AVOIDING THE NIGHTMARE, Part 26c: Myths and Misconceptions v. Reality About Human Trafficking

Hiawassee, Georgia

August 7, 2019

As we return to the Man After Midnight human trafficking issue, another facet of this study concerns  myths and misconceptions that even educated people assume to be true. As I  continue to ‘binge-read’ books and articles and watch movies and documentaries about the issue, I am more astounded than ever over the truth of the statement “Knowledge is power”, stated by a  philosopher named Sir Francis Bacon. Who knew that a simple, sixteenth-century statement would prove especially true about the twenty-first century pandemic of human trafficking?

To follow are five myths and misconceptions about human trafficking contrasted with their realities that I found on the  National Human Trafficking Hotline, operated by Polaris.

Listed from #5 to #1, in order of the least to most surprising, are truths following the myths and misconceptions:

#5: While some may assume that trafficking occurs only in brothels, strip clubs, massage parlors, and some bars and only overseas, the reality is that it also goes on in some restaurants, cleaning services, construction companies, factories here in the United States!

#4: While some might assume that victims are captured physically, the reality is that some traffickers are so cunning that their victims might deny that they are being trafficked.

#3: Although many of us might assume traffickers are interested in only women and girls, statistics show that over half are men and boys, especially those from the LGBT community. 

#2: As awful as it is to consider, even sweethearts, spouses, and parents have chained their loved ones to them through psychological threats.

#1: Perhaps the biggest surprise of all is that while the term ‘trafficking’ may imply  physical transference of the victim from Points A to B, such is not always the case as it is with ‘human smuggling‘. In reality, victims can be recruited and trafficked in their own home towns with promises of money, travel, or glamorous careers. Even worse, victims are trafficked in their own homes!

Coming up, Parts 26d and 26e of “Avoiding The Nightmare” — tips for recognizing and staying safe from online predators and protecting our children from them.

Have any of you survived an encounter with a trafficker or escaped from one?  If so, where were you when it happened? How long did it take you to realize what was going on?

I’d love to hear from you! Drop me a line in the comments box, below.

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LIVING THE DREAM, Part 20b: View from ‘the Bell’

July 29, 2019

Hiawassee, GA.

So here I was, at 11:30 a.m., rummaging through last night’s dream  in search of  fodder for future books when Jeff woke me up.

“Hey, babe, Get up and get dressed! Dorothy and Phil want to drive up to Bell Mountain before they have to go home. Let’s get ready and go with them.”

About five minutes later, I wriggled into leggings, a comfy tee-shirt, and Skechers, splashed water on my face, brushed my teeth, and was ready to go. After we stoked up on roast beef sandwiches at Hardee’s, in town, we started out for the one-lane road straight up to the top.

Pictured above is the highest point of Bell Mountain County Park and Historical Site, an eighteen-acre summit located in Towns County.  Below, the Hal Herrin Overlook, which, according to a plaque placed there, exists to “preserve for all to enjoy its beauty “as described in 1883 by J.A. Gant, an Athens, Georgia newspaper editor who described the overlook of mountains encircling Lake Chatuge as the GRANDEST VIEW IN AMERICA.”

Campers Russ and his faithful Jack Russell terrier, ‘Corky’, joined us once we arrived.

As if the steep climb to the top weren’t dicey enough, the six-plus flights of steps to the very top and the breathing techniques that the climb required rewarded us with a breathtaking view of the three states — Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee — connected by the bottomless, emerald waters of Lake Chatuge capped it off.

So far, we have taken in some breathtaking sights in Georgia. There will be more to come, including a swing-by to Vogel State Park, a place we happened onto on the way to Blairsville. Until then, stay tuned!

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Living the Dream, Part 29: From Her Mother’s Arms to the Author’s Hands.

5-19-19

Recently, I held my second Georgia book-signing event at Towns County Public Library in Hiawassee. As we were running  out of books and time, Jeff ordered a “used” book in good condition from Amazon as they were temporarily out of their new copies. I already had four copies to work with; all I needed was one more book.

Two weeks ago, the book arrived in our mail in a green ‘Thrift Books’ wrapper’. True to its description, the book was better than ‘good’. It was ‘mint’.  Jeff flipped open the cover.

“Well, I’ll be darned. This is one you signed!”

“Oh, yeah? Let me see.”

Sure enough, scrawled across the top of the Dedication page was a brief note I’d written to  ‘Emma’ with my signature, below.

“I don’t believe it,” I gasped. “It’s as though the book found its way home.”

Years ago, in January of 2009 to August 2013, Emma’ and her son watched me working feverishly on the story when it was still no more than a bunch of scrambled sentences and characters that would rival any Cecil B. DeMille’s cast.

I can almost hear Emma’s voice as she watched me bang away at the keys.

“When are you ever going to finish that thing?”

Frankly, at that point, I hadn’t a clue.

In the Summer of 2017, when my publisher asked me for names of people who could review the book, Emma’s review was one I submitted. To follow is her editorial review of From Her Mother’s Arms:

I could not stop reading once I started until the end. It was so timely for the era as my own children were involved. I believe that you have found the real time for those characters and I believe that your sequels will be successful when the main people grow so keep up your real timeline …I plan to loan it to my niece who reads a lot along with her being an Officer in several organizations here in Sarasota County.

P.S. Most females cannot pass up a tearjerker. Which it surely is.”

When the book was published, at last, in August 2017, I sent ‘Emma’ a copy. of the finished product.

Not long after the book went ‘live’ on Amazon, I began to see poetry that her son posted on his WordPress blog. The imagery  left no doubt that Emma was gravely ill.  About a week later, he confirmed that she had, indeed, passed away.  Whoever sorted through her belongings must have returned the book to Amazon.

I cannot sell this book to anyone else, nor would I even want to. Instead, I have retained it as my copy to use in future events.  To this day, I still marvel that From Her Mother’s Arms found its way  home to its author.

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LIVING THE DREAM, Part 27: Ashes from The ‘Camp’ Fire

4-24-19

Hiawassee, Georgia

On April 1, around midnight, I tossed a match onto the April Camp NaNoWriMo 2019‘ kindling with a new book idea, a mixed genre of horror and suspense titled SOMETHING BORROWED, SOMETHING CURSED. On Monday night of this week, I typed those two, magical words, ‘THE END’, validated my project by copying and  pasting the entire draft into a space provided on my Camp NaNoWriMo page, and downloaded the Winner Certificate that Camp NaNoWriMo spat out. After typing in my name, book title, and the date, I emailed the certificate to myself to print at the library in town.

Speaking of book ideas, have you ever wondered what inspires some authors’ wack-a-doodle stories? Well, I don’t know how Stephen King or Willow Rose get theirs, but SOMETHING BORROWED, SOMETHING CURSED hatched at a Dairy Queen in Canton, Texas, three years ago when, as we started inside for a bite of supper, I caught the words, ‘occult investigation’, on the car parked next to ours.

“Hey, babe, reckon this place is haunted?” I asked my husband on the way in.

Seeing one other couple in there, I assumed that the car I saw was theirs. Bashful soul that I am (NOT!), I struck up a conversation with them as I dispensed my iced tea and Jeff’s water and, in a not-so-subtle fashion, ferreted out the truth: that the car I saw beside ours did, indeed, belong to them.

“I couldn’t help being intrigued by the words on your car,” I began. “Are y’all ghostbusters?”

The couple exchanged wry smiles.

“In a manner of speaking,” ‘Rick’ admitted. “People who suspect that evil spirits may have invaded their homes call us in to get rid of them.”

“No kidding? As a matter of fact, you might be interested in something that recently happened to my husband. Sometime during the night, he sees writing on the door jamb in our bedroom. Of course, when he looks closer, it disappears. What could be causing that?”

Well, as the four of us plowed through our burger baskets, drinks, and Blizzards,  ‘Rick’ and ‘Kara’ explained how they went about banishing spirits from people’s homes.

“What people don’t realize is that the spirit world is real,” she stated. “And, of course, the ones who draw attention to themselves are usually evil.”

“What causes them to show up, in the first place?” I asked her, as chill-bumps prickled my arms.

She shrugged.

“Could be a lot of things.  Astrology books or New Age music, souvenirs from countries known for voodoo or blood sacrifices. Even ‘dream-catchers’ that people hang in their homes. Ouija boards, for sure.”

“Yeah,” ‘Rick’ added. “People bring home Shiva statues from India, beads or ‘worry’ dolls. They are potential ‘portals’, too.”

. “And,” Kara inserted,  “all too often, the people who give them as gifts are clueless of their potential.”

Jeff and I eyeballed each other. He gulped.

Uh-oh, I thought, remembering the ceramic mask and Aztec calendar from Mexico that hung on our walls at home, a handmade doll I received from a Mexican ESL student, and some beads languishing among Jeff’s souvenirs.

“If we have any of that stuff, what should we do with it?” he asked.

“Move it as far away from your home as you can.  Burn it, if possible, or leave it out on the curb. And, while we’re at it, keeping it out in your garage is not enough as it is too close to your home.”

“What if we have never had problems with it, in the first place? Should we toss it out, anyway?”  I asked, as my teeth began to chatter and my heart whammed like a jackhammer on crack.

“If you’re in doubt, text us pictures of it. After all, it’s far better to be safe than sorry,” ‘Rick’ cautioned.

Before we parted company with them, ‘Kara’ and I hugged.  Jeff and ‘Rick’ shook hands. We all promised to keep in touch.

“Hey,” I said, breaking the quiet that had settled over us between Canton and Terrell.  “Meeting them has given me a book idea. Something Borrowed, Something Cursed will be about a bride-to-be who receives an antique ring from her future sister-in-law to wear as her ‘something borrowed’.

The next day, I snapped a picture of the doll that my student had given me. The one I had displayed among my other keepsakes on the top of our computer cabinet.

“Hmm…looks like a ‘worry doll’ to me,” ‘Kara’ advised. “I’d ditch it.”

So I chunked it into the pile.

In Something Borrowed, Something Cursed, a horror story, a bride-to-be receives an antique ring from her future sister-in-law as a loaner to wear as her ‘something borrowed’. She stresses that she wants it back before the couple leave the church. But when the  bride tries to return the ring, her sister-in-law is nowhere to be found. After their honeymoon, the newlyweds soon suspect that the ring serves as a portal to the paranormal, when her husband’s personality turns scary, and her sister-in-law and his brother suffer bizarre deaths within hours of each other.

As with my debut novel, FROM HER MOTHER’S ARMS, its sequel, BY HER DAUGHTER’S HANDS: Secret Sister, Deadly Daughter, I have learned to allow my characters to struggle and suffer at the hands of their antagonists. Although their hearts break, they always rise to the top. and the stories end happily.

Really, they do. I promise.

Two nights ago, around 9:30 p.m., this wild-and-crazy ‘ride’ slid to a stop, one week ahead of schedule. Now, as soon as I edit and revise this post, I plan to shift gears and resume self-publishing BY HER DAUGHTER’S HANDS: Secret Sister, Deadly Daughter, the sequel to my debut novel, FROM HER MOTHER’S ARMS. 

Have any of you ever experienced ‘phenomena’ that you cannot easily explain? If so, I’d be interested to read about it.

Stay tuned for more of my LIVING THE DREAM posts, as well as posts with other themes.

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TIME IN ‘THE TUBE’: Upright At Last!

2-9-19

Greenville, TX

On October 1, 2018, I underwent an MRI at Chatuge Regional Hospital in Hiawassee, Georgia. One week later, I received the results from my doctor. The MRI showed three compression fractures in the lumbar area of my back. The diagnosis was not surprising. In fact, it validated the mounting pain I had started feeling.  The one measly time I had not had myself checked out at Care Now was the one time I tripped sideways over the handle of a “killer” rolling duffel bag and landed on my lower back. At the time it happened, Jeff and I were too busy moving out of our house and into a totally new lifestyle: full-time RV living. After he helped me up, I thanked God for the carpeting on our bedroom floor.

Since May 2018, soon after we moved to Georgia, my pain increased. Still, we continued to take in trade shows, arts festivals, and other activities that involved strolling along on uneven ground or concrete surfaces and standing around and talking to people. Surprisingly enough, walking at a clip was far easier for me than slogging along like a snail on gravel. Finally, I got fed up with hurting and arranged for an MRI.

Although I was relieved to find out that the pain I was feeling wasn’t only my imagination, I hurt even worse and parked my injured carcass on the nearest bench or chair every time we ventured out. The doctor in Georgia recommended a “kyphoplasty”, a procedure in which the surgeon inserts a balloon into the fractured part of the spine. When we checked with our health insurance, we decided that it would be cheaper to do it in Texas, once the campground where we worked closed for the winter. While the procedure was a minimally-invasive one, it would require day surgery or, at the worst, an overnight stay in the hospital.

In January, two months after we arrived in Greenville to oversee a horse-boarding ranch-in-the-making, we visited Hunt Regional Hospital where I got hooked up with a neurosurgeon who sent for the MRI done in Georgia. After studying it, he arranged for his office to schedule an epidural steroid injection in my lumbar spine.

On February 5,  four days ago, I underwent the procedure.  After one nurse inserted an IV,  the doctor bustled in and drew a circle where he would inject the steroid. Before long, the OR nurse met me in the hall as I was emerging from one last trip to the bathroom. I hopped on and away we went to the OR.  My last pre-op memory was of that  nurse inserting a cannula into my nostrils.

Those must have been some heavy-duty  ‘I don’t care’-drops, as the next minute, it seemed, I woke up in another room where Jeff  awaited my return.

The whole procedure must have taken only about fifteen to twenty minutes.  Thanks to the anesthesia, I slept through the whole process. When I awoke, another nurse brought me two containers of apple juice.

“Ready to go home?” she asked.

“Well, yeah,” I slurred, “as soon as I get out of there.”

She and my husband exchanged winks.

“It’s over, girl,” she said. “You’re good to go!”

Clutching my discharge instructions and taking to heart her advice to be “a little lazy” for a couple of days, I left the hospital with Jeff where he dashed into Wal-Mart for a few items before we stopped at CB’s Sandwich Shop for a couple of juicy, home-style cheeseburgers before heading home. As another friend said I would do,  I went “tim-berrrrrr!” onto the bed and enjoyed a heavenly nap until I woke up at supper time.

Later, that day, I braced for post-op pain of some kind. After all, hadn’t the doctor prescribed a high-octane muscle relaxant? I was pleasantly surprised that I had no pain — none whatsoever — on that day or on the days that followed. The only effect of the procedure was the best one I could have asked for:  the ability to walk  upright and pain-free, again.

This afternoon, when Jeff suggested a trip to Wal-Mart just to get out for a while, I jumped at the chance. After all, I have a brand-new back. The best place to remove the “shrink wrap” and give ‘er a spin was Wal-Mart, a place that always made me ache by the time I returned to the car. The only times I felt pain had nothing at all to do with my back and everything to do with aisles congested with confused people and rowdy children and slow-moving checkout lanes on a rainy Saturday.

Anyone who has spent any time on Facebook knows that it is full of ‘lore’. Everyone has an opinion. And everyone who has been through the same procedures is eager to share his or her own experience. Some have had to have three or more injections.

“You may need another one in six months,”  said a friend, “or one shot might get it the first time.”

I believe I’m one of the blessed. Now if only I can steer clear of those dastardly duffels!

 

 

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“TIME IN THE TUBE”: Making My Time in the MRI Machine Count

10-2-18

Hiawassee, GA

After a skirmish with a runaway duffle bag knocked me on my butt, last year, I should have called a ‘time-out’ to get x-rayed at Care Now. But, after Jeff helped me up from the carpeted bedroom floor and I remained upright until time for bed, I expected the problem would eventually go away.

But it hasn’t. Not by a long shot.

Since the past two or three months, our favorite activities — browsing arts and crafts festivals and trade shows and shopping in grocery-store aisles (with Wal-Mart being the worst) and simply talking to folks while standing on hard surfaces or on uneven ground have become excruciating and even embarrassing. For the harder I tried to walk upright, the more I felt like “Mrs. Wiggins”, the stiletto-wearing, gum-chewing, empty-headed blonde secretary to “Mr. Tudball” (played by Tim Conway) on The Carol Burnett Show.

Before long, because of lack of exercise, I began packing on more weight onto my 5’0″ frame.

Not to worry, I reassured Self. Synthroid’s got this one. Synthroid, a synthetic form of thyroid I started on in 1996 once I began recovering from successful brain-tumor surgery.  Besides regulating my thyroid gland, it helped me maintain a healthy weight. Thyroid-deficient since I was two years old, I expected to take it for the rest of my life until two successive blood tests showed I now had too much thyroid in my system.

The next day, the doctor called with the news: that x-rays showed three compression fractures in the lumbar (or lower) region of my back, as well as arthritis in my hips. She faxed over orders for an MRI and a bone density scan at Chatuge Regional Hospital in Hiawassee.

Three fractures? Wow! No wonder I’ve been hurting!

Yesterday, as the young man arranged me on the table and propped me here and there, I remembered four tips offered by friends who had undergone recent MRIs:

*  Use the bathroom first.

* Request a face towel to cover your eyes.

* Ask for earphones to blot out the noise.

  • Try to catch a nap.

Remembering my last MRI, a forty-minute procedure, during which I lay, arms crossed over my chest, as if rehearsing for eternal rest, I planned out the best way to spend time in the “tube”.

After “Rick” (not his real name) situated me properly but comfortably, I asked for the face towel and the earphones. He nodded.

“Sure! What kind of music would you like?”

“Boot-Scootin’ Boogie”, a Brooks and Dunn country hit, was on the tip of my tongue before I considered how that song always made me forget how sore my hips already were and that I’d have the whole thing to take over again if I partied too hardy in that high-tech contraption. Besides, I had weightier matters on my mind such as “What happens if this turns up something serious? Something requiring major surgery, months of downtime, and major life changes?”

“Soft and instrumental,”!I answered. “You know — ‘Easy-Napping’ music.”

So with earphones in place, cloth over eyes, and arms crossed over my chest, into the tube I slid to have a little talk with Jesus, take a nap, or both.

Only fifteen minutes later, the machine stopped its banging and unfurled me from its cavity where Rick was waiting with a wheelchair. Stepping away, he allowed “Laura” (again, not her real name, either) to take charge.

In the bone-density scan room, where “Laura” asked me some questions before she positioned me on the table.  As with the ‘dreaded’ MRI, we were through in record time.

As she walked with me to the waiting room and Jeff, I asked her when I could expect to receive the results.

“Probably in a couple of days.”

So far, I haven’t heard a word. I’m hoping that’s good. During my time in the tube, I prayed that, if the problem required surgery, that it would at least be on out-patient basis and that I would soon be “in, out, and on with Life”, as per the old Chili’s Bar and Grill advertising slogan.

My next step in this health-care journey? A thrilling ride to Gainesville, fifty-some miles away from Hiawassee, on Thursday, October 11, where I expect to meet with a highly-recommended endocrinologist about my “wascally thyroid” and find out the answers to my questions:

  • What measures can I take to lose weight and get back into shape while my back heals?
  • How can I cope with fatigue?
  • What’s really behind the 180-degree change?

When Bette Davis actress of stage and screen from the 1930s to the 1960s and author of The Lonely Life, said, “Old age ain’t no place for sissies,” she wasn’t just a-whistlin’ “Dixie”.  At some point, our “bods” — like our cars — threaten to shut down if we fail to  care for them in the way they deserve in order to stay on the road of Life.

Whatever gender you are, what are some all-important health-care examinations would encourage friends or family members to be sure to check off their lists, and why?

I can hardly wait to see what you recommend!

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Same ‘Man’, Different Plan, Part 26b: “Surviving The Nightmare’

September 7, 2018

In “Same ‘Man’, Different Plan”: Part 26a, “Creating the Nightmare”, I introduced a need to re-focus my work-in-progress, Man After Midnight on the global pandemic of Human Sex-Trafficking, included a working premise and a blurb, and inserted active links for bulleted points about today’s ‘trafficker’.

Following up with Part 26b, “Surviving the Nightmare” is my fellow “tribe” member, Jody Paar, author of B.O.S.S.: Break Out Silent Soldier to recount her terrifying experience and courageous escape from the trafficker who showed up at her workplace.

Please put your hands together for my fellow author, Jody Paar, author of B.O.S.S.: Break Out Silent Soldier as she recounts her terrifying experience and astounding escape from her trafficker.

I was at work, bored out of my mind, when he walked in, looking so fine. He wanted my number. I thought he had to be model as he smiled at me I melted. He was dressed to the nines and clean-cut. He smelled so good and looked even better. As he walked up to my desk, I wondered whom he was there to see.

Hey, beautiful…,.”

I sat there, stunned.

Are you talking to me?

 He remained at my desk and talked to me for what seemed like hours.

Hi, I am Trek.

Hi, I am Jody.

As he smiled, his deep dimples made me blush. Then he said those magic words:

“I would love to get your number, so we can talk.”

Just like a wolf circles its prey, those diamond-blue eyes drew me in. My heart raced. I was so excited! I smiled and pulled out a pen and Post-It note. My hand shook as I gave him my number with no hesitation.

I can’t believe he wants to talk to me!

We talked for months but never saw each other because he traveled out-of-town for business.

We talked every morning, noon, and night. He always called me; I never called him.

I will never forget the conversation we had that late summer night:

I can’t help it, Jody. I am falling in love with you.

My heart leaped!

I love you, too, I answered. I held the phone so close to my face and spun around until the cord was tangled around me. I kissed the receiver, making smacking noises into the phone.

I have even better news.

“You do?”

My heart was beating fast.

Yes! I am coming back into town for a very important dinner party.

My heart raced even faster.

Jody, I want you to be my date.

I couldn’t believe it. I was really going on a date with the man of my dreams.

As I was leaving the house to meet Trek, my phone rang.

“Hey, baby. Sorry, but I’m running late, but my friend and bodyguard is going to pick you up  bring you to me.”

I was too love-struck and naïve to realize the trouble I was about to wind up in.

As I pulled up to the dark parking lot, I saw only one other vehicle besides mine. A muscle-bound man got out and sauntered over to greet me. I could definitely see how he was a bodyguard because he was powerfully built. What happened next terrorized me, head to toe. The gun he used to force me into his vehicle before he placed a blindfold over my eyes. I still thought that, maybe, this was the way that Trek would propose to me. I was so naïve that I thought this man was still going to sweep me off my feet. Once he stopped the vehicle and removed the blindfold, I found myself in front of a dirty motel on the side of the Interstate. My stomach lurched and I struggled against the urge to vomit.as this monster shoved me, an eighteen-year-old virgin, into the room and raped me over and over.

Two weeks later, after I was kidnapped, I escaped, but not for long. When Trek caught up to me and accused me of lying, I went back to him, out of fear on that same night.

In my book, Break Out Silent Soldier, you can read how that happened. This was in the days before technology. Today, traffickers lure their victims more easily. Maybe someone has approached you about modeling. Or, maybe it’s a cute guy on the Internet who wants to meet you somewhere. These predators are all around us.  The human sextrafficking world is a 150billion dollar industry.

I thank God that I am not dead. I thank God that I have a voice, and that is why I will use it for all those who have no voice. Protect the ones you love and please spread the awareness.

As Jody related her story, she reinforced one point I brought out in  Part 26a: that the trafficker does not always come across as what he really is — a cunning predator who has figured out which buttons to push to force her to do what he wants and when and how often he wants it. Let this be a lesson for our daughters and granddaughters,  our mothers, our female friends everywhere.

Coming up in the next post: safety tips for staying out of a trafficker’s crosshairs.

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SAME ‘MAN’, DIFFERENT PLAN, Part 26a:”Creating A Nightmare”

September 2, 2018

Four years ago, during 2014 NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), I dashed off a 50,000-word draft of MAN AFTER MIDNIGHT, a thriller bearing no resemblance to Abba’s classic. The ‘man’ in my story lurks behind profiles of unsuspecting users on the  ‘Man After Midnight’ dating site. Once he arranges a date with a woman, he meets her for drinks which he spikes. At 12:01 a.m., he leaves her body gutted of all female parts before dropping his calling ‘card’ a crude drawing of a clock with its short hand on twelve and the long hand, to one minute after. But, something occurred to me once I read what I had written: that true death involves so much more than just the body.

Now, I am making human trafficking the subject of my story. Already a global pandemic, trafficking degrades women and girls in body,  mind and soul. In fact, actual death might come as a relief.

Despite our expectations, traffickers aren’t always easy to identify, especially if they begin by telling a vulnerable female what she is desperate to hear: that she is beautiful and desirable. Once he reels her in with his honeyed words, he convinces her that he is her very best friend, her only confidante. Only he and he alone truly cares more about her than even her boyfriend, friends, or even parents. He rushes her to the next step: to move in with him or even marry him. He tunes in to her deepest desire and, then, promises to deliver it….or so she believes.

Want to attend college? Send money to family? Dream of modeling, singing, dancing, or acting? Well, you certainly have the figure, voice, legs, or talent for it. Whatever your heart desires, it’s yours.

But his smoldering eyes and gleaming smile mask a deadly secret about. ‘Mr. Wonderful’: that he is a trafficker. When she least expects, that charm, passion, and effortless wit disappear. He spikes her beer, wine, or high-dollar coffee with Rohypnol and tosses her into a van with other terrified women.

Any female, no matter her age, can become a victim before she suspects what is about to happen.

For example, in Man After Midnight, Destiny — my protagonist’s rebellious but virginal teen — goes missing on Halloween night in 2012.

The premise goes like this: When the mother of a teenager learns that her daughter is being auctioned to the highest bidder by 12:01 a.m. on the ‘Dark ‘Net’, she must find the auction and purchase her from ‘The Man’ no later than midnight or become his newest victim, herself.

Thank God, I have never been trafficked. Since I haven’t, I must rely on research. Books, documentaries, and personal experiences of those whose bodies, minds, and souls bear its scars. For the past month, I’ve binge-watched docudramas  and read survivors’ stories. Today’s post, Part 26a, is about my findings.

Meanwhile, as I watched and read true accounts from Theresa Flores, Aubrey Alles, and Jody Paar, I gleaned the following information about ‘the ‘trafficked’:

  • that they can be any age, even children 
  • that they can be of any ethnicity and come from any background
  • that even their families risk being killed

“Ah,” you say. “But that only happens in other countries,”

Whoa. Not so fast. Statistics from 2017 show that, in the United States, alone, human trafficking is a pandemic that now spans the globe.

Today’s traffickers don’t always look ‘sleazy’ . They can be co-workers or supervisors, professors or students, doctors, attorneys, or clergy. Some are  ‘gamers’ posing as teens while they look for latchkey children. Others  ‘friend’ or ‘follow’ their prey on the social media.

Coming up in Part 26b of my blog post, SAME MAN, DIFFERENT PLAN”, Jody Paar will recount her own nightmare in our ‘once-safe‘ United States of America.

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LIVING THE DREAM, Part 25: “What’s Going On with ‘da ‘Zon?’

August 1, 2018

When FROM HER MOTHER’S ARMS went live on Amazon in August 8. 2017, the reviews — mostly five-stars with a couple of respectful four-star ones thrown in — filtered through my ‘author IV’ almost daily.  With the wisdom of one checking a pot of water put on to boil, I checked the numbers once a day, celebrating each new reader I met and review I received.

About two months ago, I began to see a drop in the number of reviews by one or two at a time followed by another one or two. So I typed the Amazon Customer Review Team an email in the box they provided. So I referred to the general reasons that reviews are removed. In order to shorten the list, I have grouped them together, as follows:

  • obscene or abusive language
  • threats
  • off-topic reviews
  • self-promotional material

None of the reviews I read fit any of those categories. So, I wondered what was going on, and asked my fellow authors if they were having the same problem.

The other day when I was reporting this issue to someone else during a phone conversation, she and I agreed that Amazon should not be penalizing authors for reviewers’ errors. Not only is it not fair, it’s downright dirty. She told me that another author she knew actually calling a representative of the Amazon Customer Review team on the phone and addressing his concerns about the matter. All he was told was that someone would ‘check on it’. I, too, have voiced my concerns to Amazon. After a few days, a team member would send a list of general possible reasons.

We authors endure labor pains as do mothers-to-be, only our deliveries last months and years instead of seconds, minutes, and hours. My labor over FROM HER MOTHER’S ARMS began as a larger work as I was on a plane over Port Aransas, Texas, in January 2009, on the way home to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and culminated in August 2017 — nine years later with a shipment of glossy, green copies of my book.

Our books, the fruit of our imaginations, are as precious, in their own way as the ‘fruits of our loins’, a.k.a our children, are in theirs. Only in the movies do authors become instantly ‘stinkin’ rich’ upon the publication of their books. For the most part, many — if not most — of us also feel that reviews trickle out like drops from a clogged hose.

Let’s face it. Life gets in our faces every day. People get busy with families, jobs, vacations, or hospital stays. Although, in ‘the heat of the moment’, as they are clutching our finished efforts that they promise to read and review, the truth of the matter is that they soon get on with their own lives. It happens to all of us.

Has it happened to you? Below is a link that should lead you to the page where you can type in a short customer review. Once you arrive at that page, scroll down until you see a yellow customer review button to click for leaving a review. It does not need to be long or of professional quality. After all, customer reviews are not book reports. Rather, they are a few words about what you liked about FROM HER MOTHER’S ARMS.In order to leave a review, all Amazon asks is for you to become a verified customer. If you don’t have an account with them, you can set one up for no charge.,

I love meeting my new readers! Thanks, in advance, for your support. I look forward to hearing from you.

What’s coming up next? Who knows? I’m working on several ideas. Any one of them will be a pleasant surprise!

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LIVING THE DREAM, Part 24: “Chigger-Bite Remedies: the Tried and the True”

July 12, 2018

Hiawassee

They lurk. They bite. They torment. They are ‘chiggers’, ‘red bugs’ or if you like to show off, Trombiculidae. Miriam Webster dictionary defines chiggers, also called ‘chigoes’,  as “six-legged red or orange mite larvae that feed by latching onto skin and leaving itchy, red welts”.

Itchy?  Try ‘fiendish and teeth-chattering’. These bugs from Hell especially like shins, ankles, and feet, but they will also munch on the skin between toes or fingers or even behind knees. Recently, I even found a bite between my third and ‘pinkie’ fingers.

Why is this post appearing in an author blog? Simply because authors cannot ‘auth’ when they’re too busy scratching.

Because of my succulent, fair skin, I have suffered from chigger bites since I was a child. When I grew up, I dared to hope that I had outgrown my susceptibility to them until we moved to northeastern Georgia, in the middle of May, where it rains more often than not.

I like rain. Rain is good because it freshens the air, replenishes the earth, and makes the grass grow so my husband, a camp host, can earn extra money by mowing it. Not too long after I wade through it, my arches and heels, shins, and ankles begin to itch.

Polka-dotted by bites, I have tried drugstore potions and home remedies, some of which I found out, later, are old wives’ tales. One such example, clear nail polish, was suggested by a camper.

“It works because it smothers them,” she said.

I was willing to believe her, so I applied polish everywhere I itched.

There, I thought, after screwing on the top. Take that, Mr. Chigger. When it worked instantly, I thought that I had found my ‘forever cure’.

Then, one day, we were visiting with a man and his wife camped beside us.

“Wow! Looks like chiggers have eaten you alive!” he said. “What are you putting on the bites?”

“Clear nail polish,” I said, with confidence. “I have heard that it smothers the chiggers.”

He waited until I finished talking.

“Ahhh, but if you will Google that, you will find out that it is an old wives’ tale. The chigger cannot be smothered because it has already fallen from your body right after it bit you. Besides, Absorbine Junior works so much better.”

To help him demonstrate his point, his wife rolled some of the icy liquid originally for soothing sore muscles and arthritis pain, all over my legs and ankles. That night, for the first time since we arrived here, I was able to close my eyes and sail off to sleep, itch-free for the rest of the night.

So off we went to the grocery store to buy some, only for a clerk to tell us that the store had stopped carrying it. Seeing a bottle of Caladryl Clear Lotion, recommended for insect bites, poison ivy, oak, and sumac rashes, and minor skin irritations, I bought a bottle of it, remembering how its pink predecessor once relieved my chigger bites.

Other remedies that have worked well are Vicks Vapor Rub, Tea Tree Oil, and Dermacort, an anti-itch cream put out by a company named Melaleuca.  During our two months at  primitive, peaceful, but chigger-infested Appalachian Campground, I have found that I  need different remedies at different times: a few dabs of Dermacort, an anti-itch cream with Melaleuca (or tea tree oil)  for daytime and at bedtime, Absorbine Plus for its instant, cooling, long-lasting relief.

Now, chiggers don’t bug me like they used to. Could it be that they know I’ve become a triple threat with my spray, cream, and lotion?

Back to you, gentle reader. What is your ‘go-to’ cure for ‘creepy, crawly critter bites’?

I can hardly wait to hear from you!

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“LIVING THE DREAM”, Part 23: “From Spill to Thrill!”

June 25, 2018

I stared, transfixed, at the purple puddle of Cabernet spreading like a malignant amoeba  underneath Jeff’s keyboard.

“Oh, shoot. Oh, SHOOT, OH, SHOOOOOT!” I hollered until he tossed me a rag.

“‘Shootin’ won’t help. We gotta mop it up,” he said, as we wiped the surface of our dinette table until the liquid was gone.

At that moment, “I’m sorry” didn’t seem an adequate apology until Jeff admitted to spilling milk all over his laptop, a few weeks ago.

“We’ll just go back to ‘Totally Computers‘ for another one,” he said, giving me a kiss of forgiveness.

To tell the truth, had I slopped wine on my own technology, I’d have wanted to shoot my  klutzy self.

Anyway, when we rushed the wounded keyboard to the computer store, Jeff shelled out another fifty dollars for another keyboard like that one. But the black cloud of rotten luck didn’t go away. For what should have been a short jaunt into town lasted until six p.m. The day had turned into a classical example of  ‘one thang leadin’ to ‘nother,’

When we reached our car, Jeff smacked his head.

“Dang! I locked the keys in the car! I never do that!”

Enter Good Sam whose message played the same tune so many times that I was sure I could play it on the piano. After almost forty-five minutes, a real-live human being picked up the phone. While Jeff was telling her where to send the tow-truck, I went back inside to use the restroom when I saw a piano keyboard on a stand.

“Hey, cool keyboard!” I said, in passing. “I’ve missed my piano since we sold it to move into our RV.”

“Yeah, I practice on it,” Don said. “I’ll let you have it for $150 dollars.”

Bong! My eyes bugged out.

“Really? That’s a good price. I’ll tell my husband.”

“I’ll be here until six if you decide to get it.”

Meanwhile, I returned to Jeff.  Within minutes of finding out that a wrecker would be there within an hour, we saw one pulling into the parking lot.

Well, as we learned, our little Subaru is not only safe on the road; it’s also a booger-bear for a thief to vandalize. For the next fifteen minutes, we watched “Tow Truck Guy” wedge a sheet of plastic with a pump attached between our front and rear passenger windows. When that method didn’t work, he stuck a bar with a hook on the end down the back window.  From the driver’s side, we directed him toward door handle where he was able to pop the door open so Jeff could reach up front and grab the keys.

Having worked up an appetite, we pulled into Steve’s Place, down the street, for a beef-tips plate lunch for Jeff and a French dip sandwich for me. Our next stop:  Hiawassee Hardware for spare copies of car and motorhome keys, plus a few supplies and then to the grocery store before doubling back to purchase the keyboard. We planned to run in,  slap down our debit card, get the keyboard, and go.

It looked like the day would turn out okay, after all.

Imagine our shock when both of our cards were declined! When we asked our bank,  someone said that the PIN numbers were incorrect and gave us another number to call to reset them. Already frustrated, Jeff became more so when he got cut off for pushing the wrong numbers and taking too long to punch in the zip code, but he got it right on the second call.

Meanwhile, outside, another wild-and-crazy Georgia thunderstorm blew heavy slanting rain everywhere. Jeff pointed to his card.

“We’re not going anywhere, with this rain, right now. Go ahead and reset your PIN and I’ll pay with my card.”

Soon, the debit-card went through with nary a hiccup and we were wagging our new (to us) Casio keyboard out to the car.

That night, as I played a variety of tunes that turned the campground into a honky-tonk, a revival meeting, and even a “rave”.  I sampled rhythms and sounds. Much more high-tech than a computer, this keyboard also came with sound effects, such as helicopters, waves, birds, telephones, and even gunshots.

In spite of the spill, the delays, and the debit-card snafu, I was thrilled to be reunited with a piano keyboard equipped with 100 rhythms and 200 tones. This high-dollar gizmo can do just about everything but salute the flag.

So what’s up for the next post? It’s anybody’s guess, but I’m sure I’ll come up with something.

Meanwhile, if anybody needs me, I’ll be banging out a story on my Mac or creating a hullabaloo on my Casio.

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LIVING THE DREAM, Part 22: “Helen. Georgia, An Alpine Melting-Pot”

June 20, 2018

Day 2 of “Playing Tourist”‘

Helen, Georgia

After all of us slept late, we piled into our Subaru around noon and headed south to  Helen, Georgia. Settled in 1969, according to a sign that greeted us as we entered the city limits, Helen is an Alpine village decorated Bavarian-style. Even the Dollar General Store followed suit by decorating the outside of its store in the Bavarian theme.

After parking in one of their lots which vary from $2 to $5 (depending on their distance to main activities), all five of us spilled out of the car to stroll the shops.

The first stop was Wildewood, conveniently located near our parking lot. This shop was one of my favorites as it offered a variety of merchandise that was a little out of the ordinary.  Besides for t-shirts galore, its shelves were stocked with one of my ‘addictions’:  purses of every size. Clutches, wallets, backpacks and shoulder bags were made of leather. Thankfully, since I had recently purchased a large, lightweight backpack at Wal-Mart, I was able to resist a backpack hurling itself into my quivering arms. At a counter across the aisle from the purses was another addiction: jewelry. Rings, earrings, and necklaces and even tiny glass boxes for rings were displayed in a rainbow of colors.

Another shop Bonnie, her teens, and I prowled while Jeff took a phone call was Tim’s Wooden Toyshop. As we prowled around in there, I wished my grandchildren were still little when I saw a wooden baby rattle sanded down to a smooth, satiny finish.

Next, we crossed the street to Dreamcatcher’s, an import store specializing in Native American jewelry. As I had misplaced the toe ring I bought in Port Aransas, Texas, I succumbed to a selection of toe (or “pinky”) rings and picked out one with an opal and sterling silver band in the shape of a sideways cross. It was almost an exact match to a ring and earrings I found, four years ago, in Fredericksburg, Texas.

Saving the best for last, we hopped back into the car and drove around the corner to Betty’s Country Store, located on Yonah St. For souvenirs, gifts, wine, groceries, and a delicatessen where you can order fresh deli sandwiches, salads, potato chips seasoned with pink Himalayan salt and more basic flavors, and HUMONGOUS cookies big enough  to share. As far as drinks, we reached into an old-fashioned Coca-Cola cooler and pulled out iced-down, bottled soft drinks. Betty’s definitely caters to all tastes. After we feasted on custom-made submarine sandwiches, chicken-and-dumplings, potato chips, cookies, fruit salad, and drinks, we were instructed to tell the cashiers what we had and pay them later.

Having shopped in these three stores, and more, we were ready to go home and flop out on the closest couch or bed we could find.

The two days that Bonnie, Hannah, and Brayden spent at our campground have really been fun. Even Russet got in on some extra loving from Brayden who took a special shine to her. After they packed the rest of their bags into the Ford, we hugged before they pulled out around  5:00 a.m.

Now, it’s back to the camp-hosting business. After the adventures of the past two days, I came away with stories-in-the-making and characters waiting to be born. Little do those people we ran into suspect that one of them could wind up in one of my books.

For our next adventure, I’m thinking I’d like to explore the waterfalls in this area. Who knows? There are at least two beautiful falls: “High Shoals” and “Anna Ruby”.

Stay tuned for my next adventure in “LIVING THE DREAM”.

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LIVING THE DREAM, Part 20a: Playing ‘Tourist’ at Brasstown Bald

June 19

Since Jeff and I became camp hosts at Appalachian Campground, we haven’t done a whole lot of sightseeing. It took his daughter and teenaged grandchildren driving down from Texas for a visit for us to get out and play “tourist” along with them.

Breakfast was the first order of the day, as we crowded into a booth at Huddle House in Hiawassee and feasted on omelets, eggs, grits, bacon, and sausage. For those not familiar with Huddle House, it is similar to Waffle House only it is larger and offers a more varied menu.

After stuffing our tummies, we hopped into our Subaru Legacy Outback wagon and jogged off the highway to Brasstown Bald Mountain in Georgia.  According to the Visitor Center, Brasstown Bald is the highest peak in Georgia. I’ll admit that as the shuttle chugged up the steep, winding road to the lookout, my ears popped.

Once we arrived at the top, the view was beyond amazing! Velvety-blue mountains were juxtaposed against lush, green vegetation. Rivers and lakes scattered like throw rugs in the basin. According to the above link, visitors looking through a telescope can also see both North and South Carolina and Tennessee on a clear day.

Having snapped pictures with our cell-phone cameras, we filed into  Mountain Top Theater for a short video about Brasstown Bald before heading down to the store where Jeff bought me a pair of bear earrings and, for himself, a tiny bear that is now perched on top of our coffeemaker, and a packet of “Mystical Fire” to make our campfire turn different colors.

After coming off the trail, we were exhausted. All we were good for was lolling in the cabin, cramming down Quarter-Pounders with cheese, French fries, tall Dr. Peppers, and, later, strawberry ice cream.

“We’ll do Helen, tomorrow,” we promised each other, as we turned in for the night.

Stay tuned for our next sojourn onto Bell Mountain, coming up in Part 20b of “LIVING THE DREAM” followed up by Part 21, about Georgia’s own Bavarian village, Alpine Helen.

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LIVING THE DREAM, Part 21: Reviews — Balancing Praise with Honesty

June 21, 2018

Do you remember writing book reports for school?  Well, if you were like I was, your paper was a blow-by-blow ‘he did, she did’. And, most likely, you dashed it off, in full-out ‘panic mode’ on the night before it was due at the beginning of your first-period class. Ratchet that tension tenfold if you had to read it in front of the whole class.

Now that I’m an author, I appreciate the value of leaving customer reviews of fellow authors’ books as a means of supporting them. I now understand the importance of positive (preferably five-star) reviews of my book to make it more visible than other books in its genre. When I’ve asked new readers to follow up by leaving a positive review of FROM HER MOTHER’S ARMS, if they enjoyed it, I’ve watched their faces blanch and their eyes glaze.

Sometime, somewhere, I have perceived that some are translating  ‘book review’ as ‘book report‘, causing them to run screaming to the four corners of the world, never to be heard from again.

What does a customer review of a book consist of?  Basically, it’s the reader’s brief assessment of the book tempered with praise and honesty.

Speaking of honesty, Beth Barany, a Creativity Coach, Creator of the  Writer’s Fun Zone website and Author of  “How to  Write and Get Great Reviews — with Examples of Book Reviews” recommends looking for one, two, three, or four-star reviews in order to look at the “worst” parts of a book before punching back with the best. Pointing out the worst and following up with the best is rather like a boxer’s “one-two punch”  only with different numbers. After enumerating her steps, Barany offers tips for writing good and honest reviews of books they read and examples of great reviews.

Barany’s advice to the potential reviewer is comprised of the following six points to include in a review:

  •  types of booksthey usually read
  • the mostpleasing part and the feelings they  got while reading it
  • element or elements (such as character, plot, etc) that worked for them
  • the least pleasing part FOLLOWED BY the most pleasing part (that made them forget the parts they didn’t like)
  • who might like this book

Remember, longer doesn’t equal better. According to Barany, reviews should be limited to  300-500 words.

If you need examples to back up these points, see the rest of Beth Barany’s article on  “How to Write and Get Great Reviews — with Examples of Book Reviews”. While you’re at it, browse the whole website.

Until next time, stay tuned for the next LIVING THE DREAM segment.

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LIVING THE DREAM, Part 19: “Back in the Driver’s Seat”

Hiawassee, GA.

June 5, 2018

Since May 25, 2017, when we bought the Ford F350 pickup for pulling our fifth-wheel RV, Jeff was its only  driver. I knew that, if push came to shove — like if I had to outrun zombies after an apocalypse —  I could manage to drive it. Still, the idea of wrangling with the “beast” was intimidating. So, when we sold our fifth-wheel, we sold the truck, too.

On May 12, when we arrived at Appalachian Campground, in Hiawassee, Georgia, all we had to get around in was our motorhome, which would have been cumbersome for  grocery-store runs. So later in the same week, one of the campground owners drove us to Blairsville to look for a “runner” to drive to the grocery store, etc. Although we were looking for a junker to get us by until November 1, we revised our plan when we  saw the metallic grayish-green and gold 2002 Subaru Legacy Outback on the lot of Blackwell Automotive. Because of Subaru’s reputation for being one of the safest cars on the road, I knew we’d want to hang onto this baby long after we moved onto the next camp, wherever that would be. When daily rainstorms made the roads slick, I was in no hurry to brave them in any car. That is, until today, the second day we have had clear skies.

Invigorated by the sunny, yet cool, day, I struck out for a long-awaited pedicure at Julie’s Spa Nails in Hiawassee.  Well, my luxurious pedi was over entirely too soon, but I was still too revved up to go home. So I swung by the Towns County Library to inquire about doing a book-signing.  Although the person with whom I spoke didn’t hold out much hope for such an event,  she did suggest the Mountain Regional library in Young Harris for such an occasion.

Well, who would have thought that my li’l ol’ junket to Hiawassee would turn into an out-and-out quest! After grabbing a single-meat Patty Melt at The Huddle House in Hiawassee to silence my growling tummy, I struck out for Young Harris. After all, it was just “down the road a piece”. Once again, the librarian at Mountain Regional Library sent me to the next stop in the road to the Union County Public Library in Blairsville where I was able to schedule a book-signing for August.

Chest puffed as I walked back to my car, I was bursting with self-confidence.

What did I tell you, back in Young Harris, Kim? You can DO this!

As soon as I buckled myself back into the car and  pulled out onto the road, my moxie melted. Yes, I had been to Blairsville plenty of times, but  only with Jeff driving.

Now, in spite of the dubious guidance of “GPS lady” (on my iPhone X)  directing me with her whispery voice and rapid but poor enunciation, I  wound up at a garage with a bunch of junked-up cars. I half expected mutant mechanics named Bubba and his other- brother Bubba, in their overalls, to attack me with monkey wrenches oozing grease.

C’mon, ol’ girl, I hissed. Get a hold of yourself.  The same GPS who threw you off track can just as easily lead you home.

So,  I was once more back on track and driving out of Blairsville when  a light on the dashboard caught my eye: the “Check Engine” light. As I clicked off the miles, I ticked off the reasons it could have come on:

  • that the ‘safest car on the road’ would self-destruct with me in it
  • that the dealer where we bought the car had programmed the light to pop on so we would bring it in for a check-up to make sure it was safe.

Clinging tenaciously to Reason Number-Two , I drove the rest of the way with bated breath until I finally pulled up to the safety of our humble but cozy motorhome, reminding me of the last line of an old Nineteenth-Century song:

“Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.”

 

 

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LIVING THE DREAM, Part 18: “When The Dream Became a Nightmare”

Appalachian Campground

May 30, 2018

“I’m really concerned about that creek, after these downpours,” I told my husband, a camp host here at Appalachian Campground, yesterday.

“Awww, it looks way worse than it probably is, babe,” Jeff said.

Still, it was true. The Hiawassee River was definitely throwing a tantrum, as its muddy headwaters spread ever closer to the campsites.

That was yesterday afternoon. Hours later, while Jeff watched a Western movie on his laptop  and I was pounded out  a story on my Mac as we sat at our dinette booth, lightning and thunder of Biblical proportions put on a show outside our window. Suddenly, my phone bleated a warning about flash floods in our area.

As if on cue, someone banged on our door.

“Hey, y’all,” he said. “The water’s  up to the first or second step of our trailer. It’s lookin’ real bad for people close to the bank.”

By then, the sky had turned an inky bluish black. I looked down the road to see whether our friend, Terri, was home. If she was not, I asked her to let me know as soon as  she got in. Just as I was ending the call, I saw a Maraschino cherry-colored Chevy outside. Soon, she straggled, sopping-wet and panicky, into our motor home,She said she had been in a deep sleep when someone hammered on her door and insisted that she leave her fifth-wheel, at once, so it could be moved clear of the flood water. She must leave at once, he repeated, even if it meant  leaving Nicky and “Sugar-Baby”, her cat and her  sugar-glider  behind.

“You know, Kim, I’ve been visiting a friend for a couple of days, but something — or Someone — told me to come home now,” she said, folding her hands as if in prayer. After I loaned her a dry pair of shorts and the softest t-shirt I owned, I poured us each a glass of Shiraz. While we were talking, another soggy camper joined us to wait out the storm.

As the night wore on, it was beginning to look like everyone — including Jeff and me — would have to evacuate, as the waters had spilled into the sites. Since we also have a car, I was afraid I would have to navigate it along dark, slick,  shoulder-less mountain roads.

After my friend settled in for the night, cuddled up in a fleece throw on our couch, Jeff and I retired to our bedroom. Still expecting to flee our motorhome, we slept in our clothes. After praying to God for protection, I drifted off to sleep.

So, how does this post relate to authors and writing? Even better, how does it not? The people and events in authors’ lives take on “flesh”. If those people are lucky — and sometimes unlucky — they find themselves in our stories.

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LIVING THE DREAM, Part 17: “Wildcat v. Dutch Star — Running Neck and Neck”

May 22

Appalachian Campground

Hiawassee, GA.

I can’t believe it has already been over a week since we arrived at the campground! Time has flown since we set down camp and restored order by putting things back in their proper places. Since we moved out of and traded in our 2011 Forest River Wildcat for a 1999 Newmar Dutch Star motorhome, people have asked us how we like our Class A. I tell them that the advantage of living in a motorhome is not having  to hitch it up to something before we can transport it from Point A to Point B. And because it’s a Newmar Dutch Star, a brand most respected for its quality, even an old one is homey.

Still, even though we love our Class A, we have noticed a vast difference between it and our Wildcat in terms of space, storage, layout, and number of slides. To follow is a comparison and contrast of the two units.

First, the Wildcat was 34.8’ long while the Dutch Star is 35’. Now that might seem like a lot of room but, inside the motorhome, we don’t feel the extra space, as the cockpit (where the driver’s seat is), takes up about a foot or so of that space. The Wildcat seemed longer, and the living/kitchen areas, more distinct. Because the bathroom and bedroom were part of the loft area in the Wildcat, it seemed that we had more room.

Second, we discovered quite a difference in the amount of storage in both units. In the Wildcat, there were cabinets everywhere — and I do mean everywhere! Yet, we managed to fill every one of them within the year we had it. My favorite was the pantry with four wire baskets for different kinds of groceries. What a shock, though, when we found out that only a single, narrow cabinet was all the pantry our Dutch Star offered. Our solution to that problem was to purchase a six-basket rolling pantry with a cutting board on top at Wal-Mart. It was relatively cheap, around $60, and easy to put together, but even that doesn’t hold all of our food. That’s where the drawers in the dinette do double duty.

Two mirrored closets hold our clothes. Jeff’s side has drawers below that we share for our socks, underwear, etc. As far as space, the closets in the Dutch Star are slightly better than our Wildcat because they have rods for hanging our clothing. The Wildcat had holes for the hangers.

In the Dutch Star bedroom, each of us has a drawer and a cabinet on our side of the bed. Whereas the Wildcat had a slide in the bedroom, the Dutch Star does not. It is as though the person who designed the layout, measured the bedroom with barely enough margin on each side of the bed for us to get in, but as cramped as it is, the Wildcat space was even smaller. On the plus side, the Wildcat provided a vanity with drawers as well as a place for me to put on make-up. Because the bedroom was in the loft area, it was extra cozy, like our own little hideaway at night.

Also, the bathroom in the Wildcat was roomier, versus the one in the Dutch Star which is like a postage stamp with a sink and a shower. The shower in the Wildcat at least had shelves for our shower gel and shampoos, whereas the same area in the Dutch Star offered little in the way of shower storage. Although we bought some plastic shelves, hooks, and other fixtures, bath/shower in the Dutch Star requires me to step over a high ledge. As a “workaround”, I have a stool which can be folded and tucked away when I’m safely out. On the plus side, the Dutch Star does have a toilet-paper dispenser and a rack inside and out for hanging towels. In the Wildcat, we had to set the roll on the edge of the vanity.

The outside storage in the Wildcat seemed to be a little less than in the Dutch Star which reminds me of a Greyhound’s luggage bins on both sides.

Although she’s more cramped than we expected her to be, once we moved in our stuff, Dutchie is still comfortable, if not terminally bland. But, although the living area looks as if someone vomited beige all over the couch and the dinette booth, that is fixable, too, with colorful pillows, rugs, wall-hangings, etc. On our way to Georgia, we stopped at a Greenville, Alabama Wal-Mart to pick up some groceries. Before we headed to the check-out stand, we detoured through home furnishings where I snatched up a red pillow to spice up the motorhome’s vanilla-custard color scheme. More improvements will come but, for now, it’s good enough for this redhead.

Living in an RV is a “live and learn” experience at best and worst. As a newbie RVer, I chose our Wildcat based on the brick accents, fireplace in the living room, and overall liveability.  We made happy memories as we snuggled in our cozy loft bedroom, every night. But only after we decided to buy the Dutch Star for its mobility and  traded in the Wildcat did we find out about the mold that lurked in the fifth-wheel when I found my stack of LPs wet and moldy upon removing them from an area that should have been dry. Now that we have traded it in at Evergreen, the Wildcat will be cleaned up and repaired for a prospective owner to walk into it, like I did, sink into a recliner, and say, “This is the one.”

So, to anyone who asks us which one of our units we like better? That’s like forcing a mother to choose her favorite child. Truth is, we built good memories of our fifth-wheel and we expect to enjoy our motorhome.

Next, Part 18 of “LIVING THE DREAM”. Living in a home on wheels provides grist for a lot of story ideas. As a suspense writer, I can cook up all kinds of stories, some of them pret-ty grisly. So stay tuned!

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LIVING THE DREAM, Part 15: “Leaving the Comfort Of Comfort”

Comfort, Tx

Sometime around four p.m.

Monday, March 7, 2018

After much exasperation, consternation, and other “ation” emotions that we dealt with during the previous week, the big day we waited for was finally coming to pass. When the moment arrived, it was bittersweet. For although we were excited about blazing a new frontier in a new motorhome, we would be trading in the cramped but cozy fifth-wheel we cut our RV “teeth” on.

We would also miss our friends at RV Park USA in Comfort, Texas. Friends who knew we were leaving crowded around at our slot to see if they could help. After handshakes, hugs, and promises to “see-you-later”, we hitched up our Wildcat to our truck and headed down to the Evergreen RV dealership in New Braunfels, Texas. During the past ten months, Jeff and I and even Russet, had become so comfortable in Comfort.

But despite the friendship, the weekly Bingo games, occasional bonfires, and monthly luncheons with our tribe, it was time to move on to the workamping job awaiting us in Georgia.

As we pulled through the gate of the Evergreen RV dealership, almost an hour later, I was relieved to see our 1999 Newmar Dutch Star waiting for us at the front of the building. When the buyer of our pickup ran into a six-day delay that caused our own plans to veer south, I worried that someone else would strut in and slap down a check for the full amount to buy “her” outright, even though the unit had sat on the lot for five months. Finding our Class A cleaned and air-conditioned for our arrival reassured us that “she” was, indeed, ours. After we parked and went inside, the sales manager got someone to pull the fifth-wheel alongside the motorhome so that we could start moving our stuff from our old home to our new one.

At least, I thought that was the plan.

As it turned out, Jeff and I learned that we could not move our stuff in until we paid for it. Knowing there was nothing more we could do until we met the buyer at his bank, the next day, we spent the night in a New Braunfels motel.

The next morning, after a quick breakfast at McDonalds, we drove to San Antonio to meet the buyer, Paul, at his bank. The check, he assured us, had already been cut, so all we needed to do was sign our names in the presence of the loan officer and take the check to our bank. We were giddy with excitement about driving away in our new-to-us Dutch Star before the end of the day.

Although we had expected to call Uber or rent a car back to Evergreen, we were in luck when Paul rode back to Bank of America with us. We were about to march in, deposit the check, and get a cashier’s check to pay for the motorhome when Jeff went pale.

”What’s the matter, hon?” I asked, as I saw him rifle through the pages of the notebook where he had stashed the check.

”I can’t find it. It was right here, but now —.”

After we had, like, a gazillion heart attacks each, Paul whipped out his cell phone and called the bank to see what could be done.

Fully expecting to receive bad news, we were relieved to see his face light up as he ended the call.

“They found it. And you’ll never guess where it was, or who turned it in. The Good Samaritan was none other than our loan officer.”

After back-tracking to the San Antonio bank and recovering the check, we hurried back to Schertz to the same Bank of America to deposit the check.

“When will the funds be available?” Jeff asked.

“In twenty-four hours,” said the teller. “You can pull out the money, tomorrow.”

Disappointed at having to wait and worried that we might have to stay another night in a motel, we held our collective breath when Ron asked Jeff to step into his office.

Uh-oh, I thought. This happens only when someone’s about to get bad news.

But when I saw Ron and Jeff come out grinning and shaking each others’ hands, I exhaled. So did Paul, who was good enough to stick around, in case we needed a ride to a motel.

“Hey, babe,” Jeff said, draping an arm around my shoulders, “We can start moving in our stuff!”

“And we can sleep in our motorhome, too?” I asked.

“Yep. So, c’mon, let’s get started.”

Seeing that we were set for the night, Paul shook our hands, thanked us for selling him the truck, and wished us a safe trip.

There we were, locked inside the lot until morning, but fully equipped with food, water, and bathroom access. After moving drawers of assorted stuff from the fifth-wheel to the motorhome until we were hot, sweaty, sore, and cranky, we decided to knock off for the night, eat a bite, and sleep one more night in the Wildcat since its bed wasn’t stacked up with clothing and drawers yet to be unpacked.

Before we dozed off, that night, Jeff and I looked into each other’s weary eyes.

“Remind me, again, I asked him. “Why are we leaving the comfort of Comfort?”

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LIVING THE DREAM, Part 16: New Home, New Inspiration”

Monday, May 21, 2018

Hiawassee, GA.

We have completed our first week as “workampers” (camp hosts) at Appalachian Campground and are now plowing into Week Two, our most demanding week, yet, with Memorial Day up ahead. Many have called to reserve spaces at our campground. Still, we are glad we are here. Although we received offers from camps in Alabama, Tennessee, Colorado, and both ends of South Dakota, we chose Georgia, as neither one of us had ever been there. As it turned out for two newbie camp hosts, we could not have asked for more breathtaking scenery!

We arrived in Georgia on our third day of travel, just as Jeff predicted. After maneuvering dark, curvy, shoulderless, mountainous roads and winding up, down, and round and round after midnight on Friday, we stumbled across our destination. We had planned to find a park and and turn in early, but, after navigating dark streets with poorly-marked signs in a city and state we were not familiar with, we turned right into the first campground we found, only to discover that — BOOM!—we had reached our destination. Eyelids drooping, we hurried through water, electricity, and sewage hook-ups before tumbling into bed.

Now that our camp-hosting job is underway, we’re answering calls on the park phone, taking reservations and collecting money. We’re also mowing, cleaning the cabins and restrooms, and greeting campers in tents, RVs, and cabins. Although Jeff does most of it, including the mowing, I expect to fill in with anything else that needs doing.

Appalachian Campground is peaceful and primitive. Note the key word: primitive. Although the Bearbottom Bathhouse is equipped with flush toilets and showers in both the men’s and women’s restrooms, campers must bring their own shower caps, shampoo, and conditioner, and anything else they need.

A washer and dryer are available outside the bathhouse for $1.50 per load.

Like the rest of the park, cabins ‘Nappin’ House’ and ‘Hemlock Haven’ are likewise primitive.  ‘Nappin’ House’, as its name implies, has only a bed, a small refrigerator, and a television that plays DVDs only. This smaller cabin is meant to sleep two people. It does not have a toilet, but the Bearbottom Bathhouse is nearby. Bringing a flashlight for those nighttime nature calls is essential, as Appalachian Campground has no street lights.

‘Hemlock Haven’, a larger cabin that provides not only a queen-sized bed but also a loft for adventurous extra guests and, especially children. Meant to sleep four to six people, the ‘Hemlock’ is the only one of the two cabins equipped with a toilet, sink, and shower.

In keeping with the campground’s rustic flavor, neither cabin has a kitchenette nor a coffee maker. Guests are encouraged to bring their own instant coffee and snacks. In other words, the only coffeemakers in these cabins are the guests, themselves.

When Jeff and I first looked inside these cabins, I saw an author’s retreat waiting to happen.  Both cabins feature porches with rocking chairs and barbecue grills that overlook the gurgling headwaters of the Hiawassee River.

Living in this new surrounding stimulates my writer juices. I can hardly wait to bring my Mac Airbook home from the ‘hospital’ — Mountain Mac in Hayesville, North Carolina — attack my current work-in-progress with renewed vigor as well as newer works with a new zest.

Eager for more information? Click on the links for Appalachian Campground, Workamping News, and Mountain Mac.

Next up, people have since asked us the two most expected questions: “How do you like living in your motorhome? How does it compare with your fifth-wheel?”

Stay tuned for Part 17 of my “LIVING THE DREAM” series. In the meanwhile, I do love receiving comments and questions from all of you.

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LIVING THE DREAM, Part 13: “It Could Happen — in an Author’s Twisted Mind!”

5-5-18

Comfort, Texas

Everywhere I go, I get ideas for future novels. Could the situations I’m seeing  on the Silver Screen of my mind actually happen in the way I imagine them? Who knows? Many of my ideas remind me of the punch line from comedienne, Judy Tenuta: “It could happen!”

Sometimes, if I can’t find the facts at my fingertips, I write it as I see it, even though, in reality, something may happen in a different way. Well, for dramatic effect, I find a way to make it make sense.

For example, in 2010 — or was it 2011? — I went to the Edna Gladney Center hoping to  find someone of 1950s vintage when “Sylvia” in From Her Mother’s Arms delivers her baby. Would she really have been allowed to nurse her newborn? Was that decision left up to the nurse? Because no one was around who knew anything about those days, I never found out whether this was true or not, even when I searched the Internet.

Still, whether it actually happened that way, how much more dramatic would it have been for a young mother to be allowed to bond with her baby only to have her taken away and placed in the arms of strangers? I wrote this book visualizing it as a movie. So, I made up a fictitious name for the actual home and hospital where “Sylvia” (the first name Sybil assumes during her stay at the maternity home after her father fills her with shame and banishes her from the house.)

Authors like me have dark and twisty minds. A few weeks ago, when Jeff and I were checking out a motorhome that had looked so good online that we were halfway tempted to plunk down a deposit for it sight unseen, the actual unit the reps showed us was a different story. Someone had painted over the walls. Probably to cover up blood splatters, I told the friends who accompanied us.

Hearing so much about the ‘dark Web’. I’ve started cooking up a fictional scenario capable of keeping my readers up at night.

Or — whoa! — what about this RV park where we live? What sinister goings-on might go on after nightfall? Of course, I would change the names of the innocent, but the guilty as sin would know exactly who they are.

And what about the topic of Witness Protection? That holds a world of possibilities for an author.

I can see it now — my web browser winding up as Exhibit A in some courtroom because of the weird sites I visit for research for my suspense novels.

And, as the saying goes, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

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LIVING THE DREAM, Part 14: Life Lessons and Plot Twists

5-4-18

Comfort, Tx

Last year, we sold our ‘brick and stick’ home in Arlington, bought a fifth-wheel and pickup, and lit out for points hither and yon. Since then, as RV newbies, our lives have teemed with plot twists and lessons ‘lived and learned’.

Some things Life herself has taught us.  Being a writer, I pictured myself journaling as Jeff drove us down the road. So before we took off, I bought a travel journal. But after bumpedy-bumping down the road in our F350 Diesel pickup, I quickly abandoned that idea when my jiggly handwriting resembled the penmanship of a doctor on crack.

We also learned, the hard way, that fifth-wheel RVs are the dickens to  level. At least our 2011 Forest River Wildcat is. Although some newer ones might have switches, ours does not. After setting up our rig in Arlington, New Braunfels, Aransas Pass, and Comfort, that motorhome with its automatic levelers looks better and better.

Having since fallen in love with the motorhomes of our neighbors in the park, Jeff and I began to re-think our initial misgivings about buying one. Because people tow their cars behind them, motorhomes actually have relatively low mileage. And, as we have discovered, a number of older motorhomes — say 1999 to 2005 — are surprisingly reasonable in price. So, during the Christmas holidays when temperatures were cold and unforgiving, Jeff and I researched motorhomes on the Internet, every night. We learned about the most reliable brands, length, number of slides and ducted air-conditioners ( a “must” in Texas), layout, fuel — gas or Diesel — and price range. When the weather turned friendlier, we scouted the dealerships in person and even attended an RV show in San Antonio where we wandered into one coach and out of another. We were like kids in the proverbial candy store, drooling at the luxurious couches, flat-screen televisions, king-sized beds and — be still my heart — washers and dryers! Each motor coach was more luxurious than the one before it, but before we could buy one, we knew we would have to sell our fifth-wheel and pickup, especially our pickup, since it would bring more money.

So, in February, we posted ‘For Sale’ signs on our 2011 Forest River Wildcat fifth-wheel RV and 2009 Ford F350 King  Ranch edition pickup, believing that both would sell within a short time. At least that was the way it seemed for the first couple of weeks. People did drive out  to see the truck, the RV, or both. Some stayed until sundown and paid careful attention when Jeff explained the workings of the RV. The women loved the RV as I pointed out the fireplace, the recliners, the adjustable cabinets, and the night light underneath the kitchen counter, but before they left, either spouse would say, “We’ll see what we can do.” One couple from up North seriously considered buying the RV and living right here in our park.  We were about ninety-five percent certain that they would buy it until the husband called Jeff and backed out.

Because there is a lot of competition among pre-owned RVs and trucks, waiting for “nibbles” has been worse than waiting for Polar ice to boil. And because both RVs are pre-owned, banks are not keen on lending money to people who want to buy them.

A few weeks ago, Jeff was recently hired for “workamping” (i.e. mowing, taking reservations, or cleaning cabins) in exchange for a paid site, including electricity) at the Appalachian Campground in Georgia. The woman who hired Jeff over the phone told him that she wanted us there as soon as possible. That was toward the end of April. So we planned to be there on May 6 or 7 easily after selling the truck,  purchasing the coach, transferring our stuff from one rig to the other, and then leaving the fifth-wheel for consignment at the dealership. After stopping in the Dallas-Fort Worth area to store some things and pull others out and visit family and friends, we would roll on into Georgia.

Then, along came a plot twist. About two weeks ago, I was waiting for Jeff to come out of the gas station when I heard a thump. A woman pointed to the ‘For Sale’ sign. When I lowered the window, she introduced herself and said that she and her husband owned a landscaping company and needed a truck like ours for hauling trees. After we exchanged business cards, she drove away. Later, that same night, she called and arranged to come by on Sunday to test drive the truck. Before they left, she gave us a down payment of $1,000 and bought a copy of my novel, From Her Mother’s Arms to give to her mother.

As if we were not already under the gun,’needing the money to purchase the motorhome before we had to leave for Georgia, the wife informed us that the loan would likely take three days to be approved.

Although we almost nixed the deal, because of the time element, we went ahead and agreed to wait until Wednesday, the day they were scheduled to go to the bank. Thinking we might have to be there, as well, we waited for their call. Around four p.m., the husband  called to say that the loan process would be delayed until Monday because their loan officer had to leave.

When we called the RV dealer whom we had given our deposit to hold a 1999 Newmar Dutch Star motorhome we had chosen, she cautioned us that someone with the cash to pay for it outright might buy the coach out from under us. Still, we have neither the time nor the money to zip to and from New Braunfels. So, if the unit gets sold out from under us, despite the fact that it has set on the lot for months, then we’ll just snap up another one and consider it not only the ultimate plot twist but also a lesson learned.

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LIVING THE DREAM, Part 12: Danger: ‘Haters’ and ‘Trolls’ Ahead!

2-20-18

Comfort, Texas

In “Eyes Wide Open”, I related my experiences as a new author encouraged to ‘friend’ and ‘follow’ people on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Although my target readers are women, I was hoping to reach possible male readers, as well. As a result, I received tweets and texts from ‘lonely’ men wanting to become my ‘very best friends’. Well, guess what: they are still out there, awake and wanting companionship during the wee hours. In fact, one even dared to call me at one o’clock in the morning!  Instead, he got to talk to my husband who  told him, “Buy her book and get a life. Stop calling my wife!”

Man, what I would  have  given to see the shock on that dude’s face!

Needless to say, the next morning, I removed my phone number and typed in my husband’s, instead.

But  predators and the “pathologically curious” are not the only ones who lurk. There are also trolls and haters. Usually, they are strangers but, sometimes, I actually know them from Facebook. These emotionally-fragile and easily-shocked people seem to look for reasons to be offended.

A few nights ago, I was the lucky winner of  such a person who called me out on ‘trashy’ language she said she had found in my novel. Instead of addressing me about it on Messenger, she shamed me  publicly on my Facebook wall. When I cooled down, I asked her, privately, which  words she was talking about and what pages she found them on. As I expected, she never answered my question.

So I blocked her.

Out of curiosity, I went back through my book to check the language of one of my ‘saltier’ characters but I still found nothing objectionable. No f-bombs nor n-words. Not one.

Suddenly, I realized that she might have been talking about the hell my main character – a little girl — was suffering at the hands of bad people. “Bad” characters are simply that — bad. They do “bad” things and use “bad” language. And “bad” stuff happens to her before it gets  better.  And it definitely gets better.

Besides for being an author and editor, I am a wife, mother, and grandmother. I’m also a Christian, but I  did not intend for my suspense novel to be classified as Christian fiction, as defined by Christian writer, Linda Yezak  in her blog, “Turning Coffee Into Books”.

When my first shipment of books arrived, I immediately packaged up the first ones for my sons who would then pass them on to my grandchildren when they were mature enough to read them. Because I did plan for them to eventually read my books, I did not use language that would turn each page into a mine field.

So, fellow “tribe: members, now it’s your turn. Have you ever been criticized by readers for your characters’ language or events  taking place in your books? If so, please share.  Let’s swap ‘war stories’.

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LIVING THE DREAM, Part 11: “You’re On the Air!”

2-12-18

Comfort, Texas

Back in August 2017, I was at Hill Country Distillers  on my first-ever book-signing gig when I met Steve Owen and his wife, Shawn, in the bar area. Before the night was over, he walked away with six of my personally-signed copies of FROM HER MOTHER’S ARMS.

Now, February 12, upon the airing of his interview with me, he is, indeed, giving away the six, personally-signed copies of FROM HER MOTHER’S ARMS are being offered as prizes. During the podcast, he explains how to snag a copy of my book.

Steve Owen is the creator and moderator of the Fascination Street podcast, found on Twitter. A few days after my first signing, he met with me at our RV park clubhouse and interviewed me for the podcast to be aired later. True to his word, on the night we met, he is giving away six signed copies of FROM HER MOTHER’S ARMS

Well, today is “later”! And my interview airs today! Enjoy and listen closely because Steve Owen will tell you how to win a copy of my book. I’ll give you a hint: @fascinationstpod.com and #kimterry.

Soon I hope your name is among the six winners. If it is, I will give you a shout-out on Facebook and other social media sites. Until then, stay tuned. If you have not already listened to the podcast, it will be available on my Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Google + and even my authorkimterry.wordpress.com blog post.

Conversation Settings

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LIVING THE DREAM, Part 10: New Year, New Plans, Newer Adventures!

Comfort, Texas

2-9-18

Greetings from “ComfortableComfort” — still! Now that the holidays are over, our cypress Christmas trees  have been planted in the  RV park, and Yuletide trappings, packed away for next year.

Up ahead for 2018 come new plans, new chapters, and newer adventures.

First, we’re trading our rig — a fifth-wheel RV and Ford F350 pickup — for a pre-owned 36′-40′ Class A Diesel-pusher motorhome with a tow-bar to pull a Jeep or a Subaru. Two months ago, while winter rampaged outside our windows, we browsed Class As online in the comfort of our 2011 Forest River Wildcat. As soon as the sun came out, so did we, venturing to lots in Boerne, Kerrville, and an RV show in San Antonio to explore new and “pre-owned Class A motorcoaches. Although our present rig is cozy, we need more space. Now that we have  played Life by-ear for ten months, we are 99.99999% sure we want to continue our tee-shirt-and-flip-flops lifestyle until someone stumbles over our crunchy, upturned exoskeletons or — Heaven forbid! — our kiddos put one or both of us in a ‘home’. Since we both retired, our home-on-wheels satisfies our urge to roam. So far, we’ve browsed shops and eaten German food in New Braunfels, Gruene, and Wimberley, beachcombed in Port Aransas and enjoyed peaceful small-town Comfort.  In the future, we plan to return to the Texas Gulf Coast, Northeast Texas including the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, El Paso, New Mexico, and Arizona, and the Pacific Northwest, beginning with San Diego. From there on out, who knows?

Besides switching rigs, I’m promoting From Her Mother’s Armsand working on the first sequel, By Her Daughter’sHands, which is in the hands of beta-readers. As soon as I receive their comments and incorporate changes, I plan to jet it off to my publisher and Mothers, Daughters, and Others, the middle part of the story that I wrote during NaNoWriMo 2017.

After Amazon offers my trilogy as a boxed set  by Christmas, I intend to fine-tune my other works: Man After Midnight,  Crimson Feathers, and Suffer the Little Children, all previous NaNoWriMo projects, before launching into White Beaches, Black Ice, a Texas travel-guide mystery series which is yet to be titled, and a thriller set in an RV park with a redheaded author as sleuth.

As for my new ‘chapter’, I am now an author and editor since I  edited a book for a friend. With that project in the bag, I’m looking for authors who have new books  ready for editing for reasonable rates. Already, my new ‘shingle’ is on my author page on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Craigslist is a future possibility.

Speaking of publishing, Jeff and I learned when From Her Mother’s Arms was in publication mode, that the publishing process costs money. Lots of it. Editing novels that are least 50,000 words or more at the rate of a penny or penny-and-a-half per word can really help defray publishers’ costs. Although I edit full-length books, I would consider editing shorter works.

Besides for posting ‘for-sale’ signs on our rig, we have also put it on rvtrader.com, for only six more days. One couple drove out from San Antonio to see it, yesterday. More  are driving out, next week. Who knows what can happen after that?

We have had a great year beginning with a whole a new ‘chapter’. We have faith that a new rig and newer adventures are waiting for us up the road.

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LIVING THE DREAM, Part 9: A Gentle Nudge

12-17-17

Here we are, already, December 17! One month and three days after the Official Launch of FROM HER MOTHER’S ARMS.  Now that all the initial ‘hoo-rah’ is over, I can lean back, kick my feet up, pop the top on a ‘cold one’, and relax, right?

Whoa. Not even quite.

For now the real work begins: continuing the promotion of my debut novel myself with regular book-signings and random “share and show” sales that happen when I share my card and my story with prospective readers and show them the actual  book (of which I  “happen” to carry a copy or two with me in my backpack because I’m as subtle as a Sherman tank roaring through the streets of Comfort).

Last Friday, I did just that while my husband and I browsed the booths at Fredericksburg Trade Days in Fredericksburg, Texas. When we stopped to talk to a retired veteran, Donald, and admire his WWII memorabilia, I “showed and shared” my book with him, since its story begins in  1950s Lamesa, Texas and ends in 1970s Fort Worth. In its own way, it has been classified by Amazon as “Historical”, also.

In spite of the fact that the 6X9X.5″ soft-cover version of FROM HER MOTHER’S ARMS, printed in eyeball-friendly fourteen-point font presently ranks at in the forty-fourth percentile out of over 8,000,000 books and the Kindle version, available for a paltry ninety-nine cents for a limited time ranks forty-four percent out of  over 1,000,000  books, they have yet to make it to the first page of Amazon books or even the second or third in the top three sub-genres of Twentieth-Century Historical, Action-Adventure.

Yes, so far, with every positive (preferably 5-star) review I receive, my book advances through the ranks of others similar to it in its genre.You really should go to my Amazon site and check out the progress it has made. Still, it strains toward that “Top 100 books” mark. Even better is to see it show up on the first page or two of, say, suspense fiction novels.

Members of my  “tribe” — fellow novelists — already know this. Every positive review boosts a book in rank from one million (if the book is an ebook) or eight million (for soft-covers) up toward the Top 100 and then, even better, closer to the first or second page of books of the same genre. The reason is simple: that not many readers will feel like advancing all the way to page 800 or beyond for a particular book unless they are really, really searching for it.

Now, this is where I can use your help:

  • Read the book (or even most of it)
  • Go to Amazon.com. Choose the “books” category and type in From Her Mother’s Arms by Kim Terry.
  • Click through the picture of the book cover (where it says “Look Inside”. Clicking through that book will “verify” you as a customer.
  • Write a favorable review on Amazon (five-stars will do quite nicely — wink, wink.)  If you have not read to the end of the book, leave a short review anyway. Did you like it? If so, what did you like most about it?)
  • Include a headline that sums up your review of FROM HER MOTHER’S ARMSfor other readers.

I love being an author because I love writing novels that people love to read and wrap around themselves. After reading “The End”, following up by writing a review is one more important baby-step.

Thanks to everyone who has bought and reviewed the book that  I have labored over since 2009 and finally published in 2017.  I  celebrate with every positive review  I have received. If you have not read FROM HER MOTHER’S ARMS, now is the time to gift yourself with it, or if you are still reading it or have just now come to “The End”,  please  take the time to leave a brief review.

Thanks, so much!

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LIVING THE DREAM, Part 7: “Wish You Were Here”

12-3-17

Comfort, Texas

Today, October 11, 2017, my interview with my publisher, Michael D. Butler Sr., of Beyond Publishing, appeared in the “videos” link of my fan page, AuthorKimTerry.com.  We had a ball during the interview made possible by Zoom, as he was in his office in Irvine and I, in our RV USA clubhouse and I’m thankful I can direct readers and Facebook friends to the interview. Now, as Jeff and I watch it, this morning, I am beyond thrilled that my Official Launch, of FROM HER MOTHER’S ARMS will take place online on November 14, 2017.  That’s less than a month away!

But my joy is laced with wistfulness. For years, when my parents were living, I got to call or visit them and share the good things that were happening in my life. After all, they are largely responsible for my love of writing. My mother, Lois Terry, was, in particular.

Besides for her high-school teaching career, from which she retired in May 1986, Mama was an accomplished writer. She wrote articles, short stories, poems, a gift book for brides, and even one-liners. I like to think I benefitted from her writerly DNA.  My journey began with becoming a published poet starting with a simple rhyme I composed at the tender age of five:

“The sky is blue,

The grass is green.

The roof is brown,

How much I seen“.

The profundity of that  verse astounds me. Doesn’t it, you?

*Tongue planted firmly in cheek*

Years later, when I was a teenager, I discovered a marvelous style of poetry: free verse.  Everything I saw, felt, and experienced wound up in my free-verse poetry, particularly  when I was slammed by my first “crush” , a boy I’ll call “Jack” with whom I’d have married, delivered ten kids with.  Poor old “Jack”. Never will he know the excitement he missed out on.

Right.

Anyway, it all began on one January night, when there was nothing appetizing on television except for re-runs.

“Kimmie, I have a better idea. Let’s you and me turn off the tv and write, instead.”

“Sounds good to me,” I said, as I made the trip across the living room to cut off the set. (Yes, back in the 1960s, before some whiz-bang invented a doohickey called a tv remote, we burned a lot of calories by changing channels or turning the set on and off.),

Months later, each of us received surprises in our mail: the poems we penned on that frosty winter night had been published! Mama’s first poem about the magic of poetry, was published in a chap book titled Quicksilver; my poem, “Love Walks Again” was published in the  “Your Lively Arts” page of Ingenue.  Years later, Ingenue published another one of my poems,  “Hope”.

Throughout the years, as my life’s circumstances changed. I fell in love for the first time, married, gave birth to baby boys, suffered heartbreak, survived and recovered from major surgery, and so on. Still, I continued writing my free verse poems and getting them published

When a fellow author emailed me a link to Asahi Network, an online publication featuring haiku, I became fascinated with the form. Fitting a poetic phrase into As an English professor, I was already familiar with the seventeen-syllable structure and its emphasis on nature.

But the themes in my kind of haiku were different:  love, heartache and reunion, healing, and God’s creation and submitted my self-designed haiku. The next thing I knew, the editor was telling me that my haiku, “Listen To The Stream” had been published.

In January 2009, I received an email from my cousin in Port Aransas.

“Hey, cuz,” she began, “There’s a writing workshop coming up on the weekend, here in Port Aransas. Your name is written all over it. Since it’s been thirty years since we’ve seen each other, how about coming down for a visit?”

The Laughing Gull Workshop, held in the Port Aransas High School building, was an informal event that allowed for meeting, sharing, and interaction with other writers plus a light lunch. Please keep in mind that I went, specifically, for the poetry presentations, but when I arrived at the assigned rooms, they were full.

I glanced the itinerary again. Next door, Dr. David Ciambrone, a mystery author, himself, was giving a presentation on writing mystery, including fun-filled exercises that allowed us to summon any inherent mystery-writing talents within us. That night, “Murder 101”, an extended presentation of the genre, took place in a condominium on the beach. Uplifting topics included blood-splatter patterns, bullet speed, undetectable poisons, and other topics, would be presented.

Mystery? Me? What on earth would I find to write about? My life had been relatively low-drama, for the past few years, unless I counted two failed marriages, brain surgery,  caring for my my mother for nine years and her death in 2004. What part of my mundane life could possibly spark a mystery novel? My life, at the time, was far from being glamorous or daring.

But soon after I boarded the American Eagle for DFW International Airport, a “monster” arose in my brain: my caregiving experience took on sinister shapes if I asked myself a simple question: “What if?”

“What if” a caregiver gave her ailing mother a food or medicine that proved deadly to her? And what if she had been harboring resentment of ‘said mother’ for spoiling a long-awaited dream of hers?

After asking an attendant for a pen and some paper, I scribbled as though I were possessed. By the time the pilot announced our descent to DFW, I had sketched out a skeleton plot, even though its bones appeared to be afflicted by osteoporosis. It was down on paper.

Over nine years, BY HER DAUGHTER’S HANDS took shape, but there were so many ins-and-outs and subplots, that I chose one of those subplots — the one in which the mother, as a teenager in 1950s Lamesa, Texas, gets pregnant and is banished to a Fort Worth maternity home to have the baby and give it up for adoption.

“It’s only right for the baby,” says her mother. But is it, always? Better ask baby Mona Lisa.

On August 8, the prequel, FROM HER MOTHER’S ARMS, told,  largely from the viewpoints of Sybil and her baby, Mona Lisa,  appeared on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online booksellers worldwide and has earned a number of five-star reviews between Amazon.com and Amazon.ca (Canada).

Dear readers, I encourage those of you who have not picked up a copy of FROM HER MOTHER’S ARMS, yet, to do so. For those of you who are anatomically attached to your Kindles, you can pick up a copy of the ebook for only 99 cents for a limited time before the price goes up. For others who love the smell of ink and dessicated trees, the soft-cover is available, too. If you would like a signed copy mailed to you, email me your address and I will tell you how to pick one up.

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LIVING THE DREAM, Part 8: Eyes Wide Open!

11-29-17

Yes, here I am, still living the dream of becoming a published author. Retiring from my twenty-seven-year career as a college English professor so I could focus on publishing present and future novels has been well worth it. In late May 2017, my husband and I  sold our “brick and stick” home, bought a fifth-wheel RV and a heavy-duty F350 pickup to tow it. In June, while we were in Aransas Pass, we contacted the publisher we met through one of Jeff’s business contacts. In July, I emailed my final edit to the publisher, and, on August 8, FROM HER MOTHER’S ARMS, my debut novel, appeared on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other online booksellers.

Being an author is, indeed,  a dream come true, in spite of some people I have met on the social media sites who could have turned that dream — as well as the dreams of other authors — into a nightmare or, at the least, a comedy of errors, had I let them. From the comments fellow authors — my  “tribe” — have posted, these people are the “sales tax” attached to the price of fame.

As part of my promotion of the Author Kim Terry, brand, I keep up with social media venues such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and sometimes even Pinterest, Google Plus, and even Messenger every day.  On sites such as these, authors or others in the public eye become unwilling targets of  “colorful” (ahem!) characters. Granted, most are merely curious or lonely.  There is certainly no shame in being curious or lonely. And while there are bonafide widowers, Generals, and honest, hard-working people “on peacekeeping missions”, there are others I have steered away from, deleted, and flat-out blocked, depending on what they have said to me. You might say that I’ve awakened from the rosy dream of being a “new” author. Now, my eyes are now wide open. To give you a “taste” of who gets the “gong”, I have listed five questions that merit the buzzer:

  1. “How old are you?”:  Haven’t I just said I was “retired”? Has your mother not   taught you that asking a woman how old she is, particularly when you do not know her, is outright rude?

2. “Where do you live?“: You want to know that after I have already told you the general area where I live?

3. “Are you married?“: What part of the word “husband” do you not get? And yes, after only two more minutes, it should stand to reason that, yes, I am still married.

4 “Can I see a picture of you?”: Sure. Just go to AuthorKimTerry.com, click on “Photos”, and you can get your fill of my author-ly “mug”.

“But can you send one of you from head-to-toe?”

Nope. Not gonna happen.

5. “I’d rather talk to you by email“:

“Why do you want my email?” I ask.

“It’s complicated,” he says.

 Unh-uh. No wayNothing doing.

     BLOCK!

Stay tuned to another “Living the Dream” episode. Until then, click on the links I have provided, pick up a copy of FROM HER MOTHER’S ARMS (see link above), if you haven’t. If you have read my novel, favorable reviews — which are an author’s ‘life’s blood’ — are always welcome.

 

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LIVING THE DREAM, Part 6: And the ‘Dream’ Goes On!

Comfort, Texas

11-27-17

Wow! Yes, here I am, again, after having been caught up in an ongoing whirlwind of activity. In fact, life as a full-time author has not been limited to book-signings and launches. I have also pounded out Book Three of my FROM HER MOTHER’S ARMS series,

Please excuse me while I catch my breath. Whew! That’s better. Now, where was I?

Oh, yes, counting orders by mail and live events, I have placed I have placed signed copies of my debut novel, FROM HER MOTHER’S ARMS, in the eager hands of  more than ninety new readers! And folks, that doesn’t include those who boogied over to Amazon.com to pick up copies of my book in soft-cover or e-book format. By the way, my ebook is available, still, for only 99 cents, during my official launch period. *wink, wink *

Since August, we have been to approximately ten or eleven book-signings in the Hill Country area, including comfortable Comfort, where we continue to hole up and enjoy country living in our RV.

Besides for three gigs at Hill Country Distillers, the most recent being last Saturday, November 25, when we participated in “Christmas in Comfort”, an annual event the draws approximately 10,000 visitors from not only Comfort but also from out of town, we have also enjoyed signings at our own RV park, RV Park USA, here in Comfort;  Barons Creek Vineyard and Fiesta Winery 290 in Fredericksburg; the Boerne Wine Company in Boerne; 2 Bizzy B’z Boutique in Hondo; Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library in Kerrville, San Ducerro Vineyards in Yoakum, and Hill Country Cellars Winery in Bandera.

LIVING THE DREAM, Part 5: The “Star” Treatment

September 1, 2017

Comfort, Texas

Since my debut novel, FROM HER MOTHER’S ARMS has been out on Amazon, My life has been a whirlwind! In fact, I’m still pinching myself, expecting to find out it has all been just a sweet  dream. Besides for some ordering the book from Amazon, many others  have ordered signed copies directly from my husband and me. There have also been book-signing gigs at various spots in our area with even more to come. Within a month, I have put up “Author  Kim Terry” pages on Amazon,Goodreads,Facebook,Twitter, Instagram, and even WordPress.And that’s only the beginning! The Official Launch of FROM HER MOTHER’S ARMStakes place on Facebook on November 14. On that date, the e-book version that people have pre-ordered will show up on their Kindles and hard copies of the book will also be available. I’m thankful for my sweet, long-suffering husband, Jeff Schwarz, for scheduling my appearances and handling the business end that I’m sure I would  mess up. And I owe another shout-out to my publisher, Michael D. Butler of Beyond Publishing, for helping me make my lifelong dream come true and blasting out publicity nationwide over social media.

With all of this newfound “celebrity” treatment, I feel as though I should be donning dark glasses and dodging the paparazzi. In fact, every time I’m standing in the impulse aisle as I wait for the cashier to ring our groceries, I pay extra attention to National Enquirer, looking for sensational smut that even I didn’t know about myself. I have to admit, being a published author has changed the way I present myself. I even put on a bra and my flip-flops before gracing Wal-Mart.

It’s funny how experiencing “fame” draws attention from people I was sure didn’t know I existed. Let’s face it — people are fascinated with those who have done something to draw attention to themselves. Think of it — why else is People magazine so popular?

Along with my tippy-taste of “star” treatment, I’ve also received  questions that most folks  don’t ask of people they don’t know. The two questions that require me to exercise the most tact are bulleted below:

  • Are you married? 
  • How old are you?

While some of these people turn out to be spammers, others are honestly curious.

Whoa, but I’ve saved the best for last: the “love letters” I have received on Messenger.  One thought he was on an online dating site. Another wrote three separate, lengthy proclamations of passionate love but never called me by my name.

“At least he’s persistent,” said Jeff, who chuckled about it, after I blocked all three of them.

For you who are seasoned authors, what is the most curious, funny, or embarrassing question you have ever received from  readers”? Do tell!

Comments and reviews are the life source for authors. Did you enjoy this post? Please, let me know!

Stay tuned to authorkimterry.wordpress.com for more adventures.

LIVING THE DREAM, Part 4: Is This Really Me?

Tuesday, August 15

Comfort, Texas

The magic day — the day my first shipment of books to arrive — dawned at last! I woke up early, flipped on the coffeemaker, and began listening for the UPS truck.  Around noon, I heard a rumble of a truck and the crunch of its tires on our rocky road.  I looked through an opening in our living room blinds and glimpsed something brown. Seconds later, I heard a rap on our door. It was the driver carrying the last of three boxes that he had stacked beside the door.

My heart beat like a drummer in a 1960’s rock band — snares and all — as I picked up the top box and tried scooting it inside the door.

“Hey, babe, come on in. Let me do that,” Jeff said, as I went inside and flopped into my recliner.

After Jeff toted the heavy boxes up the steps of our fifth-wheeler,  my breath caught as he picked up the first box and sliced it open with his pocket knife. Inside the box, beneath a layer of bubble wrap, lay copies of my debut novel, FROM HER MOTHER’S ARMS. I picked up the book on top and feasted my eyes on its cover: black silhouettes of two women and a baby centered on a glossy, green cover. I fanned its 232 pages.

My book. The “baby” I delivered at the end of an eight-year pregnancy. As any other new mother would do, I wept out of joy, relief, and  disbelief. It has seemed like a wonderful dream.

Since January 2009, when I flew out to Port Aransas, Texas, to reunite with Cousin BeeGee and attend the Laughing Gull Writing Workshop in Port Aransas, I have been working on one draft after another of BY HER DAUGHTER’S HANDS, the book from which FROM HER MOTHER’S ARMS originated.

Now, these beautiful green books  bearing my name — Kim Terry — were here at last. As an adoring ‘first-book mommy’, I could hold them in my hands. Feel their pages between my fingers. Smell the ink. Kiss them, even. Okay, that last visual is weird, but you get the point.

Right away, I remembered the books I promised to my sons, so I autographed them on the Dedication page, and Jeff packaged each book in a padded envelope  for Tam, Terry and Colin (Terry’s best friend since college who has been like a third son to me) and a fourth copy for a high-school friend.  Having already booked four signing gigs, we were glad to receive them in time. The first two signings on August 18 and 20 at Hill Country Distillers, in Comfort; Saturday, August 19 event at Hill Country Cellars Winery in Bandera, and Wednesday, August 23 event at the RV Park USA clubhouse, immediately after our bingo game.

In preparation for the launch, my publisher and his team have broadcast information about me, my book, and my events on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram nationwide.

And, speaking of Amazon, I have set up my page on Author Central. You can access it by clicking on the ‘page’ link, above. It contains links to my book, blogs, events, photos, and videos.

Now, since my book is on Amazon in two formats: the large-print soft-cover (available now through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other booksellers) and the e-book (available on the official launch day of November 7) At this time, the e-book is available for pre-order.

I have thoroughly enjoyed the book-signing events at the Distillery, once I learned to mingle with the crowd instead of stationing myself behind the signing table the whole time. On that first night, we sold thirteen books. When we returned, we sold one more, as I received a check from a friend of mine for the book she requested.

Over the weekend, as I was mixing with the people at the Distillery when I met Steve and Shawn Owen. As I shared author anecdotes with them, Steve requested an interview with me at a quiet place in the next few days,  so we reserved the clubhouse here at our RV park. The interview, to be available on iTunes, will be aired in January 2018. The first five listeners to respond will win autographed copies of FROM HER MOTHER’S ARMS.

This “star” treatment has been both thrilling and humbling. It took only one phone call to one person to start the ball rolling. In June 2017, I took the first step in my journey to becoming an author.

Loyal readers, I look forward to your comments. Did you enjoy this post? Let me know by leaving your comments at the end of this post.

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LIVING THE DREAM, Part 3: Realer and Realer

Friday, 8-4-17

Comfort, Texas

Jeff and I are on the patio and lingering over our first cup of coffee when we hear a rumble followed by a hiss of brakes. I look up to find a UPS truck parked at the edge of our site. Minutes later, a brown-clad UPS man brings us two packages. One is long and rectangular; the other, square.

We already know what they are but, still, I can hardly wait to open them. Toting them inside, we unwrap the long box and pull out three posters, 500 business cards, two spiral notebooks and 100 flyers, all bearing my photo with three, long-awaited words: Author Kim Terry.

Author. Kim. Terry.

My breath catches. The only way I could possibly be more excited is to hold my book in my own hands. The Vistaprint materials that Jeff expertly designed, with my approval,  have arrived just in time for my book-signing gigs. Now, all we need are the eighty hardback copies of FROM HER MOTHER’S ARMS, due to arrive on or around August 15.

Book-signing gigs. To seasoned authors, they may be no big deal, but to a debut author like me, the very thought of them makes my pulse race.

Later, that day, Jeff and I gather up the new supplies and drive into historic Comfort to Hill Country Texas Distillers where Head Distiller, James Stout, doles out medicine-cup-sized samples of ‘specialty distilled spirits’ in tantalizing flavors including jalapeno, lemon, grapefruit, orange, and coffee made from Texas cactus. After we flash my business card and a flyer, we explain that we want to book a signing at Hill Country Texas Distillers.  He calls the bartender, Esmeralda, into the room to ask her to tell us what the best days and times would be for our event. While we discuss them, she bangs out a soul-searching Bloody Maria and presents it with a garnish of Spanish olives. With the first sip, my eyes water and my nose runs. In other words, it’s perfect. As I savor the spicy drink, she and I decide on two days and time slots: Friday, August 18 from 4-8 p.m. and Sunday, August 20, from 3-7 p.m. On our way out, we bag a 375 ml. bottle of coffee-flavored “Dulce” sure to boost our morning java.

Whoa, but these two gigs are just the beginning! A few days later, Jeff and I set out to book as many gigs as we can, including our clubhouse at RV Park USA and, maybe, even the Black Pig, a rustic but charming cafe nestled in the rolling hills outside the town of Fredericksburg.

With the help of my publisher, the next step will be publicizing the events on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube, WordPress.

As we count the days until the first event, I remember times when I would be coming to a “rolling boil” on a work-in-progress, only to be forced to put my project on the back-burner long enough to go teach my English classes. Days when I churned out lesson plans when I would rather be churning out my novel. Days when I wondered whether that blessed day would truly come when I could settle into my recliner and write to my heart’s content. On December 31, 2016 — the day my retirement from teaching began — that day dawned at last.

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