Another Memorial Day approaches. It seems this annual event comes every few months, a sure sign I’m getting older. A few years ago, I had the honor, and I mean a real honor, to attend a good friend’s father’s funeral. Rick was my best man at my wedding. His dad was a retired Army Colonel. Col. Mock retired in the early 70’s and, oddly enough, started a music store in Northern Virginia.
Col. Mock and I were both Old Crows. We shared memories of similar duty stations and the odd nature of SIGINT. We couldn’t talk much about our work or we would have had to kill each other. Suffice it to say, Col. Mock was a highly decorated hero. Like other real heroes, he was afforded a place to rest at Arlington Memorial Cemetery.
Not every vet can be buried there. I’m sorry that the facility is overcrowded and the Armed Forces have been forced to adopt some pretty steep entry requirements. (Which, at my last look, I couldn’t meet) These requirements can be part of your homework to look up.
The ceremony is very moving at Arlington. The Army ensured that Col. Mock was carried to his resting place by respectful and caring soldiers. An honor guard consisting of some 30 Soldiers, a real military band, and a horse drawn caisson took him to the gravesite. 3 volleys of shots, Taps, and a folded flag to the widow wrapped it up.
I fell in with the detail commander after the ceremony and told him how, as a retired Marine, I was impressed and proud of the detail and their execution of the ceremony. The soldiers were somber and respectful. Their appearance and field drill was impeccable. These troops were the Army Old Guard and they weren’t just showboats. The Major I spoke with was a Ranger, who wore the Silver Star, the Purple Heart (with repeat award star), the Bronze Star (with Valor clasp- a combat award), plus the other ribbons of a successful career officer.
I discovered that he had as many as eight interments a day, six days a week, and there were other details for the other Armed Services. There was about a 3 month backlog. WW II heroes in their 90’s and 18 year old men from Afghanistan all coming to rest at the same place. WWII hero John F. Kennedy lies there with his sons and brother, Robert. Many of the most revered names in US military history are there. The Tomb of the Unknowns is guarded around the clock by some very serious guards.
For your final homework and exam, make the pilgrimage. You can use DC and all its monuments, the Smithsonian, Holocaust Museum, Capitol, and White house as an excuse to go, but do cross the Potomac and spend some time there. It’s a 15 minute walk from the Lincoln Memorial across the Memorial Bridge. The visitors’ entry fee has been paid for by the residents.
The REVIVAL – The Donald Braswell Story Tour continues, and I’m very excited to be here, so thank you, Dianne! (It’s been a crazy month, and so busy that I really could use an Eighth Day 🙂
Dianne asked about the challenges of writing a memoir, and one thing that pops up is how nervous I felt, especially during the first draft.
At the time, I was a beat reporter in the San Antonio area, so interviewing folks and writing features was easy peasy, lemon squeezy.
But now, here I was taking on the project of writing a memoir of a person I originally only knew from his performances on America’s Got Talent. After several informal meetings to discuss specifics and present a business proposal to Donald, I must have talked a good talk because I earned Donald’s initial trust, and we were off to the races.
Now I had to deliver.
Donald had so much to share, and I soaked it all in (or at least my recorder and note books did) while I waited for the “start” and “finish” of the memoir to reveal themselves to me.
The end was easy, but the start, the “jumping-off” point was difficult, and indeed, the start of the memoir took several years (and drafts) to appear, but appear it did. Finally!
In the meantime, I learnt many of Donald’s quirks, his mannerisms, likes, dislikes and a whole lot of “normal” stuff that I utilized when needed.
And, over time, my own writing “voice” blended in, and was then overridden by Donald’s voice, which was the ultimate goal.
The result is REVIVAL and I’m very proud of this little book that could.
Would you ever consider working with someone on a major writing project?
Thanks again for having me over, Dianne. I really appreciate ya!
Tomorrow, it’s Crystal Collier, who’s invited me to participate in her Writerly Wednesdays, which includes the famous Truth or Lie game:)
Enter The REVIVAL Tour Giveaway to win one of these unique prizes!
● GRAND PRIZE (2 winners): Donald Braswell to sing (Happy Birthday/Anniversary) via Skype or phone call. (A unique gift idea!) ● 1ST PLACE PRIZE: Signed Donald Braswell CD/REVIVAL book combo ● 2nd, 3rd and 4th PLACE PRIZES: Signed copies of REVIVAL (by Donald and Mark) ● 5th, 6th and 7th PLACE PRIZES: Signed copies of Donald Braswell CDs ● 8th, 9th, and 10th PLACE PRIZES: Signed Donald Braswell 8×10 picture
I am happy to have a guest post from Larry O’Donnell, my brother-in-law. A retired federal agent — and my go-to resource for writing about weaponry and battle tactics (like how to rescue hostages atop a Mexican pyramid) — Larry has provided many a humorous guest post over the years I’ve been running this blog … and a few sobering ones as well.
Today’s post is in honor of Veteran’s Day, this Wednesday, November 11.
Veteran’s Dream … by Larry O’Donnell
Sometimes, I think of November 7 as I think of my birthday. It is an important day on my calendar. And because it’s four days from Veteran’s Day, I am a bit more thoughtful of the holiday. For those who don’t know me, I have been living on borrowed time since November 7, 2003. I beg the indulgence of those who know this story on behalf of those who don’t. There’s something I will reveal for the first time.
I was in Mosul, Iraq conducting “other duties, as assigned” for Homeland Security. I had completed training the fledgling Iraqi border services in northern Iraq. At 0800 that morning, I was sitting in a UH-60 helicopter and was strapping in for a two hour flight to Baghdad, via Tikrit. It was a routine mission, a flight of two Blackhawks was carrying me, another agent, the Judge Advocate General of the Army, and his entourage. The Iraqi insurrection was underway in earnest, having downed two US helicopters in the week preceding, and hundreds of IED attacks on Iraqi and American military and security forces.
The General exercised his prerogative to “bump” manifested passengers and had us removed from the aircraft. There was plenty of room but he had two of his staff moved over to ride in my helicopter and the crew chief apologetically said they would return for us around noon.
I was peeved by the delay but had to grin and bear it. Mumbling uncharitable things about lawyers, I grabbed my gear and walked off. Hours later I learned that “my” helicopter had been shot down, killing everyone on board.
On the whim of the Army JAG, I was spared and two of his staff were not.
The bright spot of this event was that I had a son about three years later- a true gift from God. Deb and I believe that’s why I survived.
Twelve years later, I still often think of that day and, periodically, I have a dilly of a nightmare about it. Randomly, I dream of that crash. I feel the missile’s impact and a sharp wrenching of the helicopter. My legs are on fire. So is everyone around me. Sometimes, I feel the seat collapse as we hit the ground and I can’t get because the seatbelt is melted to me.
Luckily, I get to wake up and it’s over. I suspect my wife knows when the dream comes but I haven’t told her, at least not for years. She thinks the thrashing is Parkinsons, but most times it’s the dream. I have survivor’s guilt. Clinically, it’s probably a dash of PTSD, but it is isolated and I am generally doing well.
I relate this story for a reason. I am not a hero. Any Marine will tell you the real heroes didn’t come back or came back badly wounded, sometimes horribly. It’s important to remember our Veterans and the baggage they carry from the war. Thank them for their service and mean it. Their dreams might be far worse than mine.
Loner in the Garret: A Guest Post by Jennifer R. Hubbard
I’d like to introduce all my blog readers to Jenn Hubbard, an author I know “in real life” and a fellow member of the KidLit Authors Club, with whom I frequently do events. Jenn is a YA author, but today she’s here to talk about a new non-fiction book she has just released — a book for writers that addresses the mental and emotional side of writing.
I’ve read several books on the craft of writing and the business of publishing. But with the exception of sections of Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, most of them don’t address the areas where I found myself needing the most support: the mental and emotional.
I receive most of my support from fellow writers, and that has been invaluable. But they can’t always answer me immediately, since they have—you know—lives. Wouldn’t it be nice, I thought, to have a book I could turn to for brief bursts of inspiration? Maybe read a page or two at the start of a writing session, or whenever I need to feel less alone? A book about the highs as well as the lows, a book that acknowledges the frustrations and disappointments and sources of confusion—as well as acknowledging the times when we can’t help but laugh at how crazy things can get?
And so I came up with Loner in the Garret: A Writer’s Companion. The synopsis:
Sometimes the most difficult part of writing is not coming up with a plot or the perfect turn of phrase. It’s getting motivated to sit down and start, or having the confidence to go forward, or finding the courage to move past the sting of rejection. Loner in the Garret: A Writer’s Companion provides inspiration and encouragement for that mental and emotional journey. Covering topics as varied as procrastination, the inner critic, fear, distractions, envy, rejection, joy, and playfulness, it charts the ups and downs of the writing life with honesty, gentle suggestions, and a dash of humor.
Jennifer R. Hubbard (www.jenniferhubbard.com) writes young-adult novels (The Secret Year, Try Not to Breathe, and Until It Hurts to Stop). She spends most of her time writing, reading, or hiking, with a little dark chocolate thrown in.
Today, I’m turning the blog over to Jaime Loren, who’s going to talk about book research coincidence that Freak. You. Out.
Firstly, I’d like to thank Dianne for having me! Dianne has been really supportive and encouraging during my journey to publication, so I’m thrilled to be able to feature on her blog today after having once been featured in First Impressions!
To begin, I’ll share the blurb of WAITING FOR APRIL so you’ll know what I’m talking about!
April Fletcher has died nineteen times… but she doesn’t know it.
As far as April is concerned, she’s just a normal seventeen-year-old, looking forward to spending spring break with her friends and going to college in the fall. April doesn’t know she has never lived past her eighteenth birthday, nor does she realize that Scott Parker, her best friend, is actually her childhood sweetheart and fiancé from her very first life.
For nineteen-year-old Scott Parker, spending quality time with his soul mate has proved difficult ever since her tragic death in 1729. Since then he has lost her an additional eighteen times—each of her deaths more devastating than the last, and each of her births wiping the slate of her memory clean. Unable to save her but unwilling to give up, Scott has to hide the fact he’s immortal—and will be until April confesses her love again.
But this time, things have changed. April has denied her feelings for him, is dating someone else, and with her eighteenth birthday fast approaching, their friendship is falling to pieces. Fearing their souls are irrevocably drifting apart, Scott must race against the clock to win her heart and save her life — or risk losing her forever.
Given the nature of Dianne’s books, I thought it only fitting I write about the eerie things I encountered while researching for this novel.
Because they freaked. Me. Out.
It all started when I called April’s horse Nutmeg. After deciding April and Scott originated in Connecticut, I thought it pretty coincidental upon further research that Connecticut was also known as the Nutmeg State. Funny, yes? It was definitely something that made me go, “Huh. It was meant to be.”
I didn’t realise the Powers That Be were only just getting started.
Now, as writers who don’t live anywhere near the settings of our stories, we rely heavily on Google Maps, amiright? Knowing that April and Scott came from Connecticut, I then chose Wallingford as their hometown. It had history, and it was right in the area I’d pictured them growing up together. Fast forward three hundred years, and I needed an area in or around Wallingford where a farm could still exist—perhaps in secret, in the present. I needed a wooded area that would provide Scott Parker some privacy.
I found such a place. It was wooded. It was large. It was surrounded by houses but accessible by road. It was perfect! There was a main road, not far, that one might travel to get there. It was called PARKER FARMS ROAD.
That sent some definite shivers down my spine. What were the chances?! So, yeah. That was … weird! It made me pause for a good couple of hours.
But again, that was just a warm-up.
Without giving the story away, I also researched the Salem witch trials. I’d discussed with my editor the things I could possibly touch upon in the novel to explain how it all started, and the witch trials were of interest to me because, well, how convenient that an event that had roots in the magical world (however misled) should occur not far from, and not long before, April and Scott’s births. So, I looked into it. And then I discovered that one of the women who was executed in the trials was married to someone with the exact same name as one of my characters. Not only that, the young girl who started the accusations shared the same last name as another one of my characters.
It was right about this time I considered turning my computer off and never opening my doc again, because seriously?! That was just TOO MUCH. I’d never researched the trials before. Ever! And not one character name was involved, but two? What was going on, here?!
But oh, there’s more.
Because April has been killed nineteen times, I had to get creative with her deaths, and murder was obviously an easy death to explain. Of course, one of the first things I do when I choose a name off the top of my head is Google that name to make sure I’m not using the name of someone relatively famous.
So, I came up with a name. I had my murderer. Easy, right? Then I Googled said name. And I found out it was the name of a murderer.
WHAT????!!! No. Just … no! I had never heard of this person before. The murders he committed occurred years ago! There was no way I could’ve known what his name was!
All of these events were starting to make me question just how fictional my novel was—before I remembered it was about reincarnation and immortality, and laughed it off because April and Scott couldn’t possibly exist in real life. Could they?!
I guess we’ll never know. Scott is pretty good at hiding his unnatural state. 😉
So, I want to leave you with a question today. What eerie similarities have you stumbled across when researching your own novel? Have places and names turned out to be not-so-fictional for anyone else out there? Please tell me I’m not alone! J
Jaime Loren spends her days chasing her two young children, and her nights writing or reading. So, basically, she doesn’t sleep. She lives in Adelaide, South Australia, but dreams of returning to her small hometown where she can give her children the same upbringing she had: exploring bushland, playing every sport under the sun, riding horses, and waking to the sight of kangaroos outside. WAITING FOR APRIL is Jaime’s debut novel.
You can find Waiting for April at these e-retailers:
Today I have a guest post from C. Lee McKenzie discussing the inspiration behind her new book, Sudden Secrets, published by Evernight Teen.
Every book I write surprises me. They’re like cats behind the couch. I can feel them wriggling their backsides getting ready to pounce, keeping me on alert, but waiting until my guard’s down before they leap out with a loud “Surprise!”
With Sudden Secrets those cats played their game forever. In fact, I had to go back and reconstruct when I began to think about this story. My first note was in March of 2011. I was at the de Young Museum in San Francisco where they had a special exhibit of Balenciaga, the master of haute couture for decades, including the 50’s and 60’s.
In the exhibit they played a video of a ’60’s fashion show in New York. After seeing it, here’s what I wrote, and I don’t even remember writing it. “Why do they [the models] all look dead?”
Later I found out why. Balenciaga told them to. He didn’t want any smiles or expressions to compete with his design perfection.
I tucked that bit away, and as I said, forgot about it.
Sometime in 2013 an old Victorian about to be torn down caught my attention. I slipped under the yellow tape and crept up to the house to look in one of the broken windows. This was a perfect place for a ghost to hide. I thought about that, then decided it might be more interesting to have someone who was alive living there—someone who never came out.
“Why would someone lock themselves away?” That was a second note, but it was unrelated to that first one.
So I had these totally unrelated notes in different notebooks when I read about a tragic accident. A small child had been hit by a car and killed. I can think of nothing worse than that, and it stuck in my mind. So sad for the loss of that child’s life. So sad for the family. And then there was the person who was driving the car when the child darted out into the street. What of him?
My third note later formed one key theme in Sudden Secrets: “How does someone continue to live an ordinary life after accidentally killing a child? What does the family do to recover from their loss?”
Somehow those three notes knitted together and when the cats yelled, “Surprise!” the story about Cleo Brown and Belleza began.
Sounds fascinating! I’m not sure I agree that directing your models to be so expressionless they look like corpses will actually accentuate the perfection of your design, but then what do I know about haute couture? I’m fascinated to see how this ties in with the other elements of the story! Thanks, Lee, for being here today.
You can find Lee at the links below — and Sudden Secrets at the following locations: