printed out. Getting one pulled by anyone in authority either caused immediate, unrelenting fear or absolute elation. “Three-forty-ones,” as we called them were the forms used for either positive or negative recognition.  And the worst part, as soon as you got back to dorm, you had to tell your TI what happened. It was sort of like telling Mom and Dad what you did wrong and making sure you told them before the mean lady next door paid them a visit.

I’d gotten at least one three-forty-one pulled for an infraction, but for the longest time I kept a copy of the only one I ever had pulled for praise of performance. Silly, huh?

This is the type of building I stayed in during basic training. It’s a squadron building. Each squadron is made up of flights and each flight had their own dorm. My squadron was the 3700th, but I forget our flight number.

Each flight, or group of trainees, consisted of four squads. The level of authority within the flight consisted of a Flight Leader and then each squad had their own Squad Leader. If we had twenty-eight girls in our flight, each squad consisted of seven girls. Confused yet?

This will be important later, especially when it comes to marching in formation. Marching is something that I repeatedly had trouble with the first three weeks, but not for the reason you think. 🙂

Okay, enough for today. I hope you’re enjoying my visit down memory lane, I know I am.

And Into the Fire…

And Into the Fire…

Braniff Airways (now defunct) flew us from Philadelphia to San Antonio, Texas. It was an interesting flight. I somehow managed to sit between two guys. Mind you, I had lived the majority of my life in the same house, a farm house, on an extended family farm surrounded by relatives. I had gone to the same school district my entire life, grew up with the same kids and been stuck in the same social hole, never able to quite figure out how this enigma called small-town society worked.

Then, all of a sudden, I was on a plane, surrounded by strangers and placed between two attractive guys who both wanted to talk to me. Quite frankly, it was weird. And so describes most of my military life, weird. To be honest, I don’t think I ever quite understood any of it. I used to joke that when I passed my E-5 Staff Sergeant exam, any answer I didn’t know, I picked the least logical answer. Yes, I passed the test, but it was just another example of how I never “fit.”

But I digress, the plane ride. This picture gives you an idea of what the interior looked like, though when I sat in them, the seats were faded and the model was long gone. As for my flight, to my right, the window seat was taken by a mundane college-graduate, tall with dark hair and glasses. He was nice, but hid behind his shallow intellect.

I guess I found him boring, because after minutes of conversation, I turned toward the other guy, on my left, isle seat. He was cute, from Cherry Hill, New Jersey, made me laugh, and in the world I just came from, I don’t think he’d have even given me a second glance. But in this world, this new world, I was the focus of his attention and quite frankly, I was scared too death.

I didn’t know how to act. I’d never been popular in school. Had always been a wall flower, the only boyfriend I’d ever had was an older man, a summer love. So, not knowing what else to do, I followed my instincts and completely enjoyed the flight down to San Antonio. Later I would find out that my new friend was just as nervous as I was, surprise! But, yes, he was a good kisser.

So, we arrived in San Antonio and that wonderful plane ride was over. The next thing I knew we were all unloaded and somehow managed to claim our baggage. Don’t ask me how, that part is a blur, but what I do remember was suddenly finding myself in this big room, low ceiling, and it was jammed full of strangers, not only the kids from my plane but a zillion others. Okay, maybe a slight exaggeration, but it sure felt that way.

Oh, and there was a bus ride in there somewhere, I think between the airplane and baggage claim. I only remember the bus ride because I spoke to a girl about my age who had just enlisted into the Marines. She looked tough, but in those days few women entered the Marine Corp. I remember thinking, why on earth would she want to be a Marine? But I think my Marine Corp readers could respond to that better than I can.

Just a side note, on the test that everyone takes before they enlist, the ASVAB (Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery), my scores were high. I had chosen the Air Force because my older brother had enlisted years before and he seemed to enjoy it. The only other branch I had considered was the Navy, but decided against because I wasn’t strong swimmer. Interesting, how we make our choices in life.

Anyway, back to the sardine-can-like dark room with its fluorescent glare. The nervous energy of all those people was palatable. It seemed to hang in the air like mist surrounding the lights or maybe that was the humidity. San Antonio in July is hot and humid, but I got news for all you Texans, it’s got nothing on southeastern Pennsylvania where the humidity levels usually stay in the high 90 percentile.

As I stood there, just as nervous if not more than most of the people around me, I took comfort in the presence of my new friend, let’s call him Cherry Hill, to protect his anonymity. He was nice and made me smile, but all too soon, that was yanked out from under me as people in uniform seemed to explode into the crowded room taking charge and reminding us in not so polite terms why we were there.

The next thing I knew names were called and we were all separated into buses, more buses, old, school buses painted blue. The sky was dark on the way to the base. It was like being dump into a new world, very foreign with it’s wide open space, palms and sage bushes.

I found this link online, yep, pretty accurate, though we arrived at night… Arrival at Lackland Air Force Base.

Thanks for reading and more to come…

From the Frying Pan – Philadelphia

From the Frying Pan – Philadelphia

As I emerge from the sleep of early morning, taking eager sips from my coffee cup, the one with an antiquated Mickey Mouse waving on the front, seriously, that mouse is far too happy in the mornings, my mind wonders back to the post of yesterday. Now, please keep in mind, my memories of my adventures in the US Air Force are not necessarily happy ones, so fair warning, these tales at times will be dark.

My first recollection was of the Military Entrance Processing Station in Philadelphia. Now I’d only been to Philly a few times in my life, all as a small child either going to Germantown to see relatives or on a school field trip. Never on my own and never as an “adult,” and the other thing to consider is growing up in rural Pennsylvania, I had never experienced racial discrimination, at least not to my knowledge. Well, the first people my own age that I encountered in this massive, government building took an instant dislike to me and since I was friendly and had good hygiene, the only thing I could think of was they didn’t like the color of my skin. You see, they were black and they made it very clear that I was not their “kind.”

Talk about a rude awakening. These girls were mean, especially in the weeks to come, as you see during the next twenty-four hours, most of the girls in civilian clothes like me, that I came across, was going to the same place, Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonia, Texas. And worse, these particular four girls, were to be living in the same open-bay dormitory with me for the next six weeks. Fortunately, their existence would mean less and less to me as the weeks went by, especially as my survival became more questionable during the first three weeks.

Oh, I forgot to mention, the last words out of my father’s mouth when I left home, “If the Air Force doesn’t want you, we don’t either.” Not a particularly kind send of, and those words truly set the stage for my start in the USAF. For me, a country bumpkin, and an insecure and socially-awkward one at that, succeeding in the Air Force, indeed meant survival. I had nowhere else to go. As far as I was concerned, it was either make it in the Air Force or end up on the streets. No pressure there.

And so, I did it, me and a handful of other high school graduates, stood inside a dark, faux-wood paneled square room, under the glare of florescent lights and before a flag of the United States, and swore to serve and defend the United States and it’s Constitution. It was July 14th, 1981, and it truly was a day of firsts for me. First plane ride, first complex relationship (yes, sat next to him on the plane,) first negative racial encounter and first time I’d ever been yelled at by people paid to yell at me, but all that’s for another day.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned. 🙂

Reflections on December 31sth

Reflections on December 31sth

My Father’s Birthday

Every year at this time, I can’t help thinking about my father. Today is his birthday and as I reflect on childhood memories, I remember a man who worked hard and in his own way, loved his family.

There is a large gap between the father I had as a child and the father I knew after my 12th birthday. For years, I’ve tried to reconcile the two. The father I knew as a child, though harsh at times, could also show love if you recognized it for what it was. It was always in the little things. We were poor when it came to money, but every year he made sure I got that one Christmas present I picked out of the Sears Christmas Catalog.

And then, there was the year I wanted to learn to ride a horse. Every week he made sure I’d get my fifty cent allowance to take riding lessons down the road from our house. There was also the Saturday that the farms in the local area were doing an Open House for the elementary school kids.

My father had been working that day and had forgotten he said he would take me. So, when he came home, exhausted from working his construction job all week, he drove the miles and miles to take me to an Open House at a horse farm. We were too late for the Open House and everyone was gone, but I wanted so badly to see the horses. So, badly, that my father asked the owners if I could just walk inside the Stables and see them. Reluctantly, they agreed.

When I was eleven, my parents separated and shortly after my twelve birthday, my father remarried. My stepmother and I never got along and what little my father and I had in the way of a relationship, she all but destroyed. For decades, I’ve blamed my father for his betrayal and for always siding with her. But as I sit here writing this I can’t help thinking about my father’s dementia which showed so much in his later years…

Maybe I want so badly to give him the shadow of a doubt, or maybe, I can recall a man so beaten down by his personal demons that this woman, his “Ferny,” became his lifeline, his last chance at the happiness that had evaded him most of his life.

And, maybe, I can even forgive him…

But then, I remember, her reading my diary and my father kicking me in the lower back leaving permanent damage after ordering me to retrieve the diary from the table. And, then, I think, “No, the man who had shown those bright sparks of love would never have done that.”

And so, I sit here with tears streaming down my face and realize I cannot change what happened. I cannot erase the years of abuse. But for my sake, I must forgive my father, and that, for me, is the hardest thing I could ever do. And I will, not for the man who was my father, but for me.