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.

********************

 

 

Advertisements

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!

***************

 

 

 

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.

*********

 

 

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.

************

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

********************

 

 

“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!

********

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.

********

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.

**********************

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!

*********

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!

##########